This is my blog about my interests in photography and film-making, also my travels as well as other items that I feel may be of interest. I also run the Photography equipment website, Filmcam....................................... IF YOU WANT TO ENLARGE ANY IMAGE BELOW SIMPLY CLICK ON IT !

Friday, May 29, 2009

Henri Barges In

This picture bothers me. Cartier-Bresson's "Bargeman on the Seine River", taken as usual with his 35mm Leica. I'm looking at page 11 of "Great Themes" in that excellent Time-Life series on photography, badly shown here for obvious reasons. You've bound to have seen it in many other publications too.

For me this image is absolutely extraordinary. The bargeman, not far from Henri's 50mm lens, is out-of-focus, yet he occupies a big chunk of the frame. Not at the side as maybe other photographers would have done, but bang in the centre. In contrast, the bargeman's World we see sharply on all sides. We have the wonderful diagonals and shapes of the roof, the mother's foot, the dog's ear and the soft-focus elbow. It's such a dynamic image, our eyes constantly moving about... the cherub, the dog in mid-wag, and so on.

How could anyone have grabbed such a whimsical picture ? Surely, the family would have shown at least some interest in a wandering man with a camera. After all, not too many folks carried cameras in 1957. But their attention is on the baby, the bargeman. Even the nearby wagging dog isn't interested in Henri. Just maybe the other dog is.

So how on earth did Henri make this image before the whole pattern collapsed. Maybe he just saw it with his eyes, instantly raised the camera and clicked. But then he would have risked a parallax problem caused by the close figure, and omitting vital details. Surely he had to spend at least a moment or two composing... didn't he ? !

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kodachrome... Alive or Dead ?

Is Kodachrome still available ? Can it still be processed ? There seems to be a great deal of confusion around.

Kodachrome is of course that legendary colour transparency film that first appeared in 1935. Amazingly, it was invented by two musicians who also enjoyed dabbling in chemistry, and their names were Godowsky and Mannes. The saying goes: "Kodachrome was made by God and Man !" What they came up with led to some of the greatest colour photos of the 20th century. In the dentist's waiting room, many a tooth-ache must have been calmed gazing at those images in the National Geographic mag.

Firstly Kodachrome was manufactured in 16mm movie, then came 8mm, 35mm and other formats. Also 120, which I regret not using. After initial teething problems, Kodachrome was recognised as THE most stable colour film. Archivally stored, the images should last hundreds of years.

Kodachrome is also a very sharp film with accurate colour rendering. It is difficult to describe in words the sort of 'naturalness' and clarity typical of a Kodachrome. But it's market share declined when Fuji introduced their own high resolution films, which had the advantage of easy E6 processing. Kodachrome's process is highly complicated, having to add the colour dye couplers. Over the years, processing labs declined in number. Kodak has now closed its remaining plant at Lausanne, Switzerland. And their decision-makers (who probably never used Kodachrome themselves) have ceased manufacture of arguably the world's greatest colour film.

A bleak picture ? Yes and no. Kodachrome continues to be processed by the independent Dwayne's Photo of Kansas USA. They offer a top quality service, and also sell Kodachrome 64 slide film. And until very recently you could buy 35mm Kodachrome here in the UK from Boots the chemists of all places... maybe worth asking them if any tucked away. Super-8 Kodachrome Movie film is still obtainable from Dwaynes, and also from Wittner of Germany where it is packed under their own label. They will also forward your super-8 film to Dwayne's if desired. Whereas film used to be process-paid, you now have to cough up extra, but it's probably worth it. On the other hand, I understand 35mm slide film continues to be processed without charge if you send it to the Kodak Lausanne address. (They then forward to Dwayne's.)

You can find secondhand film on Ebay etc. It's condition will depend on how it was stored, but generally Kodachrome should be OK for several years after the best-before date. Maybe because, unlike other colour films, it's inherently more like a black-and-white film ?

My advice is: if you have any Kodachrome hanging around in your still or movie camera, get it processed fairly soon. And if you want a final fling buy some while you still have the chance !