TMP

Landscape photography with a difference!

One week with the Leica, Elmar and ACROS.

Since making my monumental decision to abandon digital photography and photograph with my 1957 Leica M2 exclusively for a whole year, I feel more motivated and refreshed. It's like a heavy weight has been lifted. As you know the Leica is essentially a hand made precision instrument sans electronics of any kind. To be free of all electronic control is a truly liberating experience. No batteries and no meter. To use a single prime lens, in my case a 1957 Elmar 5cm f/2.8 is equally refreshing. Quite quickly one begins to "see" in the focal length of the lens, you begin to visualise your composition even before making the exposure. One thing I have also found to be stimulating is using the "Sunny 16" method to evaluate exposure. Upon seeing the developed negatives emerge from the tank is a tense, but ultimately rewarding experience. Even when exposing under mixed lighting conditions not one frame is a bad exposure. I do not have the opportunity to travel far so my photography is confined to a rather local area, one to which I can quickly travel. This means one has to work hard to find interesting subjects to photograph. I would love to hop in the jalopy and spend a weekend in the Lake District, but alas! I have a "normal" life.

See what you think from this series made last weekend and during the week? All photos are Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39 exposed with the Leica M2 and 5cm Elmar. Fuji ACROS 100 is an excellent film, sharp, low grain, loads of tone. I am expecting Fuji to kill it, just like they did with the excellent and brilliant Neopan 400. FUJI - I DON'T LIKE YOU AT ALL!!!!! DON'T KILL ACROS and BRING BACK NEOPAN 400 - PLEASE!

All clad in scaffolding as a substantial repair is undertaken.

An unashamed selfie from the old Chepstow bridge. A shadow selfie as I call it. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39. Note the supermarket trolly.

Wall in Sudbrook. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

Cut off at the root. A wall in Sudbrook. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

This tree seems to be growing from out of the very rock. 365 Steps, Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

Ivy and a tree at f/4. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

A low estimated light level meant that I had to go to f/2.8 at 1/30th of a sec hand held. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

Old Gnarled Tree on the 365 Steps. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

Muffy with the Elmar 5cm wide open at f/2.8 a little soft made softer by moving photog. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

Muffin about to yawn. Exposed f/2.8, Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

I tried creeping upon Muffy for a sneaky photo, but the Damned cat moved. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

On the 365 Steps, Tintern to Chepstow road. Fuji ACROS 100 in Adox FX-39.

No Batteries Included.

I think I have out ranted myself on this subject over the last few posts and I think you know my feelings.

Just to briefly re-cap, at some point you become totally sick of the whole digital photography ecosystem and mentality. As you well know I have reached that point. I have become totally disillusioned with how software and technology has come to dominate photography. Not to mention my increasing abhorrence at digital manipulations that often take the original exposure into the realms of fantasy. You may be interested in having a read of my previous post HERE.

At some point, the digital gadget-camera delusion and obsession, for some, will burn out. To use a metaphor, the bubble will burst. It’s not the answer to better photography. It is a mistake to continually throw good money on new gear, software and technology when it’s you (and I) which is the greatest obstacle in the pursuit of great photographs. You want to read that again: It is YOU that is the greatest obstacle in the pursuit of great photographs. Your equipment is innocent of all charges.

So what do I do now!

Where will I go in this post-digital era?

You may remember in the latter stages of one of my recent posts my plan of photographing exclusively with the Leica for a whole year.

That began on Saturday the 1st of August.

Why the Leica! As much as I would love to make those amazing landscape previously mentioned I can’t afford it. Also, I don’t have the time, the money, the commitment, the determination or the sacrifice that would be inevitable. Besides, why do what millions of photographers are doing! In a trough of photographic despair three weekends ago I threw all my gear on the bed and started using my iPhone taking pictures in preparation of posting the whole lot on the bay of e.

My frame of mind was that of walking away from photography. I have had enough of many things previously discussed. In a future post I will cover the issues and mental state of my personal voyage in photography, depression, dissatisfaction, obsession and Aspergers.

There I was dejectedly snapping away, being agitated by the faux shutter sound, when I picked up my Leica M2. I paused and held it in my hand. I admired the aesthetic of its classic lines, the reassuring weight, my thumb caressed the texture of the vulcanite. I put down my iPhone and held the Leica in both hands running my fingers over the metal work, enjoying the tactile sensation of the milled metal knobs. Advancing the mechanism and releasing the shutter is silky smooth and is mechanical bliss. I did this several times. I found it calming. I then knew in that instant the Leica had to stay. I could NEVER sell it. From out of the darkness a little flicker of photographic light waxed, a beacon in the black.

It was then I hatched my plot. To be photographically digital free. To go back to basics, not even using a meter. No electronics, no batteries, just a plain mechanical camera. A machine! To photograph exclusively with the Leica for a whole year. So, starting the weekend just gone that is what I have initiated. My only expense - film and developing sundries, and I will keep a tally of the costs involved.

Electronics, computers and software will only enter the picture (Haha! Pun!) when the negatives are developed. There are a few problems to be overcome! The negatives often have drying stains despite the use of a wetting agent. The negatives often have a number of small white specks - dust! Worse still, the negatives often exhibit grainy skies despite the grain being smooth elsewhere. As the sadly late and great Barry Thornton once said “you can’t make a fine print from a course negative”. Technique needs to be improved.

Already from using the Leica for a short period I have found that you quickly learn to pre-visualise the print, you become more aware of the subject, a deeper impression is made on your memory, by using a prime lens you begin to “see” the lens. Further benefits discussed later… The below pictures exposed practising the Sunny 16 method and developed in Adox FX-39 and are Kodak Tmax 100 unless otherwise stated.

Farm Lane 1

Farm Lane 2

Bottle, Elmar 9cm f/4.

Cribyn, Brecon Beacons. 1958 Leica M2, 5cm Elmar f/2.8 Ilford FP4+ in FX-39

Waiting...

Passing by.

Bit of a blur.

The SSC.

I just love my garden.

The best Fell walkers...

When in Wales...

Shadow Selfie (you hear it here first...)

Sunny 16 and the Leica.

As part of the recovery process as explained in the next post I have been out with the Leica. My Leica is an M2 with a 5cm Elmar f/2.8 lens and a 9cm Elmar f/4. Both the M2 and 5cm date to 1957 whilst the 9cm although from the 1950’s is an updated design from the 1930’s. Both lenses are four element Tessar based designs.

The weather was nice, my wife was away visiting her parents in Portugal so I took the opportunity, grabbed a couple rolls of film and, among other places, visited Hay-on Wye.

The films I used were Ilford Delta 400, Ilford HP5+, Ilford FP4+ and Rollei Retro 80S. All of the Ilford films were developed in Adox (formerly Patterson) FX39 and the Rollei in dilute Rodinal. The films were all exposed without a meter using the Sunny16 “rule”. Every single frame has good exposure unlike a typical Zone V (18% grey)  meter whether hand held or in-camera.

