Three images from a recent visit to Scammonden Water, within sight and sound of the busy M62 motorway. I was on my way home from a local reservoir where I had been practising with the Intrepid 5×4. Like many of us I do practice setting the camera up whilst I’m at home, developing muscle memory as it were. However, being out in the field is a different experience, especially stood a few feet from a busy road hence the occasional trip out. I will (hopefully!) be going to the coast for a few days at the end of the month and will be taking the Intrepid for some long exposure photography.
Whilst my main purpose for the short trip was practising with the 5×4 I still had a couple of other cameras in the boot of the car, one of which was the Horizon S3. Having spent around six months making urban panoramic images with the Horizons it was a joy to point the camera at something that was living.
I have mentioned in the past that I have been making an image a day since October 2017 as part of a 365 Challenge. On Saturday I wandered down to make that day’s photograph with just the Fuji X100T in my pocket and a vague idea of photographing the virtually derelict garages behind the petrol station. In the end I saw a different composition and left the garages for another day.
When I made the image of the scene for my 365 (above) I had to compromise on the composition slightly in order to mask a couple of cars behind the bushes to the right. With that in mind, when I returned early Sunday morning I was hoping the cars would be gone so I could get the view I wanted with the church tower clearly visible.
I was lucky. Not only were the cars gone but conditions were similar, if not slightly better in terms of the light. I was pleased therefore to create the version I’d hoped for.
I was actually out that morning on a mission to make four pinhole photographs. so this was an adjunct to my main purpose. Of course, I couldn’t resist making a version of this image on 5×4 film.
Not unexpectedly there is a world of difference between the very clean, almost clinical, digital images and the extremely wide version created with the Zero Image. In hindsight I could have added the other two frames I had with me to narrow the field of view of the pinhole but I was hoping for a uniform look to the pinhole series. A possibility for another morning perhaps?
Even after more than nine years of retirement I still cannot lie-in bed once I wake. Nor does my body seem to want to change the habits of a working lifetime and whilst I’m not crawling out of bed before 5:30am these days I rarely sleep beyond 6:30am. Today was no exception and so at 7am I was out of the house with a 5×4 camera and a few sheets of film in my shoulder bag.
The detectives amongst you will have already worked out from the title that it was a pinhole camera, a Zero Image 5×4 to be precise. The plan was to visit four locations around town that I have visited recently and recreate the images using the pinhole – and one sheet only, no bracketing and one composition only. I often impose restrictions on myself to make things more challenging and keep me on my toes. With the cost of 5×4 it is also a sensible approach. Being a Sunday each location was quiet meaning I didn’t have to worry about getting in peoples way, especially at the final location which involved me standing the tripod in the middle of the road. That was sheet five (see next paragraph) however so won’t be making an appearance here.
I took six sheets of film with me and used five. Why five sheets and just four locations especially given the parameters I’d already set? User error! At the third location I set everything up, metered the scene, adjusted the reading for the pinhole and adjusted for reciprocity and finally removed the dark slide ready to open the shutter. Except it was half open already. A lapse of concentration as I generally check the shutter as I place the camera on the tripod and also just before I remove the dark slide.
Except it was half open already.
A lapse of concentration, as I generally check the shutter as I place the camera on the tripod and also just before I remove the dark slide.
My Stearman tank holds four sheets of film, part of the reason for limiting myself to four locations. I developed the first four sheets, from the first three locations, as soon as I got home. I chose Rodinal at a dilution of 1+49 partly because I’d not used it in this way before and I was hoping this would give a good compromise between the typical dilution of 1+25 and a semi-stand in 1+100. A dilution of 1+25 generally gives good contrast and acutance whilst I really liked the grain and detail I got from the semi-stand series so wondered if a dilution midway would give good negatives without a forty five minute semi-stand. By 9:30am the four sheets were hanging to dry, the errant third sheet clearly showing the effect of accidental pre-exposure on approximately a third of its surface (see above).
It was at 9:31am that I remembered I’d not had any breakfast yet – but that’s another story!
