Late last fall I picked up a used Seagull TLR camera from someone through a local used listing. I was excited to try out another medium format camera. After getting some mixed results with the Lomo Lubitel I was ready for something different. I was looking for some sharper images. That is the point of larger negatives right? Better image quality!
I have always been drawn to the square image format. When I was starting out in photography, 35mm was the standard. I did get to use a couple of different formats but the square 2 1/4” style always had a romantic feel to it. Maybe it was a nostalgic pull to the early days of photography. Maybe it was the fact that it was a different way to frame and compose images. Looking back I am certain it was a mix of all of these things and more..
In my return to shooting film, medium format cameras were on my radar but the prices seemed unreasonable for this little hobby of mine. Enter a cheap lubitel to test the waters and now the Seagull TLR. These Twin Lens Reflex cameras are made in china and are reasonably priced on the used market.
These photographs are from the first roll that I shot with the Seagull. I managed to get a few frames in last fall before my fingers froze up as I was trying to figure out how to shoot with this thing. There are a few frames from a road trip to Brockville on a warmer winter day. I finished off this roll a few weeks ago as I was wandering around some industrial building in Ottawa’s west end.
It took me a little while to figure out how to wind the film forward and then wind the crank backwards to cock the shutter! That was the first challenge and then the other big learning curve is composing your image with the waist level finder. Everything is backwards in the viewfinder so it takes a bit to compose your image. You move the camera one way and the image moves the opposite direction in the viewfinder! There is a little magnifying glass that pops up in the viewfinder to help with focusing your image which is a really nice feature. There is a nice big dial on the left of the camera to focus your images. There is a pretty cool looking distance scale on the knob to help with distance focusing. On my copy it is cracked but you can still see enough to use it.
These cameras are fully manual so you will need an external light meter to set your exposures. It is pretty simple you set your shutter speed on one side of the taking lens and set the aperture on the other side of the taking lens. I mention the taking lens, this is the one that captures the image. The other lens on top is the viewing lens where you compose your photographs! It has a speed range from B to 300/sec. Not the fastest camera but good enough for most casual photography. The lens has an aperture range of f/3.5 to f/22. Once again not the fastest camera but good enough for some old style analog photography.
These images were shot using Kodak TMAX 400 which is one of the finest black and white films around. I have been shooting a variety of film stocks lately and TMAX is hands down one my favourite films to shoot with. I love the organic grain in this film.
One final note about these images. I seemed to have heavily overexposed most of my shots. I am not sure if it was something to do with my light meter being off ( I was using an old analog meter that I haven’t really used in a while) or if I hadn’t dialled in the right exposure settings..
Take care and keep shooting film
Jeremy Shane Reid