You may think “GASP!!!! HORROR!!!! Exposing without a meter! I bet the negs are crap!” That is exactly what I thought when I found out about the Sunny 16 “rule”. How can you get good exposures just by GUESSING the exposure? A couple of years ago, for a laugh, I tried it.

The results were actually a revelation!

Not only were the exposures good, they were better than what a meter would have done in some of the cases. In fact, the four rolls of various films recently exposed by S16 not one frame is lost or even bad.

Furthermore, not having a meter is a liberating experience especially with purely mechanical cameras such as the Leica. Here, mechanical cameras really do come into their own and you can shoot unencumbered and unfettered by electronics of any sort. It is pure photography and  using miniature cameras (35mm for those who are not that old) your photography is fast and fluid and the camera really does become an extension of the self. A free artistic tool instead of a tool trying to become artistic.

I would absolutely recommend using the S16 “rule”. It takes only a little practise and you have to develop the nerve and conviction in your own exposure calculation. The confidence it gives you is amazing!  Soon, you’ll be going beyond the S16 rule, tweaking and making modifications to suit your own shooting style.

That is enough of the blab. Here are the photos to prove it. In a near-future post I will outline the S16 “rule’ in conjunction with the most popular black and white films, how to develop them and how to scan them. I will also talk you through a few tricky exposures and how a meter would have totally failed. Until then, I hope you like these snapshots…

HP5+ in FX-39

HP5+ in FX-39

HP5+ in FX-39

Enjoying a coffee in the Italian Cafe in Hay-on-Wye

Ilford Delta at EI200 in FX-39

Ilford Delta 400 at EI200 in Adox FX-39

HP5+ in FX-39 after the dev tank broke open.

HP5+ in FX-39

Ilford Delta 400 at EI200 in Adox FX-39

Ilford Delta 400 at EI200 in Adox FX-39

Rollei Retro 80S at EI60 in Adox FX-39

Rollei Retro 80S at EI60 in Adox FX-39

I just can’t help myself...

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I just can’t help myself.

I’m sure you’ve done the same thing as me. You buy your favourite photography magazine, browse, and there, on a double page spread is this amazing landscape. The composition is perfect, the shadow is perfect, the colour is perfect and that light! I would die for that light!. The image is amazing. And you go “I want to make a picture like THAT!”.

Well, that is a perfectly normal response. The trouble is you have a mortgage, a full time job, you’re married and have a couple of children. Oh yeah! This particular picture is also in Iceland. Yet, you still think “what gear do I need to make a picture like that?”. You just can’t help yourself.

You look at your existing camera, lenses and kit, it now looks crummy and pathetic and you think “well, that all has to go”. Whilst thinking this you have forgotten, of course, why you bought that gear in the first place. You will now sell it for the exact same reason your existing kit replaced the last lot: Because new kit will carry your photography forward and by spending even more hundreds (or thousands) your photographs will suddenly yield dynamic compositions and colours that just glow. If only I buy that Canon 5D marque III with a bunch of “L” lenses!

You are now deluding yourself as I have done for years.

But you’ll ignore me because your delusion is so strong it has you in its pernicious vice-like grip. Photography magazines are designed and written to fuel your delusion. Tantalisingly they parade in front of your very own eyes a series of amazing photographs. You pay particular attention to the camera model and make that is in small print in the far lower right corner. “I could make prints like that if I had…” If only you could hear yourself! The delusion is running at full throttle. Mix in an obsessive persona and you are in big trouble. The more your delusion is fuelled the more money magazines and manufacturers will make from you. It is an addict/drug-dealer relationship. Eventually, you’ll end up spending thousands as I have done and the results will be just the same. You’ll end up a lot poorer, more frustrated and ever more demoralised that spending all that money hasn’t yielded the results you want. I mean, what is WRONG with my Canon 17-40mm “L” lens, I MUST have a bad copy.

If this is YOU, then do not worry. The problem is actually right in front of you. It’s you!

The reason why someone else’s photography appears on a double page spread in an international magazine and ours don’t is because the photographer KNOWS how to use their equipment. They put in the effort to be in the right place at the right time often camping overnight. They are at location at 5am on a remote Scottish peak to get the light. And that’s IF the conditions are right. (It’s worth repeating) Amazing photos happen because the photographer is in the right place at the right time in the right conditions and he/she knows how to get the best from their equipment. They probably will get the same results from your equipment. Your equipment doesn’t matter! With advancing technology you can get great results from quite modest equipment nowadays! Pro kit from a few years ago is also as cheap as chips. Instead of obsessively and slavishly thinking that to get great pictures you have to spend thousands on great gear (this is what the camera companies and their sycophantic horde of amateur magazines want you to believe) the answer is actually the making of great pictures is free.

FREE!

Yes! Free! The secret of great photographs does not rest in equipment, technology or software. Great photographs come from the photographer. From inside and that can be developed for free.

All this time and money wasted obsessing about specifications and this and that when all the time the cause of bad pictures was ME and NOT my equipment. So, I am not buying into the digital delusion any more. I am not buying any more cameras and equipment. I am not buying any more software, filters or plug-ins. I am not buying the next gimmick camera manufacturers have to conjure up to sell their wares. I’ve finished! I have had enough chasing Scotch mist and magic silver bullets. I have been totally STUPID.

Read part two next week: Recovery! And how on Earth am I going to even attempt to make good pictures let alone great ones.

I have just had enough!

reflection-ii.jpg

I don’t really understand the concept of irony, but, if I did this may just be ironic. When I first became hooked on cameras, or rather just one in particular, I just liked taking photos. I was never really into film per se. I never understood the mechanics or technique. I was a happy snapper.

Some years later another interest, oops, sorry, obsession took over and photography quietly slipped into the background and out of my consciousness. The winds of change blew through my life once again and one obsession merged into another - computers. My morning routine was happily started by the Microsoft Windows start-up sound. I started a business. Then, by chance, by pure chance, in the tail end years of the 1990’s, I bought a digital camera, the Casio QV-10. I was doubly hooked. Computers AND Cameras!

The digital photography bug, which is really an extension of the computers, gadgets and software bug, ran it’s course. Software, photoshop, filters, plug-ins and cameras beyond count. All bought with the promise that my photography would improve and perpetuated by the self delusion that it would. It never did. Why? Because I was crap. I pinned my hope on, and swallowed the sales line of, “if you buy this (insert camera/lens/software here) your pictures would win every competition going". I switched from digital to film to digital to film to digital. Going from 0.3 mega pixels and ending up with 20.

There comes a point when you get sick of software, photoshop, filters and plug-ins controlling your “photography”. You get sick of in-camera micro-processors, in-camera software and a whole host of software technicians and engineers standing behind the scenes all waiting to pounce with another upgrade. Cameras which can shoot RAW at 12 fps for 50 frames and that can also shoot HD video. You know how much crap HD video I see in my job? A company announces a new camera model, then another new one, and another new one and yet another. A bewildering plethora of choice. You study all the specs, read all the reviews not realising you are well and truly hooked into a replenishment cycle. The cycle of which means a camera being “antiquated” in ever decreasing circles, spiralling down. Ten years, five years, eighteen months, 12 months, eight months, six months. That’s what it feels like! After almost 20 years you have done everything digitally you can. The bug dies.

