Ted Orland lives in Santa Cruz, California, and pursues parallel careers in teaching, writing & photography. He served as Ansel Adams' Assistant in the 1970's, taught at Adams' annual Yosemite Workshop for fifteen years, and currently teaches photography at Cabrillo College. Ted is co-author (with David Bayles) of the classic artists' survival guide, Art & Fear, and author of its recent companion piece, The View From The Studio Door. (He's also the creator of the delightfully subversive Photographic Truths poster.) Ted has explored a wide range of subject matter and photographic technique over the years. His recent Holga camera images are featured in Michelle Bates' wonderful book Plastic Cameras.
|Making Holga Panoramas|
|Working With Holga|
Ask The Experts
Dear Ted, What speed of film do you recommend using for Holgas? I seem to have a lot of trouble with my holga exposures. Justin
Hi Justin, I always use ISO 400 film, either BW or color negative. ISO 400 film yields negatives that are a bit overexposed in very bright sunlight, and a bit underexposed in overcast conditions -- but in both cases entirely useable. ISO 100 film routinely yields underexposed negs, which are harder to work with -- basically, theres NO detail to be salvaged from underexposed areas that are blank on the film, whereas you can usually bring in detail from overexposed areas that are dense on the film. For what its worth, I shoot Kodak Portra 400UC (or sometimes its NC VC variants, which work equally well). I used to shoot T-Max 400 for BW, but now I shoot only color film and then downshift to BW as desired when I scan the negs. What I have also found useful sometimes is attaching a small strobe when photographing outdoors in dull light. (The one high-tech feature of the Holga that actually works is its hot shoe atop the camera.) The basic light from the scene is adequate to record the overall view, and the flash provides fill-in light to brighten whatever subject matter is relatively close to the camera. The effect is entirely natural-looking once youve experimented with it a bit. If you want to work indoors, youll almost certainly need a flash -- and probably one thats more sophisticated flexible than the one thats built in to the Flash [model] Holga. Alternatively, you could experiment with high-speed films (ISO1200-3200), but personally Ive found that the range of indoor lighting is so varied that simply using high-speed film rarely ensures a usable exposure. In those circumstances you need to either control the amount of light in the scene (by adding some with the flash) or control the shutter speed or aperture on the camera (which is not an option with the Holga). Hope this helps. With Best Wishes,
Mr. Orland, Are you having trouble finding labs to process 120 size color neg(C-41)? I am in Columbus, OH and we no longer have a pro lab at all. I prefer Kodak Portra films too and like the look from scanned film and digital prints as well. -Jeff B.
Hi Jeff, Its true, photo labs are dropping like flies, and were all pretty much at the mercy of the fates in that realm. Im fortunate to live in a small city that still has a lab that processes 120 color negative film, but Im always keeping my eye out for a backup in case the local lab folds. Ill spare you my usual lament (or diatribe) about photography being at the mercy of technology commerce, and just offer you a couple of small but hopefully useful alternatives. First, there are custom mail-order processing labs all around the country, although their pricing may be prohibitive. You can find them on Google and in back-page ads in some photo magazines. Second, some one-hour photo labs will process 120-format film -- in fact, here in Santa Cruz you can even get 120 film processed at Costco. I imagine that if youve been using a pro lab you may not be inclined to trust a lab that lives in a shopping mall, but the truth is theyre all using the same machines to do the processing. (Its just that theres probably a higher screw-up rate -- to use the technical term -- when the machine is run by a teen-ager.) Nonetheless Ive had film processed at such places (and even at tourist spots in Mexico) and had very few problems. And if your film does come back peppered with green streaks or orange dots, well, put it in the same box with light leaks random blur vignetting overlapping frames - its part of the fun of working with a Holga. Expose for the secrets, develop for the surprises! Good Luck,
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