The First Day of May

Wow, another month has come and gone. I was looking through some older photographs and came across this one I took with my Agfa folding camera. I could never quite stop the light from leaking in the corners of the bellows on that camera and I can’t afford to pay someone to replace the bellows. I still like the camera a lot and I should use it more often or try to find another one that is in better condition. Using old cameras is a lot of fun and not too expensive if you happen to get lucky and find one at a resale shop. I usually find that the focusing ring on the lens is gummed up and has to be cleaned. You can avoid that problem by getting a fixed focus camera. Anything that uses 120 format film is great to experiment with. I have a half dozen old film cameras and I paid less than ten dollars for most of them.  You may have to look around to find a lab that can develop your 120 film unless you plan to do your own at home. For a little extra money you can get most professional labs to scan your negatives when the film is processed and that will allow you to edit and upload your photos to photo sharing sites like www.flickr.com

If you have not shot any film lately I recommend giving it a try. Even the failures (like light leaks) are exciting and educational. If you add a tripod and a cable release to your kit you should be able to get some stunningly detailed images out of just about any 120 film camera because of the large negative. Most of these old cameras do not have built in light meters and the shutter speed may not be very accurate anymore. Print film is pretty forgiving as long as you don’t underexpose it. Using the tripod and cable release will ensure that there is no camera movement even if the shutter on your camera is a little sticky. I usually test fire the shutter at least a dozen times before loading the film just to make sure it doesn’t get stuck in the open position or halfway open. You might be tempted to oil the shutter mechanism but don’t get oil on the shutter blades because the surface tension will prevent the shutter from working. The shutter needs to be dry and free from dust, oil or solvents.

This is a recent shot from one of my other favorite cameras, the Brownie Hawkeye Flash. A lot of these old film cameras have other devoted followers that you can find by searching the group forums on web sites like www.flickr.com where you will find all sorts of useful information on how to clean up the cameras, load them with film or even modify them in ways you may never have imagined.