Review of 2021 (Part 4)

My “365” Challenge for 2021

Looking at the mosaic (above) of the images from the 2021-365 Challenge I was struck by how “black & white” it was. Bear in mind too that the majority of these images are digital with the minority being created on film. It turns out that around 90% of these daily images is in B&W, which actually correlates quite strongly with the film stats for 2021 too. Around 96% of the roll films I used in 2021 were B&W and the percentage for LF is closer still to 100%. Ilford HP5+ was my most used film with Fomapan 100 pushing it a close second. Unsurprisingly these are my go-to films for my panoramic cameras and pinhole cameras respectively.

This fourth, and final, post covers the period October to December although sad to say the year ended as it started with just the single post in the last month. October though was another busy month blog-wise with sixteen posts, Holga Week, the arrival of the 6×17 pinhole camera and even a few days Shropshire, an area we had not explored previously.

The RSS 6×17 brought with it the need for a new “scanning” approach

I rarely write technique guides but in both October and November I wrote fairly extensively about digitising negatives (a three-part series) and about the Trichrome process (five posts in total). Another essay appeared on the theme of doing your own thing photographically and allowing yourself to have fun with it. Not conforming to the whims of others was a recurring theme in my blog over the year.

Two images taken for my own amusement – I practice what I preach in that regard!

October saw Holga Week and my first participation in this annual event. I entered into it wholeheartedly and dedicated six posts to the event. Using a Holga 120N exclusively for a week was fun, even the roll where I inadvertently switched the camera into bulb mode for all but one image. Guess it could be labelled UnIntended Camera Movement (UCM) rather than the more often seen Intentional Camera Movement (ICM).

UCM – not for the conformist!

In November I finally succumbed to Andrew K’s suggestions and gave Trichromes a try … Trying Trichrome was the obvious alliterative title and I didn’t resist its lure. For many reasons I haven’t pursued it further since working out a process that suits me but that will be rectified over the coming months as I have plans for some large format trichomes possibly even glass plate trichomes but that needs to wait for some better weather.

During November I also reflected upon my ongoing 365 Challenge which celebrated its fourth anniversary at the end of October.

Reality So Subtle 6×17 pinhole

Review of 2021 (part 3)

So far we have wandered through my blog posts from January to July 2021. A total of around sixty posts over the first seven months of the year. Over the next two months though I added thirty five more posts, twenty four of these in August alone. We spent two days in Salford Quays during August and I somehow managed to create eight blog posts from that two-day trip.

Media City, Salford Quays, 12th June 2021 Horizon S3 Pro and Rollei Blackbird

August saw a couple of essays, one a slightly tongue-in-cheek dissertation on how film, not love, is the drug contrary to what Roxy Music might say. The other was more serious and talked about camera club competitions and how the desire to please the judges leads to homogeneity and stifles personal expression. It was a topic I have returned to many times throughout the year including a further essay in September entitled “I #believeinfilm”.

KMZ FT-2: subject of eight blog posts in August alone

I made more use of 5×4 (4×5?) during August and September including a four-day project over five days in September when I visited and revisited a small patch of local woodland with the Intrepid 5×4 and both film and glass plates. Entitled “Into the Woods” this was a spontaneous project and ultimately one of the highlights of 2021 for me.

From the “Into the Woods” series
J Lane ASA 2 dry-plate Intrepid 5×4 camera
16th September 2021

In September we also managed a few days on the coast which provided me with a rare opportunity to fly my drone an all-too infrequent event over the last couple of years.

So, August and September were the most productive in terms of my blogand unsurprisingly in terms of film usage too. These two months accounted for a quarter of my total rolls of film in 2021.

Whilst 5×4 played an important part in my 2021 it was roll film that predominated, Over 230 rolls of film went through 24 different cameras (remember excluding LF) and almost a third of those were exposed in the Horizon S3. Panoramic cameras accounted for around 40% of my roll film usage in 2021. Over 20% of my total for 2021 were pinhole meaning almost two thirds of my roll film usage last year was attributable to panoramas or pinholes.

