When you find a camera you love, you want to take it everywhere, capturing home and holidays alike.
Since LOMOgraphy UK loaned me one of their new LC-A 120 cameras at the end of 2014, I’ve begged and borrowed it for a handful of trip, capturing the Mediterranean island of Malta, the megacity maelstrom of Istanbul and Spain’s Seville. Every time, I’ve been massively impressed with the LC-A 120’s strengths – light, portable, easy to use, and capable of simply stunning results, especially loaded with slide to cross-process.
Last December, I headed back to my native New Zealand – after eight years without a visit – and packed the LC-A 120 and a couple of dozen rolls of medium format film with which to shoot home.
I wasn’t disappointed.
LOMOs love light – both the artificial kind to create trippy trails in pics of night-time streets and bars, and that from strong sunlight. It’s certainly the kind of conditions you’d expect during a Kiwi summer, thousands of miles away from the pollution of the Northern Hemisphere.
The LC-A 120 travelled hand-in-hand with one of my LC-As (which I’ve blogged about before), and it was good to see the differences shooting the landscape format of he 35mm LOMO and the square format of its bigger brother. And with London already firmly in the grip of overcast dullness, the bright blazing blue of New Zealand summer skies was just what the doctor ordered.
My freezer is stocked with a variety of films, many of them expired rolls of long-dead emulsions bought on eBay. On holidays I always try and take a mix-and-match of films; certain films shine with certain optics, and different lighting conditions can have an effect too. The LC-A 120 works brilliantly with Kodak’s now-defunct slide films cross-processed, especially the likes of E100VS and Ektachrome 100. LOMOgraphy’s 100-speed negative film is bright and punchy; and its Xpro 200 slide film gives some warm, contrasty images in bright light.
The LC-A 120’s not a tiny camera – it has to fit a roll of 120 film, after all – but it’s incredibly light thanks to a mostly plastic shell. This means there’s no excuse not to take it with you; and the old adage that the best camera is the one you have with you being a pretty unbeatable slice of photographic advice.
I took the LC-A 120 to a Saturday afternoon party in Piha, a beachside community on the rough and rugged west coast of Auckland; it was perfect for shooting candid moments, and the grass-level view of the guests various dogs, weaving between the tables for any sign of a dropped burger.
I headed south from Auckland on the train; New Zealand’s railways have been gradually reduced over the years. The Auckland to Wellington train is now a tourist-oriented service that leaves every other day; the 10-hour trip traversing the North Island is rightly regarded as one of the best scenic railway journeys in the world.
One of the cars on this journey is specifically designed for photography or taking video – it’s open, allowing the Kiwi landscape to be captured without window frames and reflections getting in the way. After spring rains, the pasture land trundling past the train is almost impossibly green, gleaming and saturated. The train sweeps past blink-and-you’ll-miss it towns and herds of contemplative cattle. In one stop there’s a man-sized Kiwi mascot waving on the platform (a platform that, if it’s lucky, gets one train a day).
I spent most of the rest of the time in and around Wellington. I left my hometown before the photography bug really bit, so I when I return, I try and spend as much time capturing what I remember.
I spent a couple of days walking around the coastal road that follows the bays and inlets on the Eastern side of the capital, shooting as much as I could on the super-sized LOMO. A couple of the rolls slipped off the spool a little, leading to light leaks – this, I must admit, is the biggest drawback of the LC-A 120. It does only seem to affect certain films though – the most common issue is with LOMOgraphy’s own-brand films, though on this trip it was a couple of rolls of Kodak E100.
But this isn’t always a problem. Light leaks can ruin a photo, or they can add something to it. Given that the LC-A 120 works so well with cross-processed or expire film, and that the pictures already look different thanks to the saturation and the corner vignetting, streaks from leaking light can often add to the effect. A silver lining should you find a roll coming off the spool when unloading (My tip: Make sure you tape up the roll as soon as it’s out of the camera – and if the film seems to be not sitting tight with the spool, keep it somewhere dark until it’s time to develop it.)
