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In 1996 Kodak introduced the Advanced Photo System, or APS. Aimed largely at the consumer market, we could now buy film smaller than 35mm in a single cartridge, load it into specially designed cameras without having to spool film, so no risk of the film coming loose from the end spool, and shoot. You could even get 40 shots from some rolls. Once the film was finished it rolled itself back into its cartridge, ready for processing. After developing you got the cartridge back with your negatives still inside, so no more filling old shoeboxes with uncatalogued negatives.

The problem for APS wasn’t the quality of the images despite what many would have you think. There were some good cameras produced to shoot APS. As well as the pocket point and shoot you had cameras such as the Nikon Pronea series which could use most of Nikon’s SLR lenses. People had been using 110 for years by this point, so families had no issue switching to the convenience of APS. There was a good choice of film from both of the giants, Kodak and Fuji, plus other suppliers. The problem was that APS appeared just before digital started taking off. By the early 2000’s many people, not professionals yet, were starting to buy their first digital cameras, and we all know what happened to film after that. From the peak of 2003, film fell off a cliff. Gone, finished, dead for ever (supposedly). And APS went with it, finally discontinued in 2011 but dead years before then.

A few weeks ago I attended a local camera fair and among all the large formats, the Mamiyas and the Leicas, there was this little thing. A Kodak Advantix F320. APS. With film that had been stored in a wine cooler for years. $10. Sold.

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Kodak Advantix F320

How did it shoot? I took it out one lunchtime at work with B&W film loaded and it shot great. Not sharp, but then you wouldn’t expect too much sharpness from this camera. But accurate, didn’t overexpose and given that the film expired a decade ago, not bad at all. A little bit of work on the contrast produced some very acceptable images.

Toronto

Toronto

Toronto

So maybe APS is dead in that the film is no longer produced. But it’s not quite buried yet. The quality of the reduced (vs 35mm) film size is still very acceptable and in a SLR it becomes even better. But that post is for next time.

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Toronto Wolfpack vs Barrow Raiders

Followers of this blog will know that for the past few weeks I have been taking pictures of the Toronto Wolfpack rugby league team’s matches at Lamport Stadium. Playing in the English third tier of professional rugby league, mainly against semi-pro teams it has to be said, the Wolfpack have stormed their way through the division and on Saturday they were playing Barrow Raiders. A win, and they would be promoted.

Of course, I was ready to go along and take my usual place behind the posts, in the beer garden, and get what shots I could. Then early in the week I got an email from a sports photography company based in the UK, Touchline Pics run by Steven Gaunt. Could I help him out with some pictures against Barrow? I didn’t hesitate and after sorting out arrangements with Touchline and the Wolfpack, I found myself pitchside on Saturday afternoon, and not only pitchside, but on the pitch itself at various times.

Now, I’ve taken thousands of pictures in my time and some of them might even have been good. But on Saturday morning, putting my kit together (who am I kidding, I had it put together by the previous Wednesday!) I felt as nervous as I did when taking my exams at university. It was a strange feeling of tension but just wanting the morning to be over so I could get out there and shoot.

Toronto Wolfpack vs Barrow Raiders

Technical info time. I have always shot those matches with my Sigma 70-200 f2.8 on a D7100, but this time I also took along my Sigma 150-500 which I normally use for birds, on my Nikon D610 for the bigger buffer. The Sigma is slow to focus but I figured I could pre-focus and wait for the action to come to me, and at f8 & 400mm it’s a sharp as a pin. And I don’t have a 500mm prime lens. I used automatic ISO on both cameras as they both provide great, noise-free images up to 3200, and set my shutter speed to 1/1000. I also took a 24-60 f2.8 for post-match action – I knew that if the Wolfpack won there would be a trophy presentation after the game.

Toronto Wolfpack vs Barrow Raiders

So to the game. My assignment was to capture as many of the Barrow players on the attack as possible. To me, as well as great action shots, that meant trying to get clear faces. I believe that one of the most fascinating things about sports photography is not necessarily the physical actions of the players, although that is incredibly important. It’s the emotion that sport brings out, the effort and strain that you can see of the faces of those playing the game. If you can capture the facial expression at that time of impact, then you’re halfway to a great picture. You’re communicating to the person who looks at your picture that these great athletic feats are not coming for free, the players are human and sometimes it hurts to do what they do. Focus on the action, track the players, know how the game tends to flow, and shoot.

Toronto Wolfpack vs Barrow Raiders

The Wolfpack won the game and then to the celebrations and trophy presentation. I have to say that I did miss one of the shots that my contact asked for, the team hoisting the trophy in front of the league sponsor’s advertising board, as I was switching from the 24-60mm to the 150-500mm at the time. I realised later that’d I’d been thinking more like a fan at that point than a photographer on assignment, but even so, of the 2 shots I got from that instant, one was picked up by the Wolfpack and the other has found it’s way onto the Rugby League Express magazine back in the UK. Several other shots were published in a northern English newspaper with their match report. So not bad for a first-timer, if I do say so myself.

Toronto Wolfpack vs Barrow Raiders

My first assignment, and certainly not my last. What a blast.

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