Almost two years ago, I lost my Dad very suddenly from a heart attack. He was a huge influence on me, both in my personal life, but also professionally, instilling a work ethic and determination that helped me land my dream job that I continue to love today. However, one of the biggest influences was our shared passion for photography.
For almost two decades, Dad and two of his closest friends would take photography trips. Just hanging out together and taking photos. Not all these trips were big, some just within the same state, but others to Europe and their favorite destination, Yosemite National Park. This idea really stuck with me, so my very close friend and I, now separated across the world since I moved to Los Angeles from Melbourne, Australia, decided we would pick up the photo trip mantle for our collective 40th birthdays.
Chris and I have been friends for the better part of 30 years, meeting one another in school. It’s rare to have a friend where you don’t have to work at all on the relationship, but where even after long stretches of not seeing one another in person, can naturally slip back into a easy going, banter filled camaraderie that made the experience both extremely fun travel wise and so enjoyable to just indulge deeply in our favorite hobby of ours, photography.
It’s also the most photos I have ever taken on a trip, not having my much better half pulling me along, but with someone who wants to shoot just a few more at each location. It really makes the images add up!
I also shot a lot of film this trip, the first for me traveling with the XPan panoramic camera. And I have to say, many of my favorite images have come from this camera and are the feature of this article.
The more I shoot film, I am finding that I really love the look and feeling it infuses into the images over digital. There is a real warmth and nostalgia to the images. It helps me to capture the world layered with mood and style that is deliberately not one that’s a transparent recording of what I have seen, but my own vision and feeling within a moment.
It’s an interesting topic, feeling and art. It’s something I think a lot about being in both an artistic profession as an Animator on Hollywood produced feature films, and in my hobby of photography. I have been reading a lot more books and blogs about trying to say more with both parts of these creative sides to my life. Initially you spend a lot of time learning the principals and rules of the craft (stuff I won’t own up to mastering yet in my own work), but at some point you get relatively proficient at the technical aspects of creating the work and realize that for a while, initially, that was enough to inspire your passion make things move in animation, or capture images through photography.
Soon however, you need more, and that more is, for me at least, looking to capture not just the light in a scene, or the believable mechanics of Kung Fu fighting Panda, but to really inject ideas, stories, life, and feelings into your creations. To Say Something.
Ironically, I have found in both animation and photography, the very thing that helps me try to discover that personal voice (and I am in no means saying I have successfully done so), is the process and technical aspects themselves. It’s the things that take more time, that for me are more considered and handcrafted like film, can help inspire me to find ways to add that personal feeling to what I make.
I had been busting to go back to Japan for years. After traveling to Tokyo a number of times for work over fifteen years ago, I was due to go back. Especially since then I had really gotten back into photography, both digitally and with film.
I was so excited to shoot with the XPan in Japan. The wide angle and very uniquely cinematic perspective, I felt, would be well suited to the futuristic urban mega-metropolis of Tokyo and the peaceful beauty of Kyoto.
Armed with a number of bags of film including Kodak Ektar, Portra 400 and 800, Ilford Delta 100, Cinestill 800TX and 50D and some Japan Camera Hunter JCH 400. I couldn’t wait to explore and shoot a range of different film stocks.
Since I started shooting and rediscovering film, I have found one of the most enjoyable aspects has been trying to pair up which film would be best suited to different locations. My feeling is that you shoot film to create a look, something different and special, outside of the norm of digital. These different looks and styles can compliment and create different feelings in different locations.
For example, Kodak Portra 400, to me, is great in Los Angeles. Cinestill 50D and Ektar 100 in New York, and in Tokyo Cinestill 800T, Ektar 100 and Ilford Delta 100. This is, of course, totally subjective. But there is a color palate and a quality of light that is different in each location and I try to marry up films to go with that based on my personal preferences and looks that I am trying to capture.
The XPan camera is an extremely unique camera in itself. Shooting over almost two 35mm negatives (a roll of 36 exposures results in 21 frames), framing your subject and finding complimentary compositions is very challenging, but very rewarding.
Landscapes naturally work well, but in the city, looking for foreground and background layers helps a lot. Not being afraid of shooting vertically can create some very interesting frames that when compiled in groups of three can look amazing when printed in books.
The trip was by far one of the most fun adventures I had been on. Just getting to spend time with a good friend, eat great food, drink in cool bars and take loads of photos (and tempt each other in camera stores!). Sadly, Corona has put a hold on other plans… but we really look forward to continuing the tradition my Dad and his friends set out on in our next photo trip.
Mike and Chris write about their photo travels on their website, www.photobasecamp.com if you want to see more of their work.