Monday, May 28, 2012

Pack film notes

Polaroid Land Camera 320 finds a new home, Andrew D. Barron ©12/16/10
I busted my Fuji Instax 210 and reignited my interest in Polaroid Land cameras. I spent a lot of time figuring out pack film cameras before shifting entirely to the Instax Wide film in the Instax 210 camera. I made this blog as I sort out what is needed to give my pack film cameras another go.

If you’re interested in pack film instant photography, by all means, go for it. I hope you may learn from the notes herein.

Using these cameras is not for those looking for an easy solution, nor for those who want complete control over the exposure. They are satisfying to bring them back to life and also fun to shoot.

A little backstory. In December 2010, I found a Land Camera 320 in a thrift store (see that ambitious blog) that became part of the twisting road that has me shooting mostly film photographs these days.

I was blown away to learn one could recover the negatives from peel apart pack film. Eventually I found Michael Raso and the Film Photography Podcast, as well as the wonderful work of Bob Merco.

Pack film cameras make great looking photos! They are really fun to use, though be warned, using one tends to draw a lot of attention. Read on to learn more about film choices and battery conversion options.
Euchre Creek marsh, Ophir, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©1/08/11
Instant photography is alive and well, thanks to Fujifilm, The Impossible Project, the durability of old Polaroid cameras, and availability of new cameras from Fuji. Agnes Martin once mentioned the importance for her to “keep it above the line”. That applies here; it’s a good idea to be positive when blogging. Some of the obstacles of getting going with pack film cameras are easy to deal with. Some are not. Here we go.

Check the battery compartment for corrosion. If there is, you may wish to look for another Land Camera. It didn’t stop me. You may have to trim the wires further back when you do your battery conversion. Oh, wait. . .

If your battery compartment is not corroded and it takes a 3V 532 battery, the simplest solution is to buy another battery. I know of one source: the Film Photography Project stocks a limited supply for use in a number of models.
• 532 3V battery $12.99 plus shipping. (5.28.12).
• 531 4.5V battery $12.99 plus shipping. (5.28.12).

You may be able to find these elsewhere, but I seriously doubt it. If FPP runs out of stock or you want a cheaper more sustainable choice, it is best to convert to a modern battery. What batteries will you use? Your choice comes down to the model camera you have and what battery holder you can find. The cleanest conversion (for 3V) is to use a CR123 battery. Some camera models have a 4.5V battery requirement. Small, LED flashlights are a good source for 3-AAA battery holders, though you may have to rewire it to get the 4.5V. Other cameras have a 6V requirement.

You can hack together a battery conversion without a soldering iron, but it adds a level of uncertainty. I used a two-AA holder from Radio Shack and twisted the wires together. I could have removed more plastic inside the battery compartment. Most batteries come in 1.5V cells, so you can use any size really, but AA and AAAs are the most sensible. Anyway, I couldn’t get the back to close all the way which left some light leaks on the right hand edge:
Sisters Rocks on FP3000b, Andrew D. Barron ©1/09/11
Ragged but right, 2cr5 battery conversion, Andrew D. Barron ©7/31/11
A less destructive conversion is to use cr123 batteries. Below are links to some battery holders.

Two AAA’s for 3V.
Three AAA’s for 4.5V.
Two AA’s for 3V.
I really wish there were more choice for cr123s, but so far I have only found this one.
One CR123 for 3V
Here is a two-cr123 for 6V conversion (thanks John). He also did a sleek two-AAA conversion on a 320 here.

For my Land Camera 210, I did an unusual battery conversion. I broke apart a two cell camera battery, a 2CR5. This provided two 3v cells to work with including a metal tab at the terminals. This cell locked into place with no modification to the plastic. Then I cut off the original terminals off and soldered it together. Actually, here in this photo, it was taped together to test the shutter. I didn’t document my 210 conversion in 2011 very well.

Another quick option was uncovered just now: a pair of double AAs wired together, here for $8, as a special order. Maybe worth a try?

Clean the rollers first! I stupidly rushed in with my first pack of film and had a bunch of decades old gunk. This easy step should come before your first attempted photographs.

New packs of Fuji film, Andrew D. Barron ©1/7/11

Getting film is the only thing easy about restoring pack film cameras. Fuji’s current offerings are iso100 color film and iso3000 black and white film.

Fuji FP100C online for about $7.25 per pack of 10. (5.28.12)
Fuji FP3000C online for about $8.90 per pack of 10. (5.28.12)

For loading pack film, please see my 8.1.11 blog.

