Throwback Film

   23 May 2014, terribly early in the morning

I’ve had some film sitting in my fridge for 4 years now. Some of the film might be closer to 5 years old, I suspect. I used to be reasonably good about processing my black & white film as I shot it, but once you slip it’s easy to end up with an insurmountable backlog. Thankfully I found someone in Toronto who will process the stuff for me. It’s getting quite tricky to find places that process film, let alone black & white film. So, now I have film I need to scan. That part of the process might be worse than the developing.

This photo is probably from the summer of 2010, based on the other photos I found on the roll. Shima is probably pregnant with Mythilli. You’d never know. I like the composition. In particular that both are hands are in the shot, and that her arm seems to belong to someone else. It looks like it is photobombing this photo.

Shooting film has several pluses completely unrelated to the quality (or lack thereof) of the images you get back. Film can be like a time capsule. Who knows how I would have felt about this photo 4-5 years ago. Today it is interesting simply because of the amount of time that’s passed since I shot it.

Originally posted to my 4ormat blog.

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Backyard Portraits

   29 November 2013, terribly early in the morning

I finished up a roll of film in my backyard taking a shot of everyone sitting on our deck.

Shawn

Shima

Jana

Matt

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Trip to the Park

   16 October 2013, lunch time

Untitled

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Untitled

I developed a big batch of film recently. It cost me a lot of money, and i’m not too happy with all the photos I got back. That’s not Downtown Camera’s fault, though. I need to take more photos again. And look at them. That’s how you get good at photography. (That’s a pro-tip for all of you just starting out taking photos.)

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Every 4 Years

   26 February 2013, early afternoon

2005 using a Canon S30:
2005/02/27 - My New Hat

2009 using a Ricoh GR Digital II:
Me

2013 using a Ricoh GR Digital IV:
Wallace and Symington

By coincidence i’ve ended up taking a photo of myself in a bus shelter every 4 years. I should go back to the Gladstone and take another one there.

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Photography is a thing I used to do

   20 December 2012, early evening

I thought after having Mythilli the number of photographs I would take would increase, but that hasn’t been the case at all. I used to be an avid photographer. At some point I stopped being one. I had some sort of crisis of faith, I suppose.

One of the last lines in Six Feet Under is, “You can’t take a picture of this. It’s already gone.” Photography is an artistic pursuit, but it’s also a documentary one. Photography is all about capturing a moment in time. Well, sort of.

I used to take lots of photos at concerts I went to and then I more or less just stopped. When I watch people photographing a concert now I find they look ridiculous. You are a few feet from a band, watching them play through some shitty LCD screen or viewfinder. Sometimes you should just stop and enjoy the experience.

I think about this a lot when taking pictures of my baby.

All of that said, I should take photographs again. I quite like it. And every so often I take a photograph that is pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself.

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Once more with the Colour

    9 September 2012, early morning

Dirty Guy Derby 2012

I got 9 rolls of film developed yesterday. It’s been a long time since I’ve shot with film. My old standby, the Shopper’s at Yonge and King, has let their machines turn to shit. I got sick of getting back grimy scans and decided to try something new. I ventured out to Pape to get them processed. There is a Shopper’s there that apparently does a good job—which I can now confirm. Shopper’s still develops and scans for $3, which is probably best prices in the city for film processing. If you want higher res scans and less scratched negatives Downtown Camera is my second go-to place, but it’s about 2-3x more expensive. Photography is an expensive hobby.

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Shima on Elite Chrome 100

   29 July 2011, early evening

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Shima on Kodachrome

    2 December 2010, early evening

Shima in Kodachrome

My friend Jonah was giving away rolls of Kodachrome. His only condition to claim a roll was was that you had to actually use the stuff before Dwayne’s — the last place in the world that still develops the stuff — stopped processing the film. I wanted to shoot with the film at least once in my life and so I told him to save a roll for me. The film I was given was Kodachrome 64, from 1992. That makes it 18 years old. I shot all 36 frames on my birthday, mostly taking portraits of my friends hanging out in my parents backyard. Some photos are better than others. This photo I quite like.

