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Bigger is better: medium format

I decided it was time to evolve my film photography a bit. My scanner (an Epson Prefection V600 Photo) can scan 6 cm as well as 35 mm film, but that feature had gone unused. After extensive research, I picked up a Rolleicord Va for about $200 off eBay. Buying cameras there is always risky, since you can’t handle the item first. But as you can see below, what I got can take better photos than I can.

The camera is an old style called twin-lens reflex (TLR), due to the two lenses: the top is for viewing through the waist-level viewfinder, the bottom exposes the film. The film in question is 120 film, also known as “medium format”, which is about 6 cm wide. The cameras that use it expose frames in various lengths. The Rollei TLRs take square images; 6×6 cm. If you thought square frames were only a recent internet phenomenon, think again! My particular camera was manufactured between 1957 and 1961, which somewhat precedes Instagram.

Compared to what I’ve done before with digital and 35 mm, this camera and the film that goes with it is a totally different experience. My text and still images can’t do it justice. Check out this video for a demonstration.

Why go through all this hassle? For one, bigger negatives! A 6×6 cm frame (which is really 56 mm x 56 mm) has nearly four times the area of a 36 mm x 24 mm standard 35 mm frame. The detail is phenomenal, and only surpassed by so-called “large format” frames, like 4×5″. Digital has only recently caught up to what 120 film can do.

Below I show all but one frame from my first film roll. The missing one ended up at the end of the film strip and didn’t fully develop. That was my fault; I didn’t wind the film enough before I started shooting. A roll of 120 film will fit 12 6×6 exposures, but I only got nine good ones this first time around. As usual, I processed this myself at home.

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Big trip, day 19

July 15, 2015; day 19. Vacation is over! Now I’m at the Summer 2015 conference of Earth Science Information Partners. The venue is the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California, on the Monterey Peninsula.

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Big trip, day 15

July 11, 2015; day 15. Today I hiked in the Santa Catalina Mountains with three friends. Great conversation, great scenery, and (some) great photos. Later in the evening I walked Randolph Park in midtown Tucson. Both places were frequent haunts when I lived there.

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Big trip, day 11

July 7, 2015; day 11. This is my final day in Wisconsin. I took a short ride around, but otherwise the day was mostly spent packing and tying up other loose ends.

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Big trip, day 10

July 6, 2015; day 10. Today the weather was stormy most of day (it wasn’t a dark and stormy night though). I rode along a “grand tour” of dams in the Upper Peninsula. I hadn’t seen most of these for years. For those readers who are unfamiliar, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to numerous hydroelectric dams, with reservoirs behind them. Many are in out-of-the-way parts of the state, so driving out to them is always fun.

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Big trip, day 9

July 5, 2015; day 9. Today, not much happened until the afternoon, when I went to a water ski show. That’s important enough to get its own post.

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The Badwater Ski-ters

On July 5, I attended a show by the Badwater Ski-ters in Spread Eagle, Wisconsin. This was my first-ever water ski show, and it was completely worth going to. Highlights included the “ballet line”, with synchronized skiing, ski-jumping over the ramp, and human pyramids. Not shown below are the various comedy side-shows that on between skiing events. The theme for this show was “the movies”, so the background music was film soundtracks (often epic), and the sideshows were similarly organized; I saw takes on Jurassic Park, the Indiana Jones series, zombie flicks, and a couple of others I didn’t recognize.

If you’re ever around northeast Wisconsin in the summer, this is a must-see. It’s on my list for the next time I visit, for sure.

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Big trip, day 8

July 4, 2015; day 8. Independence Day. We spent the morning fishing in a local lake, where I caught the biggest fish so far: an 11-inch bass. That was less than the minimum legal size, so I had to throw it back.

Afternoon was spent doing nothing in particular. I am on vacation, after all. At dusk, fireworks.

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Big trip, day 7

On this day my first cousins (and their kids, thus first cousins once removed) visited. I did burgers and hot dogs on the grill, and took a ton of photos. Later, I presented my grandparents with gifts: a new trailcam and an instant-read cooking thermometer.

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Big trip, day 6