Winterscape, Square

The square footprint of the SX-70 exposure can really challenge a photographer “schooled” on the rectangular 24x36mm image which is put onto, say, 35mm film. Like the medium format Hasselblad, this is pretty much a square image, at 3 1/8″ by 3 1/16″. It takes some getting used to, and forces the photographer to retrain the eye, and to rethink compositional assumptions.

So, one might say it is optimized for portraiture, or close up work. True. But it can also be great for landscapes. I decided to take the Alpha 1 down to the park, and capture a winterscape. The exposure wheel here could have been taken down into darken, but I decided to keep it flat, and see what happened. There is overexposure, but not crazy, blown highlights. This film is maybe a half to a full stop faster than the rated box speed of ISO125.  The yellowish tones of PX70 Color Protection I am attributing to the opacification layer not fully clearing. Maybe future editions will improve upon this. But still, considering the 20 degree temperatures when this was captured, pretty darned nice-

1 19 13 Elm Park Frozen Pond Polaroid SX70 Impossible Project PX70 Color Protection

Frozen Pond, Elm Park, Worcester, MA

SX-70 Exposure Control – A Primer

The classic folding SX-70’s use the “electric eye” popularized in the 60’s with the Automatic Land Camera. Like the Land Camera, it can also be lightened or darkened, based on interpretation of the metered scene, or as a compensation technique, for effect. Unlike the controls on the Land Camera, however, operation is very counterintuitive and cryptic, unless you really do read the manual. You may very well do the opposite. As the industrial design of SX-70 really did try to keep thinks as automated and non-traditional as possible, this really comes as no surprise. Polaroid really leaves nothing to chance in their documentation- it was always outstanding. But, here is a simple way to learn the system.

This is the default setting.

This is the default setting.

It is very important to realize that if you make changes in the default setting, that when you close, and then reopen the camera, it resets your override back to the middle. For most exposures, you’ll likely keep it here.

One notch Darken

One Notch Towards Darken

OK, this is where it gets confusing. Don’t try to like up the horizon with a line, arrow, etc. If you move the wheel, and see MORE dark, well, the above shows one stop of exposure compensation. What this equates to in f/stop or exposure value, who knows. But if you look online, and a photographer refers to “one notch towards Darken”, this was the adjustment made.

Want a much lighter print? This shows two notches towards lighten.

Want a much lighter print? This shows two notches towards lighten.

The other way, the above shows two notches towards Lighten. Most of what I have seen online calls for a one notch towards Lighten setting in cold weather. As each SX-70 has its own personality, and these are, after all, 40-year-old cameras, I don’t think this is gospel, more of a starting point.

These tips may prove helpful, especially if you are coming from use of the Automatic Land Cameras, or the OneSteps, both of which have much more intuitive exposure controls.

Two Flavors Of Coca Cola

While driving today on Route 13 South in Milford, NH, I spotted this old Coca Cola trailer that is being used as a makeshift sign for a farm. The back features this iconic Coke branding. As I am reading a book about the last years of Walker Evans’ life, and his amazing SX-70 photography, this inspired me to take that camera out, as well as the 450, and capture the same image, for different tones. At the time these shots were taken, it was 34 degrees out, so I did use cold clips for both. The Impossible PX-70 Color Protection film inexplicably defaulted to the “divot/snowflake” look of the earlier Impossible films. Maybe my rollers are once again in need of cleaning? Or, maybe it was just the cold. But the distressed look really works for the subject. While the 450 once again yielded spot-on exposure and tones. Happy I had both cameras with me, as this really was fun to shoot the same subject with both.

The Last Years of Walker Evans: A First-Hand Account by Jerry L. Thompson, available on Amazon, is truly inspiring, a great read. Evans arguably was the greatest SX-70 photographer of all time, certainly the most influential.

1 6 13 Back of Coca Cola Truck Milford NH Polaroid SX70 Impossible Project PX70 Color Protection

SX-70 exposure control set one notch towards darken. Showing off the warm colors and tones of PX-70 Color Protection.

Model 450, one notch towards darken.

Model 450, one notch towards darken. The Fuji FP100C colors are how I remember the scene as looking.

