and scans, Film, 35mm, and scans, photography, Uncategorized

Shoe Box Photography


I’m investigating snapshot photography, what it really means, and it’s value as a school of photography.  I visited my mother today, and nothing to do with this blog or investigation, but suddenly, the magic shoe box of old family photographs was pushed onto my lap.

I always loved browsing through these old photographs.  It seems a shame, that we print far less in the Age of Digital, and that future generations will miss out on this magic.

These photographs were shot on a roll film (120) camera, with narrow frames, that allowed more photographs to be captured.  However, they were printed from the negatives direct onto Ilford paper with no enlargement.  Tiny little prints.  They would have been taken during the mid 1950s.

The top photo is of my parents themselves.  A snapshot or a portrait?  My father was dressed up to the nines.  Apparently at that age, he did like to doll up though, so it may not have been a special event.  Funny, because later in life, he’d as often as not be found in a pair of work overalls.

The composition and framing are cracking.  It may have been my mother’s sister Gladys taking the photograph – using a box camera top viewer.  Not the easiest viewer to use – but look at the composition.  The trees, field, road edge line up perfectly, with the couple right of centre.  Happy accident or did the photographer, with no training from Digital Photography magazine, just know what looked best?

The bottom photo is of my mother’s sister, Gladys, with her fiancé Kenny at Great Yarmouth.  The two couples were having fun taking photographs of each other.  What is the camera that Gladys is holding?  It looks like a simple box camera.  Photography was bringing them joy and happiness, that is what serious photographers today often miss out on.  Snapshot photography was fun, but also recorded moments – the Kodak Moment sometimes.

The more that I look into it, the more that I respect snapshot photography.

35mm, Yashica T2

Yashica T2 V Olympus XA2

Yashica T2 loaded with AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 400 film.

I’ve been forcing myself to give both the 50p Camera (Olympus XA2), and b/w film a rest.  Instead, the little time that I’ve had for photography, I’ve been using my Yashica T2 AF compact camera, loaded with cheap C41 colour film.  Although I love b/w, the reality is that I have plenty of Poundland film in the fridge / freezer, that I bought a few years ago, for a quid each.  Nice 36 exposure 200, and a few 24 x 400 AgfaPhoto Visa Plus.  I can get C41 processed by a good local photolab for £2.50.  This makes the film/process cost cheaper than any b/w film, at 9p per exposure on the 36 shot films.  In addition, it seems a positive thing to embrace different gear and media on occasion.

The above photo was exposed onto the faster Poundland that was circulating a year or two ago, the AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 400.  I like it so much, I’m going to use up my last few cassettes of it next.

Using the Yashica T2 V Olympus XA2

I have been using the Olympus XA2 (c.1982) for a few years now, for opportunistic, snapshot, street, etc.  How does the Yashica T2 (c.1986) compare? They are very different 1980s 35mm film compact cameras.

Portability.  The XA2 wins hands down.  It is so small, it’ll fit in most pockets.  As my XA2 is so battered anyway, I don’t care too much if it rattles against other debris in the pocket such as coins, even keys.  The clamshell lens cover protects well.  The Yash T2 is very pretty, but actually quite bulky.  I don’t want it bashed, it’s so good condition, so I have to hang it around my neck with it’s wallet on.

Focus.  The XA2 uses a simple 3 zone focus.  You have three fixed focuses to manually select from.  The default is pretty cool for street.  It’s a fast, silent, simple system.  The T2 on the other hand uses an early (1986) Auto-focus system.  It’s slow and clumsy compared with modern auto focus, and pretty crap at a moving subject.  However, when it hits, it’s sharp compared to the zone focus XA2.  Better than the XA2 on still or very slow subjects.  The XA2 wins for quick snapshots at moving subjects.  The T2 makes nice portraits, aided by it’s Carl Zeiss T* Tessar lens.

