Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Polaroid 330 Land Camera Flash Sync Goodness

As if the Polaroid 330 Land camera wasn't cool enough.  It's compact, built solid, 60's as hell, and oh yeah, it produces incredible images on the discontinued Fuji FP100C peel film.  The images are sharp, colorful, and nostalgic (by the way, don't lose all hope on this film.  The former brains over at Impossible Project are redeveloping it and is supposed to be shipping in the summer of 2019).

1966 Polaroid 330 Land Camera

I purchased this camera on eBay a while back and some time after experimenting with it, I discovered it had a PC sync socket on the left side of the lens.  For those who don't know what this is, it is a small electronic socket that you connect your camera to a flash and fire a flash "in sync" when the shutter is released to expose your image with flash.  This is awesome because now I can use this camera anywhere, day or night.  No need for long exposure or blurry images because your subject cant hold still for 2 seconds or more...if it works.

PC sync socket - left side of lens assembly

I hooked up a generic flash to the camera and tried it with no film.  It fired flawlessly as I had hoped. This was encouraging.  I tried a few test shots with film and I was pretty stoked.  Now, this is a fixed aperture lens (f8.8), and the film is ISO100, so I had to use a flash meter to calculate manual flash output based on the aperture, ISO, and subject to flash distance.  This is 1966 after all and TTL was unheard of at this point.

So, if I can fire a manual flash using the sync socket, why not fire it wirelessly using a generic trigger system?  It makes perfect sense, right? Yes, it does, and it works...well!
Any flash and trigger system should be able to be used for this as long as it has the ability to be operated manually and not TTL dedicated only.

Here is my set up:
Polaroid 330 Land camera w/sync cable
Fuji manual flash (I've since used it with my Flashpoint studio strobes)
Phottix Strato trigger system (dedicated for Canon, but works manually with any flash)
Flash stand to place your flash as desired (shelf, ground, on stand, wherever)

flash, stand, and trigger set (transmitter and receiver)

And here is the system all hooked up...
Camera with transmitter attached via sync cable

Flash mounted on receiver hot shoe and stand

And this is how it works:

I recently saw a post floating around on social media which depicted women of the 50's and 60's taking impromtu portraits by their Christmas trees.  They displayed a class and style of the era which we don't see anymore and of course, all shot on film...many of it instant film.  My wife saw the same post and casually suggested we try to do a photo like that this year.  I enthusiastically agreed...and I knew just how I was going to do it.

I give you...

My gorgeous wife doing her best high ball holiday pose

I experimented with direct flash (above) and bounced flash (both ceiling and wall to left of camera) and I think the direct flash looked best and most accurate to the era.  The hot spot in the middle with natural a vignette and hard shadows are classic.  We tried a few different poses and burned through a pack of film, but had a lot of fun and I learned a lot.  It is satisfying to have an idea, put it together, experiment, fail, try again, fail, try again using what I learned, and then have a print that exceeds expectations.

 Here are a few others we did.

These obviously are not new ideas.  Nothing ground breaking, nothing that has not been done before. I guess the purpose of this is to never stop learning, never stop trying new things (or new to you), and always work to better yourself in whatever you do.  If you have passion for something, let it consume you sometimes. Live it and own it. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Serial Number B0062

My love of the Gibson Les Paul began when my sister turned me onto Ace Frehley and Kiss in 1978 when she gave me Rock and Roll Over.  I swear I air jammed to that record with my moms tennis racquet until the vinyl grooves wore smooth.  As a kid, I always wanted a real Les Paul like Ace, but I really wouldn't pick up playing for another 8 years...and I certainly couldn't afford it.

Fast forward 13 years.  I was 21 at the time...1991.  I was out of high school and working at a local music store selling guitars.  I had spent the last 5 years teaching myself guitar by listening to greats of the time and jamming to records.  Trying to learn my favorites licks and creating something unique inside of me through music.

I had the privilege of being able to acquire a few guitars since employees had endless store credit...and I bought quite a few (only to sell them off later because I was so far in to debt to the music store when I left).  But one guitar stayed with me, and is still with me today.  I knew it was special from the moment I saw it, and this is its story...

I was working the sales floor one day in '91 and a guy came in wanting to trade a guitar in on something else.  I knew it was a Les Paul looking at the case, but I had seen and played dozens by this time, and even owned a few, so I really wasn't expecting much.  He opened the case and inside was one of the coolest Gold Top Les Pauls I had ever seen.  I'm not sure why I was so instantly in love with this guitar and had absolutely no idea what year it was, but I thought it was definitely worth trying to trade in and then maybe, selfishly, I would be able to buy it through the store.  I had no intentions for this guitar to ever make it to the showroom floor if I could help it.

