This week No. 42: Instant, a contest, and a side project

Polaroid Spirit 600
My Polaroid Spirit 600 on a stone fence post off Old South Pearl Street in Denver. April 3, 2016, was a stunningly lovely day for a #InstantApril photography. (Daniel J. Schneider)

I’ve been busily working on layout and design for the big mysterious project and handling Expired Film Day, but I’ve found time to do some other things, too.

The mysterious project is really starting to take shape, which is really quite exciting. Expired Film Day has been a bigger success than I could’ve imagined, which has been the best kind of surprise (check out all these submissions!). And somehow I’ve already shot a half dozen rolls of film with the Leica (coming soon).

But what I’ve spent more time (or, at least, brain power) on lately is instant film, and an exciting side project with Kate, which I’d like to share today.

Instant Film

I haven’t made a big secret of the fact that I’m not a huge fan of instant film. I wasn’t really all that concerned when Fuji discontinued the last peel-apart instant film in late February, although I was sympathetic to my many friends who are fans of the stuff.

The majority of the results I’ve seen with Impossible Project film haven’t thrilled me (though when it’s good, it’s really good). Instax Mini has been fun to play with when I’ve broken out the Polaroid Mio. And peel-apart film is pretty cool.

Impossible PX-70 hydrant
A fire hydrant off Old South Pearl Street in Denver. Taken with a Polaroid Spirit 600 and Impossible Project PX-70 Color Protection Film (expired 2013). (Daniel J. Schneider)

I’ve fixed up a few old Polaroid Land Cameras in the past, and posted some pack film results from my Polaroid 350. I’ve had a pack of Impossible Project PX-70 Color Protection Film in the fridge for a long time, waiting to try it out in my Polaroid Spirit 600 camera, but this is the first time I’ve actually used it myself.

Inspired by @KristenWACamera, I figured I’d make this #InstantApril, at least for a day. So I gathered up all the remaining instant film I had: three packs of Fujifilm Instant Mini, one pack of Fujifilm FP100C, and the one pack of Impossible. I paired each with its camera and set out to some of my favorite walking-around photography spots in south Denver.

In just about 6 hours I managed to blow through all of it. 30 Instax Mini pictures, 8 Impossible PX-70 shots, and 10 frames of FP100C.

The Impossible stuff still doesn’t thrill me. Who knows if it’s because the film is an earlier iteration, or because it’s been in the fridge for five years, but the results were just meh. As you can see, the chemicals didn’t spread completely and left the bronze-colored areas undeveloped.

The Instax was fun, but the colors simply don’t reflect reality anywhere near well enough to thrill me. I’m going to have to go remake a few of these frames with the Pentax 6×7 and a roll of Kodak Portra 160VC, I think.

The FP100C, however … well, a lot of mine came out darker than I’d like, but the saturation and sharpness are so much better than the integral films. Maybe I’ll miss this stuff more than I thought. Maybe if New55 actually brings a replica based on their recent proof-of-concept to market I’ll give it a try.

In the meantime, however, I now have no instant film left at all, and I don’t plan on buying any more. I will be reviewing the Polaroid Mio — a fun camera and not nearly as ugly as Fuji’s Instax Mini cameras — at some point in the future, however.

I’ll be sharing the results sporadically throughout the month on Twitter.

38 instant film photographs
38 instant film photographs — the fruits of a single day, somehow. Three packs of Fuji Instax Mini and a pack of Impossible PX-70. I also shot a pack of Fuji FP100C. (Daniel J. Schneider)

Polaroid Boogie

Hats off to @JefPrice for putting together, in the span of about 12 hours, a new instant film photography contest for April: The Ultra Polaroid Boogie 2016 (Follow on Twitter at @PolaroidBoogie and hashtag your photos #UltraPolaroidBoogie16).

Some details from Jef:

Want to win some free instant goodies? This April is your chance! All month just by shooting instant photos you can have your chance at a grand prize of both Polaroid Spectra & Colorpack cameras!

All instant photography is welcome, but we’re of course looking for outstanding Polaroids. Any photo tagged #UltraPolaroidBoogie16 will be judged, you can share & enter as many as you’d like. Us judge type folks will also be sharing our work, but we will not be taking place in the winning.

Check out the full rules and guidelines at polaroidboogie.tumblr.com.

