Texas Motorcycle Revival

Last Saturday the annual Texas Motorcycle Revival was going on at Central Texas Powersports in Georgetown, TX. This small gathering drew some neat bikes last year and I was eager to see what people would ride in this time around. There was a great mix of machines and, as usual, I came away inspired. Someday I'm going to have to find an old bike to wrench on and bring back to life.

Lately when I attend events like these I travel minimally, photographically speaking. I opted for film shooting because it's kind of self limiting in the number of shots I can take and it tends to keep me more into the experience of the event instead of having a camera up to my face the whole time I'm there. My pocketable Olympus XA was my camera companion of choice, loaded with a roll of Agfa Vista 200 film.

Here are a few favorite bikes. That Vincent...drool.

And some closer details. The Olympus XA can't focus very closely and I was tempted to use my iPhone at times. I decided to keep it a pure analog experience. It just seemed fitting.

If you'd like to see more of the great classic bikes from the show, check out my gallery site.

Rustic Roadside Sights

I was meandering through some backroads on my motorcycle a few weeks back. It was just one of those aimless trips where I was out to enjoy the ride and clear my head. Sometimes I don't bother taking a camera at all on trips like that. Other times I'll take something small, simple, and pocketable. Sounds like an iPhone maybe? Nah. I often try to leave as much technology behind as I can on these quiet backroads rides. This time my camera companion was an Olympus Stylus 35mm film camera, loaded up with a roll of Agfa 200.

As it turned out, I didn't do that much shooting that day. The ride was more needed than the photography fix. I stopped rarely and grabbed shots of a few rustic looking abandoned homes and other structures. Nothing out of the ordinary for these parts. Most of the film roll went unused, saved for another day. That's OK. There will always be other rides.

Cruising the Parking Lot at the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show

I shared some shots that I took at the Handbuilt Motorcycle show a couple of weeks back. This time I wanted to share a few images from outside the show. The street in front of Fair Market was closed off for motorcycle parking and these are some of the bikes people rode in the show. Sometimes the bikes in the parking lot are even more interesting than the show bikes.

The images below were taken with my trusty Olympus XA2 and a roll of Portra 400 film. If you follow my blog with any regularity you know that I'm often inclined to shoot a roll or two of film at events like this, often with seemingly limiting cameras. Shooting with the simple XA2 lets me stay in the moment and enjoy the show and company of the folks I'm hanging out with. These images are very snapshot-like. Nothing fancy, just quick captures of things that interest me.

The little XA2 can be a challenge to use since I find it difficult to see the framelines through the viewfinder with my glasses on. I shoot looser than I would normally with this camera. The XA2 does a fine job with exposure and the images it produces are just sharp enough. I find them to have a bit of a low-fi look that really suits the subject matter. Below are a few favorites. Check out more sights from the Handbuilt Show on my gallery site.

Lonestar Round Up - B&W Edition

Yesterday I shared a few color film images that I took at the annual Lonestar Round Up car show. This time I wanted to share a few images in black and white, shot on Kodak Tri-X film with my Nikon FM and a 35mm lens. While the color images were taken with fully auto point and shoot cameras that did all the exposure metering, these were entirely up to me. Sunny 16 rule on a kind of overcast day!

I did have a pocket light meter with me and I did a few initial checks of the light. Before taking a shot I'd guess the exposure and check against the meter. I was right most of the time so I put it away. There is a lot of leeway with Tri-X so there was nothing to fear. I put a yellow filter on my lens to keep the sky pulled in a bit and just casually took my photos while wandering around an awesome collection of cars. As usual I stuck with the classics and rat rods. It isn't an easy decision to use black and white film on the rats. All that rusty texture looks amazing in color. Honestly, it came down to the fact that the FM was already loaded with an almost full roll.

Here are a few favorite sightings.

Film development and scanning by Austin Camera. More images from the Round Up are on my gallery site here.

Lonestar Round Up - Color Edition

Last weekend I got to attend the Lonestar Round Up, my favorite car show of the year around here. I met my friend Mark and his kids out there for a stroll through all the rows of cars while we got caught up with each other.  I wanted to take photos of course but I also wanted to enjoy spending some time with friends without being burdened with a lot of camera gear. This year I grabbed some obligatory snapshots in a different way. 

