Revisiting Film and Twin Lens Camera

Using a Ikonoflex TTL camera

Photographic film is a strip of transparent material coated on one side with light-sensitive silver halide crystals called emulsion. The emulsion gradually darkens when exposed to light forming an image when light passes through the lens to reach it, creating a latent image in the light sensitive emulsion. This is then chemically developed as a negative image, and eventually printed as a positive image seen as a photograph.

Using film was a time consuming, and for many, an imperfect way to document the world. Nevertheless, for nearly two hundred years photographers have persevered and in spite of sometimes days, weeks, or even months between the initial exposure and the final print, learned to minimize the errors and present exciting examples of the craft, or art, to an appreciating public.

The good thing about shooting film is how it forces one to learn what each part of the camera is for before making a photo. Mistakes can get pretty expensive with a film camera so this forces photographers to learn quickly.

After about 30 years of earning a living using film I embraced the technological change to digital and had no intention or ever handling another roll of film. So when my wife informed me she was planning to get a medium format film camera and was going to begin shooting film I must admit to mixed feelings.

However, my wife’s reasons had little to do with film and more to do with finding a way to slow down the process of image making. She talked about getting more involved in the act of photography than the process of taking a picture. I knew exactly what she meant; many modern photographers seem to be more about the technology of photography, and instead of studying a subject for that perfect shot, will take the machine gun approach. And when asked why they released the shutter 300 times on their subject the answer is, “to be sure I got it”.

Linda will be limited to 12 exposures in her lightweight, German made, Ikoflex camera with a waist level finder. We’re all guilty of getting a little bit snap happy with our cameras, and taking loads of useless photos of nothing in particular just because we can. That’s not really an option with film (unless there’s more money then sense); one doesn’t thoughtlessly take a bunch of photos and transfer them to a computer.

There is the requirement for a decision making process before releasing the shutter – it can’t just be of anything. The added pressure of not wanting to waste money and time on film and developing forces a photographer to become much more careful in considering how to make the photo before releasing the shutter.

I welcome readers comments. Thanks, John

Street Style Photography at the Fall Fair

Royalty and Attendants

Country singers

Cowboy in slicker

Mobile staff

Wooden Horse listening

Waiting against the wall

Clydsdales

Umbrella guy

Your cartoon

First Aid

Monster Cones

“Every year when summer comes around

They stretch a banner ‘cross the main street in town

You can feel somethin’s happenin’ in the air…”

“County fair, county fair,

Everybody in town’ll be there

So come on, hey we’re goin’ down there…”

Bruce Springsteen – Country Fair

 

Where I live in British Columbia, the months of August and September see communities’ large and small hosting end of summer fairs. This year, same as last, I drove north to the small town of Barriere, parked my car, gave the smiling lady at the gate a couple bucks and strolled into the excitement of the Barriere Fall Fair packed with exhibits of local produce, poultry, livestock, all sorts of arts and crafts, lots of outdoor shows that included a rodeo, trick riders, several different horse competitions, an action packed midway with amusement rides, challenges for the children like wall climbing, and even a motorized bull that quickly dislodged even the most athletic of riders. There were all sorts of people selling cowboy hats, clothing, jewelry and too much more to list here. And one lady almost accosted me, demanding I try out her boot wax and leather preservative. (I will say my boots never looked better.)

Oh, and the food. The inviting and punishing, yep, that’s the word I am going to use for the smell of all kinds of mouthwatering foods that one confronts as far away as the entrance gate. Enticing everyone to make the next stop at one of the food venders.

The picture making possibilities immediately assaults those of us with cameras. What to photograph? Well, it’s all exciting.

Last year I spent most of my time photographing the rodeo, but after discussions and encouragement from the many photographers I have met online that excel in street photography, I decided to dedicate my time this year to photographing the people I saw wandering or performing in the midway.

