After three months of trying to think of interesting things to do with my GoPro (see earlier example; also the part where I’m seriously thinking of re-making Claude LeLouche’s classic C’etait un Rendezvous in Victoria, only the film will be “réalizé avec trucage et acceleré”), I think I finally found something useful. A lot of the waiting hinged on the fact that GoPro, despite advertising the case you get with the camera as being waterproof to 197′, is lying to you. Oh, sure, the case itself is actually waterproof to 197′. What they don’t tell you is that, with the Hero 2 I bought, the lens needs a flat plane to focus off of, and in the water that doesn’t actually work — so every picture you take under water turns out to be blurry as all hell. And here I thought it was just that I needed to drink less…

Anyway, I ordered enough extra housings to hold stuff, including the dive housing that has a flat glass plate on the front, and the camera works pretty damn well underwater, all things considered. (I also got an LCD screen so I could see what I was shooting at, not that it works very well in the sunshine, mind you.) So I set the camera up in burst mode, where it will shoot 10 fps for one second, and went out into the raging surf last week to see what I could find.

Wave photography is really hard. Who knew?

(More, including larger versions of the above, over here. Also, you really should look at the pictures I took of my adorable dogs yesterday. Includes a bonus ad for Tourism Newfoundland & Labrador, and my wife’s idea of what an adorable dog picture is.)

So this happened

About a year ago, my beloved Canon A620, the mainstay of a trip to Europe in 2006 and, since 2008, my primary underwater camera, packed up and died. This left me without a suitable underwater device, which was sad. I had philosophical problems with spending another $280 on a proper housing for, say, the G11, so mostly I just complained a lot.

Last week, I caved and bought a GoPro Hero2 HD video camera. I… don’t really know what to do with it. But I guess we’ll find out.

Here’s the first project:

Things I learned: video is really, really, really processor-intensive. Wow.

Sic transit gloria E-6

Kodak is getting out of the slide film business.

There are a bunch of reasons why: the general decline in popularity of film, the fact that Kodak has been losing money like mad, that they’re in bankruptcy now and trying to get rid of unprofitable business units, the even-more-extreme niche that slide film occupies… these are all true. And I never loved the Kodak E-6 film the way I did Fuji’s slide film, or some of Kodak’s black and white emulsions, so it’s not like this is a loss on the scale of, say, Verichrome or, as a more direct comparison, Kodachrome (which I also never really liked).

But this is another sad development in the long goodbye for traditional photography processes. Kodak will apparently continue to manufacture the chemistry needed to process E-6, and there’s enough stock for 6-9 months of sales, but that’s it from them. It’s now all up to Fuji.

New York

When I first got off the train in Paris at Gare de Lyon five years ago, I felt like I was home. It was the sort of place that was immediately familiar, even though I’d never been there before. I’m firmly convinced this was the product of a childhood steeped in French culture. It was like that in London, too, and for the same reasons: when you have these great cities as the touchstones of your literature and your movies, the sheer volume of media makes the geography real. New York was exactly the same way, except that it might have been even more real, in the sense that for my entire life I’ve been watching TV shows and movies set in New York City, and so much of what happens in those shows somehow seeps out into the wider culture — I think I knew, on an academic level, how much this was true, but I didn’t really understand it until I was riding up the approach to the Queens Midtown tunnel on a Friday night, looking out over the East River, and I realized that I wasn’t really going to encounter anything that was truly strange or dislocating.

Continue reading “New York”

Picture time

I am, as the Twitter feed has suggested for a couple of days, back from Japan. (Some of you had no idea I was even over there! Which lead to one of the funniest Foursquare checkins I’ve ever had!) A fuller, more detailed trip report will follow soon — I promise — but I have put some photo galleries up for your perusal and enjoyment:

Please enjoy!

Lost arts

I was rooting through the freezer the other day in search of a frozen treat when I came across a whole box of them: my entire collection of unexposed film, shoved in a basket when I came back from Europe five years ago with a busted 35mm camera, frozen, and then never touched again — even after my film cameras were fixed. It was a very strange pang of nostalgia as I emptied the basket out and sorted through what I had. It turns out to be an eclectic collection of new and old, in-production and out, and it brought back a lot of memories of a time when, as a photographer, you had to hold a lot of information in your head more or less continuously while working with the stuff. The upshot was that you got really familiar with a handful of films, and stuck with them come hell or high water.

So I have three unopened boxes of Kodak Portra NC (probably the single-best general purpose low-contrast print film in production mid-last-decade). A box of Portra UC I never tried. A whole whackload of pre-paid RVP 50 — obviously pre-dating the release of Velvia 100F — I ought to see whether the lab will still process it for me! A bit of Provia, from back when Provia wasn’t so good. A couple rolls of Tech Pan and Ilford Pan F 50, slow films that you can’t buy anymore (and that I probably can’t get developed anymore, either, since I was never a big fan of doing my own processing). A bunch of Astia in 120 that I really should load in my Mamiya and go shoot. Lots of Tri-X, in a couple different formats.

But it was the two yellow-wrapped 120 rolls that caught my eye, with the rubbed-off markings, and I realized what I was looking at: Verichrome Pan. This was, arguably, the best black and white film most people never heard of, in large part because the it was never available in 35mm format. But if you worked in medium- or large-format, and you shot B&W — or, heck, if you had a Brownie and were playing around with B&W film in the 1950s — there is an excellent chance you know exactly what I’m talking about, and why it was so good. There’s an excellent chance that you’ve seen pictures shot on VP; it has a characteristic look, a smoothness and a richness and a tonal depth that isn’t there in a lot of B&W films. It was tolerant, it handled high contrast well, the grain structure was damn-near nonexistent, and unbelievably it really was a 125 ISO film, so some degree of handholding was possible.

I used VP pretty extensively for a stretch in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and really liked it — this was, of course, right around the time that Kodak decided they’d discontinue the film. For a few years, up to about 2005, you could still buy the stuff new; a good many serious B&W photographers still have a couple of boxes squirreled away for that special project that really needs “the look.” My stock has, eventually, dwindled to these two rolls of 120, and while I’d dearly love to go shoot them, I have no idea what sort of project I’d do to justify their use. Yeah, okay, it’s just film — but this is really good stuff! Don’t believe me? Other people have the same issues I do.

I’m told Ilford Delta 100 or TMAX 400 (rated at 320, developed as per the box) are supposed to be reasonable alternatives to this stuff. In my head, I keep thinking that the chromogenic B&W films should have the same grain structure as VP, but for some reason when I go back through my archives I can’t seem to find any evidence to support this. Of course, at the same time, I haven’t shot any film, period, in something like five years. Maybe there’s an argument that I need to go and take some (real) pictures…

Far far away from the bright lights

I spent some time over the past week or so teaching classes in Port McNeill and Campbell River. There are some fabulous people up there, and I quite enjoyed myself. Campbell River is awfully pretty — staring out over Discovery Passage at the coastal range on the mainland, it’s easy to see why people like it up there. (On the other hand, if you don’t fish, I’m not sure what you’d do. But never mind.) Port McNeill was interesting too, but more for the fact that you drive a long way, drive some more, and then drive even further, and after all that you’re still an hour away.

Anyway, I took a few pictures.

Way West

I spent the weekend in Ucluelet — the first time I’d been out there in nearly two decades, despite having lived 4.5 hours away for the past fifteen years. Looking back on it now, I can’t really understand what had kept me from going. It’s awesomely amazing.

Take a look. I didn’t shoot in greyscale, honest!