Fuji film packs are made of plastic. Land Cameras have a spring/tab that presses directly into the film in order to position it for exposure. Unfortunately, the pressure can be enough to ruin the first several exposures. It was for me anyway. If you have this problem, there will be damage to the film surface in the shape of the paper pull-tabs between exposures, like this:
Devil’s Backbone, Ophir, Andrew D. Barron ©1/08/11
It can also make it hard to get the exposed photograph out, leading to ripping off the pull-tabs. This seemed like a disaster for me at first, but it really isn’t that big of deal. But an ounce of preparation. . .

Find an empty older Polaroid pack film cartridge and keep it! They are made of metal and you can replace the back half of the Fuji’s plastic cartridge. This is quite easy to do, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to always do this. But it may not be enough to prevent over-pressure in the first half of the pack. You can also modify the spring/pressure mechanism inside the camera to reduce the compressive force. Good luck.

If you have done all of these things, there is still a chance that your pictures will turn out dark. This has to do with either not holding the shutter long enough, or worse, something to do with dying capacitors, discussed here and here.

In the end, I will probably try the 2cr5 in my Land Camera 320 and some FP100C, replacing the plastic portion with a metal vintage Polaroid empty pack. But, frankly, I really really love shooting a Fuji Instax 210 and will pick up a replacement one from Uniquephoto very soon.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Film catch up

This entry will bring together some photos made with the the Hasselblad 500c/m. Here she is, courtesy of the Nikomat FT2 and Tri-X400:
Hasselblad 500c/m at the mouth of Greggs Creek near Ophir, Andrew D. Barron©April 2012
All right, now stepping way back to November and my first roll on the Hasselblad, Portra 400.
Proebstel garage, Andrew D. Barron©11/23/11
Six weeks later I went to the desert. First stop was Split Mountain or Fish Creek road south of Ocotillo Wells.
Desert leap, Andrew D. Barron©1/6/12
We spent some time in El Centro, then back out to the Coyote Mountains. This is the place in Canyon Sin Nombre where a normal car must turn around. (I did it one time in a rented PT Cruiser though).
Paleozoic basement in Canyon Sin Nombre, Andrew D. Barron©1/12
We got up at sunrise. At the time, I had not seen this panorama because after our trip, I scooped up the 35mm negatives from 17 years ago and scanned them. It turns out that I nearly got the same picture with the Hasselblad, so that was neat. January 1995’s photomerge of two cropped-frame panoramas:
Canyon Sin Nombre overlook from S2, Andrew D. Barron©1/7/95
January 2012 with the Hasselblad and I believe the 50mm lens.
Day breaks at Canyon Sin Nombre, Andrew D. Barron©1/7/12
By early February I was back on the coast. I had used the Hasselblad quite a bit, however, as seen here, there are some focus issues with the 80mm lens. It looks okay, but it should be amazingly sharp. In the future with this lens, I will crank it all the way to infinity.
Moonrise over Blacklock, Andrew D. Barron©2/6/12
I had some pretty uncertain times in the early part of this year. The least of my worries was that I lost the cable release for the camera on the Blacklock hike. But I was reluctant to shoot without it. In March, there was some extreme weather.
Sunset and fence fail, Otter Point, Andrew D. Barron©3/12
Since April, I have stuck to using only the 50mm lens on the Hasselblad. I tried some long exposure stuff at the foot of Devil’s Backbone.
Woodroof Creek meets the sea, Andrew D. Barron©4/26/12

I really should stop at this point (but I’m not). The Nikomat FT2:
The beach at Greggs creek, Andrew D. Barron©April 2012
The opening to the west at Sisters Rocks, a place I once soaked my Instax 210.
The sea awaits, Andrew D. Barron©April 2012
I feel that I finally found a groove with this 35mm slr, my first real use with this type of film camera. The quality of the photographs to my eyes, particularly with color, sets a rather high mark. Ektar 100 negatives scan in with a weird blue cast, but it straightens out.
Azaleas in the rain, Andrew D. Barron©4/30/12
Overgrown trail, Andrew D. Barron©4/30/12

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Here is a quick comparison to get things started. I went to the Eastern Sierras as soon as I picked up my first dslr. I had a lot to learn. Here is how an out-the-window shot of Mount Whitney, July 23, 2010:
On the road to Mount Whitney, Andrew D. Barron©7/23/10
It was the 557th photo I’d taken with the Nikon. I had owned it a week. Amazing to look back now for it was only my second new camera in four years. I processed the shot from scratch this morning, choosing a 16x9 aspect ration instead of 1:2.35:
On the road to Mount Whitney, Andrew D. Barron©7/23/10
It is a long road to anywhere. That’s life I suppose.

