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The Modern 35mm Improvise

The era of digital photography is on the rapid rise with technology and social media outlets making it a while lot easier for creative’s to showcase their talent and express themselves in photography.
The Modern 35mm Improvise

How Mike Ito fabricated his Aquatech Waterhousing to fit a Canon EOS 1N 35mm film camera

The era of digital photography is on the rapid rise with technology and social media outlets making it a whole lot easier for creative’s to showcase their talent and express themselves in photography. The use of film has taken a backseat to megapixels but the art of shooting with film has not deteriorated over time instead is used as another form still of taking photos.

In surfing, film has been constantly used over the years and even through the digital age has been thriving and somewhat growing. For Mike Ito, bridging the gap between film and digital photography has been an interesting way to keep grounded with the art form.

Film Photography Water Housing - Ethan Young

What made you think of this project and how did you go about it?
In today's digital everything world, there is so much "noise" around us. We always want the best stuff. The latest and greatest bullshit, yup i'm guilty. The noise is getting louder and the pace is getting faster. I think my senses are going numb.

Shooting film slows things down and brings me back to reality. It makes me think about what I'm doing and keeps me present for the subject I'm shooting. Similar to how listening to your favorite artist on vinyl puts you at a certain place, in a certain mood, film does that to me. To a visual artist, It's magical.

How could I combine that with shooting surfing? Easy, stick that sucker in a water housing. They've been doing it for decades, so I thought...

What were the biggest challenges you faced what did you do to make your Canon EOS 1N camera fit in the housing??
My first water housing was an Aquatech Elite I. It had previously fit a 5D mkii, then a 70D with the different camera mounting and back-cover system Aquatech uses.


The main challenges were having to make sure the film camera was securely mounted inside the housing all while lining up the manual shutter release. Luckily the Canon 5D mkii has similar dimensions to the Canon 1N, so I used those dimensions in the mounting plate I fabricated for the 1N.

Next was a matter of getting the depth of where the camera seated on the new mount in relation to the shutter release. Aquatech has these screw-on rods that are used to physically hit the shutter release from outside of the camera through a mechanical screw-in device. They graciously supplied me with those to get the right distance.
Another note that I think was critical before going ahead with this idea was the Canon 1N having the same EF lens mounting system as the 5D mkii and so on. My original thought was not only to line up the shutter release, but to use the same zoom gear system that Aquatech built in their water housings.

Finally, fabricating the mounting plate was easier than I originally thought. I found a simple lathe system for my drill press, bought a few lathe bits and started carving down a piece of delrin plastic based on the dimensions of the 5D plate and the mounting system inside the housing. If you have access to a 3D printer, that should be an even easier way to go. After tons of re-measuring and double checking the fit, I got it snug and in position. After closing the back-plate, the shutter button was hitting and voila! 

Is it tough to acquire a water housing made for a film camera?
Right now, correct me if i'm wrong, I'm not aware of any housing manufacturer creating water housings for film cameras. It's a DIY world if you want to bring your SLR film camera in the water and I doubt anyone will make them. 

Does your shooting style differ from shooting digitally?
It physically feels the same because you still have to swim into position, etc, but you really have to think more about your shot composition and lighting. First of all, I'm not a veteran film shooter, and I'm learning more everyday about film technique, but the depth of color, exposure, and detail you get with film is opening up more opportunities for me, especially shooting film in low light and the golden hours in the surf.

With the shot count (36!), what helps me is already having an idea in your head of the shots you're looking for. Other variables like the spot, time of day, and surfer are factors as well, but having a vision in your head before you get out helps me get what i'm looking for with 36 exposures. For example, with this surfer, and that sun-rise, it would be sick to have this bottom turn at this spot. With digital, it's like a machine gun without caring how many shots you're taking, almost a "soul-ess" shot, whereas with film, with the amount of thought, love, and heart in your shot, you are capturing your subject's "soul".

What other options is out there for someone to shoot film in water?

Some of the other options I've tried is the Nikonos II. There are also a lot of people who use the Nikonos V. These cameras are smaller and don't require a bulky housing like the one I've used for the 1N so it's a great starting point. I have to say that being able to change up your lens using the same lens as I do with my digital is a huge bonus.

Shooting film takes a lot more time to process, how do you feel about the digital image turn around compared to the process of film? What do you think is more important, quality vs quantity?
The more I take my film camera out, the more I look for ideal weather conditions because I want the film shots to be even more magical (compared to digital editing). Having a film camera in the water for me is like creating art rather than shooting commercially, so I don't mind waiting a little longer to see how they turn out. For me. film is definitely all about quality.

What are your favorite film stocks to shoot for surf?
At the moment, I am trying various film stocks, but so far I've used Ilford HP5 (b+w), Ektar 100, Portra 400, Revolog kolor and Revolog 600nm. So far my favorite has been the Revolog kolor. 

Where do you process your film?
I develop my film at Treehouse Hawaii at Kakaako in Honolulu. They also have a new photo processing lab (Treehouse Labs) that they recently acquired and it's been so easy with quick turnaround times. It's a nice place to pick up film after dropping off for developing. Their staff are very knowledgeable on film and film equipment. Highly recommended if you're in the area.

Any advice for those looking to shoot more film in todays digital technology? 
Another big factor for me to do what I did was that I wanted to use my current lenses that I have for my digital camera. Luckily I can do that with my Canon EF lenses with the Canon 1N. Combined with Aquatech's housing, mounting options, various ports, and zoom gears, it made a lot of sense to start there for shooting in the water.


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