Put Your Upgrade in the Bin

Out of tune. Street busker in Cambridge. Pentax SP500 Spotmatic. Super Takumar 55mm f/2 lens. Firstcall (Agfa Gevaert) 400S b/w film. Developed in R09. Scanned film on Epson V500.

Yes I know, I shouldn’t care about what others do, but I’m suffering from browsing photography forums, and i need to get it off my chest.  Here are some of the questions that piss me off a bit.

1) My DSLR is only APS, 20 megapixel, doesn’t have full HD Video, and is “entry level”.  I need to upgrade to a new £1,000 latest model DSLR.

My answer:  You twat.  The above photoGRAPH was recently taken on a forty plus year old camera.  You’ve fallen for market brainwash.  Your 20 – even a 6 megapixel APS DSLR is fine.  Spend your money on photography travel, food, drink, etc.  Money wont buy nada in skill.  Shit, what do you need Video for?

2) I presently own 18mm – 120mm, 180mm – 300mm, 300mm – 500mm zoom lenses for my Canikon DSLR.  What should I buy next?  should I buy a 120mm – 180mm lens?

My answer:  FFS, don’t you have legs or wheels you prick?  I never even feel the need for a frigging zoom.  A couple of primes is fine.  I can move back or forward.  I know I’m fortunate to do so – do you share that fortune?

Thats better.

Taking a Picture

The Joy of Photography. In it’s purest form of snapshot. Capturing a moment of Life and sharing it. A young tourist in Cambridge, England. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus medium format film. Home developed in R09. Scanned film Epson Perfection V500

Strange thing isn’t it?  How we enjoy making photographs.

Finders Keepers

DSLR camera toting tourists in Cambridge, England. One Canon/Nikon is never enough apparently. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus medium format film. Home developed in R09. Scanned film Epson Perfection V500.

This post is about the cognitive connection with film V digital.  No, it is not a debate about film V digital – but rather, how the photographer connects differently, depending on the medium.

When I shoot with a DSLR, I’ve noticed that in no more than ten minutes or so, I can rack up as much as 100 images on a memory card.  It’s insane – but that is what the ease of Digital does to us.  It turns us into machine guns, or movie cameras.  When I shoot in film, especially in medium format – it all slows down.  No conscious decision-making – partly because capturing an image with a system camera draws on the mental resources – guessing light, setting aperture, setting shutter, estimating or visually setting focus, then the CLUNK, before cranking onto a fresh slab of unexposed film.

Yet I notice – I have so many more keepers per 100 than I get on Digital!  Work that out.

Medium Format Film Street Photography for Dummies

Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus film. Home developed in R09. Scanned film Epson Perfection V500.

The above negative was a wee bit thin and underdeveloped – not the best, despite using my digital scanner and Open Source software (Gimp) to improve it.  But I like it, and in amateur photography, that is what is important.

Medium Format film photography in the street, eh?  Who’d ever thought of such a thing.  Well beside a million box camera enthusiasts last Century, there were also the TLR enthusiasts including for example, Vivian Maier.

Don’t worry, I’m certainly not comparing my meagre efforts with Maier.  However, a few things have fired this post.  First, I read a question on Yahoo Answers, from a DSLR user, asking how to use software manipulation in order to emulate Vivian Maier.  Second, I do like to promote the use of medium format film in the street.  Oh, thirdly, in the back of my mind, a debate on a photography forum, whether we film photographers should bother with 35mm anymore.

I enjoy the challenge of lumping my Bronica SQ-A around a town centre.  I feel privileged to use it.  Most of the time, I’m assessing the exposure value merely on my eyes, brain, and the Sunny F16 rule.  Sometimes I use a phone app light meter, an actual old light meter, or a secondary camera built in light meter – but most of the time I simply use my eyes and judgement.  The Bronica has very logical and clunky stops – both a well marked aperture ring on the lens, and a chunky shutter speed control, with 500, 250, 125, 60, 30, and ridiculously slow shutter speeds.  I recently read a post by a DSLR user, that he couldn’t survive with a maximum speed of 1/500 s.  For crying out loud, we ain’t trying to freeze a hummingbird in motion out here in the street!

I’m learning street tricks with the Bronica.  For example the Candid.  I know some feel Candid to be perverse.  However, if you already are perverse (as I am), then try this.  The WLF.  People SEE you staring at them through a range finder or through a SLR / DSLR prism.  However, if you are looking DOWN into a waist level finder (WLF), they do not always cotton on … so to speak.  A photographer isn’t looking at them.  Hint 2.  You can always be even more perverse and incognito, by looking down into the WLF while not facing the subject – hold the camera at a degree to your body.  Ok, that is just nasty sneakiness for the coward (yes I’ve done it).  Another important lesson – learned by using fully manual cameras without any range finder:  Keep the WLF folded down.  You need enough light.  Keep the aperture small (F8 – F32) in order to maximise your chance of a reasonable focus over a field, and point the lens.  Best of course with a wide angle or standard lens.  Needs a fast mind.

Or of course, you can simply ask or nod at the subject before taking – but you will never have that natural or even better, surprised look.  The above photo, I failed at a Candid – I was seen before I was ready- so I asked.  Nice, but not candid.

Getting back to that Vivian Maier look via digital.  Forget it.  Digital will not give either the tones, nor grain.  It’ll also miss the DoF.  Finally – it loses the perspective of her WLF.  Instead, buy a working condition old TLR film camera.  Buy some 120 film.  Then you are sorted.

As for giving up 35mm for 120?  Medium Format (or even better, Large Format) is the CREAM of film photography that Digital has not yet bettered.  However, there are so many freaking great 35mm film cameras out there on the market cheap as chips.  I’m not going 100% medium format yet.


