Advice for photography project?
Old 12-28-2018   #1
stevierose
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Advice for photography project?

Fellow RFF friends-
I could use your advice. I’ve been looking for a photography project to do as I phase into retirement, something to get me out shooting in a focused and regular manner and out of my wife’s hair. After much thought, I have decided to try to document some old school hardware stores and lumber yards before they all disappear here in the US. I come from a family of builders—my Dad was a general contractor/builder in the Detroit area, as were my uncle, grandfather, and others. When I was a kid, I always jumped at the chance to spend the day or morning, or whatever was available driving around with my Dad to his jobs and his errands. We would usually start out at like 6 am at a local diner for breakfast, go to his job sites, and invariably need to go to the local lumber yard or hardware store to pick some stuff up. My Dad was well known by the guys at those places and I would be like a fly on the wall taking it all in when they grabbed a coffee and caught up with each other. I worked construction jobs to help pay for college. In any case, I think that a love of these places is imprinted in my genes and my heart. It has pained me to see the classic hardware stores and lumber yards disappear and be replaced by the big box stores.

So…I’ve decided I would like to take my camera and a bag of BW film and try to document the places that remain. The point is to create a record and a homage to these places I love that are disappearing. I admire the work my friend Chris Crawford has done around Fort Wayne, Indiana, and would like to do something similar but with BW film, and probably including more people in the shots. Today I received permission to document a large family owned lumber yard in my town that will be closing in the next 6 months after more than 90 years in business.

So......I’m open to suggestions regarding choice of film and cameras. I will probably use my Olympus OM4t system and my Contax G2, though I also own a Rollei 3.5f and a Mamiya 6 (newer one, not folder). It seems like 35mm will be more flexible in this situation, but, I’m open to your opinions. I rarely use flash and for inside available light work I have recently liked the look of HP5+ pushed 2 or three stops in Xtol more than P3200. But again, open to suggestions. Lately I’ve been using Xtol and have been on a learning curve for 510 Pyro. I use a hybrid workflow—shoot and develop BW film and then scan it or copy with DSLR.

I humbly seek advice from my more experienced colleagues here before starting off on this journey.

Thanks and Happy New Year to you all

Steve Rosenblum
Ann Arbor, Michigan
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Old 12-28-2018   #2
Ted Striker
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Sounds like a great project. I have seen most of my childhood Chicago disappear and now regret I have no images from the city that I used to know. I really wish I understood how change would take these away from me.

As to what camera to use, it all depends on what quality level you want. Medium format gives the best image quality so if you have the lenses that can shoot the subjects you want, then that is your choice. If your 35mm set up is more flexible, then you need to use that to get wider angles, faster lenses, etc.

Film is totally a personal decision. Use what you are most comfortable with. The sugestions that I or others can give you would be correct only on a random basis. You know what you like.

As for lumber yards closing down, Ann Arbor is going to lose their main yard just near the U of M. You have a few months to document that one!

Great project. Good luck!
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Old 12-28-2018   #3
giganova
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Your vision should dictate your choice of gear. For example, if you want dynamic action shots, motion blur, etc, use a smaller form factor camera that is quicker to operate. If you want studio-quality photos with tons of detail sans film grain, take your Mamiya 6. I'd be worried taking photos in the small 135mm film format if you go to such high ISO settings that you mention; your pictures will look very grainy. But maybe the grainy & gritty look is what you are after.
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Old 12-28-2018   #4
xayraa33
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It sounds like a worth while project.

I would go with the Mamiya 6 and medium speed film and even use a tripod in some cases.

The Kepes-Lynch photo project of Boston in the 1950s is something to be inspired by, and it looks like it was mostly done on a 4x5 camera like a Crown Graphic camera and some very fine lenses (mostly wide FL) of the period.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mit-li...7614966285159/
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Old 12-28-2018   #5
sepiareverb
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If you can spend several days in a place I'd suggest hitting it with 35mm the first day, and watch for things that the MF cameras might cover well. A return with some set shots in mind (include time of day in your notes if the light could be changing) with the MF or just the 35 again can make a big difference. And pushing 120 HP5 is easier on the eyes than 35mm.
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Old 12-28-2018   #6
Ko.Fe.
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My respect to you for trying this!

135 format will give you much more mobility, closer distance and savings on film.

6x6, you could do contact prints.
I was looking at one made 40+ years ago. Owner of local ski and bikes showed it to me few days ago.
It looks like new and timeless.
With 6x6 contact prints you need no darkroom and no fancy scanner. Not so much paper, either.
Scans will be good to share on big box store a.k.a Instagram. For some reason their default image is square, quality is nowhere near high to be worried about scans as well.
This is where crowd is these days. Including two centuries ago beard and mustaches USA crowd. They would love to see images from old stores, for sure. And others.
You never know, maybe one day local stores will return. Maybe include some images how stores were organized. Maybe layout drawings as well if some store owners still have them.
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Old 12-28-2018   #7
Chriscrawfordphoto
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Steve, sounds like a great project. Those types of business are disappearing fast, but a lot of small towns still have locally owned hardware stores and lumber yards. In Fort Wayne, they've almost all gone away thanks to big chains like Lowes and Home Depot; but I have photographed some small local hardware stores in small towns.

