Recently I was fortunate enough to win an eBay auction of this gorgeous vintage Polaroid Land EE100 Special. As it is my first Land Camera, I can't quite tell you what makes it special (or at least not yet). As soon as it arrived on the 10th of July (I had to go and collect it from the parcel collection point for Australia post along with a second land camera - which i will talk about later) I had it out of the package and open to inspect the damage.
Well. I must say i was impressed. Opening the camera revealed a number of hurdles. Firstly batteries. Exploded. A long, LONG time ago. So i had to dig out the jammed batteries and somehow get rid of all the long since dried up dust from the battery acid. God knows what this may have done to the leather bellows or the shutter mechanism.
Secondly. The rollers. With this type of Polaroid camera there is not automatic ejection of the film like in traditional 600 models. However the rollers on this model (and its counterpart) were filthy. I'm talking serious goo build up. It looked like a toddler had spent the remainder of their formative years excavating their nostril and depositing the contents on the rollers. Yeah. That good.
Using a damp rag I carefully wiped the rollers clean, doing my best to ensure that i was removing as much as humanly possible. This is a super important step. Because with Land cameras you have to physically pull the film through the rollers (after removing the number tag of course), by a short black paper tab. You MUST pull it through firmly in one movement. Or you risk smearing/ damaging the image. This movement through the camera rollers distributes the developing agent across the film and begins the magic process.
This means what you ask?
This means that any curd, goo, miscellaneous irregularities on the roller will be transfer as imperfections and damaged onto the images when they are pulled through.
So crud on your rollers = not so good images. And at $46 a pop for a pack of 10 FP100C that's a fast way to waste money.
Once they were clean and dry with fresh batteries (circa this century) it was time to test them out. Now as I said film for this camera is expensive so I'm not prepared to waste shots on just anything. I know i will probably reserve this camera for portraits. So what do I do to trial the first two images? I go and photograph roses of course.
Now i know that sounds counter-intuitive but let me explain. Flowers don't move. I needed to work out the basics of the camera and how it behaved before throwing myself into the deep end with a another human.
The hardest element of this camera is the fact that it uses a plain view finder (so it essentially just acts as a frame for what area you will shoot and has no indication of whether your image is focused or not) and all the measurements for focusing as in feet.
After two images I knew what I needed for using this camera. A tape measure. Yep lame and boring but there it is. (I have since found out that even using this method isn't fool proof for a number of reasons).
Either way after a few basic tests and a rough idea of the focal zone into the bag it went. So far, so good.
The first real test on humans came a few days later (July 13th to be exact) at a shoot using 120 Medium Format Film where I pulled the EE100 out for two quick shots.
As you can see the first image came back with a strange flare / light leek look to it. Whether this is due to imperfections on the rollers, micro-leaks in the camera's bellows or scratches in the lens element I'm not sure. However it was only evident on the image facing toward the light.
I needed to trial this more.
Putting out a casting call with our previous two images as examples I managed to secure two models with engaging looks to shoot on the 17th of July.
The first model Bella Tanasi, is a lithe, cheeky, vintage beauty with a captivating eyes and a killer wardrobe (op-shop only apparently). I wanted to shoot somewhere I have always wanted to shoot. but rarely get the chance to. This incredibly beautiful, overgrown housing lot that has been left undeveloped for the past 5 years. With a soft retro vibe to Bella's attire, the logical conclusion of where to start was, of course, up a tree with a book. There were still some issues when shooting into the light or within the shadows. The centre shot is a quick play at double exposure, attempting to take advantage of the lack of auto-film-eject.
Bella Tanasi- @bellatanasi
Click images to enlarge
The only image I feel that was a complete write-off from this series is the bottom left image where something serious has happened with the roller or possibly it's that "one image in every pack of film which is just weird". I'm also intrigued by how the images play up more (or less) depending on the distance from the subject.
Regardless, shooting with Bella (with her friend Amy accompanying us) was a high energy, laughter infused affair with constant jokes, stories and heckling back and forth between us all. I will most definitely attempt to entice Bella back for another shoot soon. Maybe even a mystery shoot if we are lucky.
Our second model of the day, I discovered, is a amazing mix of Egyptian and Italian heritage. Zee, whilst a newcomer to modelling, has a natural charm and personable nature that makes her a joy to engage with. At one point mid-shoot I wound up becoming completely distracted from the shoot, my camera sitting in my lap, as Zee opened up about her life and experiences in a way that felt completely natural, despite having spent less than an hour with each other prior to that point. Also her hair is amazing. You'll see. Need to bring Zee back for another shoot also.
Zee - @zee_nah
Click images to enlarge
Still having issues with that left side for some reason. Focusing was also an issue on this shoot. In the end i resorted to staying on 3.5 feet and doing some basic measurements with my arms (even the 3/4 length images are shot at this distance) which seemed to have better results. Definitely re-cleaning the rollers before the next film pack.
Overall I do want to see if I can solve the possible light leak on the left side, but it was a fantastic sunny day with some energetic and enthusiastic new faces.
If you liked this article, want to see more of Zee, Bella & Selena, or simply want to leave us a message please let me know below! Your feedback is appreciated!