I had 4 cameras with me at the Round Up. Yeah, I know, I just said I didn't want to lug around a lot of gear. I still kept my word. In my smallest bag I had my Nikon FM with 35mm lens, an Olympus Stylus, and an Olympus XA2. In addition, I had my iPhone so that's 4 cameras - 3 film, one digital. Originally I had the idea of shooting only with the point and shoot film cameras and supplement a bit with the iPhone. I mainly brought the FM along because it was loaded with a roll of Tri-X that I wanted to finish up.

Last week I shared my iPhone shots. Today I'll share some color images from the film cameras. I had a roll of Agfa Vista 200 in the Stylus and a roll of Svema 125 in the XA2. The Agfa has been my go-to film for casual snapshots and I'd been wanting to try the Svema for a while. The Svema has an interesting color palette that is very muted, with good contrast. It had more grain than I expected for a film of that speed but it was fine for the subject matter. I ended up liking the Agfa shots a little bit better, which is nice because it is a very inexpensive film.

Agfa Vista 200

Svema 125

More shots from the Round Up are on my gallery site here. Film processing and scanning by Austin Camera.

Taylor Main Street Car Show

The Main Street Car Show was held last weekend in downtown Taylor, TX. The small town of Taylor has some great old buildings in their downtown area, making it a perfect scenic spot to show off classic cars. I traveled light once again, taking only a single roll of AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 color negative film for my Olympus OM4 Ti. I can easily get snap happy at events like this so I find it refreshing to limit my picture taking to make time for enjoying the event. Here are some favorites from the roll.

Truth be told, I did wish I'd brought a second roll of film. I have never been to this annual show and it was a bigger event than I'd anticipated. I had to be really selective about my shots, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. One more roll would have been just right I think. To satisfy my urge to document more of the eye candy, I allowed myself to take a few detail shots with my iPhone. I used the Blackie app to take these shots. The first one is a rare self portrait. Or is it the last one? Hard to tell.

Waxing Nostalgic with Prints

It has been a lot of years since I got prints back along with my developed film. When I dropped off my most recent roll of film at my local lab, Austin Camera, I recalled how fun it used to be to get that envelope stuffed with negatives and prints. I remembered getting those prints, usually double prints for sharing, and going through them - sorting out my favorites and tossing aside the crappy ones. No computer necessary, just the pure tactile joy of handling real photo prints. I decided it was time to revert to old practices. If I'm going to the trouble to shoot film and have it developed by a lab, why not get prints? It doesn't cost much more, especially with a develop/scan/print deal they have at Austin Camera.

My roll of Cinefilm color negative film was an ideal candidate for getting back to film prints. I had the lab print the roll on a matte paper that complemented the muted colors of this motion picture film stock. It felt great to hold prints in my hands and to be able to see my images without the aid of a computer or a negative light table. Yeah, I think I'm hooked on printing again. Apart from the gratification of having the prints in my hands, I found that these physical images made me look more critically at my compositions and framing. A few were sloppy and looked rushed. We tend to snap away in the digital world, straightening, cropping, and cleaning things up in post. In a print straight off the negative you can't hide the slop. It's both humbling and motivating. Get it right in camera...really right.

CineStill 50 - A Small Town Test

I spent one recent Sunday afternoon testing a couple of new things - an Olympus XA 2 and a roll of CineStill 50 35mm color negative film. The CineStill film is something I've been wanting to try for a while now. This is Kodak Vision 3 motion picture film that is used to film movies, albeit the use of film is kind of a rarity these days in Hollywood. This type of film has an anti-halation backing layer called Remjet that would ordinarily make it very difficult to process. CineStill has had the Remjet removed so that it can be processed like any ordinary C-41 film. Very cool!

The 50 ISO rated daylight balanced CineStill is perfect for our bright sunny days in my part of Texas. I've read where people even recommend overexposing it at ISO 25. For my first outing I decided to keep it at box speed. I was a little nervous shooting it in the untested XA 2 since CineStill is a little expensive (I think I paid about $11 for a roll.) Since the camera seemed to be in good working order with what appeared to be new light seals I took the gamble and it paid off. I was hoping to have a combination that got me rich yet muted colors with minimal effort on my part. Shooting with the XA 2 I got exactly that. All I had to do was guesstimate distance to select one of 3 focus options on the XA 2 and frame my shot. The amazing latitude of the film took care of the rest.