You get sick of software and technology controlling your image. You get sick of seeing enhanced, photoshop manipulated landscapes. You get sick of Photoshop skills being as important if not more so than the actual act of using the camera. You become sick of the fake, the faux and the fraud.

Software isn’t photography. Filters aren’t photography. Plug-ins aren’t photography. Photoshop isn’t photography. These things produce the fake, the fraud and the faux.

You get sick of dicks uttering completely crass words along the lines of “You can do in Photoshop what you can do in the darkroom”. Completely failing to mention you can do a thousand times more in photoshop. In the darkroom you are limited by chemistry, physics, time and skill. There are no such limits in photoshop. You get tired of dicks justifying their own lack of skill and resorting to photoshop by uttering such immortal lines as "I'll fix it in photoshop later" or “the dead old guys faked it, so can I”. Sure they did! They were highly skilled artisans who developed their skills over a number of years. Today, you “rent” your software, download a “tute” and go click, click, click, clone, clone, heal, layer, adjustment layer, click, click, clone etc. DONE! If you can’t see the difference between the two then go into the darkroom and do there what you do in photoshop. Dick!

You’ve heard it all, done it all and your images still don’t look like (famous photographer’s name here).

Why?

Two reasons…

1) I am crap and you're crap. No amount of buying anything is going to solve that one.

2) My resources are limited. My time, my health, my money. I can’t afford to go to those locations you see in the magazines with the equipment I need and at the time I need.

So, I give up right!

Almost did.

When I was iPhone photographing my kit to put on the bay of e, I picked up my 1958 Leica M2. I knew then I couldn’t sell it. What a classic camera! It kept the photography desire alive. Then came a plan. Why not spend a year photographing with the Leica. No computers, no electronics, no meter. Perhaps for this digitally jaded photographer this may be just the tonic.

Have I the courage to do it!

To sum this post in a sentence would be to say that I am sick of the control of software and technology has on my photography seeing this as a solution to my photographic ills instead of concentrating on real photography. More on the later.

Oh yeah! I almost forgot. The irony. Nope I have difficulty with that one. It’s as clear as a mauve hippo.

The Lake District, late April 2015

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It has been almost three months since I last posted on my blog. What has happened? I don’t know! I’m still struggling with motivation. I still have 12 rolls of film that are in need of developing. Photographically I have not actually done much since my last post. Motivation gone. From about mid-March I set about preparing for my Lake District trip.

If you are in the UK, did you love the ‘Summer’ we had in the early weeks of April. Glorious or what! Of course! The weather broke as soon as I set off for the Lake District on the 24th. Still, I consoled myself with the thought that as beautiful as it is clear blue skies makes for boring landscapes photography. Yeah, I know, pretty, but that big blue expanse needs some of that white fluffy stuff in it. Big bright blue clear skies especially doesn’t make for thrilling black and white pictures. Besides, being on a mountain in great weather is physically very hard. You de-hydrate like nobody's business and the risk of Sun stroke increases dramatically. You’ll be very surprised that at even 1000m you catch the Sun very, very quickly. Soon, dehydration and Sunstroke can become serious problems. This means you have to carry much more fluid, Sun screen and clothing which increases the physical effort of climbing the mountain. I need not have worried!

Let me just back-track a couple of months to when I last climbed a mountain. I had with me my Fujifilm Fixepix S5 Pro and 17-70mm lens. Clawing my up this particular Welsh mountain reminded me of a few years previous when I was going over Crib Goch on Snowdon and thinking “why on Earth am I carrying all this heavy gear?” upon reaching home I decided to sell my beloved S5 , it is just too big and heavy and very cumbersome when it is going in and out of your rucksack when trying to catch the fleeting light of intermittent Welsh weather. You’re faffing about with all the camera stuff and so focussed on watching the weather and light that the enjoyment of the climb just disappears into a cloud of frustration. So, the wonderful S5 was sold. I risked purchasing the Samsung NX300 and a 16-50mm power zoom lens. The NX300 is an amazingly small and light mirrorless camera that I can hide under my Gore-Tex jacket in inclement weather. It also means that I don’t feel the weight and I can have the camera ready for action much, much quicker. It’s ready to shoot at a moments notice. No more faffing about with getting the rucksack off, opening rucksack, getting camera out… etc. etc. etc.

On the gear list was my new iPhone 6 Plus. The Rolleiflex 2.8C, the Yashica Mat 124G and a small Canon MC (Micro Compact) 35mm film camera with its very sharp 35mm f/2.8 lens. Together with a handful of 35mm and 120 roll film I was all set. The untried NX300 and iPhone 6 Plus were concerning unknown factors. But I thought “what the Hell” and took the risk. I was going to the Lake District for the Fell walking and good pictures are a bonus not the object.

The day before I set off, as I have mentioned, the weather changed. From that wonderful glorious Sun the forecast for my Lake District week was overcast, some Sunny intervals and heavy rain showers. Great!

The first Fell walk was Pike O’Blisco and Crinkle Crags. Seven miles in the gloom and amazingly much to my surprise, it started to snow. SNOW! It’s almost May and there’s SNOW! I had the NX300 tucked safely under the Gore-Tex and the Rolleiflex in the rucksack. Too heavy! That was the last time I took the Rolleiflex over a mountain.

The following day was an early start, glorious Sun and a long trip to Sca Fell via the amazing Lord’s Rake (google it). I decided to get to Wasdale Head via  Wrynose Pass and Hardnott Pass which is an adventure in its own right. The approach to the Sca Fell summit is straight forward. Up Lingmell and summit Lingmell, cut across and below Pikes Crag and Pulpit Rock of Sca Fell Pikes. From there a light scramble up to Mickledore which is the sharp narrow col between Sca Fell Pike and Sca Fell before scrambling down to begin the accent of Lord’s Rake and then on to the summit. A round trip of just over seven miles. For this trip I had the NX300 around my neck and under the protection of the Gore-Tex performance shell. In the pocket I had the Canon MC loaded with HP5+ film. I minimise everything in the rucksack and travelled as light as possible. What a relief that was! Much more enjoyable as well. No more digging around in the rucksack. Cameras at hand and ready to go into action in a few seconds. It was just wonderful to travel so light. The Sca Fell trip proved to be the pattern for the rest of my stay. I did shoot with both the Rolleiflex and the Yashica 124G when not on a mountain.

During the week I managed to do the Fairfield Horseshore, the Helvellyn ridge plus a couple of smaller fells. A total of 14 Wainwrights and a little over 37 miles in six days. Phew! I am still knackered!

Altogether I shot 721 ‘frames’ on the NX300, 183 on the iPhone 6 Plus, 3 rolls of HP5+ in 35mm and 4 rolls of HP5+ in 120 format. At some time I will actually develop those films.

