50p camera

Strange things

Darth Vader eats Wisbech citizen. Olympus XA2, Adox CHS 100 II film, developed in Rodinal.

Caught during a heritage day in Wisbech.  I have no idea what Star Wars has to do with local heritage.  Lucky though, I had my 50p camera in my pocket.  You never know what you might bump into.  I quite like the lady in the background.


Black and white photography

Kings Lynn Harbour buildings. Agfa Isolette I. Shanghai GP3 film. Developed in Rodinal.

Shooting in home developed b/w film for the past three years, I’ve grown incredibly attached to the grey tones.  There is something addictive about black and white photography.  It grabs you.  Suddenly, colour photography looks rude and vulgar.  What would I do, if I could no longer shoot in monochrome film?  I’d have to shoot in digital, and convert all of my images to b/w.  I don’t have to worry bout that yet though.  Still plenty of 120 and 35mm monochrome negative in production.  Long may it continue.

medium format

My Girl from the Fens

My Girl from the Fens. Bronica SQ-A, PS 150mm f/4, Ilford HP5+ film, developed in Ilford LC29. Scanned on Epson V500.

Taken a few months ago, with the wheat still green.  Emneth church tower in the background.  It was on a film in a spare film back for a while.  I had no idea of where I had used it.  I prefer LC29 to develop any ISO 400 films at the moment.  The field made a pretty cool back drop to Anita’s new electro bass guitar.

50p camera

I can do a handstand

Olympus XA2 compact camera. Ilford HP5 Plus 35mm film. Home developed with Ilford LC29.

I think that the 50p Camera handled the above photo quite well.  Taken on a recent visit to London, in Leicester Square of a group of street dancers.  Yeah, it has a tilt, but I think that the tilt works quite well on this sort of scene – I like the other dancers and legs sticking caught on the edge of the photo.

I’m quite liking the Ilford LC29 developer, although at 1:19, I’m not sure if it is that a great value.  I might perhaps use LC29 on my faster films, and use a Rodinal solution on slower films.  Does that make any sense?


Different schools, different budgetary requirements.

This could read “I’m a multinational Corporation, Feed me”.  At least for the sake of this post, inspired by Ian.  When I first started this blog, I was using a cheap used DSLR fitted with an old manual focus prime lens as my number one camera.  I guess that is why I felt entitled to use the name “tight fisted photographer”.  I had no idea how tight fisted I was to become, after I started to use car boot sale film cameras, peaking with the 50p Camera Project.  The message of this blog has always been very simple:  you do not have to spend lots of money in order to enjoy photography.  You do not have to spend a lot of money in order to make interesting, aesthetic images.  I felt that this message was important, because the markets, and the magazines that they control, deceive many enthusiasts into believing otherwise.

Now I feel that I need to refine my message slightly.  I do very much concede that some schools of photography are more cutting edge technology driven than others.  For example, I can fully understand the hefty budgets of a digital wild-life photographer, or a macro enthusiast.  Even some forms of landscape – such as Ian’s example of an incredibly sharp and detailed panoramic.  A sports photography enthusiast is going to want a digital sensor that is fast and smooth, with a lightning speed electronic shutter, burst modes, and a fast zoom lens with shake reduction to boot.

However, in my opinion, this madness extends into schools of amateur photography do not benefit in terms of value, from market driven gear acquisition.  We are not professionals.  We are amateurs and photography enthusiasts.  We do not need that upgrade.  If you want to create imagery like HCB, then you can do that equally well on an ancient 35mm film camera – a full frame sensor will not help you iota.


Digital B/W for Noobs

The end of the road. Sony A200 DSLR. Sony DT 50mm F/1.8 lens. UFraw and Gimp 2.8 open source software.

I fancy a post away from the usual medium format film stuff.  I was recently asked for advice on successful monochrome by someone even more novice than myself.  Now, if I’m using a roll of Ilford, then of course, there is no choice between b/w or colour.  However, I often see beginners in digital photography run into trouble when trying to emulate b/w.

It is my opinion (and I’m a hybrid film photographer) that digital photography is technically capable of producing some great b/w images.  However, it’s reputation has been tarnished by bad results and presentations by people.  The technology is fine, it is the photographers that create nasty images.  Just as great images are produced by people, not the gear, so crap is made by people, not the gear.

Therefore in this post I’m giving a few hints to novice digital photographers that admire the grey tones, and want to improve their production of monochrome.

