Going the Wrong Way

A common theme you always hear is that bigger is better. Bigger negative. Bigger sensor. Bigger everything.

There’s a size matters joke in there somewhere but I’m just going to pass it by.

I can see the advantage of bigger, without a doubt. Sharper images, better reproduction, better capability of enlargement, and so forth. All valid. I am moving in the opposite direction.

These two are the tools I’ve been using the most lately. A Contax TVS and a Bolex B8SL.

Somewhere in New Mexico

Conventional wisdom casts a lot of aspersion on these. I forget which review I read about the TVS that called the panorama mode useless, but it was the main reason I bought the thing. I’ve written about pseudo-panorama cameras out of that craze in the late 80s and 90s and my love of them before. Basically, it takes “miniature” film and puts a mask over it, leaving an even smaller negative for the image to be captured on. This makes for an inherently grainy image and loss of detail. Honestly, I think those two aspects have a charm of their own, and should be embraced, but they can also be controlled. Right now, I’m fiddling with film stocks and trying to figure out what I want my result to be. I’m getting close, but I’m not there yet.

Railyard Park

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Deon Reynolds. His work capturing places in the American West inspired me, and made me think it was possible to try what I wanted to do.

The B8SL has it’s own limitations. Right now, there is only one film you can shoot in it, a Fomapan black and white reversal at ISO 100. Plus the camera has a lot of limitations, which I will cover at a later date. Also, I had no idea how to use it. The first results were not bad, but it was obvious I did not know how to meter on a motion picture camera. Those bad first results put a spark to my ideas and infused me with a sense of wonder no other kind of photography had in years. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to capture a mood or feeling as well before. The process is a bit cumbersome and expensive, but I’ll be able to get used to it. At least one of the restrictions will be changing soon, as well.

I may be spending too much time and effort on things with no payoff. That’s the conventional wisdom anyway.

Maybe I am. We shall see.

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