I’ve been playing with rangefinder cameras recently, a topic I will return to in future posts. On Monday I needed to nip out to the post office to post a parcel and as the sun was tentatively shining I popped a camera in my pocket. With my chore complete, and with the sun still flitting in and out, I took myself for a twenty minute wander around the bottom end of town. As my regular reader will know, this activity has recently been christened “stoating”, hence the title for this piece.
My way of choosing a camera for an impromptu wander hasn’t changed in years; I pick up the nearest camera that has either a fully charged battery or a roll of film loaded. This time it was a Zorki 4K, fitted with a Jupiter 8 50mm lens and an orange filter, loaded with Ilford HP5+. I set the lens to f11, set the infinity mark to f11 and popped a light meter in the cold shoe and headed off.
I’ve used the orange filter a lot with this lens recently and have very much enjoyed the results. The images, whether on film or digital with the lens on a Fujifilm X-Pro1, have a distinct character that works well for my style of urban imagery. The orange filter helps tweak a bit more detail and out of our dull, winter skies and the combination of the two has been very pleasing.
So, there you have it. The fruits of a quick stoat about with a Zorki 4K, the Jupiter 8 lens and an orange filter. Add a roll of Ilford HP5+ and jobs a good ‘un!
Next up will be some more Chroma Double Glass imagery … but I need to get that written up first!
Following on from an earlier post, I’ve had another play with the Chroma Double Glass lens and thought I’d share a few more images. I will do a “proper” review at some point but to be fair, images speak louder than words when considering a lens, especially a fixed focus one such as this.
Every now and then one makes an exposure and immediately knows, or perhaps more accurately, feels, that it will be a good image. As a film photographer there isn’t the immediate validation of a preview on the LCD screen of course, it’s definitely more of a “feeling”. As an aside, I’ve not always found the LCD preview to be helpful; sometimes it convinces me that it’s a rubbish picture and so I move on disappointed and demotivated. You could argue that it’s a bonus when you get the file on a larger screen and see it’s a keeper after all but to my way of thinking the damage was done when the flow was interrupted in the field. But, once again, I digress.
In Chester recently I made an image in a churchyard of a man, sat on a bench feeding the birds, seemingly enveloped by trees. He is a tiny but important part of the scene. I raised the camera to my eye, quickly focused and made two exposures. I quietly walked on and “knew” it was a keeper.
Fast forward three days and I’m just taking the film from the developing reel to hang it to dry and I can see instantly that the first half of the roll is badly under exposed. I instantly suspect user-error. I tend to take a meter reading periodically when out on the streets, tweaking it as required using experience as a guide. I only re-meter when the scene or lighting changes noticeably, I’d clearly got this base reading wrong as I know that the exposures were tweaked and the degree of under-exposure is consistent from frame to frame across the first half of that roll.
If that wasn’t enough, the first part of the roll, including the under-exposed churchyard images, had suffered from light-piping. Again user error (I’d had a bad hour in Chester it seems) as I’d forgotten the requirement to load that film stock in subdued light.
But, these are part and parcel of the film photographer’s daily lot and que sera sera as Doris Day sang. You might argue that had I been able to view it on an LCD screen I’d have noticed and possibly had the chance to try again and you’d be correct. But that’s not an argument in my book for going back to digital. I am a film photographer in part because it isn’t as easy. There are fewer failsafes and checkpoints. Indeed, it’s the absence of the ability to check, review and reconsider that makes photography on the street with a film camera such a fluid experience.
And I’m not alone in this belief. I was watching a video on YouTube recently from Jeff Ascough, a professional photographer with a passion for street photography. In his words, looking at the screen after every shot is a “really, really bad thing” as it takes your eye away from the scene and down to the back of your camera. This breaks the visual flow and you are likely to miss other opportunities whilst “chimping”. For the record, Ascough uses Leica digital cameras and so his views aren’t based on it being Hobson’s Choice.
Realising that I’d made an error was disappointing, but it’s part of the process and proves we are human I guess. I simply didn’t copy the first half of that roll when I was digitising the negatives with my digital camera later that evening and moved on.
Now, I recently replaced my ancient computer and have bit by bit been installing software and peripherals. It takes me weeks as it’s not a chore I enjoy. Fast forward four days from developing that fateful roll of film and I’m sat in my study installing scanner software. I had just installed the Plustek OpticFilm 8100 35mm scanner and needing to test it I took out a strip of negatives which coincidentally included the “lost” churchyard image.
