Blog by Dan Domme
When I was in Findlay, OH for Mat Marrash’s gallery show, I had decided to pack relatively light. I had a Nikon FE2, my Konica Auto S2 rangefinder, my Yashica Mat-124G and some Polaroid cameras… OK, that doesn’t sound like it’s packing light, but I did restrict myself to only carrying around one or two cameras at a time.
During our final hours together, the group went out for a bite to eat at The Gathering, a nice restaurant just a stone’s throw away from the Findlay Inn and Conference Center. Since the sun was long gone, I had grabbed my Polaroid Spectra and Konica Auto S2. The reasoning was that the Spectra has a built-in flash, and the rangefinder would make it easy to focus in low light. But how “stupes” was I to forget I had 100-speed film in it!
As we left the restaurant, I grabbed one of my precious few remaining Polaroids on The Impossible Project’s PZ600 UV+ film, and this shot can be seen above. Hearing my lament at how my rangefinder was going to suck in such low light, Mike Raso suggested that I take his trusty Vivitar 252 flash with me for the remainder of the evening as I headed back to the hotel. I started to turn him down because the Konica only has a “cold shoe.” That is, the little bracket that holds the flash to the camera doesn’t have any electrical contacts on it to tell the flash when to fire. The only way to fire it is with the PC socket.
Mike explained to me that the Vivitar 252 has the coolest feature I’ve ever seen in a flash—a built-in PC cord! it’s just long enough for most applications and coils up into the base of the flash unit. I have some other dinky flashes that I had picked up with various cameras from eBay, but none even have a PC connection, let alone a built-in cord!
So as Mike headed back to the hotel (most likely for an intense session of Polaroid scanning) we ended up going out to find a place to hang out. The Vivitar 252 doesn’t have an adjustable power setting, so you have to adjust everything in camera, keeping in mind that the closer something is, the more powerful the light is going to appear as it bounces off your subject. So, as your subject gets closer, you have to stop down your aperture more to reduce the light hitting the film. Shutter speed doesn’t work as an adjustment, since the flash is so much faster than your camera’s shutter.
Sounding complicated yet? Well, never fear. The back of the Vivitar 252 features a little dial where you can set your film’s ASA, and that aligns a scale of distances and apertures. Determine the distance to your subject, and the scale on the back of the flash will tell you the appropriate f-number. It couldn’t be easier!
Anyway, I ended up borrowing the flash for the remainder of the night and eventually got my own. The great thing is, if you want one, they’re also for sale in the Film Photography Store. I would highly recommend you pick one of these units up if you have any camera that has a “cold shoe” and a PC jack. It might just save the day -err, night!
Regular FPP contributor Dan Domme is a film photography enthusiast and PhD student in the Acoustics department of Penn State. He’s been a serious photographer for the last two years, and now shoots nearly exclusively on film. You can view his Flickr stream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/yeknom02/