Camera Reviews

This is, to me, the ultimate Polaroid camera. The Colorpack II delivered good image quality with a minimum of fuss. If you’ve tried as many Polaroid cameras as I have, you know this is about as good as it gets. Read my updated review here.

Polaroid Colorpack II

Updated review: Polaroid Colorpack II

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Blind shadows

Blind shadows
Polaroid Colorpack II
Fujifilm FP-100C
2017

The unattractive drapes that covered my sliding-glass back door had long been an embarrassment: rumpled, dirty. But they did the job of blocking the setting sun as it blinded people in the family room who were just trying to watch TV.

There always seemed to be a more important thing to do rather than put up the vertical blinds I envisioned there. But preparing to sell my house has moved me to do several projects that somehow never seemed quite important enough before. It’s a shame I won’t live here long enough to enjoy them. At least I should be gone before they, too, become rumpled and dirty.

Photography

single frame: Blind shadows

Photo: Shadows from the new vertical blinds over my sliding-glass door.

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Film Photography

Great fun with the Polaroid Colorpack II and Fujifilm FP-100C during Polaroid Week 2017

I shot my last two packs of Fujifilm FP-100C during Polaroid Week three weeks ago. My packfilm stock is now gone and I’m out of the peel-apart instant-photography game. I’m not paying $30 for leftover stock of a film that cost about $8 new.

I’m sad. This is a lovely film, and it’s a shame it’s no longer being made. I made beautiful prints from my last packs.

I long ago whittled my packfilm camera herd down to one: the Polaroid Colorpack II, a decent all-around performer. I shot both packs of FP-100C in it on two separate days that week. Here are some photos from the first day.

Polaroids

And from the second.

Polaroids

Let’s take a look at some of these photos more closely, shall we? I scanned them on my Epson V300 through Silverfast. They’re not bad, but aren’t as crisp and jewel-like as the prints themselves. Here are some narcissus in my front yard.

Narcissus

It was a cloudy bright morning as I drove to work. I pass through the Broad Ripple neighborhood every day now, so I parked and made a few photos. This shoe repair is one of a small handful of businesses on the main drag that was in business when I moved here in 1994. In those days, most of the strip was little local businesses like this. Today, it’s all restaurants and bars. And the bars are generally giant, sparsely-appointed rooms in which you drink thin beer from plastic cups. The college kids probably love them but at my age I look for greater sophistication and ambience.

Shoe repair

On a brightly sunny morning two days later I paused again in Broad Ripple. “Open late night” is a big deal around the strip, as the twenty- and thirty-somethings need someplace to grab a bite and sober up after the bars close.

Qdoba

Just down the street, the rising sun was right to shine this pattern onto the street through the Rainbow Bridge’s railing. I think I’d like to explore this subject more. A longer lens might yield some interesting results.

Rainbow bridge

The Colorpack II’s focal length is great for grabbing gobs of surrounding context. You have to move in to the camera’s minimum focus distance of three feet before a subject will fill a frame (like the narcissus above). If you back up even a foot, suddenly the camera sees all. From this I induce the camera’s two main purposes: close portraits and wide vacation shots. With a 50mm lens on a film SLR, I could have isolated these truck noses and the shadows they cast. But with the Colorpack II, I will forever remember just where I made this photo: on the street by the office building in which I now work. This would be a killer feature on a trip, as even a quick family shot would bring in so much of the surrounding scenery. That’s a perfect way to record vacation memories.

Truck snouts

All was not skittles and beer with this camera and film, however. The Colorpack II’s primitive autoexposure system doesn’t resolve challenging lighting like this very well. And the FP-100C tends to blow out strong highlights.

Orange door

The film also washes out where the sun reflects off light objects. The effect is worse on the print; I tweaked highlights in Photoshop to bring out the fire-station’s sign as best I could.

Station 32

And good heavens, don’t shoot this camera toward the sun. A lens hood might have helped. Did they even make lens hoods for these rigid-bodied packfilm cameras? There are no screw threads, and a push-on hood would cover the focus markings on the barrel.

Monon bridge

And of course there are the usual pack-film vagaries such as undeveloped corners.

Door

But oh my gosh did I ever have a great time making these photographs. I will forever be charmed by getting a nice print in a minute. And like I said, the prints look great compared to these scans. They’re little jewels of color.

But more than that, I really came to appreciate the Colorpack II shooting these last two packs. I would love to explore its lens’s capabilities some more, showing subjects and their surrounding contexts. It’s a shame pack film isn’t being made anymore.

Instant-film lovers worldwide contributed to a giant Flickr pool this Polaroid Week; see it here.

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BlueIndy

BlueIndy
Polaroid Colorpack II
Fujifilm FP-100C
2017

Most people need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the future. We’re wired to maintain the status quo; we just want things to stay the way they always have been. Or return to the way they used to be, because weren’t things just better then? I suspect we want an idealized view of the past, because that time makes sense in retrospect.

