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.

Rants and discussions


Little Scottish Feet. Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Taken with Olympus XA-2 compact 35mm camera loaded with AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 film from Poundland.

What Value does a photograph have to you?

Case 1.  The Film.

  1. Carefully load a 120 roll film into my Lubitel 166B TLR camera.
  2. Load the shutter.
  3. Use the Sunny 16 rule to evaluate the light conditions in relation to your loaded film speed.
  4. Set the aperture accordingly.
  5. Set the shutter speed accordingly.
  6. Using a zone focus technique, set the estimated distance between yourself and the subject on the lens
  7. Carefully compose the image, check background.  You are shooting in b&w.  Imagine what it looks like in monochrome.
  8. Release the shutter.
  9. Wind on the film to the next frame, looking at the rear red window.  Finish the film off, frame by frame.
  10. Prepare your developing chemicals, mixing them to the correct solutions and dilutions, in seperate jugs – developer, stopper, fixer, rinses.  Bring them all to as near to 20C as practical.
  11. Carefully remove the fully exposed roll of film from the camera
  12. Place the film roll in a film changing bag, along with a Paterson tank.
  13. Placing your hands carefully inside through the double elasticated holes, with great care (and some difficulty), blindly remove the film from it’s spindle and paper backing, then without damaging it, load it onto the tank spool.  After all of this blind fumbling and cursing, place the loaded spool into the tank, and replace lid.  Remove from changing bag.
  14. Pour the developer into the tank.  Invert / agitate for ten seconds, every minute.  For HP5 in Microphen at a stock to water dilution of 1:3, this may go on for 23 minutes.
  15. Pour out the developer, pour in the stop wash.  Agitate, pour back into jug.
  16. Pour in the fixer.  Treat as with developer for another 3 – 5 minutes.  Pour back into jug.
  17. Start the rinsing process – lots of inversions, some water changes, up to 10 minutes.  Last rinse, use a wetting agent, and soak / agitate for two minutes.
  18. Remove the film, carefully, and squeegee.  Hang up to dry and straighten.
  19. Several hours later, cut negatives into three image strips, digitally scan.  Save images on computer
  20. Using software, digitally retouch if required, for example, excessive dust or hair.
  21. Upload optimised version to Flickr.

Case 2.  The Digital.

  1. Check the camera is on an auto-exposure setting such as AV.
  2. Carefully compose the image.
  3. Press the shutter button.  Look at image on camera display, or take more.
  4. Remove memory card and put it into computer.  Save images on computer
  5. Using software, digitally enhance and optimise.
  6. Upload to Flickr.

Now, it’s clearly much easier to use Case 2.  It gives fast, great results.  Fast, instant gratification.  Some modern p&s cameras and mobile phone cameras will even edit the image and upload it straight to Flickr or Instagram.  It’s how our modern consumer sriven society works.  Fast results with minimal effort.  Anyone can be a photographer.  I’m really not knocking digital – I do shoot in digital.

But which has greater value?  Maybe I’m getting too long in the tooth, a grumpy old git, but I think that work has a value.  An awful lot more of me goes into Case 1.  By me, I’m referring to my work.  William Morris felt this way about mass production in the factories of Victorian 19th Century England and Wales.  He argued for the return of the craftsman that put him or herself into their simple, but hand made products in the cottage.  He felt that factories and Capitalism alienated the worker from their produce.  He went so far to suggest that Art was dead until a revolution replaced Capitalism.

I’m not going to go that far, but I’ll finish with one question.  What is the value of your photography?

Film, 35mm, and scans, Models and themed photoshoots, Rants and discussions, Sony A200 DSLR and Sony DT 35mm F/1.8 SAM prime lens

Cheap AgfaPhoto 35mm film from Poundland UK

Bargain Film from Poundland. Sony A200 DSLR. Sony DT 35mm F1.8/ ISO 800. Candlelight. Post process Gimp 2.8. Same for below images

I’ve posted about this great deal in the UK before, but it’s worth re-mentioning  and it gave us an excuse for a quick Photoshoot.  Poundland, a chain of discount stores in the UK (similar to US ‘dollar stores’, they retail cheap goods for GBP £1.00 or less), are offering analogue film photographers a great deal.

They are selling rolls of colour negative 135 (35mm) ASA200 film for only a quid a roll!  My local branch are now only offering rolls of 36 exposure AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200.  However, until recently, they were also selling 24 exposure rolls of Kodak ColorPlus 200, and I understand that at one point, they were selling Ferrania Solaris 200.

A little research on the Internet reveals that AgfaPhoto is NOT the same as the old Agfa brand, which is no longer in production.  Instead, the brand has been bought up by another party, that is reselling other brands.  If sources on the Internet are correct, these AgfaPhoto rolls are being produced by Fujifilm, and may be a variant of Fujifilm C200 film.

How do they perform?  I’m no connoisseur, I’m just a tight fisted photographer, but I’d say for a measly quid a roll of 36 exposures – bloody good.  Other local sources of colour negative film charge between £3 and £7 a roll.  Next cheapest I’ve recently seen locally was a pack of three Fujifilm, but they still worked out almost double the price of the Poundland deal.  That Poundland film is value for hard earned brass.

I Love Film Photography. As above image.

Ok.  So that’s the deal.  As for developing, do I do my own, no do I heck.  This is C41 film, so I take it down to a local independent photo developer, that still has a C41 mini photo lab machine.  He develops my negatives for two quid – 36 or 24 exposure, including cutting into strips and stuffing into an envelope.  On 36 exposure, the cost of film plus the cost of developing works out at 8p per exposure on a roll of 36.

As for this photoshoot.  You can see, I’m sort of hoarding this great deal.  Whenever I walk into Poundland, if I’ve a couple of quid in my wallet, I walk out with a couple of films.  I wanted initially to post something about the Poundland film.  Nita saw me taking a photo of my hoard of Poundland film stuffed in my hat.  She corrected me, and suggested that we could do something better with it together.  The candles came out, and some clothes off.  The camera in the shoot is a cheap old Halina Paulette.  It’s a 35mm viewfinder, dating to about 1959.  I bought it from a car boot sale, but sort of wish that I hadn’t as the Halina’s were not the best quality camera in their day, and I’ve not tried to use it.  I prefer the Kodak Retinette IIA that I bought with it.  But, it was an excuse to take it out of it’s leather case, and to use it here.

We love photography.  Do you?

Budget Photography. As top image.