Tim Hixson is a Sydney based commercial photographer who has produced a mix of seascape, beach life, portraiture and abstract work using Holga plastic cameras for his personal portfolio. The cameras are cheap (less the $100) and available in 35mm and medium format film with a fixed focal length lens, one shutter speed (1/100) and a couple of apertures to choose from (f8, f11).
Tim has commented on the unpredictability of the Holga cameras from light leaks, cheap lens materials, shutter problems to the point where no two cameras are the same. It is this imperfection that can bring about unknown, but at the same time refreshing results. Additionally, in a world of Digital Photography and the comfort of a camera LCD with limitless storage space for multiple images until the right one appears, the Holga forces you to call on the technical understanding of photography.
Limitations in the aperture, shutter speed and film speed encourages thought about composition and capturing an image before pressing the shutter. Available light and an understanding of reciprocity to compromise with the camera in order to achieve somewhat close results to originally intended is definitely required.
Although, I don’t have a Holga camera…yet, I set about trying to reproduce the same effect with my Canon digital SLR and post processing in Lightroom and Photoshop.
Being a surfer and spending a great deal of time at the beach, I found a connection with Tim’s personal work as he also seems to enjoy the ocean and beach life. Geographically we are not far apart (no more than 30kms as the crow flies) and therefore, the coastline is very much alike between Sydney’s northern beaches and the Central Coast. This help with my composition in attempting to shoot in the same style as Tim.
So what did I have in mind to get this started?
1. High contrast images with harsh bright whites (sometimes completely blown out) and deep blacks on headlands, rocks and clouds.
2. Long exposures were out as the Holga was limited to one shutter speed of 1/100…and fast shutter speeds were out also…actually the aim was to produce an image which looked like a shutter speed in the 1/100 range was used.
3. Overcast conditions or a high contrast range between the subject matter the scene. Dark headland in the background, some stormy cloud detail and breaking waves
4. Post processing –
a. Add a vignette
b. Curve adjustments to introduce chromatic aberration (reds, greens, blues) that the Holga is capable of producing
c. Increase contrast levels
d. Brush in some light spots to mimic Holga light leaks
Image 1 - Macs
Tim’s image above of Avalon Beach reminded me of the perspective you get from Copacabana Beach on the Central Coast as you look back towards Macmasters. Instead of recreating a similar composition, I decided to instead photograph at Macmasters looking out from the southern point. Like Tim’s image below, I shot my image in the morning with the sun in the east, providing bright highlight and contrast with the clouds (probably a little too early at around 8am). There were three surfers in the water. I decided to remove two of them as the lone surfer, for me, gave more impact which would fit with the feel I had in mind for the image.
The raw image below…
Final image below...
Image 2 - Paddle Out
From my attempts to reproduce the holga / lomo effect, I realised that ultimately there is a fine line between making the images look authentically "holga-ish" (if that's a word) and producing images that look like you've tried too hard to churn out something not suited for high end DSLRs.
At the end of the day, I guess it comes down to the individual as to how they plan a shoot and the emphasis they put on workflow - before, during and after a shoot. For me, the more time I spend behind the lens, the better. Spending the time to get it right in camera is what I will always work to achieve. Less Photoshop, more beach time - yeah !
Looks like it's plastic camera time !