A few weeks ago I received a notification from my Tweetbot app from one of my favorite followers. @troybradford was heading to my hometown and wanted to know if we could meet up. You can see more of his instant film work here! A few more tweets later and the arrangements were set. Troy was going to travel from Texas to California lugging a Toyo 8×10 camera and three instant film negatives. If you haven’t been living under a mossy rock you know that Impossible began production of 8×10 instant film once again, by pure chance. Here is a little more history on the reproduction of this glorious film.
It started with us meeting up for coffee at my favorite coffee shop and lunch at my favorite eatery. Lots of caffeinated instant film chit chat later. We headed to one of my favorite places in Sacramento that inspires me. The Delta is a farming region that goes along the Sacramento river. The best part is that, it was once a thriving area, so now it is full of abandoned buildings and areas to explore. I instantly knew of two stops I wanted to make, the rest was an adventure.
You guessed it, an abandoned Sugar Mill that was once truly abandoned. Now it is being remodeled into a winery/wedding venue. I do love shooting weddings there, but I will miss being able to explore the building with holes and glass everywhere. In fact I shot my part of the 600 on a 600 project there. So while the magic is still there I took Troy there. The lighting is so awesome, huge windows that drown the place in soft natural light. The more you explore the greater it becomes. Definitely our location for our first shot. Getting this camera to this location was not an easy journey. Troy had to fly with it to Texas, negatives, holders and all. So setting up the first shot was a bit surreal. I had a hard time concentrating on making this exposure happen. I mean talk about sensory overload. Troy came with not only this gorgeous Toyo 8×10 but a sleek Leica M8 hanging from his neck. My first encounter with a Leica M8 and Toyo camera. To much to handle. Troy worked his skills and made one of my favorite portraits ever. Such a unique look to Impossible Projects PQ Color Protection film. After seeing the results you can tell that this film is a game changer. I am beyond excited to see where this film goes and the breath taking images people will make with it. So humbled to have my portrait on some of the first color 8×10 film made in years!
We most definitely took the chance to explore the building with more portable cameras. Troy had his SX70 loaded with PX70 Cool and PX680 Color Protection Gold Frame film. We even chatted about how much we love PX70 Cool and love the amazing skin tones. I had my Spectra with PZ680 and SX70 with PX70 Color Protection. We took turns taking photos of each other and wandering. I realized how much I have missed out not shooting PZ680 as much as I should. The wide cinematic look to it is so unique and more at home to me. Shooting rectangle is more natural to me then square, as I imagine it is to a lot of people. Double exposing is such a dream with Spectras. Below is one of my favorite double exposures ever! Troy even ventured into diptych territory.
About 25 miles south of the Old Sugar Mill is the Historic town of Locke. One of the last Chinese American towns in the US. Filled with slanting buildings and quirky tourist shops this one city block town is full of character. I love walking the town and people watching. Troy and I walked and chatted stopping for photos along the way. I was up, My turn to shoot some 8×10. Time to take the bull by the horns. I had imagined a portrait with more depth of field and bokeh. Something I haven’t seen done to often with PQ 8×10 instant film and I understand why. Ruining a shot with bad exposure and not measuring bellows factor can be devastating. We strolled into a field borrowed a rusty chair from some stranger and I knew this was my shot. We were in the midst of taking light meterings and worried about finding the right lighting, when a scruffy man walked up to us. This usually happens while I am in this town. How often do these folk see old Polaroid cameras strapped around a 20 year olds neck? Even rarer would be seeing a huge 8×10 monster in a field. The man introduced himself as James Motlow and was ecstatic to see such gorgeous cameras. We come to find he Co-Authored a New York Times reviewed book, no big deal right, and a photographer. He wrote a book about the history of the town and shot the cover photograph, Bitter Melon. We even snapped a few photos of him.
I move on with setting up the shot. Light was so perfect, dialed in the exposure settings and I set the focus. Next is pull the dark slide… here is where the story gets really good and you may cringe. If you haven’t seen the way this film is loaded into the holders, its an interesting method. Unlike tradition holders and sheet film. The film is held in place by a small orange tab and a small black tab sticks out from the top. Essentially this tab is used for pulling the film from the holder into the Polaroid Predecessor. Here is short video on the process. This tab is clearly marked with a circle that warns you not to pull! Francisco Chavira, co founder of this blog and instant film enthusiast, proceeds to pull that tab. YES! Like a COMPLETE turkey I pull the tab. I have no idea what I was thinking! Well more like what I wasn’t thinking! Troy being the most caring human ever, smiles at me and says, ” You pulled the negative.” I must have turned blue, because my heart sank. Troy says he only wishes he would have recorded my reaction. Troy flew here with 3 negatives, 1 color and 2 B&W and just ruined 1! I still have a hard time thinking about that moment. I thank Troy again for being the most compassionate and telling me other horror stories of shooting this film.
Being a photographer, and more specifically shooting instant film brings its challenges. We have all been there. Making rooky mistakes like this. Feeling terrible and defeated. If we let ourselves quit each time, we would never get anywhere! The statement, “You live in learn,’ is slightly dated. It should say,” You shoot instant film, make mistakes, look like a complete noob, and learn.’ Take two. A few inner tears and self doubting. We reset for the 3 shot. It had to count, oh the pressure! I exposed the shot, and hoped for the best. I shot it wide open at f/5.6 on a 8×10! Yes I know, talk about living life on the edge. Razor thin focus, and I hoped i nailed it. Troy was here on business and wouldn’t be home for two days to process the images. So the longest wait for an instant film image began.
I lost some sleep over these two images, to be honest. Hoping we nailed the exposure and focus. Hoping I don’t look like a complete dweeb in my portrait. Not to mention the lost exposure, and having to come clean about it to you guys. Not my most shining moment.
Here is the result! A well exposed in focus portrait of the legendary Troy Bradford. I love this film. I love this portrait. His colored eyes show up sharp and bright. The creamy bokeh is to die for. The image as a whole shows who Troy is to me. I tried to pose him in a very accessible and in an honest way, a portrait of a very kind man. To say the least, I am now lusting over an 8×10 camera to shoot this film. I am so grateful to have met Troy and spend the day shooting with him.