Early pioneers used objects far away on the horizon to guide their path and measure distance. As they trekked across the globe, they knew that if you were traveling on flat ground an object just on the horizon was about 3 miles away. As I discover new places, I choose follow this tradition and use a horizon to guide my path: a Horizon Perfekt.
With camera, film and lightmeter, I set out to better understand my new neighborhood of Westwood in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati has 52 distinct neighborhoods. Westwood is the largest in terms of population. What better way to discover your neighborhood than with your camera, specifically this jaw-dropping masterpiece of photography.
Let me explain why the Horizon has such a spell on me. The Horizon Perfekt IS Lomography to me. When your friend buys that brand new 50 million megapixel digital camera and brings it around to show off, you simply hold the Horizon up and whisper, “but can it do this?” Then trip the shutter. Watch your friend’s brain try to process what they just saw and what it all means. They’ll say, in a skittish nervous voice, “wait, what did that just do, you have to show me again!” Just casually shrug, and walk away.
What I mean to say is that the Horizon does not have a digital counterpart. There isn’t a swing-lens panoramic digital camera. People can argue that digital point-and-shoots do the same thing as an LC-A, and even though we all know they can’t, it can be a tough sell to someone who hasn’t seen images produced by one. But even the fancy panning digitals that can produce stitched panoramics don’t come close to the Horizon. The shutter is different, the perspective is different, it captures motion differently. The whole thing digital panning function is just a poor substitute for a Horizon.
I know Lomography is about freedom, spontaneity and breaking the rules. But I need some structure, I crave it. Call me dork, but I need a plan. When I was in college, I completed a photo project for class called “The Village.” We had to find a small town or community and document ten specific aspects of it photographically. Some of the aspects were industry, social life, healthcare, education… you get the picture. Since I just moved to my new neighborhood, I decided to adapt this project for my own purposes. I did a little research and found some places I wanted to explore. I spent a little time on my bike, a little time on the internet, a little time in my car, and ended up meeting a lot of great people who were more than happy to welcome me to the neighborhood.
Park at the Park
I decided to start at a park. Mt. Airy Forest to be exact. One of the biggest urban forests in the my state. It was a cool, fall day, so there weren’t too many people out. But it was outside, which was an easy place to get to know the Horizon Perfekt. First off, the loading process is a little tricky. It’s like weaving, just remember, go all the way under the first set of rollers, then go over the big hump, then all the way under all of the rollers on the other side. I got the hang of it eventually. Always use your neckstrap or set the camera down while loading. During the process, you could easily lose your grip and drop the camera. I think I pulled out some good shots.
In doing some online research, I found that my neighborhood is a haven for people who like historical homes. They love preserving them and restoring them. So I decided to hop on my bike and document the many cool homes that live in ‘hood. Professional architecture photographers use tilt-shift lens to make all the lines of building appear straight. As you might guess, the Horizon doesn’t like straight lines. It likes curvy sweep half-pipes of awesomeness. The Horizon might be an architecture photographers nightmare, but screw them. Lomo on!
In the follow gallery, you’ll see some cool old house and even some retro style apartment buildings that are very common around here. You’ll also see some shots that include my favorite Horizon trick. When shooting a house or something, flip that camera vertically and stick your subject in the very bottom of the frame. The top of the frame will reach directly over your head producing the coolest effect.
The Gamble House
Have you guys heard of Proctor & Gamble. It’s one of the top consumer goods producers in the world. They make… well, everything. Anyway, they’re headquartered in Cincinnati. James Gamble, the inventor of Ivory Soap and co-founder of the company owned a house in MY neighborhood. Pretty cool, right? Well, not really, because the people who own it are trying to tear it down. Some members of my community are rallying to try to save it. It’s tucked in behind some trees. You can also most miss it going down the road, but there’s this little staircase that leads to it from the sidewalk. The last photo in this gallery shows the house of a local resident who wants the Gamble House to stay.
You’ll notice I had two photos of the Gamble House back to back in that gallery. One looked level, the other was curvalicious. The bowl-curve comes when you tilt the camera up, and a mound-curve comes when you tilt the camera down. Watch the great spirit level the Horizon has. There’s a reason they went through the trouble of projecting it into the viewfinder.
