Short update

Thought I would write a short blog update on what i have been doing.

In the last 24 days since my last update I am pleased to say I am still progressing with my daily portrait project. It’s still interesting meeting and photographing somebody different each day. The weather here in Estonia is currently changing from snowy cold to early spring less cold. The temperature for the last few days has been steadily increasing with day time highs around 3-5 deg. This means that there are more people outside enjoying this weather (yes I know plus 3-5 is not tropical, but it feels like it after a long winter). There is also more daylight now, it still sunny around 5pm and only dark around 7pm. All these improvements make it easier to find people outside and approach them to ask for a picture. As I have written before, cold, dark and windy conditions are not very good for stopping and asking people if they would like to pose for a quick pic.

I bought a short book from Amazon - Andre Kertesz , part of Phaidon’s 55 series. I saw an exhibition in london around Christmas time which focused around modernist Photography. The exhibition included a lot of original prints by Kertesz and it spiked my interest in his work. I searched around for a good book about him but was not able to find something that spanned his whole career until I stumbled upon this book. It’s written in French, so means I have to brush up on my French language skills, which I have not used much since moving from France to Estonia 7 years ago.

Apart from the portrait project, I have not had a lot of chances in last weeks to get out and spend some time with my camera. However I did photograph a school play and also the Tartu final of Customer Service Awards, which were both really fun and enjoyable events. Few of the pics can be seen here and here

I updated my Format webpage template from ‘Peak’ to ‘Slade’ - for no good reason apart from my preference in how it displays and organizes my portrait project. Although I am still not 100% satisfied, not even 80% satisfied. The only template I do like is on a different platform (squarespace) so I might need to consider moving to squarespace. I would love to have a page that shows all the pictures done so far -kind of like in Lightroom’s survey view:

Lastly - last week Photopoint, local photography shop celebrated some sort of birthday. As a result they had 25% discount on most things except camera bodies and lens. I ordered myself 20 rolls of the cheapest Kodak colour film they had. I would like to explain why I did this but it will have to wait till later in the year.


365: People / Inimesed project: latest milestone reached!

Two days ago I reached my latest milestone in my daily portrait photo project, I reached my 50th picture. So far the project has gone well and I am pleased that I have so far been able to keep going, although I still have a long way to go. I thought I would write a blog post to record the reasons for the project and how it has gone so far.

The aim of the project is simple: to take one portrait photo a day for the whole
of 2017. By the end of the year I should have 365 photos. There are a few rules that I set myself to avoid getting lazy and looking for shortcuts:

  • One photo must be made per day, so no back-logging of photos or making a bunch of photos on
    one day and publishing them day by day
  • Each day must be a different
    person, although there is no restrictions on who can be photographed so
    friends, co-workers, neighbors, family are included as well as complete
  • Each picture will be similar in composition, head shot portrait with minimal background.
  • Each photo will have only
    minimal post processing such as converting from colour to black and white monochrome,
    cropping and adjustment of exposure and contrast values. I plan to do a followup blog post later to go over the technical side of how each photo is made from start to finish and what equipment I use. The idea is to have the photo as natural as possible and not ‘touched up’ or heavily edited.
  • As the year progresses then the background shade will lighten during the summer months, the idea here is to attach some sort of seasonal identity to the picture.

So why did I decide to try this project? I see this project as a personal challenge.
I want to challenge myself to everyday get out with my camera, leave my comfort zone, engage with
somebody different and photograph them. I want to stop and appreciate what
makes each person different and unique. The thought of stopping and talking to some stranger and asking them if I can make a photo is still quite scary for me, but so far I have been surprised by how willing most people have been. Luckily so far finding people has been easier than I thought it would be, in the last 52 days I have only had ten people reject my request, back in January when I started out I was thinking I would have ten rejections per day! Back in the end of last year, while I was researching photographing strangers, one bit of advice I read was to set out by seeing how quickly/or slowly you can get to ten rejections. With this advice it was easier to embrace the rejections. Right now it is still winter here in Estonia despite snow being not so plentiful. This means that there are not many people outside and the ones that are outside are in a rush to get to where ever they need to go to. This makes it a bit more difficult to find people to approach. I don’t want to stop somebody who looks to be in a rush while it is minus a few degrees and windy. I am hoping that when we get to spring time then it might become easier as there should be more people outside enjoying the nicer weather.

