35mm 120 Medium Format Lessons Learned Thus Far...
My goal with starting this series of posts is to share lessons learnt as I go along. Small, bite sized lessons.
#35mm #120medium format #blackandwhite #kodak #ilford #leica #minolta #rolleiflex #rolleicord #arista #paterson #rodinal #perceptol #ddx #ilfosol #cinestill #yashica #nikon #canon #minolta
Yes, you read that right.
I have been shooting digital for a long time, since 1995 and, of course, plan on shooting digital for the remainder of my life!
Over the past two years, the revival of film photography has picked up at an increasing pace. One key indicator is that old film cameras are shooting up in price. Many are being sold for prices higher than DSLRs! That is quite unusual (crazy!).
WHAT IS FILM PHOTOGRAPHY?
Film photography is using 35mm or 120 medium format film to take pictures instead of using memory cards. The film then has to be developed or processed. Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreens and others offered film development once upon a time. With the flooding of digital cameras, film went away - well, almost. Once the film was processed, prints were made from it. Once you got the prints, you decided if you wanted enlargements. So, from the time you took the pictures (no preview of the images in the camera!) till the time you got the pictures could be 2 days.
WHY IS FILM PHOTOGRAPHY REVIVING?
Couple of reasons. Think of something that is handmade versus machine made. You know that the person that handmade it put thought and effort into it, there is a certain amount of craftsmanship that you are willing to pay a premium for. Taking pictures with a film camera is similar. For one, not everyone can do it well. It takes years of practice and experience that only comes with shooting rolls of films, using different types of films and cameras. Each film type has its own personality - a unique look.
Film also captures a dynamic range (difference between lighting and shadows) that digital still struggles to render. There is a certain amount of depth in film images. They are classy. They are exclusive, not within the reach of everyone due to the costs associated with the cost of the film, the shooting, development, digitization (converting analog image to digital) and, printing or having prints made from negatives.
Making a print from film is remarkably different than printing from a digital image. It is not an image that is printed on a printer. A digitized film image can be printed on a printer. But, to experience the sheer majesty of a film image, an image is made from the negative by hand. A different kind of craftsmanship that is dwindling in the digital age. It takes an extensive set up to create a print from a negative. Outside of academic institutions offering film photography courses, few commercial outlets offer it. Black and white prints known as 'true black and white' printing use silver in creating the print. Such prints standout.
BOOK YOUR FILM SHOOT TODAY
I offer film photography sessions using color and black & white film. In 35mm and in medium format or 120 film. I develop or process my own BW film and scan them as well. We can order images from the digitized or scanned images or we can send the negatives to get the traditional prints made. For BW, I prefer using Ilford films and chemistry. For color, Kodak Porta, Fuji Velvia or any other film of your choice. You can Google and see the same images taken with different films to pick the film that you like the most and we can do your session with that particular film.
Guadalajara (GDL) is Mexico’s 2nd largest city. If you have been to Puebla or Guanajato or Mexico City or San Miguel de Allende, I caution you to taper your expectations down. GDL is visibly run down. Unlike those other cities where things are in good or great repair, GDL, it appears lacks the funds to keep things in fine shape. From the first ride from the airport, you get a sense of the industrial ambiance of the city, graffiti is mercilessly sprawled everywhere except in the very center of the city around the Cathedral - presumably, because of the large presence of police there. Step a few blocks from this core part of the center and as you travel via a less than stellar Tapito Tours double decker bus, you cannot help but, notice the patched up work on buildings, trash, unkept gardens. No consistency as you may be used to in the other places I mentioned.
The best way to tour in and around GDL is through the Tapito Tour buses as that is the only cost effective option. For a city of this size, it is unusual that there is no competition for them. They offer 4 routes, one bus takes you to Zapopan, another does the GDL city route, another take you to Tlaquepaque and the fourth one, takes you from Tlaquepaque to Tonala. For $MX 140-160 (160 when tourists abound), you can ride all four routes within 6 hours without exiting the bus. Sadly, no multi-day discount passes. Seriously, Hop On/Hop Off needs to come to town unless they are the ones that own Tapitio Tours!
GDL City - instead of the bus tour, get a map from the Tourist Info - sorry, available only in Spanish! But, you can still easily manage. Walk the center of the city - 2 days of six hour trips of 1 day of eight hours if you have abnormal energy. See my www.instagram.com/ArtByPino to see sights I recommend.
Tonala - Remember, you have to catch the bus from Tlaquepaque - given the bus schedule and what I needed to cover, I did not go the ceramic museum which is renowned. On Sundays and Thursday, thousands of vendors converge in Tonala and sell everything for lower prices - everything that you might buy from elsewhere in GDL. So, good spot to go shopping if you have a long list.