It was indeed my year for panoramas and pinholes!

I’ve not compiled the stats for my large format photography in 2021 but have a feeling that pinhole will make a very good showing there too. If I get time I shall include some LF numbers in the fourth and final part of my 2021 retrospective.

Review of 2021 (part 2)

After a slow start blog-wise to 2021 things picked up apace and from March to July I averaged around ten posts each month. I never set a monthly target for blog posts, preferring to only post when I’ve something to say, but nevertheless like to see a healthy output of writing to complement the photography.

One of the projects that I started in May was a new zine, entitled A Sense of Place, which brought together a series of images all made in or around water. My “happy place” as it were, as I love being beside water be it the sea, a river, a lake or a reservoir – I even enjoy the rain sometimes! The initial intention was to print and sell the zine to recover my costs but ultimately I made it available to anyone who wanted it via the ISSUU website.

Also in May was a very small set of images made with a swing lens panoramic camera in the back streets of Halifax town centre. The resultant images, documented in a blog post entitled “Here Be Rats”, were a totally unexpected hit on Twitter and amongst my favourite images of 2021.

Halifax town centre 10/5/2021 Adox Silvermax, Horizon S3, FX55 developer
Here be Rats. Have you ever peered behind the facade of your town centre? I do reglarly, in the name of urban photography, and the service yard behind these four fast food premises in Halifax town centre on 10/5/2021 were a sight and smell to behold. I didn’t stay long as the rats were getting curious! Adox Silvermax, Horizon S3, FX55 developer

In June I wrote “An Ode to a Wooden Box”, a blog post that subsequently became another zine which I gifted to my friends in the Twitter #believeinfilm community. I really enjoyed all my excursions with my various pinhole cameras over the course of 2021 using them for my “365”, in urban settings at home and whilst away from home, on the sea shore and in fact at pretty much every location I visited during the year. For obvious reasons my travel was severely restricted this year but I still managed to get quite a large number of films through my pinhole cameras over the twelve months.

June also saw the start of an ongoing project that came to dominate the blog in July. A series of “dry” posts chronicled my entry into the world of dry glass plates using both my large format Intrepid 5×4 camera and also my 5×4 pinhole cameras (a Titan and a Zero Image). Over the Winter months I paused the project but there are a supply of plates in my cellar awaiting the Spring when I will resume my experiments. A very niche subject in a relatively niche hobby I guess.

Zero Image pinhole camera and a J Lane dry glass plate 25/7/2021

July saw another essay, this time pondering on the longevity of digital images as a source of family memories. It was more than anything a plea to print out these precious memories rather than trust to the anonymity of a computer hard drive or the inimitable cloud drive where I suspect so many family memories fester unseen. My large format pinhole camera continued its travels on it’s “world” tour and the growing group of participants kept up a lively and often irreverent discussion online. Meanwhile, I continued to expose film in my pinhole cameras and develop an even fonder affection for the genre.

I am not a huge podcast follower but there are a small number that I tune into fairly regularly. One of these is The Lensless Podcast so you can imagine my pleasure at being invited to take part in an episode during July 2021. I was apprehensive to start but it turned out to be one of the highlights of my photographic year. The host, Andrew, coined the phrase “a photographic butterfly” when introducing me and that indeed does describe my current approach to the hobby as I have eagerly attempted a host of new challenges throughout the year and indeed have plans for more in 2022.

The image that launched Dave’s Pinhole Camera World Tour 2021
Olympus EE3, Rollei Blackbird rated at 64. Id11 (1+1) 10.5mins

As a further development on the panoramic theme, and not content with using the various panoramic cameras at my disposal, I chose a half-frame camera to create, in-camera, joiner-style panoramic such as the one above which uses six consecutive frames from an Olympus EE3. I also “discovered” Rollei Blackbird during 2021 which in the right situations proved to be a fabulous film.