So, we work out a trade in deal and he's happy.  I take the deal to the floor manager and he rejects the deal.  He wants to low ball the guy and give him hardly anything for the guitar on trade.  This could be great for me because the smaller the investment the store has, the smaller my investment will be, but inside, I know this guy is going to walk.

I present him the counter offer, and as predicted, he closes the case and walks out with the guitar of my dreams.  Panic sets in and I quickly run out to the parking lot to catch him.  I tell him I'm willing to buy the guitar off him and offer him a little more than he was going to get on trade to hopefully entice him to sell it.  He agrees.  I am over joyed.  It's going to be mine...only, I have no money...You know, because I'm a 21 year old musician and they are always broke.  Longer story short, I end up borrowing the cash and paying a little interest back to my dad (THANKS DAD!), but I get the guitar.

The guitar is still with me today.  It is the only guitar I have kept since I began buying back in 1986. Never say never, but I intend on playing it until I die. It has been with me for numerous live shows, recorded in Nashville (The Gents As-Is), and has been so special to me for the past 27 years.
1982 Les Paul #B0062
1966 Polaroid 330 on Fuji pf100 film

Through a ton of research, I was able to identify it some years later after I bought it from that guy in the parking lot.  It is a 1982 30th Anniversary Les Paul Gold Top, serial # B 0062.  It lacks the 19th fret commemorative inlay so it was probably a "b" model, but there is no doubt as to what it is.

It is a "rare" guitar.  It's not a '59 by any means, but it's definitely special.  I have seen a few here and there on the internet for sale and they are getting about 10 times what I paid for it, but I have zero interest in selling it, it's just that cool and means so much to me.

I was talking to a friend of mine a few years back who I worked at the music store with who still works there. He told me that the guy has been in on more than one occasion to try and find me to buy his guitar back.  The music business can be cruel, but that's business, and this guitar is staying with me forever.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Random Acts of Purpose...and Belgian Ale - Sawyer, MI

It's interesting how a 52 year old piece of molded plastic, paper, and a brilliant concept way ahead of its time brings complete strangers together. And how it helped me find purpose.

My wife and I recently vacationed in Michigan and I had taken my 1966 Polaroid 330 Land Camera along with the intent of bringing home a photo album of nostalgic images. Things we saw and places we visited. It was going to be a milestone anthology of natural vignette's, odd color casts, and lack of dynamic range that even the most discreet Instagram filter abuser would admire. Although I carried it faithfully in my backpack every single day, it never saw light (pun intended).  I didn't take it out once. I'm not sure why.  I had the best intentions.  There it sat, quietly, buried in my backpack, while my digital mirrorless played favorite.
1966 Polaroid 330 Land Camera

It had been extremely hot and humid during our stay, and a cold craft beer on the patio of the Greenbush Annex was irresistibly enticing on our last night. My Belgian Ale was cold and refreshing and probably a little too easy.  After some great conversation with her and enjoying some time together where nobody knew us, we decided to cut out and call it a night.  I picked up my pack and the added weight of the Polaroid camera reminded me I needed to take at least one shot before we left.  After all, it was our last night and I had neglected the little bundle of instant film joy that I had carried every day.  My wife graciously agreed, as she often does, to pose quickly for a street shot with the brewery in the background.  A single, nostalgic image to remind us of the memory, and more so to help me feel like lugging it around all week was worth the effort.

We had just finished taking the shot when a man and woman exited the patio area and struck up conversation about the camera.  They were interested in what it was and how it worked.  I was excited to talk about it and likely gave them more information than they had bargained for.  During our conversation I learned the man was the woman's father and they were enjoying some quality time together.  Our conversation didn't last long, but I was spontaneously inspired to give them something special that no one in this moment could.  Nothing they could get anywhere else on this planet other than right here, right now.  I offered to take their photo with the camera they were so interested in and they enthusiastically accepted.

The Wifey
I instantly felt like carrying the camera all week now had purpose.  The right moment just needed to present itself which made it all worth it.  We framed up the shot and it was done.  We waited the two minute development time and huddled together as I slowly pulled the print away from the negative.  They were elated.  I handed off the print with pride and a big smile.  It made my day and I think theirs as well.  I told them I wanted to share the encounter in this blog and asked to take a cell pic of them holding the print. To give them this gift gave me purpose and made carrying the camera all week well worth the effort.  No regrets.
Happy father and daughter with tangible memory

I know they told me their names, but I'm terrible with names and I think the experience and excitement caused me to let it all pass through my ears.  Maybe it was just the Belgian Ale.  ;-)