A happy accident- shooting with Kodak Portra

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My dearest aunt knew I wanted Kodak Portra film for Christmas.

However, when I opened up the box, out came two beautiful boxes of Portra, but in medium format!

I rarely shoot 120mm film, mostly because the camera I have that uses 120mm film is old and not the most high quality machine in the world. It’s a 70+ year old Argus Argoflex TLR, with a Bakelite body and a not-super-bright viewfinder. Nonetheless, if I am patient, it can give me lovely images that make me quite happy. I knew that I needed to just use the film and take advantage of the fact that this lovely camera I got at a garage sale would never again have such high-quality film inside of it ever again.

If you don’t know, Kodak Portra is considered one of the gold-standard films out there. It’s grain, skin tones, and color are generally accepted to be the best. As such, it’s not cheap. I’ve never myself splurged on Portra, except for a roll here or there, and I’ve always been so happy with how rich the blues are, how perfect the creams and yellows show, and how alive my film feels once I scan it in.

So, here are a few shots from my wee little old camera, armed with some of the nicest film I have ever been lucky enough to shoot. Some moments by the icy Clark Fork, a quiet sunny moment in my favorite bakery, a still-life on our large kitchen table, and waiting for the car to warm up. Unexciting but still real, felt points in time and space.

Sturdy old things make beautiful new things.

Shooting with a 70 year old Argus Argoflex is not an easy task. The top glass viewfinder is rather dark, and focusing never feels steady. There’s also no light meter, so proper guessing skills are a must!

However, for finding this beauty in a Goodwill in near perfect condition for $20, I don’t mind. Getting a good frame with this lovely camera takes work, so you have to earn each frame.

Not that I’m not looking at investing in a decent DSLR…with a decent lens…but first, I am planning a trip to Europe with my lovely sister and saving for graduate school. Those two things come first financially!

These images are from Cape Cod, on walks with my mother, meandering around the Portuguese-founded whaling town of Provincetown, and feeling salt in my hair and on my skin. It’s like nothing else! I also had a good quantity of decent gin on that trip. 🙂

 

The “bad” frames

My Argus Argoflex E is about 70-75 years old. It’s sturdy and pretty light, but I wasn’t used to working without a light meter, and didn’t carry one with me.

This meant that many of my frames weren’t properly exposed, or I didn’t time them right. Or I was moving too quickly to focus accurately (bugger). Nonetheless, I don’t see these as wasted frames. They’re learning frames. There’s no way every frame in a roll will be a worthwhile one, or that it will be impeccably framed, focused, and composed. Sometimes they’ll be downright awful.

To me, these are still awesome. They have memories attached. I was fumbling around, dashing, trying to keep up, or having trouble figuring out the intricacies that every camera presents when getting to know it. Especially this one!

My first foray into medium format!!

Using a 70 year old camera, I brought a few rolls of 120 film and ventured with the red girls around Los Angeles with Ektar 100. It was my first time actually shooting with this camera and trying to correctly load 120 film (which was surprisingly easy)!

I loved imagining how they’d turn out! The square format is really lovely, a great change from the rectangular format of 35mm, and the negatives were awesome to look at!

I don’t have a photo scanner and the labs are only for photography students but Chris did a patient, lovely job of scanning my film in with me. (A lot of my frames were actually heinous. Like, really bad. I might make a bad photo post).

Now they’re here! I’m in love! I’m so excited to keep shooting with my old ancient camera and experiment more with 120mm film!