Pictures of cameras

This week, the Photo Challenge was a surprise to me, because Paul set it. It’s a nice feeling, because I get to participate like everyone else. The Challenge was called the 5 Minute Photoshoot:

What I want you to do, is find a location (any location, it doesn’t matter. It could be your front room, your garden, a local park or the top of Everest if you happen to be in the area!) set your timer or alarm for 5 minutes.  Then start shooting!

Take as many different photos as you can in that 5 minute period.

When the timer goes off, stop shooting and put your camera away (no over running!)  When you get home, go back through what you’ve shot and show us the one you like best.

I decided to challenge myself by attempting an area of photography that I rarely venture into – still life. Once or twice in the past I’ve entered the Photo Challenge with a picture shot on film, and I managed it again this week. Shooting with a macro lens on film is hard because you can’t see how it looks, so I was pretty much flying blind. Here’s what I did:

  • I set up a mini studio area using a large piece of white paper and two flashguns
  • I gathered together some of my favourite cameras from my collection and piled them off to one side
  • I took a couple of test shots on a digital SLR to make sure the exposure was right in the centre of my lighted area, and then I put it away
  • I loaded a roll of Ilford FP4+ at ISO 125 into a 35mm SLR, I mounted a macro lens on it, set it in full manual mode, dialled in a shutter speed of 1/60s and aperture of f/8
  • I started the timer for 5 minutes and shot a whole roll of 36 frames, changing the subject camera every few frames

I hadn’t planned any particular shots in advance, so each shot was done in a very free and easy way. I just placed each camera on the backdrop in turn, and looked at it, trying to pick out an interesting feature. I rattled through 36 exposures in under 5 minutes so there wasn’t long, but I don’t think the photos look hurried.

I love the grainy look of the film, and I’m pleased with the subject matter and the way they’ve come out. Out of the 36 I took, I thought 15 were good enough to publish here – that’s a hit rate of 42% which is significantly higher than what I’d expect from shooting digital. There are even some picture here that I plan to print, frame, and hang on my wall.

I’m pleased with the lighting, too. No real disasters, but there are some bits of glare here and there that could have been avoided if I had been shooting digital – although not within the 5-minute window we were allowed for this Challenge!

However, I did learn some lessons from the experience:

  • Even if the cameras look very clean to the eye, the macro lens will see all kinds of dust you never even noticed
  • My film squeegee seems to be scratching films lately, so I decided to dunk the wet film in anti-surfactant, shake it and let it dry naturally in still air. Now it has water marks all over it. I think I need some new squeegee blades!
  • It’s hard to hand-hold a macro lens. It’s not about camera shake (the flash duration is so short) but holding it steady enough that the shallow depth of field falls in the right place. I wasn’t too far off with host of these, but some had to be discarded because the camera moved.

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