Camera decisions

In just over one week I will be traveling to Lima, Peru. I’ll spend a week there with my daughter, and then I’ll leave her and she’ll go off to teach smart computer-coding things to some high school students. How brave is that? When she told me she was doing this through her university, she had the audacity to chide me for allowing her to study Latin as her college language choice. Ha! Like I’ve ever had any influence over this kid. Pffft.

(I remember distinctly suggesting Spanish to her. I wish I’d studied it but I did not have a language requirement in college. So, kid, I told you so.)

In any case, we will explore Lima together for one week and although in some ways this terrifies me, I’m far more terrified of the idea of her traipsing about Lima all on her own. Capable as she is, Lima feels so… out of my comfort zone and therefore a scary place to dump my firstborn. My own Spanish is limited to what I learned in second grade from my favorite teacher, who spoke Spanish as her native language and taught all her students how to count to 10, say good morning to her, and maybe a few other key phrases that are escaping me right now. So the kid and I will struggle with our Spanish together.

When my daughter asked me to join her and I agreed to do this, I immediately decided that I would not bring my DSLR but would bring one 35mm film camera and maybe a second “fun” camera. I read that you can only bring one camera into the country, but I can’t find really good information on this… the second one might incur a charge rather than getting confiscated or anything dramatic.

The Minolta SRT 102 is heavy, but it’s my favorite at the moment and even if I don’t use this feature, I can do easy double exposures. The Minolta X-700 is lighter. And, the self-timer on it works. And, it has a program feature in case I don’t want to think about anything other than focusing. I have two additional lenses (aside from 50mm lenses) for either Minolta, in case I have room for an additional lens. The Pentax K1000? Bombproof, easy; but no extra features and no doubles. Okay, the Pentax is out of the running.

And then I fell in love with 120mm film after using it for several months in my son’s Mamiya 645 1000s. But, no way can I add that behomoth to my bag and, well, it’s not mine. I picked up a Holga, or really a knockoff Holga, and have had a ton of fun with that so far. If that fell off a bridge or got stolen I’d shed a tear but not be put out other than sad that I had 120 film and nothing to shoot it with. It’s smallish, cheap and plastic and I won’t worry about it one bit. The knockoff Holga is going. I have big plans for it.

So I think I’ve narrowed things down to one of the Minolta’s and the Holga. I have some Ektar 100 and some Portra 400 in 120mm color film and some Tri-X 400 and Fuji Acros 100 in 120mm black and white. For 35mm film I have some Ektar 100 and some other odds and ends, but I may have to pick up some more 35mm film. And how many rolls? Ah, another conundrum. I read I can only bring 10–but I can pack some in my daughter’s carry-on or I can simply declare more (I don’t know what that means. An additional charge?)

But then I start to second guess myself.

Should the DSLR come with me? Pros: No film to carry. Big memory card. I can take a million photos and I can see them immediately. Cons: Increases the technology I would want to bring (laptop to upload, or thingy needed to transfer images from SD card to my iPad). I’d spend more time uploading and editing every night and less time seeing/doing things. It’s big and conspicuous. If I broke it, dropped it, or it got stolen I’d be pretty devastated. If I bring it, I don’t really have room for a film camera.

Does anyone else obsess over these things? I’m arguing with myself about all of this. I am firm one day, up in the air the next.

I like the idea of relegating this trip to only film. If I miss a shot, I miss a shot. I know with digital I’m trigger happy–but who needs a million shots with only a few being images I really love? With film I’m much more deliberate. I might make some really bad shots but even those will have meaning (to me, anyway). I’m not saying one is better than the other–it’s all about where my head is, my process and exploration with both mediums. Right now it’s film. Tomorrow might be different.

So, what would you do? You know, just for the sake of discussion. And to help me quit obsessing over this decision. Even though I know what I’m going to do.

Sort of.

Love letters to the city, part two

More of Detroit’s downtown buildings, these things that make me swoon and forget to look where I’m going.

This time in black and white, also 35mm film. A study in shapes, lines, angles. I took these on both the last day of 2016 and on the first day of 2017, closing out and opening up the new year looking up.

These were shot on two different different Minolta SLR cameras and both with Kodak Tri-X film–an SRT-102 using the suggested film speed (400) and an X-700 pushing the film two stops to 1600. I’m not certain I can tell the difference, but this is my first stab at pushing and I think it might not be my last.