Tlaquepaque - A delightful place to visit, high-end artisan shops, and, I mean high—end. Clearly, their Customers are the upper class of the Mexican society and foreigners. I found their prices intimidating and instead bought a couple of things from street side artisans who make their crafts in front of you. Independencia Avenue is the one you want to walk down. Lots of great food and drinks and entertainment. Safe. Surrounding, fine places to eat, coffee, the works.
Zapopan - Basilica is the main draw there. The art museum across looks nice but, given the ridiculous bus schedule of Tapito Tours - 15 minute break or wait 2 hours and 50 minutes for the next bus - I opted to skip the museum.
All in all, I would still recommend visiting GDL and surrounding areas - separate post coming up in a few days on that - just so that you can get an experience of some of the finest buildings, museums and, art. People - as in the rest of Mexico - are a charm, warm, friendly. The legend about Guadalajara women being the most beautiful in Mexico failed to live up to its reputation. But, then again, as a learned wise person stated, beauty is in the eye of the beholder...
Here, I am assuming that you do not have someone that can drive you to the Reynosa REX airport and that you are like me, wanting to catch a low cost flight from the Mexican side of McAllen - City of Reynosa.
It is best to catch a bus from the McAllen Bus Terminal for $5 to the Reynosa Bus Terminal or have someone drop you off a the Hidalgo International Bridge and walk across. Either way, once you reach the Mexican side of the bridge, their Customs will scan your baggage for contraband, especially, guns. If they find one or ammunition, enjoy a life in their prison. They are no-nonsense about it.
If you take the bus, you will be asked to get off the bus and couple of helpers will take your luggage to the scanning area and then help load it back on the bus. $1 tip per bag is decent. Then, it is a 5 minute ride to the bus terminal. Depending on the hour of the day or night, take a taxi from the bus terminal to the airport - $MX 200 or Uber for less. Same process for the return journey.
I do not recommend buying the bus pass offered by VivaAerobus when you book a ticket online as depending on the time of your flight, it may not be practical and the wait for the shuttle can be long. Their bus pass runs about $MX 130 from McAllen to Reynosa airport, for about $MX 180 more, you can travel on your schedule cutting your time from 3 hours to less than an hour.
Same in Guadalajara - instead of buying the VivaAerobus pass online for $MX130, as soon as you exit the terminal, to your right, catch the VivaAerobus bus and pay $MX70 to the driver.
THERE ARE NO VISAS REQUIRED for travel into Mexico. In all these years of travel, not a soul has asked for any such documents. When boarding flights, only a government issued photo ID - DL or Passport is good. Upon return and flying into Reynosa, they do check your immigration status at the airport, by the Mexican Immigration. I show my US Passport and all is good. Not sure why they check upon coming into Reynosa but, not when you travel to any other place in Mexico. When traveling by bus, no checks whatsoever on the Mexican side. Only when you cross into the US, US Border Patrol requires a passport or a birth certificate and a photo ID and in that instance, a strong suggestion that you get a passport.
As of this blog post, the currency exchange rate was $1 = 18.80 pesos.
To order books, click here.
Architecture of the Lower Rio Grande Valley: An Introduction
Brownsville Architecture: A Visual History
Galveston Architecture: A Visual Journey
McAllen Architecture: A Visual Journey
Quinta Mazatlan: A Visual Journey
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Wouldn't it be great to learn how to use the camera you have? Or, take better pictures with your smartphone? If all you are looking for is feedback on your images, I can help with that too. As a published photographer and author of six books on historic architecture, I have been blessed with the knowledge and experience to coach you on your photography learning.
How is the Photography Coaching I offer different from taking a class elsewhere?
Coaching fees are $60 for a 45 minute session per person within 5 miles of 78501, other locations - reasonable travel fees. Book your coaching session today!
As someone famous said, 'the best camera is the one you have on you.' I shoot with my Pixel 3XL or iPhone most of the time. No, the photographs on this site are taken with a DSLR. But, unless you don't mind carrying around a bulky DSLR, you are better off with a non-DSLR camera. So, when I take pleasure trips, I take my Sony A6000 with me. It is less bulky, attracts less attention and takes decent pictures. It is a mirrorless camera. Most manufacturers make one. Based on my research, I found that the A6000 is the single camera body for which the maximum number of lenses are available - of any camera ever manufactured. So, that is why I am recommending that you build your system around it or its later generation model. I researched them early 2017 when I was getting ready to take a 5 week trip to India and Paris and decided on the Sony A6000 with the kit lens of 16-50. Note that it is not the latest and greatest. It was released on February 12, 2014 so as of June 2019, it is over 5 years old!
Why would I recommend something 5 years old especially, given that technology changes so much? Cost. Features. Aftermarket accessories available. Relatively bug free. So many owners out there that you can easily find an answer to anything related to the camera. So, buy yours here. Generally speaking, I prefer buying the camera body separately from the lens so that I can buy the specific lens for specify type of photography. In this instance, Sony has bundled a pretty decent lens so, am comfortable recommending the kit purchase.
