This morning there is a global artificial intelligence meeting at Bletchley Park to discuss how to stop technology eradicating mankind! Elon Musk has waded in in his own style but I guess he knows something about it. Having been out with my Mamiya 645 1000s carefully loaded with Portra 160 to try and capture the autumn colours last week, I demonstrated once again how to make a bit of a mess of using analogue technology. If only I had taken the digital camera none of this would have happened – or at least if I had bought the Q2 with me as well I could have rescued the situation. Or would it?
Let me back up (the errors, not the files you understand). Find a composition, mount the camera on a tripod, focus, and take the exposure several times, and come up with an optimum. Set the aperture to suit and a speed of four seconds. Fit the cable release, lock the mirror up and take the first exposure of the roll. Crank the handle to move the film on and cock the shutter once more – what’s going on? – the crank just goes round and round without stopping! I forgot to put the mirror back down – try that – same thing. With mild panic setting in, crank the handle round again (more unexposed film moved to the take up spool). Something in my mind told me that something like this could happen and could be solved with the Multi-Exp button somehow (or was that the Bronica?). Try it anyway with the button pressed and crank again – still nothing. I should point out at this juncture, that I am not a film or even Mamiya 645 newbie, having used 120 film and a 645 before the age of digital, when it was unfortunately sold, and then re-bought during a covid lockdown. My attention then went to the cable release, still attached to the shutter button. I undid it, and saw that the plunger was still sticking out slightly from its housing. It was obvious now what happened. I set off relieved that I could salvage something and then promptly took another composition forgetting that I had not moved the multi exposure button back down – another exposure wasted. By now the film counter read 13 (so only three left). These I then took in partial trepidation that something else was going to go wrong. The poor camera was having severe problems with its operator.
Back home I reflected on this missed opportunity of a morning out in ideal conditions – autumnal woodland showing masses of colour, just after rain, and with overcast, but quite bright light. Despite wasting most of a roll of 120 Portra I had enjoyed the whole exercise – I had learnt something yes about checking the cable release, but also there was an unexpected satisfaction that I had felt before with film photography. Everything was not perfect, far from it. When I used to go out with digital gear in a backpack I had everything at my disposal to capture whatever came along – and then fine tune it in post processing. It was too “easy” and so the bar went higher and higher in terms of what the digital community considered a good image. In the end not only does Gear Acquisition Syndrome set in in the pursuit of more megabytes and gimmicks, but frustration builds that a “hero” shot does not come along as often as you hope.
Analogue photography puts a welcome brake on this financial and emotional rat race, not only slowing everything down, but also allowing the photographers eyes, mind and interests to reclaim their rightful position at the top of the tree of what is important in taking photographs. If Elon Musk and world leaders are concerned about artificial intelligence in critical systems maybe they can learn from picking up an analogue camera! Cut off the digital cascade and allow humans to take back control of what needs to be controlled – pressing buttons, flipping manual switches, turning dials, with no digital connections or mechanical brains getting involved. Maybe also this caution about ever more powerful technology was also in my mind as I wasted more and more of the roll of Portra. It was all down to me and the Mamiya and I enjoyed the freedom that we had! The mistakes were mine – long live the mistakes!
Getting back to photography itself, the idea was to see how the subdued colour palette of Portra suited the autumnal colours of Northumberland. Two photos I did manage to take are shown – scanned by an Epson scanner, and converted without any colour changes by Negative Lab Pro.
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