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Learning how to take photography with film - and a completely manual vintage camera  RSS feed

 
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I want to learn how to take photographs with film and a camera that is completely manual.  

The other day, someone brought home bags of free camera equipment, mostly broken, but in it were a few useable and easily fixable cameras.  The Argus C3 caught my imagination and I've cleaned it and it's ready for shooting.  Just add film.



The goal is for me to take better digital photographs and the best way for me to understand computers is to understand the mechanical settings they replaced.  This vintage Argus (also known as 'the brick' because with film in and the case on, it weighs a womping 2 pounds!) is 100% manual.  It doesn't tell me what the light is like.  It doesn't guess my aperture or adapt for different film speeeds.  It does exactly what I tell it, when I tell it, even if I tell it crappy instructions.  Heck, it doesn't even have any system in place to ensure I advance the film between shots.  I have to remember that too.

But first, I have to figure out where to buy 35mm film in Canada.  


We hope to go on a photo shoot with at least two of our new cameras.  One of the cameras is SLR that has a light meter and can do some thinking for us.  I'll also take my digital camera which also has three semi-manual settings and one full manual setting, but is also happy to suggest what settings will give me the best shot in those conditions.




What I really want is some sort of table.  Apparently, this used to be easily available.  The table would have a list: sunny, extra sunny, overcast, very overcast, west coast winter overcast, and inside/flash.  Then it would say something about ISO speed.  Then inside it would say if you are using this F-stop, then use that shutter speed.

Anyone knows what magic words to tell Google to get this table?


I'm also plundering my local library for all their books on photography.  They have something like 400+ books on the subject.  So far, I've discovered two of them that isn't about digital photography.  The first one arrived yesterday and it's crap.

Seeking suggestions on a book that covers vintage camera equipment and fully manual film photography.

I'll update how the learning process goes in this thread.
 
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Since you are using an analog camera with a given film, the sensitivity of the film is fixed and known.
Next you need to know the light intensity at the position of the camera and the time of the photograph. It can vary quite a bit and human eyes are really good at working across an amazing range of light levels. Your eyes will not work as a light meter.

The light meter probably has a build in feature to tell you the shutter duration for a given aperture, if not it hopefully has a table.
 
r ranson
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Modern photography relies on tools like light meters quite a bit.  But to me, saying we need a light meter to use a camera is like saying I need a lighter to make a fire.  Matches work, so too does flint and steel.  Heck, I've made a fire with two sticks, but I did that just to learn what it's like - just like this photography experiment.  I want to learn and train my eye.  A light meter is faster, more accurate, and would probably help.  We'll be using one for some of our tests.  But I want to learn how to use the camera as originally intended - sans accessories.  

The technology in the camera pre-dates light meters and isn't designed to use one.  Since the Argus is the every-day man's camera (something like the Singer Sewing Machines of the day), it should still be possible to use it without a light meter.  The problem I'm having is that the tables that come with the instructions for the camera use a different kind of film rating than our modern ISO and ASA.  With that part of the table 'broken', the rest of the table is very difficult to use.  

This is the table from the manual that is about the same age as my camera.



the biggest problem here is I don't know these films and what the modern equivalents are.  

This one appears more useful at first glance.



The challenge here is discovering what they thought an "average fast film" was in those days.  

The Weston Film Speed dial on the back of the camera goes from 8 to 160 - which translates to roughly a maximum speed of 200 ISO.  This seems to match what I've read from other photographers on the internet - that 100 and 200 ISO give the best pictures in the Argus C3.  

With the Sunny 16 rule, we can guess that 'average fast film' means 100 ISO - full bright sunshine and F16 gives us a shutter speed roughly the same as our film ISO.  

 
Sebastian Köln
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Kodachrome Daylight seems to have an ISO of 10 to 25 (source)

So my best guess is that the Kodachrome Daylight has ISO 25, Ektachrome Daylight appears to have ISO 100.

This might be useful too: The Ultimate Exposure Computer (unfortunately just a set of tables, not an actual computer)
 
r ranson
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a set of tables is exactly what I need.

