Hello 52Rollers: Introducing Ehpem

Olympus Infinity Jr - Ehpem's Roll 1 Camera

Time to introduce myself as well. On the interweb I am known as Ehpem, and am trying to keep it that way for a variety of reasons. Some are even good ones. I live in Victoria on Vancouver Island. I recently left a long-term government job and am working fewer hours as a consultant and researcher, which in theory gives me more time for photography. In my professional life I am an archaeologist, specializing in the coastal regions of western Canada and USA, but I did spend a few years working in the UK. My photography experience was concentrated on technical archaeological shots – pictures of dirt, pictures of artifacts sitting in dirt, pictures of artifacts in the lab, and sometimes pictures of archaeologists at work. There was not a lot of room for creativity, and the film was not mine so most of it resides in museum collections, beyond my reach and study.

For 30 or 35 years I shot Pentax Spotmatics (first one bought in 1974), and then for quite a few years I barely took any pictures except on digital point and shoots since I had become stranded in a cube-farm, or office as some were kind enough to call it (my kind of office is a temperate rain forest or shoreline). Then, through a series of accidents I ended up buying a DSLR a bit more than 3 years ago. This opened up the creative possibilities for me, the immediate feedback allowed me to learn a lot more about taking photographs, and made me a better photographer.

I have a daily photoblog that has run for over 3 years which is a mix of digital and film photography. A bit more than a year ago I found an Olympus Pen half-frame in a thrift store for $3 and decided to risk buying it, the risk being the price of a coffee. That camera really sparked something for me and I have shot a lot of film ever since. At the time I was researching buying a pocket digital camera, one of the new Pens was an option and this was how I knew about the original Olympus half-frames and their important place in camera history. I soon discovered that I could fill my pockets with small film cameras so I never did buy a small digital. Since then I have tried to apply to analogue photography what I recently learned about photography from using the DSLR. And that is how I ended up at 52rolls.

I shoot all kinds of things on film, but a strong theme is pattern and abstract subjects. What I shoot partly depends on the camera. I did try candid street photography but never felt comfortable taking people’s likenesses without their OK especially as I had the intention of putting shots on the internet. I have more recently bought a medium format camera, and when that is in my hand I am more inclined to ask someone if I can take their picture, so that is working out. Not spontaneous, but suits my needs.

I keep my eyes open in thrift stores for interesting cameras with promise at good prices, and often find expired film that way too, which I am glad to shoot. If the colour is rotten, then a black and white conversion often works out. I shoot mostly colour negatives, often with the idea of converting to black and white in post, and sometimes in post discover that b&w is what I should have thought when pressing the shutter. You will see me doing this during the course of the year, and I hope it does not offend anyone’s sense of the purity of analogue photography.

Therefore, it is appropriate that my first roll of film came with a new-to-me Olympus Infinity Jr on December 30th. The film is rebranded by a chain of photo stores and probably was expired – the camera with film cost $3 so it was just my kind of deal.  That roll of film included processing and prints, but the chain of photo stores that it came from closed its last Victoria store just a few weeks ago and thus I missed out on an even better deal.

In the future I will be using a variety of cameras:

  • The Mamiya M645 Super has one back loaded with black and white and one with long expired colour – both are nearly done and the last few shots on each will probably count for Rolls in this project (unless there are rules about that).
  • Always in my coat pocket is an Olympus XA or XA2 – currently it’s the XA2 with a barely started roll of film, so it show up here pretty soon too.
  • Loaded but un-shot is the Olympus Pen half-frame – I loaded it months ago for my daughter’s wedding, but then never got around to using it. It will be a bit of a stretch for this project, as it takes twice as many shots to finish a roll of film, and I think it has a roll of 36 (=72 frames) in it. But I don’t want the film deteriorating too much, so had better give it a go soon.
  • I have an Olympus Stylus (=mju in Europe) to test. It is currently on loan to my son – I found it new in its box in a second hand store – he was leaving for a road trip with his band the next day so I loaded it and handed it over for him to have fun with.
  • On December 31st, for this project, I picked up a Chinon GS-7 Reflex Zoom (rebranded for a Canadian camera store chain), as well as a Canonet Q19, Yashica AF Motor and a Polaroid Land 100.
  • Other cameras I may be shooting with include a Yashica Electro 35GS (great optics), Nikon FM (my dad’s old camera, light meter is wonky), Olympus 35RC (light meter doesn’t work, neither does film counter, self timer and other bits, but Sunny 16 works okay), one of my old Spotmatics (or a recent present that has a partially shot roll of film inside that probably dates to the 80s which I want to finish off).
  • I need to finish a roll in my mother’s hand-me-down Kodak Junior Six 20 folder (I modified a 120 spool which jammed, but I now have some 620 spools so need to open it up and respool it, again, and finish the roll). There is a Hi-Matic F waiting for a trial run, another of my mother’s hand me downs, and some form of more recent Nikon SLR that she used as well.
  • If I can find some 127 film, I might patch the bellows in my grandmother’s Vest Pocket Model B and give it another try – the one roll I shot was very light-leaky though quite charming. The lens is really crappy, but charming as well.

