Soviet Cameras

My little Smena ravenously ate my first couple rolls of film that I took while on winter break in Lviv, and it took a while to get everything fixed and myself confident enough to saunter out again in the cold armed with enough resurfaced technical knowledge of how photography actually works. I present to you my first attempts at actual manual photography in years. I’ve taken photography classes on and off since middle school–Martin Murphy, Live Oak and UCSD all had darkrooms available to their students–but aside from the pin-hole camera I made in 7th grade I don’t think I’ve ever gone completely manual before. My dad lent me his fantastic mechanized SLR for all my past endeavors, and I’m ashamed to admit how much I truly relied on the automatic settings, even when I wasn’t supposed to.

The point is–this stuff is exciting, and hard. It’s pretty evident in these pictures that I was a little too impatient to memorize exposure values and calculate distances for decent focus, but it’s the first time so I’m cutting myself some slack.

After looking through the prints I’ve spent a few hours looking around on the internet for tutorials and ideas, and I’m excited to get started on my next rolls for both cameras. I’ve got some crazy ideas, and after a few interestingly colored mistakes didn’t get printed this time (my print guy thought he was doing me a favor not printing these bright blue and yellow oddities) I’ll be sure to emphasize that I want everything printed–no matter how messed up. Let’s hope it doesn’t backfire.

In addition to the more experimental shots I plan to take with the Smena, I’d like to try my hand at street photography while the babies are still bundled and rendered immobile like little starfish and old women lumber like animals in their floor length fur coats. I’ve been reading a lot about zone focusing, and I’ll have to work up the nerve to wander through the bazaar or stand at bus stops blatantly taking people’s photographs. I say blatantly because my previous attempts at stealth involve being nervous and trying to be quick about it, resulting in blurry and unfocused exposures. I might even gather the nerve to ask some mothers if I can take pictures of their little snow babies. I’m sweating just thinking about it.

Here are photos from the Zorki 4k, a rangefinder from 1974.

And from my Smena, the first of its kind, from 1953.


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