Summary: 1.  Shoot as a b/w photographer, with the intent of making b/w images – even though your camera is capturing colour information.  2. Convert from RAW or full colour to b/w using a software channel mixer.  3.  Present your b/w images as a monochrome collection.  Do not mix with full colour alternatives.

  1. Be a b/w photographer.  Do not simply shoot for colour, then post process edit individual images to see if they would look better in b/w.  This is such a common mistake.  With film, I don’t have a choice.  If I have a roll of Ilford loaded, I know that I can only produce b/w images.  So when I go out, I need to think in b/w.  I have to ignore colours.  Instead, I’m looking for a variety of tones, strong subjects, shadow, and lines.  It takes a while for some, but if you are out shooting for colour, then your b/w conversions are less likely to work.  I’m NOT suggesting that you select b/w, Grayscale, or monochrome mode on your digital camera – don’t do that!  Shoot in full colour, RAW even if practical, but in your head, shoot for b/w results.  Dedicate yourself to a b/w project.  Be a b/w photographer – shooting in full colour, but always with the aim of producing monochrome converted images.  The reason that I recommend in RAW or high resolution full colour .jpeg is that this is the beauty of digital b/w.  Those colour images contain all of the original colour information.  You can use post process software in order to manipulate those colours to generate a range of aesthetic b/w tones.  We b/w film photographers can only achieve this by using colour tinted glass lens filters on the camera.  You digital photographers get to choose and customise your colour to tone controls post process.  Lucky buggers.  Bloody spoilt you are.  So do not use B/W mode on the camera.  Shoot in colour – think in b/w.
  2. Post Process b/w conversion.  Nothing devalues an image more than hideous inappropriate or over-the-top post process editing.  That isn’t to say that pp editing does not have a place.  I use a touch of it on all of my hybrid scanned images.  For digital b/w conversion it is essential.  A lot of you will use an Adobe software package.  I use Open source software.  It makes no difference to the quality of your final images.  What you need to do is to convert your full colour images into b/w images.  First – do not simply use something like Irfanview, hit the Grayscale conversion, and then job done.  All that will happen, is that the software will strip the file and image of any colour information, and create a Grayscale file.  You might as well have switched your camera to b/w mode, because it would have done the same.  My favourite method is to use the Channel Mixer.  Click in the save as monochrome box, on the channel mixer face plate.   Biasing towards blue can have interesting results on old faces.  Biasing to green can make foliage appear almost white.  Biasing towards red will brighten up faces and skin.  Judge and convert each image individually.
  3. Once I’ve generated a high quality b/w jpeg, I might want to fine tune it slightly, even if only to compress and size down a little for upload.  I use the free Gimp 2.8 software package, but same applies to Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.  Some b/w images benefit from curve control, to produce more contrast.  It sometimes works.  Do not be a robot though.  Consider each image.  Increasing contrast will reduce the range of mid tones and with it, detail.  An image might actually suffer from more contrast.  Judge each one carefully.  If your aim is to produce a high contrast image, then curve control is a good way to achieve it, but do not swallow the bullshit that a good b/w has to be high contrast.  I wouldn’t normally add any sharpness to a digital b/w.  Don’t use excessive post process.  Don’t use any gimmicks such as HDR effect.  Don’t use any of that crap filter stuff.  Don’t be a savage.  Some images are perfectly fine with no editing other than b/w conversion.
  4. Presentation.  Whether intended for printing or for uploading online.  A First class newb error is to mix b/w and colour images together.  Even worse – the ultimate awful sin, they put up a colour and b/w version of the same image up side by side.  Ugh.  Don’t do that!  Don’t you dare then comment with “I think that the b/w version better for this one, what do you think?  Be a real b/w photographer.  Be confident.  Post your b/w images up side by side – just the best, as if you were displaying the latest scans from an Ilford film negative.  A monochrome gallery.  Concentrate on b/w, make it a project.  Don’t just dilly dally in it, because that is what has given digital b/w such a bad reputation.

A good b/w photographer shoots with b/w intent.  They don’t simply convert to b/w because they think that image looks better than the full colour version.  Use intent.

Right I’m off to finish a roll of Shanghai GP3.


Walk in the Park

Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Shanghai GP3 120 film. Developed in Kodak D76. Epson V500 scanned film.