Portrait of a Cambridge Busker

Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus medium format film. Home developed in R09. Scanned film Epson Perfection V500.

Feeling a bit disillusioned with the infrared film, following some grainy negatives, so I took a day out with the good old Bronny for some street photography in Cambridge yesterday, and wasted a few rolls of Ilford HP5.

Seeing red (in black & white) – and the 400S film enigma

Pentax SP500 Spotmatic. Super Takumar 55mm f/2 lens. Hoya 25A red filter. Firstcall (Agfa Gevaert) 400S b/w film. Developed in R09. Scanned film on Epson V500.

I’m starting to brave the infrared b/w film world, as another step on the learning curve.  These photographs barely qualify – shot with a simple 25A red filter, onto Agfa Gevaert 400S budget film.  However, I’ve now got my hands onto an R72 infrared filter, and I have some Agfa Infrared 400S loaded in the Spotmatic.  It’s sitting there waiting for the right light and subject.  I might try it out tomorrow if they are still harvesting pumpkins hear to my home.  I’ll see what light and sky is available.

Actually, I have a question – should any readers be in the know.  I’ve been buying (and loving) FirstCall 400S budget b/w 35mm film for the past year.  It’s actually made by Agfa Gevaert in Belgium, and sold by FirstCall for £2.49 per film (time of publish).  I ordered another 10 films recently, but my provider has been having trouble sourcing them.  They’ve today sent me ten rolls of Agfa Retro 400S.  Now, is there really any difference between the budget FirstCall 400S, the Agfa Retro 400S, the Rollei Retro 400S, and the more expensive Agfa Infrared 400S?  Are they all the same emulsion and film?  Does the Infrared have any special properties to the other 400S versions?

As above image – SP500, 25A red filter, FirstCall 400S.

As I said – these two images were branded FirstCall 400S.  I know that it has near IR sensitivity.  Both of these images shot in the Spotmatic with the plain jane 25A red filter.

Expired Commerce

Expired Commerce. Pentax SP500 Spotmatic. Super Takumar 55mm f/2 lens. Firstcall (Agfa Gevaert) 400S b/w film. Developed in R09. Scanned film on Epson V500.

I like this one.  I think Nita noticed the antiquity of the shredded advertisement posters first.  We were walking down one of Wisbech’s old alleyways – this leading from the river, to the old market, when she spotted what we all pass everyday without seeing.  I had to step back into the back doorway of a nightclub, in order to frame it through the Super Takumar 55mm lens.  Just after I pressed down the shutter release on the Pentax Spotmatic, I was pushed in the back by a cleaner exiting the club.

Your photography is your view on the World

Street performer and harp, Cambridge. Pentax SP500 Spotmatic camera. Super-Takumar 55mm f/2 lens. FirstCall 400S b/w film. Developed in R09. Film scanned Epson V500.

I’m presently reading through Paul Hill’s Approaching Photography 2004 (first published 1982).  I’m using it as I guess, a training manual, to improving my photography.  I guess that is where the title for the post came from – as it has made me more aware that however we take our photographs – what we photograph, how we photograph – it’s very much individual, and shaped by our own perspectives of the World around us.


Enter the Spotmatic

My Pentax SP500. Taken with Sony A200 DSLR and Sony 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens.

There, I’ve done it again.  I visited a car boot sale, determined not to buy more cameras, and I did.  One of them however, appears to be my next primary 35mm film camera – replacing the Olympus XA2, the Olympus Trip 35, even the Pentax ME Super – as my No.1 35mm tool.  I really should settle – but each time that I think that I have, another beautiful old camera comes along and steals my heart.  This time it is a Spotmatic – a Pentax SP500.

I paid fifteen quid (GBP £15) for it.  An immaculate, or at least VGC Pentax Spotmatic 500, circa 1971/2 build – only 42 years young, and still in perfectly good working order.  Even the seals are intact, and yes, the light meter works.  The old battery was flat, but I used a cheap LR41 for a few days until a 1.35V zinc/air battery arrived in the post.  So far I’ve only tried it with FirstCall 400S b/w film.  I’ve set it a stop under, as 400S tends to underexpose – so I’ve selected it as ASA 200 on the Spotmatic.  I’m impressed so far by the photographs.  The camera comes with the m42 thread and highly rated Super Takumar auto 55mm f/2 lens.  Very clean, smooth and fungus free – even with the original lens cover as shown above.

The Pentax SP500 was late in the Spotmatic range – a range that was launched in 1964, as cutting edge technology.  An electronic sensor light meter – that is activated with a toggle button on the camera body – you then stop down the aperture ring to the light meter indication in the viewfinder.  The SP500 was a budget member of the range, with a more expensive brother – the SP1000.  The SP1000 had a timer, and … a top shutter speed of 1/1000!  This is the hilarious thing.  They sold the cheaper SP500, with a top shutter speed of only 1/500 indicated on the dial – but in reality, it used the same mechanics as the SP1000 – they merely removed the legend 1000.  It has a the higher speed of 1/1000 on an unmarked position on the shutter speed dial!

Expect to see a lot of images from this camera in future posts.

The old agility dog

Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Ilford FP4 Plus 120 film. Developed in Firstcall R09.

I took this photograph on a dog walk yesterday (yes, I can just about hold the Bronica with my hand surgery).  She is an old dog.  She recently lost her best border collie pack mate, and apparently is pining for him.  Together, they were champions in the agility rings of England.  Both the dogs, and their master grew too old to any longer compete.  Still, they still have each other, and a terrier mate.  They get to run with his disability carriage every day.