Little did I know that within three months we would be all locked down and unable to travel far. Well, that put a stop to my course. I’d gone as far as Martin Parr teaching how to photograph an event only to be at a point where there were no events taking place.
Jump on about 15 months and I had an opportunity to go along to a vintage fair in aid of the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity and photograph the event. The Vintage fair is now in it’s 11th year. I had been involved, along with some other members of our local camera club, in photographing events put on by this charity. This was an ideal opportunity to catch up with my course and make some images of an event and also try to make some money for the charity. We would take the photos and then supply them to the charity so people who attended the event could buy them from the charity web site.
As it was a vintage event I also thought it a good opportunity to try out a recently acquired vintage camera. A Mamiya C330 ‘Professional f’ twin lens reflex (TLR) which was produced from 1969 and using Kodak Ektar 100 colour film. Maybe the colour film was a bit recent for some of the eras portrayed at the event but I was anticipating some colour in the attire and the classic cars on display. I wasn’t disappointed!
There were also may vintage cars and motorbikes on show.
I had anticipated there being a few old vintage cars around at the event and had thoughts of trying to get some close up views of the colourful cars. With the Mamiya TLR you have to allow for parralax error because the image taking lens is below the viewing lens. When you get up close the image taken isn’t quite the same as that which you are viewing. The Mamiya C330 gets round that by having a line move down the viewfinder showing the top of the image that is captured. It seems to work very well as I got the shots I was after.
After getting through a couple of rolls of colour film I tried out the camera with some black and white film. I used Ilford fP4+ which I was able to process myself at home.
A great day out with many photo opportunities. Think I’ll have to go back next year.
For this series I used my 35mm Olympus OM2n and 50mm lens. The film was Ilford FP4 developed in Ilford ID11 developer for 11 minutes @20 deg C.
The negatives were scanned to digital copies on my Epson F3200 film scanner and finally finished with some post processing using Affinity Photo.
Anglesey Abbey located in the village of Lode in Cambridgeshire is a favourite location of mine for some photography. The present property which is now owned by the National Trust was built on the remains of a priory which was demolished during the days of the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536.
I’ve been there a few times as i like the fact that not only is there the house itself to photograph but many statues around the grounds.
The house is a Jacobean style mansion built around 1600. Owners throughout the centuries include Thomas Hobson and his parker descendants and the last private owner was Lord Fairhaven who lived in the house from 1926 to 1966. Fairhaven made extensive additions to the house to accommodate his collection of furniture and objets d’art. He also had the grounds landscaped. When Fairhaven died he left the house and it’s contents to the National Trust.
When I retired four years ago I decided to get back into more serious photography as a means of having an interest that I could pursue.
I joined the local photography club and started entering competitions. This was using a modern digital camera. However, I started seeing some good old film 35mm cameras on ebay which piqued my interest in maybe getting back and doing some retro film photography.
So, two years ago I started using old cameras and developing my own black and white films. The negatives would then be scanned to digital copies for use on social media etc.
That then, of course, led me to thinking that wouldn’t it be nice to get back to some old retro printing in the darkroom using traditional silver gelatin printing methods.
I had semi converted our loft in our house to a craft room 10 years ago. I had redirected the electrical wiring and extended lighting and power circuitry. Flooring was the next thing to go down followed by rooflights and insulating between the rafters. We are fortunate that our house has quite a high ridge line so the loft has a high area in the centre without having to disturb the main load bearing structure.
I was also able to create workbench areas constructed off the load bearing trusses down each side of the roof. I was aware that I couldn’t put a lot of load on the roof structure so the way I had done it meant that it could never be used as a proper room and heavy things such as furniture couldn’t be put up there. It was though adequate to allow use for crafts as nothing I was using was heavy.
The room as it was converted was great as a craft room but we never really used it as such as we realized that as we are still capable of going out we would rather be out and about than stuck up in the loft doing crafts. For me the plan was to do model making and for Liz it was bead and card making.
So, we were quite happy to let things go and spend our time going out and the craft room didn’t really get used. Then, along came Covid 19 and we had a lot of spare time on our hands.
So, jump to 9 months ago and my current interest in doing some photographic printing. The first thing I had to do was to make some blackout curtains for the Velux windows. The windows which were a big advantage for craft work were something I could do without in a darkroom where you have to work only with a red safelight.
So, some material purchased from ebay along with self-adhesive velcro and I’d made the blackout blinds for the windows.
Next thing was the equipment required to produce prints from negatives. I used to do photographic printing as a teenager and had kept all the equipment, the enlarger, developing trays, safelight etc but here’s the cruck, when I was going to convert the loft I had decided I wasn’t going to use that anymore in the digital age so had chucked it in the council tip. I had tried giving it away but no one wanted it. At that point everyone thought that film photography had died.
Fortunately for me, 10 years later a fellow member of my photography club was clearing out his garage and wanted to just get rid of all the kit to do printing. It was actually better kit than I had before as that was purchased when I was a penniless teenager rather than a penniless pensioner.