What about the iPhone, well, I am going to deal with that in a separate post. …and the NX300? I am very surprised at how good this practically weightless mirrorless camera is! I am very pleased with the results, certainly not competition winners by any means, but I am pleased. Out of the 700 odd (yeah! I got a little carried away - that’s what digital does to you) I have culled them to this selection. I hope you think they are OK.

IMG 0797

SAM 7269

SAM 7421

SAM 7525

SAM 7639

SAM 7652

SAM 7653

SAM 7654

SAM 7669

SAM 7672

SAM 7836

SAM 7875

SAM 7877

SAM 7893 Pano

SAM 7921

Why I love film! A personal voyage.

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Let me make it quite clear: I am NOT against digital. In fact, I do more shooting with digital than with film. Neither is this borne from nostalgia. Granted, I started off shooting film way back in 1984. But back then I was just a happy snapper with not a photographic care in the world. Although I loved my camera a Practica MTL5 and it’s Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm lens, I just thought it was a nothing-special little box. In the early 90’s I discovered Apple Macintosh computers in a big way and in the late 90’s I acquired my first digital camera a 0.3 mega pixel Casio QV-10. It was a relationship made in heaven. Two obsessions married. A few Olympus cameras later I then acquired my first digital SLR, the Canon EOS D60. That was in the April of 2003. I clearly remember reading in a professional photography magazine at that time and I quote “6 megapixels is all you need for a full A3 magazine spread”. It was a review of the D60 and proved the point by doing a full A3 spread. From that day to this, my mind is of the same, anything more than 6 megapixels is a waste for the vast majority of photographers. I used the D60 together with my Leica R3 and R4. Most shooting was made on the D60 and I was shooting colour film on the Leicas.

I was not a happy bunny!

Three reasons: Firstly, I really wasn’t very good. Secondly: I was dissatisfied with the results from the D60. I didn’t like it’s colour rendition and I felt the whole experience was lacking. Thirdly: The situation in camp Leica was equally poor. Although I was making some really good colour prints I wasn’t happy with what I was doing, something was missing, I felt empty. I lacked direction and inspiration.

A seminal moment occurred in my life when during a lunch break I was aimlessly wandering town. I happened to walk into a Newsagent to browse the magazines. Quite by perchance a magazine caught my eye. It was the October 2003 copy of Black and White Photography, issue 26. It had an amazing picture by Earnst Hass on the front cover. I was entranced! Mesmerised! In that very instant I knew what I wanted to do. I knew what I had to do. It was a Eureka moment. I had to shoot black and white film.

But, why do I love film, especially black and white, especially 6x6 medium format film?

That has been a question that I have often asked myself. A question that is immensely difficult to answer. Even now it is difficult to explain. In this post I’ll just deal with the film aspect. I’ll save “Why I love Black and White” and “Why I love Square” for another post or two.

I love film because...

1) There is no instant preview. With digital you make the exposure and then you can instantly review it. Looking at the screen you can say to yourself “Look! There’s Sophie by the fountain! Oh! She’s still there”. If you don’t like the picture you make another one, and another one, and another one until you do. Nothing goes on in your head. With film you obviously don’t have that capability. As a result film makes you visualise the end result, you become much more observant and keen to get it right first time, you scrutinise the scene making sure you get it right. You become aware of the little details you miss with digital just like a calculator reduces your mental arithmetic or a spell check diminishes your ability and practice of spelling. Film, by its very nature makes you develop a keen sense of scene awareness. Over a period of time this pre-visualisation becomes uncannily accurate, your “hit” rate increases your use of multiple exposures of the same scene reduces. Your shooting becomes much more targeted and efficient. You shoot less and keep more. As a result your work load and costs reduce.

2) With digital you may have a tendency of making a large number of exposures and then instantly judging your reviews and deleting accordingly. You may end up with a good number of similar shots on your computer taking up your limited HDD space. Deciding which to keep and process may be agonising and time consuming leading to the oft inevitable snap decisions and bad decisions. You waste time because you end up processing a number of coarse files. No matter how good your equipment you can’t get a fine print from a coarse file. Generally with film I often process some time after the event. I have a drawer with a number of rolls of undeveloped film. They are all mixed up together. When I am in a developing mood I choose a few and develop them. Often I do not even know what is on the film. When I pull it from the developing tank, which in itself is exciting, I look at the negs with fresh eyes and look at the negatives anew. As the memory of the original event has faded you can make a really fresh judgement instead of a snap judgement on a screen or judging from a often large number of similar copies in a Lightroom library. You already have a better hit rate with less pictures so deciding which ones to keep is often not difficult. You develop less and keep more.

3) If you become a little jaded with the look of your film you can just change it. There are plenty of options from which to choose especially in monochrome. You can’t do that with digital. Once you have made your purchase you are stuck with what your camera gives you. So you had better like your colour rendition, noise and dynamic range etc.. You buy a digital Nikon or Canon you are stuck with it. You buy a film Nikon or Canon you can stuff it with any film you like and change it whenever you like - even mid-roll.

4) Film is incredibly flexible, more so than people realise. Film has an incredible dynamic range, monochrome especially. If you know how to expose and develop properly you can get even more from the film. Developing film is easy and inexpensive. Your development process should so well organised and practiced that your results will be ultra consistent. You will become so practised and adept that your pre-visualisation will be seen in your fine negatives. If they are not then you are doing something wrong. People who are or were dissatisfied with film and changed to digital at the first opportunity are either lazy workers or bad workers and usually both. With film you can be really sloppy with your metering or just guess if you must AND still get excellent results. With colour negative film you can over expose by up to three stops and no one will notice AND still retain those precious highlights. Modern scanners can extract an amazing amount of detail and data from film especially in the highlights of colour negative film. In short, you can shoot and not worry at all about losing your shadows or highlights. You don’t need to keep checking that histogram with film because you haven't got one because you just don’t need one. Film is stress free shooting.

5) I love the “feel” that film gives me. I often find digital sterile. I love that organic feel to film. The way it responds to light, the texture of the grain, the tone of the colour. It’s not nostalgia more so the lack of “soul”, the sterility of digital that makes me appreciate the more flattering, organic and natural rendition of film. A well exposed and processed negative, which in itself is an easy task, requires less photoshopping than an equivalent digital file. There is more data in a negative than in any RAW file. Taking into account you shoot less with film, have a greater “hit” rate, you don’t waste time reviewing, loading and sorting HUNDREDS of digital files (often of the same subject). Even when you factor-in developing and scanning. Film saves you time.

6) Slide film in an inexpensive sub £100 camera has a richness of colour that digital just can’t match at the same price point! If you want to throw a few thousand pounds into a top or near top-of-the-range digital camera replete with lenses you can! Sub £200 medium format cameras are of such quality you’ll have to spend thousands to match it with digital. Film will save you thousands of $ or £.

7) Neither do you have to worry much about your gear being stolen. Generally its cheap enough to replace. Thieves want to steal kit they can sell or pass-on really quick so they are after digital kit and not your old fashioned film stuff they think nobody wants. But don’t go around with a Leica strap on your M2.

