Street Life

“I play the street life
Because there’s no place I can go
Street life, it’s the only way I know
Street life”

Street Life: Crusaders (1979)

I’m a child of the fifties so my teenage years spanned the 1970s and my musical tastes, whilst wide, tend to coalesce around music from that decade. I’ve always enjoyed this song, no more so than when I saw the Cissy Stone Band performing it live at The Oasis Leisure Centre, Swindon. These days you will often find me walking the streets where I live, photographing the urban environment, this is my street life and one of my happy places. But other people walk the streets too and whilst I normally rise early to avoid them there are occasions when I cannot.


Street photography is a genre that, for the most part, I enjoy looking at. It’s a genre though that I rarely work in myself. However, two unrelated circumstances combined to set me out with camera in hand recently on a mission to “shoot some street”. The first was banally domestic, the wife wanted to visit the open market in Huddersfield, whilst the second was a discussion I had with a couple of friends (hereafter known as the BOFs) about zone focusing. One of the things we discussed was using zone focus on the street for candid photography.

Let’s start with a definition of street photography: a genre of photography that records everyday life in a public place. I say “a” definition because there are plenty but this one will do for our needs I think.

For my Saturday morning outing I took the Canon VT paired with a 35mm Jupiter 12 lens. A wide lens to be sure but one I’m comfortable with in general terms. How I’d fare using it for “street” was another story although I have used my digital Fuji X100T with its 35mm equivalent lens for street, albeit in tourist hotspots like London. I loaded the Canon with a roll of Fomapan 200, a film I’m growing to like immensely in 35mm. A couple of spare rolls in my pocket and I was ready.

Ready for a Full English – well you can’t photograph on an empty stomach!

Café Culture: and in two of the three images I’ve been spotted!

I said earlier that “for the most part” I enjoy looking at street photography. I should expand on that a little as it influences both how I shoot and how I edit my images. I do not enjoy looking at images that are exploitative or intended to mock the individual. When making candid images of strangers on the street I do feel we have a responsibility to these unknown people not to make them look foolish, not to laugh at or encourage others to laugh or mock and certainly not to take advantage of their circumstances simply for a picture. Always treat others as you’d like to be treated yourselves is a very good maxim by which to guide the photographer’s eye I think.

On the full negative there is a lady sat facing the couple on the left of the frame. She balances the composition as she is looking into the frame and cropping her out does weaken it in my eyes. However, I’ve inadvertently caught her with an “unfortunate” expression on her face and by my own standards therefore it’s either crop or ditch the image.

I do take this responsibility seriously, choosing not to make some photographs and also when editing later I remove any negatives where I feel my standards would be compromised if I used the image. At the making and editing stages I apply the same basic principles. My maxim … if in doubt ditch it.

The original is a horizontal image but the inclusion of a child to the right of the frame meant that I cropped it vertically as shown; capturing identifiable images of children is another red line for me – a definite no.
Following the advice to find a spot and wait … not sure these are overly interesting but they fulfil the brief of capturing everyday life in a public place
I like images which invite the viewer to construct a story around what they are looking at

For this outing there was a motive beyond simply making some candid photographs. There was a desire to try a different technique and add to my store of knowledge and tool kit of techniques. In our discussions one of the BOFs had drawn our attention to a YouTube video in which the topic of the “sunny 16” approach to metering was discussed. It was a rare example of someone using the system and explaining what aperture they were setting based on what they, and the viewer, were actually looking at. Rather than rely on dry written descriptions the author, Roger Lowe, was showing and telling (link at the foot of the page). It’s one of the best explanations of the “sunny 16” and most importantly how to use it that I’ve seen and inspired me to actively use it on Saturday. I’ve used it at need in the past but these days with a meter on my smartphone I rarely need to call upon the technique.

Tricky, rather harsh, light but the “sunny 16” proved up to the task – of course it’s all down to reading the light correctly, remember the photographer makes the image not a technique or “rule”
I under exposed this by around one perhaps two stops … printable in the darkroom and recoverable as a digital scan
Very tricky as the windows appear dark but it’s the reflection you are photographing. I looked at the light on the subject (not the reflection) and opened by one or two stops to photograph the reflection. The latitude of the film certainly helped – for this one the door is partially blown but I’ve included it here to illustrate the point

Another aspect the BOFs discussed was zone focusing, something all three of us do from time to time but not something I’d typically use for urban photography. When making candid photographs though there is not always time to manually focus before the opportunity slips away or before the subject spots you and the moment is lost. Note, manually focus, very few of my film cameras have auto-focus and with the rangefinders I typically use manual focus is absolutely the order of the day.