Three vertoramas from the KMZ FT-2
ONDU 6×6 pinhole at Salford Quays

This was the second part of my 2021 retrospective, I’ve deliberately refrained from putting “nth of x” because I’ve not yet written subsequent parts … we will see when we get to the end how many parts there were!

Review of 2021 (part 1)

So, 2021, like 2020 before it, has faded away with the midnight chimes and 2022 lays ahead of us, virgin and unsullied with untold promise.  Or, less prosaically, it looms ahead with the sour taste of the past two years clinging to its coat tails and the promise of more to come. But, the purpose of this post isn’t to dwell on the trials of 2021, or for that matter 2020, but rather to celebrate the successes of the past 12 months and to publicly proclaim a positive and bright optimism about the coming year. Creatively at least!

Let’s start with something that I finished last year by talking about – my ongoing 365 Challenge , which

passed the 1,500th consecutive daily image in December and which now enters the fifth consecutive full calendar year.  I’ve written before about the benefits of embedding it in my daily routine and that I feel is one of the big secrets to the project’s longevity.  I’ve hopefully persuaded good friend John Martin (Temporal Light Images) to have a go this year too and so extend him my best wishes and good luck for the year ahead! It won’t be easy but it IS absolutely worthwhile my friend.

Looking at my blog archive I can see that In January 2021 I made no posts to the blog and just the one in the February.  What a post it was though, the portent for what would become one of the themes of 2021 – the panoramic format and in particular panoramic swing-lens film cameras. I started the year with the Horizon Kompakt, briefly dallied with a Horizon 202 before settling on the Horizon Perfect as my day-to-day panoramic camera, and for long stretches of the year as my go-to camera full stop.  A high point occurred in March 2021 when PanoPhotos on Twitter named me their first ever monthly Spotlight Photographer.

Of course, I didn’t restrict myself to just the Horizons. The built-like-a-tank KMZ FT-2 made its way into my hands in August and what an experience that was, as many 2021 blog posts will testify. A panoramic Holga pinhole camera found its way into my bag and towards the end of the year a 6×17 roll film pinhole camera was added to the arsenal. This latter (an RSS 617) is yet to feature strongly in the blog but is loaded and ready to go! It wasn’t just film panoramas though as during 2021 I managed to get my drone back in the air, albeit briefly, and also started to explore the sweep-panorama feature on my Fuji X-series digital cameras.

Ninety minutes in the life of the room where the boys play: RSS 6×17 pinhole, Fomapan 100 (rated at 400)
Eyemouth: RSS 6×17 pinhole, Ilford HP5+

Panoramic was definitely a big theme throughout 2021 and February saw the first of several articles talking about the format and sharing my suggestions for using the Horizon series of cameras, metering and even a video tutorial on loading film. My final purchase of 2021 was a Reality So Subtle (RSS) 6×17 pinhole camera which finally brought together the two themes of 2021 – panoramic and pinholes.

During the year I bought, used and in some cases sold on many pinhole cameras in formats from 35mm through 120, panoramic and 5×4. I ended 2021 with the Holga WPC mentioned above, the RSS 6×17, an ONDU 6×6 and two 5×4 pinhole cameras on the shelf. January 2022 will see the arrival of a new pinhole camera – so watch this space!

2021 was also the year when one of my large format pinhole cameras started a fascinating adventure – Dave’s Pinhole Camera World Tour 2021 was born following its loan to John. As the schedule stands I am due to see my camera again around June time this year, well over a year since it set out. I will blog about this more later in the year but I am hoping that one of the highlights of 2022 will be the culmination of the project in a zine.

Eyemouth: RSS 6×17 pinhole, Ilford HP5+

By the start of the second quarter of the year I had got back into the stride with my blog after a very diverse collection of posts in March I followed this up in April with a whole series of posts on the subject of semi-stand film development (My week semi-standing) which also coincided with my first ever FP4+ Party on Twitter. There was even a biographical essay on the subject of Me:Photographer in a rare moment of philosophical rumination on my photographic past.