If I had to sum-up in one pithy phrase it is this Film makes you a better photographer. I am still working on that.

Well, that’s about it. I can think of a few more reasons why I love film but I think I have covered my main reasons. Take heart digital users I am going to do a post on “Why I love digital”. My conclusion just may surprise you.

Finally, I have to thank my friends Ike and Don who have contributed more to my joy of photography than they can ever imagine.

 Below: AGFA Isolette III, 75mm Solinar. Folding camera.

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  Below: Rolleiflex Automat, pre-war.

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Below: Hasselblad 500CM, Carl Zeiss 80mm f/2.8 Planar.

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Below: Yashica Mat 124G.

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 Below: Hasselblad 500CM, 80mm f/2.8 Planar.

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Below: Yashica Mat 124G, 80mm f/3.5 Yashinon.

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Below: Yashica Mat 124G, 80mm f/3.5 Yashinon.

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Below: Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm Carl Zeiss f/2.8 Planar.

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Below: Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm Carl Zeiss f/2.8 Planar.

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Below: Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm Carl Zeiss f/2.8 Planar.

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 Below: Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm Carl Zeiss f/2.8 Planar.

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Below: Rolleiflex 2.8C, 80mm Carl Zeiss f/2.8 Planar.

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Below: Zeiss Ikonta folding camera.

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The NeXt 200 cameras

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It is the beginning of February already!

In fact I am quite delighted at that as the evenings are starting to lighten. In many ways I love the first few months of the year as the dark shroud of Winter is slowly cast aside and the light starts to change in its colour and tone, in a subtle and indescribable manner.

My journey of shedding that plethora of cameras, from thirty or so down to now just three has reached its conclusion. My 1953 Rolleiflex 2.8C, my 1958 Leica M2 the most perfect camera I have ever used and finally my Samsung NX200.

I was going to end the great purge with just the Rolleiflex, the Leica and my Fujifilm Finepix S5 Pro. I just love that latter camera! Amazing dynamic range, superb colour and a nice ‘feel’ to the RAW files. However, on my climb upto the summit of Mynnydd Troed a 600m hillock in the Brecon Beacons that all changed and I became painfully aware that using the Rolleiflex with the S5 Pro was just not feasible. On this short climb it was cumbersome enough changing from one camera to the other and back. Doing so on a long climb would be torturous. I am the kind of photographer who is a Fell walker first and photographer second. My photography is incidental and often very spur of the moment. I don’t believe in all this arise at the crack of dawn, travel to a location, set up, take photographs, go home. That’s not the way I want to do things. I like going on a Fell walk with camera and what happens, happens. It was on the way back to the car that I think I had made the decision. As much as I love it and its results the S5 had to go, the weight and size of the thing was the eventual deciding factor. What I needed was a small, light weight camera with great image quality and dynamic range that I can sling from my belt. Tall order?

I spent most of January looking into several cameras. The Sony RX100 and similar offerings from Panasonic and Canon where seriously considered. I downloaded RAW files and processed them. Then I remembered the Samsung NX10 I used to have, now where were those NX10 files? Oh yes! Hiding away on one of my back-up drives. I remember that I had some good shots from the NX10. The sensor was a bit noisy and the dynamic range average, certainly didn’t compete with the S5 there. But some wonderful exposures and really good colour! To cut a long and trivial story short I purchased the Samsung NX200 for the princely sum of £62. That RX100 will have to wait for another day - it was well out of my price range.

What I needed now was a little test. So armed with the Rolleiflex and the NX200 clipped to my belt I set off to visit some local vantage points and practised using the Rolleiflex and NX200, moving back and forth with both cameras. The solution worked very well and changing cameras was smooth fluid and easy. I liked this. Next Saturday the solution will be put to the test for real with a trip to Y Fal near Y Fenni.

According to the DXO Mark tests the dynamic range of the S5 is 13.5EV at ISO100 whist the NX200 is 12.5EV. At ISO800 the DR of the S5 is 13EV and the NX200 is 10EV. At ISO1600 the DR of the S5 dips below that of the NX200. Considering I only shoot at ISO100 the difference between the two in terms of DR is acceptable. It is worthy to point out that the DR of the Canon D1X is less that both at ISO100. In comparison the S5 and lens weighed 1500 g, the NX200 a mere 400 g with lens.

Sample photos, just test shots nothing more. The first image is at ISO1600, the next two are ISO800 and the rest are ISO100. All shot in RAW and processed in Lightroom.

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The Last Post, the Final Solution and the Great Leap Forward.

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The last post of 2014 that is.

The Final Solution! Let me back track to the closing months of 2013. For the latter stages of that year my motivation for BW and photography in general wained substantially to the point I came very close to giving it all up. I really don't know why, it just happened! I think several things were going on in my mind. Go back a little further to three years ago when I had 30 odd cameras. All shapes, sizes and formats. Loads! They were everywhere. I couldn't leave the house without having a mental argument over which camera to take with me. Everywhere one has to accompany me. It may sound stupid but I used to agonise over the choice of the day's camera. 35mm? 645? 6x6? half-frame? rangefinder? SLR? Folder? Manual? AF? I was totally preoccupied and distracted with camera selection instead of making pictures. In the end I just lost interest. I started shedding cameras. Two years ago I had twenty odd. Last year, at the close of 2013 I had ten. I felt better. The purge continued until about four or so months ago I saw clearly the Final Solution.

I realised that although I enjoyed collecting and playing with cameras, the collecting part was a by-product of boredom, stress, depression and frustration. The sheer numbers of cameras diluted my focus with too many options. I needed to simplify and clarify.

The purge continued until only two film cameras remained and one digital remained.

You may ask why did it take so long to rid yourself of so many cameras? Just shove them all on the bay of e and in one fell swoop problem solved. Not that simple. Which camera did I want to keep? Which format should I choose? How can I sell all those cameras and lenses that I adore and love. How could I sell my beloved Carl Zeiss lenses? The best lenses in the world! It was hard and I had to be brutal and ruthless. Some very hard decisions had to be made.

Chris - they are only cameras! Yeah, I know. But it's not that simple. You see, my interests are obsessive and compulsive. My brain is wired that way. It is a necessity as much as breathing. Obsession, compulsion, OCD, driven!

Hard decisions made, the Final Solution has reached its conclusion, I have only two film cameras and one digital. I am determined for it to stay that way. These cameras are...

Rolleiflex 2.8C with an 80mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Planar lens. Made in Germany in 1953. Leica M2 with a 5cm f/2.8 Elmar. Made in Germany in 1958 Fujifilm Finepix S5 Pro with Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8 to f/4 lens.

I do use a Yashica Mat 124G as a back up for the Rolleiflex. Made in Japan in the early 1980's it is an awesome camera, the film advance sounds like a coffee grinder though. LOL.

