Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Through The Viewfinder

Originally uploaded by Corey (a.k.a. ten0fnine)
Through The Viewfinder (TTV) is a neat way to use old cameras. A lot of cameras are out there that are neat old relics, with great styling, and they can be had cheaply. Unless you're like me, chances are those cameras are pretty useless in your digital repertoire. Useless as cameras that is, but perhaps not as lenses.

Basically all you need to do is take a camera with a nicely bright and large viewfinder, say an Argus Seventy-Five, and point your lens into the viewfinder. Take a picture, and you have a TTV shot. To be done well, you need to make a somewhat elaborate mask for the finder so that your camera is attached to the vintage camera in a way that makes shooting simpler. Most people use cardboard.

There are lots of folks out there doing this, and as you might expect, I've tried it myself. I find I enjoy actually shooting film through these cameras, but many others have gotten some great shots TTV. Many, like this one, feature strange colors (done in photoshop), and lots of dust (a relic of using these old viewfinders as lenses. I like the effect in some circumstances, though some folks use a photoshop action to simulate the effect. To me that's cheating, because half the fun is knowing you're doing something that requires a bit of effort on the photographer's part, with a creation you've made yourself.

So next time you see an old camera in a junk store, and you're a bit low on creativity, try some TTV photography. It might get you hooked.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Octoberoid Update

I've done quite well following my prescription to come out of the photographic doldrums this month, keeping my promise to use the Polaroid SX-70 as my only camera. There have definitely been some situations that I would have been better off with another camera, like a late night party, but on the whole I think I've learned quite a bit from this experiment. Things like composition, timing, and knowing what is and isn't a good photo before pressing the shutter release.

To be honest, I'm not looking forward to putting the camera down at the end of the month, I think I get along quite well with its limitations. Still, I miss some of the other cameras, and Polaroid film is getting expensive!

If you'd like to see every photo I've shot this month, all with the SX-70, just check out my Octoberoid set on Flickr.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Perspective 2 Studio is open!

Many budding photographers I've talked to have expressed an interest in "studio photography." That's normal, of course, because most of the photography we see in everyday life is churned out using a studio. Magazines, newspapers, weddings, websites; they all utilize studio photography. If you want to get paid in this field, learning to light and stage properly isn't just a suggestion, it's a must!

In the past I've taken to Strobist for all my lighting advice and needs. The work of a studio photographer is unique - we need special lighting equipment, special camera equipment, and often an indoor environment that we can control for the shoot. You can always buy the right equipment, so long as you have the money, but where can you find a good location?

Well, locally we now have Perspective 2 studio, located in Lansing's Old Town. It's a community-driven space that hosts photographers in two studios. I like the idea so far, because they seem to have a knowledgeable staff, great equipment for photographers to rent, and classes for those of us who are lighting-challenged. There is also a vintage store on-site, so if you want to, you can rent vintage items to be used as props for a shoot.

Studio A is a huge space that sometimes doubles as a theater for local acting troops. It's about 1100 square feet, has a solid chicago-style brick wall, with high ceilings. Studio B is smaller, at about 800 square feet, and can double as a classroom for photographers. You can rent in hourly blocks or become a member, where you pay monthly for free time and discounted rates.

I wish the studio the best of success. It will be an important resource for area photographers, especially if they offer useful classes.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Back to Basics: one camera, for one month.

Haiku, for Keturah
Originally uploaded by Apocaplops
If you have ever set foot in my apartment, or met me while I was taking photos, you'll certainly know one thing about me; I have a lot of cameras. I got caught up in the whole camera-collecting thing at about the same time as I became interested in photography. While they may seem to go hand in hand, I've begun to think that having so many cameras is detrimental to my progress as a photographer.

See, I've always been a gearhead. First it was cars, and believe me when I have a laundry list of strange and rare cars I want to own someday. I found photography as a hobby, and suddenly I was doing something where I could afford a lot of the gear. It started innocently, with cheap thrift store finds, but lately it's gotten out of hand. Don't believe me? I count 17 cameras that I can see from where I sit right now, in my living room.

Obviously they don't all get used too often, and that's a shame, because many of them really are nice cameras that could take wonderful photos. Many of them are more decorative than useful. And with so much choice, a photographer can bog down and not shoot much of anything, as I have been doing recently. Each camera has a different shooting style, and if I can't decide what camera to pick up, I can't easily decide what to shoot.

I've talked with others about working within tight limitations, and I think it's time I acted on my conversations to see if they could be more than just words. I'll use only one camera for all of October, starting today. Maybe I'll learn better what I can do with it, and what I can be capable of.

So I've chosen the Polaroid SX-70. It's one of the most limiting cameras I own - the photographer controls only the focus and the composition. You can't do much about the exposure, development, or aperture, because the camera and film take care of all that. And of course Polaroid film is quite expensive, so I can't just go around shooting everything I see, or I'll go broke. I believe that these limitations will force me to work more creatively, and to explore and push the limits of what the camera and I can do together. I'll let you know at the end of the month how it goes.