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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Photography

The finest Polaroid photograph I’ve ever seen came from a photo booth

The finest Polaroid photograph I’ve ever seen came from a photo booth.

photobooth85

On this spring day in 1985, the year my friends John and Jim and I all graduated high school, we were out being silly together and came upon photo booths at a mall. One was a traditional four-photo-strip booth, but the other promised Polaroid prints. I’d never seen a Polaroid photo booth before, and I’ve never seen one since. We piled in, I fed it a buck, and it took this big, beautiful photograph. (I’m on the bottom with the cheesy grin.)

Check out that sharpness! Dig those great colors! And those colors lasted — I scanned this 32-year-old print only recently.

If only I could get this kind of color and sharpness from my integral-print Polaroid cameras. I’ve shot several, including the vaunted original SX-70, and I’ve been dramatically unimpressed with the prints all of them created. How did this photo booth do such solid work?

But my disappointment with Polaroid photography isn’t really the point. I really want to tell you about a blog that features photobooth photographs.

Katherine has loved photo booths since she was a girl in the 1970s. She steps into them whenever she finds them — a rarer and rarer occurrence these days. And she collects forgotten photos from booths. And she shares them all on her blog, Photobooth Journal.

Today Katherine shares this photo, plus some other photobooth photos of this goofy trio and of just me, on her blog today. Click here to go visit and see!

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Photography, Stories Told

Photographic holiday memories

A rerun, from 2008 and 2012, as this Christmas nears. Now with new photos.

supershooterboxes
courtesy giambarba.com

My grandparents always owned the latest Polaroid cameras, and they passed on that tradition in 1977 when they bought my brother and me Polaroid Super Shooter cameras for Christmas.

When I unwrapped the gift, I remember thinking how cool the box was. I liked the box so much that I kept my camera in it for the almost 30 years I owned it. Not long ago I learned that the box, like all Polaroid packaging of the day, was designed by Paul Giambarba, a top designer who was a pioneer of clean, strong brand identity.

polaroidtype108

I remember how easy it was to spot Polaroid film on the drug store shelf because it had the same rainbow-stripes design elements as the camera’s box. Film and developing for my garage-sale Brownie cost about half what a pack of Polaroid film cost, but the colorful Polaroid boxes on the shelf always tempted me. I often decided that next time I bought film, I would save my allowance for the whole month it took to afford a pack of Polaroid.

My brother also got a guitar that Christmas morning. My new camera came with a pack of film, so I loaded it and shot this photo of him on his first day with his guitar. He played this guitar for 20 years — he looked strange as an adult playing a kid-sized guitar!

rickguitar1977

20 Christmas Days later, when my older son was not yet a full year old, my wife gave my brother her old guitar. Our boy, drawn to the music, wouldn’t leave his uncle’s side as he played that evening. Steadying himself on his uncle’s knee, he looked up with wide amazement in his eyes.

002-christmas-proc

May this holiday bring you the gift of excellent memories to share with your loved ones down the road.

When I first posted this, in 2008, Paul Giambarba himself left a comment! It was a thrill. I followed his blog for years. He discontinued it a few years ago, and thanked me in a final post for saying kind things about his work. None of this would have been possible without the Internet!

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Photography

Goodbye Fujifilm FP-100C

The last instant pack film is dead. Fujifilm has discontinued FP-100C, a color film.

fp100cI’m sure this is old news to some of you, as Fujifilm announced this at the end of February. Prices immediately jumped on remaining inventory. I bought three packs before prices shot into the stratosphere.

I’ve shot Polaroid packfilm cameras off and on since the 1970s, when my grandparents bought me one new for Christmas. I was charmed that I could get a print in 60 seconds, but wasn’t impressed with the the prints themselves. The colors were weird, and worse, they darkened with time.

In comparison, the Fuji films were wonderful. The black-and-white FP-3000B, which was discontinued in 2013, had good tonality and range. The FP-100C’s appealing candylike colors made it a go-to film on a bright spring day. Better still, the prints stay bright for years.

And both films yield great sharpness when used in a camera with a capable lens. Photographers who put instant backs on their medium-format cameras got stunning results. My old folding Polaroid Automatic 250, with its decent lens, returned solid results. It was such a pain to use, though, that I gave it away and bought a rigid-bodied Colorpack II to replace it. I loaded one of my last packs of FP-100C into the Colorpack II recently and took it out to shoot spring color. I started with my freshly bloomed daffodils.

Daffodils

Up close on a bright day, the Colorpack II even creates a little bokeh. It’s not great bokeh, but that this lumbering brute of a camera does it at all pleases me greatly. The film does lose detail in the highlights, though, as you can see where the sun hits the top of this fire plug.

Plug

I took the Colorpack over to Holliday Park one afternoon. The Ruins, a huge art installation on the grounds, is being renovated and somewhat reworked. This is where they’re washing out concrete.

Wash Out

The Colorpack also came along with me to work one day. It’s conspicuous camera and it attracted a lot of attention around the office. Many of my young co-workers had never seen a packfilm camera before. This orange Vette in our parking lot doesn’t belong to any of them.