I started using the Rolleiflex again in the closing months of 2014 and realised what a brilliant camera it is and how I love the 6x6 format. I changed my film stock from Kodak Tri-X to Ilford HP5+ and my film developer from Rodinal to Adox FX-39. The reason for this change was due to reviewing my photos of the Lake District and preferring the quality and tone of the exposures made on HP5+ The change from Rodinal, where I used stand development to FX-39 was one of those by-chance events. I have always struggled with uneven development with Rodinal, to lesser or greater degrees. I acquired FX-39 after Ag-Photographic started to stock it and fancied a try. It is an excellent developer. Sharp, fine grain, full speed - what more do you need. I still prefer the tone of Rodinal, but find the irregularity of uneven development frustrating.

The Great Leap Forward. So there you have it, down from thirty cameras to three in three years. I feel much more focused and enthused, my vision and mental clarity simplified. My main format is 6x6 on the Rolleiflex, it is a beautiful format, I love it. I find composing in 6x6 harder than 35mm but much more artistically pleasing. The stage is now set for the Great Leap Forward - I have to now make some decent exposures. That is my goal for 2015.

Mynydd Troed

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On my infrequent trips to Hay-on-Wye to visit my Brother and Sister-in-law, or on my bi-annual trips to Snowdon, I pass Mynydd Troed. 609m of imposing stature that sits like a guardian on the Crickhowell to Talgarth road. Oft have I passed and thought to climb this intriguing and attractive peak. Sheltered in its mighty shadow is Pengenfforth and here in the car park of the public house you park. The fee is a very reasonable £1. The route is simple, just follow the red route to the Mynydd Troed / Cockit Hill col and then climb the steep slope to the summit. The is an easier oblique route marked in green, but, the steep route is just much more fun. Steep as it is, there is no danger of falling to serious injury and no feeling of exposure.

Map at the bottom (yes, you have to view all the pictures first. LOL).

Either way, good boots and appropriate clothing is a must. From the col the summit is made in a mere 35 minutes. Short but sweet. The views from the top are commanding as the vista right into central rural Wales is revealed in all its glory. The Waun Fach and Pen Allt Mawr range to the East and Langors and Pen y Fan range to the South. Worth sitting for a while to take it all in. Have lunch and make some photographs.

Oh! And talking of photographs here are a few from my first trip to mighty Mynydd Troed. It is a short and enjoyable little mountain, more entertaining than it looks. I think I got a little carried away and managed to shoot a roll and a half of HP5+ and a number on the S5 Pro. As for the HP5+, I now have six rolls awaiting development and I hope to post these soon. I think I am going to be busy.

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Llyn Syfadden. Mynydd Troed Ridge. Sticks and Stalks Cwm Sorgwm. Two Stones. Three Stones. Group of Stones.

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Pen y Fal - Sugar Loaf

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Saturday afternoon’s jaunt was yet another trip to Pen y Fal, Sugar Loaf to the English speaking world. A shapely peak that seems to tower above Abergavenny as one travels the A40 approach road. Abergavenny is surrounded by three “big” hills, Sugar Loaf (596m), The Blorens (561) and Ysgyryd Fawr (486). For a hill of this stature the ascent is easy and pleasant. The rewards far outweigh any pain with excellent views all around. If you have a couple of hours to spare I would highly recommend this little hill with a lot of Welsh character.

However this trip was made on a biting winter’s afternoon late in December when the weather can be bitter. If you have the visibility the dark and dank cloud cover can make the landscape ominous and brooding. Ideal for atmospheric photography. Wrap up warm with adequate winter clothing as a bare hand will be rendered immobile in a matter of minutes. Not good if you need to operate a camera. The wind ripping across the exposed summit can cut and chill to the bone so take care.

I had with me the Fujifilm Finepix S5 Pro and the Rolleiflex. I had the 1953 Rollei loaded with HP5+ which I exposed at EI200. On this day the conditions were pretty cold and with intermittent bright clear patches which seemed to make the darkness darker. Then, thankfully, the weather deteriorated rapidly until one experience a short but sweet blizzard of heavy snow. This is what I call fun! I managed to expose a full roll of HP5+ and this awaits development which I will do during the week. For now, some of the pictures from the S5.

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Rolleiflex 2.8C

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The last few Sundays I have been out and about with my Rolleiflex 2.8C. This particular copy was hand made in 1953 to Rollei’s exacting standards. 61 years old and still going strong! The taking lens is the awesome 80mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Planar. It’s one of the best lenses I have used on any camera film or digital. In my opinion and experience it’s only pipped by the Hasselblad Carl Zeiss 120mm f/4 Makro. The Planar is sharp wide open then just gets better as you close down. There isn’t that much difference in sharpness at f/2.8 when compared with the sharpest apertures of f/5.6 or f/8. There are two other desirable qualities that I have to mention with this lens, 1) The bokeh, it’s very, very smooth and 2) its “feel”, that ineffable quality that sets this lens apart from others that I have used. Believe me, I have had so many lenses and cameras over the years that to recount the tale would be extremely embarrassing. Of all of them only three lenses stand head-and-shoulders above the others, two I have mentioned here, and the third is the lens in the Fujifilm GA645 Zi. That, however, is quite an entirely different story. In short, the lens of the 2.8C is awesome. The lens is one part of the whole. The rest is the experience of the box in which the lens lives. The Rolleiflex like my Leica M2 is pure German engineering at its best. A pleasure to use, super smooth mechanics and deathly quiet. It’s not as tactile as the Leica but fits neatly in the hands and with all the controls in the right place, importantly, the Rolleiflex is about 400g or so heavier.

My main purpose for buying this camera in the first place is because I love the square format, I love the unique rendition of film, I love being in control with me making the decisions, I love making the picture (or destroying it), I love the experience. Secretly though, I would love to tread in the footsteps of my all time favourite photographers, Barry Thornton and Fay Godwin.

Amazing lens, pleasurable to use, fantastic smooth mechanics, no plastics, no electronics, no computer. Just you and the camera. What more could you ask!

The following pictures are made using Ilford HP5+ and developed in Rodinal.

 

Testing, Testing, 124.

