Photo Chat Vlog – Fuji TW-3 and Half-Frame Photomontage

In season 3, episode 9 of Photo Chat Vlog I spoke about using a Yashica Samurai half-frame camera with expired film, and in this episode I wanted to follow up with some other half-frame experiments with my Fuji TW3.

Fuji TW-3 half-frame camera

Now this is an interesting camera because first of all it’s a Fuji camera. Now normally traditional cameras made by Fuji are called “Fujica” (certainly the SLRs) and this…is not. But I got this one in Japan when I went on a trip there a few years ago, so maybe it’s something to do with the Japanese market.

Whilst I was out there I did a search for cameras that you absolutely could get in Japan, but that you might find difficult to get in Europe and this was one of them. When we went in some camera shops my friends were generous enough to allow me that indulgent time to look around, and I saw this one and I had to have it!

From what I know about it, it was apparently designed for one-handed operation, perhaps when you were on a climbing trip or something, so like the Samurai it’s all automatic but it is true, I can work the camera with just one hand.

Fuji TW-3 half-frame cameraIt’s also got a really weird design in that it either has a telephoto lens or a wide lens, selected by rotating the front of the camera; it doesn’t seem to have a “normal” lens, and like the Samurai it also loads the film vertically so that its natural mode is horizontal and it can also do the burst mode thing.

Now one sad thing about this camera is it is as leaky as an old tin bath, which I learned the hard way through various rolls of film going in it and coming out with light leaks all over the pictures. It wasn’t the kind of camera where the light leaks even had any kind of charm to them; it was just annoying.

Botley in Oxford on expired film in a Fuji TW-3 half-frame 35mm camera

But I am happy to report that after I taped it up all over the place, it no longer seems too bad in terms of the light leaks, so I’m really glad that the black electrical tape seems to have saved the day.

One final thing – the difference in size between the TW3 and the Samurai is quite significant; the Samurai is a heavy, bulky thing by comparison and the TW3 is a genuine shirt-pocket camera. Is one better than the other? Well, yes, actually I think the Samurai is better. Or at least I do today as my opinion changes all the time. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like the TW3!

Yashica Samurai and Fuji TW-3

Now the pictures I’m going to show you today were taken this year with the TW3, and like the ones taken with the Samurai they were all taken using expired film, Fujicolor Superia Extra 400 ASA film in this case. I’m not sure when it expired but it was on sale for $1 when I got it and nothing else in that batch was much less than ten years old.

The cool thing about half frame cameras from my point of view is if you’ve got a bunch of 24 exposure films like I have, then there’s more incentive to use them with a half-frame camera.

Examples of 24 exposure 35mm films

Basically it’s a bit of a drag shooting 24 exposure films these days when most processors charge the same for processing and scanning a 24 exposure film as they do a 36 exposure one; basically it doesn’t make it very cost-effective to shoot 24 exposure film.

But in a half-frame camera with a 24 exposure film you get approximately 48 shots per roll, and I had some interesting old expired films, so I thought “I’m gonna put these in my half frame cameras this summer and have some fun”.

You tend to be sparing shooting with a film camera, certainly in comparison to a digital camera where you can take ten shots of the same thing and go home and choose one of them that you like. I always try and take one or two shots maximum of anything because I want to make the most of my films, but with double the shots on half frame you do have plenty to play with.

So what we will see are collages or photomontages or “joiners” as they are sometimes known. This is where you take a set of overlapping images and after they are developed and scanned you join them together into one bigger image. The three that I’m going to show you this time are not the most successful to be honest but they’re a good example of the art of the joiner and even though they’re not the most successful I still kind of like them.

So what you’re seeing here is a collage of 12 images of a staircase in the building where I currently work.

photomontage of a staircase

This was shot really quickly a month or two ago just before popping out for my lunch break (and I joined everything together in my computer using Google’s Picasa a couple of weeks ago).

As I mentioned the TW3 was very leaky and I had taped up the camera the night before and this was me giving this camera one last chance to basically see if it was any good. So I taped it up all around all the seams and over the back window and everything like that and I “just decided to shoot”.

As a photomontage or “joiner” this definitely shows you “what the camera was thinking” in terms of exposure when it was pointed in different areas, and what bits of the building it was trying to represent.