As usual when testing new gear, I headed down the road into Taylor, TX then up into Granger to finish out the roll. Here are a few favorites. The only post processing of the film scans was a slight bump in contrast and clarity. Film processing and scanning was done by Austin Camera.

Sunday in Taylor

Camera G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) struck me a couple of weeks ago when I noticed that my favorite online camera seller, KEH, had a sweet sale going on. While I wasn't particularly looking for anything at the time, a sale is sale so I had to take a look. As luck would have it I found a camera that was on my "want it some day" list. It was an Olympus OM-4Ti 35mm film camera and at 25% off I clicked the buy button without a second thought. I'll talk more about this camera and why I was interested in it in an upcoming post. For now, I just thought I'd share a few photos I took with it on a functional test in nearby Taylor, TX. 

It was last Sunday morning when I ventured out with my friend and fellow photographer Jim. He has the same camera and was kind enough to show me the ropes on it and lend me some lenses. Taylor is a small town and I've certainly been there enough times that it seems like I've taken photos of just about everything there. Once again though, Taylor didn't disappoint as I pushed myself to find something special in the familiar. 

All photos were taken with the Olympus OM-4Ti using 50mm and 24mm Olympus lenses on Fujifilm Acros 100 black and white film. The film was developed and scanned by Austin Camera.

Eastman 5363 High Contrast Film

I purchased a few unconventional rolls of film from the Film Photography Project store a while back. One weekend recently I decided to load one of these rolls into a Canonet QL17 GIII I was trying out. It was a 24 exposure roll of Eastman 5363, a high contrast black and white film. This is a copy film, used for copying titles and mats in motion picture films according to the FPP site. From what what I'd read, I was hopeful I could get a nice contrasty "noir" look. I loaded up the Canonet and headed to my favorite nearby photography testing grounds in downtown Taylor, TX.

Well, I can say that this high contrast film certainly lives up to that description. I shot in a variety of settings, from harsh daylight to open shade. In the right light, this film looks great and gives a fantastic noir look. The camera I used didn't have a working meter so I ball parked things with the sunny 16 rule. What I found is that the dynamic range of this film is very limited. Shadows and, more importantly, highlights are easily lost in bright sunlight or on anything reflective. Normally, I'd use a yellow or orange filter to help tame sunlight but this was advised against by the folks at FPP. Keep the light a little flat like in open shade and the results are impressive. 

My film was developed and scanned by the friendly folks at Austin Camera. Here are a few of my favorite frames.

This is some interesting film stock and I'll definitely order more. I was hoping it would do a little better in bright daylight. Perhaps better results could be had with different development chemistry or pulling the development time down a bit. I'd like to see how well it does on an overcast day and early evening. At ASA 25, this slow film would become a challenge at night without a tripod. I'd be up for trying it out though. Working with some limitations, this film has promise for giving me that noir fix.

Mixing Film and Digital at Muster Day

I recently attended the annual open house and "Muster Day" activities at Camp Mabry in Austin. It has become a regular thing for me to go out and take pictures of the WWII reenactors at these events. The men and women who put the war reenactments on do so at great personal expense in time and dollars. I think it is an important way to communicate history and taking photos for these folks is my way of giving back a little.

I usually try and get at least a somewhat authentic period look to my photos.  In fact, I shot most images this year with black and white film. I took 3 cameras with me this time around: a Leica IIIf, a Canon AE-1, and a Fujifilm X-E1. The Leica is a fairly recent acquisition of mine and I took it for a more period looking camera. Although my IIIf dates at 1952, it looks a lot like the IIIa or IIIc cameras that might have been carried by some during that era. I had a 50mm Elmar lens of 1938 vintage attached. The Canon had a cheap Vivitar zoom attached and my X-E1 was equipped with a 60mm XF lens.  I used Kodak TRI-X in the Leica and the Canon.  It is becoming my favorite general purpose B&W film - very versatile and looks great. The X-E1 was configured to capture B&W JPEGs.

