Living in Utopia

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.

Ilford HP5+ @ 3200asa

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.

Voigtlander Vito C.

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.

Geometric shapes caught on film

Geometric shapes can be defined as figure or area closed by a boundary which is created by combining the specific amount of curves, points, and lines.

Assignment

A group of friends who are members of the local photography club and also keen on old cameras decided last week that it was time to go out on a photo shoot. Keeping to the current Government guidelines we were limited to a total of 6 and we decided to have a visit to a local town called Harlow in Essex.

The town plans were drawn up in 1947 by Sir Frederick Gibberd and was designated a New Town built to provide housing to replace the loss of housing in London during the war.

We wanted to catch the setting sun going down and throwing some light shafts through the contemporary architecture in the town. A New Town is an ideal location for this style of photography due to the proliferation of contemporary architecture with it’s associated square blocks and straight lines.

Equipment used

I used my Olympus OM2n 35mm SLR with a 50mm f1.4 lens. I had a red filter fitted to the lens for all these shots to darken the blue of the sky and give contrast between the sky and the buildings. Film used was Ilford HP5+ rated at 400 asa. The film was processed in Ilford ID11 @20 deg c for 20 minutes.

I saw this zebra crossing and thought it would be an ideal location for some Street Photography, especially with the vertical lines of the building behind. All I need now, I thought, was for someone to walk into the picture. Imagine my surprise when at that moment over my shoulder I heard someone appologise for walking into my picture. It couldn’t have been better. Not only had I got my subject but they were wearing a black and white striped top too. Perfect!
A selfie in a black and white barbers shop!

A roll of Fomapan 400 with the Agfa Optima 1035 Sensor.

  • Camera: Agfa Optima 1035 Sensor.
  • Film: Fomapan 400. Rated at 400asa. Developed in Ilford IDL dilution 1+3 for 23 minutes @20 degC.
  • Film scanned using Plustek OpticFilm 8100 through Silverfast 8 software.
Agfa Optima 1035 Sensor

Why I chose this camera?

Having an interest in analogue photography I like to follow a YouTube channel called Analogue Insights (link at the end of this post). Recently, Max, who is the host of the site has done a review of the Afa Optima 1035. It seemed to be the ideal camera for some Street Photography and as a coincidence there was one on Ebay in mint condition which I purchased for £56.

The camera and it’s features.

The camera is built of metal and is very compact and takes 35mm film. It has zone focusing but if turned upside down it has the distance scale on the underside of the lens. Zone focusing is something I often use for Street Photography so that is fine. The viewfinder is very large and bright for such a small camera and it is equipped with a nice f2.8 40mm lens. The zone focusing settings are shown in the viewfinder which is handy. The exposure is fully automatic but there is an aperture setting on the lens. This though is only operational when using flash.

Zone focusing seen in the viewfinder.
The zone focusing on the top of the lens.

Design philosophy

The camera was one of a series of cameras produced by Agfa through to the late 1970s and the simplistic design philosophy has as it’s roots in that of post war German industrial design. The design is a reflection of the design principles by such great designers as Dieter Rams who was instrumental in the design of the sleek and understated household goods for Braun in that era. “Good design is as little design as possible.” These few words encapsulate the philosophy of Rams. The British-American designer Jony Ive, Chief designer for Apple until 2019 once said of Rams that his work is “beyond improvement.”

This camera was designed by another German design studio. In 1967 Norbert Schlagheck and Herbert Schultes formed the design partnership Schlagheck Schultes Design GmbH and took on work of designing products for AGFA Gevaert AG. The design partnership was located in Munich and they were Influenced by Dieter Rams and his 10 Principles of Good Design. They were responsible for delivering designs for several classic cameras, along with other products. The design for AGFA provided a new and more modern direction for the camera-maker with the large red sensor shutter release being instrumental in the catch phrase for the product of ‘The other red dot camera’. This being a reference to the logo on Leica cameras. Not quite up to the standard of manufacture of Leica of course.

The results of my first trip out with the camera.

I recently was able to visit the National Trust property of Anglesey Abbey. Having just received the camera through the post I thought I’d load up with a roll of Fomapan 400 black and white film and try it out. It was an overcast day so not too much contrast but the white statuary in the grounds set against a dark background of foliage proved to be ideal for a test and I’m quite pleased with the results. The camera was a joy to use and handled very well. Manual focusing was very easy with the 400 ASA film providing small enough apertures to get some depth of field.

My next test of the camera will be to take it out on a trip doing some Street Photography.

Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire.

Built in 1650, Wimpole Hall is a neo-classical building and is Grade I listed. The estate itself is Grade I listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
Owned by the Chicheley family for 250 years the house passed through a number of familys before passing into ownership by The National Trust.
As the National Trust are now opening up access to their properties we were able to book a visit there a few days ago.
I took it as an opportunity to do some photography using one of my 35mm SLR film cameras.

Camera: Olympus OM2n 35mm SLR

Lenses: 35mm f2.8 Zuiko. 50mm f1.4 Zuiko. 135mm f2.8 Zuiko.

Filter: Hoya Orange (G) filter.