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A few weeks ago I borrowed a mate’s Yashica Mat 124G, a fine Japanese made twin lens reflex camera. It’s most notable feature is its lens, a rather devastating four element Tessar clone. With the intent of buying this would be my second 124G. The first is an almost mint copy. I love this camera. Apart from its amazing lens the other advantage it has is no reflex mirror, no slap, no vibration. Also it  is quite able to obtain sharp pictures when hand held down to 1/30th. After all the usual checks, cosmetics, light meter, aperture and shutter speeds the last test is the lens. For this you fully open the aperture, set the camera’s shutter speed on “B” and trip the shutter. You then wiggle the camera/lens in front of a light source and check for nasties such as balsam separation, scratches and fungus. Balsam, as if you didn’t know, is the glue used to cement lens elements together. It is made from the resinous sap of certain trees. Being a biological and very green substance it is also susceptible to biological degradation and attack from fungus. Today, most lens elements are cemented using synthetics and most modern lens elements are mainly constructed from various polycarbonates (not green). When buying cameras and lenses you’ll be amazed at the number of people who don’t check for fungus. I digress. When examining the lens of this well worn 124G it became immediately apparent that the lens had a moderate degree of fungus which had grown all over one of the internal elements. As I have already mentioned the lens that the 124G has is a wonderful four element Tessar design. The front two elements are cemented, then there is an air space in which lives the shutter and aperture mechanism, finally the rear two elements in the last group, two elements cemented. I knew from previous experience exactly which surface was likely to have the fungus - the inner rear element. All you have to do is, using a lens wrench, screw out the rear group, clean and then pop it back. It takes about half an hour. Sure enough, when I had removed that rear element the fungus was revealed in all its ignoble glory. The element was carefully cleaned and inspected. The fungus did was fungus usually does - etched the glass. It had practically taken off all the surface coating of that inner element. Inner elements are coated just as much as the external ones. This is mainly to prevent light bouncing off the inner elements and causing a ghost image to appear on the negative. Oh yeah! And to prevent loss of light transmission, contrast and colour fidelity. When the process was complete and the element replaced it was time to load film and shoot a test roll. Sometimes you have to put two or three rolls through a camera after a lens element replacement (unless you have all the right equipment) as sometimes the element has not been screwed fully into its correct position.  It’s hit and miss, but generally more hit.

Now to the sample shots. All taken at f/4 due to light conditions. Illford HP5+ in Rodinal. The first three is the rightful owner of said camera checking prices on the bay of e during an all day coffee fest in, dare I say it, the Bell Hanger, Chepstow. The rest taken locally. Considering the aperture was f/4 I think the repair has done its job. How the lens will perform under strong or difficult lighting with regard to the damage to the lens will be issue in Part 2.

 

Impressions of Portugal

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Last December 2013 was my forth visit to Portugal. The first two to Madeira and the second two to the Western Algarve. On these trips I just took a compact camera for tourist snaps. It was a holiday. This last trip however,  I decided to take the Contax G1 with 28mm, 45mm and 90mm Carl Zeiss lenses. The G1 is a superb piece of equipment that comes with the best 35mm lenses in the world. I had no excuse. The thing I would say about Portugal is that the coffee is simply AMAZING! Fantastic! I could drink gallons of it. Oh, I did! The food too, superb! Eating outside at night is just wonderful. So relaxing, natural and just wonderful. I just love it! Why people want to come to the UK, that damp, wet and  miserable country full of damp, wet and miserable people. I just do not know! You Southern Europeans don’t know how good you have it!

What I didn’t like, and this is no ones fault except mine, is I felt completely out of place. All that was green and familiar was gone. The terrain is just so completely different. Semi-arid scrub, irregular, undulating, lacking cohesion, chaotic. The familiar lines of the British landscape are completely absent. No wonder, I was in Portugal. I was out of my photographic comfort zone and to be honest I would need a month or two just wandering around before I would be able to “see” the landscape. More suited to monochrome I think as the Portuguese winter landscape is barren with a minimal colour palette.

I did enjoy my stay though. The coffee, the food, and the few native people I met were nice enough. I would have liked to had more interaction with the locals, to get a feel for them and to determine their character.

I like Portugal! With a population of 10 million or so people in an area about 80% the size of England. Portugal is also Britain’s oldest ally. The agreement between the two nations signed in 1373 is the worlds oldest agreement still in effect. It was this agreement that England became involved in the Peninsular War. I am ashamed to say the Portuguese have been much more faithful to the agreement than the British. For that, the whole Portuguese nation and people get my utmost respect. Portugal is also home to the finest Moorish castles in the Peninsular. The Spanish want to obliterate the Moors from their history, the Portuguese embrace it. More respect there.

Now onto the photos. Basically, I am not happy with them. I can do better. They are basically little more than snap shots. I wasn’t trying that hard either and will rectify this next time when I take the Rolleiflex and shoot monochrome medium format. These photos made on a Contax G1 with Carl Zeiss 28mm, 45mm and 90mm lenses. Kodak Tmax100 semi-stand developed in Rodinal 1:120, water wash, alkali fix.

 

Leitz, Camera, Action!

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Last weekend I decided to dust off the old 1958 Leica M2 and 5cm f/2.8 Elmar and take it for a spin. The Leica as if you didn’t know is a 35mm beautifully built rangefinder camera. Why do I love it? As soon as you pick up the Leica the weight is the first thing you notice, then the texture of the vulcanite and the hand machined milled knobs. It’s tactile paradise. It’s the way you hold it to your face, its the way you advance the film, that silky buttery smooth mechanism. The way the focus effortlessly glides into place. The reassuring “schutt” as you trip the shutter. It mechanically imitates the word. No electronics, no plastics (to speak of), no “modes”, no controlling computer, no light meter. It’s just you and mechanical perfection. Together with Sunny 16 it is the most liberating photographic experience one can possibly have! Raw photography, true photography, total control. Bliss!

Here is a selection of Leica M2 photographs that I have made over the last few years. Sunny 16 exposure, Tri-X and Plus-X stand developed in Rodinal. I should do more of this! Not because the pictures are any good, but because I enjoyed the experience so much!

PS. You have to roll your mouse over the pictures then they go to their correct levels.

 

SHOCK! NO HORROR.

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About ten years ago I developed a 135 roll of HP5+ in my favourite developer - Rodinal. I love Rodinal, one shot, liquid, very economical, use very dilute, stand and semi-stand development, very sharp, convenient, toneful, ultra long shelf life even when opened, low grain when used dilute and finally, Rodinal is a compensating developer. I’ll do a post on developing with Rodinal sometime, you may get to love it as I do. Back to that roll of HP5+ of ten years ago. I mixed EI on the same roll, from EI200 to 1600. I have done this often with no problem whatsoever. Then, I also used a standard acid fix whereas today I use an alkaline fix. Back then I did a full stand development. That being 1:100 dilution, agitation for 60 seconds and then stand for one hour doing nothing. Water wash, fix and dry.

The results were horrid. For the sake of it I consulted the Oracle (the web) and other users reported that HP5+ and Rodinal are not a happy mix. I wasn’t a happy bunny as HP5+ in my other favourite developer, Prescysol, is just wonderful. I heaved a sign and consigned the HP5+ and Rodinal combination to the metaphorical dustbin. Never did HP5+ and Rodinal again.

Then, a week or so ago I came across a post by Cooking Film (http://cookingfilm.wordpress.com) an excellent blog from a Portuguese photographer. In this post Cooking Film uses HP5+ and Rodinal. I thought “Good grief, that’s is going to be absolutely awful”. The photos were actually lovely with wonderful tone. “Must be terribly grainy” I thought. I knew I had a roll of 120 HP5+ from the Hasselblad just waiting to be developed. I didn’t know what was on it. I thought “what the Hell, lets just do it in Rodinal and see what happens”. I know, reckless or what. I threw caution to the wind.

What I was expecting was a repeat from ten years ago. What I actually saw in the scans completely shocked and surprised me (yeah, sad, I know).

