Despite The Weather, Trying New Things

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on December 21, 2014 in Personal |

Having neglected my camera for far too long, I decided that today would be a good day to get out into the wilds of northern Germany – but not too far into the wilds! – and see what can be seen. I must admit, though, that my plan was – and is – a little more than just that, than just going out and shooting a few photographs. I want to learn something, and I learn best by doing. I want to learn how to shoot photographs which are at least halfway decent and which are not digital.

Engraved Stone Post, Rohrson, Germany

Photo: Viktoria Michaelis

Isn’t everything digital these days? Are there still cameras which take analogue photographs, which use film, which have to be handled with due care and attention and only manage thirty-six images? There most certainly are, and plenty of film is still being produced for those going back to their roots, as it were, not just 35mm but also 120mm and plates. Many professional photographers, I am told, tend to use digital for planning and getting their ideas together, and film for the real work. And how do you get hold of these ancient photographic machines?

When was the last time you went to a fleamarket? Or, if you want to go a bit more upmarket, there is always eBay and, believe it or not, even some real camera shops which stock film cameras, as well as a fairly broad selection of films to make it all worthwhile. We’ve all heard that Eastman Kodak went bust, but the films are still there. And then there is Agfa, Fuji, Ilford to name but a few. Oh, and Impossible, for those who bought a Polaroid and now don’t know what to do with it!

Since I have almost no notion on how all these things work, I bought myself Provia 400X from Fujifilm and APX 400X from Agfa as well as ordering Kodak Ektar 100 (for color shots) and Ilford Delta 100 (for black and white). The first two I bought as single rolls simply because I sometimes don’t have the patience to wait for deliveries! And right away the first lesson learned, when buying something check the expiry date although, I am told, it isn’t too bad in this case since the Provia 400X is only six months over!

Windmill, Eystrup, Germany

Photo: Viktoria Michaelis

Films are one thing, cameras are quite another. I am used to using my Canon EOS 40D, despite its weight and size, and feel very comfortable with it. Now I need to get used to smaller, lighter cameras and, above all, to winding the film on after each shot. The larger of the two I have chosen to use is the Voigtländer VSL 3-E, the smaller a Pentax ME. I have several other cameras I could substitute should the desire arise – including a Pentax MV, a Canon T50 and an EXA 1a – but I want to learn first, experiment, and then, perhaps, expand.

Today, however, was not as much of a success as I had hoped. Of course, I have no idea how I fared with the film cameras; I didn’t shoot all the films right through. I took my Canon along with me too, partially to have an instant record of what I had seen, partially as a sort of control for the film cameras. The two images here, from many that I shot, were the only ones which I felt even halfway pleased with. The day was dull and overcast with very bad light, but I was determined to get out there and try, if nothing else. Learning by doing is one thing, but I’m not going to be squandering all of my time and money taking snapshots which end up as discards on the cutting room floor. Tomorrow, when the shops are open again, I shall see which books are available so that I can gather a few hints and tips from the professionals too.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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  • Francois says:

    One problem of photography under heavily overcast skies is the need to open the lens wide to let enough light in, at the expense of depth of field. Unlike the indifference of sensors to sensitivity ratings and the post-processing done willy-nilly in most digital cameras, film sensitivity is chemically fixed (ok, not absolutely but still).
    Two advantages are lack of shadow and saturation of colours (very little UV light to wash them out).
    Under those conditions, a lot of photographers avoid including the sky in the frame OR they make it the subject.
    I found books about the colour work OF Ernst Haas and books BY Ansel Adams (esp. Natural Light Photography, ISBN 0-8212-0719-9)to be inspiring.

    • I shall take a look at the books you recommend. The problem with architectural photography, which is what I wanted to try out with my first film-camera excursion, is that a little sky always seems to creep in some how. The buildings don’t fit the frame, so to speak. However, I shall see what happens when I get the first films developed, the disappointment was more on the digital side than anything else, but I could easily have switched to manual and tried my luck there instead.

  • Francois says:

    Those books may not be the best specifically for architectural work. Haas was the god of colour and Adams a B&W landscape genius as well as, a brilliant scholar of exposure and processing.

    All the cameras you list here are antiques (I had a Pentax ME for point and shoot when the world’s oil reserves were still blossoming ferns).
    With their normal lenses, none of them will make you happy for architecture unless you go for details. Professional architectural photographers use bellows cameras or medium format Hasselblads with special backs or lenses. As far as I know, the only camera to set foot on the Moon.

    Now, don’t laugh: the Kyiv / Kiev brand of camera is a Soviet Hasselblad clone that is pretty good but costs about 1/25th of the real thing. I could look for one.

    • A Hasselblad is, of course, something of a dream as far as my resources are concerned. Yes, my cameras are older models which have, I have been told, stood the test of time and I am still in the process of learning. Tomorrow I should be getting delivery of a recommended book on black and white analogue photography – not from the Big A, much quicker through the local bookshop! – and will start taking an in-depth look at all sorts of things, not just architecture. The shots I have taken so far are a fairly broad range of subjects, but we shall have to wait and see how they turn out.

  • Francois says:

    The Pentax ME and Canon T50 are marvels. Some of the best Auto/Manual SLRs ever made. The Canon is a bit quirkier but fun (and it eats batteries like they grow on trees.)
    The mechanics of the Pentax MV are not as good as the ME’s. I don’t know about the Voigtlander or the Exa but they both look like they were made for serious control freaks.
    If you find a working Pentax K 1000, don’t argue price: that is the full manual 35mm SLR of the 70’s.

    • The Voigtländer seems to be a well loved camera amongst some, as is the Pentax ME. I also know nothing about the EXA 1a, other than it took me a while to discover that you have to remove the entire lower casing to load a film, and I don’t think that I will be using it. The T50 is tempting me too, but I will be starting off with the ME and VSL 3-E to see how things go, along with my ‘learn photography as the ancients knew it’ manual.

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