Getting The Old Film Look (With Old Film)

Instagram?  Great stuff.  Easy to use, lots of filters, and an awesome way to show people the taco truck you’re currently visiting.  Strip of all the glossy varnish and what you’ve got is a pretty impressive digital picture – at least for something that came out of a phone.  Want to get those saturated and then washed out colors?  That great film noise?  Those warps and lines that sometimes look so artificial when you digitally create them?  There’s an easy system to do all that.

Film.  If it’s been sitting in your fridge for upwards of 5 years like this Kodak Gold 200 has, so much the better.  If you want to get into it this way, it’s not even too expensive.  Film will set you back a few bucks, but really not much.  Processing is an even better deal.  Most big photo labs will develop negatives for a couple bucks (at Target it’s less than $2) and if you don’t have a film scanner, most places will scan the lot straight to CD-ROM for another few bucks – probably about the same cost as getting some crummy prints, which you probably don’t want anyway.Scanned 35mm Kodak Gold 200 Picture

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You might not even have a 35mm film camera sitting around anymore.  I do have the last SLR I used before switching to digital, but frankly I don’t like it.  That’s why I went back out and bough my first camera love all over again – the Canon A-1.  Great camera, and after a little tune-up, it’s in good shape.  They are also fairly easy to find with a high-quality 50mm 1.8 lens (and remember, since this is 35mm film, it’s actually 50mm – we don’t have the APS-C crop factor you get on consumer-grade digitals).  The sound of that film-advance lever?  Priceless.

Sure you can clean it up in Photoshop, but don’t do it – the first button you hit loses that look you’ve been trying so hard to create.  Here it is, in all it’s questionable glory.

Someone Has Got Some Cleaning To Do

When you like a picture, it doesn’t have to be for any particular reason. Maybe the reason I like this is because it’s old-timey. Maybe because an antique sink, completely covered in dust just has some charm. Maybe it’s because the Seattle Underground Tour is fun for the whole family. Or maybe it’s because this is the most anthropomorphic sink I’ve ever seen.

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C’mon – there’s a face in that, right?  He’s even got a different color for one eye.  That’s great stuff!  But yeah.  A sink.  I just liked it.  Getting a little photography wonky, it was a dark tour.  I took it with my 50mm, which goes down to 1.8, but when you’re being jostled by the crowd, you don’t have a lot of time to set up or a tripod, so you get what you can and I liked how this came out.  With low light, you can often lose some color, which made me want to try it in black and white.  Hit the jump to see that one!

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This Elephant Wants To Wash Your Car

It must be one of the most iconic signs in Seattle.  The car wash itself?  Pretty plain.  But the sign… the sign!  There are other locations.  There are better car washes.  But this one is by Seattle Center and this one has the sign.

Pink Elephant Car Wash neon sign

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I was in a big hurry.  I only had my 50mm, which makes it hard to frame something this big from up close.  Unfortunately, farther away means standing in the middle of a major street or getting some unfortunate buildings and power lines in the background.  You shoot now and decide what you like later.  I surprised myself and liked the one shot I got with a very partial view of the sign.  I gotta remember that.

Two Photography Birds, One Domestic Cat Stone

As you might have noticed, I love my 50mm lens – the Nifty Fifty.  Photography would be a much more accessible and enjoyable hobby if more good stuff cost less.  Honestly, at this point, I raise an eyebrow much faster at a lens that costs less than $100 than I do at one that costs more than $1,000.  But I’m getting off the subject – where was I.  Ah yes.  The Nifty Fifty.  This is a great lens that anyone who owns a Canon (D)SLR should have.  The main selling point after the price is that huge f/1.8 aperture.  That makes it a good two stops faster than most “good” lenses and worlds better than the slow end of what comes bundled with your average camera.  This has some obvious upsides (bokeh, anyone?) but there are also some problems.

It is easy to take bad pictures with this lens.  Out of focus pictures.  Here’s the key.  In most situations, the camera is going to drop the lens all the way open in order to gain more light.  Unless you set the aperture yourself, this means shallow depth of field.  When you take a picture of two people maybe 8 feet away with one slightly in front of the other, someone is going to be blurry.  You see where I’m going here?  No?  Well that’s why I brought examples.

Lucky The Cat, with focus on his head

This, my friend, is Lucky the Cat, doing what he does (when he isn’t rapaciously eating or rapaciously scratching people).  Without moving the camera, but with a twist of the focus ring, you get this:

Lucky the cat, with focus on his paw

Lucky is a big cat, but he’s not that big.  This is shallow depth of field.  You can do some great stuff with it, but you’ve got to remember that it exists.  If you want more DOF, you have to dial your aperture down a few stops, which means you need a higher ISO speed or a longer exposure length.  This is the same with any lens, of course.  The only difference is with the Nifty Fifty, you have the option of going down to 1.8.  You’ll never have the shallow DOF problem with an f/5.6 lens because you’ll have your own, completely different problems instead.  I’ll take this one any day.

You Best Protect Your Neck

A ways back, I posted a picture of the Fire Fighter Memorial sculpture in Occidental Park.  I just found another one I liked too, so here you go.

Seattle Fire Fighter Memorial Sculpture

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One thing this shares with the earlier one from the same series is they both have that creamy smooth bokeh going on, thanks to the 50mm lens.  It might be the cheapest lens I have but it’s also the only one that lets you blur the background just so.  I’m not sure this one has the punch that the other does, but I like the highlights around the SFD helmet and how when things are sharp, they’re sharp.

The Man In Charge

Pioneer Square has some pretty cool stuff in it.  Mostly it’s bookstores, rock shops, and your odd vintage pottery store, but they’ve also got these statues of firefighters in all their bronze glory.  Firefighter Statue in Occidental Square Park

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I’ve been looking at these statues trying to figure out how to work a picture in since I started working in the area almost three months ago.  They’re not so big that they drown out the surroundings and they’re not so intricate that it’s macro lens material, but yesterday I had my trusty nifty-fifty with me and the big wide aperture seemed to do the trick.  The man means business, you know?