On April 23rd I went out for my first outing with SCOPES, the pinhole photography group I joined last year. Although I packed my bag well ahead of time, and went over the steps to shooting pinhole prior to the trip, the weather ended up working against me. My methodology of using my DSLR to meter then my phone to convert the reading works fine in fair weather, but in the persistent drizzle-to-downpour I was an uncoordinated mess. It was time consuming to constantly re-pack my electronics into bags and pockets to keep them dry while stumbling around in the mud and tight quarters of narrow hiking paths. I took away a couple of things from observing my fellow photographers:
- handheld light meters are far more convenient to use
- write your f/stop conversions and reciprocity failure calculations on paper before you go out
Our outing was scheduled to start at 11 at the trail head to Franklin Ghost Town. From what I saw, it is less of a "town" and more the remains of a coal mine operations, with a hillside graveyard off to one side. From the parking area, you walk up a wide gravel road until you reach the fork in the road, marked with signs and an old train car. To the right are some moss-covered foundations (used to hold the machinery that would pull the cars up from the mine) to the left the road leads up to the ventilation shaft - currently covered with huge metal grates to keep people from falling in (but you can still climb onto it and drop rocks down the shaft). Beyond the "big hole" begins a narrow dirt trail which leads to the hillside graveyard.
This was my first time using the new additional film back that I'd picked up off of eBay for my Graflex, and it hadn't occurred to me that it would wind differently than my original film back. At our first stop I loaded black and white into my old back, and then color into the new one. I had pulled extra leader on the color roll to give the lab space to load the film without fogging it, however it turns out this is unnecessary. The new back actually pulls the film further before it *clicks* for the first frame. So, by pulling the film forward, I ended up starting my images late on the film, which cut off my last shot at the end of the roll.
- Lesson learned: when you get a new piece of vintage equipment, just test it the way it is *supposed* to be used brand new, and see your results before you make adjustments.
From here on out I primarily concentrated on muddling through my uncoordinated methodology of meter/calculate/expose/ quick get everything back in the bag before it gets too rained on. As some point, in my shifting of gear in my bag, I accidentally clicked the film advance release on the Graflex and when I checked the knob, it needed advancing so I turned it forward. So I lost a frame of color film with that accident as well. I had a feeling that's what had happened, but in these situations you have to decide if you want to have a potentially blank frame, or potentially ruin two shots with a double exposure.
Beyond testing the new back, I also wanted to do a comparison between the shot on the film vs. what I see in the viewfinder. I know from past experience that the viewfinder crops in compared to the film, so I decided to try to take a photo through my viewfinder with my cell phone. That way I could compare my viewfinder image to the final negative and get an idea of the extra image that shows up in the film.
Here is the viewfinder image (which is as good as I could get in the rainy conditions)
And here is the actual shot I'd lined up
I did seem to get my calculations for exposure correct, in spite of the adverse weather conditions, but it was time consuming and I was hardly able to maintain any coherent conversation while shooting. Using two backs gave me the ability to swap from black and white to color film, which is something I've wanted to do since I worked at the studio in the early 90's (an achievement made moot in the digital age) Here are the other final images that I like the most from the outing. I primarily found the contrast of the deteriorating iron fences against the forest overgrowth intriguing.
The perspective is a little lost on this shot, but I had the camera all the way to the ground and looking up at the fence for this. This was the first time I really used the lack of center post in my tripod for a low angle.
In the end I shot only one roll of each film type, and still managed to be the last one out of the trees (due largely to it taking me a while to find my groove) Upon descending back to the parking area, we decided to meet up at a nearby cafe to warm up, dry off, and get a little bit of food. There was an antique store a couple doors down from the cafe, which drew a few of us in for a check on what vintage camera gear they might have. I told myself I still had my Six-20 to work with, so I only browsed. Once settled into the Black Diamond Cafe, with beverages in hand, we enjoyed watching the next wave of downpour outside the windows, happy to be inside and dry, and chatted about film and cameras.
While on my outing, the leather strap on Clunky finally gave way in the rain. Replacing the handle with something more durable is no problem, and I will do that soon. As I cleaned up my gear, I discovered something about my camera that I hadn't noticed before:
A tripod mount on the side of the camera, for vertical shots, which had been previously hidden by the leather strap. Now I know why that leather strap had snaps to remove it, although the snaps never worked for me because they were rusted shut by the time I inherited the camera.
It turns out the frame in my viewfinder can be removed, which potentially means the frameless viewfinder might match the film exposure - something to test next time.
All in all it was a fun outing, and I immediately began to work on the lessons I learned from it.
- I researched light meter apps for my phone, and also looked into traditional light meters online. Then I remembered I had two of my grandfather's light meters in his old case. One doesn't register light readings, the other does, but the dials never made much sense to me. I found a Youtube video which shows how to use the old Weston light meters and it all clicked (pun intended) I tested the functioning Weston against my DSLR and the meter readings match, so from now on I'll be using the hand held light meter instead of the DSLR for film shooting.
- My pinhole exposure conversion software is basically a pretty excel file, so I typed the info up into a spreadsheet, including the calculations for reciprocity failure for each film I use, and printed it out on paper. I'll eventually refine the design and laminate it, but for now the paper works.
- I ran a roll of B&W through the new Graflex back with the proper loading technique and I ended up with 8 perfectly spaces shots on the film, and enough lead that a lab can load color without exposing my first shot. So the new back will now be my color film back.