Vette

The callery pear trees have all finished blooming now, thank goodness, because the flowers smell like rotting shrimp.

Pear trees in bloom

One morning’s sun lit my living room well, so I tried an available-light shot of my bookcase. On the middle shelf are my Pentax ES II, Spotmatic SP, and H3; and my Yashica-D and Yashica-12. My Canonet QL17 G-III is hiding on the top shelf. The camera and film don’t give much shadow detail. I couldn’t even bring any out in Photoshop. Sharpness is off, too. If I had to guess, the camera probably went wide open (f/9.2) for this shot, and that’s when the lens is probably at its softest.

Bookcase with cameras

Finally, on an overcast day I finished the pack by shooting my house. I think this print’s flat colors show well that FP-100C is born for a sunny day.

My home

I’m going to miss the Fuji pack films terribly. I shot two or three packs a year and always really loved the experience and the results. I know I can always buy (crazy expensive) Impossible films for my Polaroid SX-70, but the hard reality is that image quality just isn’t very good. The pack films and associated cameras truly were the pinnacle of instant photography. It’s a real shame that their era is ending. Yet it’s remarkable that their era lasted as long as it did.

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Photography, Stories Told

Getting ready for winter, a photo essay on instant film

The last leaves fall the first of November, just in time for cold days and freezing nights. Let the calendar disagree with me, but I say this is where winter begins, bleak and down and lonely.

Bare Branches

Through October I spend every Saturday mowing up the trees’ prodigious leavings, just me and my old tractor. I cling to this ritual, which readies me for the closed-up months to come.

Tractor and Bagging Attachment

Most years I mulch the leaves back into the lawn. Some years I bag the shreddings. This year I dumped them behind the low fence in a corner of the back yard; the years will turn them into dirt. It’s mindless work: mow for a few minutes until the buckets fill, drive around back and dump, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Leaf Dumping Grounds

But in November, after the trees are bare and the yard is clean, a ceremony of sorts: the putting away. Unclutter the garage so the car can go in, clear the deck to protect summer things from rust and decay. Into the shed go the yard tools, the bicycles, the patio furniture.

Open Shed

As I move each piece, a summer’s events project on my mind, idyllic like color slides: the new brown bicycle I couldn’t ride after foot surgery, the dirty red wheelbarrow I used to spread fresh and smelly mulch, the new green electric cultivator that leveled and mixed compost into my front yard all torn up after the new sewer connection. My whole family worked an entire Saturday with me to do that and plant new grass. What a good day.

Electric Cultivator

The patio furniture went in next. I hardly used it this year thanks to the thick, relentless mosquitoes! The citronella candles on the table didn’t help at all.

Patio Furniture

All secured, it was time to run the gas out of the mower and tractor and put them away, too.

Push Mower with Tractor in the Background

While I waited, I walked around the yard, clear of leaves and still green, especially the new grass. That color will dull and fade through November; now is the time to enjoy it.

House at the End of Autumn

I noticed the work I didn’t get done this year. The driveway’s cracks need filled, dead limbs need cut from the maple, the windows need scraped and painted. Next spring, for sure.

Bare Tree Reflected

The motors soon shut off, one and then the other, out of gas. I pushed the tractor in first, the mower in next, and then locked the shed. One more job, which I hired out: haul that brush pile away. It was gone the following Tuesday. It feels good to have all those overgrown trees and bushes cleared out back. I worked at it here and there all year, sometimes alone, sometimes with one son or the other, once with my parents newly moved to my town and eager to do normal family stuff. Good memories.

Shed and Brush Pile

Good memories indeed. It was a summer well lived. Okay, winter, I’m ready for you now.

Photographed the afternoon of November 9 with my Polaroid Big Swinger 3000 on Fujifilm FP-3000B instant film.

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Film Photography

Polaflowers

Spring is here! And so I put a pack of Fujifilm FP-100C into my Polaroid Colorpack II and went looking for bright spring flowers. I found some in my front yard and some, like these tulips, on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Polaflowers

These daffodils are always the first sign of spring in my yard. The woman who first lived in my house planted them, and now I get to enjoy them.

Polaflowers

The IMA probably has a huge staff to maintain the grounds and do things like plant the dozens of bulbs necessary to grow a patch of daffodils this big.

Polaflowers

My mom planted these grape hyacinths in my front bed about five years ago. They’ve done really well.

Polaflowers

I love tulips; they’re my favorite flower. I planted some yellow and purple tulip bulbs three years ago but got only one spring season’s worth of flowers from them. Either they died or the squirrels got them. So I got my tulip fix at the IMA this year.

Polaflowers

I photographed all of these flowers from 3½ feet away, which is as close as the Colorpack II can focus. I was just delighted when I peeled away the first print and saw that soft background. I’m also extremely happy with the color I got back from the FP-100C. The color is even better on the actual prints; the flowers look almost candy-jewel-like. The sharpness is better on the prints, too, but that’s probably because the prints are far smaller than these scans.

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