Tag Archives: panoramic photography

New Toy in the Arsenal

I recently acquired a Lomo Belair X 6-12 City Slicker model. It comes with a 58mm and a 90mm lens and the matching viewfinders. The camera is a weird beast, sort of a neither-fish-nor-fowl thing, in that it has multiple film formats (it has masks for 6×6, 6×9 and 6×12 frames), interchangeable lenses (58 and 90mm plastic lenses, and an optional accessory 112mm all glass lens), auto-exposure in aperture-preferred mode, and a hot-shoe flash. However, it is manual film advance completely separate from shutter cocking, there are only two apertures on each lens (f8 and f16), the only sort-of control you have over the shutter is to set the film speed and/or set it to B for long-time exposures), the shutter has a maximum speed of 1/125th of a second, and focusing is zone focusing with indicator marks on the lens for infinity, 3 meters, 1.5 meters, and 1 meter. Oh, and there’s no cable release provision so you have to be extra careful when using B that you don’t shake the camera. The 58mm lens, especially at the 6×12 configuration, is very lo-fi and has gobs of obvious barrel distortion. However, where else are you going to find a 6×12 panoramic camera with a 58mm lens on it with auto-exposure for $250? Your next cheapest option is to put a 6×12 back on a press camera, which is going to run you at least a cool grand to put together. Even a 6×12 back on the new-but-still-effectively-vaporware Travelwide, plus a 65mm lens will run you a good $700-800.

I put a couple rolls through it to test it out last week and weekend. It is wicked wide with the 58, and sharp enough in the center. My example tends to run a bit to the overexposure side, which I think accentuates some of the weaker characteristics of the lens (like the low contrast from the plastic optics), although I’d rather have it overexpose than underexpose. One thing I haven’t figured out yet is if any of the lenses including the glass lens will accept filters. I’d love to try out the camera with a roll of Infrared and see what it does. It could be a great combination, or it could suck dirty dog toes. This spring, I’ll give it a try and find out.

This shot is of my student Todd Walderman from my Intro to Platinum/Palladium Printing class, and his new puppy, Cookie.

Todd with Cookie
Todd with Cookie

The Glen Echo Park sign, backlit at evening time. This shot as much as anything shows the amount of barrel distortion the 50mm lens has. Used appropriately it can really add to an image. But don’t use it to take pictures of things that need to be plumb and square, because they’ll look terrible. Knowing when to use it and when not is an art form in itself.

Glen Echo Park Sign
Glen Echo Park Sign

The Glen Echo carousel.

Glen Echo Carousel
Glen Echo Carousel

That weekend, they were having an end-of-summer-season festival at Glen Echo, which included a mini antique car show and the final running of the carousel for the year. Among the honored guests was this vintage Ferrari:

1979 Ferrari 308
1979 Ferrari 308

In keeping with the spirit, sort-of anyway, of the whole Lomography lo-fi movement, I was running 10+ year out-of-date Ilford FP4+ through the camera. I don’t think it really made a difference, though, as you’ve seen shots I’ve taken this year using the exact same film through my Rollei, and if I hadn’t told you it was 10 years out of date you’d never know.

Teddy Roosevelt Island – Panoramics

As you’ve seen, I’ve been playing around lately with the panoramic head for my Rolleiflex, trying out some two and three frame panoramas. With each additional frame in the panorama, it gets harder to stitch together and keep aligned, and to match exposure. Not to mention the people who get caught at the periphery of a frame and then move so they’re missing a limb or something in the second frame.

I can’t explain what my fascination with traffic cones is, but this one, marking out the collapsed section of the middle of the observation deck, was just so perfectly positioned that it needed to be photographed, both as a single frame and as a panorama. This couple strolled in to the scene as I was shooting, and I decided that they added an interesting dimensional element to the scene, so I kept photographing while they were there instead of waiting for them to leave.

Marsh Overlook
Marsh Overlook

This is one scene where a three-frame panorama just doesn’t quite fit. I think the imbalance of the fountain basin makes it more interesting than having everything balanced and proportionate. What do you think? Do you like the way the imbalance pulls your eye back and forth across the frame from lower left to upper right? Does that feel natural or uncomfortable to you?

Fountain
Fountain

I’m getting in more practice with including people in scenes. My instinct is, for some reason, to photograph places without people in them. But now that I’m getting better at doing it, it’s starting to feel more appropriate to include them. It certainly humanizes the place, and helps give it a sense of purpose and utility, like this is somewhere that people actually want to go and do things, and not some empty monument to a long-dead dictator who, like Ozymandias, has no meaning to the people of today beyond his statue and inscription.

