Photosketch. Part Two, the instant film photos.

May 6 2019 – near Settle, North Yorkshire.

Photosketch Part Two.

Yesterday’s post was all about the Photosketch day, what it was about and how the day went. This one will, hopefully, be much less verbose. 

The objective of this, the second of two walks, was to experiment with instant film cameras; both Polaroid and Fujifilm Instax in a variety of Yorkshire Dales environments. I have never used an instant camera, and I don’t recall any of my friends having them back when they were more common. Everyone else on the walk had used them, and some brought their own along for the session.

When Polaroid stopped making the film in 2008 there was an outcry from the millions of fans around the world, with many buying bulk and hoarding. In 2010 the Impossible Project started manufacturing film for the Polaroid and the world took a long sigh of relief, and things carried on as normal. Fujifilm has been making their Instax cameras for almost as long, and never ceased production like Polaroid. The Instax films are smaller and a more traditional photo shape than the good old, almost square, Polaroid.

There were six different camera models to choose from, some quite old, and most not being used in a long time. Though all had been cleaned, there were still a lot of artifacting and strange marks from the rollers. I loved them.

I started with one of the Polaroid cameras. I liked it, so simple. Point it. Press the button. Wait a few seconds for the photos to emerge, then stick the photo in a pocket to develop somewhere warm. There is nothing fancy with these plastic cameras, no focusing, no setting aperture or ISO, fixing shutter speeds. Nothing. just point, then click.

For my first image I wanted to test the tonal range of the camera to see what it could actually do with contrasting light. I am still reflecting on Robert Macfarlane’s new book ‘Underland’ as it has challanged me to think more about my environment, and think a little about what is below my feet.  Not that I was moving in to an underground system, I just took a photo of a hole in one of the dry stone walls. I am assuming this was to allow small beasts out of a paddock, it is too small for a sheep and a farm dog would just jump over. I cannot think of any other reason for it to exist. It was a view into a place I had never been, and one that was not accessible. OK, it was just another field, but hey, I wanted to create some sort of drama!

The photo did require me to lie down on the damp stony ground, and get up quite close to the wall. Point. Click. Done. New experience.

It was cold and windy up on the hill. I was advised by those wiser than me in the ways of instant film to stick the print under my jacket and into my armpit as the chemicals on the paper require warmth to do their magic. It would happen, but it would take some time. And here is the first image.

I was quite pleased. I love the light leakage at the top and bottom, though I really like the roller flashing a lot more.. They do add to the image. It is all slightly out of focus, but that does not bother me at all.

My second attempt was out in the open, with quite even light. I had no idea what this digger was doing up in this field. It was in good condition, so didn’t appear to have been here for long, but there were no tracks or other sign as to how it got there. I am wondering if it is used to bury carcasses ?

I was pleasantly surprised to find that even though this was taken only a few minutes after the first one the light artifacts and leakage were slightly different. There was no predicting what was going to come out of this camera, and I really liked that.

As we were walking up the field to enter into the next section of the walk the heavens just opened and dumped a whole load of very cold rain on us, it was very brief, but quite heavy. I snapped this image of Steve taking a photo on his phone as the clouds sat just over his head. I have no idea what the bright thing in the bottom corner is…

I like that these images, just look old, and slightly degraded; the loss of focus and the the flat light as a result of time and poor technology. Not that they were taken an hour ago.

At the highest point of the walk there was a collection of rocks overlooking a low bluff. I was working my around the edges and saw this small entrance point. I have no idea if it was short or long, it was small, it made me wonder what was there. Was it an entrance into the underland, to the below/ Who knows.  I took a photo, triggering the flash this time. Different artifacts.

By the time we reached the next area to explore I had used up the film in the Polaroid and it was time to swap to an Instax. The camera I was given was a lot newer than the Polaroid and had significantly less noise and light leakage, but I could not work out how to turn the flash off, it just refused to not fire. It had one more function than the Polaroid, light or dark. Otherwise it functioned the same. Point. Click.

My first play with this camera was in a small section of pine forest.  I literally crawled in to the very dense low-hanging trees for the first couple of shots. Before I knew about the always-on flash, I was trying to capture the very low foilage, the very high moss and tree litter, and the thin gap of light working its way in between. I just got a lot of very bright flash.

Similar to one of the photos I took with the Polaroid I ended up with this strange thing in the foreground, in this case, right across it. No idea what it is, nor why it is there. it did ruin it for me, and it was the worst photo of the day. Things got better once I was not close to anything.

I really like the colour palette in the Instax, it has the yellows and grey that I really like, and the green is quite muted. If only they made a version bigger than 2.5 inches.

Crossing the wall we started down a gradual slope back towards our start point at Fleur’s house. The light was just wonderful as we walked and I took a number of photos on both the instant and the normal camera as we walked.

We stopped for a while at these two trees, native trees are so rare in the dalesl it was an interesting place to take some photos. This is, I think, my favourite of the Instanx photos.

Somehow I managed to accidently take two photos (It is now three months later and I am typing this in the pub, and I have no recall as to what button I was trying to press). However, I like both photos. They break so many rules of photography; the horizon is not straight, nothing is in focus and there is what looks like hair on the lens; and I rarely take photos of people, so a personal ‘rule’ also broken. Fleur and Rachel.

That was the last of the images I took over the course of the day. I very much enjoyed working with this group of people, and with the instant cameras. Back at Fleur’s place we had a very enjoyable session reviewing the range of images we all took. No-one took the same thing, we all have a different eye and different ideas. The important lesson I learned from the people and the day was they are all valid. 

The next Photosketch is in the Peak District on the 8th September. I recommend it. Check it out here.