Following the announcement of the cessation of all film production by Polaroid, The Impossible Project (TIP) was created to continue the vision of Dr. Edwin Land of instant film (though one wonders what his strategy would be given the improvements in printing technology and digital photography, but I digress). The challenge for TIP is not just in terms of financial support, but also that
i) Many of the chemicals used were only purchased by Polaroid, so with it closing down these chemicals stopped being produced;
ii) A couple of the chemicals have apparently been outlawed due to environmental concerns;
ii) Many of the factories making the components have been shut down/retooled (e.g. battery for the film packs, the mylar sheet, and the negatives); and
iv) The lack of the exact formulation used in the orginal film (a trade secret, so not readily accessible even in patent offices).
Despite all these challenges, TIP has done remarkably well to release fairly usable film for general consumption. Sure, they are incredibly expensive, but that’s for another time. Right now, I want to talk about a particular challenge in shooting the TIP film with the SX-70 — the need to shield the film as it is being ejected from the the camera from light.
A number of strategies have been proposed, including
A. By hand (the TIP literature-endorsed method)
B. Taping a darkslide
C. Shooting into a box
Obviously, the easiest method is to shield by hand, though the coverage can be inadequate, and it also means you have to operate the camera with only one hand. Darkslides make very nice shields, because they are very, well, dark, and are easily large enough to cover the whole frame. However, it is not possible to shoot multiple frames, and more importantly, you will have to tape it on before and remove it after shooting. A taped on box works just like the darkslide, but can allow for multiple frames to be ejected. It is, however, the ugliest of all three.
Alternative Method I
The first method (also the basis for the second) is to tape a small piece of cloth at the front of the camera. This allows the camera to close properly, and can even function as a cover for the camera bottom. This method works remarkably well indoors, since the cloth is extremely soft and light, and can be easily displaced by the frame. However, it performed miserably outdoors (as I know too well). with the gentlest breeze capable of creating separation between the film and the cloth, and resulting in overexposure!
Alternative Method II
This is the state-of-the-art as far as I am concerned, and is a modified version of method I. Basically, I replaced the cloth with a piece of black card stock, cut to size. This allows for some rigidity, similar to the darkslide method. But I find that even this can be tricky in windy conditions, so I added a bottom panel as shown below. The two panels are linked by a belt that holds the two together, so that as the film is ejecting, the whole assembly lifts up, and the two panels slide against each other.
So, there you have it. This took me 45 minutes to think up, half a day to test, and 30 minutes to rebuild and align. It is pretty handy, and can even be made to handle multiple frames just by adding an additional fold on the bottom panel (acts as a hook to prevent ejected film from flying off. The best part about this method is that there is no assembly required. I just shoot a frame, slide it out enough to fold the shield, and store the camera away.
Hope you enjoyed this post, and if you have even better ways of shielding your TIP film, leave a comment below!
P.S. I did another one for my newish SX-70 Sonar. Looks good. It also has the little catch at the end to catch multiple frames, though limited to only 2 frames now. See picture below.