Graflex Speed Graphic Medium Format Film Camera

Graflex Speed Graphic with 135mm f/4.7 Lens

Medium format 4×5 and 220 film camera with 135mm f/4.7 lens made popular in the 1940’s

If you study the history of photography from it’s first shot through today’s almost incalculable iterations, you will see the art form takes on an enormous range of artistic expressions. I’m actually proud to say I started off in the age of film photography. I know what it’s like to have to be super intentional about the exposure, about getting it right the first or second time because film cost a fortune, and getting it developed cost even more. I also know what it’s like to take a photo and not see the results for a week or more (that was probably the worst part about shooting film back in the day), which made improving as a photographer a slower, more intentional process. Looking back at all that film I shot, I know it helped me tremendously when it comes to shooting in today’s digital world.

My grandad was a photographer as well, and he of course also did all of his work in film, but it wasn’t the 35mm film I grew up shooting, it was a medium format, 4×5 film, and still popular 220 film roll that he used. The one 4×5 negative I still have of his is this self-portrait, taken with the very camera showcased in this post. It was taken back in the 1970’s (when you kept cameras for more than a year or two), back in a time when these were called “self-portraits” not selfies.

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Rollei Rolleiflex 2.8 TLR with Xenotar f2.8 80mm Lens

Rolleiflex Camera

A classic. The original Rollei Rolleiflex 2.8 TLR with Xenotar 2.8/80mm lens and yellow with the green gel filters and closeup lens.

The Fillmer Birthday Party from October 1953 :: Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday today is from October 1955 and would be Larry Fillmer’s 7th birthday party. I just love these old black and whites. Apparently back in the mid-50’s you dressed up for a birthday party since one of them is wearing a suit and bow-tie and I love the card table, which was probably literally used as a card table. I’m not too sure about any of the history behind this photo, and the only reason I am saying the date is 1953 is because there are 7 candles on the cake, otherwise, there was no date or anything else on the photo. I’m sure someone in the family will tell me a little more about the image, but I’m almost 100% sure that’s my dad as the birthday boy from the way he is dressed, watch and all… always a snappy dresser. Pretty sure that is his brother Les Fillmer standing to the right of Larry.

So it seems, I’ve now been told, the photo was taken in Birmingham in an area called Oak Hills in Central Park, the puppets were Howdy Doody Puppets, and yes, they apparently played cards on that card table.

Old Fashion Film from Expired Kodak BW400CN :: Throwback Thursday

My Throwback Thursday post today isn’t really from all that far back, though it looks like it. I happened to have found a missing roll of black and white last week that I shot back on Thanksgiving 2008. It was expired when I shot it, so these two shots above were really far gone, but they still have a pretty neat look to them even with all the grain. The second shot actually came from this photo shoot Thanksgiving Photo Shoot for a Christmas Card and was shot with a Nikon F5 I no longer own. For some reason my luck with Kodak BW400CN isn’t all that great because I keep misplacing various rolls, but I love the look of film, and keep going back to film over and over. I just ordered some medium and large format film to shoot with my grandfather’s Graflex camera (a Speed Graphic) I received a few years ago, can’t wait to see how those turn out. It’s amazing to me that we can still shoot with a camera built in the 1940’s and end up with perfectly acceptable results, even when compared to current DSLR’s… well maybe I’ll wait and see what my first 4×5 looks like first.

Photographers are Always Learning the Post-Process

I actually starting shooting an SLR camera way back when you could only put film in the camera (that stuff that required a chemical bath to process), and that meant processing was something that was done by someone else. The complex techniques of dodging and burning were left to those elusive black and white photographers who mysteriously did their own chemical bath with a very dark room and very red light.

Of course today that is so far removed from the type of post processing that is done, but only in the physical method used. The techniques for processing an image actually remain very similar to what has been done for decades, if the image was overexposed you process the image to correct it. Today of course your skills as an editor and processor greatly depend on your computer skills and how well you can master Adobe’s Photoshop. I am not sure the actual programmers who wrote Photoshop for Adobe have even mastered the complexities of CS4 or CS5 but that’s what makes it so powerful in post processing (LR or LightRoom is another favorite among photographers), and that is what has made Adobe the choice among photographers. Creating great HDR (High Dynamic Range) images, extreme low light, and unheard of ISO speeds are becoming commonplace. Even Apple in their latest iOS 4.1 release will allow their iPhone to now shoot HDR images, can’t wait to try that out.
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The images being produced today by amateur photographers using basic consumer equipment is just stunning, and it has as much to do with their abilities as a post processor as it does with having an eye for subjects, placing, framing, and exposure. If you are new to photography it can be totally overwhelming. Your photos shot using the “automatic” settings can sometimes look flat and dull, but get a good basic understanding of the rules of photography and the post-processing will follow.