So, next stage was to get all the kit up and running. It hadn’t been used for a while and some of the electronic things didn’t seem to work any more. So things like the enlarger timer were taken out of line and replaced with an ordinary in-line torpedo switch and the timing done with a mechanical timer.
In an ideal world a darkroom should have a wet area but for my room I had to make do with using a couple of the large plastic darkroom trays that I had acquired to wash the prints. All used chemicals and dirty water goes into a bucket and is carried down to the bathroom for disposal.
All set up and ready to go and an order sent off to Ilford Photo for some paper developing chemicals and Kentmere VC Select 10” x 8” silver gelatin paper. I setup an oil filled radiator in the loft. Although the heat from the house would rise up through the open loft door I did need to make sure that the temperature in the room was maintained at around 20 deg C. so additional heating was required.
I had been running out of subjects to photograph but fortunately the Henry Moore Gardens in Perry Green had decided to stay open in December so thought that would make a good subject for some film photography.
Whilst I have been using Ilford black and white films by preference I’d also been trying out using some unusual film. One such was Rollei Retro 400s which is actually a film originally produced in Belgium for aerial surveillance (more on that subject in another post). It is what is termed as super panchromatic and is sensitive to more of the red spectrum. I thought it would suit the subject of Henry Moore sculptures very well with it’s increased contrast.
My first trials were to actually test the effectiveness of my blackout arrangements. I set everything up and placed a coin on some photographic paper with all lights including the red safelight off for 20 minutes. Developing this showed no witness of the coin on the paper so that proved the blackout arrangements were OK.
Next test was with the previous arrangement but this time with the red safelight on. This proved that the safelight itself was effective in not fogging the paper.
I was using multigrade paper so set the colour head settings on the enlarger to give a grade 2 mid range contrast and my first set of prints were just to do a couple of test strips. First set 5 seconds apart to get the ball park figure then another set 2 seconds apart. I also established that the photos of the Henry Moore sculptures looked better with a bit more contrast so reset the colour head settings to give a grade 3 paper.
I did some 8” x 10” prints and were very pleased with the results. Unlike when trying to print using an inkjet printer the black were actually a warm tone black rather than a blue hue as produced by the inkjet.
I have also recently processed the higher contrast Rollei Retro 400s film and produced some prints from those which I’ve been very pleased with.
Next stage in my lockdown crafts is to mount and frame some of the photos. I think a set of three framed Henry Moore prints would look good on the wall.
My latest project whilst in lockdown is to increase the contrast of my black and white film photos. I’ve been reading about various new 35mm films that have come on the market that were designed for uses such as aerial surveillance or use in ATM machines. Even some that emulate the old black and white film stock produced for the movies in Germany. Many of these films are 2 to 3 times the price of my regular black and white films such as Ilford HP5+ or Fomapan 400.
This got me to thinking though that maybe I could emulate some of these films by using my regular film stock and altering exposure and development to increase contrast.
For a given film and developer the variables are duration of development, Temperature of developer and agitation. Activity (whether the solution is used more than once) can also be a variable but for these tests I’ve used one shot methods. Increasing development time increases both the density and the contrast of the negative image but also increases the speed of the film and the granularity of the image.
My test is carried out using a pair of my Olympus OM40s loaded with Ilford HP5+. I also used another roll in my Ricoh KR10 Super which I intended to shoot at box speed but then alter the agitation of the tank from 10 seconds each minute to 30 seconds each minute to see how that effects the final outcome.
The Olympus camera exposure meters are set to the normal ‘off film’ setting for centre biased exposure. One camera will be shot using an E.V. of minus 2 to enhance depth of the shadow areas. This gives an effective film speed of 1600 ISO. This film will then be developed in Ilford ID11 diluted 1+1 for the regular time plus 20% to enhance the contrast. This will give me a development time of 15.5 minutes. The second camera is set to an E.V. of zero and the development time in ID11 diluted at 1+1 will be the regular 13 minutes.
The Ricoh was set to 400 ISO and the dilution was 1+3 to improve sharpness and also agitated 30 seconds every minute. This in contrast to 10 seconds every minute which is my normal method.
Maybe semi-stand development might be the answer, but that’s another test for another day.
My first test day was carried out during a walk through Marks Hall Arboretum. I thought trees would make a reasonable subject during these times when my ability to get into London for some architecture is limited. The day was a bit overcast so I thought this might show up better any increased contrast.
The test using the Ricoh was conducted on a bright and sunny day taking photographs of a church and a local wood.
In part Two I’ll be looking at the results and comparing the photographs!
An interesting trip out a while ago with my favourite retro camera of the moment, the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SPII. We drove up into Suffolk to the end of the promontory where Felixstowe Docks are located. There is an old Fort called Landguard Fort built in the 1500s originally but the present construction dates much later. Being an overcast day and the Fort a very grey concrete construction I thought it would make an ideal subject for black and white film. So, I loaded up with a 36 exp roll of Ilford HP5+ and put a spare in my bag. I took my 55mm f1.8 and my 105mm f2.8 Takumar lenses fitted with a yellow filter for an added bit of contrast.
