Creative FailureTuesday, September 03, 2013
In my 55 years of experience with film cameras I came to create, fumble and figure out new and varied ways of taking pictures that would guarantee that I would by the end of the process have not even one image that was useable.
Here are some:
1. Shoot a 35mm film camera without film.
2. Not load the film properly so that the film would slip and I would take 36 exposures (or more!) on one frame.
3. A variation of 2 was to load a Nikon F-3 equipped with a motor drive. The drive had so much torque that it was possible for the motor’s sprockets to break the film’s sprocket holes. No picture.
4. Shoot all the pictures in a subdued lighting situation with a studio flash at the wrong sync speed.
5. Variation of 4 was to connect the flash cord to an FP terminal instead of the X terminal (found in such cameras as the Pentax MX of which I own two). FP is designation for flash sync using Focal Plane shutter flashbulbs (long gone). No picture.
6. A defect or break of a lens diaphragm that would overexpose film beyond help.
7. Expose part of a roll. Put the camera away and on the next day (forgetting the camera has film) opening the camera to load it with film. No picture.
8. Using the wrong ISO setting. As an example I could shoot a 100 ISO film at a 1200 setting. No picture.
9. There are countless mistakes that I have made in the darkroom including forgetting to put developer into the water to be used to process the film.
10. I once used selenium toner (unmarked bottle) instead of fixer. No picture.
There are many more including camera failure such as a broken shutter or in the case of my medium format camera, a broken shutter spring. No picture. Where I did have some sort of luck is that in all the times that I had colour negative or colour slide film processed by local labs I was never told that there was no charge when I came to collect my film. If you cannot figure out this one, it means that the lab ruined the film and was thus not charging you for the processing.
One of the most bizarre mistakes I ever made I had in tow my friend John Lekich who at the time was about to interview American actor Peter Coyote. There was a beautiful blonde woman in 40s clothing waiting for her small part to happen at the film location. I asked her if I could photograph her. I did and Lekich was licking his chops in anticipation of my photographs. Before we left and after we had interviewed and photographed Coyote, I took out a roll of 120 film that I always had in my camera bag as an extra in case I lost the film roller, etc. I took the roll out and showing it to Lekich I said, “This is that beautiful blonde.” I then removed its paper binding and with both my hands rolled the film open. Lekich could not believe it. “Calm down,” I told him, “it’s a test roll.” It was not the test roll.
In the last three weeks I have been navigating around all the possibilities that my new Fuji X-E1 could conceivably, at the end of a shooting day, deliver me nothing. I have come to understand as I buy extra camera cards, a card reader, perhaps a second battery and then the one word that is anathema to all digital photographers, a corrupted card that digital cameras can surpass by at least twice the possibilities of the non picture.
As I prepare by trip to Buenos Aires, I have an old Toshiba laptop to which I can download my Fuji’s pictures either by connecting the camera to the computer or by removing the card from the camera and inserting it into a card reader which I then insert in the laptop. Both these methods have to be then transferred to an exterior flash drive as my Toshiba is old and has a small hard drive. Instead of having one or two high capacity cards I am opting for having three 8GB cards to spread my three weeks shooting in Argentina.
But I know that there must be other ways lurking out there that just might sour my picture holiday.
The first one that I discovered is here as an example. The scenario is a magazine assignment inside in which I use a big studio flash. I measure my light with a flash meter connecting the flash cord (while disconnecting it from the Fuji X-E1). After getting the correct f stop setting I adjust my digital wonder but I forget to connect the flash cord. I take a picture and the live view in the LCD screen in the back shows a nice picture (thanks to the fact that digital camera views tend to be very bright and my studio flash has a relatively powerful quartz light). But the reality is that the picture that I just took with the unconnected camera is exactly like the one here. No picture.