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Bangalore (and Mysore) — Jan 29th - Jan 31st

   13 April 2010, early morning

The rest of our time in Bangalore was spent loitering around Gandhi Bazaar, for the most part. It was pretty relaxing. We got quite comfortable with the area. My pictures of Bangalore on Flickr. (Or IMG VQVZ) We also travelled to Mysore for a quick day trip. In hindsight we probably should have spent a bit more time in Mysore. There was so much to see in that area. My pictures of Mysore on Flickr. (Or IMG VQVZ) I took these notes to myself on my iPhone, hence the strange change in tense, poor grammar, and what have you.

Read the rest of this post. (519 words)

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Puttaparthi — Jan 28th

   27 March 2010, terribly early in the morning

We travelled off to Puttaparthi from Bangalore for the day. Puttaparthi would have been just another small rural town in India if not for the fact it was home to the religious leader Sai Baba and his ashram. My pictures of Puttaparthi on Flickr. (Or IMG VQVZ) I took these notes to myself on my iPhone, hence the strange change in tense, poor grammar, and what have you.

Read the rest of this post. (285 words)

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Bangalore — Jan 25th - 27th

   14 March 2010, evening time

We left Cochin early in the morning on the 25th. I was still incredibly sick at this point. I didn’t think i’d make it to the airport. Bangalore more or less cured me. The first three days there were spent loitering around and attending a wedding. My pictures of Bangalore on Flickr. (Or IMG VQVZ)

Read the rest of this post. (648 words)

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Kerela — January 21st - 24th

    2 March 2010, early morning

After Chennai we travelled by plane to Cochin, in Kerela. I was very excited about coming to Kerela: it’s the communist state in India. Sadly, after a day and a half there I ended getting incredibly sick. I don’t think i’ve been more ill in my entire life. So, I spent most of my time in Kerela in bed. My pictures of Cochin on Flickr. (And IMG VQVZ)

Read the rest of this post. (609 words)

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Chennai — January 18th - 20th

   22 February 2010, terribly early in the morning

I took short little notes on my iPhone while traveling around in India. Here are the first set of notes from my first three days in Chennai, and our flight to get there. There are more images from this part of the trip on Flickr. (Or on IMG VQVZ)

Read the rest of this post. (1221 words)

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The Hindustan Ambassador

   20 February 2010, early evening

The Hindustan Ambassador is an awesome car. I was expecting to see more of them on the streets of India, but they weren’t as ubiquitous as they may have been a few years back. Our driver in Chennai was saying that they have fallen out of favour, and most people know bought the car he drove. (His car was made by Tata, and I can’t recall what it was called. It didn’t look nearly as cool as an Ambassador.) I think of all the cities we visited, Cochin in Kerela had the largest number of Ambassadors on the road. I’m not entirely sure why.

The Hindustan Ambassador on IMG VQVZ.

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Auto-Rickshaws

   16 February 2010, mid-morning

Auto-rickshaws are little three-wheeler taxis ubiquitous throughout most of Asia. They are all over the place in South India. They are one of the easiest ways to get around a city. The only problem with them is that the drivers can be a bit sketchy, and are likely to rip you off. Your best bet is to negotiate the price of your trip before going for a ride. (I don’t think there is anything wrong with getting ripped off a little bit in India. What is a few cents to you is a big deal to them.) Autos are fun to ride in. They are open air, they feel quick, and you get a real feel for the city as you zip through it in one.

Auto-Rickshaws on IMG VQVZ

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Stray Dogs

   12 February 2010, evening time

One constant throughout most of our trip in India were stray dogs. We would find them in every city we stayed in. More often than not we’d pass a dog passed out on the ground, probably because it was so damn hot out. Indians don’t seem to have any real soft spot for the animals. Honestly, there are far more pressing things to deal with in the country than dogs without owners, regardless of how lamentable they may look.

Stray Dogs on IMG VQVZ.

Stray Dogs

Stray Dogs

Stray Dogs

Stray Dogs

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We Must Abuse the Broadband: Pre TXP.

   12 January 2010, evening time

I took my original photoblog down sometime in November 2006. When I moved all my sites over to Dreamhost Movable Type, which was what I was using to run the site, stopped working. I can’t recall why. At the time, I wasn’t particularly enamored with Movable Type anyway; I figured I’d eventually move things to Textpattern. I did do this, but it took me a good while. The thing is, the site never really worked as well under TextPattern. While the site was on hiatus I put all the photos I had posted over the years on Flickr. There were 718 photos in total. Without titles and descriptions though, it was really just a big mess of images. My plan was to one day figure out how the Flickr API worked, figure out how to parse my Movable Type export file, and then fill in all this information. It took me 2 years or so, but i’m finally done.