My intention was to shoot primarily with the Leica and I did - sort of. Due to my lack of experience with this old camera, I messed up and didn't get it loaded correctly the first time. In my excitement of capture pictures of the troops, I went through a whole roll's worth of shots that didn't get recorded since the film wasn't advancing. I should have caught that.  Foolish, painful mistake that I'm betting I don't repeat any time soon. What shots I did get were wonderful. The Elmar lens is sharp and contrasty - amazing image quality for its age.  Stopped down a bit and focused carefully it is every bit as sharp as the modern macro lens that I used on my X-E1.

The lens that I used on the Canon AE-1 is not the greatest. The majority of film era zooms, particularly the moderately prices models, are not known for the best image quality. This Vivitar is very difficult to focus and flares easily. Still, if focus is achieved and the light is right it isn't bad.  I mainly used it for battle field shots but I did get a few decent candid portraits with it.  Those are the shots that are the most rewarding for me.  While the excitement of the battle with explosions and gun fire is fun to watch and photograph, it is the moments before that when the reenactors are getting in character and donning their "war faces" that I find the most interesting to capture.

The camera and lenses I used spanned a period of about 70 years of technology. As I look at the images, the differences in the analog and digital captures are not so great - at least not in black and white.  Still, there is something about film that just looks and feels right. Perhaps I'm waxing nostalgic but digital captures are a little sterile compared with the tonality and imperfections of film.  There are certainly advantages to digital but film is more rewarding and endearing, especially for this sort of subject matter. I mixed the shots from the various cameras up a bit through this post.  Can you tell which is which?

The troops of the Camp Mabry Living History Detachment will be back in action for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. If you're in the Austin area, it's sure to be a great time and you might just learn something about history.  I plan to be out there shooting some more film now that I've gotten a better handle on that Leica!

Exposure Latitude of Black and White Film

A while back I took a class in black and white film developing.  The instructor in the class talked about the exposure latitude of black and white film and how forgiving it is compared to other media such as slide film or digital images.  He made a comment at one point that really stuck in my head.  He said, "I'm not sure I'd be able to tell the difference in one stop between exposures."  At the time, I thought he was just kidding with us.

Fast forward a few months and I'm out with some photog friends doing some night photography in downtown Austin.  I was getting a shot of a high dynamic range scene of a lighted stairwell.  After several meter readings of the scene, I decided on an exposure of 8 seconds.  When I'm doing long exposures I usually have the camera in bulb mode and use a cable shutter release along with a stop watch app on my phone.  On this occasion I was using a cable release I'd picked up cheap somewhere and wasn't familiar with its locking mechanism.  I had been using it for a while that night and had no issues.  On my first exposure of the stairwell, I must have inadvertently hit the cable release lock because the plunger didn't release when took my thumb off.  I fumbled with the release for several seconds before I figured out how to unlock it, resulting in a exposure that was about twice as long as intended - a full stop difference!

Assuming I'd just blown the highlights to oblivion (as would surely have been the case with my digital gear), I grabbed another shot with the intended exposure time and moved on.  A few days later I picked up the developed film (Yes, I'm still not developing at home - yet!) and expected to see a mess of a negative for the overexposed shot.  I was very surprised to see that there was practically no discernable difference!  Here are the two exposures as scanned with no post processing:

Can you see much difference?  Neither can I.  The Fujifilm Acros 100 film I was using does a great job at reeling in the highlights and one stop wasn't enough to make any real difference in the shadows.  Had this been a digital exposure I'd surely have lost a lot of detail in the brightly lit stairwell.  With the black and white film, either exposure is workable and there was plenty of latitude in the scanned file.  My development class instructor wasn't kidding after all!

Here is the final image after a little post processing:

Exploring Liberty Hill, TX

I am fond of spending an afternoon wandering around the small towns of Texas.  There are many small towns within easy driving distance of Austin and I have been making photo trips as I have time for a personal project of mine.  My friend Andy asked if he could accompany me on one of my little adventures and we recently headed west down Hwy 29 one hot Sunday afternoon.  Those who live in the area will know such an endeavor is borderline insane in the oppressive heat of our summers.  Then there is the matter of trying to take pictures in the worst possible part of the day.  Well, I'm not a morning person and since I'm shooting with black and white film for my little project some heat and hard light won't scare me off. Although...I do wonder at what temperature film melts now that I think about it.  It was a scorcher that day!