I was very happy with the negatives as they came out of the tank and impatient to get them on a light box and under a loupe but of course these things can’t be hurried so after breakfast I started this blog post in readiness and anticipation.
With all four sheets on the light pad I was very happy with the fruits of my morning’s labour, despite the momentary lapse. There’s plenty of detail in each sheet and the grain is very restrained. They all scanned nicely (with a mirrorless camera not a scanner) and on the whole look as if they will print well even if the puddle reflection above will take some work to tame the much brighter central portion.
The Zero Image at 25mm gives quite a strong vignette but I like this effect so it doesn’t displease me. With high contrast scenes it can produce tricky negatives as with sheet 2 above but these challenges are all part of the fun of pinhole photography and darkroom printing. The field of view is very wide (I have three frames but only used one today which equates to approximately 25mm) and in all of these images I could have got much closer to the subject if I’d wanted to. For the reflection image I used a mini tripod at the very edge of a deep puddle so perhaps not that one but certainly I will revisit the third location (sheet 4) and place the pinhole much closer to the rusty door in the middle of the frame.
If you’ve not given pinhole a try yet I can very much recommend it – especially as an introduction to the joys of 5×4 large format photography.
What do you do when you’re totally distracted by domestic things over which you’ve no control? When you have no option but to sit and wait and see what happens? If you’re like me you pick up the nearest camera and pop out for a walk. Which is what I did at the end of last week whilst number two daughter was in hospital for the birth of her second child.
My “rule” for impromptu wanders is to grab the nearest camera and on that day it was the Fuji X-Pro1 with a 35mm lens. However, sitting on the table next to it was a GoPro Fusion 360 degree camera that I was charging in order to make sure it was still working before my (fingers crossed) short break at the end of this month. I don’t use it very often but it’s a fun camera that I like to take with me when I go away. I slipped it in my bag too.
I promised the wife I’d be back within the hour and drove down to the local canal, parking a ten minute walk from a small patch of woodland that I often wander through with a camera. Approaching through the trees the first thing I noticed was the bluebells. Not as many as in previous years but a pleasant surprise; what with the pandemic and everything I’d forgotten it was bluebell time.
I took a few images with the X-Pro1 but wasn’t really “feeling” it, I was probably too distracted by other things. So, I pulled the GoPro from the bag and carefully placed it amongst the bluebells being careful not to trample any of the delicate flowers. The camera is controlled via a smartphone and seeing the live feed quickly absorbed me as it always does. This isn’t a first choice camera but when I do use it I never fail to get fully immersed in what I’m doing.
Half a dozen compositions with the GoPro and it was time for me to start walking back to the car if I was to keep my promise to be back within the hour. I couldn’t resist a couple more though and placed the camera in the branches of a tree and did something I very rarely do … a selfie!
I’ve used several 360 cameras over the last couple of years and without exception have found the post-processing part every bit as much fun as taking the images in the first place. Which is very unlike me. This can be done on the computer and in my view this gives the highest quality files BUT playing with the images on my phone or tablet seems to me to be very much in keeping with the ethos of the camera and how its used.
So there you have it. Photography doesn’t always have to be a “serious” pursuit, and in fact having a bit of fun with it can help distract you from other matters when needed.
Oh, nearly forget, we have our first granddaughter – mother and baby both doing well.
I am a relatively recent convert to the joys (and unpredictability) of pinhole photography, even building one myself not so long ago. As with the majority of my film photography I tend to use black and white film in the pinholes, indeed cannot remember ever having used colour film in one. I have pinholes that accept 35mm, 120 and 5×4 film of which my most-used is a Zero Image 612b, multi-format pinhole that uses 120 film. It is multi-format in that it has a pair of baffles inside that can be moved to facilitate using the camera at 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7, 6×9 and 6×12.
As a black and white photographer I routinely use filters to control contrast, indeed with most of my film cameras a yellow or yellow/green filter is ever-present on the lens. However, my Zero Image is the basic version and therefore has no bells and whistles such as external filter rings. I lack the tools and skills to adapt the front of the camera working around the sliding “shutter” so have reluctantly accepted the lack of filter options.
