Summer is coming here in North America, and with it comes increased temperature and more sunlight. The IMPOSSIBLE Project has made some great advancements with their Color Protection generation of Color Shade film, but there are some things to consider now that it’s getting to be summer, even with those advancements. Follow me as I take you across the heat filled, sun drenched back roads through Joshua Tree National Park to Arizona, and hopefully you will find some tricks and tips to help you get the shots when the heat is on.
*NOTE*: The pictures taken in this series were in VERY high heat, well above 100 F. You probably won’t have these worries with your IMPOSSIBLE shots, but it illustrates that you CAN shoot in almost any environment and still get great quality from this film. And yes, that’s 104 F at 5:25PM…HOT!
We have started exploring all the different routes and back roads to get to Arizona instead of the boring Interstate Highways. This time we planned a route that would take us through Joshua Tree National Park and then hook back up to Highway 62. We also decided to take a side-route that took us across Parker Dam before heading into Lake Havasu. Check out the route here:
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One of the reasons we take these back routes is to try to get great photos along the way. This time I wanted to just shoot IMPOSSIBLE film on the trip. I picked my Polaroid Spectra AF and Polaroid SX-70 Time Zero Autofocus Model 2 as the Polaroid cameras of choice. Why? The forecast for the weekend was summer-like bright days with highs above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and both of these cameras were outfitted with IMPOSSIBLE Project Frog-Tongues. I had luckily just gotten my frog-tongue for the folding SX-70, so I didn’t have to use the “darkslide over the rollers” technique any more and was anxious to see how well it worked in the field.
Packing (for the) Heat on the Cheap
We were taking our 4 dogs in our Toyota Tundra pickup so I knew I would have to pack some of the film and supplies into a suitcase for travel and have it in the bed of the truck. Concerned about heat, I got my small roll-on case and used my tried and trusted method for keeping my IMPOSSIBLE film safe from heat and cold on trips. I took one of my pillows from my bed and laid it in the case, then put all of my film and my SX-70 and Clip-It filter holder (in a Bento box for protection) and then put my hoodie sweatshirt on top of that and closed up the bag. Not only did it protect my cameras and accessories from bumps in the road, the pillow acts as great insulation from the heat. It’s easy and cheap, and once you get to your destination you have your pillow for sleeping. I don’t know about you, but having your own pillow is sweet refuge from being away from home.
I found that I only had enough room to have one camera out while we were on the road, so I chose the Spectra AF as it is almost bullet-proof in design. Closed up, it travels well and since I paid about $10 for it I wasn’t worried about any scuffs or scrapes like I do with my SX-70’s. I popped in a pack of PZ680 CP film and stowed the camera in the door storage next to the driver’s seat and was ready to shoot at a moments notice.
Joshua Tree National Park
Our first stop in this trip was in Joshua Tree National Park. We were about 15 miles away from the famous trees after driving for about an hour when we needed to stop to let the dogs out. There seemed to be some cool shots, so I grabbed the Spectra and walked around with the dogs.
I wasn’t too worried about the bright light as I had my frog-tongue, but I was about the heat the moment I stepped out of the truck. I figured if I found a shot I would take it, but use the oh-so-useful feature of the Spectra, the ability to hold down the shutter button to not eject the film, and eject it back in the truck where it was a bit cooler. I also had brought along a bag that I can put a blue ice pack in, so I figured I was set. I set up my first shot and held the shutter button down and flipped the self-timer switch so it wouldn’t eject and wondered if I would find another shot. I did, and then realized that I had packed my bag and cooler and it was in the back of the truck. I knew the moment wouldn’t last with the shot I had set up, so I ejected the first one and did the only thing I could do and stuck it in my back pocket.
I figured it was doomed. I snapped my second shot and quickly got back to the truck to deposit both of them to the coolness.
I tossed the first shot into the glove compartment which was still cool. Thinking the coolness was perfect, I ejected the second shot, thinking all was well.
I went back out but didn’t find any other shots, so we packed up the dogs and headed back out on the road. After 30 minutes of the A/C blasting, I decided to take a look at my shots.
