Saturday, October 26, 2019

Getting that freshly Photo-shopped look, or making a twelve dollar “Polaroid Lab” for your SLR 680 or SX-70 instant camera.

When I make art I often look for the path of most resistance. It is not intentional, it is just part of my process that emerges consistently. For example- the idea starts simply enough: Paintings generated from photographic images of homes in my community. Then it becomes more complicated. Paintings generated from photographic images of abandoned homes in my community. Then, paintings generated from photographic images of abandoned homes in my community at night. And, paintings generated from photographic images of abandoned homes in remote areas of my community at night with little natural or artificial light. At this point I find myself standing in the dark, cold, abandoned streets freezing from shooting five-minute exposures all night and explaining to the police that I have done nothing illegal. Did I mention that my canvases were six by six foot? I can never do things the easy way.

One of my projects involved me taking a digital image and manipulating it only to record it on instant film. The project called the Dollhouse series needed the intimacy of a Polaroid format combined with the perceived legitimacy of the medium( a photo never lies!). This would be a breeze if I could use an Impossible Instant Lab or even the new Polaroid Lab, but I did not have the additional 200 plus dollars nor the requisite I-Phone(not to mention, I hate the idea of tethering the lab to another product-the cell phone- that has a fairly short usable life). I have a lot of old Polaroid oscilloscope cameras, and one of these would be perfect, except I really wanted to try the idea on the iconic SX-70 border and not the Fuji pack film style.

I set about looking for a solution, and this is what I came up with: the Kalimar copy stand. I hacked the Kalimar copy stand (generally found as new old stock on eBay) with a Dremel tool, pliers, and adhesive-backed craft foam. The end result is a stand that you slip into place on the front of your SLR-680 or SX-70. The camera balances squarely on the stand with the SLR 680, which you set directly on a tablet, or possibly a phone. With the flash turned off and using a shutter release cable, you focus the camera and take the shot! The stand comes with the enlarging copy lens built-in, but you will likely need filters to avoid the strong blue cast caused by an LED screen. I taped on a strong yellow filter and that did the trick.

So how did I do the mod? It was quite easy. Describing it is harder. Since I already had the camera and cable release, the whole project set me back 12 dollars! I started with the Kalimar Kali- Copier for the Polaroid ColorPack II camera. There are other Kali Copiers, but this one lines up perfectly with the lens and sensor on the camera.
When I did this originally, I spent a lot of hours cutting and measuring stuff, but if you print my simple template you will save time. 

Once you have cut the template out of light card-stock or an index card, lay it across the camera side of the stand, folding the sides to follow the metal tabs on the stand. Using a silver or colored sharpie, trace the template. Remove the lens from the stand and set it aside.

Now take your Dremel style tool and a good metal cutting blade and cut away the excess metal. This is the fun part- lots of bright sparks showering to the side of your work! Tip: when I traced with a silver sharpie it gave me a fat line. In order to be accurate, I cut away all of the silver right up to the black. Be careful to wear safety glasses, and support both the stand and your Dremel firmly. I adjusted my rpm to only 3000 and took my time.

Please take note from the photos that I did some cutting that was not on the template. Parts of the lens housing have to be cut back, as well. Be careful to only cut away what I have shown. Any more could weaken the stand. Follow the Dremel work with filing all of the raw edges that you created.

Now take your template and trace it onto a piece of adhesive-backed craft foam. This can typically be found in the children’s section of a craft store. I chose black, but you can do it in any color. The purpose of the foam is to protect your camera from scratches( I learned this the hard way!). Put the craft foam in place, covering every part of the stand’s camera cradle with the foam.

The final steps to building the stand require bending. This metal is not quite light enough to bend easily with your fingers, so I suggest using needle-nose pliers. Study my photos showing the slight bends outwards and up, and also hold your camera to the side of the stand. The hole should line up with the exposure window, and the cutout on the side should line up with the shutter release. Once I got everything bent and it slipped into place, I put an extra bit of bend at the top of the tab that didn’t have the cutout. This acts as a grip for the front of the camera. Once you have set it in the stand in its correct position, look at the shutter button and remove the foam that would press against it. Just cut out that small section so you don’t accidentally trigger the shutter button with the foam.

An area you may or may not decide to bend is the base of the stand. I chose to do it so it sits flatter. I pinched the part that allows you to slip pictures in to copy, as I wanted it to be flat and padded. I added craft foam to the surface so the screen I would be setting it on would be protected(I use my “instant lab” with a tablet), as well as to avoid touch screen activation with the metal.

Use is simple. Open the camera, turn off or remove the flash, mount the camera on the stand, plug in the remote shutter release cable, lift the camera and stand onto the tablet, then focus the shot.

This stand pictured here is my second one. I really think the template and instructions should make this a very easy project for anyone. There is one downside, though. You may get addicted to cutting things with a Dremel cutting wheel!

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