When it comes to street photography, there are heaps of places that come to mind. New York City, Chicago, Paris and many others have been the settings for legendary street photographers such Daniel Arnold, Vivian Meier and Henri Cartier-Bresson. After all, they are incredible cities …
Tag: Street Photography
The ability to capture a genuine, authentic moment in time is what immediately drew me into photography. There’s a magic to photographing a scene and knowing you did it without posing or manipulating a scene. Once I discovered that street photography encapsulated this type of …
Photographing with film is my absolute favorite method of capturing images. If it wasn’t for the cost and sometimes inconvenience, I’d photograph with film all the time.
Alas, there are costs and inconveniences that result from photographing with film.
It would seem that inconveniences have been added to the film photographer’s process.
Normally, I like to include posts about inspiration and tips on this blog. However, after what happened to me, I feel the need to inform anyone out there who shoots film.
Last Thanksgiving we planned a trip to Estes Park, Colorado for Thanksgiving. We could fly from our small town, but it’s almost always less expensive to drive two to four boring hours to a larger airport to not only save money, but also to reduce layovers.
Our flight was early and we cruised smoothly through the line to have our identification checked.
Arms raised and feet in position, we made it successfully through the scanners. Once I arrived on the other side, though, a Transportation Security Administration officer leaned over the counter. She told me that their scanners were stronger now, and that it would be advised for me to hand check my film.
This was completely new to me.
For years I’ve flown with film of all formats and haven’t had a problem. I’ve never used a lead bag because I’d heard (read) stories of the x-ray technicians simply increasing the power of the x-ray, thereby ruining the film.
Sweat forming and worry commencing, I was appalled at this advice I’d just received.
As surprised as I was, I was also extremely thankful to hear about the new scanners. Being an avid film photographer, this type of information is invaluable.
While in Colorado, I photographed as if my film would turn out completely fine. We stayed in Denver and my plan was to photograph some of the incredible architecture that exists in the area. As far as worrying that my film had been possibly ruined, there was nothing I could do at that point, so it was my priority to simply make the best out of a bad situation.
When the day came to return to Michigan, I made sure to have the TSA agent hand check my film. This was the Sunday after Thanksgiving weekend, so the airport was quite busy.
The agents involved with my film couldn’t have been more polite, patient and helpful.
Only about ten minutes of time were taken to check the film, and we were on our way to our airline gate for home.
Once home, I immediately sent my film off for processing. My lab of choice is The Darkroom Lab in California. Their service, quality, turnaround time and price has been unbeatable, for me.
When the day came that my negatives had been scanned, I received an email telling me that my downloads were ready. I was equal parts scared and excited.
As soon as I saw that some images were downloading I was relieved. My main concern was that the powerful x-ray had ruined all the negatives. I knew that as long as I had some images to work with I’d be okay.
Upon examining the images further, in Lightroom, I could tell that there was some degradation in quality. After flying with Kodak Portra 400 35mm film for as long as I have (and not having problems), I could tell fairly quickly that there was a graininess, and what can best be described as ‘muddled’, look to the images.
The photos I’ve presented here may not look too bad, but this is after a lot of adjustments to grain, color and contrast.
Thankfully, I was able to salvage a lot of the photos in post processing.
Having the advice to hand check my film was so important, I wanted to make sure to let you all know about it. So, the takeaway here is to give yourself a few extra film-check minutes and account for that when planning your travel.
Your photos may turn out fine if you don’t, but why take the chance?
Film photography has enough hassles, challenges and costs associated with it. Put high-strength x-ray machines on the list of challenges, I guess.
As film photographers—or photographers in general, I’d say—go though, we forge ahead. We do whatever it takes to make art in the magic that is film photography.
Here’s to film photography, it’s grain and all it’s perfect imperfections.
It is written in many tutorials that in order to photograph successfully, one must photograph during the Hour of Gold. Fear not, fellow photographers, for a beautiful photograph may be captured any time you’re out with your camera, even if that time isn’t the golden …
Choosing the right film camera can be incredibly overwhelming. There are seemingly endless options out there for you to use. But, worry not. If you’re looking for a simple camera that can be found for a reasonable price, the Canon AE-1 gets the job done, …
Portrait photography is one of my favorite genres within the craft. To meet someone and make a portrait of that person, or people, is special.
While working for different newspapers, it was portraits that made up so many daily assignments. The goal was to photograph someone creatively in a way to would tell a story pertaining to the individual.
Admittedly, portraits used to be a type of photography that wasn’t my favorite. My favorite type of photography used to be street photography, or something like it. I still enjoy it tremendously. I’d always envisioned—perhaps like so many other photojournalists—of being the next Cartier-Bresson, walking the streets of a picturesque city while creating compositions within my viewfinder that pleased the eyes of all that would look at my images.
However, over time, I began to truly appreciate the portrait. After seeing some portraits made by Diane Arbus, Arnold Newman and Dan Winters—and even Cartier-Bresson made some gorgeous portraits while staying in his style—I began to find the draw to portraiture.
After photographing more and more people, for assignments and otherwise, my confidence with portrait photography began to grow.
I began to believe in myself and to feel that I care enough about making a quality portrait that I can do it, and do it well.
My portrait photography enjoyment has even reached a point to where I’m enjoying photographing strangers. I should say, my portrait subjects are strangers when we first meet, but varying connections do form throughout the portrait session, so where not strangers by the end of the portrait session.