It looks better now because I brought down the exposure some (the clouds), and did some light sharpening in the foreground. However, the photo isn’t that strong. I wish I had shot in RAW, but back then I was really torn carrying around that many megabytes for mediocre photographs. Nor had I found a workflow to create JPG from RAW that looked as pleasing as the Nikon’s in-camera JPG.

There are other differences between then and now, too. I used to serve photos with a service called Photobucket. Indeed, many of my photos are still sitting there. The problem I have with their service (and Facebook and Picasa) is from a systematic recompression of the files. Another interesting problem I found was based on my own HTML. I used to resize the images with commands. It was a bad habit, but I did it for a very long time. I coded a 1024 pixel image as 800 pixels with a link to view the full size photograph. The full size picture was definitely not comparable to the file sitting on my hard drive. Somewhere between the image server and my browser, the photograph would be degraded from it’s source size. Between having my own webserver and embedding the photographs at full size, I got that control back.

In the original post where this photo appears, there are 33 photos in one blog entry. I love to share photographs, but gradually I reduced the number of photos per entry to about 12. I have many more viewers now than two years ago, but this most likely has to do with the accumulation of content, not from these changes. So my blogging style ebbs and flows with my photography style. Streamlining, revising, trying to get the that ‘it’ that leads me to photograph things in the first place.

I now take much more time editing fewer photographs as well as much more time while photographing. The other night I went out for about two hours and opened the shutter three times. It is a natural progression.

I once thought that by writing informative articles, unforeseen connections would loop through. I was a little off. The internet seems to be a one-direction feed, where folks just take what is out there and sort it out. I don’t go out with a camera for a reason. It may be an artistic impulse, the love of a place, or even of being alive that drives me. Though not to overstate it, since it can be from boredom, too. In real life I joke about my internet/photography activities as ‘stuff that nobody cares about.’ I’ll say that nobody cares, and statistically it is probably true. But in the end, it’s me that cares, or else, why bother? The sustained push for photographic pursuits has been going on for years now and shows no sign of stopping.

Okay, I painted myself into a corner with all of that. How about some film photographs from a disposable camera?! Introducing the Kodak Ultra Compact with an Ektanar lens and GT800 film, expired April 2011, photos from March:
Rock fall above Sisters Rocks, Andrew D. Barron©March 2012
I shot a lot of documentary photos of the flooding. I will take more care using these cameras, seeing the unexpected quality. Rogue river:
Bankful on the Rogue, Andrew D. Barron©3/22/2012
Try to spot the group of birds.
Patterson Bridge over on the Rogue, Andrew D. Barron©3/22/2012
Nesika Road, Andrew D. Barron©March 2012
I forgot about this camera for a while; this is some time later in April:
Sisters Rocks, Andrew D. Barron©April 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Memory quiz

Konica Autoreflex T, Andrew D. Barron©8/6/11
For a while now I’ve been thinking of a way to document all of the cameras I’ve gone through. So I wrote them all down in order. This was a fun phase.
Pre 2010
Kodak Cameo Zoom : pre-photographer days; donated in 2007
Sony DSC-H1: 2006-present (two sensors)
Cameras, Summer 2011, Andrew D. Barron©7/15/11
Nikon P8700 : June, borrowed
Nikon D5000 : July
Hipstamatic 190 : December
Polaroid 320 : December
Minolta AutoPAK 440E : December

Fujifilm Instax 210 : February
Infrared conversion on D5000 : February
Nikon P6000 : February
Panasonic Lumix LX 5 : February
Nikon D90 : June, borrowed
Polaroid 210 : July
Minolta 110 Zoom : July
Nikon N50 : July
Konica Autoreflex T : August
Kodak Ektra 2 (110) : July
Nikomat FT2 : October
Hasselblad 500c/m : October
Petri 7s fixed focus : December

Kodak disposables
Leica IIIf
Film choices, Andrew D. Barron©4/22/12

Film tried (August 2011 to present)

Kodak Gold 400 in 110 (hard expired)

Fuji 200 (hard expired and abused)
Kodak Gold 200 (hard expired and abused)
Kodak Gold 400 (hard expired and abused)
Kodak Portra 400
Kodak Ektar 100
Kodak Ektachrome 100VS
Kodak Tri-X 400
Fuji Velvia 50
Fuji Superia 800
Fuji Provia 100
Fuji Astia 100

Kodak Portra 800
Kodak Portra 400
Kodak Portra 160
Kodak Ektar 100
Kodak Tri-X 400
Kodak TMAX 400

I am trying to shoot only one camera at a time these days. It is a more sensible approach. The comparative photographs (multiple cameras on same shot) seem to lose their value in my explorations. I suppose if the shot is worthy, I will still get out more than one.

