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Plastic Camerasby Chris Gatcum
Synopses & Reviews
In these days of high tech, high spec digital cameras even the rankest amateur can capture technically professional-looking images – but there's a growing trend of happy-go-lucky snappers who yearn for a more simplistic approach, a return to a time when photography was perhaps less predictable. Decidedly low-tech and highly idiosyncratic plastic, or 'toy' cameras such as the original 1984 Lomo Kompakt Automat (which spawned the term 'Lomography'), the Diana and the Holga, and the recently introduced Blackbird, Fly enable them to create images that – while not technically perfect – display a quirky sense of fun, spontaneity, and creative artiness. Whereas digital cameras and high spec film cameras boast the technology to eradicate undesirable optical 'faults' such as vignetting, barrel and pinchushion distortion, converging verticals and noise, the owners of their cheaper cousins – which have only rudimentary plastic lenses – relish the manifestation of such visual aberrations in their pictures. Colors are typically richly over-saturated, exposure frequently off-kilter, focus dreamily soft.
Plastic cameras lack light meters, autofocus, auto film advance, adjustable shutters and digital sensors, notoriously leak light onto the 120 or 35mm roll film they employ, and there are some wacky versions: flamboyant wide-angle fish-eyes, stereo cameras with two lenses and two flashes, pinhole cameras that don't even possess a lens, and multi-lens cameras that create negatives combining up to nine images on a single 35mm frame.
These unassuming cameras first emerged as toys created in Hong Kong in the 1980s but were adopted by US photography and art schools: because of their simplicity they could actually teach the user the basics of composition, perspective, exposure and so on. Now their appeal has spread and enterprising manufacturers continue to produce these lo-fidelity analog gizmos – with some exciting deviations that increase the fun element of pointing and shooting.
This book offers a practical guide to shooting with a plastic camera, including hot tips and tricks on:
• loading, advancing and unloading film
• using the viewfinder
• dealing with the light leaks that can fog or streak the film (while not necessarily discouraging these happy accidents!)
• camera modifications and reinforcements.
Although the rule of shooting with plastic cameras is that there are no rules, the book suggests ways to get the most from these unpredictable devices:
• capturing movement
• producing multiple exposures
• shooting in low light conditions
• dealing with flare
• shooting close-ups
• using flash
• using filters
There's also sound, practical advice on:
• experimenting with film types – film options include black-and-white, infrared, color negative, transparency and instant
• film processing – lab processing includes 'cross-processing', where color transparency film is processed by the color negative process (with awesome results!); hand processing in which photographer becomes developer; and push and pull processing, where images are tweaked in the darkroom.
• printing your images.
About the Author
Chris Gatcum is an award-winning photographer and contributor of technical and technique-based photography articles to numerous online and print publications. Author of Creative Digital Photography: 52 Weekend Projects and Light and Shoot: 50 Fashion Photos, Chris was formerly technical editor for What Digital Camera? magazine and technical writer for Amateur Photographer magazine.
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