13 May 2010

I know Polaroid Week is over — it was last week — (and sorry, I’m not going to go ’round calling it “‘roid” week, as it’s apparently officially known, I’m all for neologisms and clever word-mutation, but that just smacks of “hemorrh…” to me),  but I wanted to post a few more bits and pieces.

During the aforementioned special week, I shot a roll of the mysterious TZ Artistic Fade to Black SX70 film (again in my Pronto! B — see the last entry about shooting PX100 Silver Shade in the same camera). Apparently this stuff is an “experimental material”, which may mean it’s an “experimental material” and may mean that it’s totally screwed up. Film stock functionality is in the eye of the beholder though, no? In the instructions for this film, it says that, after it pops out of the camera, you need to watch it carefully, and as soon as looks the way you’d like it to, color/exposure-wise, you need to make a very quick decision and open up the film and get the backing away from the front mylar (and thus stopping the development) or else it will, well, fade to black.

So, I set forth in the world armed with scissors, and proceeded to take shots and then rush my photographic patients into the ER for emergency surgery, covering myself, a café table, a park bench and god-knows-what else with caustic paste. (Much to my gentleman friend’s delight whilst we were eating our lunch.)

The first shot, outside, of a stone lion-type-animal went quite swimmingly (more swimmingly, even, than it appears on the web — thanks color profiles). The colors looked lovely in a weird cross-processy way, a few minutes after exposure, and I carefully removed the backing part way and set the photo standing on its side (with the front and back not touching each other). I left it thus through lunch, and after reassembled it by taping the back back to the front, on the back (yay, confusing sentences!) with some masking tape I also had on hand.

I tried some shots in the café, which was somewhat dim, and managed to get 1 out of 3 to expose in an even quasi-reasonable way. This, I would imagine, was my fault, not the film’s — I was fussing with the light/dark dial and not being very clever. The shot that came out was of another lion, this time a carved wooden one that was part of a chair. Again, I did my emergency surgery. This time, the colors came out dark, but somewhat pleasing. Almost painterly.

Wood Lion

Now, of course, I was determined to photograph more lions with my few remaining shots. So I went on an insanely long drive, looking for lions (eventually managing to go from Boston to Lowell to Portsmouth NH in a quite indirect sort of way). Oddly, I did not find anymore lions (well, one, in felt on a purse in a shop but it was very dark and not a very good setup). So I photographed a buddha and some mural-whales and some other things I’ve now forgotten, because, wait for it, they faded to black! Apparently, you have to be quite careful about leaving too much caustic paste on the mylar surface, and you have to let it all really dry before you put it back together. Oh well. The buddha came out kinda neat… with a bunch of digital processing, it can be neater. But that’s cheating. Or not. Depends on my mood.

dress-shop-buddha (with a little digital contrast tweaking)

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4 May 2010

Firstly, I am sorry I disappeared for so long. At the risk of making this a boring and trite “dear diary” moment, I’ll just say I was slightly preoccupied about where to take the Tiny Flying Goats project and dissatisfied with my perceived failings. But, damnit Annie, you know you need to just forge ahead. So here we are, and here we go.

Secondly, today is a one-day holiday (International Respect for Chickens Day) amidst an entire week-long holiday (Polaroid Week). I think this Chicken Respect business is pretty much up there with Groundhogs’ Day in terms of brilliant holidays. I have, coincidentally, been spending quite a bit of time respecting chickens of late (chiefly hanging out with them in various locales, working on a new photography series). I’ll be writing about the chicken photos later, but for now, please do celebrate today by respecting chickens. You can also read some more about our fine feathered friends at United Poultry Concerns. (I am concerned that the chickens are all going to be hung over tomorrow, after all this partying.)


As for that other thing, Polaroid week… I’ve been celebrating that too. Mostly, this is because I sprung for some of that yummy new PX100 Silver Shade film that the Impossible Project put out recently. It’s pretty pricey (understandably, with the R&D that’s been going on the past year), but it’s completely delectable, and I wish I had more of it. But it’s sold out, so I guess I’ll have to wait for the “second flush”.

Nerdy Camera Stuff

Though I try, I’m kind of bad at being a geeky photographer. I get a bit befuddled about the parts of photography that involve numbers. Sure, I know that stuff, and sure, I’m always trying crazy ambitious things like taking lens-building workshops for medium format cameras which totally involve math, and getting together with my photographer friend Jared for hours of coffee and camera-geek-talk… but at the heart of the matter, I’m much more of an impressionist than a stickler for exactitude and technique.

That said, let me tell you a little about my experience with the new PX100 Silver Shade integral Polaroid film… I was slightly wary of using it, at first, as it is, as I was saying, rather pricey ($21/8 shots), and the website made it sound very temperamental. But it turned out to be quite charming and not that difficult to deal with.

I was using a circa 1977 Pronto! B rigid-body SX70 camera.

Outdoor Shots

First, I went outside and shot with available light. It was a bit cold out… maybe 55 or 60˚F. (This film is prefers 63-75˚F), so I put each shot in my pocket to develop (the film is also light-sensitive while developing). Turns out the heat and darkness of my pockets did the trick quite nicely — though my results varied based on how long I kept the pictures away from light and what setting I had the light/dark adjustment set to on the camera (starting with it in the center for outdoor shots and adjusting in small increments worked well).

Indoor Shots

Later that evening, being addicted now to the Silver Shade film, I decided to do some still life photos inside. I set up two very bright color-balanced photo floods on either side of a table. I pulled out a Polaroid “macro” lens (i.e., a +3 filter). Of course, this lens wasn’t actually for this camera (it’s for pack film Land Cameras, I think), and actually had a different dimension and attachment mechanism than the Pronto lens, so, you guessed it, Scotch Tape to the rescue! Actually I’m quite well-chuffed with the weird vignetting that the smaller-than-the-lens-and-inexactly-attached filter caused.

The temperature inside was in the upper 60s, so that wasn’t an issue, but I still developed the shots in my pocket, to protect them from the light. I think they may have, thusly gotten a little too hot, causing some solarization-like effects (in a kind of oxblood-red color, in the shadows). Shooting indoors, with all that light, I had to turn the light/dark dial way up… or is that down? (I didn’t meter this situation, but it was pretty obvious what needed doin’.)

Summation (whoa, that’s an awfully formal subhead)

Interesting that the outdoor/colder weather shots came out far more yellowy-sepia and the indoor/hotter shots came out far more red. Both are lovely palettes. Especially fooling around with ill-matched filters and stuff, these pictures are delightfully and weirdly reminiscent of van dyke brown prints or even callitypes… but then they’re encased in plastic and pop out of one’s 70s camera instantly! If “thumbs up” weren’t trademarked vis-a-vis the rating of films, I would certainly give one or two to this film.

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