Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Review of the Canon CanoScan 8800F Film/Flatbed Scanner

After playing with the CanoScan 8800F combination film/flatbed scanner, I've taken the time today to write up a quick review of the unit, and also to give some helpful tips when scanning film. For all of you full-frame nuts out there that shoot into the sprocket holes or to the very edges of your medium format film, I invite you to skip ahead in the review, as I ran into a bit of a software issue when scanning without the film masks provided.

Miles Aldridge for the Lavazza 2010 Calendar

Each year, The Lavazza coffee company hires an influential photographer to shoot an extravagant, fashion editorial-style series of photos for their limited edition calendar. This year it was British photographer Miles Aldridge, taking his inspiration from well known Italian songs.

I'm loving the bright colors, the technicolor feel, and most of all, that he's shooting on film.

Seen at

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Making Film Photography Cheaper (or at least something approaching affordable)

Part of the beauty of film photography as a hobby is that with a minimal investment in equipment and materials, it remains one of the least expensive artistic endeavors one can get involved in. You really don't even need to buy or own a camera.
With pinhole photography, you can turn a matchbox, a can of spam, or really any light-tight box into a working camera. All that's really required to purchase is the film and developing.

Further down the rabbit hole, we enter the world of Lomography and toy cameras. Lomography is a catchall phrase coined by an Austrian company that has come to include the LOMO LC-A, the Diana+, the Holga, and a huge list of other toy cameras with limited functionality. There are toy cameras (like the LC-A) that go for upwards of $200, but for sheer fun and a low price, my favorite of the bunch is the Holga. It's a pretty good platform to hack and to mod, some examples of that can be found on Squarefrog's site. I've also done my fair bit of tutorials on this blog.
Shooting with expired film is a terrific way to save money. I recently purchased newly expired film on ebay and saved a huge amount (20 rolls of Kodak MAX 35mm / 36 exposures for $18 including shipping). The way film is stored has a lot to do with how long it will hold for. The expiration date is just an indicator given by the manufacturer by which they recommend having your film developed. Film can be stored frozen indefinitely, refrigerated for years, and on the shelf for months. I've seen beautiful results on Flickr from people that shoot with expired film. The results can be subtle or dramatic, but the serendipitous nature of photography is what helps make it exciting, right?
photo credit: pixelatedscraps via Flickr

About developing: Most hour photo labs have to send out for 120 format film like the Holga uses. As much as I dislike Walmart, it does do a fair job of developing color 120 film and will even cross process you film if you specify that on the package. There's a nice how-to over here.
If you shoot black and white, I strongly encourage you to invest the $50 or so it would take you to get a setup to develop your own film. It's not even about saving money on developing (although you will), but you have so much more control over how the film turns out than when you hand it over to a lab, even a good one. There's a pretty decent Instructables post that outlines the process, and I intend to create one that details my own process in the near future. I think it's a lot easier than most people suppose, though like anything in photography, it can get very nuanced very quickly. Basically, if you can make cookies from scratch you can develop film. It's all about mixing stuff and timing.
From there, most photo labs have a scanning/digitizing service to get your pictures onto a CD. There are any number of services online or through iPhoto that will help you get some really nice prints for a pretty decent price. Even Flickr has a service like this.
If you're not getting prints made by a photo lab and you've decided photography is a fun hobby, you can and should invest in a decent film scanner. A low-end combination flatbed/film Epson goes for about $150, and the Canon that I currently use (Canoscan 8800F, and I'm very pleased with it) was around $180 after shopping around online.
So, yeah. Getting back to my point at the first part of this post, photography can be extremely inexpensive, but it is also very easy to get swept up in all of the "stuff" and spend way too much. Photography is a simple process; we're exposing a plane of sensitized film to a beam of light coming in through a lens. No, scratch that last part, if you're doing pinhole photography, you don't even need a lens. Then it's a matter of revealing the latent image on the film with the right mix of chemicals and having prints made or scanning the image into a computer.
The basic tools for this process have been around for decades yielding beautiful pictures, but in a pixel-perfect world it's easy to become obsessed with digital perfection. In my opinion there is still plenty of room for creativity and originality in the area of film photography. I use a camera much like a sketchbook; to record scraps and bits of my life in an artful way. Let the digitally-obsessed have their 12 megapixel DSLRs. As long as I've got a crappy camera and a roll of film, I'm happy.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Shoot Through The Sprockets! Or, Using 35mm Film in a Holga.