I have recently modified the Zero Image to accept filters internally. I did this by taking a 25-37mm step up ring and asking my grandson to take the 25mm thread off (without removing his own fingers). This was then super-glued inside the camera, with the pinhole centrally situated within the ring. Because of the camera’s internal dimensions a 37mm filter ring was the largest filter diameter I could accommodate and still screw filters on/off with my old fingers. By incorporating a screw thread inside the camera and purchasing a few small filters I am now able to use not only contrast control filters but also a 720nm filter to enable me to use infrared film with the pinhole. The only downside is I have to choose upfront what filter I will need and install it before loading the film. In addition, I cannot change the filter part way through the roll. Other than that it works fabulously though and the 37mm yellow filter is rarely out of the camera.
At the 6×12 setting the outer edge of the ring is visible onthe edge of the negative as a very definite vignette BUT once cropped the usable negative area still measures 6×12.1. There are no issues at 6×6, 6×7 or 6×9. I haven’t yet tried 6×4.5 but on this evidence I do not envisage problems, although I very rarely use the smallest negative size with this camera.
DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert on Ilford FP4+ (although I know someone who can seriously claim to be) and nor for the matter am I an expert on semi-stand development. This series of posts has simply been a way for me to share my experiences in the hope that someone somewhere will gain a crumb of insight for their own works.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve been using Twitter over the last six months or so and have connected with film photographers around the globe. I have also enjoyed some of the themed group projects and the main “event”for April 2020 has been the annual “FP4 Party”. I purchased some 120 film especially for the occasion and I also decided that for these party-rolls I would use a semi-stand development in Rodinal at 1+100 – even now I’m not sure what possessed me but I’m glad it did. All of the chosen parameters, from film, camera, chemicals and development process were outside my recent norms, the only consistent factor was that I was using black and white film.
I used six rolls of film during my semi-stand week and three of them were these rolls of FP4+ for #FP4Party. Whilst the methodology and timings were consistent I did vary the temperature of the starting temperature using 20° as it’s the recommended, 18° as that is often the ambient temperature where I develop my films and finally 22° as that can often be the temperature in that room during the summer months even with the back door open. As I always use deionised water when making up chemicals I keep a canister ready for use in the kitchen at all times. Looking at the negatives I cannot see that these small temperature differences materially affected these rolls at these development times.
Ilford FP4+ then, ISO 125, an all-purpose black & white film with fine grain, medium contrast and outstanding sharpness. Ideal for most shooting scenarios in good light conditions; although good light was not a given on this occasion! I’ve used it a couple of times and could attest to the fine grain – focusing with a grain focus finder can be interesting! Developers like my recent go-to of Kodak D76 will tend to minimise grain to a degree, and this would normally have been my developer of choice for these films.
Except I’d decided on Rodinal. Rodinal will in normal use tend to accentuate the grain, except as you already know I wasn’t going to be using it in the “normal” way.
Rodinal is I believe, the oldest commercial developer still in production. Famous for its contrast control and flexibility and outstanding keeping qualities. I always have a bottle on the shelf. Used at higher dilutions such as 1+100, Rodinal can help render high contrast scenes with a more normal level of contrast and that would be an asset given the locations I would be photographing and the light I expected to encounter. The appearance of grain is also proportional to the dilution, so at 1+25 it is at its most obvious, and at 1+100 it is at its finest which was a good match I felt for the fine-grained FP4+.
I’ve already said I was delighted with the negatives, they provided the fine grain I was hoping for and the first batch out of the tank printed very nicely with minimal fuss.
Now my original aim was to darkroom print a set of six to nine of the #FP4Party negatives ready for “reveal” week which was starting on 19th April. I managed a couple and indeed the image above featured in my blog post Printing a Negative. However, life and a couple of other distractions got in the way and I’ve yet to get the opportunity for an extended #FP4Party darkroom session.
