Playing with Diana

Haha…bet that made you wonder who Diana is and what sort of play I meant. Wink, wink!

Since we are in polite company, I shall resist the temptation to make salacious remarks and put my double entendres away. (I’m sure there’s meant to be a comma in there somewhere, oh there you are 😄).

The “Diana” in question here is not a person but a camera. A cheap plastic camera made in Hong Kong in the 1960s, which caught the imagination of enthusiasts even after being discontinued, so much so that there has been a resurgence in its popularity and a renaissance in its production. To own an original Diana camera today is a sign of enthusiasm for photographic nostalgia (not to mention money). Luckily, because modern-day Dianas are easily available, you can get your dirty hands on a new one for less than $100.

Yes, it’s delightfully analogue! It even uses Film! It’s untouched by Apple or Android, it doesn’t know what an App is! Actually, that’s not quite true true…because, even though the Diana remains analogue, and relies on film rolls (what are those, I hear some of you ask), there are many websites and online forums devoted to Diana photography, and there are also Apps showcasing Diana cameras and other retro plastic cameras.

Personally, my introduction to mobile photography came about via Lomography, or lo-fi photography from the likes of the Diana and other plastic cameras. I remember playing with my iPhone 3 back in 2010, and discovering Apps with Lomographic filters and effects. And just like that, I was hooked. I didn’t go as far as to buy a modern Diana camera, though they were easily available online on eBay and at retro shops such as Pigeonhole in Australia. What put me off was the fact that the camera relied on actual film, which needed processing at a camera shop, and that meant trips to the shops, which meant money to be spent on processing and on film. Do you know how hard it is these days to even find analogue film? And don’t forget to factor in the cost of processing film. Also, with me being digital on the iPhone, I could see at a glance whether a photo would be retained or simply deleted from my camera roll, and I could choose which photos to develop. Not so with the Diana, where you don’t get to see what your shots look like, before they are developed.

Having said that, today’s Diana offers pinhole functionality, where you basically remove the lens and use a pinhole filter instead. The resulting image is captured onto the film. This makes for an array of interesting effects such as blurred images, colour bleeds, double exposures, haloes and strange blobs. Very retro chic indeed. Hmmm…maybe I should get a Diana after all, just for this function…or I’m sure there’s an App for that, right?

I downloaded an App the other day called aptly enough, “Diana Photo“, which is happily available both on Android and Apple iOS. The user interface is simple enough – you simply load up 2 photos from your smartphone, then choose what effects you want to use for blending them. Now, this is different from standard photo editing blend modes (screen, difference, multiply, overlay etc). You can’t tweak any of the parameters, so it really is pot luck whether a blend works or not. Here’s a screenshot of the user interface:

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Yes, it’s all in square format. Instagrammers will love this App.

Here are the different blends available on Diana Photo. There are 21 in total (sorry, they wouldn’t fit on just one screenshot):

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I was just playing with this App when it struck me that these “accidental” double exposures were beautiful in their own right, and it would be a waste not to to create a Lenormand divination card deck using this App.

And so I have. The “Diana Lenormand” by AlyZen Moonshadow is now in production as I write this. When I get the printed copy I will share the results with you all.

Meanwhile, here are some examples of the type of images the Diana Photo App produced:

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