Out and about in Elland on a foggy morning with one of my digital cameras
Lovely detail from this film and developer combination. Bronica ETRS, Y/G filter and a roll of Ilford FP4+ Semi-stand development in Rodinal (1+100)
Zero Image Pinhole at the beach – overlapping “joiner” panorama

This was the first part of my 2021 retrospective, I’ve deliberately refrained from putting “first of x” because I’ve not yet written subsequent parts … we will see when we get to the end how many parts there were!

What a difference a year makes

Back in 2017 I accepted an invitation to attempt a 365 Challenge for 2018. I signed-up for 365, consecutive, daily images each made on the day it represented. I started in late October 2017 to get into the habit before the start of the Challenge proper, and today I reached the culmination of four, complete, consecutive years of the Challenge. Thats over 1,500 consecutive daily images.

Each month’s images are collated into monthly mosaics and looking back at the consolidated mosaics for 2020 and 2021 I was struck by the difference.

A Year in Pictures – 2020. It’s a shame I didn’t put them in order!

I am habitually a black and white photographer. January and February of 2020 bear this out. However, in mid-March 2020 I started shielding due to a global pandemic and something strange happened. Colour started to predominate. It’s not until November that black and white starts to reassert itself as my main photographic preference. It’s probably no coincidence that it was around then that I started to get out more.

Let’s take a look at 2021 next.

Notice anything?

Around 90% of the 2021 images are in black and white suggesting that 2021 was more typical of my usual approach since returning to film as my main medium for making photographs. Looking back 2018 for example was very colourful and largely digitally captured. The mosaics for 2019, the year in which I moved from largely digital to largely film, is a 50/50 split.

What is also apparent from looking at the images themselves is that a larger proportion of the 2021 365 images were made using traditional film and chemicals. As I exposed well over 200 rolls of film and in excess of 100 sheets of 5×4 film and glass plates there were far more options available for daily film images. I also set up a permanent “scanning” station and was far more likely to develop films on the same day as they were exposed.

It will be interesting to look back in twelve months time and see how the make-up of my 365 changes as we move through the fifth complete year.

Trying Trichrome – a workflow

Disclaimer: this is a work-in-progress and not a definitive workflow. I’m sharing it as my reader has expressed an interest in what I’ve been doing with Trichrome post-processing. I’m currently using Photoshop 2022 but plan to explore this process in Affinity Photo too at some point. Please note I have assumed at least a basic knowledge of Photoshop in preparing these notes.

So, the first step is to scan the images and I will work on the basis that anyone considering this process already has scanning under control. These scanned triplets then need preparing and I do this in Photoshop.

We now have a file containing the three different images, each with the filter colour displayed as part of the layers name. This will be very handy in the next stage but first we need to align the images so they match up properly and, optionally, trim off any excess around the edges.

Having got the three negatives aligned and in register we come to the bit where the magic happens. Firstly though, it is wise to double check that the file is in RGB mode at this stage (Image > Mode > RGB).

If I’ve copied this down properly from my notes you should now have a basic colour image on your screen, a negative or a positive depending on whether you inverted the black and white layers earlier. From here it business as usual as you tweak the image to your taste. For me I am currently choosing to leave myself with a colour negative which I import into Lightroom in order to convert it with Negative Lab Pro (NLP). In the example below, the left hand image was a colour negative that I inverted in Photoshop and tweaked using colour balance etcetera. The right hand image was imported as a colour negative into Lightroom and put through NLP without any further adjustments. Both versions have their merits of course.

Take One
Take Two

Whether you prefer one version or another is of course purely a personal choice and partly dependent on your aims. If your aim is to get as close to a natural colour image as possible then you will post-process appropriately and likewise if the lysergic aesthetic appeals you will post-process accordingly. It’s good to know there are choices.