The three negatives that I did get to darkroom print were all from the first roll, taken on a day with a bright blue sky and fairly even light which gave me negatives that printed nicely but no excitement or atmosphere. We were fated to get fairly flat light on most of the days I went out with the FP4+ and so it will need to wait for another day before I give my overall impressions on the film as I want to try it in different situations and lighting conditions. However, this morning I scanned a few negatives from the three rolls in order to have something for the reveal. It’s Day Six today, tomorrow is the last day, and I’ve not posted anything yet as I’ve been waiting to see if I could squeeze a darkroom session in. Time however has now run out.
The first thing that I noted when I popped a couple of strips of negatives on a light pad was the lovely detail from this film and developer combination. I used a Bronica ETRS camera fitted with a Y/G filter for almost all of the images I made.
Where this combination of film and developer excelled however was in detailed, heavily textured, scenes such as the garage door above. This is a scan don’t forget but all I have done is apply a Levels adjustment to the very flat scan and in this case a small vignette. My approach to scanning negatives, the so-called hybrid approach, is to scan with flat contrast and then adjust Levels in software. I rarely do much more but whatever I do decide to do has to meet an important test – could I replicate this in the darkroom? That is I as in me, not an extremely competent printer. If the answer is “Yes” then I do it but if it isn’t then it doesn’t get done.
In the very limited tests that I have made with this film and developer I have been extremely pleased with the results and wouldn’t hesitate to use Ilford FP4+ combined with semi-stand development in the future. That said I would also be considering more traditional ways of developing this film. I’ve been typically using 400 ISO film recently, partly because of the light here in the UK and partly because of the latitude of Ilford HP5+ when using a point and shoot, meter-less clockwork camera. To use a fine-grained, slow emulsion such as Ilford FP4+ has been a novel experience after an Autumn, Winter and Spring of faster speed films.
It has to be remembered that there are so many variables that it is hard to make a ringing endorsement for you specifically, but for me, the way I meter a scene, my use of filtration and choice of camera, the way I develop a film and the way I then scan or print the negative then I have to say I like this film a lot and at some point in the future will investigate and experiment further.
FOOTNOTE: I had a fourth roll of the FP4+ which I inadvertently used the day before the #FP4Party, rendering it inadmissible, and which I therefore developed in Kodak D76 (currently my favourite developer although I have none in stock so am using FX55 – of which more later). The image below was taken early on a Sunday morning, with the sun just peeping above the hills on the horizon. As a result there were some harsh shadows and deep contrasts plus I was also working into the sun for this image. I was well pleased with the negative. It had bags of detail, a great range of tones and it met the “Whenham Test” for hybrid processing too.
I shared my thoughts on this film as part of my semi-stand series. Unlike some online resources I’m not claiming that the single roll I’ve exposed makes me an expert on the film by the way. These were very much first impressions based on using semi-stand development. I have one other roll in the fridge which I will use at some point and I will probably develop that with another process to compare and contrast. First impressions are that this is a very contrasty film but with the right subject it will probably deliver some very nice results. Definitely not an everyday film.
In this part of the semi-stand series I am going to look at another new-to-me film stock: Ferrania P30. This was recommended to me by a contact on Twitter after they read my response to my first roll of FT12; the film which incidentally kick-started semi-stand week and which I will talk about in the final post in this series.
In the first part of the series I talked about the methodology and also mentioned why I was having a week of semi-stand development. The suggested timings for Ferrania in Rodinal (1+1) were a good example of why I often fight shy of using this method. Sixty minutes! By the time you add in stop, fix and washing cycles you are looking at between one and a quarter and one and a half hours depending on how fast I agitate during my adapted Ilford wash cycle. For one film!
This roll of film ended up being a roll of two distinct parts. The first part of the roll was used on a wander around the back streets of the small town in which I live. Like all of the negatives on the roll these are sharp, punchy and have bags of contrast. The second part of the roll was used up on the moors above Elland and with a foreground in heavy shadow apart from patches of sunlit moorland and a lovely bright sky the film was no match for the dynamic range of the scene. With no means of using a neutral density graduated filter I plumped for a middle-ground exposure and hoped for the best. To be fair I wouldn’t have used the Horizon in such conditions usually but this was an impromptu trip and the Horizon with Ferrania loaded was all I had in the bag at the time.