Although it doesn’t look particularly cohesive as an image of a staircase, let’s ponder on what we can surmise about this particular staircase. It has some railings, it has the horizontal treads of the stairs, it has shadows coming in through the windows, and it has the windows themselves which have got a horizontal and a vertical thing going on.

There’s a lot of information in this scene that your eyes would be processing as you navigate going up and down these stairs, and I think that this image, although it’s kind of chaotic and random, is actually pretty good. It’s a question of perception and…I don’t think I could have captured that “essence of a stairwell” in quite the same way in just one image.

So doing it this way allows you to get a wider-angle view as well as a very artistic rendering. The different exposures and angles come together in a way to render, rather then represent the whole scene.

For example, if you can see the light fitting on the left, the circular light that’s fixed on the wall, if you cast your eye down the wall you can see how the top part of the banister is continuous on that photograph with the ones beneath it. But the vertical rails don’t match up at all, and yet you can decode it visually. There is the paradox of the photomontage, but more of that later!

photomontage of a staircase

This next photomontage is quite simple as it’s only using four images. This was done on the same lunch break when I had come out of the building and was walking around, and I was using the portrait orientation of the camera. What we get is an image of a street with some buildings on it, but made up of four distinct images.

outside photomontage

Each of them for whatever reason is actually exposed quite differently by the camera and the film, so the one on the far left has got this great big plume of sun and you can see it features a building and some foliage.

The one next to it has got a murky, “polluted water” feel to it. It’s rather green and the contrast is poor.

The one next to it doesn’t look too bad, but it’s still a little bit murky, but then the final one on the right looks absolutely perfectly normal.

I don’t know why this collection of images turned out this way. Although it is expired film, It’s normal regular colour negative film, so I don’t know whether there was some variation in the film itself just because of the way it was stored, or whether the camera was changing the exposure with each shot. I guess this is what happens if your picture isn’t perfectly exposed in this camera on this old expired film.

I’m not actually that impressed with this picture – it proves a point, it demonstrates the art of photomontage and the action of doing it, but it doesn’t exactly set the world alive. I mean it has a certain feeling to it, but what I will say is that it doesn’t really convey that scene to me particularly well. I’m very familiar with that scene, in fact I used to work in the building on the right and I used to look out of those rows of windows because I didn’t really like working there but…that’s another story.

Nevertheless we have it, we have a photomontage, a simple one made of four images. Very linear, each one following each other, unlike the previous one.

Or indeed this one – these images were all taken from the roof terrace of the Westgate shopping centre in Oxford and when they are all put together…it should be a panorama of Oxford.

photomontage of the Westgate Centre in Oxford

The really interesting thing about this was that before the new Westgate shopping centre was built you couldn’t see this view unless you were in a crane or something like that. I mean maybe you might have been able to see it if you worked in the old Westgate in the offices or something but so much space was cleared to build the new Westgate that this was really a view that the average citizen of Oxford didn’t see until recently.

So I thought it would be interesting to try and make a photomontage out of it but when I put all the pictures together…well I I don’t really know. It is kind of successful but it doesn’t look like I thought it would.

You can hopefully see that the different pictures are stacked up on top of each other so that they all form a part of a larger whole. Oxford skyline, mostly skySo this particular picture on its own is not very interesting, but when you put it together with all the other ones you get a representation of the scene photographically “as-one-but-made-up-of-many”.

I guess it gives an impression (particularly if you look at the railing at the bottom) of just how much a camera lens distorts an image and also that you have actually been physically moving around with the camera and that each movement renders each new image very differently from the one before.

It’s an interesting thing because our eyes are so fast at reacting to moving your head around, or moving your body around, or focusing on something in the distance, or something close up that we don’t realize that the scene, as framed by our eyes, is changing all the time.

I think when you try the photomontage thing it illustrates that actually depending on where you stood and depending on what you’re looking at that it all becomes a matter of perception.

What struck me about this one was in fact that some of the images were almost completely overlapping each other. I chose to include them all but I must have got it wrong in the “mapping” of it, as it were.

So of all the images of all the photomontages I like the one of the staircase the most. I’m not going to say it’s the most successful…I don’t really know what to say about it other than it’s a way of rendering that staircase scene, which is a staircase I use every day that I’m at work, in a building that I’m very fond of really. It’s also a different and creative way of using a camera and a fun way to shoot with the half-frame format.

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