I did this all using Ruby. I used FlickRaw to talk to Flickr and ruby-mtexport to parse my MT export file. Thankfully all the images on my site were named after the date they were posted, which made it easy to match up data in the export file to a photo on Flickr. I can’t recall the last time i’ve been so productive when programming. Ruby really is a great little language.

For the time being Flickr continues to be the place to go to see my photographs. I still want to turn IMG VQVZ into a proper photoblog or portfolio site. I just need to sort out how that would work.

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Developing Film at Home: A Year in Review

    7 January 2010, early morning

AGO Stairs

It’s been a little over a year since I started developing and scanning my own B&W film. In that time i’ve developed 49 rolls of film. Well, those are rolls that actually turned out. I’ve also destroyed 4 rolls of film due to using bad chemicals or other stupidness on my part. Developing film is a pretty satisfying process. For the most part, I think I’ve more or less sorted out how to do it properly. I’m probably not as careful as I should/could be, but my negatives seem to turn out fine nevertheless.

I’ve been using FilmDev.org to track how I develop my film. The site works well, and can be instructive in showing you how different films and developers work together. Because HP5+ is readily available on the cheap here in Toronto, that’s the B&W film I’ve used the most. I started off using Ilfosol-3 as my primary developer, but I think I prefer T-Max Developer from Kodak more. It seems more versatile, and the results seem a bit more punchy. I suppose it’s all a matter of taste.

Developing B&W film at ImageWorks costs $7 a roll, which works out to $343 to process everything I’ve done. (Holy shit, right?) Since I started developing at home I’ve used up one bottle of Ilfosol-3, one bottle of T-Max Developer, one bottle of Ilford Fix. That’s around $30 of chemicals that are now all gone. I’ve still got bottles of: T-Max Developer, Diafine, Ilford Fix, Ilford Stop and some Kodak Photoflo. That’s probably $50-$60 worth of chemicals that should last a good while. I could probably do another 50 or so rolls with what I have left. I had to pay about $40 to get all the other materials I need to develop film, but that’a fixed cost. So, the conclusion here is that it’s a lot cheaper doing this all yourself. I think the results are better as well.

The big problem with shooting film is getting the results onto your computer. I have an Epson V500 scanner, which has an attachment for scanning negatives. Having ImageWorks scan film for me would cost $6 a roll, which would have cost me $294. My scanner cost me $200. Again, this is a fixed cost. So, for the most part scanning at home is another win. Well, almost: scanning film is horrible. It’s a slow, boring, and more often than not frustrating process. I still can’t figure out — at all — how to scan my slide film correctly. Colour film is just as problematic. I manage well enough with B&W film, but it’s not without its own issues. No matter how hard I try I always end up with dust marks on my scans. All the scans I post online need to be spotted to get rid of all these marks. The whole process, scanning and touching up, is so damn slow. I’m not sure if there is really anything I can do to improve this situation.

You can see all the photographs I’ve developed myself in my Flickr set, BYOB&W. (If you have a fast connection, IMG VQVZ will probably present them in a nicer fashion, all the images on a single page.) I’m quite happy with all my recent shots. This roll in particular has some really nice pictures.

I’ve been developing film at home for a year now and save for some strange stains on my bathroom vanity I think the process has been a positive one.

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Blansdowne

   21 December 2009, early evening

I took the code I wrote for IMG VQVZ to finish off my Blansdowne photo site. You can now browse my most recent photos of the area, and look at the sets of images I’ve made using those photos. The only thing left to do is take photographs that are interesting. This might be the hardest part of the project.

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Ricoh GR1s

   16 December 2009, early morning

Ricoh GR1s

Ever since getting my Ricoh GRD II I have been looking for a Ricoh GR1 for some time now. The GR1 series of cameras are what the Ricoh GR Digital line is based on. They share a very similar form factor, a fixed 28mm lens, and similar shooting modes. GR1 cameras are reasonably rare nowadays, and they don’t seem to show up for sale all to often (or end up costing far too much). So it was strange to find one selling in Toronto on the cheap.

