Your invitation to my photography exhibition: From Our Windows

I’d like to invite you to my upcoming photo exhibition, “From Our Windows: Polaroids by David Firman” at the Winnipeg Architectural Foundation (WAF), 266 McDermot Avenue in Winnipeg. 

“From Our Windows” is a personal story of life contained within four walls. Set during the early days of COVID-19, the story explores the relationship of sanctuary to the now-viral world outside, separated yet connected through thin sheets of glass. In the late 1970s, photographer André Kertész was living a parallel narrative. Old age and isolation—his wife had recently passed—left him looking through the window of his New York apartment, a story he told through Polaroid pictures and his 1981 book, “From My Window”. Separated from Kertész’s by forty years, I see my work as a synchronous search for beauty in the face of loss.

The show runs April 1-29 and will be open for viewing noon to 4:00 PM, Monday to Friday.

On April 1, 7:00 to 9:00 PM there will also be an ‘alfresco’ opening, meaning that I will greet you on the street in front of the WAF gallery.

Note that, due to the tight exhibit space, masks are required and access is limited to two people per visit.  

I’d love to meet you at the opening but feel free to pay a visit anytime during the month of April. And, if you can’t get to the show, all the photos can be viewed on my website, www.firmangallery.com.

Lastly, there is a companion book, “From Our Windows” available for purchase at the opening or on my website www.firmangallery.com.

Regards,

David

The 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

Here we go again. Another pandemic year. While Gail, Styxx and I have made the best of the year with road trips to our provincial neighbours in Saskatchewan and roamed across southern Manitoba, travel has been substantially curbed by Covid-19.

So, this year’s gift list is a little different.

It totally reflects my renewed interest in Polaroid photography, a creative habit (or addiction) that I picked up at the beginning of the pandemic, back in March 2020.

Lastly, the video is shot outdoors…entirely outdoors…in Winnipeg…In December! It had to happen.

It is also my first video gift guide. As you may be aware, I have been posting a number of Polaroid-centric videos on my WalkClickMake YouTube channel. It makes sense that this year’s gift guide be a part of that new venture.

On with the show!

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Polaroid Now+ Camera Tip No. 2: A Simple Filter Holder Hack

If you have been following my recent SX-70 posts, you will know that I have a fanatical desire to reign in the capricious behaviour of SX-70 cameras and films, all in an attempt to maximize the quality of the ejected photos. This has included a deep-dive into the Zone System, using a calibrated variable neutral density (VND) filter to gain more exact exposure control and using black and white filters to enhance Polaroid black and white photos. 

All these techniques require a manually controlled camera which, until recently, was limited to the rather pricey MiNT SLR670-S, my camera of choice. With Polaroid’s release of the Now+ comes an affordable means to manually control shutter speed and aperture settings using the Polaroid app . What’s missing is some way to attach a VND. And, although the Now+ comes with light yellow, light orange and light blue slip-on filters, which can be used with Polaroid’s black and white films, it would be nice to attach darker versions as well, such as red and green black and white filters in front of the Now+ lens.

Fortunately, there is an easy hack that costs nothing. Polaroid kindly includes a rubbery slip-on lens cap with the camera. The front of the cap has a slightly recessed area stamped with the Polaroid logo. By carefully cutting out this recessed panel, it turns out that the opening is just the right size to friction-fit 40.5mm filters. Simply slide the modified lens cap over the lens and twist-in whatever 40.5mm filter you wish to use. 

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Polaroid Now+ Camera Tip No. 1: To Use the Camera Shutter Button or the App Shutter Button, That is the Question?

To Use the Camera Shutter Button or the App Shutter Button, That is the Question?

Ay, there’s the rub. 

Trying to hold the Polaroid Now+ in one hand and an iPhone with the Polaroid app in the other hand, all while composing a photo through the view finder with one eye and positioning a finger over the app’s shutter release using the other eye…what could possibly go wrong?

But wait! If the app has transferred my aperture and shutter speed choices to the camera, why can’t I use the  shutter release on the camera?

Alas, poor Polaroid!

Take a look at this video and all will be revealed. 

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Using Contrast Filters with Polaroid SX-70 Black and White Film

NOTE: You will find the YouTube video version of Using Contrast Filters with Polaroid SX-70 Black and White Film at the end of this post.

Polaroid Black and White integral film for SX-70 cameras has become a favourite of mine. I love the deep blacks and crisp whites of this contrasty film yet it still captures a good range of subtle mid-tones. As opposed to colour SX-70 films, which often have pink highlights among other odd tonal shifts, the black and white films have a consistent, reliable tone. Right out of the camera, the images have a neutral tone but, over several hours or days, the tones warm up. Not to an over-the-top sepia tone but a subtle warm quality that adds depth to the picture. Lastly, Polaroid monochrome films develop faster than their colour cousins; images can be evaluated in five minutes compared to fifteen minutes for colour. It just makes the Polaroid workflow that much more enjoyable.

