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Antarctic panorama portfolio

in Antarctica , Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I’ve just added a portfolio of 12 Antarctic panoramas to my photo galleries. The captions will need updating, once I can figure out where the locations really are. But that’s not terribly important. I really can’t say at this point if these area the “best” of the 200 or so candidates, but they’re a representative selection.  It really was that gloomy!

Snowhenge dot net  photography  other stuff

Now I can move on to the rest of the backlog…

Posted in category "Antarctica" on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 11:32 PM

polaramics

in Antarctica , Friday, April 12, 2013

Although I’m hopelessly addicted to wide-format photography, using my Hasselblad XPan film camera, there’s no question that it lacks the immediacy of digital. It has taken over two months to get the 10 rolls of Ektachrome E100G which I put through it in Antarctica developed, scanned, cleaned up and somewhat edited. Of course this time I was sidetracked by a trip to Venice as well as several other tangents I shot off on, not to mention earning a living and keep the garden under control. And having a life. Well, marginally. At the same time I still have another 12 rolls from Patagonia which remain in their boxes, and a veritable avalanche of digital photographs from Antarctica which I have had but a cursory look at. I tend to get very linear about this stuff, so apart from the distraction of my Venice projects (which were also a bit linear), I have really concentrated on this process.

Coaxing the best results I can out of my ageing film scanner is time-consuming, as is removing the artefacts it generates. But that’s just part of the deal. The challenge is to get some approximation of the fantastic way the slide film looks on the light table onto the screen.

The next step is to select a dozen or so for a gallery page, but here’s a quick preview.

Xpan antarctica05 10
Xpan antarctica06 13
Xpan antarctica08 01
Xpan antarctic03 11
Posted in category "Antarctica" on Friday, April 12, 2013 at 06:53 PM

More Belair stuff

in GAS , Wednesday, April 03, 2013

A few reviews around the web, especially a very thorough four-part epic on Gary Seronik’s Film Advance blog, seem to confirm my own thoughts on the Belair 612 and its plastic lenses. Basically it seems to be being marketed to, and appeals to, more “serious” photographers, but its Lomography DNA is just all too obvious. And it’s probably too much trouble to appeal to the tradition Lomo crowd. It’s a pity, because with a little more investment you could have a useful if very basic camera. As it is it’s pretty much a waste of time. Possibly the “real” lenses which are now very late coming might improve matters, but I’m not convinced.  There are plenty of tips on how to achieve longer exposure than 1/125th, how to lock exposure, and other esoterica, but it’s all very fiddly and haphazard.

Anyway here are a couple of photos showing the field of view of the two lenses (and also that nominal auto-exposure is a bit approximate for slide film - or perhaps the Lomo Pro-X film is more like ISO 160 than 200 - and that neither plastic lens seems to focus at infinity)

Bel set1 05

the 90mm lens…

Bel set1 04

… and the 58mm lens

And here’s a couple more showing that the camera actually can step up and deliver a genuine Lomography experience…

Bel set1 07

Bel set1 06

 

Posted in category "GAS" on Wednesday, April 03, 2013 at 02:44 PM

Widescreen Plastic

in Product reviews , Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lomography. The painfully hip (although probably not so much these days) trend for making photographs with hopelessly bad cameras, where the whole point is in the flaws and general eccentricities. Or, alternatively, a company in Austria making a nice little sum turning out garishly packaged plastic boxes promising aforementioned hipness.  Either way, the argument seems to be that Lomography is especially creative. I find this somewhat hard to understand, as the artist (the photographer, presumably) has little to no control over the creative process, having a few wildly inaccurate, crude controls, and the random lens, light leak and framing behaviours to deal with. Fun, maybe. Creative, not so much. But what do I know, I’m not hip.

Having said all that, back in November, in a fit of retail therapy I ordered Lomography’s latest creation, the 612 format Belair panoramic camera. I’ve always wanted to work with the 612 format, and while a Linhof 612 would cost around $4000, the Belair costs approximately 1/20th of that. While their first attempt at a panoramic camera, the Sprocket Rocket, in my view verges on the insulting, they seemed to be sort of serious about this one. So what the hell.