I’m as ready as I’m going to be for some “serious” work now

So, there you have it. An approach to creating Trichrome images from three black and white negatives. Note my previous disclaimer though; this is a work in progress and not a definitive workflow. As and when I make further progress or add refinements I will share them on the blog.

Trying Trichrome – the test roll

I have already shared my initial thoughts on exposing film with the intention of creating my first Trichrome images – colour images from black and white negatives. I’ve also shared the negatives and camera settings. The Twitter-verse already knows the test run was successful so I thought today I’d talk about the part of the process that I wasn’t looking forward to – the computer bit. I’m no technophobe, nor am I a Luddite, I simply prefer to be outside after a working lifetime in offices stuck staring at a computer monitor.

I started as we all do these days by scouring the interweb for articles and video tutorials and whilst I sought enlightenment, I quickly became confused. Some pieces I read/watched were contradictory, others only half-explained things or explained them in a very confusing manner. Some were using older versions of Photoshop and some made assumptions about the readers existing PS skills and knowledge. After an hour or so of tinkering I suddenly, and to my bewilderment, found myself with a coloured image on the screen, two A4 pages of scribbles and a very confused look on my face. Twenty minutes later I had three more coloured images, none produced in the same way as the first, and, more encouragingly, the start of a proper set of notes. Success of sorts and so I shared them on Twitter (see below); although I was confident that I could improve on them I’ve been sharing the experiment and it seemed only right to recognise the moment.

Take One and time for tea

It was however time for tea. And I was cooking!

Suitably refreshed, I returned to the computer and reviewed what I’d done earlier. I then went back and methodically reprocessed each of the four sets of negatives, refining my notes as I went and by the end of this had four far better-looking images and a set of scribbles outlining a workflow I could repeat. Most importantly I knew what I’d done to achieve the second set of four images.

Take Two: Spot the difference!

I will share the workflow in the next post (to be published within the hour!) but bear in mind that whilst it works this is a work-in-progress and I will be refining it as I learn more. I will also be investigating alternative methods which may simplify the process too. My current approach creates a colour negative initially although it is possible to create a colour positive directly and I will share that step in my walk through too.

I like the results I got from this methodology today, culminating in a colour negative so will stick with the additional steps for now.

Take Two: Lysergic Skies

In addition, I’ve been using Photoshop, yet I distinctly remember Andrew (remember him?) saying he uses Affinity Photo which apparently offers a simpler workflow. I shall be swapping notes with Andrew before the #trichromeparty for sure. In fact, he currently has one set of my RGB negatives to play with so we can compare notes. There’s lots to learn and discover yet clearly!

Trying Trichrome – the negatives

This is the first of three posts being posted over the next hour and simply records the four sets of negatives and the camera settings employed and are being shared in order to give the reader a full understanding of what my process was. The second of today’s posts talks about my experiences with the computer processing side of things and the third contains my full workflow as of today.

Ready for composition one and the first set of three negatives

I used a single roll of Fomapan 400, exposed at box speed and a tripod-mounted Bronica SQ-A. I metered with a Polaris handheld meter. The three filters, red/green/blue, were from a set of budget filters. For each of the four compositions I exposed the negatives in the sequence Red, Green, Blue or RGB as I felt that a consistent workflow would lead to less confusion. The roll was “scanned” using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera and a Nikkor 60mm micro lens with an appropriate adapter.

I kept the aperture consistent within each set and varied the shutter speed to adjust for the different filter factors. Whilst testing beforehand suggested the green was around +2 or +2.5 I think that in future I will simply use a factor of +3 for each filter as my starting point. With a base exposure of 1/60th sec I was using shutter speeds of 1/8th or 1/15th as appropriate. A cable release completed the set-up.

The film was developed for thirteen minutes in Ilford ID11(1+1) at twenty degrees using my normal process so everything was kept as normal as possible to reduce the chances of processing variation.

Trying Trichrome – the testing!

