I was in bed a few nights ago thinking about portrait photography, and an idea popped into my head. Why not take my film cameras to Mary’s Swap Meet in Midwest City and take some photos of people? There is no shortage of interesting folks at Mary’s Swap Meet. It has been a Saturday morning fixture in Midwest City since the early 1970’s. People sell all sorts of things there, ranging from chickens to goats to jeans to chain saws, tennis shoes, furniture, used clothing, Pretty well any type of junk – and some decent stuff – you can think of.
Toyo View VX-125 4×5 view camera
I took both my Toyo View VX-125 large-format 4″x5″ view camera, as well as my new-to-me Pentax 645. I shot a bit of digital before the sun came up, since all I had was 100-speed film and hard to shoot with such slow-speed film before sunrise. Once the sun was up I started out with my Toyo VX-125 with a Nikon-W 210mm F5.6 lens attached – my favorite view camera lens. I would walk up to complete strangers and show them my view camera – it is hard to miss since it is mounted to a tripod and hung over my shoulder. Most people were interested in an old film camera and of course, many asked me “how much?” Sorry, it isn’t for sale. One guy pressed and pressed and said “everything has a price.” Sorry, not this camera. It is my favorite by far. I bought it new in 1998 and still love using it today as much as the day I bought it.
I snapped several photos with my Toyo until I got tired of carrying it around.
After I got tired of lugging around my huge large-format camera, I grabbed my Pentax 645 medium-format camera. It was loaded with Kodak TMAX-100 film, which used to be my favorite black and white film until it was slowly surpassed by Ilford Delta Pro 100.
Of course, it was much easier to take photos with the hand-held Mamiya than it was with the tripod-mounted Toyo view camera. I used the waist-level finder, which I really enjoy.
An old film camera is an ice breaker
To me, it is much easier to strike up a conversation and ask for a picture with one of my old film cameras than with a modern digital camera. Most people are interested in old film cameras and often don’t mind me taking their pictures. I let them look through the viewfinder. With the Toyo they always comment that “the image is upside down”. Yep, it is. That is how the physics of a lens works. They also typically like looking down at the waist-level finder of my Mamiya and find it different and interesting compared to a regular 35mm or digital camera. This makes the conversation much easier and it seems they are more likely to let me take their picture. Maybe it is all in my head, but it works for me.
Nikon Z-fc digital camera
Before the sun peeked over the horizon, I took my Nikon Z-fc with a 28mm lens and walked around and took snapshots in black and white mode. I like shooting in black and white mode with a digital camera. It lets me focus on how things will look and I still have the color data if I want to convert the image to color – which I seldom do. It is much easier to take pre-dawn photos with a digital camera than it is with a film camera using ISO-100 film – which was all I had with me.