Monday, June 11, 2012

Novels, and Toy Cameras

Hello there!
I'm just taking a break from novel-writing for a cup of tea and a stretch. I've eaten half a packet of chocolate chip cookies and drank most of a bottle of milk. The scene I am writing is one of those I planned very early, and it took forever to get to it. Somehow these scenes tend to be hard to write, maybe because they seem so important.

Another project I am working on involves photography, and so I am buying very cheap old cameras to experiment with... an old Diana with a plastic lens, a beaten-up box camera with a mold-speckled viewfinder. I also picked up a Corona 20-12 for a tenner. Now I am looking for a cheap Agfa Clack to hack into a pinhole camera. Apparently it's a great camera to convert, and I found detailed instructions. It's even got tiny in-built colour filters to flick on and off. I'll spend some time making a very neat hole and measuring it out perfectly - pinhole pictures can be great, nothing else quite gets everything in focus that way.

My aim is to find a camera that takes just the right kind of picture, something that looks imperfect but lovely. It's brilliant fun - neither the cameras nor the film cost much, and I am learning useful things about  light, composition and observation.
I'm completely in love with those old cameras, the way they still work fifty, sixty, seventy years on, and the precise and clever construction. There are so many solutions to the problem of making a cheap, functional camera for amateurs. I'm quite obsessed.
Some of those cameras curved the film to get better results from a fixed lens, some have shutters in front of the lens which leads to vignetting but keeps the lens clean and dry. Some have only two focus settings: far, and close. Some have aperture settings with pictures of possible weather conditions instead of numbers. Some have several view finders depending on what way up the camera is held, showing the picture flipped sideways, or even upside down. Most of them have two speeds: fast and infinite. How fast the "fast" is varies between models, but generally it seems just fast enough to shoot 400 ISO on a slightly cloudy day (I'm still experimenting with film speeds).

I am dreaming of cameras, this week.


Paulette said...

Amazing, soft and deeply colorful pictures can be taken using a Polaroid camera. Decades ago, I forget her name, a fashion photographer was featured in magazines like Vogue and Glamour. She took incredible pictures using a Polaroid. At the time of course, that type of camera was considered a joke to any serious photographer.

Well, I was just on google images, and apparently folks are still using Polaroids to produce lovely atmospheric pictures. Just a thought.

Viviane Schwarz said...

That's true!
I would love to sometimes use a polaroid camera... the film is very expensive now. It's very tempting, they really take beautiful shots, I used to have one ten years ago when you could still get a pack of film for a tenner.
If I found a beautiful old polaroid camera I'd give it a go, I think!