There Is No Cat

A huge orangupoid, which no man can conquer

Sunday, February 11, 2007


I bought a(nother) new toy camera a few weeks ago, a Holga. I was getting kind of tired of the guys at the local dip-and-dunk complaining about the gyrations they had to go through to print pictures from my Diana; it shoots roughly 4.5 x 4.5 centimeters rather than the usual 6 x 6 centimeters of a square medium format camera, so they had to manually zoom in on each picture and such rather than let their automated machines handle it. Fair enough, I guess. So I got a Holga, which shoots 6 x 6 (or 6 x 4.5, another standard format for 120 film).

I screwed up the first roll I put through it. Classic mistake, a consequence of poor user interface. The Holga can shoot either of two formats, as I mentioned above, depending on which insert you place into the camera body. I placed the 12-shots-per-roll insert in, which shoots square pictures. On the back of the camera, there's a window to show you the frame numbers with a little sliding piece of plastic to expose the numbers for either 12 or 16 shots per roll (120 film comes printed with both). There's a little "12" and "16" embossed in the plastic. I figured you wanted to have the window open next to the appropriate number. Wrong. I missed the embossed arrow on the sliding piece of plastic. It points to the number. So when the arrow is pointing to the embossed 16, the window next to the number 12 is open, and the numbers displayed are for 16-shots-per-roll. Oops. I realized I had screwed up after I shot photo number 12 and started winding only to come across an unexpected number 13. Damn. I figured I would have the roll developed anyway, but not have it printed or cut, just in case there was something interesting on there. And that's how I created this little triptych of my favorite local landmark.

The Circus Liquors Evil Clown of Middletown, times 3

My second and third rolls were better. I had them printed, but wasn't terribly impressed. Where was the vignetting that's supposed to be characteristic of the Holga? Why are the colors kind of flat?

I finally broke down this week and bought a scanner capable of scanning 120 negatives, an Epson Perfection 4990. Turns out the guys at the dip-and-dunk seem to be burning or cropping some of my photos so the vignetting doesn't show up. Scanning my negatives, the pictures look more like what I would expect from a Holga, as seen in these two shots from a recent morning where we had had a dusting of snow that stuck to the pavement but not so much to the grass.

Our asphalt driveway turned white

I particularly like the flaring on this one; it looks like a shock wave of color exploding from the sun or something. The photo is a link to a larger version that better shows what I mean than this thumbnail.

The sun rises through the trees over a wintry driveway

I'm still learning how to use this scanner. Scanning negatives seems rather different from scanning prints. One thing that's interesting is that revisiting my photos from the Diana, they look even more vignetted and distorted. The guys up at the corner are just too good; they want to make my crappy photos look better.


Posted at 11:25 AM


Note: I’m tired of clearing the spam from my comments, so comments are no longer accepted.

Hi Ralph, congratulations on the purchase of both the Holga and the negative scanner! I found myself nodding my head in understanding through most of this entry. I made exactly the same assumption when I shot my first 120 roll on my Holga, which combined with my intermittently forgetting to wind on, made for some interesting doubled and overlapped shots. Life is a learning experience. I like the triptych of the clown btw! Re: the local lab ~ the lab I use for my 120 used to do the same things, I think it might be part of the automated development process to adjust for colour and exposure anomalies, but worse, they used to decide that certain images were too blurry to print at all! (Lucky I got any of my toy camera images pinted at all!) I only picked this editorialising by the lab up when I examined my negs. I did finally train them to print everything eventually, but I too got sick of the arbitary cropping and exposure/colour/everything adjustments done by their equipment. I got a scanner capable of scanning 120 format and now I just get the negs developed and scan the images myself. Even though it takes a bit more effort and a bit of vigilance re: dust (don't talk to me about dust!!) & patience re: positioning the negs in their holder etc. (don't talk to me about newtonian rings either!) I am much happier with the final results. The lens flare on your last example image in this post is cool. Cheers! Cameron

Posted by Cameron at 4:03 AM, February 13, 2007 [Link]

Hey, Cameron, yeah, I gather almost everyone makes that mistake on their first roll through a Holga.

Dust.... /me groans. Fortunately, my scanner comes with Digital ICE, which magically wipes out dust. Unfortunately, it can make a scan that would otherwise take about 45 seconds take between six and twenty minutes. Ouch. At least it means I don't spend forever in Photoshop spotting the photos, and once I start the scan, I can put it in the background and do something else in the meantime.

Seems funny to me that I had to spend hundreds of dollars to get what I wanted out of a $20 camera. Worse yet, I hate to think about the ratio between what I paid for my scanner and the $1 I paid for my Diana....

Posted by ralph at 10:15 PM, February 13, 2007 [Link]

Damn it! I wish I read this first. I just picked up my first two rolls with my Holga and did the exact same thing. Oh well, kind of looks cool.


Posted by Mark at 6:39 PM, January 15, 2008 [Link]


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What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio

There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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