Plenty of time to actually focus manually for these subjects

So, serendipity at play again. I had the opportunity courtesy of the wife’s shopping trip, the inspiration through the BOFs conversation and the example of watching Roger Lowe’s practical demonstration. All I needed to do was put it into practice.

Easier said than done!

With Fomapan 200 I have been slightly over-exposing the film by rating it at ISO 160. For the “sunny 16” method I need therefore to set a shutter speed of 1/160th or as near as practical. I plumped for 1/125th. For the most part this was the shutter speed I used all day although in some instances I dropped it to 1/60th rather than open the lens right up. One thing that I was concerned about was how slow this shutter speed was, easily enough to handhold and get sharp images but many of my subjects would be moving and up close. I’d normally have opted for around 1/500th second and so with hindsight I was wondering if I should have loaded a faster film. Next time I probably will because I have lost a few frames to motion blur but on the whole I “got away” with 1/125th on the day.

With the ISO baked-in due to the film stock I had loaded and the shutter speed pre-determined my only way to control exposure was via the aperture ring. It was here that I almost regretted my lens choice as the aperture ring on the Jupiter 12 sits inside the lens barrel rather than around it as is more normal. It’s slightly less practical and you can’t change aperture without looking into the lens barrel. With the Canon 50mm lens that I usually use the aperture ring is located around the barrel and with gentle click stops I don’t need to remove the camera from my eye to change aperture (so long as I know what aperture it’s currently on).

That aside however, my main concern was focusing. It’s a comfort thing I guess but I’m used to focusing manually and, allowing for the aperture, controlling what is in focus and what is not. A wide angled lens makes this slightly less problematic but nevertheless after two rolls of zone-focused street photography I remained concerned about focus until I got the negatives on a light box.

One roll of the two, both look similar and my fears about focus and exposure were out to rest once the negatives were out of the tank.

There we have it. Two rolls of “street”, both zone-focused and “sunny 16’d” for the most part. I found the hardest part was deciding upon exposure but this was partly a comfort thing. My cold-shoe meter was, reluctantly, left at home and I only used the phone metering app a handful of times to double-check my decisions. Each time I went with my “sunny 16” estimate. Zone focusing was less of a concern, although I was nervy about subjects being in focus I have used zone focusing a lot recently and understanding the characteristics of the Jupiter 12 lens also helped. Ironically, the thing I worried about most was the thing I knew best!

Sometimes a person in the right spot just makes the image … it’s not an image of them but the image is weaker without their presence
Again, a small element but the people strengthen the image

During this excursion I went wide and got in closer than I’ve typically done in the past. Previously people would be an incidental part of the image but I set out today to make them the subject.

I was pleased with this on two counts. Firstly it’s an interesting image that sets the scene and shows how busy the market was. Secondly, the two techniques of zone focusing and “sunny 16” combined to create this image … had I stopped to focus/meter then I’d have missed the opportunity
One of my favourites from the trip. Plenty of interest, layers of depth to the image too. From a technical aspect, sharp and well-exposed.

Did I succeed? You be the judge of that and I’d welcome any advice or guidance in the comments section below.

LINK to the “sunny 16” video

May #CameraChallenge

From time to time Jason Avery (@_JasonAvery) runs camera challenges on Twitter. Not exclusively film they are designed to get people communicating and trying things outside their normal sphere of photographic operation. Whilst I don’t participate in all of them I do like to get involved from time to time. The May theme was architecture and I thought I’d have a bash.

Why not let Jason explain the challenge?

noun: architecture

… the art or practice of designing and constructing buildings.

I’m glad I checked … it means that the absence of any grand old buildings doesn’t preclude Elland from the challenge. Buildings it is then!

