35mm, Film, 35mm, and scans, Uncategorized, Yashica T2

Losing wind

New World

I tried doing something different.  I tried to give the home developed b/w film a rest, and to concentrate on using up some Poundland C41 colour 35mm film in the Yashica T2.

I don’t like it.  I don’t like the results.  That, combined with the winter light, work pressure, and lack of travel, has killed my photography.  I don’t like the results.  I’m finding myself looking at and appreciating more b/w film than ever.  I lost something.  I’m not going to abandon the Yashica T2 yet, but I’m abandoning the C41.  More Shanghai, Tmax, and Rollei film is on the way.  I miss my medium format as well.  The Bronica SQ-A is a great system camera – I want to use it again.

I’m not happy with my recent foray into C41 35mm.  I need to sniff fixer again.  All that it has taught me is to appreciate the beauty of b/w film photography more.

Above photo taken on the Yashica T2 and Poundland film in Norwich.

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.

Film Dark Room, Film, 35mm, and scans, Rants and discussions, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

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.


Film, 35mm, and scans

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.

Film, 35mm, and scans, Landscape and buildings, Monochrome

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.

Film, 35mm, and scans, Post process and software, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

Post Process Editing for a Hybrid Photographer

Focus! Photographer candid snapped in street Wisbech. Concentrate and zoom in. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Ilford FP4 Plus 120 film. Home developed in ID11.

I am a champion of Open Source software, especially of the excellent GIMP image editing package.  There is far too much snobbery against it from people that prefer to splash out massive bucks on bloatware (or steal it), rather than give this honest alternative a proper go. Listen – Gimp is free in more than one way, and it does everything that any amateur photographer should need.

I shoot mainly on film these days.  I develop the films myself, and dry them.  I then scan them on an Epson Perfection V500, which produces digital images from my negative films.  I do this because a) I love using old film cameras, and film itself, b) I enjoy the process of all of this work, it makes my images feel more valuable to myself, for putting in all of that effort.  c) Yeah, I like the ‘look’ of my crusty b/w hybrid film images.

So what do I use Gimp for, and for what?  Post digitalisation, my images still benefit from a digital retouch.  I use it to:

  1. Straighten wonky photos – deadly on a 6 x 6 photo.
  2. Crop.
  3. Heal and clone over dust and hair marks.
  4. Levels and curves, especially levels often could do with some improvements.
  5. Resize and compression for uploading to the web.  I tend to scan to a high resolution.
  6. Finally … Unsharp Mask.  Not always, and usually just a little.

And that is just about it.  My photography these days – as has been pointed out to me, uses rather minimal post process editing.  I try my best to make a photograph inside the camera.  As for my tastes in other people’s images.  I don’t like over post processing.  I really don’t like HDR.  Horses for courses, just not to my taste.

There you go Jeremy, my take on post process editing using Gimp – as a hybrid film photographer.  Thank you for asking, it finally prompted a long overdue post.

Film, 35mm, and scans, Monochrome, Portrait

The cheapest film photography?

Nita holding the Bronica in town. Taken with a Boots disposable film camera that expired in 2009. Developed cross process in B/W chemistry ID11 at 20C.

Go to any half sized car boot sale in the UK, there’s a fair chance that you might spot some unused but expired disposable film cameras laying in boxes or unlikely, displayed on tables.  These are part of that classic British household junk assemblage, that makes it’s way to the sales.  Some very basic, some with flash, and even a little electronics.  Bought maybe for a holiday or a trip, or a party, but never used.  Price? Always point out the expired date on the camera, and that any developing contract on it is out of it’s date.  Then haggle – aiming for 10p to 50p.  After all, it’s useless, isn’t it?  Don’t pay more than pennies on one.

What you have bought is in essence, rather similar to a hip Chinese Toy Camera, although at a tiny fraction of their bloated prices.  A plastic lens.  An expired film.  You may indeed choose to use it that way.  Perhaps have them developed in C-41 – or even cross processed to E6 at a local photolab.  You might be handy at C41 yourself, and have the chemistry at home.

