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Hibernation inspiration

I’ve lived my entire life with midwest winters. Record snowfall, record low temps but this year has already had one of the worst low temps I (or just about anyone at this latitude) can remember.

It’s downright dangerous to go outside right now and being that I’m not much for “adventure photography” I’m laying low. But there is a benefit to forcing oneself to just stay home for a little while. It’s not the same as a sick day, because your brain is fully functional and you don’t feel the same drain of whatever cold or flu is working through your body.

I didn’t set much of an agenda, but I did quietly plan for some downtime activities. My two key features during this cold snap of epic proportions have been to watch movies and draw.

Drawing is not something I’m particularly good at, but I know enough to get where I’m going. I won’t sully the blog with my scratchings, but it helps my mind to relax. I like to draw quickly, I don’t really bother too much with detail. As soon as I start to overly focus on depicting, the drawing starts to fall apart.

While I’m a big fan of Andrew Loomis’ books, one aspect that i think he doesn’t do a good job on is explaining the importance of gesture drawing. There’s plenty of information about basic shapes and “building up” from simple forms to more complex shapes and contours. But he seems to gloss over those initial gestures- the strokes that inform the whole flow and feel of the piece. Especially when drawing the human figure, you aren’t going to portray an actual person without giving the drawing some life.

A crash course in drawing

So if you’ve thought about drawing or think you’re not good, start with this video and then try drawing a reference pose. Start with a piece of scratch paper and just draw that first line a bunch of times. It’ll be an S or C curve most likely, just do it a bunch. Use teh side of the pencil, they very tip, use heavy pressure and light pressure. This page is just to get your hand and arm used to the various ways to draw that line. Then on the next piece of paper start drawing the form using this force method. It’ll look ‘sloppy’ but it will probably look like a person within 5 or 6 strokes. I was surprised with the almost immediate improvement in the speed of my drawing and it helps to adjust your conception of “seeing” when drawing which really relaxes the mind.

Movie sign

I did not get through as many movies as I expected, but I was glad I got to sit through Seven Samurai for the first time in a few years. Part of the fun for me for just being able to sit down and watch a movie like that is to pull up a commentary track. While the soundtrack to Seven Samurai is great, it’s a movie that is fairly easy to follow along reading the subtitles while you listen to really smart people talk about all the aspects of what make that movie great.

Plus, with the benefit of the commentary it helps you appreciate all the amazing cinematography. As someone who really loves using wide angle lenses, Seven Samurai has some excellent wide angle and hyperfocal/deep focus composition.

It’s a sublime film, the characters are all so clearly defined and the movie set a template for hundreds of films that would come after.

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I still don’t know if I could ever call a film that is almost 4 hours long “lean” but it does move along quite nicely and the film does not overstay it’s welcome. It is deliberate, I’ll give it that. That’s what makes it a great movie to watch on a day when you’d be better off staying home.

Looking forward

So that was my “me time” recharging for this week. I also bought my ticket to C2E2, the highlight of my early convention season. I’m still hoping to go to some more, and I’m debating which ones I want to attend/how much driving I feel capable of doing.

I’ve also got a couple of rolls of film that are nearing completion so I should have more film shots to share soon.



New Toy

While “GAS” (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) can be a real drain on your pocket, sometimes a new camera can be something of a solution to feeling like you’re in a rut. The important thing is not to overpay and stretch your budget too thin.

The solution, for me, was a Holga. Holga’s are rather notorious cameras, famous for being incredibly cheap and also a bit “stereotypical” when it comes to Lomography aesthetics. However, I feel that analog photography has moved beyond Lomography for the most part.

Quick tangent: I think Lomography is fine as an aesthetic, but where I take great issue is the cost associated with their very cheap cameras. There is no reason that a plastic camera that doesn’t have a meter should cost over $20. And Lomography branded film is not worth it, flat out.

So yeah, why a Holga in 2018? Why add that to my collection? I’ve already got a pretty good walkaround medium format camera in the form of my Mamiya M645.

Well, again the answer was that I felt like even the M645 was “too much camera" for what I’m feeling at the moment. The Holga (and plastic cameras in general) are about what they don’t have as much as what they do have. This particular camera is as basic as one can get before stepping into the realm of pinhole photography. It’s a plastic box that holds film and has a really crummy lens and shutter. That’s it. The shutter moves via a hilariously simple spring mechanism, it moves at about 1/125s but it’s a goofy spring so who knows depending on how hard to trip the shutter. This one feels fairly ‘springy’ so I’m guessing that’s about as accurate as it’ll ever be.

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So yeah, it’s a plastic box that holds film. And that’s all I want it to be at the moment. I just wanted to have something to run some rolls of HP5 through that didn’t feel like I had to coordinate or calibrate anything. When I take a shot with the Mamiya, it’s a pretty slow process. Get the meter reading, adjust the settings. Focus up… and focus up some some more. Adjust the framing just right. Make sure the shutter lock is off, possibly flip the mirror up manually to avoid any extraneous shake from the mirror slap, then take the picture. It can be fun. You feel like you’re really doing something when you photograph that way.

But it’s all just extras. All cameras are just specially designed boxes. And the Holga is among the least special, and that’s what makes it so great. I think I needed a little reminder of that. The Holga is kind of like the Coelacanth of cameras. It’s a fossil from a bygone time. It’s kind of hideous. It bares some resemblance to more advanced cameras we have now, but it just doesn’t give a shit about that new stuff.

(It’s so blue)

(It’s so blue)

Also mine is blue.