Do I use digital images? Film? Images from several cameras? Should the theme be a subject (landscapes, oceanscapes, waterfalls, birds, trees?) or images of a certain style (Tilt-shift focus, panoramics, macro?) or images all from one camera (Graflex, Holga, Pentax, Vintage Kodak, The other vintage Kodak, pinhole, the other pinhole, the other other pinhole?) Alternative process? Black and white, or color?
I actually begin to consider the options in the spring every year, right around the time that the weather clears up enough for me to go on regular outings. I run through the list above (perpetually adding to it all the while) and keep them simmering on the back-burner of my brain while packing my gear and while out in the field. This past year I had become enamored with my Kodak Six-20 and had somewhat set it in my mind that 2019 would be a set of Vintage Kodak images - all I needed to decide was should they be color or black and white. I thought this would simplify my decisions on which cameras to pack, it would lighten my bag to shelve the Graflex for a bit. I took it on a couple outings and determined I liked how the color images were coming out, though I was disappointed that the lab I took my color film to repeatedly burned the first images on my rolls of film, so in the end I determined that I didn't want to deal with the hassle of the lab, and I'd just stick with black and white.
Then I attended the annual camera swap in Kent, and came away with a lovely - and perfectly functional - Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. The simplicity of use, the light weight body, the crisp images... all made it difficult to stick with my original plan. But I thought... I've already started collecting images with the Six-20, the Brownie will have it's turn later.
The Hawkeye is in the center camera.
It also made it difficult to stick to my "scale down the camera bag" goal, because the camera is just so lightweight and easy to use, why not toss it in the bag... "just in case"? I confess I brought it along on local outings, where I was reminded that having too many cameras on hand makes me feel too scattered in the field. So when it came time to pick which cameras were going to come on the Big Vacation with me, I reluctantly placed the Brownie on the shelf and kept my gear down to the DSLR, the P.120 pinhole, and the Kodak Six-20
Ready for some vintage shooting!
Unfortunately, I encountered some unforeseen frustrations while using this camera on my trip. The first outing in which I used the camera was in a crowded park on the coast of Maui. The day was a humid 95 degrees and I repeatedly had to remove my camera bag as I kept forgetting to pull out all the gear that I needed. Once my necessities were finally settled, and I could concentrate on composition, I noticed the shutter on the Six-20 was sticking. It took several frames for me to figure out that my shutter release cable - which up until that moment had worked flawlessly - was failing to trip the shutter. I lost several shots as I worked out the kinks of this dilemma, which also meant I was having to reload film more frequently to reshoot images I thought I'd lost. The shutter itself still worked, so long as I manually tripped it with the lever instead of using the cable. My goal had been to capture horizontal images, which meant attaching the camera on it's side, which was less stable than the normal upright position. Triggering the shutter manually required me to squat at an odd angle, wrapped around my tripod legs, to reach the lever and keep the rest of myself out of the frame.
Between the heat, the weight of the camera bag, and the awkward positions, I grew frustrated with the process quickly. Add to that, I was swapping my P.120 camera onto the tripod and repeating the process of composition, calculation, and exposure of several scenes.
I continued to shoot with the Six-20 throughout the trip, though I know I didn't make nearly as many images as I would have if the shutter cable worked. I had suspected that the humidity was too much for the gears, however the cable hasn't worked properly since we returned home... so that camera is relegated to being hand-triggered.
Upon returning from vacation, I dropped my color films off at my local lab, and set to work developing my black and whites from the Six-20. I am reasonably pleased with the images that I did create with it, however the volume I'd hoped for just wasn't there, and several shots showcase an annoying light leak. I knew I'd need to go on several more outings to build up enough inventory for a good calendar.
Banyan Tree Park, Lahaina, Maui. 95 degrees in the shade.
The tables were turned, however, as my color film began to come back from the lab. I shot Fuji Velvia in my P.120, and the vivid colors, the 120 degrees of landscapes, they captured my attention and imagination. I had at one time considered doing a panoramic calendar, but decided against it because I could not find a cost effective way to print - or mail - that awkward size. If I used the conventional format that I've been using, each image would be framed by wide white bars on the top and bottom, or cropped to the point where it was no longer a panoramic view. My latest panoramics, however, inspired me to try to find a way to make it work.
As this potential complete-switch-of-gears simmered in my brain, I set to work to print some of my digital photos. I had purchased coffee for some friends and family, and I thought it would be nice to add a few postcards from places I had visited, but rather than buy post cards I opted to print some from my own photos. On each card I wrote a short blurb describing the location of the image and the circumstances of why or how I shot the image. They were so well received that I had a flash inspiration... why not do that to my panoramic images for the calendar? I can stick with the 1:2 format of the images and fill the white space with a similar blurb about the location and circumstances of each photo.
To that end, I made a mock-up of what I thought it might look like:
I'm pretty sure I'll use this shot in the calendar, not sure if the blurb will be worded exactly this way, but it is an example of my vision.
Since creating the mock-up, I've been concentrating my photography-efforts on scanning, sorting, and editing my P.120 images. While I technically have enough photos to fill a calendar, I'd like some more variety in the subjects, so my next task is to get in at least one - maybe two - more good landscape outings before the weather shuts me down entirely.
Going back to the Six-20, as sad as I am to shelve the camera, the benefit is that now I can bring along my Kodak Brownie Hawkeye guilt free. It is light weight, takes the same hand-rolled 620 film that I already prepped for the Six-20, is easier to advance the film, takes no calculations to shoot with, and does not require a tripod. This means I can have my DSLR around my neck, P.120 on the tripod, and Hawkeye in a side pouch - less setting-down of the camera bag means more time shooting.