The tone was good considering the subject. The dynamic range was excellent. The sharpness was razor. But it was the grain that shocked me. Rodinal, unlike the vast majority of developers is not a solvent developer. Most other developers use I think Sodium Sulphate (or other chemistry) to soften the grain. The downside of this of course, is a loss of sharpness to varying degrees depending on the developer. Rodinal has none of this namby pamby business. If you don’t like grain, then don’t use Rodinal. Grain can be attractive. Grain can add so much to your pictures in the way of atmosphere, texture, definition and sharpness.

Lets get on to the pictures. I made these exposures at the Piercefield Manor. A beautiful old mansion house with a rich history built on the money of a Caribean sugar plantation and slave labour. Now in its final death throes. Crumbling. Decaying. I suppose, come the day when it has falling into nothing part of its ignominious past dies with it. Now, only rich in texture and photo opportunities. Well, it would be if some pillocks hadn’t fenced it. Over the last ten years or so I have been photographing parts of the Manor as they fall into ruin.

The below is a 100% crop of the above, a 5847px x 5847px file at 2400dpi. Scanned on a Epson v700 using Epson Scan.

Pleasant Surprise

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Over the last couple of months I have been researching new films, mainly because my standard film stock is creeping up in price. Its not at the point yet where I am going to abandon film, but buying 10 rolls of certain films hurts the pocket. So, being prudent and parsimonious to a fault and looking to the day when a roll of film cost £7, I began my search for a medium speed film. At the low end of the price scale I looked at Fomapan 100, AGFA APX and Rollei Retro 80S. Now I already have experience of the APX films and like them very much. Very toneful and responsive in Rodinal. No surprise there as both are AGFA products. I decided to purchase a few rolls of Fomapan 100 in 135 and Rollei Retro 80S in 120. I didn’t want to spend that much. The Fomapan 100 is still working its way through my RTS II and Olympus Pen F. The Rollei went into my beloved Yashica 124G. Last Sunday I popped out to one of my favourite local hunting grounds the Pierce field Manor. Much to my disdain I found that some idiots have now fenced off the entire site. Not very pleased about that. Still, I had an enjoyable time exposing the film. On arrival home I developed the Rollei film in my usual way using my old time favourite developer Rodinal. Using a dilution of 1:120, 30 seconds agitation followed by five invertions every 15 minutes for 1 hour-ish. With a semi-stand development ten minutes here or there doesn’t matter. The temperature? About 22 degrees. With dilute Rodinal the temperature doesn’t really matter (Yes, I have done the tests) anything from 18 to 24 degrees will do just fine. After development was a plain water wash, again, the developer is so weak that you’re wasting money using a chemical stop. Then a four minute fix in an alkaline fixer.

I wasn’t expecting much to be honest. What I saw in the scan was pretty amazing. The grain was very low, the scan very sharp, great resolution, lovely tone. Apparently Rollei Retro 80S is a derivative of AGFA’s Aviphot Pan 80 aerial film. So that explains the great tone. I have already ordered some more. See what you think of these test shots.

Pen y Fan

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Last Saturday, the 4th of October 2014 saw me take the opportunity to pop up Pen y Fan. In the preceeding week, as always, I was intently watching the weather forecast. Rain in the morning followed by Sunny intervals in the afternoon. That was good enough and come that very afternoon, I was off. For once, the forecast was good and I was rewarded with good warm light and a low Sun. As I gained height the wind was pretty biting, good job I had my Polartec fleece. Generally, the Sun brings out the crowds, you know, all those ill-equiped working class type walkers with their entourage of kids. I think the morning rain must have put them off. Pen y Fan is a small mountain by all accounts but is still subject to changing conditions and one must be properly prepared. This means good boots, warms and waterproofs. Often I have started a mountain with a big blue sky and twenty degrees only for it to change on the way to the top to a high speed shearing cold wind and temperatures not that much above 5 degrees. Being in those conditions without suitable attire is not a joy. Anyway moving on and upwards after one and a half hours I was on the summit and admiring the grand view. The light was good with low haze, you could see for miles. Truly lovely. I just wish Pen y Fan was another 500m higher! With me I had my venerable Fujifilm Finepix S5 Pro and my Fujifilm GA645 Zi. The latter is a medium format film camera and on this trip it was loaded with Kodak Portra 400. I will have the film developed in a few weeks. I’ll post the results then! The S5 uses a dual sensor array so the dynamic range is just huge. I don’t worry about blowing the highlights as they are just nailed. The same with Portra 400, this very scan-able (I know that isn’t a true word) colour negative film has the most incredible dynamic range making it ideal for landscape photography. The amount of detail you can get from the highlights of Portra is just far superior to digital, and will be for some time to come. I have only been using Portra for a short time and I am just staggered by its DR.

On to the pictures, I took 14 on film and 98 on digital. Often I was watching for cloud formations and later back at base chose the picture with the better cloud shadows. Here they are...

Coniston Water, Lake District.

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On the way to the caravan after a walk over the Crinkle Crags via Ambleside and the Apple Pie etc., the route takes me past Coniston Water. Usually a quick glance is all that is need to decided if the conditions are good enough for a photo.  Often they are not. Cumbria not only shares a common root with Cymru, they also share the same weather. Often described as bad, gloomy, dismal, overcast, rainy, it has in fact more rainfall that Wales. And that is saying something! Having a holiday in the Lake District is risky business if you are a Sun seeker. Actually, if you fall into that category please consider Lanza-grotty. A true Fell walker takes to the hills come rain or shine. Anyway, I digress. On this particular passing of Coniston the waters were unusually calm. So, pulling over in a layby near the far South end I grabbed my camera and ran for it. Once stood on the shore there was a unearthly quiet and calm. Totally tranquil! Not a sound! Perfect peace! You just wanted to absorb it all. After about 15 minutes and six frames in true Lake District fashion the colour faded into a dull and foreboding gloom as the last golden rays of the day inexorably ebbed into the steady growing darkness.

The Lake District: 13th to 19th Sept 2014

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I love the Lake District! Just to get away from it all for a week is just bliss in itself, but being able to climb mountains as well is just a wonderfully cathartic experience. The endeavour is physically tiring but mentally relaxing. It’s the combination of solitude, physical activity, interesting twisty paths and the wonderful views that enables the brain to relax, re-charge, de-stress and process the things that are truly important. It washes away all the superfluous rubbish and poison of this world. I achieve a peace that I find no where else.

Moving on to the trip, my climbing buddy and I arrived at the caravan site late on Saturday after procuring supplies. Then it was straight into the Sca Fells the following day. Monday was a day of rest, then Crinkle Crags, Helvellyn and finally the Langdale Pikes knocking off all the Wainwrights as we went. The Sca Fell climb on Saturday was a dull and overcast day briefly punctuated by shafts of shining light. Thereafter we were blessed by wonderful weather and beautiful conditions. Truly was a blessing. The highlight was the Crinkle Crags and the Pikes, both were amazing walks, loved every minute of it.