We visited 3 towns together, the first being Liberty Hill.  This little town was founded in the 1840s.  It isn't much to see from the main highway.  There are convenience stores, a few businesses and newer subdivisions readily visible but nothing interesting or historical looking. A little help from the Google satellite view helped us locate the old main street of town, tucked away just off of the highway.  There we found a small strip of old buildings in various states of renovation or disrepair.  Just what we were looking for!

I wandered around town with only a bottle of water and my Nikon F2 with a 28mm lens (yellow filter attached) loaded with Fujifilm Acros 100.  Andy decided to lug around a tripod for some HDR shots with his Canon 6D.  We spread out so as not to get in each others shots but we ended up shooting roughly the same things (not like there were a whole lot of choices!)  One thing that surprised me was how busy the main street through town was.  Apart from a small grocery store, nothing was open and few cars were stopping.  It struck me how we were there to capture shots of the old architecture while folks local to the area whizzed by in their cars, not giving the all but forgotten main street area a second thought.  I had to make it a point to watch out for cars when I stepped into the street to compose some shots - not something I'm usually concerned about in a small town.

It occurred to me that just about every small town I visit has a barber shop and a bank building on the main street or in the square of downtown.  Liberty Hill was no exception.  The barber shop looked to be renovated with a painted facade at some point.  I'd rather see natural old brick or stonework.  The front porch provided some relief from the sun beating down on us.  I'm rather fair skinned so I seek out frequent breaks in the shade.

The old bank building was occupied by a chiropractic office and antique mall.  Unfortunately the antique mall wasn't open.  It would have been nice to pop in.  I liked the simple arched windows and doorways of this building.  I also think it's cool to see the dates prominently embedded into these old structures.

Pretty much all of the buildings on this main street were finished in simple brick or stone work. Arches were a common theme.  I was curious what was behind the curtains of the place in the image above.  The position of the sun in the sky placed one side of the street in shadow and the other in full sun.  I think Andy made a wise choice with his decision to shoot bracketed images for HDR with his digital rig.  Black and white film is a little more forgiving and I tend to like the high contrast anyway.

Some of the buildings were in shabby condition and there doesn't appear to be much active renovation underway.  It's a shame to see some of these great old structures sitting there in decay.  Most seem to just need a little work to be suitable for business again.

Behind the row of business buildings was a small neighborhood.  The playscape consumed by an unkempt lawn caught my eye.  I don't think any children have played there for quite some time.

Liberty Hill offered an interesting diversion from modern city life.  I enjoyed its old main street and hope that the area will get some needed renovation and thrive again.  Check out Andy's blog for some great color images of Liberty Hill.

Yashica-C - Medium Format TLR on a Budget

Those who follow my work know that I've been into film in a pretty big way lately.  I've been excited about vintage cameras and I've got a small collection going.  The second film camera I bought (the Nikon F2 being my first) was the Yashica-C.  I wanted to try out some medium format film to see how it compared with all the 35mm I've shot.  While I was trying out something new for film media, I decided to try a style of camera that I've always been intrigued by - a twin lens reflex (TLR).

After watching KEH's site for a few weeks I found a bargain grade Yashica-C and snapped it up.  Yashica TLR cameras are what I think of as a poor man's Rollei.  I'd love to own a Rollei some day but the collector market has driven the prices way up there.  From what I've read about the Yashicas, I knew it would be a just fine starter TLR at a fraction of the price of a Rollei.  Apart from a dent in the film door, the little Yashica-C arrived in great shape.  The screen could be a little brighter perhaps and maybe I'll clean it up some day.  My first roll of film showed that it was light tight and functioned just fine.  

The Yashica-C debuted in the late fifties.  It has a 80mm f/3.5 lens with a shutter that goes from bulb to 1/300.  It has no built-in light meter so I used my Sekonic L-358 meter.  I'm fine with that, although it would be nice to have a spot meter some day.   A knob is used to advance the film and another knob is used to focus.  A flip-up magnifier in the waist level viewfinder can be used to fine tune focus.  The shutter is cocked separately from the film advance with a lever next to the taking lens.  Shutter speed and aperture are set with little levers on either side of the lens.