I ended up getting a GR1s. It’s in reasonably good shape, save for the fact the LCD no longer works properly. It only displays when the camera is in snap mode or not. Thankfully, you can figure out what other modes you are in by keeping track of how many times you’ve hit the mode button. The in-focus indicator box thing in the viewfinder is also really dim. I’m not sure if these are common GR1 problems or not. I’ll need to look into that.

I’ve ran one roll through the camera thus far, and am happy with the results. I think I need to sell some cameras to balance things out.

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Advanced Figurative Photography: Part 6

   10 December 2009, terribly early in the morning

Tonight is my last Figurative Photography class. Since talking about the class previously, I’ve had two more sessions photographing nude models. It’s strange how normal the whole exercise becomes. The second and third classes were more about setting up lights and figuring out what to shoot, rather than dealing with the fact there is a totally naked person in front of you. That’s not to say I got better pictures during the subsequent session.

During the first session I took pretty vanilla photos of nude people. Some of the photos turned out nicely, but a lot of them were pretty plain. So, I thought for the subsequent classes I’d just muck around with things and try to take different sorts of pictures. During the second class, in between taking regular portraits and what not, I had the models stand up and down while I took longer exposed shots. I wanted to end up with safe-for-work nudes, shots that hinted at the nudity and the human form.

During the third class, I brought my flash, and tried using that while photographing. I took some long exposure shots where I’d fire the flash and move, so you end up with an echoed image after the first. A series of shots using my flash and a flash light to illuminate the scene turned out nteresting. (And at times a bit messy.) Someone wanted to photograph the body with images projected onto it, and that actually turned out pretty interesting. The model looked like he had a full body tattoo. We ended that class doing multiple exposures using my flash and long shutter speeds in a black room. These photos have a sort of ethereal look to them.

You can see everything I’ve posted from my class on Flickr, though the set is probably NSFW. Tonights class is probably going to be spent looking at photos.

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Advanced Figurative Photography: Part 5

   20 November 2009, terribly early in the morning

Since my last class taking nude photographs, I attended two photography classes where we spent time looking at photographs and reviewing each others work. One class focused on street and vernacular photography, the another on nudes and fashion photography.

The street photography section was interesting, but since this is a topic i’m interested in I was fairly familiar with a lot of the work. There were still some new names to learn and photos to see. Sally Mann, Tina Barney, and Larry Sultan all take family photographs, but with a fine-art twist. Tina Barney is interesting in that she uses a large format camera to take what look like snapshots — except there is no way they could be snapshots because of the nature of the camera. I had no idea Larry Clark, the director of Kids, was an accomplished photographer before he became a director. His photos are in the same vein as Nan Goldin. The class covered a whole slew of photographers, ending with a look at Trent Parke’s work.

The following class started with another look at the body. Of particular note was the work by Francesca Woodman. She committed suicide at a young age and came to prominence after her death. Her portraits and self portraits are pretty haunting: long exposures, strange settings, etc. On the fashion side of things, the work by Deborah Tuberville is really interesting; she barely showcases the clothing. It’s interesting watching the evolution of fashion photography: early photographs look and feel like photographs of real live people, while what we have today is so over processed and shiny everything looks so fake.

Last night’s class was once again spent taking photographs of nude models.

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Advanced Figurative Photography: Part 4

    3 November 2009, early evening

In between photo shoots.

The 4th class in my Figurative Photography Class was the first class where we photographed the nude body. I found the experience quite surreal. Normally the people you interact with are clothed. Having a conversation with a naked person is odd. Asking them to pose this way or that way is all the more strange.

The models were regulars at the AGO. It seemed like most of my class members had taken other gallery courses at the AGO, so they had already worked with nude models before. (A few even knew the models in question.) We were supposed to have a male and female model to work with, but the sculpture class lost their model so our female mode left to help them out. The male model called up his friend, another AGO regular, and so a half hour or so into the class we had two male models to work with, Ab and Flip. Being regulars, they were quite comfortable getting naked and contorting their body. They were probably far more comfortable with the situation than the people in my class.

I found that I would get wrapped up in the way the models were posed and forget where the shadows are falling on their bodies. Another issue is that the schlong is a very awkward appendage: it’s hard to place in a photograph. More so, I think it’s hard to photograph a dude’s junk and not have it be vulgar. I’m not sure what I can say about nude photography. I found it hard to take a meaningful photo. There are a few shots I thought were standout, but for the most part I felt like I was just taking pictures of naked people. Hopefully the next time we take pictures i’ll have a better idea of what I want to photograph.

