Telling stories with a picture package – a Baltic experience

End of October we had a one-week holiday break and met with friends at the Baltic coast to enjoy the last warm days of the year on the beach. Photography-wise I was keen to finally put one of my refurbished Agfa Isolette folders to test. And that’s what I did. I loaded a leftover roll of Ektar 100 and strolled along a circular walkway starting at the beach and passing through the dunes into the coastal woodland. During this two-hour outing I walked along the shore line, through marram grass and alongside extensive reeds to finally reach the forest, a mix of beech, silver birch and pine trees. I had been on this walk before and thought why not trying to “summarize” all these landscape aspects in a series of photographic images. All on the same film material and all with the same 1:1 aspect ratio. I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to shoot enough images of suitable quality for this series on a single roll of film and a typical user error almost spoiled the endeavour: Several times I pressed the release button without a previously cocked shutter. Each time this forced me to spool the film a little further wasting at least one frame in the end. And here is what I saw:

A Baltic story shot with an AGFA Isolette III with 75mm/f3.5 Solinar on Kodak Ektar 100

It starts with a typical breakwater, a row of oak logs hammered into the sand to ease the surf rolling onto the beach. This scene gives you an immediate sense of place. The next image is basically the same area, but takes a bit more of the human condition into consideration. A single person sitting in a long-sleeve jumper at the shore line. And a beach volleyball net reminiscent of the past summer and thousands of tourists walking, jumping, running and sunbathing on this particular beach. Walking further along the shore line I came across this arrangement of shells, seagrass and beech leaves in autumnal color giving you a sense of season. This is immediately supported by the next two images which show beech and silver birch trees which just started to turn and a detail of the autumnal brown to orange bracken forming the understorey of the coastal woodland. The last image gives you a detailed whereabouts and shows the extensive reeds framing several ponds directly behind the sand dunes.

It is just a series of six images, none of them particularly spectacular, but “reading” through them one by one characterizes this particular spot at the Baltic, its nature and its feel in the autumnal season. Additionally, it tells the story of my two-hour walk on this particular day and carries a lot of memories associated with discovering and shooting these particular subjects.

Just a few words about the camera performance: As you may remember from a previous post (“And then there were three”) I refurbished three Agfa Isolettes and gave them not ony a proper CLA but also fixed a new bellows to each of them. As you can see from the images the new bellows are perfectly light tight and also peeking through the little red window on the back of the camera when advancing the film did not produce any deteriorating effects on the images – I wasn’t sure about that, since color film is sensitive to red light, whereas b/w emulsions are normally not. Apart from the stupid idea to press the shutter without previously cocking it, the shooting experience was great. Also the uncoupled distance meter worked perfectly and I am pretty sure that this light weight pocket-size medium format camera and its two sisters will be used quite often in the future.

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