IN YOUR BAG: 1725 – C.M. Tucker
Hello! My name is Carmen (but I go by C.M. Tucker on social media). I’m a graduate student from the Greater Toronto Area.
I like to keep things light and compact because in addition to photography gear, I also carry my books and laptop in my bag. I squeeze in my daily photography fix whenever I have a gap between classes. I either take the bus downtown to do some quick street photography, or I take a walk through some of the hiking trails near campus. It’s all about making the most of the situation I’m in and trying to find something new and interesting in scenes and locations that I’ve been seeing nearly every day for the past 8 years.
For me, photography is a means of breaking routine. Taking a camera with me to school and to work is a reminder to see even the most mundane activities, like a long commute or waiting in the pizza line, as an opportunity for discovery.
I bought my first film camera off Etsy in 2016. It was a Pentax Spotmatic with a 55mm f1.8 lens. It’s still one of my favourite cameras to use today, but I find the all-metal build too heavy for me to bring as a daily carry. Instead, my go-to daily camera is now a Canon EOS Rebel G with the good ol’ plastic fantastic nifty fifty, a modern EF 50mm 1.8 STM lens. It’s a plastic SLR with a built-in electronic lightmeter. It’s the camera that lets me takes photos most efficiently, even though it doesn’t look “vintage” enough to be a conversation starter.
What I’ve learned since starting film photography (and after G.A.S. left me with more cameras than I knew what to do with), is that I want a camera that doesn’t get in the way and allows me to be confident in the shots I take. As a photographer, I don’t want people to notice me. Instead, I want to be the one noticing others.
But over the last month, my G.A.S flared up again, and I took the dive into large format, which is the exact opposite of light and compact.
I wanted to understand what makes large format so special. What do “movements” mean? What does it mean to shift the plane of focus? How shallow of a depth of field can I really get?
After much soul (and financial) searching, I finally made the leap. At first, I doubted if I was good enough or ready for large format. I mean, I still frequently miss focus and butcher exposure when I shoot 35mm. How could I be qualified for large format? But I learned that you don’t need to master 35mm in order to “level up” to large format. If anything, being doubtful of my ability actually made me more attentive and careful when shooting large format. So, out of the 30 images that I’ve taken with the Intrepid so far, I actually like more than half of them. A 50% success rate is a lot higher than what I typically get from a roll of 36 exposures.
I mainly shoot with a 6×7 Horseman roll back so that I can use 120 film. 4×5 sheet film is just too expensive. Plus, I didn’t choose to try large format because of the resolution it can provide (since you can easily get comparable sharpness with a medium format camera), but my goal is to try to use movements, which is a technical feature not commonly available on medium format cameras. Since I’m still just practicing, I’m shooting mostly macro photography either around the house or the local neighbourhood.
The gear haul
The bag: A large tan leatherette tote that I got from a 2 for $10 sale at a local mall. I like to call it my Mary Poppins bag because it feels limitless. I can stuff my laptop in it, my books, my lunch, and of course my photography gear.
But because the tote is essentially a storage abyss with no padding or sections, I have to wrap my gear in cloth to protect them. The wide mouth of the bag also makes it easy to pull gear out on a whim. I don’t have to swing a backpack around to my chest or set it on the ground to unzip. But it probably goes without saying that it’s not ergonomically designed for long, strenuous hikes, but as a tote that doubles as a school bag and gear bag, it’s more than enough.
The notebook: A bullet journal from Dollarama
The poetry book (behind the notebook): The Essential John Reibeitanz. An anthology of poems by the Canadian poet, John Reibetanz. I picked it from a used-book sale at Bookends from the Toronto Public Library. I find that there’s a relationship between written poetry and visual poetry, and so I tend to carry poetry books with me when I need some inspiration. I also have a short attention span, and I’ve unfortunately been reading fewer books as I get older, but poetry books are easy to flip through.
The Canon EOS Rebel G with a 50mm f1.8 lens: A plastic, manual SLR with an electronic lightmeter. It has everything you’d need from an SLR but with half the weight.
The Intrepid 4×5 with a 135mm f5.6 lens: One of the most lightweight 4×5 cameras out there (you’re probably noticing a theme here) that clocks in at about 2.6 pounds. The Rodenstock Sironar-N lens is also small and light. It’s as tall as my bullet journal, as you can see in the picture.
The film: I don’t have any go-to film stocks, but lately I’ve been trying black and white more with Acros II, and I’ve been alternating between Ektar and Portra to capture fall foliage.
The accessories: A 20cm Manfrotto PIXI mini tripod for the Intrepid to sit on for low-level shots, a measuring tape so that I can measure how far I need to extend the bellows for macro shots, and the 6×7 Horseman roll back in which I load 120 film for the Intrepid.
Not pictured: My pen for my notebook, my cable release, and my jacket that doubles as a dark cloth.
While the gear in my bag is periodically changing depending on what kind of photography I’m interested in trying that month, my curiosity and interest for film photography has been a constant in my daily life for the last five years. I’ve grown a lot as a person and as a photographer through film photography. In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” T.S. Eliot writes “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” Well, I think I am now measuring out my life with film photography gear and milestones.