Personally, I cross process them in B/W chemistry at home.  It makes for the cheapest ever photography – no more than 50p for the camera/film, and perhaps a similar cost in used chemicals.

The Back Yard. As above, taken by Nita. Expired disposable camera cross processed in B/W Ilford chemistry.

By the way, the top photo made it into the Flickr Explore gallery – a place that not every Canikon DSLR has ventured.  Cheap as chips.

Film, 35mm, and scans, Monochrome

The Korean War negatives 1952

My uncle. Bunker Hill, Korea 1952. Scanned negative 6cm x 9cm. Epson Perfection V500

I’m taking a short break from my photography.  Reason is that I’m dedicating my spare time to scanning a box of over 200 negatives, left by my late uncle, who recently passed away.  Most of the collection of scratched and un-kept 6cm x 9cm negatives were taken during my uncle’s tour of Korea as a national serviceman in the Royal Norfolk Regiment during 1951/1952.  The Korean War was settling back to the 38th Parallel following the entry of China as an ally of North Korea.  However, it was far from over.  The above photo of my late uncle was taken around about the time of one battle, where the Royal Norfolks tried to bait the Chinese into close hand fights, in the hope of snatching prisoners for interrogation.

The forgotten war had a long lasting effect on him.  He spent the rest of his life isolating himself from others as a recluse.  He rarely talked about a lot, never mind his experience in Korea.  The consensus is that he suffered battle fatigue or PTSD.  Therefore these negatives are providing an insight of his life that the family have never really seen.  And what a photographer.  Click on the above photo to visit the Flickr Album – still very much incomplete – I still have lots of scans to do.  He seemed to give up the camera shortly after putting down his gun.  Yet, we can now see something of Korea in 1952, through his eyes – at least the less unpleasant sights.  Friends, comrades, group portraits, mates, barracks, first aid ships, troop ships, smoke rising from the opposite hill, tired young men in the humid heat, R & R on the beach, bathing in a muddy stream, it goes on.

Film, 35mm, and scans, Monochrome, Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II

SLF to Love, FirstCall film, Caffenol, Gdansk, Leningrad

Screw Love. Olympus XA2 35mm film compact camera (cost 50p from a car boot sale). First Call (Agfa) 400S B&W film (low budget b/w film). Developed in ID11 stock 10.5 minutes.

My latest photo in Flickr Explore.  I’ve seen far better from others not make it into Explore, it really is a mystery.  Taken on my infamous 50p car boot sale camera, a pocket friendly Olympus XA2, loaded with FirstCall 400S film.  It was the first time that I’ve used this film.  Resold by a UK based photographic supply distributor called FirstCall, the plastic 135 film cassette states that it is made by Agfa-Gevaert Belgium.  It’s a low budget b/w film, only costs a few quid a 36 exposure film, which is about as cheap as I’ve seen for true black and white film recently.  Development times were a bit long – ten and a half minutes in full ID11 stock.  Not sure if I like it, it ain’t HP5 +.  Still it is cheap, so might buy some more.  Certainly suits budget 35mm cameras as a true b/w film.  I don’t really like cross processed C-41 in Ilford results.  They leave too much to the digital scanner to correct.

I’ve settled for another film process project.  I’ve not yet tried alternative home recipe developers.  I’ve been looking at Caffenol, the umbrella name given to home made developers based on coffee granules, and usually vitamin C powder, and washing soda.  I’ve even bought a jar of cheap coffee ready for the project.  Where am I going to get the other ingredients here in the UK?  Couldn’t see vitamin C powder or washing soda in the superstore just now.

Other news?  Ok, Iain Stewart is right.  My recent medium format exposures have been poor – often over-exposed, sometimes under-exposed.  Thing is, I broke my only light meter.  It was a cheap old Capital selenium thing that I got at the local car boot for 50p, after three Sundays of haggling down with some travelers (I can be tight fisted).  So I’ve ordered a similar used but this time, a Soviet light meter (a Leningrad 8) from an online auction site.  Hope it arrives before my flight to Gdansk!