I was actually surprised at how well the first shot came out. It didn’t have the blues that I wanted, as they are the first thing that goes when IMPOSSIBLE film gets too hot, but in that heat and then in my even hotter back pocket, it held up well.
My disappointment was in my second shot with my dog Sydney hanging out in the shade of the Yucca. Why no blue? I thought I had done everything correct, and then it hit me. The camera. When I ejected the shot the relatively cool glove compartment wasn’t cool enough to compensate for how hot the black Spectra AF camera was. It has better color than the first shot, but it still wasn’t what I wanted from this film.
Parker Dam at its Hottest
As we headed across highway 62 the temperature continued to climb, hovering around 104 F. We passed by the Rice Shoe Fence that I had shot at Thanksgiving, and headed to Parker, California and the Parker Dam. Having learned that it was important in this extreme heat to keep the camera cool as well as the film, I stopped the truck and prepared my next shot. I ran across the blacktop and tried to compose my shot as quickly as I could. I ran back to the truck after taking my shot and cooled the camera by holding it close to the A/C vent as we headed a little closer to the dam. In the couple of minutes it took to drive closer, the camera cooled and I ejected it and put the shot in the glove compartment to develop.
I jumped out again composed and took another shot and dripping with sweat, I climbed in and repeated the process. I hoped that cooling the camera would be the missing element in these extreme conditions.
And it was.
The lesson learned from these shots is that if you are going to be out in the field, you have to remember that the camera gets hot too. And inside your camera is your film and it will get warm as well. If you can, take the time to bring the camera back down to a reasonable temperature. If you can’t wait to cool down the camera, then make sure you have an extra cool area to develop the film in those first key moments of development.
The Frog-Tongue is Amazing - shooting In Havasu
But the good news is that most of the time you won’t be in these extreme 100+ degree temperatures. And the even better news. The IMPOSSIBLE Frog-Tongue does an AMAZING job at protecting the film from the extreme light.
Here is a shot in Lake Havasu, near my wife’s parents house with my SX-70 with my Clip-It Filter attachment with a red filter. In 105 degree weather IMPOSSIBLE Silter Shade turns a very sepia color, which I was actually trying to get, but I want to point out that I took this shot, it ejected and I walked for about 3 minutes in the bright sunlight with only the new SX-70 Frog-Tongue protecting it. As you can see, it did a spectacular job. The SX-70 might not have the ability to pause ejection, but you can guarantee your shots won’t be ruined by the sun if you use it. And remember, this is Silver Shade which doesn’t have the same light protection that Color Shade has.
After we unpacked, I got out my bag and cooling gel and had no trouble shooting in the heat. This one was mid-day and once again in 100+ degree weather, but the extra cooling helped keep everything in check.
On our way back to California we paused to let the dogs out in the middle of nowhere and the heat was just incredible. We were out for a little bit as the dogs were exploring, so everything including my camera was pretty warm. I let the camera cool for quite awhile before ejecting, but my final shot turned out just as I wanted it.
Lessons Learned and What I Would Change
I know what some of you are thinking. Why should you go through all this trouble to get a shot? Why shouldn’t the film just handle the heat better? As we all know IMPOSSIBLE has made great strides in their film development, but I think we often forget that even in it’s heyday, Polaroid film was designed to be developed around 70-80F, and Fuj’s Instax film today maxes out at 104F. This is extreme heat we are talking about. So, what would I do differently, and what worked well?
The IMPOSSIBLE Project’s Frog-Tongues are just downright amazing. Get them. Get them for every camera and you can shoot in the brightest light you can find. The SX-70 version seemed too good to be true when I first saw it, but it works perfectly even in the brightest conditions.
If you are going to be shooting in extreme conditions, I recommend using a Spectra as it can be delayed in ejecting the film. I absolutely love this feature and the durability and the low-cost of them make them easy and carefree to shoot with. If you are out shooting in the heat, just remember that the camera gets hot as well. Either use a bag with some sort of cooling agent or delay your ejection until you can get to a cooler place.
You may not have to adjust to the extreme temperatures that I experienced, but if you just take notice of the change in light and temperatures from spring into summer, and use a frog-tongue, you will be rewarded with great summer IMPOSSIBLE shots.
As always, check out my latest on my Flickr stream.