By example I give you the image below. The same base image can have two totally different looks and present different ideas and feelings. The image below is much more harsh and full of contrast, some people like high contrast, some people like soft pastels like the image at the top. Either way it still took a photographer with a certain vision to shoot the original image, and that why it is called “post” processing. The veteran nature photographer John Shaw has two great eBooks out if you are looking for some instruction. He has a book on both “Lightroom 2 and CS4” and “Lightroom 3 and CS5”, both well worth the money.

Which edit do you like better?

Catalyst One Day in Atlanta and No Film or CF Card?

I am in Atlanta right now getting ready to shoot the Catalyst One Day event at Northpoint Church and later the Off the Blogs at Buckhead Church.  This was one of the most last minute shoots I was ever asked to do, but being that it was Catalyst (and the Off the Blogs) I was pretty excited about accepting the last minute offer.  Step one as a photographer is always always pack your film (or in this case digital compact flash cards).  Without a medium to record any images on, it makes your equipment and time pretty useless, and up until this month, over the last 10-12 years, I have never forgotten those precious cards (or film), but I did today.

I did the same thing a few weeks ago when we went to the Butterfly Day Center at Callaway and wanted to make sure I never did that again (same reason as today, I switched camera bags at the last minute) so I guess this makes number two.  Thank goodness there is a Best Buy in the same parking lot as my hotel and I can go pick up something I already have tons of, but can’t do the shoot without.

I am really looking forward to the day today and can’t wait to hear and worship with everyone at Northpoint.  I doubt I will be able to post any pictures throughout the day here but you might look for some over on Twitter, but I should have some shots of Andy Stanley, Fee Band, Carlos Whittaker, Anne Jackson, and several more posted here over the next few days.  Now off to our favorite neighborhood Best Buy.

Epson Perfection V500 Scanner and Some Velvia Film

Deborah Kayaking in Ohio

I have a hate hate relationship with scanners.  I have had scanners of all types and none have been anything worth keeping and not throwing out the window
at any nearby target.  I started long ago with an HP slide scanner, actually one of the better performing scanners specifically designed to scan slides.  Since I shot almost all Fuji Velvia 50 or a Kodak 100 positive film back then, the slide scanner was something I was really excited about.  It cost a fortune, worked ok, for a while, game mediocre results, and I ended up scanning only a hand full of slides.

Fast forward about 10 years and 5 scanners.  My current scanner, the Epson Perfection V500 Photo scanner, is supposed to be a great one for scanning all kinds of film, 35mm negatives, positives, 120, just about the only thing it can’t do is wet scans.  But, results, up to this point (I have had this scanner almost a year now) have been dismal, until yesterday when a friend and fellow photographer (Jak) told me to try a few different settings and software.  I do this every so often, try again and get lousy results but this time I started messing with the color profiles and other areas and it didn’t turn out so bad.

This was a scan of an original Velvia 50 transparency taken back in May 2002 of Deb kayaking on Lake Erie in Ohio exploring the coves.  Contrast is a little bit high but this is how it came out of my scanner, far better than any I have tried before.  The shot below shows the sharpness at 100%, not bad for a scan on a scanner I thought didn’t work.

Like most things, it takes practice to get it right.  This scan was straight out of the scanner, no post processing corrections (hense the artifact above Deb’s head).  A polorizer would have also helped here but as I remember, I was in my kayak trying to hand hold a very expensive camera while trying not to tip over like a turtle thus ending my photography as I knew it at the time.  I will try to get some other dated scans done and post them periodically.

Last Round of 5 Year Old Expired Kodak BW400

Kodak BW400 Expired Film

Deb on Kodak BW400 Expired Film

Auburn Basketball Game

I got back the last of my expired rolls yesterday. This time it was on the Kodak BW400 (consumer version, not professional grade) film that was also about 5 years old.  The grain is pretty significant and the scans are not all that great as far as color correction goes, but then again, for 5 year old expired film, it’s not bad.

This first shot was out my front door during a tornatic rain storm we had just a few days ago.  Hard to believe it was 75* with thunder, rain, wind, etc and yesterday it was below freezing.  I like this particular shot, the grain of the age of the film is covered up by the image itself.  The Auburn Basketball game was from last week, not 50 years ago.  You can see Jeff Lebo on the sidelines among other current Auburn Basketball players.

What Kodak GC 400 Looks Like After 5 Years in a Camera

Scott Fillmer's Office

Scott Fillmer

I recently shot a few rolls with an old film camera that had a roll half exposed.  As far as I can tell, the film had sat in this camera for 5 years.  The time stamp on the first half of the film reads 11-12-03 so that is almost exactly 5 years to the day.  Kodak GC 400 is a pretty grainy film to begin with and a consumer film that was sold mostly in Wal-Mart and other retails stores.  Surprisingly the color is not all that bad.  The first image was one a took a few days ago of my desk, the second is one me and my old ride.  Had to be a while back, I still have some hair.