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.

50p camera

Look where you are going

Cambridge. Olympus XA2. Kodak Tmax 400 film. Developed in LC29.

This one recently captured on a Kodak Tmax 400 film in my 50p camera, the Olympus XA2.  I liked the textures of the old brick and stone work, with the chain curtain hanging in the doorway, I saw the cyclist coming, so saw it as a chance to put some animation and Life into the frame.  I didn’t see him look at me until I scanned the developed film.

I can’t see no end to this 50p Camera Project, not unless I manage to smash the XA2 (I have dropped it several times).  Still, it continues to produce photography that I like – even if it is too lo-fi for the taste of the modern online crowds.

Cameras and equipment

A Ross Ensign Ful-Vue II

Rain Ghoul

The Ross Ensign Ful-Vue II camera.

We found this camera last week at a local car boot sale.  I’ve seen several Ful-Vues before, so I imagine that they must have been quite mass produced in their day.  However, this one was in unusually very good condition, an Ensign Ful-Vue II, with the original box, canvas carry case, user manual, and even an empty photo wallet.  So I parted with GBP £5, and took it home.

This model was manufactured in England around 1952.  The Ful-Vue range were simple, but oddly styled, snapshot cameras.  They were sort of box cameras, that were trying to evolve into TLR cameras.  Designed to take Brownie film (120 medium format – some later models used 620 spindles), their days were numbered with the increasing popularity of 35mm film.  A cheap simple lens, a simple one speed (or bulb) spring shutter, but with an odd looking viewfinder somewhere between a box camera and a toy TLR.  It has a three point focus.

My car boot Ful-Vue on inspection, despite it’s otherwise lovely condition, had a sticky shutter.  Three small screws, and the shutter mechanism came off.  A little light oil, and it was back in service.  The photo wallet, and a photo lab pamphlet provenanced to Glasgow in 1960.  I imagine that this may well have been when the camera was last used.

I loaded with one of my remaining 120 rolls of Shanghai GP3 film.  We took it out for a quick fun trial.  What do you think?

Hedge Rider

The Pumpkin Field

Halloween mask courtesy of Poundland, in the tight fisted tradition.

Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II


Olympus XA2 compact camera. Ilford HP5+ b/w 35mm film. Developed in Kodak D76 stock. Scanned on a V500.

The two Ilford films from the XA2 (the 50p Camera Project) are dried and scanned.  The above is one of my favourites.  A candid taken at the burger van of a local mid week car boot sale.  I think that it captures the atmosphere of such an event quite well.  Car boot sales, auctions, and Sunday markets are great places to catch interesting people.

I developed in D-76 stock, which might have made the HP5 a little grainy, but as any regular readers will know, I don’t shy away from the rough.  It adds I think to the feeling of the photograph.  Anyway, I wanted to use the developer up, as it wasn’t well stored, and I’m keen to give a bottle of Ilford LC29 a go next.

I guess that is one of the attractions of film and even hybrid photography – we have so many different films, developers, and processes available still, each of which will affect the final image.

Next in the XA2 will be a couple of Poundland C41 films.

Cameras and equipment, Portrait

Mamiya C3 TLR Camera Test

Mamiya C3 Professional TLR. Mamiya-Sekkor 80mm f/2.8 lens. Ilford FP4+ film. Developed in ID11. Scanned film on a V500.

Well, yeah, that look okay to my eyes.  No light leaks.  Camera is a good ‘un.  There is a slight blemish (not fungi) on taking lens, but as usual, it doesn’t seem to have affected the images.  I’ve loaded it with another roll of Ilford FP4 Plus.

I presently have three medium format film cameras on the go – all loaded with film.  This Mamiya C3 TLR, the good old trusty Bronica SQ-A, system camera, and for share lightweight convenience, an Agfa Isolette I folding camera.  I don’t like all of this choice.

Cameras and equipment, Film

Pick up a Penguin

Our Kershaw Penguin Eight-20, picked up from the car booty. This image captured on a Sony A200 DSLR and Sony DT 50mm SAM lens.

I’ve succumbed to buying a few car boot sale cameras of recent – much to the displeasure of Anita, who points out quite correctly that I already have too many.  I bought a tasty looking Carl Zeiss Werra 1 for a fiver, but on initial testing, it looks as though it may have a shutter fault.  You can lose money on old film cameras.

