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.

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

Shoe Box Photography

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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35mm

A 1980’s 35mm Compact Camera

Yashica T2 testing the autofocus in Wisbech Park. Ilford HP5+ film. Developed in Ilford LC29. Scanned on Epson V500.

I don’t often get an urge for a camera, but just lately, I’ve had some kind of nostalgic desire to get hold of a half decent 1980’s 35mm film compact camera, and yesterday, I got one.

Back in the early 1980’s, I couldn’t afford a decent SLR camera.  My brother bought this knock out Canon AE1 35mm SLR.  I was bowled over by it, but there was no way that I could go without beer long enough in order to buy one.  My Bro recommended that I bought a “35mm compact camera”.  Until then, other than a brief flirtation with a Yashica TLR, I’d only ever owned 126 film Kodak Instamatics, a Polaroid, and God awful 110 pocket cameras.  So a half decent 35mm compact would be a step up!  A visit to a Norwich camera shop, and I purchased one.  I can’t remember which one!  It may have been a Canon AF35M.  Anyway, I remember a salesman trying to explain to me about lens quality.  As they usually did.  I do remember that this 35mm compact camera had state of the art gadgets, including a newfangled space age auto focus, and motorised film advance.  Wow.  I remember reading the user manual about this head screwing technology.

I continued to use 35mm AF compact cameras (with a brief flirtation with Kodak disc film) all the way until I discovered digital around 2003.  Digital came in, 35mm film compact cameras went the way of the dinosaur.  They cram boxes in charity shops and in car boot sales.  Yesterday’s technology.  Most of these 35mm film compact cameras were not anything special.  However, a small number of them were something a bit special.  The Yashica and Contax T series of compacts, were manufactured with highly reputable 35mm f/3.5 Carl Zeiss T* Tessar lenses.  Collectors and those in the know, stalk car boots looking for these treasures.  A VGC Yashica T4 or T5 fetches three figures from the collectors and hipsters on Ebay.  I kid you not, a good GBP £120 – £220 for a compact film camera.  These are not rubbish cameras.

My relatively old and lower status T2 (manufactured c1986) cost me considerably less than that, but just hearing that motorised film advance and rewind sends me back thirty years ago.  I only received it yesterday, I want to use up some Poundland C-41 film in it.  A fun camera to carry around.  I ran a test film through it yesterday, a spare 35mm cassette of Ilford HP5+ that I could quickly develop, then dry overnight.  It works (unlike the last T2 that I bought – see a few posts back).

The above photo is nothing special, except that it demonstrates the daylight flash function, the auto focus works (although this is not an action AF), and the lens does give good shallow DOF when required.

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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.

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35mm

A sudden yearning

Yashica T2 35mm compact camera. AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 film from Poundland. A bit of post scanned neg. post process on Gimp 2.8 software.

I have this sudden yearning to use a Yashica T series compact camera with a bit of colour film.  I did buy a Yashica T2 three years ago – and used it to take the above photo.  The camera that I bought though was sick.  After one test film, I put it back down.  Not long after, I discovered the 50p camera – my Olympus XA2, then moved onto home developed b/w film.

It has been said that a truly creative photographer can use any camera to make good photography.  However, gear is still important.  We do become attached to our cameras.  I’m interested in photographs that portray this, that show people with their cameras.  Are cameras like pets?  Do their owners resemble them?  I love seeing young film photographers on Flickr and Tumblr, flaunting their vintage cameras.  There is something personal about a camera.  It is not just about function.  If it is, then I suggest that you buy whatever the latest magazine bench mark tells you to, no doubt some Canikon DSLR.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s I couldn’t afford a “proper” camera.  No classic SLRs for me back then.  However, I did graduate from some pretty awful Polaroids, 126 Kodaks, and 110 pocket cameras to owning a series of 35mm compact cameras.  Autofocus and motor film wind were amongst the cool features of this breed.  Some of them, including the Yashica T series, even sported posh lens.  There were 35mm compact cameras, then there were 35mm compact cameras with Carl Zeiss.

As above.

I think my yearning now may be based on a nostalgia for those cameras.  I want to hear the motor winding the film on and then back.  I want to manipulate that auto focus.  I want to see if people on the street recognise that I’m using an artefact from 1980s culture, if they look around when they hear the motor.  Will young people wonder what that was?

Yes, you’ve guessed it, a T2 is already on it’s way to me.  I’ve finally given up looking for one at the car boot sales.  I’ve even decided on the first test film – an unloved 35mm Kodak Color film sitting on a bedroom shelf, that was given to me.  Fingers crossed that this one isn’t sick.

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Internet, Rants and discussions

Finger Painting in photography

Agfa Isolette I folding camera, Shanghai GP3 film, developed in Rodinal.

I picked up this quote (I haven’t been able to check it’s authenticity), alleged to have been made by the renown photographer, Harry Benson: “Boundaries of photography are changing, the Royal Photographic Society will show digital photography that’s been Photoshopped to hell. That’s not photography, that’s finger painting“.

The heavy use of PP (post process software such as Adobe Photoshop or LightRoom) has, and continues to be much debated.

The critics will say that good photography is made in the camera, that post process is a crude way of trying to cover poor technique, that it can not make a bad photograph good, but frequently makes a good photograph bad.

The defenders of post process software will insist that it is nothing new, that even before digital photography, many acclaimed photographers made edits using traditional dark room techniques such as cropping, dodging, and burning.

Either way, both camps will recognise that unless in the hands of particularly skilled, experienced, and creative artists, heavy photoshopping is not a very good idea.  It often causes eyes to bleed.  The current fashion for heavy HDR or faked HDR, are two examples of eye-bleeding gore.  Well, at least in my humble opinion.

Yet so many people do it!  This leads me to wonder how we see our own images, and how others see them.  That we can make a good image dreadful, in post process, suggests that we must see our own images differently to others.  We need to listen to our critics more than we listen to our own egos.

I mentioned the fashion of HDR.  I saw a digital photographer recently suggest, that if you can tell that it is HDR, then it is too heavy.  I agree with that.  It’s not just online.  I’ve seen rows of gory, vac packed HDR images on display at camera club galleries.  Just as we use to see rows of selective colour (color splash) on display.  A fashion.  In fifty years time, we will be able to date images by their post process mistreatment.  “Ah yes, the Horrible Dynamic Range style, early 21st Century.”.  Maybe we also need to listen to the imagined critics of the future.

I’m being cruel.  I am aware, perfectly, that taste is personal, that photography styles are horses for courses.  It’s unfair to pick on the HDR crowd.  It isn’t just them.  Look at the digital glamour photographers, that plasticise the faces of their models, the virtual botox style.  I’d better shut up before I upset everyone.

Do I use post process / scan software on my hybrid film photography?  Hell yes.  The first level occurs in the digital scanner software.  Even switching all available controls to manual, the scanner software cannot resist correcting and balancing the scan for us silly humans.  Rather like a full digital camera does, in microseconds after we press the shutter button down.

I’ll sin even further.  I scan fairly big, then open it using an Open Source post process software package called Gimp 2.8.  I’ll more often than not, correct levels, curves, heal dust and hair, maybe straighten or crop, then resize and compress a little for upload to an online web server.  That might make me a bit of a hypocrite then.  Except for one thing.  I still want my images to look natural.  I don’t want people to notice my post process corrections.  I want them to see a photograph, hopefully sometimes, a photograph with feelings.  A photograph that was captured using the technique of silver salts in an emulsion, painted onto a film of plastic.  Not a glossy supersonic image painted with virtual pixel brushes.

That is what I want to do.  Make photographs.

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