Freezing Cold- The Polaroid Cold Clip Revisited- Impossible Project Cold Clip For PX SX-70 Film

I recently received a cold clip from The Impossible Project. I’ve blogged in the past about the original cold clip that Polaroid included with their Colorpack Land Cameras. This version is designed for use with PX-70 SX-70 films from Impossible.

coldclip

Impossible Project PX Cold Clip For Use with SX-70 Films

This handy gadget includes a stylus for emulsion manipulations-maybe future Impossible films will lend themselves to this- I don’t think the current Impossible films do so particularly well. The emulsion is likely not soft enough. But it also has built-in temperature sensors to let you know when it’s too cold, too warm, or just right.

It can warm up the emulsion after a few minutes in your pocket, or under your arm. Doing so will also yield a warmer looking exposure. I decided to give this a try on a recent SX-70 photowalk to Bancroft Tower in Worcester, MA, where I shot some Portra 160 a little more than a year ago. Anyways, with some PX-70 Color Protection, here is the tower without cold clip warming-

Bancroft Tower, PX-70 Color Protection, No Cold Clip. Bluish Tones.

Bancroft Tower, PX-70 Color Protection, No Cold Clip. Bluish Tones.

And here is virtually the same perspective, this shot warmed with the cold clip in my pocket-

With The Cold Clip. Much Warmer Tones.

With The Cold Clip. Much Warmer Tones.

They both have very unique looks, leaving it solely to the photographer’s discretion as to whether to cold clip the exposure, or not. This is a very well made accessory, coming in its own leather pouch. It works extremely well.

Color Outdoor Polaroid Photography, UV Filter, The Cold Clip, Wind, Lots Of Fun

Living in New England, with the horrible winter we have had in 2010/2011, I have been very hesitant to take color Polaroid photography outdoors. Until yesterday. A brief tease of warmer temperatures brought things into the low to mid 60’s. So, took the Model 240 out, with a previously unused #585 UV Filter. And, the #193 Cold Clip. Very, very happy with the results, despite some howling winds, which reached over 50 miles per hour yesterday. The joy and the love of vivid Fuji Polarcolor photography, and some good light. These trains run nearby-

Do Not Enter? Hard To Resist, With The Trains Running. I Stood Up On A Post, Behind Burger King

Do Not Enter? Hard To Resist, With The Trains Running. I Stood Up On A Post, Behind Burger King

Moving down the track a bit, I found a beautiful blue Pan Am car. Years ago, a New England company purchased the Pan Am name, and branded their trains, as well as a very cool retro line of suitcases and smart-looking recreations of the classic cabin bags. This car has also been painted with colorful graffiti.

Pan Am Train, Covered With Graffiti

Pan Am Train, Covered With Graffiti

After having a very strong cup of Seattle’s Best coffee, I moved a few miles down the road to Clinton. This town was selected in the 1970’s by President Carter where he would hold a Presidential Town Meeting. It also has the highest percentage of bars and taverns per capita in the U.S. Despite that rather disturbing statistic, it has a lot of charm. The downtown area is a great place to walk around, and I found this little movie theatre, which shows films that were out a while ago. They are now playing the Oscar nominee for Best Picture, and winner for Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress, “The Fighter”.

The Strand, Clinton, Massachusetts

The Strand, Clinton, Massachusetts

The lighting in New England is horrible. It does tend to be, by its very nature, bluish, and quite harsh. Sure, they always tell you as a photographer to shoot during “The Magic Hour”, the first and last hour of sunlight during the day. Not always practical. You do the best you can. By about 4:30 or so, the light was getting better. Warmer. The wind was getting faster. The temps, cooler. Walking, running through downtown Clinton, found this very cool old Coca Cola sign on the side of a brick building. Guessing this is maybe from the 1930’s or thereabouts. Thank goodness it hasn’t been sandblasted.

Have A Coke And A Smile

Have A Coke And A Smile

Walking back towards the common, where I parked, I found this VERY cool statue in front of the Clinton Historic Society, on Church Street. Thankfully, the Portrait Kit was inside the big right pocket of the Domke vest. It sometimes pays off to be a geek.

What IS She Thinking About?

What IS She Thinking About?

Ending the day, I had every noble intention of photographing sunset at the beautiful Wachusett Dam. It was finished in 19o5, and to this day, is a manmade wonder. It was, at one time, the largest gravity dam in the world. Train tracks used to run over it. No, this is not digital High Dynamic Range/HDR. It is Polacolor technology.

Wachusett Dam

Wachusett Dam

Polaroid color photography outdoors, under 65 degrees, as it has been since beginning this adventure, has always been, well, scary to try. Afraid no more.