Street Stealth.  No competition.  The XA2 wins.  I’ve heard the Yashica T series being hailed as stealth street cameras.  Bollocks they are.  They are actually pretty bulky for a compact 35mm.  The AF slows you down.  The biggest problem for stealth however, is the loud film motor drive.  It’s part of the nostalgic attraction of it, but for stealth, it’s like a loud hailer shouting “look at me, I’m taking photos of you!”.  The T2 is NOT a stealth street camera.  The XA2 is.  The XA2 is tiny, and in experienced hands, the 3 zone focus is fast and silent.  In my opinion, a far better street camera than any SLR.  I even once took a candid of two photographers, one a pro, a metre away.  The pro heard the shutter, but looked all around.  The XA2 was out of sight.  Quite funny really.

Quality.  I’m not a huge fan of image technical perfection, but this is where the T2 does finally win over the XA2.  The hipster rated Carl Zeiss lens, and AF makes for better Q.  The scanned negatives are sharper.  The XA2 does, if it hits perfect optimum focus, still make some sharp clear photos, but a lot of the time you are playing in the focus zone out of optimum.

Happiness.  I’m a big fan of what fun a camera brings.  I’ve maybe thrashed and done so much with the XA2, that I need to put it down for a few months, in order to appreciate it again.  For now, I really am getting happiness from the Yashica T2.  I feel that despite it’s failings as a fast stealth camera,  I’m smiling when I take a snapshot.

Either camera, I believe this is what 35mm film was meant to be.  Miniature, portable, point & shoot.  George Eastman’s vision come true.  This is what I use 35mm film for.  How about you?

35mm, Rants and discussions

On taking snapshots


I may have been a photography enthusiast for around ten years, but I have been a snap shooter for more than forty years.  I keep thinking about the snapshot recently.  Les brought it to my mind, with his comments, but it’s been floating around longer.  What is a snapshot.  Should we embrace it?  Kodak promoted it for decades, the brain child of George Eastman.  A Kodak Moment. 

Many serious photographers would perhaps regard someone calling one of their images a snapshot, as a slight insult.  Snap-shot suggests a point & shoot capture.  Something quickly captured with no regard to setting up a scene, lighting, or using professional photographic technology.

Yet, let’s think about this.  Some forms of “serious” photography are often snapshot.  I am of course referring to Candid and Street Photography.  Were HCB’s wonderful photographs, not sometimes, very well spotted and composed … snap shots?  Is it the subject or the intention behind an image then, that can either make it a snap shot or a “serious” image?  Is the above a snapshot?  It was a candid, a quick opportunity.  Sure I was using a very manual, medium format film SLR camera – but not so technically cumbersome that I couldn’t grab that photo before the guy saw me.  I snapped a shot of him quickly.  Maybe it’s more about intent?  I didn’t know this guy. He never even saw me creeping up to him with my Bronica.

I grew up way back in the Age of Film.  As a child, I loved dipping into the shoe boxes of old family photos.  I started contributing to them at the age of eleven, via my Kodak Instamatic camera.  Snapshots.  I kept it up for years and years with p&s classes of cameras – into the Age of Digital.  I collated a serious of photograph albums, that I regarded as my life-diary, from childhood, to fatherhood.  The Internet and social media interrupted that.  I became more serious about photography.

Family Snapshot. 1999.

I’ve been thinking about this more, while using my 35mm film compact cameras, including an autofocus from the 80s.

I’m aware that much of my photography though, is still snapshot.  Should I cull it?  Should I instead only e-publish or print only my very best, carefully composed masterpieces (as if I had any!)?  At the moment I think not.  I’m starting to appreciate the snapshot.  Even the domestic family snapshot.  I remember that old shoebox.  I keep an eye out for old photos and slides at car boot sales.  I notice many young people on Flickr and Tumblr, using film, to make their own snapshots, sometimes in an almost creative or unique way, different from those that we made in Our Day.  Film snapshot photography in the Digital Age.

Let’s embrace the snapshot.  It shows real life.

35mm, wisbech

A mural

Wisbech – the New Europe.

I took this photograph last week in Wisbech.  I had the Yashica T2 AF compact camera loaded with cheap Kodak ColorPlus 200 film (given to me with some prints from a photolab).  I do not like C41, so I had the film processed at my local photolab.  Only £2.50 per film, develop only.  I have so much Poundland film to use up!