Teddy Roosevelt Monument
Teddy Roosevelt Monument

I didn’t photograph the inscriptions on the marble slabs around the periphery of the Roosevelt monument because I think that A: those kinds of photos make for very boring photos, and B: the rendering of those quotes into two dimensions grossly undercuts the meaning of the quotes and the experience of reading them in-situ. I would strongly suggest, though, that anyone interested check out The Theodore Roosevelt Center website for the full extent of the quotes. They are profound meditations on the nature of man and his environment, politics, and government every bit as appropriate and relevant today as they were when Teddy was president at the dawn of the 20th century.

Panoramas with a Rolleiflex

A long time ago, I saw this interesting little gadget sitting in the used equipment case at my local camera store. It was a panorama adapter for Rolleiflex cameras that enabled you to shoot up to a 360-degree panorama on a single roll. It has a built-in bubble level (which is absolutely critical). You put the camera on top, then focus and compose as normal. Once you have the focus and exposure set, you don’t change them (this is also critical). Take the first exposure, then push in the little locking lever, rotate the camera to the next increment on the dial, and take the next picture, and so on until you have shot as many frames as you want to shoot. It is critical to maintain focus and exposure as set on the original frame because changing focus will mean that things in one frame will not be in exactly the same proportion as they were in the previous frame,therefore they will not blend seamlessly. Ditto for exposure – if you change the exposure from frame to frame, ESPECIALLY if you are shooting color film, you’ll never be able to match the frames.

Done right, you get this:

Dupont Circle Underpass
Dupont Circle Underpass

It isn’t perfect because with the long exposures (45-90 seconds each – I forget which I used, but as you can see they’re all exactly the same) traffic patterns don’t flow through the underpass during all three exposures, and the lens flare from the street light in the middle picture doesn’t carry over to the same degree in the left picture, thanks to the lens hood. But you have to look at it to see the three frames separately.

If things aren’t perfect, then you end up with:

Starbucks, Dupont Circle Triptych
Starbucks, Dupont Circle Triptych

While the alignment is pretty close, the color is off a bit on each frame. This took quite a bit of Photoshoppery to get it to match as well as it does. I kind of expected this outcome when trying this shot because I knew the traffic patterns wouldn’t line up from frame to frame, and wanted to see how it would turn out. I think it worked well enough as an effect, but I’m on the fence as to whether I’d try it again.

If you don’t have everything perfectly level, you get:

Dupont Circle Fountain
Dupont Circle Fountain

Also lots of Photoshoppery went into getting the colors and density to match from frame to frame. This one has been rotated and cropped to get it MORE level, but you can see between the oval of the fountain and the overall tilt, it wasn’t level and square enough.

And last but not least, another experiment with disjointed traffic flow around Dupont Circle.

Traffic, Dupont Circle
Traffic, Dupont Circle

Another part of this experiment was to see how Kodak Ektar 100 does with long night exposures. My previous (and still) favorite for night photos is Portra 160. While Ektar hasn’t dethroned Portra for this purpose, it proves it can stand on its own and I don’t need to carry multiple emulsions with me when I travel to cover every scenario. I can bring a few rolls of Portra 800 for when I need to shoot hand-held in low light, and the Ektar 100 for everything else.

Human Panoramas

Here’s a couple of shots I did of Justin, a model from New York, with my 5×12 “banquet” camera. I was playing around with the “panoramic” format for photographing the human body as I think it’s an interesting take on the subject. The human body is after all a pretty good fit for a vertical 1:3 proportion image. I also like breaking “the rules” of composition when trying out some of these ideas, like the horizontal portrait where the head is exiting the frame at the top, and approaches the center of the image. I think I can get away with that one in this shot because the lighting on the background expands the area of the eye’s focus beyond just the face and so it isn’t dead center in the frame.

Justin
Justin
Justin, Vertical Torso, Rear
Justin, Vertical Torso, Rear

 

The Tattoo says “AGAPI” in Greek, which means “Love”.

Justin, Tattoo "AGAPI"
Justin, Tattoo "AGAPI"

All the above were printed in palladium on Bergger COT320 paper, a specially formulated paper made specifically to cater to alternative photographic process printers. I’ve got a couple more of Justin that I may post at a later date but I’m happiest with these for now. Justin was a great model to work with, and brought his own challenges (he’s 6’4″ for starters). I really liked working with him and would highly recommend him to others. He understood how to move and pose and create dynamic tension in a still image, which many models don’t understand, and he was willing to strike a pose and hold it unlike many would-be fashion divas who can’t sit still for more than 30 seconds.