Project PENTAX, A snapped 35mm Film roll and Colombia. What could go wrong?

May 04, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Long time no seen! ... been a while since my last post, been busy with other things, but here we are again.

A while back, I posted a blog entry about this beautiful camera my friend had lent me; a PENTAX me SUPER 35mm Film camera.

Back then I thought I knew what I was holding in my hands. The truth is, I did not.

This camera is not just "good", this camera is a true gem of vintage photography. But do not take this lightly.

This camera will make you work for it, it will make you reach new highs and new lows, it will make you tired, it will make you angry, it will make you feel dissapointed, and at the same time happy, it will make every effort look like an impossible quest, and in the end, you will rip every single benefit out of it, and you will conquer it. To put this in simple terms .... you WILL love it.

I kicked off my PENTAX project back in January, but really did not have much time to play with it and learn from it, so I decided to take this camera as my ONLY camera on my trip to Colombia in March. It was make or break, I had no backup camera, all I had was 3 rolls of KODAK ColorPlus 200 C-41 with 36 exposures each, and this beautiful PENTAX Camera. And so my quest began.

I fitted my first roll, and got some test exposures done with my kids. In order for me to explain what happened afterwards, I need to go forward to the first week of our holiday, so you can understand why the below exposures are like this:

Yup, you guessed it, do I have to elaborate?, ok ... I will.

After finishing my first film roll, I went on to roll it back into place. Unfortunately for me, I did not press the release button well enough, and when I tried to force the roll back, it snapped off the canister, and rolled in to the other side, which I did not realize and incorrectly assumed it was completely rolled back in ...... it wasn't.

As I released the cover to take it out, I realized what I had done, and managed to open the lid about 1 CM wide, allowing light into the compartment. I immediately closed it back and went into a dark room to take the roll out and put it back in the plastic canister and into the box, and sealed it off with tape, hoping to rescue some exposures. I was only able to rescue a few, but most of the film looked like this:

Lightroom. Film exposures.

Very unfortunate, lesson learned, did not happen again. Back to the project now that I have embarrassed myself enough!.

On to our trip we went, I took my 5 year old daughter with me, and the adventure began. I knew I could not waste my film with useless shots, but I also would not know how they will come out, so I started playing with the Auto mode in the camera, it will give you a reading of how your exposure looks like, blinking green when is 'good' and red when is 'over' or 'under'. The issue I had with this, as it is with any other camera including DSLR ones, is that when your composition includes a lot of lets say white clouds, or dark spots, the camera will not meter for those, so the readings are always based on what the available light is, regardless of what you want to compose, and it makes it hard, because I simply had no idea how the exposure will actually be, so I played with over and undercompensation, this dial is brilliant, and the fact the camera has a very low ISO value available, made it a bit better for me to play with the light, as I was not using any flash at all, only my instinct and my thought process on how the capture looked like in my head, and I wanted to translate that to practice and apply the appropriate dials to get what I wanted, it was hard, but it was worth it.

You can learn more about this camera here (kenrockwell.com).

I went through my first roll rather quickly, trying many different compositions, and in bright harsh daylight, I managed to get some shots in a beautiful place called "Cañon del Chicamocha" (Chicamocha's Canyon), a massive canyon across the Colombian mountains. They were not particularly amazing, but they were something. Again, I did not know how they will come out, so there was no room to 'learn' something or 'change' a setting, I was simply trying to connect with this great piece of kit, and with time I think I did.

Meet my dad and my 5 year old daughter:

The above photos have gone through post-processing in Lightroom, but keep in mind these are now RAW files, these were digitalized and made into JPEGs, so there is not much that I was able to 'adjust' other than some saturation and getting rid of some noise.

As I went along, the camera really grew on me, I found it easier to turn the dials, to change aperture and ISO, I started to understand how it worked, even if I was not able to see how the pictures looked like, I grew confident, and I started to get out of my comfort zone. And so it began, project PENTAX kicked off, and let me tell you ...... it was BEAUTIFUL.

We went to a small town, where my grandmother lives. There I took the chance to photograph the town, the people and my family. I had confidence and was determined to make sure I captured what I had pictured in my head, composition and color.

I introduce you to this great town in the state of Santander, Colombia:

Simacota, Santander, Colombia. Simacota, Santander, Colombia.

Simacota, Santander, Colombia.   Simacota, Santander, Colombia.

I love these photographs. I love the color, I love the tones and the feeling they give. Is like going back in time. Is what I had in my head every time I pushed the shutter button.

I ventured and took some portraits of my family, and even strangers in the park and on the street. Every time I want to photograph someone I do not know, I usually start conversation very casually, I ask about how their day is going, what their names are, and what are they doing on the day. I find this very helpful as people open up, smile and let me photograph them. I strongly believe is nost just upon me to bring the best in the subjects I photograph, they bring a lot to the table, even if they do not know it, just to get them comfortable and relaxed and talkative brings the best out of them. I also photographed my grandmother, she did not fancy a traditional 'look at me' photo, so I simply waited patienly until she was doing something else, and captured this:

This photograph tells a lot. I love the composition, the framing of the door, but most of all, I love my grandmother's hands, they tell a story, at least in my eyes.

I got some more shots of my family and other people:

The day we spent there was amazing, I really enjoyed photographing all these subjects and the old town. I was confident the photographs were good, and I put all my effort into it.

And so the holiday went on.

We then travelled to a small town in the state of Boyaca, to visit more family and friends. I had the opportunity to visit a farm by the lake, and I had the opportunity to capture some photographs of the farm workers. I spoke with them, learned about their work and what they did. and this was the final session of our trip. I got to work and put all I had into it, the camera truly became something I was comfortable with, and so I snapped away.

I took a bunch of other photographs during our trip, you can see the full gallery here.

This project is definitely in my top 3 of all times, number 1 being my trip to Russia, but what makes this special is the fact I had to go outside my comfort zone and explore new techniques, new ways to make things work, and learn about my equipment.

I am extremely happy with the results.

Yes, the photographs are noisy, some of them came quite bad, and I managed to damage one of the rolls. But I would not do anything differently, I took on something I believed in, and made it work, and that makes me prouder than anything else.

I want to thank my great friend Fran for allowing me to have this magnificent piece of equipment, more over allowing me to take it all the way to Colombia.

I can call this project for what it is, and pardon my language ...... a great f****** success!!.

Cheers to you all.

Andres Jimenez

 


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