The joys of Lomography

by Chris Skelton

On the 2nd June 2015 I set off on a trip from a slightly grey and miserable spot in the Peak District for the delights of sunny California with my wife Catherine. It was our honeymoon, you see, and in my bag was a Lomography camera, given to us as a wedding present by one of my best men (yes you read that right, “one of”, I had two. Greedy, I know).

  • (Above: My Lomography camera)

    What is Lomography?

    According to their website, Lomography is “a globally-active organization dedicated to experimental and creative photography. […], the concept of Lomography encompasses an interactive, vivid and sometimes even blurred and crazy way of life. […], we promote photography as an inventive approach to communicate, absorb and capture the world.”

    To me, it’s simply a no-holds-barred approach to film photography, where glitches and mistakes (intentional or not) are celebrated for creating incredibly interesting pieces of artistic expression. Anything goes.

  • (Above: Hot air balloon flight. Sonoma valley, California)

    Why is it so exciting?

    Now I can’t claim to be an expert, or any good at all for that matter, but when I opened the box for the first time and read the manifesto inside, I was immediately on-board and incredibly excited by this approach to photography. Maybe it was because I only ever had limited experiences with film photography as a child, or maybe it’s just because I’ve become bored with the millions of lifeless photos plastered all over the internet, produced by cheap digital and mobile cameras.

    Either way, I couldn’t wait to get going, and the knowledge that I wouldn’t have any idea what the photos were like until I returned home and got them developed made the experience even more thrilling.

  • (Above: Paddling. Lake Taho, Nevada)

    What is the camera like?

    I know my way around a digital SLR (more or less), and I tend to take a Canon 60D away with me whenever I go on holiday. It’s rather large but I love the quality and control that I have. I’m a perfectionist at heart and this lets me get as close as my ability will allow. Lomography cameras on the other hand, are the complete opposite. And I found it to be liberating.

    The camera I had was a La Sardina 8-ball (pictured in the first photo of this post), and it came with three reels of 35mm colour slide/x-pro 200 film. It has a wide angle lens, two depths of focus and three settings. That’s it.

  • (Above: Hiking. Yosemite National Park, California)

    What could the settings do?

    Considering you only have 3 settings to work with, I found the camera surprisingly versatile. But first, a note on focusing…

    Focus 1: Close-up

    Choose this focus if your subject is less than one meter away. Simple.

    Focus 2: Standard

    Choose this focus if your subject is more than one meter away. Double simple.

    Once you’ve mastered the complexities of the above, you’re ready to start shooting!

  • (Above: Cannery Row Brewing Co Bar. Monterey, California)

    Setting 1: Normal mode

    This is your standard snap snap snap in good daylight mode. The film was ISO 200, so it required lots of light to get decent shots, but all you needed to do was choose your focus and fire away!

    There’s obviously no screen on the back of the camera for framing your shots, so you can either peer through the little viewfinder or point the camera in the general direction of your subject and hope for the best. The lens is wide angle so as long as you’re facing the right direction it’s quite difficult to miss your target!

  • (Above: Bay Bridge. San Francisco, California)

    Setting 2: Bulb mode

    Despite the ISO being very low and my immediate worries that I’d be limited to the bright and sunny outdoors, bulb mode allows you to hold the shutter open for as long as you like. The longer you hold the shutter open, the more light enters the camera and longer your exposure is. Now things start getting interesting.

  • Image credit (above)

    Setting 3: Multiple exposure

    A single snap of the shutter is a single exposure. When in ‘normal mode’ you take a shot and immediately wind the film on, ready for the next shot. What ‘multiple exposure’ allows you to do is take several shots on the same piece of film. But why might you want to do that? Because you can get some amazing results that you’d expect only Photoshop able to produce. Just take a look at the image above. (The only one in this post that isn’t mine, unfortunately).

  • (Above: Lobster. Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey, California)

    Did it live up to expectations?

    Absolutely. Using this camera was endless fun. It’s compact enough to fit in a coat pocket or slip into a small bag, it’s versatile enough to cater for any situation, and the unknown and unexpected qualities of the results are fascinating. I’d encourage anyone with the slightest interest in photography to give Lomography a try.

    The colours, the grain, and the slightly clunky compositions all combine to create images that are infinitely more interesting than those from any other point-and-shoot that I’ve come across.

  • (Above: Sea Otter spotting. Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey, California)

    What’s next?

    By the end of the trip I’d worked my way through two and a half reels of film and couldn’t wait to get them developed. I sent two of them straight off to a recommended developer and a couple of weeks later, when a package arrived at my desk, I felt like a child at Christmas again. I had no idea what to expect and I’m happy to say I was blown away by the results.

    Now that I’ve got a taste for Lomography I’m definitely a convert. I want to get out there again and begin to explore more creative opportunities. So, in preparation for the duller days of Autumn I’ve picked up some black and white ISO 400 film, which will give me a little more flexibility when it comes lighting. Let’s see what I can do!

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