Cameras and equipment, Film Dark Room, Film, 35mm, and scans, Monochrome, Portrait

Back to Basics – the Box Camera

Flint and Myself on a dog walk. Kodak Brownie Flash III box camera. Ilford FP4 Plus expired 2004. 120 film rolled onto 620 spindles.

Every now and then we like to take an ancient box camera out for a little simple fun.  This time it was the Kodak Brownie Flash III.  This is a very late box camera from Kodak, dating to circa 1958.  Kodak replaced their box cameras during the early 1960s, with a wide range of plastic Brownies, some designed to use 127 roll film.

The box camera had a long and noble history – they were central to the popularisation of photography during the first half of the Twentieth Century.  Kodak started making box cameras in their Brownie range in 1900.  In 1901 they introduced 120 roll film, that for many years became associated with box cameras.  This was film photography at it’s most simple and cheapest.  A basic camera obscura – a box, often a cardboard box, with a cheap meniscus lens in a single hole on one side.  Behind the lens, a simple spring shutter linked to a lever – a single stop shutter, and aperture.  A basic roll film loader that slides out of the back of the box.  A red window on the back of the box so that you could see the number of the exposure on the film backing paper.  One or two little reflex viewers in the corner of the box to help you point the lens in the right direction.  That was just about it.  A single stop roll film camera built in a box.  An idea that was taken up not only by Kodak, but by camera manufacturers around the World, and that lasted sixty years or more.

It took photography to the working classes, and it often took photography to youth.  How many famous photographers started out with a box camera?  I wonder if it could teach much to the youth of today, if they were given this, instead of a digital HD all singing dancing gadget camera?  After the shock, they might even marvel at the beautiful and simple idea of capturing light in a box through a small aperture, onto a plastic film coated with emulsions of silver salts.  Imagine children of the Digi Age … one stop, that means no exposure controls, not even manual.  You have to match the camera to the light.  Even the film was one stop, ASA 125.

I can just about remember building a camera obscura at school when I was quite young.  I hope that they still teach this to kids today.

Returning to the above photo, this Kodak Flash Brownie was a late, and advanced model.  It has toggles for two fixed focus zones (under ten feet away, or over), and for a yellow sky filter for B/W photography.  It even has a fitting for a flash gun to be attached.  High technology in 1958.  It was designed to be used with Kodak’s 620 film format.  I’ve often posted on this before, but to recap, Kodak 620 film and paper backing were identical to 120.  However, in order to encourage consumers to buy Kodak film for Kodak cameras, the 620 spindles were different, so common 120 wont fit in the camera.  Unfortunately, 620 film format is now obsolete.  Ha ha, we can easily get around this.  All that you need is a couple of old 620 spindles (most old broken box cameras have an empty spindle in them), and in a light proof environment (I use a film changing bag), you can roll a 120 film/paper backing off it’s modern 120 spindle, then back onto a 620 spindle.  You just need to practice first a little in light, and lift the taped end up – release any slack, and push it back down.  Tutorials are on Youtube.  It takes five minutes a film.

In the above case, I used an old long expired Ilford FP4 Plus 120 film that needed using up.  I’ve since reloaded it with an equally long expired Fujifilm Provia colour roll.  Anita snapped away over a few days.  Then I quickly developed and processed the film in diluted ID11.  The negatives for this class of medium format box camera are huge.  Massive 6 cm x 9 cm exposures – nine on a roll of film.  Indeed, that’s part of the magic.  Although I digitally scanned the film to produce images like the above, in future, should I wish to, I could very simply make a reasonably sized positive print from chemical process.  It doesn’t need to be enlarged.

By the way, the Kodak Brownie Flash III camera that we used here – I bought it in a box of cameras and equipment for about five quid at a car boot sale – sold a Konica that came with it for a fat profit, so this box camera was basically free.  It is in almost immaculate condition – as new (almost), and in it’s original carry case, with the owner’s address scribbled inside the bag.

We are going to continue using a box camera from time to time, and I’d recommend it to others.  It is back to basics.