Thursday, June 21, 2007

Inside without a flash

A few weeks ago I took a day trip to a ghost mine known as Vulture Mine, about 12 miles south of Wickenburg, AZ. I was actually planning on visiting a few other mines on the way, but I managed to get stuck in the Hassayampa river (dry, of course).
After a very nice rancher pulled me loose with his tractor, I said to hell with all that and just drove to my main destination. Best ghost town I've been to. Easy to access, but far enough away from civilization that I was mostly alone. I had my Polaroid 195, the Square Shooter, Holga, Snappy, and a couple other vintage cameras that I only shot a few pictures with. Too many cameras for such a short trip. And it was hot.
Anyway, the place was really amazing. And all the really cool stuff was inside. I don't have any flash attachments for my toys (the Holga has a flash, though), and I don't really like a flash, anyway, as they tend to reach like 4 feet and light everything up all funny with odd shadows. And I'm not 'professional' with lights and fancy cameras and stuff. So what to do? Well, I mostly shoot outdoors, but I really wanted to take pictures of this place. So I experimented with each camera to see what I could accomplish indoors with natural lighting.
First the Square Shooter. By far the easiest, because it has auto exposure. As long as the camera is steady, the shutter will stay open almost forever depending on the light. But, I know from experience that one shutter release will still make for a pretty dark shot, so I took advantage of another nice Polaroid feature...the ability to take multiple exposures on a single sheet. I clicked the shutter at least twice, three times on a few shots. On a stable surface of course. Used a piece of wood or broken glass to prop up the nose so I wouldn't just be shooting the floor. The effect is interesting in that the bright areas are very overexposed, while the darker areas are relatively low in contrast. Makes for some nice photos. Enough talk, here are some interior flashless Square Shooter shots.

Next up is the Polaroid 195. Much tougher. I have a light meter, but that's pretty much useless in a dark room, as it doesn't register anything. I never use it anyway and have gotten pretty good at setting the aperture and time with the magic of guessing. I had a few shots that were way underexposed or all white. I did all of my guesswork with the second half of a pack of 669, so I only got two semi-decent color shots. The sweet settings were somewhere around 8 for the aperture and about 2 seconds on Bulb.

The next pack through the 195 was my last expired 107, 09/1983. Perfect film for dusty, old ghosts, I figured. I had my exposure worked out perfectly...

And managed one window shot with 'outdoor' settings. I was using the original goop that came with the film pack. A bit crap by now, of course, but it's just more magic to me.

Okay, that's what I achieved with the Polaroids. Square Shooter: take advantage of the auto exposure, but don't trust it fully. It's smart, but not that smart. Broken glass and wood to keep it steady. 195: take advantage of the HUGE aperture available with this camera. At 8, your opening is about half an inch. That is crazy big for a Polaroid. This was Type 107, also, which has an ISO of 3000. If you look at the 3000 setting on an automatic Polaroid, it's like a large pinhole. You can open the aperture on the 195 to over an inch. I've overexposed shots in a dark room at that setting.
What about the Holga? I have a basic Holga 120SF. Has a flash that I use occasionally, but I mostly just use it outside. I don't usually use a mask, so the batteries have to be taped in, which actually changes the shape of your photos. So, not much luck with indoor shots. Someday I'm going to get a Holgamod with the Bulb setting. This is about as good as it gets in low light.

How do you get lightleaks in a dark room? The beauty of toy cameras.
The Snappy (a Diana clone) is easier to deal with indoors. It has a Bulb setting, so it's just a matter of guessing how long to leave the shutter open. I really haven't done much indoor work with any of my toy cameras, so I just guessed at the exposure time. I went with 10 seconds, as it was dark, but there was still light from the windows. And, again, I had to keep the camera stable. I expected the shots to be underexposed rather that over, but I was pleasantly surprised. I had it right on the mark, I think. Maybe slightly overexposed, but I like the effect.

All in all, a fun day, except for being stuck out in the desert. Did a little experimenting, saw the sights. I will most definitely be heading back to Vulture Mine to shoot some more. Maybe later, though. I'm kind of sick of looking at all these pictures of the place.
I leave you tonight with a dead bird trapped in a window. His beauty lives on in another form.

1 comment:

  1. Love these Sean. I'm also pleased to find I'm not the only one who carries more cameras than provisions (or even clothes) on these kind of road trips!
    I especially appreciate your tips on indoor exposure times/techniques with the different Polaroid cameras, I've often had trouble with indoor shooting and Polaroid film. I think my favourites here are the square shooter chair shot and the bed taken with your 195 and expired film.
    Magic stuff!