The scanner functioned as expected, saved the scans to Dropbox as instructed and was clearly functioning as expected so I moved on to the next job on the list. Later that evening though I remembered the churchyard image that I’d scanned and downloaded it to my iPad for a better look.
I was not expecting to be able to create a usable image but was curious as to what could be done.
I needed to crop out the effects of the light-piping, evident only across the foreground of the image and the sprocket holes fortunately – my first bit of luck with this roll. I then proceeded to apply global and local adjustments to the image to tease out the best from the scene that I could (see below). Of course, I was doing this in Snapseed on my tablet rather than in Photoshop on the computer but remember I habitually work this way as I avoid the computer as much as possible. Half a dozen steps is my norm, this one has eleven!
I rarely spend more than a few minutes with an image on the tablet. If I wanted to spend hours on individual images I know from experience that the computer is far easier to use so I deliberately restrict post processing to a few minutes. A gentle toning was applied followed by some light dodging and burning before adding a border and clicking “save”.
I was happy with the result. It’s not exactly as I’d envisaged being darker and moodier and of course has had to be salvaged as it were but it’s still a pleasing result. I hope both my readers enjoy this final image too.
Last time out I talked about Chroma Cameras and my recent purchases. One item I mentioned was the Chroma Double Glass, a double coated glass optic with two elements weighing virtually nothing (well, 16 grams to be exact). I’ve had it on the Zorki 4 twice this week and whilst that’s not long enough for a considered review I thought I’d share some images from today’s roll.
So, there we are. A very enjoyable couple of outings, I’m going to have fun with this lens.
It goes back to January 2022. First it was the Cube, a diminutive 35mm pinhole camera giving square images. Great fun, pocketable in even a small pocket, truly take anywhere.
I was fine for a few months after this purchase, but without realising it the seeds of what would be several early 2023 purchases had been sown. But before we get there we need to stop off in late 2022.
Egged on by good friend Andy, aided and abetted by John, I started to look at the Chroma Snapshot on Steve’s website. I had a 65mm lens in the cupboard which I couldn’t use on my Intrepid 5×4 but everything I was reading both on Steve’s website and in messages from John and Andy suggested it would work fine on a Snapshot. But I stayed strong and resisted the siren calls.
Until October 2022 when the postman delivered a parcel from Wales. Inside was a Chroma Snapshot. Andy’s Snapshot. I was going to be testing the theory that this thus far unused lens was usable with the Snapshot. I tested it wide open at f5.6, at f8 and f11 then finally at f32. A tiny, tiny amount of vignetting at f5.6 but less to be honest than I usually add myself. It was more than usable so the following day I was out with camera, four sheets of film and no tripod.
That same day I was back on Steve’s website. Ensnared. I messaged Andy to say I had exposed 29 sheets of film and my order was in at Chroma Towers.
To be fair it’s a purchase I do not regret.
Which brings us to February 2023. Steve had been talking on social media about a new product. He had also been sharing images created by himself and others using this diminutive lens.
That’s a shame. I have no suitable cameras to use the lens on. I could buy an adapter to use it on my digital camera but where was the fun in that? Anyway, there was a Zorki 4 for sale online for £30 and that would take the Chroma Double Glass …
You’ve guessed it. Two orders made on the same day.
Something I hadn’t considered. I loved using the Zorki 4, not just with the lovely Double Glass optic but with the 50mm Jupiter 8 lens that came with the camera. I had fallen for the charms of the classic rangefinder experience.
Which then opened up another rabbit hole …
More of which on another day. Suffice to say Steve has caused me to buy not just two Chroma cameras, but a Zorki 4, two Zorki 4Ks and a FED 4.
I blame Steve. 😎
For the record, Steve is a fabulous bloke who really cares about his customers. He also has a sense of humour – otherwise I wouldn’t have penned this tongue-in-cheek piece. I’m watching his website regularly to keep up with what he’s adding to his repertoire. I’ve no doubt I will be spending more with Chroma Cameras before the year is out!