Portrait sessions can happen quickly and unexpectedly. They’re no telling when, how and/or where you’ll encounter someone that would make a good portrait. This is part of the excitement.
One of my favorite cameras to make portraits with is not a famed portrait camera at all. It’s the Mamiya 7. The Mamiya 7 is a rangefinder camera that uses medium format film. It’s easy to use and the quality of the lenses is superb.
Now, you definitely don’t need a Mamiya 7 camera to make great portraits. You can make a great portrait with any camera.
I only bring up this camera because it’s what taught me some valuable lessons.
The Mamiya 7, especially when using it to make portraits, requires focus (literally and figuratively) and attention. It’s not an easy camera to make portraits with. The viewfinder is such that two images of your subject have to line up in order to be in focus. A small movement forward or backward can render your image blurry.
Another aspect of using the Mamiya 7 that helped me improve my portrait photography is the fact that only ten images can be made on a roll of 120 film. With the cost of film, processing and scanning, that works out to about $3.00 per image made. Since money isn’t growing on a tree outside my window, that’s enough money to make me take my time to make sure my photograph is good.
Also, photo subjects can tell when you’re taking your time and trying your best to make an image. I think that when they see you’re serious, they tend to take the shoot a little more seriously, too.
Of course, there are those who are disciplined and talented enough to be able to capture excellent portrait photos with digital camera equipment. I find that once I photograph with film for a while, I’m able to transfer how I shoot over to digital. After a while though, I tend to get more lax on my practices and I have to go back to film.
Most importantly, you photograph how you want to photograph and using techniques that work best for you. I’m only mentioning what works for me. And, I’m mentioning it because perhaps my techniques will work for you also.
If you’re looking for a fun new experience, try photographing with any type of film camera and see how it goes. I’m confident you’ll enjoy the process of slowing down and the excitement of waiting for your film scans to return.
The creative journey is different for everyone. It can be a slow ascent, then a whiplash-fast descent and everything in-between, and then it can change again. And that’s okay, because it’s all part of that journey. Do not fret fellow creatives. There are ways to …
It was December 24, 2022. Our plan, by way of yearly tradition, was to travel north and visit family for the holidays. Nature’s plan, though, was to make the Michigan roads as undriveable as possible through a weather assault of wind, snow, cold and ice. …
Tell someone you’re going away for a weekend to Saginaw, Michigan to take photos, and you may receive puzzling expressions—I certainly did. The responses of wonderment I received were mostly from the people I encountered in Saginaw, too.
Saginaw is often on lists, but they’re not the types of lists that garner praise or accolades. The lists are usually rankings of dangerous cities in Michigan or the United States. Saginaw is often close to the top in the state and nationally.
So why travel to Saginaw? I went there because even though it’s a city with challenges, poverty and crime, it’s still a city where people live and since it’s a piece of the fabric that makes up the state of Michigan, it deserves to be documented.
Also, there are some incredible aspects to Saginaw. There are some fantastic people there, mind-blowing architecture and the best place to buy a tortilla I’ve ever been. Much more importantly, it’s a city with vast potential and with strong communities, along with a rich history.
I previously created a blog post, here, about working as a photojournalist intern at the Saginaw News in 2005 and returning years later to photograph.
In addition, Saginaw is only about two hours from home so it’s easily traveled to, and from, in a weekend.
My favorite place to stay when heading to Saginaw is the Relax Inn. It’s in a quiet section of country away from the hustle and bustle, the staff is kind and the prices are phenomenal.
On the particular weekend I was there, the weather was to be quite cold, and it sure was. When I woke up on Saturday morning, it had snowed a lot and the wind was creating a wind chill that tested even my Michigan blood.
However, photo weekends are precious and not to be squandered, so once I put my extra vest on and warm gloves and a stocking hat, it was out the door I went.
A film camera, accompanied by my iPhone, was my only rig for this trip. Sometimes I bring a film camera and digital camera, but more equipment tends to make things a hassle and I wanted to keep things simple on this trip.
Earlier I mentioned that Saginaw has a reputation for being dangerous so I’ll mention here that the same rules apply when in Saginaw as when in any big city: Use common sense, be aware of your surroundings and don’t wander in unfamiliar and unsafe areas at night.
As I began my photo excursion in the city, I began to notice some buildings that had been removed since the last time I’d visited. This is a shame because the buildings were architectural gems. The good news though is that some of the best architectural gems remained.
My travels began near the apartment building on Thompson Street where I once lived. It seemed like a fitting place for a photo outing since it’s one of the first internships I had when I started my photojournalism career.
Across the street from the apartment building was a beautiful green Mercedes Benz car in a church parking lot.
My travels afterward included some fine examples of mid-century modern architecture. It’s abundant there. It was especially important to me to document these buildings now, since one never knows when a building will be torn down.
To me, this is one of the most important reasons to photograph. You’ll find, if you haven’t already, that documenting what you do can become an important historical record. This is especially true as time moves on.
When I wasn’t photographing architecture, I was wandering about Old Saginaw City. There are vignettes, especially in the Old Town area, that speak to the grit and authenticity of the area.
It was fulfilling and so great to be back in Saginaw. Being there for the weekend confirmed what I felt about it: it’s a tough city with some beautiful features.
I can’t wait to return.
These days it’s almost impossible to be interested in photography and equipment and not end up down the rabbit hole that is the camera forum. Talk of DxO scores, sharpness, aberration and, of course, megapixels, dominate the subject matter. None of that matters. My first …