Monday, July 16, 2018

Photographic Crunch: Update

I took a few not-bad photos at the 10k womens' race: the one of the winner crossing the line with her hands up would have made the back page of a paper in the olden days, but not really good enough to make a sell-able print, now. I learned a lot,including: just be calm, and remember to look at the meter needle, look at the background. And think, don't just snap away. I also learned that I really don't like HP5+, not enough contrast.

I've only got the negs to go on from the Orange walk, and from the anti Trump protest in George Square. Several of them look intriguing, and I'm looking forward to scanning them to see what's print-worthy, sometime later this week.

I processed four films yesterday, different makes, different speeds and therefore dev times, and promised myself I'll never get into that ridiculous situation again, taking four times longer than it should have. I've been using up expired film, all different manufacturers, but from hereon in it's Tri X, Ektachrome, and Portra, for both 35mm and 120.

And I've realized making contact prints is unnecessary when one has access to a scanner, (unless a contact print is wanted as a thing unto itself, to hang on a wall).

I didn't do the pride march - it's website seemed to suggest it was mostly commercial enterprise, and anyway the anti-trump demo popped up the day before. Not sure about the pipers now, either, will seem very tame after the Orangemen and anti-Trump.

Might try it with the Holga and 3 rolls of old Ektachrome, or I've got a couple old rolls of 35mm for the Nikon... this whilst we're waiting for the re-launch of Ekatachrome, which could be any day now.

BUT, if I'm wrong about the negatives from the Orangemen and anti-Trump, and they turn out to be merely not-bad, then I need to soldier on a little longer with black and white in the Nikon.

The point is, must be able to go to any public event with the Nikon and black and white film, and consistently get several exposures which would, in a parallel universe, "get in the paper". 

Saturday, May 26, 2018


As far as I recall, I got to this point five years ago when I just stopped doing photography. The point where scanning the negs and putting the digital images obtained on Flickr so that virtual friends and passers-by can say "Great shot!" has lost its appeal. The point where instead of "Great shot!" people in-real-life need to be saying of an actual print, "Hmm... £60 quid, eh? That would go nicely in the hall."

My last bit of experimentation was with 6x9 contact prints, and I'll come back to that eventually, but the rest of 2018 is about getting to be really good with 35mm, that means the Nikon, black and white, and 10x12 or 11x14 prints. I've just finished Victor Blackman's My Way with a Camera, probably the best book about photography I've ever read, and I'm going to adopt the strategy of being a press photographer circa 1970, and showing up at any potentially photogenic event in Glasgow, Nikon F in hand.

Not to sell them to a paper, obviously, but to sell the prints to discerning punters. And put them in competitions. Per Vic Blackman, the only criteria is that they have people in them, and action. Photos of empty streets just won't cut it. So here we are:

Friday, May 11, 2018


The Gevabox, I have learned, focusses pretty well on f11 from about 6ft to infinity, and is only a little blurred at 4ft. Whilst developing the first roll from it, and making the contact prints, it occurred to me that a slightly less than 6x9cm contact print was a staple in vernacular photography until the 60s - think of all those old prints an older relative used to keep in a Quality Street tin. So I went on eBay and got an old frame: I assume that a small chemist's shop with no enlarger, just a cupboard darkroom would use that. I need to cut up photographic paper to just the right size, dozens of 6x9s, and away I go. Instead of a single photo, roughly A4 size, I'll produce 8 6x9s, and that's the image, all 8 of them, relating to each other, looking simultaneously like some thing from your granny's photo tin, the same image size as almost everyone now takes on their mobile phone. Voila.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Bilora Gevabox

 I bought a Bilora Gevabox on eBay because of its "film inside". I'll be processing the film next week. The plan with this project is to re-sell the cameras on eBay once I've extracted the film and put another one or two through the camera. That's the plan. But look at this beauty: two f stops, a B setting, and top right corner, a fully functional PC flash fitting. AND it does 6x9 negatives. The cherry on the cake is that the filters to go with the Agfa Isolette will fit it, with a smidgen of blu-tac.

Which last detail got me to looking on Flickr, where I found this, taken with a YA2 orange filter. I'd like to get that dark sky effect on Glasgow 6x9 architecture shots. And I've got a YA2.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

C22 Conundrum

An ex-smoker has a few drinks too many one evening in the convivial company of a smoker, cadges one, buys a pack of ten the next day, and the next a pack of twenty, and there they are, re-hooked. I am told that heroin works in a similar way. And I can tell you that so does photography, no matter how many years you've been away from it.