So, back to last Sunday morning and the tale of two cameras. In part 1 as well as talking broadly about the route I took I also shared some images from the Fuji. This time it’s the turn of the camera in my other pocket, the Zorki 4, a relatively recent addition to the kit bag – or indeed to the pocket!
I still had the Chroma Double Glass* lens attached from the previous day’s walk and was happy to leave this in place. Bear in mind that this is not a typical, optically perfect, lens. It has two glass elements and a unique look that in my opinion is well suited to 35mm photography. I popped a Cokin filter holder in my pocket and an orange filter too. The Weston Master V was in my back pocket (note to self: don’t sit down) so I was all set. The roll of HP5+ was to be rated at box speed of ISO 400 as the light was such that I’d need all the help I could get!
Now, I don’t believe that I’ve written about the Zorki 4 in my blog as yet. The Zorki 4 was possibly the most popular of all the Zorki cameras, with around 1.7 million made by the KMZ factory. The Zorki 4 was also the first of the Zorki cameras to be exported in large numbers to the West. It is a fully manual camera, and does not have a lightmeter, hence why I had a Weston Master V in my pocket. I’ve a few of these old rangefinder cameras on my shelves, less used these days if truth be told, and whilst they are essentially Leica copies they lack the mechanical finesse of their putative progenitor.
The Zorki 4 uses a wind-on knob which does the job but isn’t as pleasurable to use as a lever-style wind-on mechanism. But, it’s not a deal breaker so it’s something to be tolerated. The rewind knob though is a different matter. Narrow enough to be aesthetically pleasing but not large enough to use comfortably, especially as it’s also fairly stiff. There is also a small collar around the shutter release that needs moving to facilitate rewinding the film and it’s a little temperamental which also detracts from the rewinding experience as well as interfering with the subsequent loading of film. I lost a third of a 36-exposure roll to this idiosyncratic arrangement. It probably worked perfectly fifty years ago to be fair. My Zorki 4 was manufactured in 1969 to be fair.
The solution to this came to me a few days ago though. Don’t rewind the film and don’t move the little collar. Simples!
So, once home, I now pop the camera, without rewinding its fully exposed film, into the changing bag along with scissors, a film reel and tank. Snip! Film cut out of camera and popped onto reel. Matter of 30 seconds and painless! I’ve also taken to loading film as if this were a bottom-loader so that I do not have to disturb that problematic collar. It’s made using the camera much more pleasurable and by way of a bonus I’ve been getting 26 frames from a 24-exposure film too!
With a sky that wasn’t anything to write home about (see above) I’d decided to keep the Zorki in my pocket for the most part. A few frames would undoubtedly be exposed, mainly out of interest in seeing how the Chroma Glass performed, but I was not expecting to use all 24 exposures. Oh, and a note on this unusual use, for me at least, of short rolls. My first play with the Zorki 4 was with a 36-exposure roll of film. Towards the end I started suffering spacing issues. On a hunch I moved to shorter rolls which solved the problem. Andy suggested that perhaps being an older camera, and a copy of one that was probably even older at that, it wasn’t designed for 36 exposure rolls. I was just pleased though that my solution worked.
In the end, I did use the whole roll. The light was forcing me to look for more intimate compositions with the Fuji digital camera and some of the textures I found were screaming to be captured on film, especially with the Chroma Glass attached. I also enjoy using the Zorki too if I’m being totally transparent.
So, presented here are a selection of images from the Zorki 4, the Chroma Double Glass lens and a roll of my go-to film, Ilford HP5+. I hope there is something here that appeals to you. This lens though, renders like no other lens in my kit bag apart perhaps from the Lensbaby. But that’s another blog post!
* I will write about this lens in a future post. So far I’ve posted two sets of images made with the lens, those in this post and also those in my previous post entitled Marmite.
Marmite. You either love it or you hate it. I love it but I’m in the minority in my household. But, what has marmite got to do with photography? Well to be honest, nothing. However, the images I created for this blog post will probably be like Marmite; some will love them, others will think I’ve lost the plot.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m quite lazy when it comes to processing images. I primarily use the Snapseed app on my tablet and only occasionally make use of Photoshop on my desktop computer. In the past I’ve tried all sorts of Apps on my tablet but most end up being deleted as I turn to Snapseed for most things. I do use a little App to create small collages, diptychs etcetera and another to resize images for this blog. So, not a particularly extravagant set up! I do have another App that has escaped the regular culls however. Step forward Distressed FX.