Yesterday, I finally got a chance to play with the Holga-brand 35mm film adapter for the 120 format camera. I'm going to describe how I hacked it to shoot clear out to the sprocket holes and widened the frame to 2 1/4". The second half of the post touches on another way to cram a 35mm film reel into the Holga, using bits of foam to hold the spool in place.

DIY Redscale Film!

Out of all of the rad techniques out there that exist for playing with color film, by far one of my all time favs is making redscale film. It is really simple to do, and the results are stunning, especially if you use a toy camera such as the Holga.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Moo Business Cards

Today my Moo Business cards arrived! Moo is a printing company based out of Europe, but they have a printing press here in the US on the east coast. They make it very easy to have custom cards printed using your own images. But what really makes them special is that not every business card, mini card or postcard need to be the same image for the whole set. In fact, if you get a pack of 50 cards printed, each and every card can have its own photo on the front!

I used their handy Flickr tool to upload images to Moo from my Flickr account. The whole process moves seamlessly and was extremely intuitive. And now, a week later, I have my very own Foto Go-Go business cards right here in front of me!

A word on the quality. Most noticeable is that the cards are not your typical business card size. They are a little bit wider and not quite as long. If you're very particular on the size of your business cards, they may not work. I found the proportions to be extremely composition-friendly, however. That is to say; working out cropping on this slightly different aspect ratio was much easier than a traditional business card.

The heavyweight paper and the finish really make these cards sing. The color is especially nice. Shadow detail is a little muddy, but that could have been I was working from scans of prints instead of film scans. I will reevaluate the black & white cards after getting my next batch, now that I have a film scanner and can work directly from negatives.

All in all, I am extremely impressed with the quality of the cards, and the handsome, rugged display box is a nice touch! They arrived quickly even with standard shipping, and order tracking let me know where the cards were and when they'd get delivered.

Moo Printing USA

Happy snapping!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Low Cost, Low Profile Camera Bag

I've gotten pretty sick and tired of trying to cram all of the photo gear that I think I'll need into my pockets lately, and yes, as a hobby photographer/lomographer, we really don't need much. Maybe a cheap tabletop tripod, some film, lens wipes, and some filters. Still, it's more than can easily, safely, or conveniently be carried in jacket or jeans pockets. I tend to pack pretty light (I went backpacking in Costa Rica last year for two weeks with 2 cameras and clothes, and didn't need to check a single bag), but I hate needing something out in the field and not having it.

The time had come. I knew I needed to get a bag of some sort. I needed something simple, something unassuming, and something rugged and padded enough to toss in the car or hike around in the urban landscape with.

Print developing with instant coffee (yes, coffee!)

Photo Credit: Tom Overton

At its most basic, photography and printing really is a simple process. The right chemicals and an understanding of the process are within almost anyone's ability to grasp. And though it becomes extremely nuanced, layered, and at times seemingly arcane once you start talking about camera types and emulsions and graded papers etc., photography is a hobby like anything else. It's my focus to bring a little simplicity and understanding to film photography, whether you're into lomography and toy cameras, or pinhole or fine art photography.

That said, I was overjoyed when I found this article about developing and printing using coffee as a film and print developer. It does not get much simpler than that! I'm excited to try this out sometime soon! If anyone has any experience in this process, leave some comments for others to read.

Happy Snapping!

Printing with Caffenol - Using Instant Coffee as a Print Developer by Tom Overton

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ansel Adams in the Darkroom

Exceptional little clip from a documentary about Ansel Adams working in the darkroom. Touches on his use of burning in and dodging to highlight and add drama to compositions.

From the PBS American Experience program, Ansel Adams: A Documentary

Holga Photography

Short little introduction to the Holga and an interview with a photographer that uses it!

Best quote from the movie:

"Focus settings include one person, three people, many people... and mountains!"

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Flickr Gallery is now active on Foto Go-Go!!!

Happy Tuesday!

Today I set up my flickr account and linked it to this blog. One the right column you should be able to view a small sample of recently uploaded pictures. Or just click here for the gallery.

I also ordered some photo business cards for the blog from They have a printing service that allows you to send images over from flickr and have them printed out as business cards. Up to 50 different designs per pack! I'll post a review of how they came out after they get here.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Theater Gels as CHEAP Filters & Colorsplash Flash Filters!

Last summer I was helping do costume design for a local theater production here in SF. I noticed all of those theater gels that they use on lights, and I asked the lead tech if I could have some scraps, since the gels come in big sheets that have to be cut down.