November 1, 2010

The TtV Contraption and Results

There's a certain photographic look I've been trying to achieve without total success until now.  I like my Holga for its quirky vintage-look photos.  I LOVE my Polaroid cameras and especially love the new films by the Impossible Project, but both the old (eBay) and new films are not priced in a way that encourages experimentation and I have yet to get the look I've been trying for.

I recently discovered TtV photography and I was really blown away by the images I found from other people using this method.  The photos have great vintage framing and the look is not as crisp and flat as a lot of digital photos.  I immediately and without pause set about trying to figure out how people were creating these beautiful images and how I could make my own.

TtV stands for 'Through the Viewfinder' which means that you take a picture with one camera (a digital camera) focused through the viewfinder of a second camera.  The second camera is an old twin-lens reflex camera of some kind.  The twin-lens reflex cameras were designed to be shot from waist height, so the viewfinder is on top of the camera and you look down on it as you're focusing.  In the case of TtV, you point the lens of your digital camera down and focus on the viewfinder of the TLR camera.

After doing some research on the best old TLRs to use, I found an old Kodak Duaflex camera on eBay.  It arrived a few days ago and I tore it apart, cleaned up the lenses and mirror and put it all back together again.  Some people prefer the look that dust particles give their photos and I must say I like them too, so I probably won't clean the lenses on the next TLR that I get (Ensign Ful-Vue just as soon as I find the right one).

Then I researched the 'contraption' part of the set up.  Basically, the contraption is needed (although there are differing opinions on this...) to block light, glare and prevent weird reflections between the two cameras.  I found a really great website with some helpful DIY instructions on building a contraption here. Apparently some people do use the TtV method without a contraption or use their hands or something else to try to block the light, but I decided to go with the contraption because my favorite photos all seemed to come from people that were using a contraption setup.

Here is my contraption.  The TLR  is on the bottom and the digital camera on top is point down to the viewfinder on the top of the bottom camera.  The top camera is on a super macro setting.

I built my contraption and found that immediately I started getting some of the effects that I've been looking for!  I'm really happy with this setup and imagine I'll be quite distracted from all other projects for a while as I work on teasing out the full range of possibilities with this photographic method.

You can see that I have some work to do on figuring out how close I can get to my subjects, but overall I'm really happy with the technique.  It seems to take both big outdoor shots and up-close shots pretty well.

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