Meg Wolf

pixels and parsnips


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Eulogy for an app

Lifeinlofi has reported that the Hipstamatic Disposable app has been removed from the app store, in what is likely to be a permanent disappearance. I have mixed feelings about the demise of this app, though its features were often overshadowed by technical issues.

Hipstamatic Disposable

Manchester snow, my family in New York state on Christmas eve, Manchester Christmas carnival – from a Disposable D-Fault roll.

On the one hand, this app had many serious flaws for me: even after initial blank-image issues were (somewhat) resolved, my friends’ photos often only came through as low-res with extreme JPEG artifacts. During my HipstaMarch project, the app managed to eat through ALL of my data plan in one weekend, even while shooting mostly on my own. There were a host of smaller glitches like lagging on invites or failing to save to the camera roll. It was problematic that the app only ever worked well over WiFi, when it was most interesting to use when out and about. I always wished it had a better system of syncing, say, only the shot counts, with something like a local cache to save the heavy data transfer for an Internet connection.

Hipstamatic Disposable BlacKeys

Hipstamatic Disposable BlacKeys shots around Manchester

On the other hand, the concept was unique and interesting. Early on I shot a shared roll with my sister-in-law back home in the states over Christmas, giving us a peek into each others’ celebrations, and always wanted to start more rolls with friends abroad. If it had worked better, it would’ve been great for days out with my partner and parties with friends. Unfortunately, the poor performance without WiFi actually prevented me from using it in some situations where I would’ve liked to – I thought it would be brilliant to share a roll with my siblings at a family wedding, but alas, I was abroad with no data connection, so it was a non-starter. The pay-per-use rolls were an unpleasant pricing model, and made it far more frustrating when a roll went wrong. But the Dreamy, Foxy and BlacKeys cameras offered really lovely effects, whereas the unlimited-use rolls rushed out in reaction felt a bit chintzy in comparison.

Hipstamatic Disposable D-Fault

D-Fault around town

Overall, I won’t miss the app too much for day-to-day use. But it’s a shame the problems couldn’t have been better worked out to allow its unique social features to take the spotlight.

Hipstamatic Disposable 'Dreamy'

Hipstamatic Disposable ‘Dreamy’

In other Hipsta-sibling app news, an Incredibooth update this past week offered a new set of booth styles. They also appear to have snuck in the ability to flip round and use the back camera, a long-requested feature! Though it’s never among my highest-rotation camera apps, Incredibooth’s gimmick is a fun one, and my boyfriend and I often do at least one photobooth shot together when we’re travelling. The new booth styles draw from some of the recent Hipstamatic lenses, and seem quite usable for all situations. (Though I actually love the silliness of the face-recognition effects like elf ears and antlers in the Holidaze booth, they’re not great options for everyday pics!)

Incredibooth on a walk

Old Incredibooth shot from a walk (sorry, nothing from the new booths ready to post yet!)

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Manchester Instameet

This weekend the Instagramers Manchester group (@igersmcr) held its third meet-up, corresponding with an Instagram worldwide Instameet. We met up in Castlefield and walked around the area, photographing the bridges, boats and Roman forts. Castlefield is a familiar photo spot for me; it has some great views and walking around with the group brought some new perspectives. The weather veered from brief downpours to bright sunshine, but mostly held off for a pleasant day. There were some other events going on in the area and we spotted some dancers warming up in the rain, a seashell-poetry art installation and an outdoor violin performance.

Manchester Walk 3

Pictures from our most recent Instameet

My partner @poodog and I have attended two previous IGers Manchester walks this year. On the first, we met in the centre of town and took in a large loop of city landmarks. The group got split up a bit when the route was interrupted mid-way by a parade coming through!

Manchester Walk 1

Pictures from the first Instameet. Center parade photo by @poodog.

The next meetup took us around Ancoats for some interesting industrial scenes. The rain didn’t let up that day, but I enjoyed peeking into old mills and finding things to photograph in an area of town I don’t often see.

Manchester Walk 2

Pictures from the Ancoats Instameet

At the end of the walk there’s always a stop for drinks, while everyone starts editing and posting their pics from the day. It’s one of the rare social occasions when it seems acceptable for everyone to stare at their phones! The Instameets are a fun way to get out in the city and enjoy a shared interest, and always a nice group of people. I look forward to future events!

Instagrammers instagramming

Instagrammers instagramming! from the first Manchester meet

For more pics of the most recent walk, check out the #mcr_walk_03 tag on Instagram. Previous walks are under #mcr_walk_01 and #mcr_walk_02. The Instagramers Manchester group can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

All photos above by @mactire except where noted.