I really like having a separate lens to compose my frame.  When I'm shooting in daylight I almost always have a yellow filter on my lens for B&W film.  A TLR camera allows you to see the scene unfiltered - very cool.  I plan to do some long exposure work with an ND filter I picked up so the separate taking lens will be real handy for that.  With an SLR I have to take off the filter to compose and focus.  It can stay on all the time on a TLR.   Speaking of filters, I found a bayonet to 52mm filter adapter so I can attach the filters I have for my 35mm film gear to the Yashica.  Cool!

How does image quality of 120 film compare to 35mm?  All I can say is "wow."  There is certainly a higher degree of detail and less grain given the same film in each format.  I'm not sure the film scans I have done at my local camera shop really do it justice though.  Still there is definitely a difference and I really like the look of medium format shots.  It makes 35mm seem kind of muddled in detailed scenes.

There are a couple of caveats with the lens in the Yashica-C.  The Yashikor lens is not Yashica's highest quality lens (that would be the Yashinon.)  The Yashikor exhibits a bit of softness in the corners in my copy, albeit nothing that I've found to be particularly objectionable.  The lens is also prone to flare so a hood is recommended.  I sometimes like a bit of flare so again, this isn't a big problem for me.

One thing that I'm still getting used to is the square format of the Yashica.  It captures the image on a 6x6cm square of 120 film, yielding 12 shots per roll.  The good thing is that is a huge negative, full of wonderful detail!  However, I found the square format to be a little bit of a challenge compositionally.  It's not bad, just different from what I'm used to.  At least I don't have to think about whether to shoot horizontal or vertical compostions!

There are several Yashica TLR models and they are great bargains in medium format cameras.  If you're looking for something to dabble in that range of film a Yashica is a good way to go.

All shots taken on Ilford Delta 100 film in the Yashica-C.  Scanned images were adjusted in Lightroom for contrast and toning.

Nikon F2 - Beauty and Precision

A while back I was contemplating the purchase of my first film camera.  Most of my photog friends thought I was nuts.  Why go backwards in technology? Well, with all the electronic gadgets in my life and countless hours staring at computer monitors and camera LCDs, I really needed something analog!  I played around with a borrowed Canon AE-1 and decided I'd go 35mm.  After much deliberation, I settled on my choice - the Nikon F2. This camera was chosen because it was the last pro level 35mm Nikon made that is fully mechanical. Apart from the optional meter, it doesn't require batteries to shoot. I figured if I was going to go old school, then I might as well go all the way!

The Nikon F2 is a beefy camera. It's smaller but just as heavy as a pro DSLR, if not more so. It feels solid, like it was machined from a single block of metal. There is a craftsmanship here that we just don't see with most modern cameras (or much of anything these days.)  With the photomic meter on top, it stands tall. It's amazing to me that the meter still works, although it's a bit finicky. It seems to take a moment to adjust to changing lighting conditions. I've been checking it against a Sekonic light meter and it is accurate. I got my F2 from KEH and it looks pristine. No...it's beautiful!

The controls are simple. Shutter release button, combination ASA and shutter speed dial, film advance lever, and rewind crank. What more do you need? There is also a timer and mirror lockup lever on the front. I love the sound of the mechanical timer. Ticks away just like a precision watch!

Along with the F2, I picked up a few lenses: 50mm f/2, 35mm f/2, and 28mm f/3.5. Gotta have a 50mm, although 35mm has become my favorite focal length lately. I'm not sure I'll use the 28mm much but it was dirt cheap so I grabbed it up. While these lenses were cheap in price, they certainly aren't lacking in quality. After all these years, the glass is still clean and the focus and aperture controls are smooth. The focus feels like it rides on ball bearings. My best Canon L lenses feel gritty in comparison. I chose these lenses after much research. These old uncoated lenses have a certain endearing look to the images they create. I've taken a number of black and white images and I'm loving them.