It's having computers thinking for me that is making it hard to learn.
 
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In my younger days I knew how to use one of those cameras, but the knowledge has long since been lost from my head. Besides, hubby was far better at it than I since he was a real camera buff when we got married. Anyway, I won't be of much help to you. Hubby says that there's people still using those old cameras, basically hobbyists. There's probably discussions on the web someplace where those people gather.

Fast film was labeled 400. There was even faster films but I never used it. i can't remember why I stayed with 400 speed, but I got the best photos with it. 200 speed was average fast. Lots of  people used 200 and I'd use that if I couldn't find 400. But there was also 100 that was extremely common.  

When I was learning to take photos I used a light meter. After a while you could get pretty good judging your light setting by looking at the shadow from your hand on the ground. Pro photographers would use meters because they needed to get the photo right. I was a sloppy picture taker, so the quality wasn't important to me.  Back in those days the film and developing was fairly cheap, so even though it it cost money, I wasn't too concerned if I flubbed some shots. Besides, the developing companies were competitive, so some would let you hand back your bad photos without having to pay for the developing process.

Hubby says he thinks film is still available and that Fuji is the only one still making it. You might have to mail order it. He also says that there are labs still developing film, but he doesn't know who they are. Most serious photographers use to develop their own in homemade darkrooms. We never got into it that deeply. We used the companies.
 
r ranson
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I went to london drugs yesterday.  Some of their locations still sell and process coloured film.  We can also buy black and white film there but have to send it out to be processed.  They only carry 400iso black and white film.

Apparently, one of the Wall Marts in town also sells and processes film.
 
r ranson
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Su Ba
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Great chart. Once I saw it, it triggered a memory. Yes, I would use that sort of chart for figuring out what my settings should be.
 
r ranson
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An infographic for film photography

 
r ranson
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Yep, that's how I'm feeling this morning.  So many books from the library later and I'm lost in the world of words.

Time to take the camera out for a test drive.

The problem is, there are only 36 pictures in this film.  I want each one to count.  I also know that the camera may not work so they may all be a dud - but the goal of this exercise is to think about photography better which includes practising thinking about the entire image, not just the one item I'm taking a picture of.

A week visiting the world of analysis paralysis thinking about what is worth becoming one of my thirty-six photographs.  Today is the last opportunity I have to take a picture of a beautiful valley with alpacas nibbling away at the grass.  Analysis paralysis, I'll leave you at home today.
 
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I've taken a few photos now.

The hardest thing is knowing what is photo-worth.  There are only 36 photos on this roll of film, and the first one I took twice because I wasn't confident I had advanced the film enough after loading it.  Just under 30 pictures left and I'm lost on what to take a picture of.  Sheep and chickens move too much.  Maybe the forest?  I like trees.  Trees are good.  But forests are also dark places with not much light.

The second hardest thing is having spare time when it's not raining or night.  We have very overcast winters here with maybe 6 hours of sunlight (the trees and the clouds shorten our day) at midwinter.  It's all about light.

I picked up one of these to help train myself to see light.



It's a light meter.

When I was reading about how to take photos without a light meter, I learned the sunny16 rule - it basically says if it's sunny, use F16 (size hole) and the shutter speed based on the kind of film you have.  Then adjust these numbers in a set way depending on the light.  This is neat and awesome for taking photos of people.

However, the one thing I'm very keen to learn about is the focus.  Sometimes I want to focus on just one object, and sometimes I want to focus on background and foreground and all sorts of things at once.  This is controlled by the size of the hole (f-stop).  There aren't any easy calculations like Sunny16 to help with this.  Say I want to focus just on a near object and have a blurry background.  It looks like the sunny16 rule means I have to wait for an overcast day to use a big hole (small f-stop).  

complicated yet?



how this works is a bit like a solar cell.  The light bounces something off the selenium which generates an electric current.  We turn the dile to match the reading and it does the math for us.  Nifty stuff.  
 
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