Film: Ilford FP4 rated at 125asa. Developed in Ilford ID11 diluted1+1 for 11 minutes @20degC.

Scanned to digital using a Plustek 8100 scanner.

Wimpole Hall.
Wimpole Hall.
Wimpole Hall.
Wimpole Hall.
Wimpole Hall. The rear of the house.
Wimpole Hall. The rear of the house.
Wimpole Hall. Walking across the parkland at the rear of the house toward the Folly.

The park was “naturalised” by Capability Brown. The North Park is particularly attractive with its belts of woodland, gentle rolling hills with individual trees and clumps of trees. The central feature of the North Park is the Gothic Tower known as The Folly and the restored lakes in the valley below.

The folly is designed to resemble the ruins of a medieval castle. It was built on the grounds of Wimpole Hall in the mid-1770s

The bridge known as the Chinese Bridge.

Single-arch timber bridges were often called ‘Chinese’ in the eighteenth century, probably because they were reminiscent of the bridges shown on Chinese porcelain, lacquer, silk and wallpaper. It was designed by Lancelot Brown and was rebuilt in the mid 20th century.

The lake.
Norfolk Horn sheep.

Wimpole Farm is one of the UK’s largest rare breed centres and they play a key role in conserving rare and traditional breeds of livestock.

The Folly.
Detail of The Folly.
The lake.

My daily lockdown walk with my OM2n.

Perry Green and Henry Moore.

8th May 2020 – My target for today was to go for my daily walk in the morning, expose a roll of black and white film on the walk. Get home and process the film, scan the negs and write this blog post.

I first met a problem with the scanning and had to do it again. I think it may have been a problem with using the dust and scratch removal on the Plustek scanner. They came out a bit blotchy so had to re-scan them all. Second thing I hadn’t factored in was that yesterday was a celebration in remembrance of V.E. day so had to go out for a social distancing street party later in the day and consume vast quantities of beer. All not conducive to finishing the post.

Anyway, continued today. Negs scanned and all OK. Edited in a format to post and ready to go.

The walk; A stroll of about 2.5 miles in the Hertforshire countryside near the village of Perry Green.

The equipment;

  • Olympus OM2n 35mm film camera.
  • Olympus 35-105 f3.5 Zuiko lens.
  • Olympus 200mm f4.0 Zuiko lens.
  • Fomapan 200 film developed in Ilford ID11 1+3 dilution @20degC. for 13 minutes.
  • Negs scanned using a Plustek Opticfilm 8100 film scanner with Silverfast 8 plus software.
  • Minimal post processing. Nik Silver Efex to add 35% sepia toning and black border.

The walk takes you from the church in Perry Green and past and round the Henry Moore Foundation grounds.

Past the farm buildings including what looks like an old WW11 Nissen hut.
Some interesting textures on the old buildings.
The Nissen hut!
Interesting mix of textures!
I like the verticality of the farm buildings against the randomness of the plants!
A good mix of elements!
Details of gates and rusting railings!
Further along the walk we pass one of the Henry Moore sculptures. Large Figure in a Shelter.
Detail of Large Figure in a Shelter.
And more Moore across the road! Three Piece Reclining Figure: Draped.
Double Oval.
The modern Visitor Centre to the Henry Moore Foundation.

We do a right just after the entrance to Henry Moore Gardens and follow a footpath which takes us round the other edge of the gardens.

Doing another right at the end of the gardens takes us along the end of the gardens and through the fields past more Moore sculptures.

Henry Moore sculpture. Large Upright Internal/External Form.

Another right turn takes us back along the field behind the Henry Moore Gardens and views of some more sculptures.

Henry Moore; Large Reclining Figure.
Sheep figure a lot in Henry Moore’s artwork and there are many in the surrounding fields.

Through a window – After Saul Leiter

Born in the 1930s Saul Leiter began by training as a Rabbi. He then followed this with a career as a Painter to be followed by a career as a Photographer.

His main body of work was in black and white which was the norm in those days. He was a very humble character who never sought fame but carried out his career in fashion and journalism whilst later on, in the early sixties, doing a personal body of work in colour.

He experimented with using out-of-date film and even film that had been damaged by being stored at too high temperature. The idea being to see how it would alter the colour balance of the results. He never sought fame and it is only in recent years that his early colour work has been recognised for what it is.

My own experience in following the Street Photography genre has been to follow the early photographers like Henri cartier Bresson and Brassai and their ilke and using black and white.

Early evening and monochrome.

Having seen Leiter’s work with colour though it’s got me to appreciate how the extra dimension of colour can be used to enhance the results. I particulary like Leiter’s photographs where he uses windows, often dripping with condensation, to frame his photos and enhance with reflections and colour to give a layered effect.

I like the colour in this one but haven’t got that dripping with condensation atmospheric look.

I’ve recently been doing a series called ‘Through a window’ trying emulate the style of Saul Leiter. Not always easy to get the condensation effect without being somewhere where it is very cold. However the layered effect can still be achieved with the glass of the window to give the reflections of inside/outside.

Still not got the condensation dripping down the window, but I do like the multi – layered effect of these types of shots.

