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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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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The Polaroid Folding SX-70 on Steroids: A Review of MiNT Camera’s SLR670-S

The MiNT SLR670-S (right) and the original Polaroid Alpha 1 (left)

One of the frustrations of working with the Polaroid SX-70 camera is its fully automatic exposure system. As a well-seasoned photographer, I am accustomed to being in full control of setting aperture f-stops and shutter speeds to determine the correct exposure for my pictures. For Polaroid cameras—including the sophisticated folding SX-70 camera of the 1970s and 80s—the sole user control is the uncalibrated exposure compensation dial allowing the exposure to be adjusted lighter or darker by some unknown factor. Getting a good photo on the first try is unlikely and, on occasion, I have used an entire film pack to get one decently exposed image.

There is but one way to gain some semblance of exposure control on an SX-70 camera and that is to buy a specially modified version.

Enter MiNT Camera, a Hong Kong-based company that refurbishes vintage folding SX-70 cameras, installs new electronics and a new electric eye, reclads the camera with black or brown leather and adds a small exposure control module—something they call the Time Machine—that attaches to the camera’s flash socket. MiNT produces three versions of its camera: the SLR670m has the Time Machine, works with SX-70 and 600 films manually and with SX-70 in Auto mode or with the Time Machine detached; the SLR670-S adds an Auto mode for 600 film and the camera natively shoots Polaroid 600 film with the Time Machine detached; the SLR670-X adds external flash sync and metal cladding instead of the regular leather cladding. There is also a SLR670-S Classic model but it appears to use a pre-Alpha 1 version of the SX-70 camera and does not have a tripod socket—which I consider essential—or neck strap loops.

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From Our Windows, Part 7

This is the first of several experiments using alcohol inks to alter Polaroid SX-70 photos. The glossy Mylar image is the perfect receptor for these inks. I watch as a single drop of ink spreads out across the plastic surface unpredictably. I hope for a circle. I hope that another drop and another colour will blend as I think it should. But the reality is that the ink goes where it wants to go. It’s not in my control.

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From Our Windows: A Video Introduction

I started this series of posts with a written introduction to From Our Windows. However, I thought I would put together a “home-style” video with yours truly explaining the genesis of the project as well as a quick look-through of André Kertész’s 1981 book, From My Window.

The video is embedded in this post for your convenience but, if you wish to see it at a larger scale or full-screen, you can do so on my YouTube channel at: https://youtu.be/cMFdj8Exd2U. And, while there, be sure to subscribe: more videos will be added shortly!

From Our Windows: an introduction

“From Our Windows”, my current photography project, looks at the world as experienced from the windows of my home. It’s about the nature of enforced containment we all must deal with during the global pandemic, the longing for what lies beyond walls and windows, the stuff of life inside these walls and windows, the light that freely streams into my world and the beauty that comes out of that dialogue. It is my personal response to a collective event but it is also a view from all our windows. 

I’d like to thank the Manitoba Arts Council (MAC) for approving a “Connecting the Distance” micro-grant towards the completion of this project. As with most photographic undertakings, production costs quickly mount and this project is no different. The financial assistance of MAC is greatly appreciated.

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