The Biggest Negative: A Fuji GW690II Story [Film]

When I sold my old Mesa Boogie amplifier, I hoped to put some of that cash into photography, in a unique way.  I picked up a Fuji GW690II, a MASSIVE rangefinder camera for a specific project, which I will explain a bit more in a future post.

The experience of using a camera this large has been incredible so far. The negatives are massive and the handling is brilliant.  Focusing using the rangefinder system is unique to the design of the camera, but typically you line up the central area superimposed image with the real image and you're in focus.  You don't need to have good vision to correctly focus this camera either, which is wonderful for anyone with corrective lenses. Here's what the viewfinder looks like:

Yeah, sorry about the clutter in my apartment, but you get the idea.  The frame in the viewfinder acts as the guideline for the final image.  
 Here are some sample images that I've developed, all shot on Tri-X film and developed in Ilfotec DD-X.  I actually digitized the images by placing them on a light table of sorts and snapping the photo with my iPhone. A quick inverting filter, black and white conversion and bam!   The quality isn't even close to a proper scan, but the idea is to proof the images.

Ellen, lit by studio lights while modelling fashion from Vivacious Vixen Apparel. 

The camera's focal length is 90mm, but because the negative is almost 6cm by 9cm, the 35mm equivalent is close to 45mm, giving me a pretty 'normal' field of view.  The large negative means my depth of field is exceptionally narrow, especially at the wide open f/3.5 aperture.

I haven't shot much street photography with this camera, primarily due to size, but also because I only get 8 photos per 120 roll.  That's all.  The beauty of the rangefinder is that there's no mirror, only a leaf shutter.  This means hand-holding is possible at very low shutter speeds, like this shot taken at 1/15 of a second.

My Mom's Christmas Tree, slightly underexposed.

I took this beast with me over the holidays, back to New Brunswick where I knew we would be without power.  Since the camera is manual, mechanical and has no electronic components, I figured it would make sense.  I also got a couple rolls of Tri-X for Christmas and wanted to shoot them.

For the unfamiliar, most of New Brunswick was hit with a huge storm on the 22nd and 23rd of December, coating the roads, trees and power lines with a thick sheet of ice.  A large fraction of the population (45,000 people) were without power for the early part of the week, and almost 20,000 spend their christmas in candle light. The winter wonderland Christmas has its price.

We had to stop on the highway on our way to visit family in New Brunswick.  The ice on the trees and low temperatures made for some breathtaking views.  This was shot on Christmas Day.
A view of the area behind my old home in Welsford.  I spent a good part of my childhood wandering the woods and exploring, either with friends or to seek solitude.

My brother and Dad's dog Thor, on our hike behind the house.  

As always, it's up to the photographer to find good light, and regardless of what camera you're using the quality of light reigns supreme in image quality.  I'm very fond of using window light, for it's softness and directional nature.

Cats + Camera = Photos of cats.  It's pretty much inevitable.

But so far, the best negatives I've gotten with Tri-X have come from shooting it in bright conditions.  There's more of a spark to the shots, a real contrast.  

I will be looking to do some proper scans of these photos soon, however the biggest issue I'm running into is that my scanner is designed do do 35mm only.  Enlargements or prints may be my only avenue to getting to see these photos in their best state.

In review, I'm very happy with this camera.  My initial plan was to complete my project, then decide whether to keep or sell the camera.  In any case, I plan to keep shooting medium format as long as my budget for personal work allows it.

2013 Year in Review, 2014 Goals

I don't really make New Years Resolutions.  My objective is to create my own milestones free from any previously dictated schedule.  It is, however, important to assess and evaluate the state of one's work, and as it happens I had lots of time over the holiday season to do that.   Here's how my 2013 went, in no particular order:
1.  I hit the front page of 500px with this shot of Ashley Shaw:

2. I had this photo chosen by 500px for their Editor's Choice Page:

3. I gave a half-hour long presentation at the Sackville Photo Club, in front of about 80 members, during which I (just barely) made this portrait pretty much from scratch:

I shot two fashion shows, the [PHASE] Designer Showcase for the Center For Arts and Technology Emerging Designers, and the Atlantic Fashion Week show at Gallery 1 in Dartmouth:

Back in April, I did a full blown fashion shoot at London Loft, complete with a creative team.  This was a huge step for me, shooting on location with a fantastic model (Meghan Hale), brilliant make up artist (Bryana Doyscher), awesome stylist (Nicole Dnistrianskyj) and great assistant (Ellen Handyside):

I spent some serious time refining my street photography and even set up a dark room to process and scan my own black and white film.  However, looking back at the results from the Kodak Portra film, I may start getting more colour film to shoot.

I used Blurb to create and print my first Photo Book, my hands-on Portfolio for 2013.

