Saturday, July 26, 2014

Breaking the Rules

I blogged about this before but I suppose it merits mentioning again, especially considering the photo above taken with the Pentax ZX-L  on CVS 400 color film. Shooting into the sun was something I was always told you’re not supposed to do. I remember all the Kodak film boxes that came with instructions on how to use your Kodak film and even the old camera manuals always that said to make sure the sun was behind you, “over your shoulder” when you took a picture! 

Of course, that’s just one of many “rules” we are free to break in the name of creativity. The point is, while rules are designed to generally give pleasing results in most situations, sometimes breaking the rules allows for dramatic effects that can also be pleasing.

In the photo above I was able to balance the back lighting enough to allow the beautiful color of the flowers to come through in contrast to the darker shadows and the bright streaks of green grass illuminated by the sun for what I consider a strikingly beautiful image.

…and of course, since I was shooting film I had no way of knowing what I would end up with for weeks until I finished the roll and had it processed and scanned.

I would like to say that I knew exactly what I was doing and how it would come out but the fact that I took several shots of this scene would indicate otherwise. I did however have a general idea of what effect I was going for the rest of was a combination of skill luck and faith – just one of the many things that keeps shooting with film exciting!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Pentax ZX-L

I just realized I have never really done a proper blog review of my “not-so-new-anymore” Pentax ZX-L. I got this camera back in early February and have been shooting pretty regularly with it. It has in fact become my “go to” 35mm SLR. I have mentioned it in a couple blog posts but never actually done a blog post on it so here I am to correct that oversight.

I can understand why I forgot to review this camera because like the ZX-7, the ZX-L just kind of came into my life and made itself at home like it had been there all along. There actually is very little difference between the ZX-L and the ZX-7, which I blogged about in my April 7th, 2013 post, but those little differences are just enough to make the ZX-L my favorite. Not that I no longer like the ZX-7, quite the contrary. In fact the ZX-7 has a couple things I like better about it but overall I think the ZX-L definitely has the edge.

Like all of my Pentax cameras (except the ZX-30) all of my lenses will work on the ZX-L without the need for any kind of adapter. Even the old manual legacy lenses will work although obviously the onboard exposure computer cannot set the aperture or focus the lenses. That must be done manually.
Like the ZX-7, the ZX-L will offer a focus confirmation “beep” and LED indication in the viewfinder if you want it, and I almost always want it. One of the banes of my old age is that my vision isn’t quite what it once was making manual focusing a bit challenging at times. Like all AF systems it is not 100% but it is nice to have that confirmation beep or signal to give me a second opinion as to whether or not I have the image in focus.

The ZX-L has a 1/4000s shutter speed where the ZX-7 only goes up to 1/2000s. It also has P-TTL flash capability and a depth of field preview, both missing on the earlier ZX-7 but otherwise they are nearly identical so everything I said about the ZX-7 in my earlier blog post applies here as well.

The Sigma 28 to 80 macro-zoom that came on my ZX-L is a pleasure to use. I’ve never been much of a macro fan and the macro photos I have taken so far haven’t done much to amaze me but the lens is otherwise a good solid performer. I still prefer and want to get back to using my primes but I can see why the 28 to 80 zoom became the most widely used lens for the casual photographer in the final decade of 35mm film’s dominance.

The bottom line is I love everything about this camera which was one of the last 35mm SLR’s Pentax came out with. I can only imagine how great things might be for film shooters if digital hadn’t taken over when it did and they had kept improving and perfecting film technology.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Film is a Hobby. Film is Art.

Okay, film will never replace digital! Nor would I want it to. Digital photography is just so convenient and dare I say it, perfect for so many applications. 

I frequently have the need to document fabrication details, construction progress, or even damage with pictures as a part of my work in shipbuilding. I would never choose a film camera to do this although for many years I did it with film because that was all there was at the time. Now I keep a digital camera handy.

Family pictures at the grand kids’ birthday parties, ball games, graduations etc. – all done on digital. When asked to shoot portraits for the church directory I chose my digital camera. Why? Well, let’s see; the ability to see immediately whether you got the shot you wanted (with no blinking eyes or weird half smiles); no need for expensive film processing, and if you shoot in RAW and have any kind of decent software for post processing you can do all kinds of things with you digital file.

So where does that leave us with film and why are there so many people shooting film? After several years of shrinking film sales in the face of the digital revolution, Kodak is out of bankruptcy and most companies that remain in the film market report stable or increasing sales. These days film is a steadily growing market, especially black and white. 

There are a few professional photographers still using film but most film shooters today describe themselves as either hobbyists or artists. So as the digital dust settles it appears that what we have left in the world of film is a steadily growing number of amateur photographers and artists that appreciate the nuances of film and exploit it for their own artistic purposes and satisfaction.

Long obsolete, so called alternative film processes, such as cyanotypes, daguerrotypes and photogravure, as well as lith printing are also making a comeback. The film look has always been valued and appreciated in fact, it can be argues that most digital picture post processing efforts are attempts to imitate some aspect of film photography.

Since my own photographic interests do not include the mysteries and art of darkroom my own incursion into the hobby or art of film has turned instead towards the shooting part of the process and I have become enamored of pinhole photography recently. The photograph above was taken with a homemade cardboard pinhole camera shooting 35mm Kodak Ektar 100 for Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day 2012.

I have also started shooting a variety of specialty films available from The Film Photography Project (FPP) online store. This includes red scale, black & white movie film, and high speed traffic camera film. The FPP online store has become a film boutique offering more film stock s than were ever available when film was “king.” Each of these unique film stocks has its own “special effect” that digital folks would no doubt, love to emulate.

Ultimately I would like to combine the two and end up shooting some of these special film stocks in my pinhole cameras once I have mastered each separately to the point where I can predict and achieve the desired results.