Town of Spectre: Holga

I went on vacation at the end of October/beginning of November, and I spent part of the time at my parent’s condo on Dauphin Island, a barrier island in Mobile Bay. I had with me a shiny new Holga; I had a Holga before, but for some stupid reason decided I didn’t need a Holga and a Diana, and since the Diana was literally the first lo-fi camera I bought since re-discovering film, I felt loyal to it.

Well, that was the wrong decision–not to keep the Diana, but to sell the Holga. And then they quit making Holgas, and I felt like that was probably that. Except nothing is ever that in the analogue film community, and of course another plastics factory bought the molds and started cranking them out barely a year later.

Anyway, this may look familiar to you if you’re a Tim Burton fan, it’s the abandoned “Town of Spectre” movie sets from Big Fish. They were built on Jackson Lake Island near Montgomery, AL, and because it’s privately owned land, the owner just left them. You can get onto the island for a $3 ($10 for overnight camping) fee.

Town of Spectre

Town of Spectre

Town of Spectre

The tree is fake, too–it’s made of styrofoam, and you can see where the brown paint has rubbed off.

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portfolio: round 4

This is my first time ordering large prints from medium format negatives; the square prints are both 10×10.

The one in the cemetery was taken with my Holga on a spring early afternoon, and it’s printed on Kodak Lustre. It’s a little roadside cemetery in the country near the larger Bancker cemetery where my grandfather is buried. As you can see in the photo, there are cow pastures behind and to one side of it. The Spanish moss is always particularly beautiful on that large tree in the center. I love the dreaminess of the photo (that great Holga softeness and corner vignetting), the little pops of bright color from the artificial flowers, and the cows in the background, which look so odd near the stark white tombstones.

The other photo was taken at the Washington Schoolhouse Antiques Mall with my Kodak Brownie Hawkeye with a flipped lens, and it’s printed on Kodak Metallic. (They’re always putting different stuff in that old sink.) This is the first time I’ve had anything done on metallic that had light, soft colors. I decided to go with metallic because the pinwheel was made of glittery plastic, and I wanted to reproduce that look, but I also like the way it looks with more subtle colors, too.

And the last photo was taken at the Audobon Aquarium of the Americas last summer in New Orleans, with my Lomo LC-A+. It’s an 8×10 and it’s printed on Kodak Lustre. (I don’t think I’ve had anything printed on matte, yet.) This is one of my favorite photos, I just think it’s so interesting to look at. Do you think the orange fish is leading the other fish, or being chased by them?

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cimetière des vaches

I haven’t used my Holga in months and had nearly forgotten that it takes insanely beautiful photos. These have not been edited at all. One of the rolls (#1-#12) was shot on the bulb setting, so they’re more softly focused than usual. I’m pretty sure both rolls were Kodak Portra 400VC.

This is a tiny cemetery I found when looking for Bancker Cemetery, where my grandfather is buried. It’s almost certainly a private cemetery used only by one, maybe two, families. There are a lot of those around here; there’s one in Henry where a bunch of my great-grandfather’s brothers are buried, along with members of the Henry family.

I call it “Cow Cemetery” (in French, because why not) for obvious reasons.

See the entire set.

color holga shots, louisiana, august 2009

black & white holga, louisiana, august 2009

I’m really going to try to not take this long in developing the 120 rolls I shot over Christmas. I’m sending the 35mm from the Golden Half today, and I will send the rolls from the Diana F+ as soon as I finish the roll in the camera, which I am trying to do today.

This is at the ‘rents old house, which hasn’t been fixed or sold yet. We went there one day to dump some crab shells into the lake. Mom claims they get eaten by turtles. You definitely don’t want to put them in your trash unless the very next day is Trash Day, because WOW. That’s a powerful odor.

This was the view from their backyard. While it’s pretty, you can kind of see why they had catastrophic flooding and storm surge twice in 3 years.

