Thursday, February 26, 2009

Positively Cinematic

So I got my Hasselblad Xpan film back from the lab today, much sooner than I had expected. The results? Positively cinematic!

Here are three pictures taken on or near Rockefeller Center. I popped over there on the Monday morning of Fashion Week when they first opened at 8am. Surprisingly, it seemed a little warmer at the top than on the ground (out of the wind, of course). My guess is that the tops of buildings in New York get dramatically more Sun than the streets and therefore warm up earlier in the day.

It does indeed force you to see the world in something resembling Panavision.

I'd say the main disappointment of this film experience was that the six-year-old Provia 400F I was using had developed a bit of a magenta cast. This was easy enough to remove by selecting the white point in Photoshop with a curves adjustment layer. I also need to practice with correct exposure; chimping since 2004 has really spoiled me in this regard.

Here's one final, less cinematic shot. It's actually Provia 400F that's been converted to B&W in Photoshop.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Meanwhile, in New York...

Last weekend I was in New York City for Fall Fashion Week. Surprisingly, it was even crazier than Spring Fashion Week last September. I didn't even get in to the Diane Von Furstenberg, Jill Stuart, or Tracy Reese shows. Eventually I realized that enough was enough (especially for fashion) and decided that I needed to take advantage of being in one of the greatest cities in the world.

After grabbing a slice at Pronto Pizza, I hoofed it over to Penn Station to drop off my backpack with my clothes in it. All I wanted was a locker for a few hours until my train left. The Amtrak baggage check agent informed me that all the lockers in New York had been removed after 9/11... Thanks terrorists. He did say that he could hold it until my train left though, but that it would cost $4.50. This seemed odd to me since I could check one bag for free. In any case, I certainly didn't want to lug my clothes around the city for the rest of the day, and I didn't want to check it since my train would be arriving in Baltimore late that night, so I coughed up the $4.50. All I had on me was a $20, but another Amtrak employee (who apparently dealt with a lot of small denominations) was kind enough to make change. Perhaps I should have pretended to check the bag, then picked it up before the train arrived.

Since Penn Station was so close to B&H Photo, I decided to drop in there for about an hour. They've got pretty much everything, and it's fascinating to watch their system of queues and baskets in action. The folks at IMG who handle Fashion Week may be able to take a few hints from these guys. Anyway, after a brief stop in the used department to check out a Fuji 690 III (surprisingly cheap feel) and Leica M7 (utterly solid), I picked up an orange Hoya multi-coated filter and two rolls of Ilford ISO 400 B&W film for my Hasselblad Xpan. The 45mm lens on my Xpan takes a 49mm filter, which is not as common as I'd like.

Xpan in hand, I hopped on the A train, and headed up to Columbus circle to explore Central Park a bit. I quickly polished off the roll of Fuji Provia 400F that I'd started at the top of Rockefeller Center, and switched to the Ilford XP2 400 (C-41) B&W film and my new filter.

And this is where the story ends somewhat abruptly. I'm still finishing off that roll of B&W film. I mailed my two spent rolls of Provia to the lab earlier this week for processing. I guess I won't really know how good the Xpan is until I get those back. Based on it's solid feel, and the praise it's gotten from other photographers, I'm optimistic.

Also worth mentioning is a very entertaining show called Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, which my friends and I saw that Saturday night. Buy tickets in advance so you can get in early enough to pick a seat away from the isle (unless you enjoy getting plucked from the audience). Also try to forget what a fire-hazard the theater looks like on the inside, and enjoy the show.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What's in a Camera

I just wanted to post this photo to show that composition and timing matters more than the camera. I took this photo with a little Canon SD800 in the Outer Banks last May. "f/8 and be there," as they say.

That being said, I've had my eye on the world of film lately, especially rangefinders. In particular, I was drooling over the Leica M4P and M6, thanks mostly to the recent rants of Ken Rockwell. I was especially interested in the light weight, high build quality, and excellent optics that the Leicas had to offer.

Luckily I took a deep breath before buying anything. I realized a few things:
  1. There are other high quality options that cost less and offer more features.
  2. I needed to think about the kinds of pictures I really want to take with film (as opposed to digital), and where I was planning to take those pictures.
  3. The Leica is just the main example Ken Rockwell is using for his fanatic crusade against the Nikon D3X. Leicas are still expensive (and obviously give a very healthy kick-back for referred sales).
Eventually I decided that I wanted to focus on landscapes when it came to film. Leica's reputation for street photography is alluring, but the idea of taking pictures of strangers on the street doesn't seem right, plus it's too experimental for anything but digital. I also don't have any upcoming trips where electricity and batteries will be scarce, which is another situation where the Leica would excel.

Inspiration! After reading many posts on, and looking at many rangefinder photos on flickr, I came across the Hasselblad Xpan. A film camera that can be switched into true panoramic mode, perfect for landscapes. On top of that, the optics are excellent, and the build quality is very high. I was particularly moved by Mathew Joseph's work, and his love for this camera; I believe the quote was, "Lost for words..."

My Xpan should be here next week. I'm anticipating a bit of a learning curve due to the panoramic format and the reintroduction of film in my work. Hopefully I can get comfortable with it this spring in time for my cross-country road trip this summer. I'm really looking forward to some panoramic Fuji Velvia.

In other news, I've been working on a way to get a lomographic look from the 5D in-camera (no Photoshop). I thought about buying an LC-A+, but I have trouble justifying the recurring costs of film for experimental snapshots. Anyway, I think I'm almost there with the 5D. I'll be sure to post my findings once I refine the idea a bit.