Why do I care, since I’m not a big fan of instant? Well, I’ve been invited to be one of the judges. Maybe I can bring a little sanity to the process since I’ll largely be looking past all the accidental stuff and trying to judge based on what I can see of the photographer’s intent and vision.

Please join us for a bunch of nifty prizes and fun!

30-Second* Knits

I’ve mentioned before that Kate’s obsession with yarn (and knitting) rivals my own obsession with film photography. It’s even led me to find inspiration in fiber and crafting I hadn’t previously considered.

One of the big problems Kate runs into all the time, though, is that how-to videos for knitting stitches are nearly always five, 10 or even 20 minutes long — with 10 or 20 seconds of useful stuff in the middle. In a bid to help other knitters of all skill levels, she was inspired to create a new YouTube channel — Katchabird Knits — and populate it with videos that get right to the point in (*about) half a minute. Hence, 30-Second* Knits.

From her channel description: Tired of 20 minute knitting videos where the presenter just *cannot* stop talking and show you the stitch already?? I was too! Welcome to Katchabird Knits, home of the 30-Second* Knits videos.

I’ve been helping her out with graphic design, production and some light-duty video editing. We set up a little “studio” that consists of a fabric scrap draped over an old PC tower to imitate a cyclorama, a window and a single artificial light, and an iPhone on a tiny tripod. The results, I must say, are better than I would’ve expected.

So, if you have a knitter (or aspiring knitter) in your life, help us out and show them Kate’s YouTube channel. Kate has a handful of videos posted now, with many more to come very soon. Hopefully it will help your knitter friends, too!

Here’s a direct link to the first video to get you started: Knit stitch, Continental style.

Pseudo-cyclorama studio
The pseudo-cyclorama “studio” I set up for Kate to make her knitting videos. She’s hard at work teaching folks to knit two together here (or something like that). (Daniel J. Schneider)
  • I just finished shooting one of my last packs of FP-100C over the weekend. I’ve always been charmed by instant photography — got my first Polaroid camera, a Super Shooter, in 1976. But I’ve always been a little disappointed with the image quality. But here’s the thing: the Fuji peel-apart instant films were the best, period. Better than the Polaroid peel-apart films, and better than any of the integral films made by anybody. Or at least that’s my judgment.

    If your packfilm camera has a decent lens — I think all the folding ones had glass lenses, and a couple of the hard-bodied ones did — you can get pretty sharp images. I’ve got a Colorpack II with a glass lens and it does nice work. And then you get such candylike color from the FP-100C!

    That said, I’m unlikely ever to sell my original SX-70. It’s such a cool machine. And now that pack films are no more, when I get the instant itch I have little recourse but to pay the giant price for Impossible film.

    • Most of the folders had plastic lenses, oddly. The x50 and higher models have glass (including my 350, which also has a HUGE, bright, Zeiss rangefinder). I thought most of the solid ones had plastic, too. There is a noticeable difference in sharpness, I can tell you that. And yeah, my experiences with Polaroid vs. Fuji films agree — I think the Fuji is slightly better. Although I think Polaroid’s colors were a little more saturated, or at least, saturated in a way I find pleasing.

      Be sure to tweet some of your results this month with the #InstantApril hashtag.

      I like the Spirit 600, but it’s on the chopping block, I think. I can’t justify $3/shot for film that imperfect. Not when I could be making 4×5 transparencies for the same price. If I get my hands on more peel-apart, though…

      • I was under the mistaken impression that all the folders had glass lenses! I had a 250 with a glass lens. It was hard to use with the plastic Fuji film packs so I gave it away and bought the Colorpack II on the rumor that its lens is glass.

        I shot the Polaroid film back in the 70s and it was okay, but I just love the colors I get from the Fuji. To me, it’s an order of magnitude better.

        I’ve loaned out my scanner — here’s hoping I can get it back in time to scan my prints and share them online before the month runs out.

        • Yeah, I don’t know about the Colorpaks. They were at the higher end, I think, right? 250 is basically the same as the 350, I think, without the Zeiss finder? I had to break off the tension springs in the 350 and 360 to keep them from crushing the Fuji packs.

          You could probably just take some careful digital/iPhone photos of them, you know — that’s what I’m doing! :P