Golden sunlight with some free but limited time. What a perfect time to try out the One Hour Challenge! For those who are not aware what this is, it is where you have to shoot a whole roll of film within an hour to kick off the creative juices. So; One Hour, One Film!
The challenge is inspired by a film photography podcast, Sunny 16 Podcast. It is hosted by Ade, Rachael and Graeme, who are exploring the world of analogue photography. In recent episodes they were exploring ways to get creativity flowing. The way they tackled this was by introducing a series of self-challenges.
The first challenge was to shoot a roll of film within an hour and force the mind to stop procrastinating. Ade used a pack of instant instead. During the challenge, they each recorded the process of shooting, and what it took to complete it. After they each had done this, they put out a call for listeners to also try it. They also asked for them to send in their experience. I didn’t do this until much later, in-fact way into the next challenge.
If you prefer to listen while you look at the photos, feel free to listen to my experience at the end of Episode 43 of their Backing Paper series. Just fast forward to about eight minutes from the end. This way, if you prefer, you bypass Rachael’s delightful insights and Graeme’s waffle (just kidding Graeme!).
The Lead Up
I live in Sydney, Australia. Recently I have been spending a lot of time in Auckland, New Zealand due to work commitments. I really enjoy working in Auckland but most weeks I fly in and out in the same week. As it has been Winter recently, I’ve had limited opportunities to shoot. That is except for some night time photography.
Occasionally I have taken advantage and stayed a weekend or extra day. That has though, been in better weather. I did it in February where I toured the Coromandel Peninsular with a friend. Even with bad weather I have tried to make the best. You can see this when I travelled there with my son last year, you can see about the trip here.
On a recent trip, I was stayed for a fortnight, so I had a weekend to myself. I took advantage of the situation and travelled out to Waiheke Island and Davenport for some sightseeing and of course photography.
On the way back from Davenport on the Sunday evening, I was sitting on the ferry and noticed that after a week of bad weather, the sunlight was just stunning. I eagerly awaited for the ferry to reach the Viaduct Harbour in Auckland where I rushed back to my apartment to swap cameras, grab a roll of film and my tripod.
I had been shooting all weekend with a Nikon F3 with a mixture of Ilford HP5 Plus and Kodak Portra 400. Luckily, I had been avoiding the rain, by a combination of cafes and shopping in between. I also only tend to carry only one camera to keep things simple, though I had travelled with two on this trip, leaving one in the safe when not being used.
When the opportunity for the One Hour Challenge presented itself, I decided that a roll of medium format film would be easier to shoot in the time restriction. The other camera I had brought with me to Auckland was the wonderful Fuji GS645S Professional Wide60.
The GS645S Wide60 is a wonderful medium format rangefinder camera, with a bitingly sharp wide lens. It has a 60mm f/4 lens which equates roughly to 38mm in the 35mm format.
With a built-in meter, which is quite accurate, this is a great travel camera. Producing 6×4.5cm frames, it provides heaps of detail in each shot. There is one thing I find a bit quirky in that, as per most 645 cameras, it is natively framing in portrait format.
One of its limitations is a fairly small round rangefinder patch which gets a bit hard to see in lower light. The viewfinder is tinted blueish though, which does make it a bit easier. You can find a full review of the GS645S in this review: Fuji GS645S – Camera with a Roo Bar.
For film I grabbed a roll of Kodak Portra 400, which I loaded into the camera possibly a little too fast when I got out there as it had been in the fridge. I set the camera to ISO 250, as I like to overexpose Portra 400 by roughly two thirds of a stop. Processing was done at its box speed at EI 400. I also took my travel tripod out, which is a nice light graphite Slik tripod with a Manfrotto head. I expected to finish up after the sun had come down, so would need the stability.
After practically running back to the apartment, I quickly walked back out into the Viaduct Harbour. I was willing my film to warm up fast so I can load it. When I stay in Auckland I have been using an apartment right in the harbour which is very handy. Especially in this situation. As the idea of the One Hour Challenge formed in my mind, I started recording the experience. This was so I can send it in to the ‘Sunbeams’.
One of the first things I noticed was the wonderful reflection of the boats moored in the harbour. Being a fairly protected harbour within the Viaduct Basin, the water tends to be quite still. I then turned around and had a nice view of the Sky Tower literally towering over Auckland. I snapped both scenes.
After a little while I moved up the harbour area and crossed a little bridge which spans a part of the water. This is an interesting bridge as it opens up every so often, to let the boats and yachts through.
Following this path through, I headed to where there are some silos which have been decorated nicely with some textured painting. There is also a structure you climb here which gives you a better view of them, but also if you turn around, a view of the skyline itself too.
Next, I went to an area where some shipping containers have been put in place and painted bright colours. I took a shot of a red one, against a white wall with a white “1” painted on it.
Beyond the shipping containers is another little harbour, which has a pier. I took a walk on it and looking back you can see a big silo or tank which has not been painted but in this light, looked great.
After a few minutes I started back up towards the Viaduct again. I was still getting a decent speed of 1/125second for f/8, so the light was only just starting to fade out.
As I walked back into the Viaduct area, I noticed a parked sea plane.
The sun was really getting lower now, but I got a shot of the boats back towards the city.
I then had the opportunity to use the tripod as the light was too low for any hand held shooting. I took a couple of photos of the city skyline with longer shutter speeds. My final shot was when the sun was down and some lights had come on in the city, but unfortunately this one did not work out.
After the Hour
I sent in my recording to Sunny 16 Podcast and was pleased when it was played in the Backing Paper episode that week. Graeme played it even though I had not catered for the wind and it had quite a noisy audio.
My lab processed the film about a week later, when I got back to Sydney. I was very pleased with the results on the negatives and that night scanned them into my Apple Mac Pro. I found the colour balance to be a little difficult on these, as the automated Lightroom plug in (Negative Lab Pro) struggled to get these right. After a bit of adjustment, I think I have a nice set of images to remember an evening in the Viaduct Harbour.
Did I enjoy the challenge? Yes, it is fun and really pushes you to be a little creative. So, if you are looking for inspiration, this is not a bad way to get some creative juices flowing.