I think it would be cool to do it with the Mamiya 6 if you have the 50mm lens for it. You'll need a wideangle lens, as well as a normal lens. If you're doing shots without people, and you can use a tripod, a medium speed film will give great results but may require long exposures. Here's some I did with the Mamiya 6 and 50mm wideangle lens on Ilford HP5.







These were done at Waynedale Plumbing Supply, a business that opened in 1946 and will close soon as the 84 year old owner is retiring.


For shots with people, you could push HP5 but I would recommend Ilford Delta 3200 shot at 3200 and developed in Kodak Tmax Developer. This is available in 120 size, and I have shot a lot of it in my Mamiya 6. Grain is still fine in 120 size.


If you don't have the wide lens for your Mamiya 6, or the places you want to photograph are too cramped even for that lens, then 35mm is fine. I'd use the OM-4T and would carry a 24, 28, 35, and 50mm lens. Maybe an 85mm if you want to do a close portrait of each store's owner, but make sure to do an environmental portrait, too. Show the business and the owner together. You'll probably need a wide lens for that.

Here's some examples of that:





Rex Ottinger, a barber in the small town of Roanoke, Indiana. Shot on a fullframe digital SLR (Kodak DCS 14n) with 28mm f2.8D AF-Nikkor lens.





Mary Mora, the 91 year old owner of Mary's Bar in the small town of Cerrillos, New Mexico. Photographed in 2006. Mary died a couple months before her 100th birthday in 2016. Shot with an Olympus OM-4T and 50mm f1.8 Zuiko lens on Kodak Tmax 3200 at EI-3200, developed in Tmax Developer.





O.L. Duncan, manager of the T and M Truck Stop on I-40 near Shamrock, Texas. Shot with an Olympus OM-4T and 28mm f2.8 Zuiko lens on Tmax 3200 at 1600.





Jim Hawkins, owner of the New Paris Store in the small town of New Paris, Indiana. Shot with fullframe digital, 24mm lens, ISO-6400.


You'll probably be doing some photos outdoors, too. Especially at lumber yards. Medium speed film like HP5 or Tri-X is great for that.
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Old 12-28-2018   #8
stevierose
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As usual, Chris, these are wonderful photographs and something to aspire to. I do have all three Mamiya 6 lenses, though the camera is in the shop. I hope to have it back soon. Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

Steve
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Old 12-29-2018   #9
FujiLove
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As Chris said, the Mamiya would be my first choice, especially as you have the 50mm lens. For me, images like these are all about the details. Medium format will give you that feeling of being able to ‘look around’ the stores and workshops and almost step inside them. There are so many details in these places that one can look at those photos for hours and still spot new things.

Good luck with the project. It sounds like a great idea.
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Old 12-29-2018   #10
Peter Wijninga
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If money is in short supply, first try with digital and when interesting, come back with film.
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Old 12-29-2018   #11
stevierose
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I was considering the same thing. Good idea.
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Old 12-29-2018   #12
Chriscrawfordphoto
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevierose View Post
I was considering the same thing. Good idea.



Steve,


I would not shoot digitally then reshoot again with film. You'll annoy a lot of the business owners if you come back wanting to photograph again. If you want to shoot film, do it on film the first time and only return if you screw up. If you aren't confident that you can get the shots the first time, just shoot the whole project on digital and convert to BW later.
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Old 12-29-2018   #13
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I must admit things in the last 20 years have changed drastically, I'm not in the states but I remember in my Childhood (90's) and there used to be no empty shops and if you wanted something you went out and bought it there and then, so long as it was before 5 otherwise you were scuppered until 9 the next morning.
Now theres nothing left, most of the rememaining shops are bargin chains and if I want a part for something or something particular its order online 3-5 day wait.

I'd say do a test run before you embark on your project, heavier kit can take its toll if you are out for long periods, larger stuff can make you stand out too so if you want it to be candid your Contax and Olympus might be your better options, seeing Chris's OM4's shots is tempting me to use my OM10 for a bit.
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Old 12-29-2018   #14
Richard G
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Great project. When I think lumber I think film and medium format. I agree with Chris shoot film straight off. Many people will take their best shot first time. Your second visit the light will be different and so many other unquantifiables. I’m suspecting you can afford to waste some film, but that you know what you’re doing so you won’t be wasting it. I would explore an environmental portrait with the Mamiya and a four second exposure indoors where you enlist the worker to sit or stand as still as he can. Mad? It has an effect. I’d take your OM and the Mamiya each visit.
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Old 12-29-2018   #15
Richard G
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I like Delta 3200 shot at 1600. I think the wood will look nicer.
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