About this site
Banff can't help but be a beautiful place. But there are pockets of ugliness that are hard to ignore. Many of these pockets tell of an historical vision to further the economic viability of this national park. But this vision continues to grow and drive further development, creating a disconnect between what was here and what this park will become. It is the exploration of these pockets that this site is about. We often delete things from our vision that interfere with what we want to see. Instead, focus in on those things, pondering what man has done to Banff.
About the photos
All pictures here are analog, either instant photos (using Instax wide film), or using film/photographic paper as negatives. This process involves getting the film and paper, loading it into the camera, exposing the photos, then developing the roll or sheet in film/paper developer and fixing the print by removing undeveloped chemicals, then drying the negative. This process is challenging because of the various factors that can prevent a good result. A poor exposure will not show up until the film is developed, which itself has to be done carefully, using the correct dilution, temperature, and time. The film has to be handled in complete darkness until development is complete, and then carefully handled to avoid scratches or fingerprints.
Using b&w photographic paper as negatives is especially challenging since the paper is orthochromatic--insensitive to red, particularly sensitive to blue, and somewhat sensitive to green. This makes determining the ISO tricky since that depends on the colour temperature of the light illuminating the scene. Photographic paper also has a very narrow dynamic range since it is meant to be used with film negatives (which share the same dynamic range). This results in photos with higher contrast than film.
Why confine this site to the limitations of analog photography? It's a way of going back in time, slowing down the photographic process, and bringing out aspects of Banff that only analog can produce. The scanned files have minimal editing (cropping), and whole negatives were sometimes included, along with any imperfections (dust, etc) that was present while scanning.
About the cameras
5x7 large format cardboard box camera
Made with a cardboard box, a modified lens, and home made film holders, this camera produces styled photos which would be difficult to produce otherwise. Paper negatives force careful composition and exposure, its narrow dynamic range capturing the starkness of the scene. The lens used with this camera is a modified lens designed for a 35mm camera, but with a different rear element which produces a larger image circle. This results in images that are somewhat distorted and out of focus at the edges. It also requires an exposure compensation of 4 additional stops resulting in multi-second exposures, which works out well since this camera doesn't have a shutter.
5x7 large format hardboard camera
Using the same back as the previous camera, this camera was made to accommodate a Fujinon W 210mm large format lens with copal shutter. The resolution and lens coverage results in sharp photos over the whole film plane, and the shutter allows for shorter exposure times.
Polaroid model 350 and 450
Instant cameras made 50+ years ago, film has become rare, though the occasional colour photo was taken with Fuji FP-100C film. Modifications to the 450 made it possible to use b&w paper negatives in home made film holders, giving the results an historical look due to its unique format.
Olympus OM-2 and OM-2n
The OM-2 was purchased 40+ years ago and recently revived along with a darkroom and various prime lenses were added for different perspectives. The additional OM-2n body joined the team for added film speed flexibility. Film brings back both lost subtleties and uneven grittiness to photography. It will never be perfect, but it can communicate reality in its own way.
About the author
Jim is a status Indian from the West Coast who spent most of his years working with Indigenous languages in Mexico, assisting field teams with their computers. After moving back to the West Coast and working as a consultant for a decade, he moved near Banff and has grown to appreciate the area. He has dabbled in photography most of his life, starting with a Brownie box camera, then moving up to 35mm, adding darkroom experience in college. As digital photography slowly established itself, he was always dissatisfied with not only the medium, but the product. Early cameras produced poor quality photos, and recent cameras create pictures that try too hard to be perfect. So analog camera equipment was resurrected, and new cameras built to use analog medium. In this way, he enters into an historical process which is both satisfying and produces unique results.