This post was originally titled The Unexpected, or something along those lines. I started the outline of the blog post prior to getting the images back from the lab. After seeing the images, I thought it would be interesting to identify what went wrong, and then how to improve.
I think I was watching NCIS when I thought of the attention grabbing title “The Autopsy”. Similar to that tv show, I’m going to examine the images I created and tell you what went wrong.
Creativity Inspired by Limitations and the Unexpected
Hmmm, I think I’m getting a little ahead of myself with this title. A little background is needed first.
About the camera used:
It uses 120 film.
A plastic camera. (Wait, what?!)
The shutter speed is fixed, and it’s “about” 1/100th of a second.
Focus is a guesstimate.
Framing the image is a guess, too.
Wow. This sounds awful! Why would anyone use this thing??
This thing… is a Holga.
Which I’ve pretty much just described. There’s this whole history of it a being a cheap Chinese camera manufactured for the Chinese, stopped production, and now another company is making it again. You can Google to find out more if you’re so inclined.
First Roll of Film in the Holga, The Autopsy
(Or, What Went Wrong?)
It was a warm winter day (meaning it was about 30 degrees and sunny, which for December, I’ll take that!). I had a chance for a walk in the woods with a friend’s son who was finishing up his first photography class in college. This isn’t the part that went wrong. This was a really pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
Problem #1. Overexposure: (see the Exposure Reference Sheet above) The only film I had for this camera was meant to be used in dim light. To say that this sunny afternoon was the epitome of when NOT to use this film is an understatement. But I let my film lab know what I did, and I knew the approximate amount of overexposure because I measured the amount of light with my handheld light meter that afternoon. (This helped my lab know how to develop the film. They work magic. But I know it’s all chemistry. And the folks who scanned the negatives, turning them into digital files, were able to pull out an amazing amount of detail. Compare the sheet above with the images included.)
Problem #2. Big time User Error: There is a switch for ‘bulb mode’ or ‘normal setting’ for the shutter speed. For most shots, I had it on bulb, which means the shutter is open for as long as you hold the shutter open. (But I thought the switch was set to normal.) Which means the shutter was open for longer than 1/100th of a second for most shots. This led to blurriness and more light hitting the negative than expected.
At only a dozen exposures, I don’t want to make this mistake again. I lost an exposure because this was my first experience advancing the film in the camera. The film is manually advanced. I didn’t realize I’d passed the first frame until I saw a small “2” peeking through the little film window on the back. Oops.
Problem #3. Blurry photos: See problem #2. And, this camera isn’t focused the way you’d think. There is a dial that shows “one head”, “3 heads”, “a group of people”, and “mountains”. Generally, this means the focus is 3’, 6’, 18’, and 30’ to infinity. I’m notoriously bad at guessing distance. And for $40, no one expects the focus settings to be precise.
This is where the Creativity Part comes in.
I can hear some of you asking, “So wtf Barb?! Why bother with this piece of crap?” (Or some other version of this. ;) )
It’s a shitload of fun! It really is!!!
I didn’t expect these images to be much more than Fifty Shades of White. To get ANY detail just shows you how much this film can be abused.
The User Error problem, having the shutter speed set to the wrong setting. Well, chalk that up to my learning curve.
The Blurry Photo issue, short of bringing a tape measure out with me (which I won’t), the focus distance will be an ongoing challenge with about everything under 30’. But having the camera set to the right shutter speed setting will help with this. And with experience, I’ll figure out if the focus settings are accurate.
Did I mention this camera is lightweight? I think most people’s mobile phones weigh more.
“You mentioned creativity?? Come back to us, Barb.”
Essentially all the faults and the limitations of this camera inspire my creativity. A famous person said something about limitations spurring creativity. I do believe my brain will be getting a creative workout with this camera!
With a Holga, I can no longer tailor the settings of my camera and lenses to the subject of what I’m photographing. The camera is dictating a strict set of terms that I’ll need to troubleshoot to create an image.
I think once an artist learns enough about their craft they can step outside the boundaries; push their mind to see more than the first or second idea.
I get to color outside the lines! :)
I adjusted the contrast in the images, and some were cropped. The heavy vignetting you see is normal. Photographed with Ilford Delta 3200, 120 film. (Fun fact: a 120 negative has about 3 times the amount of film surface area compared to 35mm film.)
PS - I’ve purchased two more rolls of film for this camera. One suitable for bright days, and another for low light. I’ll be ready the next time I head out with my Holga.