Coming from a black and white film background, I am well-acquainted with the use of black and white filters to enhance the tonal rendition of monochrome negatives and prints. And that technique works equally well with Polaroid black and white integral films.

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Falling Polaroids (2021)

It was late autumn 2020 when I made a set of colour SX-70 Polaroids on the wooded banks of nearby Omand’s Creek in Winnipeg. At the time, the trees were still dressed in majestic fall colour. A few weeks later, I returned to the same location to film my deck of Polaroids being dealt to the forest floor. By this time, now-bare trees had shed their leaves, forming a crunchy brown backdrop to the crisply framed photos that floated down. That brief lo-fi video, titled Falling Polaroids, made an appearance on Instagram and a blog post at WalkClickMake.com. 

And then came winter, spring and summer.

A year has passed. Once again, the green foliage has turned vivid tones of red and yellow before making its way to the ground. And, once again, I returned to last year’s simple film and the stack of Polaroids that inspired the project. Here is the 2021 version of Falling Polaroids.    

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On Location at Camp Morton for a Polaroid Project

My two year—and counting—foray into the wild world of Polaroid SX-70 photography has taken me in various directions. Recently, I have been working with Polaroid Black and White 600 film and this has led to my current project at Camp Morton Provincial Park in Manitoba. 

Established as a Fresh Air Camp in 1921, the site was once an escape for underprivileged children from nearby Winnipeg. Set on the banks of Lake Winnipeg, the eleventh largest fresh water lake on planet Earth, it would have been a happy place to swim, play, breath in fresh country air. The camp ceased operating in 1971 and has since been transformed into a Provincial Park. While many of the unique camp buildings have been retained, they are all in various stages of decay. In particular, lakefront stairs, retaining walls and other structures have been ravaged by the angry lake, which completely freezes over in winter.

It seemed a perfect subject for a black and white photo project.

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Fine Tuning SX-70 Exposures with a Variable Neutral Density Filter

Note: There is a video version of Using the Zone System with Polaroid SX-70 Film, Part 1 at the bottom of this post.

It would be nice to adjust exposures in ½ EV increments with my MiNT SLR670-S camera. Unfortunately, the camera can only make full shutter speed adjustments, one EV at a time; there is no ability to select in-between speeds. While most manually-controlled cameras allow f-stops to be set in half or third stop increments, the original SX-70 cameras that MiNT refurbishes have a ‘fixed’ f/8 aperture. 

All too often, I will take a meter reading only to find that the best exposure lies between two shutter speeds, for example between 1/125s and 1/250s at f/8. Because I can’t change the aperture, I’m forced to choose the lower shutter speed, which will result in a slight over-exposure, or the higher shutter speed, which might be darker than I wanted.

Because I’m shooting Polaroid SX-70 integral film, which has a very limited latitude, especially in the highlights, these seemingly minor compromises in exposure can have a major impact on the quality of the final photograph.

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Using the Zone System with Polaroid SX-70 Film, Part 2

Note: There is a video version of Using the Zone System with Polaroid SX-70 Film, Part 1 at the bottom of this post.

In Part 1, I explained the theory behind the Zone System, how I thought it might benefit today’s serious SX-70 photographer and I painstakingly outlined my process for taking the photos required to make a Zone Ruler. If you haven’t, I recommend you take a look at Part 1 before continuing with Part 2.

In Part 2, I analyze my set of “towel photos” taken with Polaroid Color 600 film, build a Zone Ruler, provide some practical tips for using the Zone Ruler in your own SX-70 photography and show a number of photos I’ve taken over the last six-plus months using my Zone Ruler.

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Using the Zone System with Polaroid SX-70 Film, Part 1

Note: There is a video version of Using the Zone System with Polaroid SX-70 Film, Part 1 at the bottom of this post.

SX-70 film is a remarkable feat of engineering. To think that the entire photographic process—taking a photo, developing the negative, printing the negative, developing the print, framing the print—is all done in one step: take the photo and a finished, framed print is ejected!

That magic comes with a few downsides, the most concerning being the limited latitude or dynamic range of the film. While most camera films might be expected to have a dynamic range of 8-9 f-stops between black and white with an extensive range of grey values in-between, SX-70 film has a much smaller dynamic range. Simply put, SX-70 film is extremely contrasty. The film loves low contrast scenes shot in overcast conditions but good luck capturing a bright sunny scene with deep shadows.

In an effort to gain some level of creative control over the SX-70 film’s limited latitude, it occurred to me that the Zone System might be worth exploring.

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