So it turned up in January, and to be honest I took one look at it and shoved it in the back of a cupboard. I wasn’t in the mood for it. But last week, I took it for a spin.

The Belair 612 comes in various finishes. Mine is called a “Jetsetter”. It’s plastic with some kind of a metal (I think “tin” best describes it) shell, and boasts a plastic faux-leather wraparound. It looks cute from a way off. It comes with two interchangeable lenses, a 58mm and a 90mm, both with f/8 and f/16 settings (cloudy & sunny…). And it has automatic exposure, with settable ISO. Focussing is zone only. Both lenses have dedicated viewfinders. These are truly, truly awful.

Drm 2013 03 19 IMG 0926

The Belair 612 Jetsetter, fired up and ready to rock

Drm 2013 03 19 IMG 0927

The Belair 612 Jetsetter flexes its bellows

Drm 2013 03 19 IMG 0929

The Belair 612 Jetsetter gazes squints into the distance

As far as operation goes, it’s basically a no-frills medium format film camera, which is fine. However the film loading is unnecessarily tricky, as the take up canister has little wiggle room, and you need to be careful to keep tension on the spool. It’s not exactly a Hasselblad A12, let’s put it that way. The shutter release is a bit of angled metal sticking out of the front standard. It is almost impossible to avoid camera shake when triggering it, and there’s neither remote release nor timer.

So, ok, it’s not that impressive out of box. Even if it is a comparatively classy box. And even considering the price.  So how well does it work ?  I loaded it up with some Lomography X Pro Slide Film (Agfa RSX II, apparently) and tried it out, both handheld and on a tripod, with both lenses.  I made a few standard mistakes that can catch you out with any camera of this type, including double exposures, and winding on the film too far. But generally it worked.  Here are some results, scanned at 2400dpi.

Bel set1 01

58mm lens, focused at 4m, f/8, tripod

Bel set1 02

58mm lens, focused at infinity, f/16, tripod

Bel set1 03

The Belair is maybe more suited for this sort of handheld shot

A 100% crop from the centre of the second image shows pretty much what I see through a loupe on the light table: not exactly medium format resolution. Just mush, basically.

Belair100pcent


So, the results from the plastic lenses are as one could predict. I have got one of Lomography’s Russian-sourced glass lenses on order, but they have been repeatedly delayed.  The camera does not seem to be too prone to light leaks, which will surely come as a big disappointment to the hipsters, and given that I was using slide film, the exposure was in general ok. But it would be safer to use negative film. On the plus side, it is sort of fun to use, and I could immediately confirm that I like the 612 format.

But with those lenses, no pressure plate to keep the film flat in the camera, and adding to that the relative difficulty of scanning 120 format film, sharpness is not a characteristic which is going to be associated with the Belair 612.

It’s got a certain allure, but it doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be a “serious” camera or a Lomo post-modern toy, and given the expense of feeding it 120 roll film, I’m not sure it makes that much sense. You could get far better results simply by cropping an image from pretty much any point and shoot digicam - and then run it through Instagram or whatever if you really must.

In conclusion, I didn’t really get on with the Belair. But that’s just me - it may well work for you and inspire your creativity. There’s certainly no cheaper medium-format, interchangeable lens, panoramic camera on the market. I wish I could recommend the Belair 612, but I can’t. Let’s see what it can do with a real lens. If it ever arrives.

Posted in category "Product reviews" on Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 07:56 PM

Anti-drama

in Antarctica , Sunday, February 24, 2013

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was inspired by reading Stuart Klipper’s “The Antarctic: From the Circle to the Pole“ to attempt to capture some feeling of Antarctica away from the more usual high drama of high contrast, mirrored, dramatic landscapes. I hope this doesn’t descend into plagiarism - after all it’s hardly the first time I’ve tried this, or something like it - but I can’t deny that I was compelled to get the hell out of the library, and work with this soft, dull light while I still had the opportunity.  Actually, there would be all too much opportunity in the days ahead!

Xpan antarctic01 14


Xpan antarctic02 6

Both photos taken with the Hasselblad XPan, 90mm lens, and Kodak Ektachrome E100G

Posted in category "Antarctica" on Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 12:20 PM

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