On the horizon for me are some northeastern California adventures, a bluegrass festival, and perhaps a trip to eastern Oregon and/or the eastern Sierras. A remote possibility is a trip to Austin, TX as well. I plan to shoot the Hasselblad a lot for candid portraits, as well as the Leica IIIf in the coming months. As for gear and cameras, I’m interested in:
• A cable release for the Leica
• A wide angle lens for the Leica, too. Why not. 28mm?
• Sure, an 11mm lens for the infrared D5000 while I am at it. (Props to Bob Merco for showing me such photos).
• A replacement Instax 210, or better, the elusive 500af
• Fuji Across panchromatic films in 35mm
• Extension tubes for macro work with my Summitar 50mm ƒ2.0
• Wide-Lux cameras
• The Hasselblad XPan panoramic camera
• New TIP films; Spectra and SX-70 may get their first packs this year
• Pentax 67 slr.
• Fuji GF670

I hoped to be moving towards large format by now, but I have found it difficult enough working with the Hasselblad 500c/m to postpone that ambition until I have a clearer vision.

I always have my eye out for a decent pack film land camera, with my top three as follows: 100, 360, slr680.

Whew, there was a lot more in my head than I realized when I began this entry!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

This week

It is that time of the week for my blog post. I got my Leica back already. The cla (clean-lube-adjust) on the body and two lenses plus new curtains and rangefinder prism doubled my price. But it’s a Leica. I am nearly done shooting a roll of Porta 400 in there and tested the Culminar 85mm ƒ2.8 lens. Both the stock collapsible Sumitar 50mm ƒ2.0 and the longer Culminar have a (far away) closest focus of about 3 feet. That seems like a mile away compared to the macro stuff I’ve done in the past.

On Thursday night I lost another tire. It was one I picked up in Susanville about a year ago. There wasn’t a used 205/60/r16 to be found on the south coast. I was a ways out, so I’m glad it gave up after it got me back from the woods. I was above Lobster Creek shooting my last roll of Velvia 50 in the Nikomat. Those film photographs will probably be fun, but I also brought along the infrared d5000 for some shots up there:
Last light lower Rogue, Andrew D. Barron©5/16/12
Well after sundown, Andrew D. Barron©5/16/12
I’ve temporarily mothballed the FT2 while I give the Leica a spin.
Temporary farewell:Nikomat FT2 at Sisters Rocks, Andrew D. Barron©5/8/12
I had a catastrophic computer failure. I didn’t lose any data, but I damn sure lost a useful machine, the Sony Vaio VGN-FE590 (not pictured). It had become an integral part of my work flow. Luckily,everything was safe on the hard drive. The best part about that computer was the docking station, providing additional USB, gigabit LAN, optical audio, display ports, and another hard drive. It was $250 back in 2006, but worth a quarter of that now. Here I am dealing with the multiple terabytes that life is for me in a huge computer I put together to be a digital audio workstation when I was chasing that dream.

I also figured out how to retrieve film leaders accidentally rolled up into the canister. I am still unsure if I want to put Provia in the Leica next. That’s why there is film in this picture.
Hard drive party, Andrew D. Barron©5/16/12
I am having a flashback to 2010 when I thought I was on my way to real dslr photography. I wanted to shoot raw, but the files were huge. I wanted fast firewire 800 to copy of the camera memory cards, but my 2007 MacBook didn’t have that. The expensive 32gig SD card dropped to 1/4 of what I paid for it in 2010. My dslr became obsolete in 4 months. Digital photography technology moves at a pace that exceeds human need. Price drops and the planned obsolescence really highlights this for me. I try to keep up with things out there still. There have been about three notable cycles since I picked up my first dslr only two summers ago. Yet, looking at some of the 8x10 prints from my 5mp Sony p&s, I just don’t see want for much more. The world of Nikon dslrs that I stumbled into was very educational. The way things turned out, I sidestepped the rat race entirely. I would have been better off with a d90 body, but I likely would not have converted it to infrared, a type of photography I am quite fond of. Only a year ago I was seeking a suitable small camera, usually with a the word enthusiast somewhere in the description. I wanted a fully manual, large sensor camera. I tried a Nikon p6000 and a Lumix LX5. I sold the LX5 even though I liked it better. The P6000 was an early gps-enabled camera, and has gone through two cycles (P7000, P7100) and is probably approaching the third soon.

