I make software for a living and do it in a typical suburban office park. One long side of the building in which I work faces east, and because I park in the east lot I frequently see the rising sun light the building and reflect off its windows. Every once in a while the effect is striking and dignifies this anonymous office building. So whenever I have film in one of my old cameras I’m likely to take it along just in case it’s one of those mornings. After shooting the early morning building several times, I realized it is a reliable, easy subject any time of day. I’ve shot the building at least a dozen times now, and each time I see something very different in the building. Five variables are at play: light, film, camera, processing, and scanning. They led to remarkable variation in how the building is portrayed.
I took this first shot with my Kodak Pony 135 using some Walgreens Photo 200 film (manufactured by Fujifilm) that my son bought me for my birthday. I shot Sunny 16. This was the first roll I put through the Pony so I didn’t yet know about that wicked light leak. My nearby Walgreens processed and scanned the roll.
I wanted to try again with the Pony so I applied electrical tape to all the camera’s seams, but it didn’t quite cure the light leak. I shot Sunny 16 again. I used Fujicolor 200 (which I figure is similar to the Fujifilm-produced Walgreens film) and Walgreens processing and scanning again. The first shot was earlier in the morning than the second.
I had my Pentax K1000 and its 50 mm f/2 Pentax lens with me on a partly cloudy morning. I forget what aperture and shutter speed I used, but I remember using Fujicolor 200 and having Cord Camera, a local pro lab and photo store, process and scan this roll. I don’t remember the building actually being this golden, but I’ve noticed that something about Cord’s processing and/or scanning tends to add a slight yellowish caste to the images. I don’t like that, and so I haven’t given them any business since this roll.
Some months earlier I framed the building similarly with my Minolta Hi-Matic 7 at noon. I’d finally bought a battery for it and was testing its Auto mode, so it chose aperture and shutter speed. I used Fujicolor 200 this time too, but had my nearby Costco process and scan the film. I’m so sad that when Costco’s processing machine broke recently they chose not to repair it, as their processing was consistent, their scans were huge, it cost next to nothing, and I could get it done over my lunch hour.
I’ve even shot the building in black and white. This shot came from my Polaroid Big Swinger 3000, in which I used Fujifilm FP-300oB instant film. I scanned the print on my Epson Perfection V300 flatbed scanner.
I also shot it on my dreadful Kodak Tourist with some Kodak Plus X 125. I probably shot this with the lens wide open, which is only f/12.5; the shutter is fixed at probably 1/50 sec. I forgot to advance the film and managed a double exposure with my house, car in the driveway. If it weren’t for that, this would been the crispest shot on the whole wretched roll. I sent the film off to Dwayne’s for processing and scanning.
I shot this on a gray day with my point-and-shoot autofocus Canon AF35ML using Fujicolor 200 and Costco procesing and scanning.
I stood in almost the same spot on a sunny day with my Agfa Optima, an early autoexposure camera. Once more I turned to Fujicolor 200 film and Costco processing and scanning. I mentioned that I really, really miss Costco’s film service, didn’t I?
Wouldn’t you know it, the one day I got that perfect early-sunrise light I didn’t have one of my old cameras with me. But I always have my Palm Pre mobile phone with its 3 megapixel camera in my pocket. I have a lot of complaints about my Pre’s camera – it can be cantankerous to use, it tends to yield images darker than “real life,” white things and anything with even a slight reflection tend to wash out, and the wideish lens leads to a twisty kind of distortion across the image as you can see in this photo. But I take a lot of pictures with it because it is always with me, and on this day it did a pretty good job of capturing the warm early-sunrise tones that so please me.
I’ve created a Flickr set of the shots and will keep adding to it as I keep shooting this building.
And so I continue to learn that a photograph doesn’t represent a hard reality.
Check out the image that first brought that lesson home to me.