I also bought the above Kershaw Penguin Eight-20 folding camera.  It came in a nice leather case, complete with manual.  I paid ten quid for it.  It is quite good condition, but I’d expect the bellows to leak.  Anita wanted to try it out, so a few days later, she loaded it with a roll of Foma Fomapan Creative 200 film.  Folders are cool.

Elm church. Penguin Kershaw 8-20 folding rollfilm camera. Circa 1951 manufacture. Foma Fomapan Classic 200 film. Developed in ID11. Film scanned in V500.

We developed the film in the evening with ID11, and left it to dry.  Results?  Well, what about that – no light leaks.  Nice job.

35mm, and scans, Film

35mm film to 120 size converters from Ebay

35mm film converters to 120 size. Fitted here onto a Poundland film. Taken with a Nokia Lumia 1020 phone camera.

I haven’t tried them out in the field yet, but a few readers have asked for more information on these 135 to 120 canister converters that I purchased on Ebay.  Link to the Ebay listing here.

The seller is manufacturing them on his 3D printer.  Simple, but apparently an effective little design.  They simply plug into either end of a 35mm film canister, and hey presto – the 35mm film now fits into a 120 medium format film loader.

The seller does state that they haven’t been tested with many films or film loaders.  Still, they are a neat little product.

For those of you that might be interested in “sprocket hole” scans, just be aware, that these don’t come straight out of many film scanners including the Epson V500.  The masks cover the sprocket holes either side.  You need a bit of ingenuity.  Newton glass mounts, or, modified masks, simply trying to peg them into a 120 mask, or old school – use a digital camera and light box set up instead of a scanner.

As above image – but mounted in the film loader of a Lubitel 166B camera.

Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II

Wolf in sheeps clothing. The 50p camera still lives!

This is what a camera looks like!

Zones of Focus – the 50p Olympus XA2

This is what I bought the HP5+ film for – a treat for my trusty old 50p Olympus XA2.  You can see from the images, it’s pretty battered from being stuffed in pockets, along with car keys and what not.  Beaten up, scarred, and misused.  This is the XA2 that I bought at a car boot sale for 50p (GBP £0.50p – around 77 US cents) a few years ago, and proceeded to make this 50p camera Flickr gallery with.

Hopefully, it’s still in good working order.  If not, I’ve another one or two XA2s somewhere around the house, but I’d like to use this original 50p individual.

There is a genuine message that I try to get out by using this camera.  It is that you do not need to spend thousands of hard earned dosh on gear, in order to enjoy photography, and make pleasing photographs.  Whenever I hear two or three photography technicians arguing over the merits and benchmarks of the latest sensor, body, or lens … I think of my 50p camera.  Yes, I can see the benefits of the latest, most expensive technology for some schools of photography. I couldn’t take much of a photo of a pied flycatcher at 100 metres distance, using my 50p camera.  However, I don’t want to take a photo of a pied flycatcher in the distance.  I want to make photography.

Rants and discussions

How big is my sausage, and Camera IQ

In a Wisbech pork butcher’s shop window. Pentax SP500 Spotmatic camera. Super-Takumar 55mm f2 lens. Rollei Retro 400S b/w film Developed in R09.

Photography forums can be awful places, where the worst behaviour, generated by the must-have-the-latest-upgrade marketing media hyped culture, really shows itself for what it is – an illness.  You get these ridiculous threads, where a gaggle of photographers, cut and thrust over the “IQ” of one digital sensor over another, or something equally as fetish-like, such as the sharpness of a particular lens, or the abilities of an upgraded image stabilisation system.  One of the favourite subjects, are the merits or otherwise, of a full frame sensor over an APS sensor.  It’ll often be found in the form of one model on Canikon DSLR, over a cheaper model of Canikon DSLR – “the sensor has greater IQ” or whatever.  Bullshit.

Sometimes I’m in awe of these giants in technical knowledge.  Clearly, they must be great photographers – clutching at the latest benchmark results from Japan.  I mean, this technology must cost a fortune.  How on Earth could anyone produce acceptable photography without this gear?  If I was to attend a meet with these guys, I’d need to hide my XA2 in utter shame.

I have no idea how the great masters of photography, over the previous 150 years, managed to produce wonderful photographs, without the latest full frame Canikon, image stabilised, quad core, dual bus, digital super sonic sensor.

What the feck is IQ in a photograph anyway?