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Brownie daydreams and my first roll of 120 film

I first had Brownies on the brain in the wake of Kodak’s unfortunate recent bankruptcy announcement. I grew up near Kodak headquarters in Rochester, NY, and always enjoyed the displays of old camera models in the Eastman House’s galleries, from gorgeous art deco enamels to primary-color plastics. Friends and I speculated on how more could’ve been done to leverage Kodak’s nostalgia value to appeal to niche markets and hipsters. I dreamt of a Brownie brand revival, apps emulating classic film stocks, Beau Brownie iPhone cases. (I even channeled this enthusiasm into a Spoonflower fabric). Browsing through Brownie fan sites online, I wondered about obtaining one of my own; but reading about technical details and respooling film, I initially thought that getting a model in functional order would be too arcane an effort.

The idea next came to my attention after a visit to the newly-opened Lomography gallery in Manchester. I started pining for some lo-fi medium format film goodness. The Dianas were tempting, but I waffled over the cost. My thoughts again drifted to the old box Brownies.

The Ensign Ful-Vue

Enter the Real Camera Co, a few blocks away from the Lomography shop in Manchester. I noticed their box camera selection along the top of a shelf on one visit, and was amazed to find out how reasonably-priced they were. Though all the available Brownies took 620 spools, they had other box camera styles that used regular 120 film, no respooling required. I was convinced! I resisted the urge to take them all, and chose an Ensign Ful-Vue, a British make of box camera. According to online sources, this boxy style dates to the early 1940s.

At Stonehenge Hever Castle

The camera got its first try out on a Jubilee week roadtrip we took through the south of England. It was wheeled out for tourist shots of Hever Castle, Stonehenge, Durdle Door and Glastonbury Tor. The point-and-shoot mechanism couldn’t be simpler, but there was a tiny thrill in first seeing the reflected image come into focus through the viewfinder. When we returned, I turned in the first finished roll for processing, and spent the wait time worrying about whether anything would come out at all. Had I loaded the film correctly? Would everything be a frightful blur? Were there major light leaks going undetected after all this time?

Glastonbury Tor At Durdle Door

Happily, there was nothing to worry about – nearly all our bright outdoor shots turned out well (although indoor shots were, somewhat predictably, a lost cause). Now that I’ve seen how these rolls turned out, I’m looking forward to trying out other films with it, in higher ISOs and colour. And though I’m enamoured of the Ensign, I won’t stop keeping an eye out for a Beau Brownie No. 2 to call my own.

Durdle Door

A note on processing: Negatives were scanned by the developing lab. They have had post-processing adjustments in Photoshop. Digital edits have not altered the content or character of the images beyond what could reasonably be achieved by darkroom processing.


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Hipstamarch: recap

Back in March, I devised a Hipstamatic photo-a-day project with the aim of getting to know some of the lesser-used lenses in the app’s arsenal. I used each lens exclusively for a day and posted a daily favorite shot to Instagram. At the time I had 21 Hipstamatic lenses, and combined these with the 10 Hipstamatic Disposable styles to get exactly a month’s worth. (I originally thought of dedicating a week to each lens, until I counted up just how many there were!)

My first @hipstamatic #photoaday lens for #hipstamarch is the classic John S. At the #Manchester wheel. Manchester Wheel on the #Manchester #instameet with @hipstamatic #disposable #Blackeys44

You can see all my shots collected in this set on Flickr, or by searching the #hipstamarch tag on Instagram, which also contains shots from my boyfriend who joined me in the project.

As a Hipstamatic enthusiast, I found the Hipstamarch project to be a valuable and interesting experience. I became more familiar with the characteristics of each lens, and got to know the ones I hadn’t spent too much time with. I was reminded of some older favorites, and coaxed decent images from lenses I’d have otherwise written off. My image for the Susie lens was even picked up as a sample image for this lens on the Hipstamatic web site!

It's a bleached-out pastel day with the @Hipstamatic #Susie lens. Lucas lens lunchtime. The last standard Hipstamatic lens of #hipstamarch!

Along the way, my whole approach to snapping shifted; instead of running through options, trying to find an ideal combo for a situation, I was just trying to get the best shot I could with that day’s lens. The restricted parameter was in some way liberating.

I’d recommend this kind of restricted-combo project to any Hipstamatic fan. It revived my interest in the app, and the commitment to one style is even more retro-reminiscent of shooting on film.

For trying new combo ideas on a timeframe without the monthlong schedule, the @hipstaroll account on Instagram is a great resource; their hashtags and recaps provide an overview of how a combo behaves in various settings. Hipstamatic’s own photo-a-day lists under the ‘Make Beautiful’ project banner also include some film-and-lens suggestions amongst other topic prompts.