I’ve written extensively before, that Wisbech is a very much a part of the New EU England, with a very high percentage of immigration from Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Russia (or ethnic Russian).  Immigrants have been flooding to the area for quite a few years now, often attracted initially by the work in local agriculture, food packing, and general farm work, or food factory work.

As an amateur photographer, I see this as history in the making.   Something very worthy of recording, and it is about people.  The above photograph is of someone else’s mural and creativity, although I tried to add to that by capturing with the surroundings of the old Wisbech wall, with all of it’s features.

The mural itself shows the River Danube, sneaking through SE Europe, with the flags of Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary added – the EU nations of SE Europe.  I don’t know if the artist has added any nationalist agendas to the mural.  Some of the names are in Cyrillic, maybe for the Bulgarians?The mural itself is painted on the rear of a “European” shop.  When it opens, I’ll have to pop in and find out more about it.

Rants and discussions

Happiness and photography gear

Caught on a car boot sale camera (Kodak Retinette II) and poundland film.

An old gripe of mine.  Allow me to express it again, as a warning to others.

Don’t be sucked into spending money on gear that doesn’t have value in terms of your happiness.  Most of us are enthusiasts and amateurs.  There is nothing inferior about that.  Our enthusiasm can be based on either photographic technology, or on photographic images.  In truth, most of our enthusiasm lays somewhere between those two poles – some more by the technology, some more by photographs.  Either way, what really is important – or should be, to us enthusiasts, is happiness.

It is all so easy, and very common, for novices to be drawn towards spending more money, in the pursuit of happiness.  However, they do not always get what they wanted.  They may find, that their photography doesn’t really improve much.  They might find that spending another grand, allows them to capture some images in slightly poorer light, perhaps slightly closer, perhaps slightly further away, or perhaps with slightly more resolution.  No doubt there is a short lived gratification “I couldn’t have caught that on my last lens / body”.  Wow, look at that moon surface / macro of a bug / etc.  Cool images.  However, does this expensive imagery really enhance your creativity or skill base?  Once you’ve got closer to the moon, what is next?  How much did that image cost in monetary terms?  Has it been done before?  Is someone doing it better with even more expensive, or newer gear?

How much happiness do you think that I’ve had out of the 50p camera project?  Compare it to the purchase of a new upgrade DSLR camera.  The DSLR might have cost you around £500.00.  My XA2 snapshot camera cost £00.50.  Okay, I’ve also used film, but mainly budget or home developed.  Still, how much happiness do you think that the DSLR gives you in comparison?  I’m quite proud of some of the photographs that I’ve got out of the XA2.  They may be lo-fi but some are pretty cool and even unique.  I’ve tried to be creative.  Not always an easy thing for me.  There are no attachments or upgrades for it.  For the DSLR, you bet that you are going to desire new lenses, extensions, flashlights, bags, battery grips, etc.

That is the chief message of this blog.  Think, don’t just spend.

50p camera, flickr, Rants and discussions

Work of Art

Giants. Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. 50p camera project, Olympus XA, Kodak Tmax 400 film, Developed in LC29, scanned on Epson V500.

This post was inspired by Les.  He said that a lot of Flickr photographers don’t post a photo of a dog, unless it’s a work of art, but dogs are very much a part of many of our life’s (not a quote).

I’ve noticed on a few photography forums, that the majority of film photographers, just like digital photographers, do concentrate on quality.  Quality in terms of sharpness, exposure, depth, colour, focus, grain/noise, as well as composition.  Except for composition, most of these attributes are of technical origin.  That is good.  However, this can develop into the obsession held in modern digital photography, for technical perfection.  More megapixels, more sharpness, etc.

As photography enthusiasts, should we always obey the rules of technical perfection?  I’d argue, no.  As Les suggested, it could be more fundamental to photography, that we photograph life and our environment as we see it.  A record rather than a work of art.  That does not always mean a sharp perfect image – we don’t really see the world like that.  Our brains use our biological eyes like third rate scanners.  Much of what we think we see, has been filled in by the brain.  But we see signs, smiles, danger, sex, and … dogs (edit.  I nearly said and rock n’ roll).

In film, we are the alternative.  We have the opportunity to capture what is important, rather than to burst mode thousands of bytes of robot controlled perfection.