In May of 2019, Sony released an upgrade called the A6400. Sure, if you have the extra money, go for it. Most folks I know will not utilize the full capabilities of a A6000. Remember, my initial recommendation is to still get a Pixel 3XL or Google's latest model or Apple's iPhone.
RECOMMENDED (MINIMUM) ACCESSORIES
There is an old saying "The pen is mightier than the sword" coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 (Wiki).
Perhaps, you have been contemplating writing a book for some time now. You have the book in your mind or your heart or your soul and are ready to see it in either a print or eBook or audio format. But, you don't know where to start. That is where I was on June 26, 2016.
I went through a massively steep learning curve in a short time and purely, as a result of blessings, given my technology, business, digital media and online publishing background, I was able to publish five books since then. In September of 2017, I was exhausted from the frustrations of the book industry learning curve. For a week, I went into self-pity mode and enjoyed feeling sorry for myself. Eventually, I started praying and contemplating and asking God as to why was I having to go through what I went through? Why didn't I have the resources to hire someone to do all the work? Now, know that I am the one that chose to go the self-publishing route because I did not have the means to hire/outsource the production of books.
Nor was the topic of my book attractive enough to get the attention of a publisher that would make it easy for me to just focus on the content and them take care of everything else. God answered and His answer was that the purpose of making me go through the intensively frustrating learning experience was so that I could help others by way of sharing with them the simple way to get published. Aha! It produced optimism. Within 48 hours, I was meeting library directors in the Hidalgo county that were open to the possibility of me doing pilot workshops to coach folks wanting to publish. Edinburg, Mission and McAllen public libraries were gracious enough to let me do the workshops at their respective facilities. Based on each feedback from each workshop and questions asked by the participants, I fine tuned the curriculum for the workshop that I do at the libraries IF YOU request the library to have me do them (no cost for you to attend).
So, without further ado, here are the things to consider as you decide you want to publish:
GET A NO-OBLIGATION CONSULTATION
The ALRGVPP maintains a growing collection of photos and information for buildings and structures that are historically and architecturally significant in the Texas-Mexico border counties of Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy. Currently, the database consists of 550 buildings, both, residential and nonresidential, provided by Stephen Fox. We plan on adding another 150 structures from over the border when Mexico is safer. This will bring the total number of structures to 700. Photos and further information are being included with each entry. We are always on the lookout for more buildings. If you or your firm have a structure(s) to include in the database, skip down to the “Submit Your Structure” section.
WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF THE ALRGVPP?
There are two primary goals:
WHO IS BEHIND THE ALRGVPP?
The ALRGV project is a collaborative passion project between world heritage photographer, Pino Shah, and architectural historian, and Fellow of the Anchorage Foundation of Texas, Stephen Fox.
HOW WILL THE PHOTOGRAPHS BE DISPLAYED?
The ALRGVPP will be available in a searchable online database, in print and eBook formats, through photography exhibitions, and as photographic prints.
HOW CAN I HELP?
We’re glad you asked! There are three major ways you can help the ALRGVPP:
I) get the word out, II) partner with us, and III) send us your structures.
I - GETTING THE WORD OUT
As you’ve probably realized, we aren’t stinting on content, but what good is content if no one sees it? Here are some ways you can help us spread the word.
To submit you or your firm’s structure for inclusion in the ALRGVPP Database, email the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am an Architecture, World Heritage, and Performing Arts Photographer, Pino Shah. I am based in McAllen, Texas and Ahmedabad, India. I would like to share my Mission Statement with you:
VISUALLY PRESERVE HISTORIC ARCHITECTURE
The power of words is legendary as it is said that the pen is mightier than the sword. The power of images is equally legendary as it is said that a picture can speak 1,000 words. And of course, words combined with images deliver a resounding message.
My mission is quite simple. I want to showcase world heritage quality architecture first and foremost to a younger audience, typically, a sixth grader -- the 'heads down' generation as a wise person termed it. My hope is that by impressing upon them at an early age the importance of heritage architecture, when they become our future civic and corporate leaders, that they will hopefully be of a preservation mindset.
To that end, my method of presenting the images are primarily through online and mobile channels. A website, smartphones, tablets, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter... Another major goal that has been elusive thus far is the goal of developing a sixth-grade level TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) compliant curriculum that is based on the photography projects I am undertaking in Texas; the Architecture of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Photography Project (ALRGVPP) and the Galveston Architecture Photography Project (GAPP). The reason it has been elusive is lack of funding -- all my efforts are self-funded -- needed to hire writers proficient in history and curriculum developers.
For my Ahmedabad Heritage Photography Project (AHPP), my goal is to showcase the 606-year-old city which earned conditional 'World Heritage City' designation on July 8, 2017 by UNESCO to the world.
Another major reason for doing this is to showcase my blessing of being able to take great architecture photographs in order to get paid assignments across the globe.