Indianapolis residents are generally not happy with the changes to transportation infrastructure here over the last 10 years or so. They shake their fist at lost driving lanes thanks to added bike lanes. They protest the coming rapid-transit bus and the corresponding loss of a driving lane on a major north-south corridor. They hope like hell the roundabouts that have proliferated in the county to our north don’t start showing up here, too. And they scream over the prime parking spaces lost to a controversial electric-car-sharing program — this one, called BlueIndy.

Presumably smart, yet certainly politically ambitious, people drive changes like these. Let’s assume altruistic motives. They’re trying to move Indianapolis toward a future they envision, one that will come whether we are ready or not. But such leaders have guessed wrong before, and we’re all happiest to have forgotten those failed initiatives.

Photography

single frame: BlueIndy

Photo: BlueIndy cars parked in Broad Ripple, Indianapolis.

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Wash Out

Wash out
Polaroid Colorpack II
Fujifilm FP-100C
2016

At last, election day. More than anything, I feel relief that the campaigns are ending. However it turns out, it won’t be a washout.

Normally I’d tell you to get out there and cast your vote, even if it’s for the candidate I don’t like. Am I wrong somehow this year not to want to say that, to ask you to just stay home if you’re not voting for my candidate? Because the other choice is too frightening to contemplate?

What’s even sadder is how, given that I’m not revealing my choice, you can read that last sentence to apply to whichever candidate you like.

Film Photography
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Film Photography

My last pack of instant Fujifilm FP-3000B

Spring and summer pass right by without me ever thinking about instant photography. But come autumn, I start dreaming of Polaroids. I don’t get it, but I go with it.

I’m also on a jag to shoot up the expired film chilling in my fridge. That film wasn’t expired when I bought it — I’ve just been slow to shoot it. It’s in the fridge; it’s fine. But some of that film are last rolls of stuff you can’t buy anymore, such as Kodak Plus-X, Arista Premium 400, and my last pack of Fujifilm FP-3000B instant pack film. Can you see where this is going?

I had an idea for a photo essay. I loaded that FP-3000B into my Polaroid Colorpack II and started shooting. A couple shots in, I realized my photo-essay idea was terrible and that I wasn’t getting very good exposures. Sometimes, things just don’t work out. So I just shot the rest of the pack around the yard, enjoying my camera and the last of this film.

I have a one-car garage. During the warm months, it’s full of bicycles and lawn-care gear, and I park my car in the driveway.

In the driveway

I inevitably get lazy about storing things, and a bunch of junk accumulates on the garage floor. So one of of my late-autumn rituals is to put the bikes and yard gear in the shed and to properly store or pitch the accumulated junk so I can park my car in the garage during the cold months. Here’s this year’s mess.

Garage mess

This was a year of home projects. I hired many of them out, first and foremost the removal of my 21 dead ash trees. But I also had my windows and shutters scraped, reglazed, recaulked, and repainted. I rolled up my sleeves, too: I did a lot of landscaping in the wake of the tree removal, and I also repainted my front door. The previous owner had slapped a careless coat of white paint onto what had been a finished wood door, and it always looked pretty bad. I stripped all the old finishes off and painted the door in a copper color, which harmonizes with browns and oranges in my house’s bricks. In the spring, I’ll have that old aluminum storm door replaced with one of those great white vinyl doors with a rollaway screen.

Entry

One of my landscaping projects was to finally do something about the dead patch right behind my house. A vast patch of English ivy lay here when I moved in. It was a great ground cover, but it was also laced with poison ivy. There was no way to kill the poison ivy without also killing the English ivy — and it took years to do it, as both are hardy and persistent. But I succeeded, and for the past couple years I’ve had a big patch of dirt back here. The soil eroded, and I ended up with a negative grade — ground sloping toward the house, which risks water getting into the foundation. So I bought a ton of topsoil and got a bunch of help. We spread the dirt to create a positive grade, and then we planted nine boxwood bushes and spread some mulch to help keep that soil from eroding. I had all these big rocks in another spot in the back yard from some landscaping a former owner did, landscaping superseded by a later owner. I moved those rocks here to create a border.

New hedgerow

With all of this work around the house and yard this year, it’s no wonder I managed just one road trip this year, my October trip down the National Road in eastern Indiana.

Just for fun, I wanted to see how the Colorpack II and the FP-3000B would handle a double exposure. Here are my bikes, ready to go into the shed.

Double exposed shed

If you want to see the rest of the shots from this pack, check out my Polaroid Colorpack II gallery. There you’ll also see some wonderful spring-flower shots I made with this camera on FP-100C color pack film. The Fujifilm pack films are just great. I daresay I like them better than the old, long-out-of-production Polaroid pack films.

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