The funny thing is that I found a very nice fully manual large sensor enthusiast camera. A Leica IIIf.
Leica IIIf, Andrew D. Barron©5/16/12
The longer lens requires different viewfinder. The amazing thing to me is, well, how on earth do you find focus? I tested out the lens by using a tape measure! How else would you do it?
Leica IIIf with Culminar 85mm ƒ2.8 and Walz finder, Andrew D. Barron©5/15/12
I also returned my Epson V330. It is a good scanner for the money, but I really would like to scan my 120 negatives. I am now considering a refurbished Epson V500.

On a random adventure in Madera, CA in January, I unearthed a 2007-expired disposable camera. I don’t have an answer to the question why would I shoot with a disposable camera when I have a Hasselblad and a nice 35mm slr. Here are two photos taken in Oregon with it:
Headed up the Humbug trail with a disposable camera, Andrew D. Barron©2012
Hubbard Mound from Otter Point with a disposable camera, Andrew D. Barron©2012
Next up, I have some shots from the Nikomat FT2 with Ektar 100.
Old Coast Road, Andrew D. Barron©4/27/12
Azaleas? and trees, Andrew D. Barron©4/27/12
New growth, 333 trail, Andrew D. Barron©4/27/12
Here is my nod to taking proper notes! The original exif.
The original exit, Andrew D. Barron©4/27/12
Last but not least, some frames from the roll before that Ektar, another roll of expired Tri-X400.
The train doesn't stop here anymore, Andrew D. Barron©4/7/12

With the grain, Andrew D. Barron©4/12
Here is something different. I have’t really shot this camera into the sun. It was a nice sunset walk at the mouth of Greggs Creek. When I adjusted the levels the sun’s disc became strange. This image needs another round of editing, but here it is. The black and white sunset:
The black and white sunset, Andrew D. Barron©4/12

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hasselblad Hodge Podge

I’ve been eager to share my film photographs here lately, but this time I will start with a few from the digital infrared.
Clouds above, Andrew D. Barron©5/4/12
Stop by, you're welcome any time, Andrew D. Barron©5/4/12
How many times have I taken this picture? I would guess fifty or sixty.
Sunset on the marsh, Andrew D. Barron©5/4/12
Stepping back to late last December, here are Sisters Rocks.
Sisters Rocks along 101 near Ophir, Andrew D. Barron©12/24/11
(Tiffen red #25 and borrowed Nikkor 35mm/f2.0)

I spent a little time at Lobster Creek bridge in the summer of 2010 with my first dslr. Seems like a million years ago. Here is a shot from below the bridge back then followed by two film shots from the bridge last December. I almost forgot what a respectable camera the d5000 was before conversion. I reprocessed this to 5:4 tonight:
Lobster Creek bridge at the Rogue, Andrew D. Barron©8/28/10
These 35mm pictures seem like half a million years ago. Here is a nice pair captured between film changes:
Metamorphic rocks at the confluence of Lobster Creek and the Rogue, Andrew D. Barron©12/24/11
I really love Velvia 50, but it may be a little too slow and lacking in shadow detail for this area:
Metamorphic rocks at the confluence of Lobster Creek and the Rogue, Andrew D. Barron©12/24/11
You can review some relevant beginnings here.

Lately I’ve noticed a shift away from pushing photography forward into a much more comfortable state. Instead of asking myself what I am I doing next, I see that, thanks to film, it has become “okay, what did I do?”

I should have been methodical with the Hasselblad. First off, the 1971 Hasselblad that I have been using is labeled 500c, but is in fact an early unmarked 500c/m. This means it has an easily removable and interchangeable focusing screen. So, the taking of notes: I cannot emphasize this failing of mine enough. It has been a long long road for me to slow down. There are some crushing realities; several rolls are incomplete. What happened? I got 71 frames out of 84, so there is something definitely wrong. I got one accidental double exposure. In 21 rolls of 120 film, I should know what is wrong with with what lens, etc., but I don’t. This is a recent shot on Porta 400:
Rope descent at Devil's Backbone, Andrew D. Barron©4/30/12
Here is a shot from old Dolomite Mine Road last January:
Ocotillo at sunrise, Coyote Mountains, Andrew D. Barron©1/9/12
The square format seems ill-suited for this blog. I absolutely love the pictures from the Hasselblad, I just wish they were more economical.

A Hasselblad diptych! This moment got it’s own blog back then.
Humbug sunset, Andrew D. Barron©2/17/12

Here is a shot from the beach at Blacklock point from last February:
Blacklock sunset, Andrew D. Barron©2/3/12

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