Well after my last post about my first encounters with a wide-format panoramic film camera, I won an auction on a Fuji G617 on eBay. I won the auction on the Sunday afternoon and was hoping for delivery prior to a 4 day weekend the following weekend. It was delivered 3 days later!
My first impression was 'Wow, this camera is in good nick'. Given it is likely that it is at least 15 years old I was quite surprised. It came packaged neatly in a nice brief case. The guy who I purchased it off had loaded it with some film so I couldn't open the film door or do anything except look at it externally.
Fortunately two days after receiving the camera my wife, son and I had planned a weekend away to Stanthorpe, (which is about a 3.5 hour drive) south-west of Brisbane. It is here that I had planned to use my camera for the first time. We arrived in Stanthorpe at about 2pm and after feeding Harry, all three of us went for a walk through the centre of Stanthorpe. We had never been here before, but it was a very picturesque town.
For some reason, this year, I have fallen in love with autumnal colours. I haven't photographed any, but I love them! There are quite a few places around Stanthorpe and northern New South Wales which I would like to visit to photograph autumnal colours...the problem is you have to visit in Autumn! Fortunately though, there were a few trees in the centre of Stanthorpe whose leaves had not fallen. 'Aha!' I thought. 'Here is my first subject'. Owing to the nature of the area I decided a vertical pano would suit. This is an elusive composition which I am yet to capture adequately in digital format. I find they are too hard to visualise when photographing with a 2:3 format.
I kind of felt a bit gumby as I set up my tripod, whilst I held my briefcase with my camera in as well as all my digital gear in my backpack on my back. I was doing this as my wife was trying to tell me that she needed to go and change Harry's clothes as he had wet them and then a car which was in the park started driving towards us.
After the car had gone past, my wife had decided that she would change Harry when we got home and I had decided I should put my camera gear down on the ground, I got the camera out and put it on the tripod. I then took out my digital to meter the scene (as I don't own a light meter) making sure that I compensated for the 1.5 stop center spot filter which are a must have item on panoramic cameras. Metering seemed to suggest a shutter speed of between 1/4 and 1/8 of a second. I opted for 1/4 of a second. I double checked the lens cap was off, aperture was set at 22, rangefinder at about 10 meters and the shutter on 1/4 second. I cranked the shutter and then pressed the shutter release......it was done....my first image taken on my Fuji G617! After not finding too much else to photograph that afternoon we went back to our accommodation.
The next morning I awoke to cloudy, overcast skies. Having only just arrived in the area the afternoon prior, I was only familiar with one possible location for sunrise. That was Storm King Dam. I had visited there briefly the previous afternoon. As I was driving to the lake I saw a break in the clouds just above the horizon. I thought, this could be good!
When I arrived I found a nice area with some long grass and a fence leading into the water; perfect for a panoramic image. I set up my tripod and camera. It was fortunate that there was a picnic table close by that I could use to put my gear on.... I didn't have the all fumbled up feeling I had the day prior. I then sat around and waited some colour to come to the sky. I tried to meter the scene, but even with my digital camera under exposing by 2 stops the shutter speed was more than the maximum of 30 seconds on my digital camera. (I could have upped the ISO and calculated back but it was tricky enough!). I waited a bit longer until I metered the brightest part of the sky at a 30 second exposure 2 stops under exposed. I then had to compensate for the 2 stops under, the 1.5 stop center filter I had on and also velvia's reciprosity failure. I guessed that a 8 minute exposure would suffice. I then screwed the cable release on, turned to bulb mode and thought 'how do I use this cable release?'.
I had seen cable releases where you pressed it at the start of the exposure to open the shutter and then again at the end to close the shutter....so I tried this. I heard a nice crisp opening of the shutter....and a nice crisp closing of the shutter. Ooops! I wound the film on and then looked at the cable release in a bit more detail.....I found a little section that can be pulled up which locks the cable release down...I tried it a few times off the camera and I was happy it worked so I screwed it back on, metered the scene again and the brightest part of the sky metered 20 secs at 2 stops under. I worked out that a 6 minute exposure was the way to go. I pressed the shutter and then waited.
As I waited the six minutes I played around on my iPhone a little bit and watched as the light got more and more intense. I re-calculated my exposure settings 2 or 3 times to make sure I was correct. I was tempted to stop the exposure early due to the increasing amount of light but thought I hadn't accounted for much reciprocity failure so just left it. Once the exposure was finished I waited a few more minutes as even more colour entered the sky! I re-metered the scene and took an exposure for 30 seconds (this time with me holding down the cable release for the entire length of time just-in-case). That finished off my first roll of film.
I packed up my film camera and put it in the car. I then got my digital out and continued to photograph. I couldn't believe that the colour and light in the sky just got better! It went from an awesome pink colour to an amazing orange. I didn't think I'd have time to get my film camera back out and put in a new roll of film (apart from the fact that I didn't even know how to load the film) so I sat there shooting digital kicking myself that I hadn't looked in much detail how to change film. When the colour dissipated I packed up and went back to our accommodation. I didn't take the camera out for the rest of the weekend due to the poor weather.
Last weekend I met up with Kane Gledhill near Brisbane's Story Bridge to photograph sunrise. It was a bit easier to meter the scene as he has a pretty decent light meter. I used my digital camera and we were pretty close. I took all up 9 shots in total that morning. That meant I had 3 rolls of film to develop. I came away thinking that I had probably taken a few more shots than I would have liked....considering each time I press the shutter it is about $4. I felt that I am still learning the camera and the technique so that was OK. We photographed some nice pre-dawn and nice light on the bridge and buildings.
The next step in this film workflow was to have the three rolls I had shot developed. The options really are limited here. There are a few places in Brisbane who develop them, however they are either far away from where I live, the turn around time is a week or they aren't open on weekends or Thursday nights. The other option is posting to Sydney but you run the risk of losing your film. I chose to have them developed at Photo Continental at Mount Gravatt. It is a ~35 minute drive from home and about a 1.5 hour round trip but this was the easiest for me as they are open weekends and Thursday nights. I dropped them off last Saturday and picked them up yesterday.
When I held the transparencies up to the light for the first time I was really happy with how they turned out. Of the 12 shots there are probably 7 or 8 which are useable. There is 1 which I knew I exposed incorrectly due to not knowing how to use the cable release. Of the others there is one which is under exposed and another one which is probably a little over exposed. The rest are useable! Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, I have a few which look very similar due to taking multiple shots at similar times. I will learn in the future not to do this!
So, the next challenge was to digitise the transparencies. And here is where I got stuck.
There are dedicated film scanners and flatbed scanners which scan slide transparencies out there but they are quite expensive. Maybe I am a little naive but I thought I'd have a go at scanning them on my Canon MP540 printer/copier/scanner 3-in-1 machine. I thought as a start this little scanner could help me share my images and over time (albeit very low-res and not printable) and then I could invest in a dedicated scanner. Boy was I mistaken.
The scans just turned out dark and no detail could be obtained from the darkest area of the slide transparency. The images I have included are from this scanner. What I have since learned is that the slide really needs to be lit from the top and scanned. Hence the need for a dedicated film scanner. Anyway, I have found someone who is willing to scan a few shots for me which is great! Hopefully I'll have some proper scans up shortly!
In conclusion, I am really impressed with my first three rolls on my Fuji G617. I am really happy with the camera itself and the results so far look great. I'm looking forward to seeing the results of some scans and seeing how much detail there is in the images. I think the panoramic format really suits my photography or rather I like to photograph panoramic images. I am looking forward to being able to capture more in the future!