So how did I do?  Here's my list from the end of 2012:
  1. Create at least 12 images over the next year that are good enough to put in my portfolio. I think I accomplished this. My Portfolio actually contains very few images that were created before 2013.  
  2. Get some paying portrait and fashion work and break into the industry. Eehhhhh, not so much.  I did however meet loads of professionals in the fashion industry in Halifax.  This was a great year for me, and while I didn't necessarily make any money shooting fashion, I feel like I made some serious progress. 
  3. Undertake and complete a major creative project (I'm missing the 365 project now) with the end goal of producing a photo book. The photo book happened, but was more of an amalgamation of all my work to date.  I spent more time working on smaller, bite-size projects.  
  4. Do a model/fashion shoot in a foreign country. Sadly, one has to actually travel to a foreign country to do a shoot there.  I'll put this on my 2014 bucket list. 
  5. Get published in at least TWO magazines (gotta be better than last year, right?) This didn't happen.  I did make my first submission to Vogue and though I didn't get accepted, I was confident enough in my work to put it out there.  
  6. Generate enough business to warrant an annual studio membership at a local studio. While I didn't get the business, I did get creative and made up a home studio.  It's not glamourous but in all truth it helps me to keep my apartment clean.  
  7. Improve, improve, improve.  Make strides with my photographic technique, business skills, and creativity. This is a pretty subjective item.  It's a goal that I'm always chasing, though I know that it is a life-long endeavor.  
  8. have as much fun as possible with photography.  I'm confident that I made some pretty good memories in 2013 through my images and experiences making them.  I can only hope that 2014 and future years will be equally as productive. 
In review, this list was a little ambitious.  Getting published multiple times and shooting in a foreign country were good goals to set, but in my first year of shooting with models (let alone fashion photography) I wasn't quite there.  No big deal, because I'm still breathing, and I'm still shooting for me.  Time to dream for this year coming:

My 2014 List:
  1. Get Published at least once, in a local publication, ideally a full editorial shoot.
  2. Refine my style, focus on the images that matter most.  In the last year I've proven myself to be a Portrait and Fashion photographer.  I shoot street photography for me.  What you may see is a separation of the two, where I even create a separate "entity" for my street photography altogether.
  3. Continue my path of self-discovery through photography.  Deep, I know.  I really am stopping to think more about what my photography says about me, as well as how potential clients view my images.
  4. Buy Less Gear, shoot more.  In 2013 I accumulated way too much stuff.  The only good part about the gear that I've acquired is that I use most of it a lot of the time.  Each piece has a specific purpose, and it gets used for that.  
  5. Assist other photographers to learn, make friends and be more involved.  I assisted a couple of photographers in 2013 on photo shoots where I met new faces, learned some new tricks and (hopefully) added some meaningful creative insight.       
  6. Do something new and exciting that I've never done before, in a way that scares me.  
  7. Do a photo shoot in a foreign country.
  8. Build my business and charge what I'm worth.  I feel like I've stepped down the right path on this item in the last month, and I hope to continue the trend.

That's all for today, I wish you the best for the new year and hope you have an absolutely stellar 2014! Thank you so much for reading!

Medium Format Results Part 1: Kodak Portra 160

To start, I know that these are probably the worst scans of medium format film that anyone has ever created.    I will be getting a scanner fairly soon, however and I plan to re-scan and properly show the quality that a Mamiya C33 TLR can produce (click the link to see some info and photos of the camera).

In any event, these photos were taken over several months, using Kodak Portra 160 and a variety of models and lighting situations.  I've left the edges on the film to show where the frame starts and stops, and also to illustrate that it's not easy to hold this thing straight!  One of the biggest problems with the TLR is that the image you see in the ground glass viewfinder is reversed.  When your horizon line gets tilted, you compensate and wind up tilting it even further.  The camera really makes you work for the shot!

Chloe, on the Halifax Waterfront.  Shot taken at The Big Shoot back in April.

Tasha Macdonald, down on the Halifax Waterfront. Shot taken at The Big Shoot back in April.

Chantal Giroux, posing on the Halifax Waterfront. Shot taken at The Big Shoot back in April.

Marsalie MacKenzie, taken at Lawrencetown Beach.  The shot is part of this series.

Marsalie MacKenzie, taken at Lawrencetown Beach.  The shot is part of this series.

Meghan Hale, shot at Historic Properties in Halifax.  The shot is part of this series.

Ellen Handyside, shot at the pedway overlooking Barrington Street, in Halifax.  

Now, some of these look quite blue.  The fact is that the film base is very orange and when you invert the colours, you get a lot of blue.  Quite a lot.  I did my best under the circumstances to correct for it, but I think that I could push it a little bit further.  As a contact sheet, however, these scans work great.  I know now which of the frames I'll want to scan in at a much higher resolution later on.  

This also gives me something to compare the Nik Color Efex Pro software to, since I'm using real film.  How does the Modern Film Efex effect compare to the real deal?  I will be reviewing this feature very soon!

Later this week I will be publishing a post showing the results of my Ilford XP2 Super roll that came out of the same camera.  I'm very excited for these!  


More Film Results: Kodak Portra 160

This roll of film was a challenge to get through.  I knew that Kodak Portra itself is something special, so I was doing my best to make sure that I took photos of special things (In good light, the film is rated at ISO160!)  The roll was in my Canon Elan 7e camera for well over a month, so it contained a wide gamut of different subject matter.

That's a challenge I've faced many times with creative endeavors, especially when I used to draw.  A new, completely empty and clean piece of paper was daunting.  What if I put that first line down and it's in the wrong place?  What if I ruin the paper? 

What if I take a photo and it sucks? What if I don't make every frame on this film perfect?  

Know what? Pushing this boundary is addicting.  Feeling that rush when I push the shutter down is fantastic.  I don't know if the photo will turn out.  So what? I keep going.  I do try to make every frame count, but I'm loving every click. 

"The Conductor"
I still only get a few frames per roll that really work well.   Successes and failures are the source of the excitement in photography.

Click on any of the images to bring up the slideshow.  I'd love to hear your comments on the photos, and on any of my thoughts.


"On Break"

"Winter water falls"

"Jess in Studio"

"Everything in Pairs"


"Copious Cat by the window"