Week One

The first challenge for me was choosing what to use. I prefer to pick a single camera for these challenges. However …

It started so well …

So, week one, I’m using the Holga 120 and black and white film. I’ve a selection of emulsions, different speeds; as aperture and shutter speed are basically set in stone (or plastic) the only variable I can control is the film speed.

Holga 120N sporting its go-faster black gaffer tape, I also used the Holga 120 GCFN similarly taped up

My subject matter is constrained by how far I can wander from home this week. At present it looks like I’m going to be stoating about my local patch, which is not a bad thing as it will force me to look at my regular haunts a little differently. I loaded the first roll of film on the 8th, Kentmere 400, when it was rather overcast and raining. I only managed four frames however so we started Tuesday the 9th with 400 film loaded and bright sunshine. It wouldn’t normally matter, I’d just put the camera to one side and use a different camera with slower film usually, but this is #CameraChallenge and whilst I’m happy to vary film stock I do try to stick to one camera throughout, for good or bad!

Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible so I did end up using a few different pieces of kit.

Including the “pano” function on my phone!

I managed a handful of wanders over the week. Whilst I started by looking at architecture/buildings fairly widely I soon found myself drawn to the Openreach facility at Elland Exchange (above) and by the end of the week it was the only building I was photographing which is part of the reason why multiple cameras came into use.

My idea of architecture

Week Two

Strictly speaking this week was set aside for developing films and editing images. I followed my usual practice of developing films on a daily basis (I dislike a backlog) so there wasn’t a lot to do this week apart from identify those that I’d be sharing in week three and working on this blog post.

In total I managed to get out on four of the allotted nine days that comprised “week” one. A total of six rolls of 120 film were consumed by the plastic fantastic which comprised four different emulsions. I also put a roll of 35mm film through the Nikon F801 and as we’ve seen used my phone on a couple of occasions. I used a variety of developers dependent on the film stock and followed my usual processes throughout.

I also made it into the darkroom during week two – scan of darkroom contact print

Week Three

Now, the theme for the week was architecture, but this is me and I’m a photographer first and foremost, capturing what I see and reacting to light and place. So, there are images on each roll that have nothing to do with the theme. I also interpreted the theme fairly loosely, the word “buildings” was my watch word you may recall from earlier in this post. As I’ve already mentioned by the end of the week I’d settled on one building.

Kentmere 400 – all images Holga 120 unless stated

The image above, from the first roll, is a case in point. An architect would have designed the original buildings but time and usage has shaped how these look today. The past is also present as illustrated in this image by the faded sign on the side of what is now a gents hairdressers. One day I will investigate that one more fully. The building below, from my second roll, is all that remains of an entire street of houses at the top of possibly the oldest lane in Elland.

Westgate, top of Gog Hill (Cinestill Double X)
Maisonettes, late 1960s – early 1970s (Cinestill Double X)
Openreach facility, Elland – Kentmere 400
Nikon F801
Take six negatives … subtly different compositions by tweaking how they are arranged (Nikon F801)

So, there you have it, my May Challenge in one post. There are other images from the first week which may well see the light of day but in the meantime thanks again to Jason for organising everything and thanks to those who took part and are now just about to share the fruits of their labours.

Seeing the Ful picture

No, not a typo!

The #believeinfilm community on Twitter is a constant source of support, encouragement and inspiration. Recently a few folk within the community have been exploring the joys of the Enigma Ful-Vue (see … not a typo!). Neil T (@funkyuk) very kindly sent me a recent acquisition of his as a gift and within a few hours of it arriving I knew I would have to try and put a film through it … asap!

The camera has a fixed shutter speed of around 1/100th sec assuming it’s working of course and a fixed aperture of f11 or thereabouts. A light reading showed that a slower film was needed, ideally ISO 50. I was straight down into my cellar and in my box of oddments found an expired roll of Ilford PanF+ in the requisite 120 format. Bingo! Combine the film with Rodinal (1+50) and I would be giving myself the best chance of success.

Assuming the camera worked!

I checked through the little red window on the back to ensure no film already loaded; there wasn’t, or if there was it was fully wound on. Using the knob on the side I unlocked the film transport system and looked to slide it out of the camera body. It wouldn’t budge, like a recalcitrant biscuit tin lid it was having none of it. Ten minutes of gentle coaxing saw very little movement but eventually it did slide out. Begrudgingly.