Most of my attempts at emulating this style have been using the digital camera which is handy when photographing late afternoon with the dying light. I did though try to get really retro and use colour film. Very difficult to do with only 200 asa film in dying light. It certainly makes you appreciate the skill Leiter used.

A recent attempt using 200 asa colour film.

One of the problems is that I live in a small town so subject matter is a bit scarce. I’ll have to get myself into London late afternoon for a wander round.

Look out for part II as I’m going to persevere with this. I’ve even got some 400 asa film on the way and will try that with my SLR with its f1.4 prime lens.

The ‘V’ word.

I need help! I know, I know, a good friend said to me “don’t start getting interested in those little gem of cameras manufactured by the West German company Voigtlander. But did I listen?, NO!


Anyway, I thought I was fighting it but didn’t realise how fast the addiction takes hold of you. I just clicked on the ebay app and ‘Damn’ it was still set for the search for the ‘V’ word, and there they were, a pair of Voigtlander Bs.


As we all know, it’s better to get a pair of something, right! think of a pair of Purdey shotguns, or a pair of shoes, well maybe that’s not a good example.
Anyway there they were on the page staring back at me and they didn’t need bidding on as they were ‘Buy now’. That dreaded term ‘Buy now’ as if you can’t resist. But, I did resist for a couple of days, I think in the hope that someone else would ‘Buy now’ and leave me free to a normal life without the ‘V’ (see I can’t even say the full word, in case the affliction takes hold).
So, eventually I did buy the pair of Vito Bs which I didn’t think were overpriced as the seller said they both worked and one had a very nice brown leather case with it.

The Vito B has an unusual film load as part of the base of the camera hinges open to then allow the back to swing open. It is held in place with a very nice little catch which is typical German engineering and very detailed.


The next stage is to put film through them so we’re all set to go for a photography outing which has been put on hold for the stormy weather to pass as I don’t think these little jobies will stand getting a soaking.

Next stage on from ‘Another film camera’

The Voigtlander Vito C

So, after spending all my pocket money in one hit (£15) over Christmas at an antiques centre I was eager to see the results of said film camera. I wanted to see if all was working with the little Voigtlander Vito C so on a trip around St Albans I put a roll of Ilford HP5+ through the little camera.

Here are some of the results. Developed in Ilford Ilfotec DDX:

St Albans cathedral.
I tried some interiors too which was pushing the boundaries of the 400 ASA film and the f2.8 lens.

All appears well with the shutter speeds and I was pleased with the results. The Vito C doesn’t have a rangefinder. You can try to estimate distance to the subject but that can be a bit hit and miss and is OK when using the large depth of field that a small aperture can give you. It’s a bit more difficult at f2.8 though.

Another excuse to purchase another gadget? Of course. I thought I’d keep to quality West German engineering of the same era as the Voigtlander and bid on a couple of rangefinders on Ebay.

I ended up winning two bids and was the then the proud owner of two rangefinders. One for £2.20 and the other for £19. The £19 Watameter one was the better of the two. It was made in West Germany somewhere around the 1940s to 50s. It’s a split image rangefinder with the scale in feet also visible through the eyepiece.

The eyepiece end of the rangefinder. You look through the left hand aperture and turn the right hand wheel until the split image aligns. The distance scale is also visible in the viewfinder.
The object lens of the Watameter.

The little rangefinder looks good mounted on the flash shoe of the Voigtlander. I don’t think it’ll be very good in low light conditions though. I’ll have to wait and see.

The Voigtlander with the Watameter mounted on the flash shoe.
The rangefinder even came in a leather case which doesn’t look out of place alongside the Voigtlander case.
Had to drag out the old Weston Master V for the exposure too!

So, what’s next for the Voigtlander? having just read an article over on the Emulsive web site about pushing EI of Ilford HP5+ to 3200 I’ve decided to load it up with this film and try doing some night shots around the town at this uprated film speed. It could be tricky but I like a challenge. Who knows, I might even attempt some Street photography with this setup!

A day in Elsecar and another film camera purchase.

Elsecar Heritage Centre is a collection of buildings in Barnsley which are now of listed building status of historical architectural heritage. Now a collection of shops and craft workshops, they were originally built to support the adjacent mine workings, ironworks and railway. Built in 1850, they were reopened in 1987 in their present guise.

The clock shop in the centre.
The clock repairer.
The crossing for the steam railway.
The Newcomen Beam engine.

The mine workings in this area were some of the deepest in the area. To access the deep workings required the installation of this beam engine to extract the water. It ran from 1795 to 1923 and is now the oldest example of a beam engine in the country that is still situated in it’s original position. It can now only be operated with the assistance of a hydraulic pump due to the dilapidated state of its steam powered engine.

The busy antiques centre.
I did consider getting a new phone but thought I probably wouldn’t be able to get social media on this one 😅
I saw this box pushed up the corner of one of the areas of the antique shop and with some excitement opened it up and found a very nice little film camera in almost perfect condition, complete with its manual.
Voigtlander Vito C. Hardly any marks on it and the case looked like it hadn’t been used. Not a bad buy for £15. Can’t wait to try it out!