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One Woodward Ave.
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Light beam
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Lines, shadows and reflections
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Westin Book-Cadillac (left, with windows), and the Guardian Bldg. (tall, at right)
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“Transcending”
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Rosa Parks Transit Center
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Rosa Parks Transit Center

September on film

I’m burning through 35mm film like it’s my job lately (a job for which I pay, rather than get paid, apparently). Maybe it’s the lure of all the beautiful colors and the changing season? I’m not sure, but I’m fairly obsessed. I’m not picky, though–I’ll put anything in my camera(s). I’m learning the particularities of a few different cameras, which film the cameras like, the results I like. For instance, I learned in August that I like Agfa 200 in the Olympus Pens–a lot. It’s cheap and the colors come out a little gawdy, which I like for the half frame format.

It’s also a nice film (because of its price) to test new cameras with. In August, I picked up a Minolta SRT-102. It’s so clean I’m not sure it was ever even used, maybe just bought and used once or twice and then tucked into a box for 40 years? I’ll never know its story.

Last week I sent three rolls of film from mid-late September to early October to The Darkroom for processing. I’ve used them for a few years and have recently tried some others, but think I need to stick with The Darkroom–they do a bang-up job, have great customer service, and get my stuff back to me pretty quick considering they are in California and I’m across the country in Michigan. These images aren’t edited at all–just processed and scanned by The Darkroom (I only added my watermark in Lightroom).

Minolta SRT-102

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Small pond in a marshy area at a local high school, SRT-102, Agfa 200
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yellow wildflower (I’m kind of in love with the color)
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goldenrod in sun

The SRT-102 is an interesting camera, though, with a bit of a learning curve–in the viewfinder, you match one needle to another needle with a circle on the end to get the right exposure. It’s a little awkward for me and will take some getting used to and I wasn’t convinced the meter was working accurately, but the test roll seems to show otherwise, which makes me happy because it’s a really beautiful camera, heavy and solid in hand. In fact, I was so hopeful that the camera would work that I ran a second roll of film through it before I got this test roll back. I shot most of the rest of the first SRT-102 roll in October, so I’ll get back to September’s film…

Pentax K1000

I popped a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 into my trusty Pentax K1000 in mid-September. That Ektar might just be my favorite film right now–I mean, look at that red! And even though I’m really digging the SRT-102, I’m not giving up the Pentax. It’s a joy to use, fun and easy and not the least bit finicky. Again I’ve not made a single edit to these, which may be more a credit to the processing than my ability to pick the correct exposure.

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I just love a blue sun spot
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the Brookwood again, this time on 35mm film
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because there just are never enough goat pictures
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Lake Michigan, dunegrass and clouds

Olympus Pen

I also ran a roll of Ilford HP5 through my Olympus Pen. 400 speed film may simply have been the wrong choice, or I need more work on my settings with this all-manual camera, or probably a little of both, but the results were mostly too blown out. I’m still getting the hang of both black and white film and the Pen. I don’t care–I love it all–even the complete failures.

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barefoot in Lake Michigan in late September
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pine forest

Right now the colors are really getting intense across Michigan. The next few weeks are going to be busy for me, but I’m hoping to capture as much color as I can on both film and digital before it’s gone, and learn more about working with the cameras I have now in my arsenal.

August on film

I know it’s September, but one of the many things about film photography that interests me is that I don’t generally get my film developed immediately. Since I like to save money by getting several rolls developed at once, I have to wait until I have several rolls to develop. Which, depending on several factors, could take a month or so. So by the time I get film developed, seasons can change, new things are blooming (or drying up), etc. etc.

I tried a new lab for four rolls, one of which was shot on a Minolta X700 I recently acquired. The price and timing was right, but the color saturation seemed off, and everything appeared over-exposed and washed out. I may still use this lab as I can muck about with some of that stuff with the digitized image. But one of the other things I really like about film is the fact that you get what you get, and even that depends on who’s processing your stuff–and even the same lab can process each roll different than the next, at least in my experience.

So, I got what I got on these four rolls and I don’t mind that one bit.

These first four shots are from the newly acquired Minolta X700, which after shooting one roll I decided a) to keep, and b) to take in to repair, as it has a “sticky gasket” (that’s what the shop said–I just know the aperture ring sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t). Anyway, this was a cheapo drug store roll of Fuji 800 speed film, which I intended to use in New Orleans at night when I was there last May but didn’t.

And the Pentax K100, with Kodak Ultramax 400 speed film, produced these:

These next images were shot with Agfa Vista 200–a cheap film that I love for the half frame. I am crazy about the half frame format. Have I already mentioned that? I used my Olympus Pen EE3, which I’m so excited about because I got it for only $10.50. I don’t know why that makes me so happy, but it does. This is a fun point and shoot, just easier to use than the all-manual original Olympus Pen that I have (but I love that one, too).

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A local farm stand, shop in barn
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The farmers here have a small shop in their barn, antiques and such
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Headless chicken (front, right)! Not really. No chickens were harmed in the making of this photograph.
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Peach orchard
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The EE3 has a fixed focus (obviously farther out than my wine glass and hand)