Analog Photography in Boston

Olympus XA, CineStill 50D
Olympus XA, CineStill 50D

Looking at the post dates it’s been a while since I last gave an update on what I’m up to.  In Boston the weather just reached a state of full conductivity to riding, meaning no extra cold weather clothing on top of/below your kit is necessary.  My first ride outdoors was in the second week of March and I’ve built up my form pretty well, which can be observed if one regularly checks the Strava widget on the sidebar.  One needs to create a free Strava account to view all of my history easily, though individual rides can be googled.  But that’s not the point of this post – what I’m going to write about is my analog photography.

At risk of repeating my “about” page, I returned to shooting film last January after four years of portaging a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera on trips and portrait sessions.  For my needs film is a much more rewarding medium, though I would still choose digital for sports and some portraiture depending on how fast/easily I want results.  In the last year my technique has improved by leaps and bounds, to the point where I have enough confidence in the technical side to improve my subject matter.  To grow more as a photographer in that sense I’ve joined the Greater Boston Analog and Film Photography Meetup.

Meetup Home

Meetups with the Analog Group vary between lectures and social events, with some actual picture taking in between.  My first two meetups had poor/no results through low light and inclement weather, but two weekends ago was a fine, clear day to walk from Central Square in Cambridge to Davis Square in Somerville with almost a dozen others.  Equipment-wise I brought two rangefinders – a 35mm Olympus XA and the medium format Mamiya 7.  A rangefinder camera frames and focuses by superimposing two images in one optical finder; one must overlap them into one to focus.  This allows the camera to be smaller than the equivalent SLR, as no mirror and pentaprism are necessary to provide the viewfinder image.  Rangefinders are therefore suited to the street photography on tap, offering a small, rapidly focusing, quiet package.

Mamiya 7 (L) and Olympus XA (R)
Mamiya 7 (L) and Olympus XA (R)

Putting the XA and 7 next to each other reveals a massive size difference, which boils down to the difference between 35mm (“135”) and “medium”/”120” (~55mm*varying widths) formats.  Purely area-wise the Mamiya will produce images over 4 times larger than the Olympus, and every detail of the camera reflects that.  Medium format encompasses several film widths, whereas 35mm is standardized to the confusingly 36x24mm dimensions.  While there are 6×4.5cm and 6x6cm 120 cameras the Mamiya 7 is, as the name suggests, of the 6x7cm variety.  This produces images very close to the “large” format aspect ratio, useful for enlargement/printing.  My main progress in the last year or so has been to banish these technical thoughts from my head as I shoot, but I still need to have them as I choose which camera(s) to take out and as I return to develop my film.

Olympus XA, CineStill 50D
Olympus XA, CineStill 50D

Returning to the art of photography, I found the meetup photo walk to be a great experience as it allowed a good opportunity for both shooting and being able to discuss film with fellow geeks, so to speak.  Out of 39 shots on my 35mm roll and 10 on my medium format roll I narrowed it down to three in this post, two from the former and one from the latter.  Interestingly the best shots were taken at either terminus of the walk, as there was a chance to slow down and concentrate when everyone else wasn’t on the move.  One 35mm heads this post and the other is above.  The first was taken in Davis Square and the second was taken at the graffiti wall in Central Square.  The medium format shot below this post is of the whimsical Harvard Lampoon building.

Mamiya 7, 65mm, Ektar 100
Mamiya 7, 65mm, Ektar 100

It is my intention to write about my developing technique but that deserves its own post.  Yesterday I went to a meetup at LaPete Labs, a rental darkroom in Boston and purportedly the last in Massachusetts, and created several prints from some older negatives, finally doing an all-analog workflow on some large format shots.  That also deserves its own post, so watch this space!  In time I hope to cover the entire process from camera to negative to print, a schema which originates from Ansel Adams’ series of photography books.

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