Loading was straightforward after that and I was soon in the back yard for the big test. Of course, having made my 12 snaps I had to immediately develop the film and with the time fast approaching for me to start preparing the family’s evening meal I was hard pressed to finish in time. But finish on time I did and as I started peeling and dicing onions I had the satisfaction of having seen a roll of 12 good looking negatives hanging to dry.

So, the next job is to give the Ful-Vue a good clean and then take it for another spin!

Dry: the 2023 Update

This one is especially for Dean who very kindly enquired as to whether there would be an update on my “Dry” adventures.

My experiments with dry glass plates began in 2021 and whilst I did expose a few plates in 2022 I didn’t post about it at the time. One of the last things I commented upon in my series of posts in 2021 was how “dry plate season” in the UK could be said to extend from March to September. Having missed the bluebells this year due to poor diary management I was determined not to miss the, admittedly larger, window of opportunity for dry glass plates.

First off was a trip into Halifax with the Chroma Snapshot 5×4 camera and a bag of film, paper and two glass plates. I noticed the expiry date was March 2023 but was hopeful that there would be plenty of latitude especially as I was only seven weeks past the date. I must go and check the dates on the other twenty plates whilst I remember!

With an ISO of just two I knew I’d need a tripod so I followed my usual pattern. Find the composition, tweak it and then expose a sheet of film. Without moving the camera I then popped in the plate holder and photographed the same scene with the dry glass plate.

Chroma Snapshot | 65mm lens | f32 | 60 seconds

The first composition (above) required an exposure time of sixty seconds and as can be seen there appears to be a light leak to the right of the plate which runs top to bottom. I suspect that some stray light entered through the side of the holder during the sixty seconds the dark slide was out. An easy enough thing to remedy for the future by shielding the holder during the exposure. Light leak aside I was very pleased with how this one turned out.

Development of both these plates was using the tried and tested routine in the darkroom that I developed back in 2021. Tray development in HC-110 (1+31) for five minutes followed by stop and a four minute fix before washing. I’m lucky that I can create a workable darkroom space in a few minutes but whilst stood there I did wonder if I could tank process the plates using the Stearman 5×4 tank I develop sheet film in.

Just about to go into the wash … these plates are things of beauty in their own right (excuse the pink porcelain)
Chroma Snapshot | 65mm lens | f32 | 16 seconds

I came away from the trip with two exposed plates which both produced lovely images as you’ve seen. There were two more plates left in the box and I vowed to use those this week too. My opportunity came two days later.

The location for the second pair of dry glass plates

I took my tripod, the Chroma Snapshot and the final two dry glass plates from the box and headed to a location I’ve photographed many times as it’s on one of my regular walking routes. Tripod up, camera in place, composition sorted, exposure checked and dialled in … where the heck is the cable release? Sixty second exposure, no cable release and no T-mode on the lens. I swore quietly. And held my breath for sixty seconds as I held the lens open in bulb mode.

Back home it was time to develop the two plates. I was using a new double plate holder this time, one I bought with adapters for developing tintypes, and included with the holder were two plate holders for use in the Stearman 5×4 tank. It was therefore time to try tank development. I figured that as the plates were potentially spoilt by my lack of a cable release then this was a perfect opportunity to try a different way of developing.

One of my aims back in 2021 was to produce a standard development process that could be repeated and thus ensure greater consistency and a greater chance of success for each plate. I am not a fan of development-by-inspection but it came in useful when I was first experimenting and after some trial and error I came to use a fixed five minutes immersion in HC-110 for tray development. It was logical therefore to use this as a starting point for tank development and to also use the same agitation regime (initial thirty seconds then ten seconds every minute). The plate holders were easy to load and sat nice and snug in the Stearman tank. I was then able to turn the lights on and take the plates downstairs to develop in the comfort of the kitchen.

Long story, short. It was a success, I followed my usual tank processing workflow including washing and brought the processed plates back up to the bathroom for drying. I made one small change and substituted water for the usual acidic stop bath but otherwise proceeded as if it were two sheets of Fomapan rather than two glass plates. A quick look with a loupe suggested that the dreaded camera movement had been avoided too so I was a happy boy. Not only could I develop two plates at a time in the tank but I now had two working dry glass plate holders to double my productivity in the field.