A few NSFW images from the night are up on Flickr.

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4 Billion Photos

   29 October 2009, early morning

Flickr is often looked on disparagingly by the more established photographic community. This is understandable. There are 4 billion photographs on Flickr, and for the most part they are pretty shitty. If you browse the Explore feature of Flickr, you’ll see photo after photo of HDR scenes, flowers, stupid shots with lots of “bokeh”, and other stupidness. I wasn’t sure what you would call this aesthetic till I read the following: the main thing that makes Flickr unattractive is that it is dominated by ad-educated aesthetic, by which I mean, sleek, surface-based, and impressionable with little beyond that point. In case you get the wrong idea, hyperallergic labs is a fan of Flickr. He goes on to say, “I am an art critic in NY and I use Flickr ALL THE TIME, if I find something interesting, I write about it.”

I’ve seen Flickr come up in two discussions on other photography sites recently. Burn Magazine published a photo essay edited by Rafal Pruszynski featuring photographs came from the Flickr group La Familia Abrazada. The group consists of family and vernacular photography. The photographs are usually pretty damn good. Some of the contributors to Burn Magazine and the regulars who comment at the site were offended a set of images from Flickr were featured on Burn. Flickr is for your mom and douche-bags with 5Ds, while Burn is for serious-ass photographers pursuing their art! Things were fairly obnoxious and heated in one of Burn’s forum threads. The discussion is a bit disappointing because it seems to focus on where the photographs came from rather than the photographs themselves.

A few days later Jorg Colberg wrote a follow up to a piece by Jin from Shooting Wife Open. Colberg’s article, particularly its conclusion, offended Bryan Formhals of La Pura Vida, who responded himself. This sparks some discussion on Flickr itself at HCSP. Colberg posts yet again, complaining that people on the Internet don’t know how to debate, and are jerk-asses. Perhaps. I think the thing that riles people up with Colberg’s initial post is that it’s incredibly dismissive. He seems to argue that Flickr is useful for finding photos you can use to make real art out of. And that’s it. He completely glosses over the fact there is real talent on Flickr itself. I would argue that not appreciating the Behemoth that is Flickr suggests you’re a bit out of touch.

So as I said at the start of this post, there are 4 billion fucking photos on Flickr. It is the height of arrogance to suggest in that mess of images there aren’t a substantial number of incredible photos. It’s probably not unreasonable at all to argue there are more absolutely incredible photos on Flickr than there are anywhere else on the Internet. I’m not going to argue that though, I wouldn’t know where to start.

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Advanced Figurative Photography: Part 3

   25 October 2009, early evening

The third figurative photography class I attended was split, more or less, into three sections. We started the class with an overview of nude photography. As with the class on portraiture, we more or less covered the history of nude photography from the advent of photography to the 70s or so. (I believe we are covering more contemporary nude photography in an another class.) As with the previous class, there were a few names I recognized, and plenty I did not.

I haven’t really sat down and looked at a lot of nude photography, so it’s interesting to see how different people approach the subject, and how it has changed over time. The very early nudes seem to have a lot in common with classic sculptures of the body, or paintings. This is to be expected to some extent. This is also probably due to the nature of cameras at the time. They were large and cumbersome, and the exposures were quite long. Most of the photographs we saw from the early part of the century were of full body nudes. As cameras get smaller, and film more straightforward to process and develop, you start to see more interesting takes on the subject. Surrealists like Man Ray were doing pretty interesting things with the nude body. Other photographers whose work I thought was quite good include Peter Hujar,
Lee Friedlander, and Bill Brandt.

The second part of the class was reviewing each others work. Everyone presented 3 photos from the previous week’s class (Stacey, Dave), 2 portraits they took outside of class (Shima), and one self portrait. It was interesting seeing what everyone decided to photograph, and how they lit their subjects.

Finally we went up to the fifth floor of the AGO to check out the Beautiful Fictions exhibit currently taking place. I ended up going to the AGO again today to check it out once more. It’s a really cool collection of contemporary photography. There is a lot to see, and a good variety of images, so it’s well worth the trip to the gallery.

Next week we are working with nude models. That should be an experience.

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