What I Shoot With + How to Photojojo…

Digital

I use a run of the mill, entry-level DSLR. Model is irrelevant – they all do the same basic thing, buy whatever you like. RTFM. Leave it in MANUAL, play with your ISO, shutter and aperture. Study composition, dammit. I learned everything (with respect to cats like Brian Ulrich and Chuck Janda for inspiring composition) through trial and error, and yes I still get a lot of rejects. Your first flicks will suck, but if you keep at it and build some knowledge up, will get better. Learn from your first 5000 mistakes.

I never use flash except for rare studio work (a crude setup of firing a speedlight on the camera set to a long exposure, then manually triggering a number of vintage camera flashes to finish off the shadows… hey, if it’s stupid but it works, then it isn’t stupid) so I can’t really help you, there. In abandoned buildings, all scenes that would otherwise be in complete darkness are lit by shooting a long exposure and light painting the scene using a high-power flashlight; often bouncing light off the floor or ceiling so it isn’t so harsh.

As for processing software: whatever you feel works. I personally use an ancient version of Photoshop Elements because it’s no-frills. I don’t shoot RAW because I’m cheap. Abandoned and night work calls for mucho bracketing and blending (HDR) due to the drastic lighting contrasts. For this, I use a free program called Picturenaut to make the composite, then finish off the final contrast and color adjustments in Elements. Sometimes I manually build the composite in Elements if Picturenaut doesn’t do what I want it to.

Oh yeah, and please don’t overdo the post-processing… there’s absolutely no reason a spooky abandoned church has to look like a pile of clown vomit. Ever.

Polaroid

For years I’ve been shooting with old-school, American-made Polaroid Land Cameras… that’s right, instant film. Not that plastic, full-retard auto flash/auto exposure Instax crap, either.

Integral film (the stuff you watch self-develop in your hand) is shot on readily-available Polaroid Originals (formerly Impossible Project) stock with either a folding SX-70 or SLR-680. Sometimes I break out a Minolta Instant Pro and shoot the wider Spectra format. Yeah it’s expensive, but think before you shoot.

Packfilm (older, peel-apart type) is usually shot with a Polaroid 195 rig on Fuji FP-100C for color, or FP-3000B for B/W. Sadly, neither of which have been in production for a while. I bulk ordered a case of each when they were discontinued and live off those, which should last another few years in the ‘fridge.

Film

As of 2018 I’ve been playing with a medium format rig based on the Polaroid 600SE (a neutered Mamiya Universal Press) but modified to shoot 6×9 roll film like a Universal. I will update when I have a better idea of what I’m doing.

I get my film from wherever’s cheapest – typically B&H or the wonderful Film Photography Project, and have processing done at CSW Film Systems in Chicago. I do all the final scanning and digital processing in-house using an Epson flatbed scanner.

All manual metering is done through an old, reliable Gossen LunaPro SBC.