First Graflex Photos

Selfies are a real challenge. Guess at focus and framing, guess at exposure, trip the shutter with a long cable, and hope for the best.

I’ve started getting back the first photos from that old Graflex camera.

These Black and White images were all shot on Ilford HP5.

I say first photos, but it’s 75 or 80 year old camera. It took a LOT of photos through the 40s and 50s. Then a few more in 80s when it was handed down from my grandfather to me, and I first played with it in college. So these are the first photos taken with the camera in about 40 years.

I no longer have my darkroom equipment, or even a scanner, so sent the film out to a mail order place in California. They develop the film and post the high res scans online for download. I should get the film back in a few days. It’s a good way to see if the camera still works, before considering replacement of any darkroom supplies.

I had no idea if any of these would come out. What a pleasant surprise.

The camera has certainly been through a lot over the better part of a century, including a fire. It was stored in a camera bag on a shelf in my office. The bag melted, along with everything else on the shelf. But what was inside the bag was remarkably well preserved. A few accessories were stored in tubs in the basement, and those came through fine, aside from some mildew. It’s all been sitting in the new bookcase for the past two years, and looks nice there; but I grew increasingly curious to try it again recently. Mostly inspired by reading the remarkable autobiography of Sally Mann, Hold Still.

But wow, it still works amazingly well. The light meters are toast, so I have to take readings with my phone and translate, sort of. And the mechanics of all the old analog dials and knobs and buttons is a charming challenge. But it clearly works.

I still get confused. There are so many things to remember. More than once I got everything carefully set up and took the shot, only to realize I forgot to remove the protective light shade from the film pack. So no exposure.

Or forgot to wind the film between shots, resulting in double exposures. Some of which are interesting duds.

Or trip the shutter by accident, while trying to figure out the cable release.

But overall, it’s amazing how well the camera still works. I sent out another three rolls today. They should be ready in about a week.

It’s definitely not an “everyday shooter” but fun to experiment with. A creative diversion from the easy and always perfect iPhone photos, the magical camera always ready in my pocket.

I’ll also be curious to see what’s on the rolls of those expired-30-years-ago rolls that I shot when Doug and I first went out with it. Those won’t be ready for another month or so. A couple of those rolls were already exposed, and may have been shot by me long ago, or even by someone else – I won’t know until I see the results, if any.

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