My dream for this year is to get a ca 100 year old Sanderson 4×5 field camera working, but that will be a pretty big job, which I have been saying for 30 years since I bought the camera in a flea market, so this might not happen.

A more attainable goal for 2015 is re-learning how to process film, something I have not done since the early 80s. To that end I have signed up for a class at LUZ Studios for part of one day in February (check out that link if you like real old school photography – large format cameras producing images like tintypes and ambrotypes). Doing my own processing should help with the cost of this project. Currently I am getting the film processed at a couple of locations in town, and then scan the negatives using an Epson V700 and work with the scans in Lightroom and various plugins.

You can find my blog at:http://burntembers.com, and my twitter is @ehpem as is my instagram which I don’t use much.

I am really looking forward to this project and getting to know the other participants. My plan is to do a weekly post here, with some interruptions while in the field (which often means being off-grid). I plan to post a selection from each roll here, and then post others as part of my daily blog at burntembers.com. What I post here, I will re-blog there as well.

My first roll is processed but not scanned yet. The picture in this post is a digital shot (sorry about that, I needed something for this introduction!) of the camera I am using this week. In a day or two, I will post images from the first roll in this project, and first roll from the camera. How exciting.

12 thoughts on “Hello 52Rollers: Introducing Ehpem

  1. Reblogged this on burnt embers and commented:

    Reblogging the first of my posts at 52Rolls – an intro to my photo interests and so on.
    It feels strange to have this as a substitute for posting directly to burntembers. May have to find another solution as I can’t schedule a reblog in advance and usually am in bed at this time. We’ll see how it works out.

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    • Hi Ludwig and thank you. I have been lucky with cameras in thrift stores and as gifts from family. Only the Mamiya M645 came from a local on-line used stuff listing and while it was a lot more than any other film camera I have bought used it too was a great bargain.

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    • Hi Peter. Thanks for the welcome. Interesting to find like minded people in more than one sphere of interest. I dont often post on my blog about work but you might like some of my posts under the Indigenous Peoples category. I occassionally photograph a totem pole around town and even less frequently write about archaeology. However there is a series of posts from Haida Gwaii about a very interesting and old site I worked on there which include a lot more writing than is normal on the blog.

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  2. I really enjoyed reading this post as I share your passion — though I did end up bpying that first Olympus Pen digital (E-P1) and still it! Also, it was really the tipping point for throwing myself into color photography after being a devoted b&w shooter my whole life. While I have so many cameras that I have loved (many which you are shootnng), I feel after reading this that I suggest you attempt to find a little Minox 35mm camera. They are deceptively ordinary and plain looking, but once you use them they possess true magic — and the German Tessar they are fitted with is way better than the similarly classed Japanese rivals. I love my Oly|pus cameras as well, but the is something really speciall about my Minox GL. Best wishes for the new year! Look forward to following all your new photos!

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    • Hi Mark – nice to see you at this blog. Thanks for the hint about the Minox. I have this sinking feeling I saw one about 6 months ago in a thrift store and didn’t pay sufficient attention. The likelihood of another entering my sphere seems kind of low, but you don’t see what you aren’t looking for, so perhaps I will. I don’t search the internet for cameras, I just look locally since I have not run out of options of good cameras to try out at less than 5 or 6 dollars.

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      • I never paid attention to the Minox cameras either (since I bought the XA over it back in the day), but a buddy found one in a flea market a while back and ended up giving it to me… and wow! It instantly made me an enthusiast! Happy shooting! 🙂

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