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As I mentioned in long-winded and rambly ways in this post, I, in an effort to jump-kick myself in the face (not entirely sure that is a correct phrase, but the meaning seemed right) photographically speaking, recently bought an old camera and some film.

/run-on-and-weird-sentence

A 1958-ish Minolta Autocord TLR (twin lens reflex) to be exact. Before I really got a chance to thoroughly test it out properly by running a roll of film through while taking detailed notes about exposures and then developing it to see if the camera worked correctly, I found myself on a plane to New York, camera and film in tow. The way I figured, and it’s right in line with my goals in this post, I could either wait to use my camera until I’d done the perfect test, or I could just give it a go and see what turned out.

And so I did.

I shot about five rolls of medium format film, which is brand new to me, on my brand-new-to-me-yet-old camera while in New York. And I’ll admit, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing. The Autocord has no light meter, is 100% mechanical, composes in a square, has a waist-length viewer that reverses the image left to right, and has all different buttons and levers for settings, focus and the shutter. Not what I’m typically used to with my DSLR or old film SLR; but exactly what I was wanting. Using this camera forced me to s-l-o-w down and really think about what I was shooting, and enjoy the process. This was sometimes hard to do while trying to keep up with my friends who might as well be native New Yorkers with how fast they ran walked down the sidewalks. I mean, I know I can sometimes be a little pokey, but I felt like they secretly entered me in some sort of urban relay race with how fast they tried to get to the next block.

I didn’t have time to buy an external light meter before my trip, so I attempted to meter with my DSLR (or use the Sunny 16 rule when I could), which made the whole process a little cumbersome, and even more uncertain. Not every shot came out, but that’s to be expected. Turns out I also have a lovely little light leak, which can also be expected (but fixable) in old cameras.

So here are the results. I’ve done absolutely nothing to these pictures besides scanning the negatives and cropping them when I didn’t scan them so straight. As much as I wanted to tweak and ‘fix’ these I didn’t. I think that’s kind of the purpose and ideal of film, right? To shoot and get it right in camera and not have to mess with it later (and yes, I know that there was plenty of post processing in darkrooms what with the dodging and the burning and such. Not trying to make claim.) At the very least I need a ‘starting point.’ Some of these are not great photographs, but I’m showing them anyway in hopes that I’ll be able to nostalgically look back someday with a twinkle in my eye and realize how far I’ve come. That or cringe at how bad some of there were. Either way.

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In this next one you can see my light leak next to the horse’s head.

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Unbeknownst to me, Dr. Tobias Fünke was attending the afternoon service at St. Patrick’s.

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One of the great things about TLR cameras is that they are very discreet and don’t look like your standard camera. Plus the fact that you hold it at your waist to take the picture means that you can often get very natural pictures of people because they have no idea you are photographing them. For example, I was sitting about three feet from this gentleman on a park bench. He paid no attention to me as I quietly took this picture, but probably would have if I’d stuck my DSLR up to my face.

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On our last afternoon in New York we picked up some delicious cupcakes and retreated to Bryant Park to devour them like wolves daintily eat them like ladies. We sat by the bocce ball courts and watched a rousing game between some older gentleman.

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After finishing our sweet treats, my friends decided to walk over and check out the New York Public Library. I decided to hang back so I could really explore the park and attempt some street-type shooting. I’m really glad I did. I was finally able to focus completely (without feeling I was holding everyone back), observe my surroundings and attempt to get into Vivian mode. I gave myself the challenge of shooting one roll of film in the park the best I could. I must say, these are my favorite film images I photographed the entire trip and where I finally began to feel comfortable shooting with my Autocord.

The famous chess players in Bryant Park:

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It was a beautiful afternoon and the park was filled with hundreds of people out relaxing, many of them on their lunch breaks. I had to get out of my suburban mentality and remind myself that for many of these New Yorkers, the park was their ‘yard’ and outdoor space to relax.

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Walking across the lawn I saw the carousel. It initially didn’t catch my eye, but what did were glimpses of a gentleman in a cream suit and cream hat accompanied by a child in a pink outfit riding a large rabbit (I mean, why wouldn’t that catch your eye?). They kept spinning around, and I immediately tried to position myself to capture them the next time they came around. I’ve already mentioned my fondness for men’s hats on this blog, and the combination of it, the suit, child, and rabbit all spinning on a carousel just seemed to beg to be photographed. Unfortunately these two images were most affected by my camera’s light leak, and I’m sort of bummed about it. Otherwise I’m quite happy with the outcome and that I was fortunate to spot this random occurrence.

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These next two images make me happy and a little relieved with my decision to get the Autocord. Sharp lens and good clarity. Not too shabby for a 50+ year old camera. 🙂

So there it is, my great New York film experiment. As a very suave gentleman who was known to wear hats from time to time said in a very wonderful movie: I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

(Cliche quote I know, but I felt it kind of related and I honestly really do love that movie.)

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