August 26-27th, 2016:
On Saturday, August 20th, 2016: I received a package in the mail from eBay. Something that I always wanted since I got into photography. I opened a box containing a pristine Hasselblad 500c 6x6 medium format camera. This camera is an icon and even was used to document the Apollo moon missions. Unlike my Yashica-D, this camera is an SLR and can interchange lenses and film backs. This gives me more flexibility in a still relatively small package.
Since Saturday I been chomping at the bit to shoot some test rolls. Even though the camera is in tip top shape for it's age, you really never know until you shoot it yourself. Light seals need to be replaced after so many years, the mechanical shutter needs to be adjusted every so often, etc. Anyway, I have no idea how long it's been since a service was done on the camera.
Friday August 26th: Airshow of the Cascades
I went out to the airshow of the cascades. The air museum in Madras, OR has a high quality collection of vintage aircraft. I thought it would be fun to get some shots of the static displays on black and white film with an almost period-correct camera. The Hasselblad is just 10-15 years younger than these WWII (and some older) aircraft. However, the 6x6 medium format is appropriate to the period.
All static display photographs were taken on Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros medium format 120 film.
A Night at the Museum: Living Historian Shoot- Part 1
I started out shooting the static displays on Friday afternoon and unknowingly caught the attention of a few gentleman who are apart of the Living History Group Northwest. These nice people offered me an opportunity to shoot a living historian in full gear that is correct to the period and branch of military service. I hesitated for a second because I remembered my camera was still untested. This is was my first time shooting it also but the air museum is over 1.5 hours away from home. Too far away to swap out cameras, and I couldn't say no to this opportunity, so I decided to chance it.
You can click on the Living Historian tab on this website for all the pictures but here are a handful favorites from the shoot:
Since the airshow was going on during the day, we waited until 10:00pm to shoot. By that time we had the museum to ourselves. It's almost eerie being in a hanger with old warbirds when it's so quiet.
Since I originally planned to shoot static displays in the daytime, I had no flash or strobes with me. We relied strictly on ambient light from the hanger. The fastest black and white film I had with me was just two rolls of Kodak Tri-X and one roll of Ilford HP5 Plus 400. My exposure settings inside the hanger were f/2.8 at 1/15 sec, which is very slow. Luckily, I had a tripod with me and these gentleman are very patient! After I shot two rolls of film, it was already 1:00am. I packed up and headed home after they offered to shoot more the next night.
Saturday August 27th, 2016: Final Day of Airshow
I returned to the air museum around 12:00pm to shoot the aerobatics performances starting at 1:00pm with my Nikon digital SLR camera. I had a friend join me and we watched an incredible show that early afternoon. The highlight for me was watching the PBY Catalina do flybys.
The PBY is unique from most aircraft, it's a flying boat and was a bit of a jack of all trades for the US Navy. It conducted reconnaissance, anti submarine, rescue, and other missions during the war. It's simply an aircraft that grabbed my interest since I learned about it when I was just a child and this was my first time to see it in person.
If interested: you can see more action shots in the airshows tab on this site.
The airshow performances were going great for awhile until several mechanical problems and eventually a fatal accident (to my knowledge: not caused by mechanical failure). Marcus Paine, who I briefly met the night before while he was prepping his Stearman biplane, crashed during his initial stunt for his performance for the day. I have not yet seen the conclusion NTSB of the investigation yet but it just seemed to me that he didn't give himself enough space to recover from the roll. Predictably, this brought an end to the entire show.
Living Historian Shoot Part 2:
Hours after the accident and the scheduled airshow afterparty, we started to shoot again. Beginning just after the sun had set (we were running late) I shot the living historian. It was really a scramble, the shots had to be taken handheld but I did have a roll of Portra 800 with me. This fantastic and relatively fast color negative film gave me the flexibility I needed to pull it off. This is the first time I've shot Kodak Portra 800, and I'm very impressed with it.
After the sunset shoot, we moved on to a P47 inside an old and original WWII hanger. This hanger isn't as well lit as the main one for the museum which brought some more challenges. I had trouble manually focusing because the light was so dim and my shutter speeds were down to 1 second. As a result a number of my photographs were soft from a combination of slightly missed focus and shutter speeds that were borderline too slow to shoot a live subject. Since the light was more contrasty than the main hanger, I chose to use my only roll of Ilford HP5 Plus. Compared to Kodak Tri-X, this film has less contrast and I felt these characteristics made it best fit for this situation to maintain some level of shadow detail.
The following shots are taken on Ilford HP5 Plus 400 medium format film:
Later in the evening we resumed shooting in the main hanger until 12:30. I had a great time hanging out with these people, I'm eternally grateful for how much of their personal time they set aside to allow me to get these shots. It was quite an experience, especially when these photos actually turned out they way they did. I'm glad I took the chance because the camera works great!
Short Film Review:
Another benefit to this experience was I able to use multiple films in the same setting. This helped me develop some preference but overall I can tell you they're all great in their own right. I think it boils down to the look you want.
If you like contrast and grain: Kodak Tri-X is the ticket. This was my first time shooting Tri-X, I can see why this film has such a strong following. However, Ilford HP5 Plus is what I've shot in the past and will continue to do so along side Tri-X. The medium contrast from HP5 is at most times a benefit because it's easier to add contrast in post processing than it is recovering dark shadow detail later. In the end, neither is better in my opinion; but depending what you're shooting, sometimes one is a better fit than the other.
Fuji Acros will deliver stunning detail with minimal grain. Again, this was a new film for me and I was blown away by the level of detail it produced. I'm really a big fan of it and will continue to use it in the future. I love the deep blacks but it still has good shadow detail too.
Kodak Portra 800 really is impressive, while grain is present, it's far less than I expected to get shooting such a contrasty sunset with an 800 speed film. I metered for the highlights and was still able to pull out the shadows I wanted. I shot it a bit backwards, typically color negatives are exposed for the shadows knowing most highlight detail will still be maintained but my meter ratings were around 1/30 for the shadows and over 1/500 for the highlights. I thought at the time gap was too wide so I settled for 1/125 of a second. I couldn't be happier with the results given how rushed that shoot was.
If you've read this far: thank you! This post turned out to be much longer than I originally intended but I didn't want to leave too much out.
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