August is crab season. I don’t really care for boiled crabs — while I love crab meat, I don’t find it worth the effort of breaking open those hard shells, digging out tiny shreds of meat, cutting your hands up and getting spicy boil into the cuts. I prefer getting dishes in restaurants that have the crab already extracted for you, like crabmeat au gratin or stuffed crabs. Crawfish is more my thing, because the effort is lower and the meat even tastier.

You can see Sheila lurking between Mom and Granny. She died a couple months later. Mom and Phil haven’t been without a dog since before leaving Fremont, the house felt really empty this trip. However, I think I’ll probably be with them when Mom decides it’s time for another one, which means: Puppy! Yay!! There hasn’t been a puppy in the house since Indy was a puppy more than 10 years ago. Snowshoe and Sheila were both acquired as adolescents.

first color roll shot in the holga

Nothing really amazing here. Basically I just wanted to see what a color roll looked like in the Holga, especially before I went on vacation. I kind of forgot about this roll actually, so it was a pleasant surprise to find it in the mail yesterday.

bunny doorstop holga


holga vs. diana: fight!


Holga Blog wrote a technical review of both the Holga and Diana, comparing the various specs. It’s pretty in-depth and I found it an interesting read. Ultimately he comes to the same conclusion I do: Why choose? Like me, he owns both.

It’s hard to explain the differences between the two, especially since the flaws in such poorly-made cameras tend to vary widely. For myself, I find that the Diana (shooting medium format film) has more obvious vignetting, and the focus tends to be more uniformly off. Sometimes photos taken with my Diana almost look like they were taken underwater. The Holga, on the other hand, has a really interesting center focus/blurred edge effect; as well as more light leakage (which can be considered either a plus or a minus; I would list it as the former).

For me, it’s not about what the finished product looks like, anyway. They both shoot unpredictable and weirdly lovely photos. It’s more about what the shooting situation requires. I think of the Diana as a higher maintenance camera: The flash is not integrated, it’s almost as big as the camera itself*, color gels have to be manually inserted, the lens sticks out more, it’s a bright teal color. It’s more noticable, and it takes more time. I like to use it in situations where speed or conspicuousness is not an issue: in graveyards, or taking photos of buildings, say. Or any place where photo taking is expected and lots of other people will be doing it — next time I go to the Winchester Mystery House I am definitely taking my Diana.

My Holga has an integrated flash with a color wheel (although not all models do), so there’s less set up for situations that require a flash. It’s also black and has a lens that sits more flush to the body of the camera, so it feels more inconspicuous. I like it for candid photos (especially of people I do not know); and photos inside of commercial or public locations, where you never know how people are going to react.

I had planned to take just my Holga to Louisiana, since I had the Diana at Christmas and shot a couple rolls with it. But I think I’ll have room for the Diana, and I didn’t have the flash last year (and it offers many more colors than the Holga color wheel — a dozen gels as opposed to just green, red, and yellow), so I may decide to bring her along, too.

*You can use a hotshoe adaptor and use any conventional (and smaller) flash with the Diana. But I actually like the retro look and feel of the large Diana 2-pin flash.

first roll from the holga

Umm, apparently this was a roll of black & white? I KNEW THAT!

It’s harder to tell with B&W, but the light leakage appears to be manageable. Other than taping the clips that hold the back on, I really didn’t tape the camera when I shot this roll.

pho noodles BW

I think this one is actually suited to black & white.


holga & breaking bad


I finally bought myself a Holga! They’re pretty cheap, cheaper than a Diana — well, you could probably find a Diana for next to nothing on eBay or wherever, but I’d rather pay more money for something I can have NOW. Bargain-hunting is not something I generally have the patience for.

Anyway, I bought the model with the color flash wheel. In addition to a regular white flash, you can also get a blue, red, or yellow flash by turning the wheel at the top. The camera also seems easier to modify for 35mm than the Diana; you don’t need a special back, just some tape and a couple pieces of foam. There’s no way to rewind the film in the camera though, so you have to find a room as close to perfectly dark as you can get, take it out, and rewind it manually. I might try it eventually, but for now I think I’ll just see what she does with medium format.