I sat below the planes coming in to Wellington Airport; the city’s airport is just a 10 minute drive from the centre of the city, with the incoming planes descending over the harbour bays, level with the houses hugging the hills. I managed to snap a couple of Cessnas on landing approach – sadly no Boeings or Airbuses; Wellington’s International Airport doesn’t have quite the same traffic as Heathrow, after all.
I also bought the LC-A 120 to a Boxing Day family gathering, on my brother’s farm a couple of hours’ drive north of Wellington. Instead of shooting xpro, I shot some old Fuji Provia 100 slide film. This is one of the undoubted plus points of shooting with the automatic exposure metering of this camera; shooting slide on a meterless 120 camera with a similar experimental aesthetic (like the Lubitel or the Holga) means either educated guess work or using a handheld meter. That’s fine, but can mean to miss out on more spontaneous shots.
Shooting slide on medium format gives amazing detail and clarity – and not just on a high-end Hasselblad or a Rolleiflex. It’s one of the main reasons why I’m so eagerly anticipating the release of Ferrania’s Chrome 120 film; Fuji’s few remaining lines of slide film now cost more than £10 a roll, and they may not be around for too much longer.
From Wellington, I headed down for a long weekend to the southern city of Dunedin, a Scottish outpost at the end of the Earth. Dunedin’s a city built on a hard-working Calvinist heritage, a world-class university, a frighteningly intimidating rugby stadium and a rich vein of 80s-era indie rock I stayed with my friend Graeme and his wife – Graeme’s the brains behind The Verlaines, a hugely influential band who helped define the sound of their home-grown record company, Flying Nun. (Head to iTunes or Amazon, and start with their best-of compilation You’re Just Too Obscure For Me)
Like Wellington, Dunedin is a city framed by its port and the steep slopes of its surrounding hills. The streets are much wider than they should be, and few buildings rise more than a couple of stories. Even in one of New Zealand’s five biggest cities, the sky seems endless.
Unlike the quake-struck Christchurch – which has lost most of its Victorian building following the 2010 earthquake – Dunedin still retains some of its architectural heritage; squat stone buildings, like the Wesley Methodist Church on the top of this post – the combination of that bright South Island sunshine and cross processed LOMOgraphy Xpro 200 film has made the red-painted brick positively glow.
I walked from the hills above the university down through the town, stopping off at a bookshop and antique store that felt like the kind of place time forgot. The shelves groaned with books and a schizophrenic collection of objects; lamps, blow-up Santas, retro board games in crumpled boxes and old guitars. This is one of the films that suffered light leaks, but the effect, I think, was a happy accident.
If you continue heading down Dunedin, past the Central Business District and the suburban streets sporting lovingly restored colonial villas, you come to St Clair’s Beach. Here Dunedin meets the Southern Ocean, a huge rolling swell that pounds the shores like a battering ram. Stand too close to the railings and you might get splashed with water that feels like a bear hug from the Antarctic.
Dunedin’s surfers have been flocking to St Clair’s for decades, making the most of the huge waves which surge and retreat with awful force. It’s not a pursuit for the faint-hearted. And not just because of the brutal force of the waves.
Along the pathway at St Clair’s is a metal plaque that remembers three surfers who died amongst the waves since the 1960s. Not from the frigid water, but from something that stalks the beach beyond the breakers. Carcharodon carcharias. The great white shark. A reminder that despite the Methodist churches, the cricket pitches and Victorian architecture, we’re a long way from Westminster.
Check out more pictures on my Flickr set – and there’s more below.
Want a LOMO LC-A 120? You can buy it – and many more analogue picture-takers – via LOMOgraphy’s online shop.
Check out more pictures on my Flickr set.
Want a LOMO LC-A 120? You can but it – and many more analogue picture-takers – via LOMOgraphy’s online shop.