I used all Lomographic film for this project, 100 and 800 ISO color negative and 200 ISO X-Pro. An awesome advantage of shooting film is the shadow detail that film brings out. I still don’t think that digital cameras are as good at film at capturing things like this. The best digital cameras say they have 14 stops of “dynamic range,” well that might be true, but you’ve got to tune the cameras contrast down to get it and then you’re dealing with a bunch of post processing. For images in dappled sunlight, film just wins.
(Pictures of the film)
What better place to find some people who might appreciate a little Lomo than at a tattoo shop. I stopped by One Shot Tattoo for a little mini-documentary on my new hometown ink shop. The owner Jason Morgan was a keen collector of art and was more than happy to show me around his palace. Some Horizon tips: stand in doorways to shoot two room at the same time. Do you want to make your hippy uncle have an acid flashback? Well find some mirrors. This camera loves mirrors. It produces the most disorienting images. They are image that you want to crawl into and dig around in and deconstruct. Jason was even cool enough to let me watch him work on a sketch for a new tattoo for a client. Check out all of that stuff in the gallery below.
Reading is Fundamental
It was time to head inside. Poorly lit inside spaces can put Holga and Diana owners into a deep depression, but at least they can use a flash. I was scared. But I knew that I was in good hands. One of the sweetest things about the Horizon is it’s wide open, light catching, super fast f/2.8 aperture. You can’t see the horizon unless your eyes are WIDE open. Is that a song lyric? It should be.
I headed to an important Westwood community gathering place: the public library. It was built as a library in the 1930s. And it’s the ONLY library in Ohio that was built using the Spanish Mission architecture style. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be proud of this or not. Regardless, the Horizon out did itself. Pulling out color and texture from nowhere. The fast aperture rocked out. And that quirky Lomo face on the muzzle of this photo gun made me seem extra friendly. No one minded having their picture taken. And a lot of times, I could be sneaky with the camera. It shoots 120 degrees. If you’re facing 110 degrees away from someone, they don’t think you’re taking their picture!
Time for a Drink
No story of a neighborhood is complete without a visit to the local watering hole. Babe’s Cafe is a Westwood staple. The regulars were so comfortable and laid back. The swears flew, the beer flowed. I’m pretty sure a few mother’s were insulted, but everyone maintain their smile. I learned about Westwood from some folks that had lived their since they were born, including a regular everyone called Boxcar.
Boxcar’s large nose seemed to be his downfall. No matter what opinion he had, no matter how valid or well-researched, his nose discredited him. Even the owner commented on. The steady flow of mid-afternoon beers probably didn’t help Boxcar’s debating skills either, but who knows! Now it’s time for a warning and a request. When your aperture is wide open on the Horizon, close subjects WILL NOT be in focus. Your subject should be at least 2-3 meters away when you’re set at f/2.8. The request: make a close-up filter for the Horizon. The Horizon has these great little filters that snap over the lens. One that had a little bit of lens that allowed for closer focusing would be awesome. But until then, just be cautious with your distance. Here’s some shots from my new favorite bar, including a sign for their recent breast cancer research fundraiser, haha.
The Horizon is an AMAZING camera. I absolutely love the solid feel of it. I love the adjustability of it, and I love the looks you get when you take someone’s picture with it. At first I was worried that I was going to burn through film more quickly since you only get about 18 shots per 36 exposure roll, but I never found myself short. 18 shots is a lot when you’re looking for the things that you want panoramic. Getting the shot lined up, choosing your aperture and shutter speed, getting the shot level and giving that giant viewfinder one final sweep is almost as satisfying as take three pictures with a normal camera. The Horizon Perfekt has power, people. Without batteries or magic, it got my photo juices flowing. It made me fall in love with my neighborhood. Get one now before they’re gone. Here are few more shots from the camera (not taken in my neighborhood). One is of the Dalai Lama during a recent visit to Cincinnati. I was definitely the only professional there sporting a Horizon!