If you love something, why bother counting.
This phrase does a good job of summarizing my frame of mind before my second voyage to Sri Lanka. I felt like a big kid at home asking myself which equipment to bring on the trip… I started to imagine the different “results” I would get depending on which models I chose. Before leaving, I started to dream. I had this enormous “monster”. It had never gone so far with me, but it would achieve such marvelous results: it’s the Mamiya Press, from the late 1960s.
With a Polaroid back, the Mamiya Press Universal offers an incredible quality of picture for an instant camera. I am the happy owner of two backs for this camera, so I’ll take them both!
The camera is heavy, bulky, fragile, needs to be adjusted manually and uses film that isn’t that easy to find. Either I’m crazy or just passionate. It must be both.
After some calls, some hours on the web, and a lighter wallet, I got a whole supply of film for the trip : FP100C Fujifilm (100 ISO color), FP100B (100 ISO black & white), FP3000B (3000 ISO black & white). Black & white film is rare. They don’t make it anymore and the cost can exceed €40 for 10 photos.
25 rolls of this precious film to bring with me and make sure they make it through different types of travel (by bus, train, tuk-tuk, plane, etc.). For the first time, I had no choice but to travel with a suitcase (hard shell of course)! So grab your travel guide and backpack and head for Sri Lanka with your suitcase.
A month in Sri Lanka: from North to South!
With a month on this island, it’s possible to visit most of the major attractions in the country. My itinerary led me from Jaffna in the North down to Galle in the South to meet those who make the country and its traditions: the Sri Lankan people.
To immortalize the country in 250 photos. That’s a challenge I’m happy to take up!
The Mamiya Press
It’s a medium format chamber fitted here with a 100mm lens. A lever located on the lens lets you adjust the aperture (f 3.5 – 4 – 5.6 – 8 – 11 – 16 – 22 – 32) and the shutter speed (B – 1 – 2 – 4 – 8 – 15 – 30 – 60 – 125 – 250 – 500). Sensitivity (ISO) is determined here by the film selected (100 or 3000 ISO). There are no batteries at all. Everything is 100% mechanical.
My two Polaroid backs have always given me a choice. I just have to switch them out in case I want to shoot an indoor photo, for example. Of course, even with a little practice it’s difficult to get the right settings on the first try. Nevertheless, you’ve only got so many shots: you need to limit the number of wasted shots!
I got some help from an iPhone application called “Pocket Light Meter” to help me with the right settings. You just have to indicate the sensitivity of the film used and the aperture chosen (preferably large, when you’re taking portraits) and aim as if you were taking a picture with a smartphone. The application gives you the speed used to get a result similar to what’s displayed on the screen. All that’s left to do is reenter these parameters on the lens, focus and then shoot!
The hardest part is over. You just have to hope that the photo gods are with us. I say with us because I’m immortalizing these people and I can’t pass by unnoticed with all this equipment around my neck… Like me, they are impatient to see more.
You have to take a dry shot on the side to extract the photo and start the chronometer! The shot and the negative stick to one another (passing through the rolls located in the Polaroid back) as you’re pulling them out. Chemistry starts the process and will be faster or slower depending on the temperature (that’s where the chronometer comes in).
Once the time is up (1 minute and 30 seconds in Sri Lanka), you pull the photo away from the negative and … Mamiya Press strikes again! The results are really surprising and the contrasts are powerful: sharp and vintage, the way I like them.
Examples of the FP 100C film:
He loves to share in the daily lives of local people and enjoy authentic adventures. He travels with lots of equipment in his bags, including the irreplaceable Polaroid he uses to give pictures to the people who have marked his adventures. He is the author of the series “Hands Holding Polaroid Photographs”, the symbols of his encounters.