I bought the kit, which comes with a roll of black electrical tape (which, as you can see, I’ve used to tape the back on, because the clips that hold it on seem kind of rickety, and I’d hate to have it pop off and expose the film inside). This is because the Holga is notorious for having light leaks, worse even than the Diana. But until I shoot the first roll and see how much it leaks, I’m going to hold off taping it. A little bit of light just adds to a toy camera’s unpredictable charm, and if it isn’t so bad that the photos are totally obliterated, I probably won’t bother taping it up.

I don’t know when I’ll get that first roll shot though, because this month has been the definition of June Gloom. Although, it is a FLASH camera…

In addition to my Amazon order, last night I also finally received the first disc of the first season of Breaking Bad, which I have been dying to see, but which was on very long wait at Netflix for MONTHS. I really wanted to watch the second season while it was playing, but I have this total horror of watching television shows out of order and HAD to see the first season first. Maybe I’ll be caught up by the time the third season starts and I can watch it as it airs.

Anyway, it’s really good so far (high school chemistry teacher is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, teams up with former student to cook meth so he doesn’t leave his family in debt), Bryan Cranston is fucking awesome. The whole “inoperable lung cancer” thing makes me worry that the show has a built-in expiration; but the second episode started almost literally where the first left off, and if they do that, and don’t have real-time lags between seasons, they could stretch it pretty far.

It was kind of unbelievable how fast Walter came to the “Hmm, think I’ll cook meth!” conclusion; but then again, I appreciate that they didn’t dick around when we all knew it was gonna happen. USA’s new show Royal Pains did that with the pilot, it’s about a hotshot doctor who gets canned when a rich benefactor dies on his watch and becomes a private doctor for snooty rich people in the Hamptons. The pilot was 90 minutes, and it was only that long because it had WAY too much of Hank dragging his feet and protesting about how noble he is. So kudos for getting to the fucking point fast, A&E.

retail therapy, lazy days, and wonderfalls

Last week I loaded a few things into my Amazon cart, so when I got my paycheck on Saturday (and how amazing that I did, because when I really need/want it is when it tends to be late) and put some $$$ on my reloadable Visa, all I had to do was sign in on my cellphone and proceed to checkout. I got a Holga (YAY!), the “new” Matthew Sweet album Sunshine Lies (actually it came out last fall and I kept forgetting to buy it), the first season of True Blood on DVD (I’ve only ever seen one episode so NO SPOILERS PLEASE), World Without End (Ken Follet’s sequal to The Pillars of the Earth), and Columbine by Dave Cullen (which is supposed to be really good and I can’t wait for paperback).

Sunday I was going to go to the drug store and do a few other things, then decided I was sick of running errands and hadn’t had a day where I did nothing in months, so it could wait. It wasn’t a truly lazy day — I did laundry, cleaned the kitchen, vaccumed, and cleaned Junebug’s cage. But I didn’t have anything to cook (I had some heat and serve lasagna and bagged Caesar salad from Trader Joe’s) and this week I have a cold bento. I also didn’t shave my legs or wash my hair. Awww yeah!

So I got all the boring crap out of the way by early afternoon, then settled in with a bottle of Pinot Grigio and the first disc of Wonderfalls. I hardly ever drink wine anymore, the tannins in red mess me up (dehydration, insomnia, pounding headache) and I don’t really like most whites. I tend to stick to beer or vodka drinks. But I do like PG and every once in a while I treat myself to some.

Everyone that ever raved about Wonderfalls and lamented its early demise: OMG YOU WERE SO RIGHT. I love Jaye; she’s one of the realest young female characters I’ve ever seen on television. She’ pretty, but normal pretty. She’s sometimes overly-acerbic and rude to people! She gets unapologetically drunk! Also, I covet her trailer. I would so not be ashamed to live in a trailer if it was that cute.

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