Film Friday: Exploring & Capturing Panoramas

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

It wasn’t really a Christmas present, at least I don’t think it was, but once upon a time my old pal Jason gave me a Russian-made Horizon 202 rotating lens panoramic camera as a gift.

I’ve always been fascinated with wide-screen images and had been enjoying Jeff Bridges’ book of panoramic images that he made using a Widelux camera on the sets of some of the movies he’s appeared in. I hadn’t shot very much film during that time and maybe just a few rolls more than in previous years but here I was loading film and taking exposure readings using my Gossen hand-held meter. The Horizon, you see, is an all-mechanical camera, no batteries included, no batteries needed.

Having a camera that has a 120-degree view on a 24 x 58mm film format and with a 28mm focal length lens changes your way of looking at images and framing them. When combined with what must charitably be called only an “approximate” view seen though the viewfinder and no focusing capability—I guess that’s tough to do with a moving lens—the experience puts spontaneity and maybe even a little inspiration into your photography. I have seen new Horizon 202’s on eBay for as little as $100 and don’t there’s a cheaper way to get into panoramic film photography. And it’s fun.

After having the panoramic film processed, I hand trimmed the negatives and placed the strips in one of the film holders that Epson included with the one of their old scanners. After scanning and tweaking the images in Adobe Photoshop suddenly I’m Jeff Bridges, Nash Bridges, Brooklyn Bridges or one of those guys.

Postscript: Long after shooting the above panoramic image and this one, I upgraded from the Horizon to a lightly used Hasselblad Xpan that is easier to use with it’s built-in meter and auto exposure capabilities along with the ability to switch from standard to wide screen mid-roll. The Xpan’s format is 24 x 65mm but it also has a 24 X 36mm mode and it is switchable between these two modes as many times as you like on a roll of film, except when there is only space for one 24 x 36 mm frame left on the roll.

I love the XPan and it is one of the four film cameras that I still own. The others are a Leica M6 TTL, a Zeiss Ikon SW and my gold-trimmed Seagull TLR.


light.bookIf you would like to treat Joe to a donut and a cup of Earl Grey tea ($2.50), click here. And if you do, many thanks.

Along with photographer Barry Staver, Joe is co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photograph that’s now out-of-print but new copies are available from Amazon for $21.88 with used copies starting at less than three bucks. For some reason, the Kindle price is really high