Contact print hanging to dry

The ultimate aim for me is to print some of my negatives in the darkroom and I felt a good place to start would be to contact print a couple of the glass plates onto photographic paper. I was well pleased with the outcome (above) and will look now to create a 10×8” print with the antiquated enlarger that occupies one corner of my darkroom. More on that in due course.

Digitally scanned: Chroma Snapshot | 65mm lens | f16 | 20 seconds
Digitally scanned: Chroma Snapshot | 65mm lens | f32| 60 seconds

So, there you have it, an update on my dry glass plate adventures. I’ve four more plates loaded ready to go so watch this space!

Reflecting: the Holga interlude

It was only a matter of time before I took the Holga toy camera along to sample the delights of the restaurant windows. Here’s the four frames of Ilford Delta 100 that I exposed on my way past.

Head of the Table
Double Trouble
Take a Seat

There we go. Four images exposed and shared without any unnecessary words!


I wrote recently about my ongoing exploration of the work of Saul Leiter (1923-2013). In terms of my own photography I’ve been working on images taken through glass or more precisely, compositions whereby the reflections in the glass are an integral part of the image. I’ve incorporated myself in many of these too thus adding reflection selfies to the mix. One location has been a particularly fruitful source of images.

There are actually three large windows to play with
Scan of darkroom print

35mm Lucky Dip – Kodak ProImage 100

The only colour roll in the original 35mm Lucky Dip has finally made its way back home to Elland. I keep notes on each roll of film I expose and this one is 2023/107, the one hundred and seventh roll of 2023. It’s also been given a title in my notebook – the strolling with Saul roll.

All images: Leica IIIf, Elmar 50mm lens and Kodak ProImage 100

Whilst early work from Saul Leiter is in black and white he is most famous for colour work, made at a time when colour photography was looked down upon in some quarters as inferior to black and white. Indeed, Leiter is often cited as a pioneer of colour photography although he himself simply shrugged and said that he just liked colour.

Much of his colour work was created on transparency, otherwise known as slide, film. I rarely use colour these days and cannot remember the last time I used a roll of colour transparency film. However, if I was to truly embrace the aesthetic I felt I needed to also embrace colour film and as this roll came up in my lucky dip at the same time as I was reading a book on Leiter’s work it seemed serendipitous at the very least.

Once seen you won’t un-see the typo!
Lovely saturated reds from the film
I like the neutral colour tones … this was with the sun in front of the camera albeit not in the frame

Now, I was using a fresh roll of film but Leiter regularly used expired film and seemed to relish the colour casts and imperfections, or at least the unpredictable nature, of the film. I have taken the liberty therefore of tweaking a few of the images here to shift colours as an homage to his style. Not all though, I will need to seek out some expired colour film for that purpose.

Colours tweaked to add a colour shift and desaturate things slightly

Incidentally, the film was developed and scanned for me by the team at Analogue Wonderland. I have tweaked them slightly to my taste, or to shift colours as mentioned above, but in reality the scans were just fine exactly as they arrived in my electronic mailbox.

The film scanned very nicely

Would I use this film again? Well the reality is that I have two rolls left so I will be using it. However, I’m very happy to do so though as I was well pleased with what I got from this roll. Who knows, I might manage a couple more rolls before the month is out!


This mini-project sort of crept up on me. I generally try to eliminate cars from images unless they are the subject. Sometimes though I unavoidably end up with a bit of the vehicle poking in from the edge of the frame. Initially I found this frustrating but over time I started to actively look for compositions.

Two for the price of one
The cat’s peeking too!
and finally … not so much peeking but hiding!

Lucky Dip #2

Following on from the first Lucky Dip (colour film not back from the lab yet!) I sent one of the Grandsons down to select two films for me from the odds-n-sods box to use that day. He returned with two rolls of Kodak P3200, recently expired, but two the same!

It was the first sunny weekend of the year too … a fast film wouldn’t have been my first choice. However, I picked up the Nikon F801, a rather dubious-quality 70-210 zoom lens and headed into the garden. Wide open at f4/f5.6, even rated at 1600 I was getting 1/4000th and 1/8000th regularly. Time for some shallow focus telephoto photography using the various plants in flower and trees in blossom.