Another side of the project that motivates me is the year long aspect. I have to work on the project everyday without excuse. I need to plan each day, set some time aside to photograph somebody, search for somebody and also have time to upload the picture daily and write a short description. It’s not like something where I try to make some pictures every week or month but something concrete with a set target each day. In this way it helps to motivate as I have less room to be lazy and just ‘skip a day’.

So whats next? Next little milestone is to reach the end of February, next week, then after that is some time till next big goal of reaching 100 days in early April. I find that setting the small milestones along the way help to distract me from the more daunting idea of a whole year. Thinking there is just 10 more pictures till I reach 50 is a lot easier than thinking just 325 more to go until end of the year!

Thank you for reading and thanks to all the people who have sent kind messages of encouragement.

I bought a new camera!

Well not a new one, a used one with an old technology. By old technology I mean it had a film.

A week or so ago I was checking out some old Soviet-era’s in a local antique shop. In Estonia, as I am sure in most of the former USSR, it’s possible to find a lot of old Soviet - era’s cameras. One in particular caught my eye - a film based Zenit ET. I paid €30 for it which I later saw on eBay was a fair price. Although it looked new I could see a few small signs of use, for example the end of the film advance lever had broken off and also the mirror appeared to not lockup when in bulb mode. Like any film camera bought second hand (or new even) you can never be sure the camera works until getting your first roll back from being developed. 

The camera is fully manual. Aperture and Shutterspeed need to be set. The aperture is set on the lens, in this case F-stop range is F-2 to F16. Speed was Bulb to 500. After Bulb the next slowest speed was “30. So not the best for very low or very bright conditions. The camera came with it’s own light meter built in. Not measured through the lens as is standard today but by a light sensor mounted above the lens on the camera body. The meter would move a indicator. From this indicator you are able to determine the corresponding Aperture V Shutterspeed for the available light. I had no idea if this even worked or how accurate it was. I downloaded an iPhone App called ‘Lux’ which can suggest ISO, Shutterspeed and Aperture values for the available light. I compared the readings of both and they seemed to be very similar, which i took as being a good sign. The camera also came with a hotshoe mount for a mounted flash, a shutter-release timer and also a dial indicating how many shots remain on film. Oh and by the way, as the camera is 100% mechanical, you wont find a single battery. Today almost everything requires a mains or battery power source that it makes you forget what not too long ago was possible battery free. Today even earphones, sunglasses and skateboards take batteries.

I had not used a film camera for quite a while. Being 32 years old I am old enough to remember a time before digital cameras. Growing up the my first camera was film point-and-shoot and I always remember admiring my dads Olympus OM. I can’t remember the last time I had used film, maybe not since the millennium. 

I bought a Kodak 35mm 36 exposure film to test. I was surprised to find they still sold them, they even stocked rolls of 120 films for medium format cameras. I made a few shots at home in the evening and then finished the roll with photos of snow and electrical power lines the next day. I messed up by pulling the rewind lever up too high and springing the back open before I had rewound the film, ruining the final shot and I think also over exposing corners of some of the other shots. I picked up the photos a few days ago and was quite happy with the results, firstly there was a picture. Most of the indoor shots and all the outdoor shots were exposed correctly. there was some banding, almost like noise on the shots in low light. I think this might have been caused in the printing process if the negatives where scanned to computer and then printed. I am not going to bore any more with details. Here are my favorite shots. 

Total cost of this system and first batch of photos: €40 

  • Camera - used €30 
  • 35mm Kodak Film - €2.95 
  • Film developing - €3 
  • Printing of 35 images 10x15cm - €5 

Whats nice about using this type of camera is that with having only limited shots, you need to take your time more, plan and adjust lighting with confidence. Instead of ‘spraying and praying’ as with a digital camera. You need to slow down, look around, select your angle, focus the lens then check the light and adjust the Aperture and shutter speed accordingly. In today’s world something that slows you down can only be a good thing. Oh and yes, it does not require batteries…

Using Format