My particular obsession right now is "film inside" searching eBay for old cameras with that phrase in their description. I got started on this back in 2009.  I think it got a hold of me when I developed these photos of the Queen Mary and the photographer's family near Southampton. Someone takes photos on holiday or of a historic event. They don't finish the roll so the camera goes in a drawer, life intervenes and it's forgotten there.

When these films get developed you get a glimpse into a forgotten holiday. Before they get developed, the possibilities are endless. And the decades have changed the chemistry of the film in any number of unpredictable ways, giving the images a strange beauty you'd struggle to reproduce digitally.

I've got two "film inside" Kodak Instamatics, with 127 film cassettes inside, 12 or 13 exposures taken in each. One of them is definitely C22 film, I can see that through the wee window. The other is likely to be C22.

I've been looking at reproducing the developer used for C22, back in the day, and managed to google a recipe for it. Or maybe I should use C41 chemistry at room temperature?  There's some sage advice from Film Rescue if you scroll down a little way in this thread on Flickr.  (And go onto Film Rescue's photostream, and you'll see that she or he knows what they're talking about).

So b&w chemistry might produce the best images, like the ones I got from the perceptol - which of course have a colour scheme all their own.  Film on cassette, says Film Rescue, stand up much less well that roll film, apparently, the "difference is hugely significant".  It's a significant decision: getting good images; or losing something that's been waiting maybe 40 years...

Monday, March 19, 2018

Street Level Photoworks B&W Weekend Course

It's taken me since early 2008 to get around to this.

At last, this past weekend, I've learned how to develop and print photos properly thanks to Street Level Photoworks & our tutor Alicia Bruce. On Saturday morning it was the basics of how an SLR works, (you can see my hands in the bottom right of the first photo, here, and my Nikon F in the second one); then we went out and took photos. In the afternoon we developed the negs. None of this was new to me, but it was still useful to go through it all again, professionally. I didn't let on, for example, that I've never used stop bath, I've always just got by with washing up liquid.

The negs dried over night, and on Sunday we went into the darkroom with the enlargers and this is all new to me now. It got really paradoxical: making a test strip, contact sheet, and then the actual print was all pretty straightforward, once you get the hang of obvious no-nos like leaving the photographic paper out of the box, and dipping the dev tongs into the stop... But getting it right was much more difficult. I mean, getting from clicking the shutter in Glasgow city centre, to a print that's good enough to go on the wall - that was not achieved by me, at any rate.

You can tweak with the enlarger, change the aperture and contrast. And there was a brief look at dodging and burning. But these things require much more skill in the analogue process than they do in the digital. Mostly, I realized that the negative must be good: unless you're very lucky, being snap-happy just won't cut it. I raced through 36 exposures in less than an hour. But to get exhibition-quality prints will take more thought in the planning and care in the execution, regarding subject matter, light, framing and composition.

So the next stage is to stick with 35mm B&W using only the Nikon F. It might take weeks or months to get to the standard I want. Thing is, I don't feel right going off into other projects, like developing decades old film found in second hand cameras, until I've got to grips with this. 

Friday, February 09, 2018

My Fed-4: it's alive!

I have a Fed-4 which apparently I've never used... Just now did a bit of research and worked out as best I could, (no one has published online a comprehensive serial no./production date schedule) that it dates to some time in the 70s. It carries a contrary (for a Soviet camera) Queen's Silver Jubilee sticker on the case, so that suggests it was in the UK at some time before 1977.

I thought the ASA/Shutter speed/aperture dial on the top left was some kind of analogue sunny 16 reckoner, when... the needle to the left of it was working! Put my finger over the sensor on the front and... it dropped to nothing. It's alive! Forty years and counting. Makes you wonder how the Soviet Union ever collapsed.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Jupiter 8: numpty

Why oh why did I sell my Jupiter 8 lens when I was 'having a clear out'?  Not like it took up a lot of space. But at least having a blog meant I could find out where it was, save all that searching through boxes and wondering what I'd done with it.

Today has been getting re-acquainted with the FED-2 day. See these resolutions I made in 2013. That's where I'm picking up from. I somehow managed to mend the diopter without entirely getting the top off the FED-2.