Lomographer Mike Allison, a.k.a. mike1allison and his curious creative thirst for photography resulted in to surreal, lively compositions during his recent trip to the majestic natural scenery of the Wasatch Mountain Ranges. Read our story with Mike and his creative process behind his endeavor.
Mike's visit to the mountain ranges was more of a spontaneous trip as he simply wanted to test out a simple conversion with 120 roll of film with his Polaroid 110a. After picking up some decorations for his daughter's wedding, he and his wife decided to look for a nice place to shoot some film. Forty miles away from his place, they drove up to the "Alpine Loop" which was already picturesque itself, leading to the Wasatch Mountains. As Utah is known for its canyon roads, the accessibility of the wilderness and scenery was effortless.
"So, with cameras and tripod in hand (or car in this case), we set off. The road is busy and a bit treacherous because it is narrow and twisty, but whenever you stop the views are breathtaking. The little meadow where I took the flower shots was filled with beautiful scenes and I literally could have spent the day in that little space because there was enough to shoot. Afterward, on our way home, we stopped at another little town called “Echo” which is really just a ghost town with people in it. The shops and services are all closed because the interstate bypassed the town. But that gave me some chance to shoot a bit of architecture as well."
Some photos from the recent series were born out of Mike's two cameras when he wanted to replace his Start camera but he loved the gem of the Soviet camera that is the Helios-44 lens. The Helios-44 is a famous lens made from about 1958 to around 1999 and is very common for secondhand shops.
"However they really only ever made one lens - the Helios-44 58mm f/2 lens. Which, if you're only going to have one, you could do far worse. So I eventually picked one up only I chose one with a Helios 44 M39x1 mount lens and an original adapter for the Start so I could possibly use the lens on other cameras. The film advance on the camera failed which still makes me sad. The original M39 mount is the Leica rangefinder mount designed to sit 28mm from the focal plane and has 26tpi mount threads. There are a lot of these lenses but they won't fully work on a reflex camera because the focal distance is too far. The M42 universal thread mount systems we see on many single-lens reflex systems sit 45.46mm from the film. The Helios-44 KMZ designed for the Start has 39x1 threads and sits 45.2mm from the film plane which means it essentially can work for most M42 mount cameras with an adapter."
So Mike decided to take out the lens and put it on his Minolta Maxximum 5 – as he wants to use it for an unperforated film. The Maxximum camera's lens mount system has a 44.5 mm flange to focal plane distance and has adapters available that allow M42 lenses to fit and function. Despite a lover of Nikon cameras too, the Maxximum camera system has a special place in his heart for all the control it offers. Mike has also gotten equipment, chemicals, and film from the former the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. "There may be a little longer wait, but in my experience, the transactions have been safe and successful. My lens is an original Helios-44 (no 'M') manufactured in 1965 with a silver body. Focusing is stiff and aperture adjustment is not lol!"
With this modified camera, he captured the flowers from the Wasatch Mountain ranges, highly satisfied with the optics and the colors the outcome provided.
One of the most outstanding aspects of Mike's series is the color. With the photographs developed in standard C-41, Mike immediately scanned the negatives. The positives nicely complement the negatives, somehow even becoming difficult to tell them apart due to the vibrance, but the negatives have the punchier tones. The positives give a more delicate, fleeting aesthetic. The starkness of the colors and shadow also gives his photographs sharp details.
"Processing the colors after scanning was when I really noticed how the shadows from the other flowers were playing on each other. I think my favorite part of those photos was how the light and shadows were working between the flowers and the petals/stems. The other aspect I liked was that since they are flowers and we KNOW they are flowers the colors can just be fun and we can explore how different colors offer different views and details in the same shots."
To become an artist is to have more resources poured into their process and work. Mike believes that whether you're using digital or film, the most important thing is to put thought into your shots and look at results with curiosity. Spend more time with every step -- when taking a photo, developing, scanning or printing. Play around! Experimenting is his number one rule.
"They have something tangible and they experience their share of mistakes and serendipity. But the true artists that I know take some risks with time, expense, and failure because that is where the art is. I guess in a sense, geniuses create art, the rest of us create a place where art can occur if we are lucky."
Lately, Mike got himself a Graflok back for his Polaroid 110a Pathfinder. He plans on using an Ilford 3200 film and sees how it will work. He's also experimenting with old developer recipes with expired films. He was inspired by Ed Lowe (of Edwal Laboratories) and his original works.
"I'm learning about his thoughts on developers and developing and probably more so, taking a deep look at William Mortensen's work and writing. Mortensen was, in a way, a serious Lomographer as well as an artist who wasn't afraid to take a razor blade to a negative to make things happen. I respect that. Coincidentally he was born not far from where I was born and how he describes tone and texture in lighting describes a lot of my thoughts on the subject - just a lot more thoughtful."
For more of Mike's experiments with film, visit his LomoHome.