Here are a few of my favorites so far:

The Regression Begins

I've been in somewhat of a photography funk lately.  Don't get me wrong, I love taking pictures.  I love getting out and exploring with my camera.  Something has been troubling me about the whole thing though.  You see, I work with computers at my day job.  I stare at their screens and interface with them all day.   I take pictures of stuff I like to get away from all that.  Sort of.  Shooting with digital cameras, I'm still interfacing with a computer.  I have to tell the computer in my cameras what I want to do.  I have to navigate menus.  I have to look at an LCD.  When I'm done taking pictures, I have to take the memory cards home and feed them to my home computer.  Then, I stare at the screen for hours on end post processing the digital data I gathered.  Oh, to spend less time staring at a blasted screen!

I've been shooting for some time now with a Canon 5D and a Fujifilm X100.  I like both cameras.  Actually, I love the X100.  I shoot with it more often than the 5D.  I'll make the fixed 35mm equivalent lens on that X100 work for everything from portraits to landscapes.  The only time I haul the 5D out anymore is when I absolutely need another focal length or to demonstrate to someone that I have a "Pro" camera.   I like a lot of things about the X100, image quality being at the top of the list.  Lately though, I've realized that there is something else that really endears that camera to me: the "analog" feel.

The X100 has dedicated shutter and aperture dials.  The aperture dial is on the lens where it belongs.  Yeah, the dials operate by wire to tell the camera's processor what to do.  They feel like analog controls though.  When I'm shooting with the X100, it feels a little less like I'm interfacing with another computer system.  It has a bit of soul.  Just a bit.

Recently, a friend of mine asked me if I'd like to borrow his Canon AE-1, a circa 1976 35mm film camera.  It was the shit in its day, at least as far as consumer oriented 35mm cameras were concerned.  Yeah, I was down with trying it.  Apart from a bit of experience in my youth with a Polaroid camera and some Instamatic 110 and disk film (remember those?) cameras, my film experience is almost nil.  I was ready to give it a go.  I needed a bit of analog in my process!

I started with a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 Black and White film and hit the road.  The AE-1 felt great in my hands.  A bit heftier than my X100, a bit smaller than my 5D.  The controls felt great.  The AE-1 has an auto exposure mode, basically a shutter priority program mode.  I turned that crap off and shot full manual.  The slap of the mirror and that old shutter curtain snapping open and shut were music to my ears.  I trusted the camera's meter for the most part, making educated guesses as I tweaked the exposure for some of the more extreme dynamic range scenes.  No LCD to review, only instinct to get me through a 24 exposure roll.

Enough talk, here are some first shots.

 I had my film developed and scanned through Precision Camera.  After waiting a couple of days, I felt like a kid at Christmas, eager with anticipation and a little nervous that I'd get back a roll of crappy exposures!  I got back my developed film and a CD of high-res TIFFs scanned from the negatives.  The negatives themselves looked good, at least to my untrained eye.  Back at home, I fed the CD to my iMac.  I had to smile; the images looked fine, although a bit flat.  With plenty of room on both sides of the histogram, I used Lightroom to boost the blacks and highlights.  Some images got a little dodge and burn with the adjustment brush in Lightroom.  Maybe a little vignette on one or two.  I removed some dust spots.  Time to process was a fraction of what I usually spend on my digital files.  Apart from what amounts to simple contrast adjustment, I was OK with letting the scanned files be what they were.  Quick and relatively easy.  Yes, I did a little post processing on a computer but at least some of the photographic process was analog and that felt good.  I may be on to something here.

I'm pleased to report that out of that first roll of 35mm film I did not have any shots that I would throw away.  That probably speaks more to the exposure latitude of film than my own skill with the media.  Maybe it had something to do with the fact that my exposures were limited.  I picked my subjects and compositions more carefully.  Without an LCD for instant feedback, I was more thoughtful in determining my exposure.  No firing off frames to see if I under or over exposed.  One shot, one exposure, one image.  Digital cameras and a pocket full of memory cards tend to make us snap happy.  That is not always a good thing. 

Most of my photog buddies think I'm nuts.  My good friend Mark said I was regressing.  He may be right.  Whatever it is, it's a good thing - at least it feels that way now.  Am I abandoning digital?  No, I don't think that will happen.  I do plan to experiment more, try different films, and get a better feel for this analog stuff.  No idea how deep I'll delve into it.  Doing my own developing?  Printing from negatives?  Too early to say.  One thing is for sure, I want my own film camera now.  Got to get me one o' these!