I did warn you that puppy dog photos were on the way.  I took this yesterday in Wisbech Park, of Anita and her daughter with Loki, our new whippet puppy.  We are getting some nice light now, for the slower films, even if sometimes a bit sharp.  I had to run ahead of the three of them, and quickly capture a few semi-candid snaps with the Bronica SQ-A and PS 150mm f/4 lens.

I had already finished off a roll of FP4+ (still undeveloped), with an S-18 extension tube.  All that I had in my pocket was a roll of Shanghai GP3 film.  Now, I’ve published a few images from Shanghai here before – but let me reiterate what it is about.

Shanghai GP3 is rated at ISO 100 (some say that it is closer to ISO 80).  It is a b/w negative film made in 120 medium format.  It is made in China.  It is sold on Ebay, and if you buy ten at a time, you can usually get it here in the UK for around £2.00 – £2.30 a 120 roll.  I bought my last ten for £21, but prices do vary on the Ebay markets.  I’ve just ordered another ten for £20.45 including postage from China.  Yup, that works out at just 5p over two quid per roll.  Find cheaper, because I can’t.  For example, I just took a look at a well known UK film distributor’s website.  If I ordered ten Ilford FP4+ 120 films, from them with postage, they would work out at £4.47 per roll.  Over double the Chinese price.

A quirk with Shanghai GP3 – there is no sticky tape at the fully exposed end of the paper!  You might want to carry a roll of sticky tape.  The other quirk – you think that Foma is curly?  Nahhhh!  This stuff is curly.  Hang a lead weight on the end during drying – it’ll still probably curl when you cut it.

Otherwise?  I’m just a pleb, but I think that it is bloody beautiful – the ridiculously cheap price just makes it better.  I wish that the Chinese made something closer to ISO 400 for poorer light and street action.

Another image that I’ve also published here earlier:

As above, except developed in Ilford ID11 rather than D-76.  Shanghai GP3 film.

Cameras and equipment

The Animistic Atheist

Anita and the lurcher. Portrait using the Agfa Isolette I, Agnar 85mm f/4.5 lens, Foma Fomapan Creative 200 film. Developed in ID11

I’m the crustiest old atheist imaginable.  I know that it annoys Anita sometimes, but I lack faith not only in the existence of any gods, goddesses, or godlings, but pretty much in any supernature or hocus pocus.  Mr Rational, the skeptic, that demands testable evidence.  Not that I think that is boring – the World, it’s Life, and the Universe, as scientific investigation is revealing them, is far more magical than any creation myth.  Still, you get the picture.

Yet, I have to confess to some pretty innate animistic tendencies.  Lots of us have them – we become fond of an inanimate object.  It might be our car, our home, our musical instrument – we invest it with personal feelings.  We might even refer to this object as “her” (or him maybe).  When we handle them, we do so with a care and reverence.  When we change the oil, we might wonder if the car is happier.  We sad atheistic animists.

I confess.  I see old cameras this way, especially when they have been long abandoned, and have ended up at the car boot sale, in a box with old cutlery and scary looking broken dolls (now, they have a Manitou).  You wonder how it feels for them to be cleaned, and carefully loaded with a new film.  To have it’s shutter open onto the 21st Century, a second chance to live.  Sixty year old cameras are not supposed to rise from the grave, are they?

I even imagine their life, if they could talk.  I developed a found film from one, and found photos of steam railway that dated to around 1961.  The camera was last used in 1961.  A different world.  Did they expose rolls of Kodak to happy family scenes from Butlins during the 1960s?

A few weeks ago, Anita, pleased with the results of the Kershaw Penguin, encouraged me to use another of my old folders that needed testing for light leak.  This time, it was a lovely condition Agfa Isolette I folding camera from around 1954.  I actually have two of these, and have previously used the other one – but it started to leak light.  Bellows age.  I still had a roll of Foma Fomapan Creative 200, from a batch that produced some poor quality images with dark blotches.  Perfect for a light test.

So the above and below images were born last week, of that Isolette and Fomapan 200.  The camera said hello to the 21st Century.  No light leaks.  The film did have some blemishes, but I’m pleased enough with the results.

As a post script, the Isolette had a post code and house number on it’s rear.  I took a look on Google Street View at a row of semi detached houses in the North of England.  I thought about that camera and it’s history.  If only it had a memory.

The Limes Farmhouse. Isolette I. As above.