Frustrations, Focus, F-Stops and Other F-Words

The negatives came back from the developer today; I am not certain what to think at all and will probably second-guess everything I do all week because of the results. Perhaps I have become hyper-critical about the quality of my images and I have forgotten just how hard it is to capture a strong image on film when I usually just get a single shot at the bottle. The Hasselblad 501CM has no auto-focus, no auto-exposure and I need to bend over the body to focus, then compose the shot. It is minimalist glory in the art of taking photos, but does the Zen pay the bills when it comes to quality?

The first image I took with the new camera was of these orchids I received from V. on my birthday while I was stuck in Quebec City for work. I do love the flowers, and it was a revelation to see the depth of field through the viewfinder. I am definitely not exposed properly on this shot, but for the first shot I am content that the Canon EOS 1D Mk III’s meter came somewhat close to an acceptable exposure.

I will never be an architecture photographer. My Frank Lloyd Wright images really didn’t do that much for me. Between the out of focus disasters and the weird exposures I just seemed to miss those all around. Ironically, the one image that I really liked for that whole day was one I shot just going on instinct for the proper f-stop/shutter speed. It is a statue outside Wright’s studio house that really appealed to me because it reminded me of Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale. I like the colour and the the lighting on this one and it is even in focus.

So the first two images were taken on a roll of Kodak Portra NC 220 ISO 400. I don’t really ever shoot that film, and now I know why. I just felt it to be flat, blurry and without a whole lot of edge. Next was a roll of Ilford Delta Pro 120 ISO 100. It was a black and white film that I used my new Sekonic light meter to read instead of guessing with V.’s Canon 50D lightmeter readings.

The feel here is markedly different. I hate shooting without lights in the studio, as it is killer dark here, but I like this image a little underexposed  everywhere but the flowers which is where I actually metered for. Did this work? I think so. Just the act of taking a reading and shooting with the Hasselblad was worthwhile now that I got back a clean shot. The last image I was able to scan tonight was the bookshelf shot. I took this because I wanted to see if the camera held any focus for text, and it seemed like I had some brutally dark books on the shelf to go with the film. It certain holds the light well and the shadows move cleanly.

It is going to take more than one roll of film to get any competence with the Hasselblad 501CM, and believe me, tonight I wanted to just go back to the Mamiya 645afd with its autofocus and auto exposure. But…I said I wanted to learn and master the craft of photography; I have to accept that I will learn exponentially while I make these little failures along the road.


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