About a year into my film photography journey, I decided that I wanted to look into medium format cameras. Being on a bit of a budget I found myself gravitating towards the cheaper TLRs, and basically due to nothing but synchronicity the camera I ended up buying was a later-model Yashica D (with the Yashinon lens) for about $100.
If another brand or model has been on my eBay watchlist at the same time for the same price I’d probably have got that instead 😉 I tend to shoot manual anyway and use prime lenses, so a fixed-lens camera without a meter was not a turn-off for me.
I learned about an organized photography shoot in an abandoned hospital through a local Facebook camera group, and as a physician, I found this an inspiring idea. The location was in the neighboring state, but it wasn’t until the day before that I actually looked it up, and realized that what I had assumed was a 30-minute jaunt over the border was in fact about a 2-hour drive away. I dragged myself out of bed at the crack of dawn the next day to make my way there.
The hospital (in Tewskbury MA) is actually still in operation as a mental health facility, but several of the older buildings are either partially or entirely abandoned. The main attraction was the women’s asylum — an empty but intact (and heated!) shell that offered amazing lighting opportunities. I decided that I wanted to use Fujifilm NEOPAN 100 ACROS, a film stock I have fallen in love with. The smooth, low-grain, high-contrast look is one that I personally find very appealing, and I think that black and white photography has a definite feel to it, where the artist and viewer are forced to interpret the scene based on light and shade, contours, and lines, without the added assistance (or distraction?) of color. It seemed a perfect choice for a spooky architectural shoot.
I was the only person there shooting film – although I did bring along a digital camera to act as a light-meter and to get a sense of the scene – and while everyone else was running around snapping away, I was there setting up my tripod and settings and taking one, slow image at a time. The joy of looking through the large waist-level viewfinder is something I still have with this camera, and framing up a shot is a true pleasure, even if it is a bit of a process.
I ended up shooting 4 rolls of ACROS — 48 images — which I developed myself at home in ILFORD Ilfosol-3 (I do 1:14 for 7.5 minutes, which I think is a pull-process compared to what’s recommended…but it works for me). The shots came out even better than I expected – I got to see how metering for different targets worked out, as well as how the aperture affected lens sharpness and depth of field. But mainly I got to see how well Acros worked for this kind of directional natural light indoors – which is really, really well.
I haven’t been able to get out on a similar shoot like this, but I have some ideas and plans…and I made a few friends from the experience among the other photographers. If nothing else, I highly recommend an organized group shoot to expand your photography horizons.
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