Yesterday’s snow took us by surprise here, it wasn’t forecast for our part of the country and in any event sheltered by the Pennines as we are we don’t usually get too much of the white stuff. Nevertheless, after breakfast this morning I headed into my backyard for the first part of my Trichrome project – the test run in the field (or backyard in my case) and capturing the images.

I started by using the light meter on my phone to check the filter factors of the red, green and blue (RGB) filters I had purchased especially for this test. These suggested that the relevant factors were three for red and blue and two for the green; in the ballpark of where I’d expected them although I decided to do the second of todays four sets at R3, G3 and B3 rather than 323.

I set up three compositions. One with some colourful objects I found in the snow and I photographed this six times, two sets of three images, in order to have a reference for the green filter as discussed above.

Ready, steady, test!

I had the Bronica SQ-A setup on a sturdy tripod and fitted with a cable release. Once the composition had been made and the lens focused I touched nothing apart from the cable release and the wind-on lever. My mind thinks of these colours as RGB so it made sense to make the first exposure with the red filter, the second with the green and the third with the blue. Your mileage may differ but the key thing to remember here is that whilst red and blue have the same filter factor the green I was using has a different filter factor (probably – this test will confirm). I took all three exposures within a few seconds of each other, just enough time to carefully change the filters over without bumping the camera, and altered the shutter speed to adjust the exposure for the different filters, leaving the aperture unchanged.

This first composition was photographed twice. The second time I treated all three filters as if they had a filter factor of three (see above). However, I reverted to 323 for the second half of this roll of Fomapan 400.

Whilst the first composition was a still life and evenly lit the second was a wider scene encompassing more of the garden and a little of the sky too. The final set of three was very similar to the second composition but included far more of the sky in the frame.

I wasn’t expecting any issues with taking the images, I’m very familiar with my gear, I’d prepared myself beforehand and had the filters laid out ready to use. I’d considered the filter factors for these new filters and I’d dug out the sturdiest tripod I own so knew nothing would move. A cable release ensured no camera shake and a light reading with my Polaris meter would give the best chance of properly exposed negatives. Being organised and knowing up front what I was going to do helped with a smooth session in the backyard.

Next job is to develop the film, scan the sets of negatives and carefully name the files to incorporate red, blue or green as appropriate in the file name. All being well I will be in a position to try assembling the Trichrome on the computer tomorrow evening or possibly tonight if other things don’t get in the way!

Keep watching this space!

Trying Trichrome

Oh I do like an alliterative title!

If there is something that many film photographers have in common it’s their willingness to try things “because they can” even if there are far simpler ways of achieving results. My glass plate project is probably a good example of doing things the hard way (currently on hold until the Spring incidentally). Indeed, it could be argued that film photography as a whole fits this theme given how easy digital photography can be. But, I digress (not for the first time).

So, when someone (I’m looking at you @apkeedle) starts posting colour images created from black and white film negatives my interest is piqued. Colour from FP4! When I saw that it involves using the computer however I mentally consigned it to the “follow with interest but don’t get involved” list. Which is where it has firmly stayed for many months as I’ve enjoyed the images I’ve been seeing, particularly from Andrew, and have been content to consume rather than produce.

Until.

Until Andrew (yes, still looking at you Mr K) suggested a Trichrome Party on Twitter and in a moment of weakness I found myself saying “of course I’ll have a go”. I dug out filters, ordered stepping rings and even adapted my Titan 5×4 pinhole camera to accept filters. I then had the bright idea of infrared trichomes too. Ooh, Trichrome pinhole infrared….

The thinking about it has been fun. But now comes the moment when I need to properly understand what is actually involved prior to having a go myself.

So, this post is simply a marker in the sand, a note of intent if you will. The plan is to spend this evening binge watching/reading everything I can find on the subject and then tomorrow I will load a roll of 120 into the Bronica SQ-A and head into the backyard for the test run.

In the meantime here is the image that “started” it all for me from the aforementioned Andrew Keedle who retains copyright and all the glory emanating from this fabulous 7×17 ULF masterpiece …