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.
I’ve recently completed converting my loft into a darkroom. It seemed like a natural progression from having got more into my film photography recently..
An ideal time to spend in the darkroom what with this awful weather and being in lockdown.
Did a few trial prints the other day of some photos taken in the Barbican using a 35mm Olympus OM2n.The film was rated at ISO 400 and developed in Ilford ID11 developer.
These are all scans of the actual prints made in the darkroom and printed on Kentmere VC Select Luster multigrade paper.
The first print (above) I made using the settings on the colour head for the equivalent of a grade 2 paper which is a mid way grade. The range of tones at the lower level under the overhanging construction are pretty good, although the upper level balconies are a bit over exposed and losing some detail.
For the second example (above) I reset the yellow and magenta settings on the enlarger colour head to give me an equivalent to grade 3 paper which is more contrasty. The image has more punch and has darker blacks to the shadow area, although the lower part does look a bit under exposed (it does look darker on the scanned image than on the actual print though). It does also have good detail to the upper balcony areas. I may have to redo this and using a bit of cardboard just hold back the lower part by 5 seconds on the exposure in the enlarger.
It is good fun and is an interesting project to be doing in these restricted times.
I’ve also included a few of the other scanned prints of the Barbican from the last session.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Film: Fomapan 400. Rated at 400asa. Developed in Ilford ID11 dilution 1+3 for 23 minutes @20 degC.
Film scanned using Plustek OpticFilm 8100 through Silverfast 8 software.
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.
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.
I do like the quality and feel of the old legacy lenses created for the old film cameras. To my mind they are built to a higher standard than the modern lenses made for the consumer market.
I recently saw a Carl Zeiss Jena 29mm lens advertised on ebay and was tempted and was surprised that no one else bid on it. So, I got myself a nice lens of good condition for £31.
There is a lot written about the company of Zeiss Jena and the fact that it was situated in the Eastern part of Germany after the second world war. The company Zeiss originated in Jena but after the war the Americans moved most of the staff and manufacturing to Oberkochen in the West of Germany. Optics were continued to be manufactured in the original factory in Jena and in some cases using the original technicians who chose to stay. Some would say that the quality of the Jena lenses doesn’t match that of the ones produced in Oberkochen but I think there is an element of snobbery in that statement. It may be that the quality control was a bit more relaxed at the Jena works but if you get a good example they are certainly good lenses.
You are, of course, stuck with manual focus when using these lenses on a digital camera but that doesn’t bother me at all. I often use manual focus with my digital lenses. On a Micro Four Thirds camera the focal length for this lens is 58mm which is a good focal length for Street Photography. The lens also has a close focus distance of 0.25m which is better than my Leica 25mm digital lens. I also like the way these old lenses have all the distance scales etc etched on the lens. It’s very handy for when you’re doing zone focusing, again, not something easy to do on a lens with no distance markings.
The lens fitting is the 42mm screw fit so I had to purchase a new adaptor for my micro four thirds cameras (Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Lumix GX8).
I chose the K & F Concept adaptor as I had purchased others in the past and some had been problematic and fitted the Lumix camera but not the Olympus. The one I chose was the Pro version which is a couple of pounds more expensive but was of excellent build quality and finish. It fitted both cameras very accurately without any play.
The lens and the adaptor look very good mounted on my Olympus OM-D.
I mounted the lens to my Lumix GX8 and went out for an afternoon photographing in a small town called Saffron Walden in Essex. These are some of the results. All jpgs straight out of the camera with no post processing:
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.
Film: Ilford FP4 rated at 125asa. Developed in Ilford ID11 diluted1+1 for 11 minutes @20degC.
Scanned to digital using a Plustek 8100 scanner.
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
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.
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.
A very pleasant walk from The Chequers pub in Wareside and along the River Ash. This route follows in part along the old Buntingford branch line which went from St Margarets to Buntingford. Opened in 1859 and closed in 1964.
The walk starts at the Chequers pub in Wareside. If it’s not busy you can park up in the village hall car park beside the pub. Leaving the car park you walk down and turn right beside the pub along the B 1004. Just after this you turn right up the lane signposted to Babbs Green.
After a few yards up this lane you have to decide whether to turn left up the narrow path immediately to the right of the Bourne Cottage. Alternatively you can continue up the lane to the next set of crossroads where you turn left. Ths time we walked up the lane to the crossroads. Immediately opposite is the old Wesleyan Church, now turned into houses. This property has some history for me as it was purchased by an uncle of mine in the mid sixties after attendance to the services had dropped to an all time low. It was converted by him to houses and remained in the family for some time.
After turning left at the crossroads you continue up the narrow road and eventually the footpath mentioned earlier and the road join. At the small triangular green turn right and continue up the road until you arrive at Morley Pond. Morley Pond Cottages have another connection with my family as it’s where my grandmother once lived. It’s a pity I couldn’t get a photo but there was a number of vans parked out in the drive obscuring the cottage. At this point continue straight up next to and left of the cottages along a rough surfaced lane. This lane continues on between hedges. In due course the lane drops downhilll and comes out near a couple of farms. Continue on bearing left along the farm drive with Newhole Farm on your left.
The road continues on until you get to the B1004 where you cross over and continue on down another farm track. Continue down this track toward Watersplace Farm. Just before the farm turn left to follow track down the right hand side of the field toward the river Ash.
Follow the hedge to your right and then at the end of the hedge turn back on yourself round the hedge and walk back with the river on your left until you reach the bridge.
Cross the bridge and continue straight across the field ahead of you to the gate.
After going through the gate turn left and follow the track of the old railway.
Just before the old railway road bridge turn right to descend down to another bridge that crosses the river. The turn left through a gate to walk along fields on the right hand side of the river. You go through another gate and field and then the path turns left over the river and returns across allotments back to the village.