Overall I like this film, deep blacks and bright whites are its main characteristics (based on using one roll – this is NOT a definitive review!!) with loads of contrast and personality.
On the left, negative with a positive created by simply inverting the negative in Photoshop and adding a Levels adjustment. On the right, the negative and below it a full-worked version created in Photoshop. I rarely do more than the a simple inversion and Levels when posting to social media. Full-blown conversions are a rarity from me these days as I’d rather spend the time with a camera.
So, once again the semi-stand development in very diluted Rodinal has produced some lovely negatives. I am looking forward to working with some of these in the darkroom but before I do I just wanted to say a few words on the so-called hybrid approach. Using a film camera to capture the images and traditional development methods to produce negatives with this approach that is the end of the “analog” part of the process and from here on its purely digital. The negatives are scanned or otherwise copied using a digital camera and the workflow from there involves the photographers software and digital processing techniques of choice. The image at the top of the page was created this way as were those immediately above.
Some people decry the hybrid approach as not being “true”. I think this is a high-handed attitude and have no time for those who denigrate hybrid workers as somehow not being “proper” photographers. To my mind it matters not whether you are a died-in-the wool traditionalist who only uses “analog” (I detest the term) processes, a purely digital photographer or someone who straddles both camps and uses the hybrid method. We are all producing photographic images – it matters not to me how an image was produced. Whilst I can fully appreciate the skills and art that go into producing a darkroom print it does not make the final image somehow better for having eschewed contact with a computer. Anyway, soap box away for today.
So, there you have it. Another successful semi-stand experiment, another new-to-me film with plenty of contrast and bags of personality and whilst it won’t be added to my regular shopping list I look forward to playing with this combination again.
The first part of this series outlined the methodology employed for the semi-stand development of each roll in this series. The second post covered the “scanning” methodology, a basic conversion such as I would do for Twitter for example and also touched upon the benefits of researching beyond simply looking for development suggestions when using a new film. In this part, I looked at Ferrania P30 in semi-stand and talked about a hybrid digital-analog approach to film photography. I hope you have enjoyed it.
In a future post I will look at the development of three rolls of 120 Ilford FP4+ and my approach to printing these negatives. I will conclude the series by looking at another new-to-me 35mm film, FT12, the film that started the week and which is destined through a quirk in my personal logic to close out the semi-stand series.
The ultimate objective whenever I take out a camera is to end up with something worth printing. The roll of Orwo UN54 I used for my semi-stand week produced some very pleasing negatives and with an opportunity appearing I took them into the darkroom this afternoon.
I’d initially thought I might print these using a split grade technique so I started with a test strip at grade 2 1/2 exposing in three-second steps. I quickly realised I was wrong – these were going to print very nicely using a single filter. I opted for fifteen seconds staying with the 2 1/2 filter and the resulting print was very acceptable. However, I did a second print in order to burn in the right-hand side. Looking again at the test strip I thought that twenty-one seconds would be about right for that brighter area. Dialling in twenty-one seconds I held a card ready to hold back the rest of the print for the additional six seconds.
15 secs overall and an extra 6 secs for shaded area
Looking at the prints once they had dried I was pleased that my assessment of the negatives was born out by the prints. The fact they printed so easily was a huge bonus.
A single image from yesterdays wander with the Horizon S3 and a roll of Orwo UN54. I talk about it a little in yesterdays blog post too. I bought a single roll of this film to see how it would work for me and my urban photography – I’d seen evidence of why a lot of my friends like the film from pictures they’ve shared on Twitter and the like but would it work for me?
Look at those textures! It’s also held up very well in challenging conditions as the fence on the right is in the sun and everything on the left in shade. I’ve burned-in the fence a touch as I would do in the darkroom.
Fair to say this film is on my shopping list and I’m very tempted to use semi-stand again when I do get some if these results are typical.