I love this old camera. It seems to fit my hand so well and I like the weight of it which has a feel of quality. The shutter sound too sounds really great and makes you feel you have an instrument of quality in your hands. The Takumar lenses are brilliant as is the Zeiss 29mm one.
It was a rather grey and overcast day so it was a little difficult in places accommodating the low light levels but all in all I was very pleased with the results.
Whilst we have had restricted travel I’ve been lucky enough to be able to visit the Henry Moore Gardens and Studios. It’s just a few minutes drive from where I live and just a few weeks ago I took the opportunity of a stroll around the grounds with a film camera loaded with a 36 exposure roll of Ilford HP5+ loaded into my Olympus OM2n.
I’m very pleased with the quality of the photos and I think the HP5+ film is certainly ideal for capturing the sculptures on a very dull day. The tonal range of the images is very good and I haven’t noticed too much grain. The film was developed in Ilford ID11 diluted 1+3 for 22 minutes. I would normally develop for 20 minutes but this was the second use of the developer so I added 10% to the time.
During this second lockdown period I thought it would be a good opportunity to try out perfecting some new film photography. I’ve used Fomapan 400 a fair bit in the past but decided to try Fomapan 200 for a change. Maybe not the best idea during the dull weather we’re having just recently but at least I can get to using a large aperture and throwing the background out of focus.
So I decided to do our local walk which starts at a small church. I first had a look round the churchyard. Churchyards are always good for some texture and interesting light shooting.
Further along our walk we pass the Henry Moore Studio and Gardens. Even though it’s closed at present there is an opportunity to still see some of the sculptures.
The walk takes us round the perimeter of the Henry Moore grounds and then along part of the Hertfordshire Way.
So, what of the film. I developed the Fomapan 200 for 13 minutes in Ilford ID11 at 20 deg C. Ilford ID11 is my go to developer at present. As it’s a powder developer it has an almost indefinite shelf life in it’s powder form so I can purchase a couple of boxes without having them go off before I can use them.
I quite like the tones of Fomapan 200 but not sure the grain appears to be much smaller than Fomapan 400 and I have to say that I think I prefer to use Ilford HP5+ for most of my photos.
I will though try the Fomapan 200 out with another camera/lens combination. This set was photographed using the Olympus OM2n fitted with the 50mm f1.4 lens. I intend to run another 36 through my Pentax Spotmatic fitted with the 55mm f1.8 Takumar lens.
On a recent rip into London I took a group of photographers round the Barbican. Not wanting to use the tube in these times of restrictions we limited ourselves to using the over ground train into Liverpool Street and walk from there.
From the Barbican we walked down to the Thames at St Paul’s Cathedral. My main area of interest for the day though was the Barbican area. I was intending taking just a film camera with me on this trip as I thought the Barbican with it’s grey drab concrete construction would prove ideal for black and white film.
As early as the late 1940s architects and town planners were looking at how people could live in high rise blocks and moved around the city on high level walkways. The idea wasn’t that they were so much concerned about pedestrians but more to do with keeping traffic flowing uninterrupted through the cities of tomorrow. As is often the case though that didn’t accord with human nature as people were more fond of following roads rather than being remote above where everything is happening,
The outcome of this is that London has some areas of remote and unlinked walkways. One area of extensive walkways though is the Barbican estate.
The gear used for this day was my trusty Olympus OM2n and 50mm f1.4 lens. I used a couple of rolls of Ilford HP5+ and developed it in Ilford ID11 diluted 1+3 for 20 minutes @20 degC.
Scanning of film was done using Plustek Opticfilm 8100 scanner and Silverfast software.
Back in January of this year I had started a project to photograph my local town at night using film and hand held. It was a good opportunity to see how I could push the speed of Ilford HP5+ to 3200asa. During the lockdown period I had chance to process the film along with another one shot at the same speed.
Fortunately, I started on this project before the restaurants started closing so managed to get some lit windows with customers sitting inside.
Searching some online sites and the Massive Dev Chart I decided on trying to get max asa out of Ilford HP5+ which is normally rated at 400asa. I wasn’t sure exactly how far you can push this film but I’d pushed it in my earlier days of film work when it was still HP5 with out the +and then I’d taken it to 1600asa.
The problem is that with extended development times the grain of the film can be excessive. I decided though that I’d take some night time shots around the town and hopefully the grain will just add to the atmosphere so I pushed it to 3200asa.
The cameras I used was a Voigtlander Vito C and I used a Weston Master V light meter to determine exposures.
I had some stock solution of Ilford ID11 developer so used that. I couldn’t find a timing for this on the Massive Dev Chart so compared the figures stated for 800 and 1600asa and added on some more time to allow for the 1 stop increased in speed. The final figure that I settled on was 18 minutes using stock solution.
I was pleased with the contrast look and the grain I thought looked almost like a murky mist overhanging the scenes. The contrast was aided by the fact that with some of the shots it had been raining.
I’ll be trying this again with one of my 35mm SLR and a better lens.