I have written before about my admiration of those that are proficient at wandering city streets creating stories with the way they photograph the people. Readers will recall I discussed my frustration last summer in Anacortes, Washington when I tried using a DSLR with a big 24-70mm lens mounted on it. People saw me coming with that big package and when I got close enough to grab a picture they almost leaned towards me to see what I was photographing. No chance of being inconspicuous or assuming stealth mode.

This time I brought a cropped frame DSLR and 105mm lens and extended my camera strap so I could point and shoot from the hip as I released the shutter. I think I can hear the laughing coming from some of those more skilled and experienced at this type of photography than I. Yep, I had little control over what I was aiming at. I did get some viewable shots, but I also got lots of images that showed the top of people’s heads and a great quantity of sky. How did those gunslingers in the old west hit their target?

Maybe I need to put some beer cans on a fence rail and practice like I saw actor Alan Ladd do in a movie I watched last week. Or better yet, I have a friend with one of those exciting little Fuji 100 cameras. I wonder if I took beer cans (full) over to his house instead of putting them on the fence, I could convince, or bribe, him to lend that camera to me next time I want to try.

I searched online for some street photography tips. Here are a few I could find.

  1. Use a wide-angle lens.
  2. Get close.
  3. Look for juxtaposition.
  4. Focus on the essential.
  5. Look for the light and shadows
  6. Look at the foreground and the background.
  7. Tell a story.

Street photography, whether at an event like a country fair, in a bustling city, or on some quiet back lane, is about photographing society around us. Some photographers’ shoot for the challenge, and some wander the city as a release of stress from everyday existence, and others because of their need to make some statement about the world in which they live. I wonder at the “Decisive Moment” of prolific French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, or the journalistic style of Leica toting Robert Doisneau, or the harsh images of marginalized people by Diane Arbus. They, and many others have left us with their own styles of street photography that affect each viewer on an emotional level.

I look forward to any comments. Thanks, John

Judging Barriere 4H Photography

The Judge

On the Sunday of the September long weekend I spent an enjoyable day judging the Barriere 4H club members photography presentations at the North Thompson Fall Fair.

Although I have taken on the role of judge many times before, I am still slightly uncomfortable in a formal critique. Just looking at a photograph and discussing it, even placing a grade on it, as I did for years as a college instructor, is easier because everyone is competing with themselves. But when choosing a first, second, and third place is a competition about who is better, one has to work very hard not to be influenced by personal feelings, taste, and opinions on the subject.

Most photographers seem to think a photographic “critique” means “to find fault with.” I don’t think that’s right. When one critiques another’s photograph they should be analyzing its strengths and successes. What doesn’t work is important and should be part of the discussion, but the main concern is what works, not, what doesn’t work.

This was my first time with the 4H club. Photography in this instance was set apart from the other events at the North Thompson Fall Fair that included animal husbandry, and the judging was, in my opinion, more about the young member’s personal development in photography and how well they could adhere to the guidelines than how good their individual photographs were. Although unusual, the process was interesting, and I think valuable.

I will say that the quality of the photography was surprising for such young individuals. I was able to pick out specific interests and strengths in each of the young photographers. Yes, like all photographers, I expect those that are serious about the medium will undergo growth as they become more experienced with their cameras, and experiment with the medium of photography in general.

What is a good photograph?

“Life” magazine, “Time” magazine, and “People” magazine photographer, John Loengard, said, “It is not important if photographs are “good.” It’s important that they are interesting”.

Anyone who wants to take better pictures should focus on the fundamentals, and a successful photographer must have an understanding of composition and lighting because what is important for the viewer is how the photographer composes (or arranges) the image, and how the light is captured, both which sets the images apart.

William Reedy, in his book, “Impact Photography for Advertising” writes about how the successful photographer must, “…stop the eye…(and)…set the mood…” I have liked that quote for years. And I am pleased to say that there were some of those young 4H photographers that were able to accomplish that and I hope I get to see their again photography in the future.