I’ve always tried to keep an open mind about photography. I’ve embraced the so-called hybrid approach; film capture, digitising the negatives and then digital post-processing. I also use a traditional approach in a darkroom. One thing I’ve also dabbled with in the past has been digital textures using Photoshop. I’ve created my own textures with a digital camera or scanner and then combined them in Photoshop with my own digital images. The Distressed FX App does the same sort of thing using it’s own library of textures and overlays. Less nuanced but quick, easy and highly effective. I confess to occasionally indulging myself!
So, here are a few images which all use Ilford HP5+ negatives from a recent outing with the Zorki 4, a Chroma Double Glass lens and a yellow/green filter. The negatives were digitised with a Fuji X-H1 and processed in Snapseed before being let loose within Distressed FX.
Sunday morning, up early and feeling in need of some fresh air I decided a walk was in order. Spring hasn’t arrived yet so I’m still wearing a warm coat which means I have two large pockets – camera-sized pockets. In to one went the seemingly ever-present Fuji X100T with its fixed 23mm lens. The picture mode selected in the camera’s menu was “monochrome with red filter”. The “red filter” was probably wishful thinking as it was another dull morning with a lifeless, bland, grey sky.
I wrote recently about becoming more selective in making film photographs which was why I had the Fuji with me. The conditions weren’t brilliant hence opting for a digital camera.
Walking down the high street I was on familiar territory so I decided to walk out to the edge of town, somewhere I’ve not walked to for quite some time.
The road out of town is rather steep. At the top there is a fabulous view back over the town but I wasn’t planning on walking to the top this morning. Half way up was enough for me and so, having made a few images, I pocketed the little Fuji and turned to retrace my steps – downhill this time! On the way back I spotted a side street I’d not walked along before, time was on my side so I turned left.
After exploring a few new-to-me compositions, and noting them for future reference when the light was more helpful, I found my footsteps leading me back onto more familiar territory. One of the difficulties of familiar scenes is in looking at them differently. This morning was no exception but with less than optimal light I wasn’t going to stress about that.
Now, this is titled “… part 1” which suggests a part 2 is coming. Remember I mentioned at the start that my coat has two large pockets. As we’ve seen one held the Fuji and as we will see in part 2 the other held a Zorki 4 loaded with Ilford HP5+ and in my back pocket was the Weston Master V.
You didn’t think I’d go out without a film camera did you?
That’s it from the Fuji X100T for this episode, I’ll see you in part 2!
There’s been a lot of noise on social media regarding the ever-rising costs of film photography. Some of it is attention seeking; click-bait from the keyboard warriors. Some of it is genuine concern at the way prices in many cases seem to be far outstripping the headline inflation figures. Very little of it is evidence-based, much indeed is just rehashing what others have already parroted. Some of it though is well-informed, considered and a reasonably sober consideration of the situation.
Some of the noise I, rightly or wrongly, feel I can dismiss as simply attention seeking – I’M DONE WITH FILM! NO MORE FILM FOR ME! I’M GOING DIGITAL! FILM IS DEAD! [insert company name] ARE KILLING FILM PHOTOGRAPHY! FILM’S DEATH KNELL! THE END IS NIGH!
I’ve absorbed multiple price rises in the last few years and being honest these latest will mean a slight change in my behaviour (more on this later). Much of this change though is driven by factors other than price.
Take colour photography. For many years I’ve mainly used digital for colour photography. Yes. Digital. I’m a photographer and I don’t feel the need to differentiate between film and digital; it’s the end result that matters. In truth I don’t choose to use film because I think it’s the easiest choice. I probably do it partly because it’s not the easiest; I’m a born contrarian as my family will attest. I use film because I enjoy the whole process, from choosing which camera, which film and because I mainly use manual cameras (I’ve never seen a fully automatic wooden pinhole camera) choosing which aperture and shutter speed settings. I find film cameras more tactile, the act of winding on seems like a full stop to each individual exposure. I enjoy experimenting with different developers and find developing films a very therapeutic activity. I don’t enjoy digitising the files but do enjoy occasional darkroom time.
But. Colour. Sorry, rant over, I distracted myself there. I am by inclination and as an aesthetic choice primarily a black and white photographer. Film lends itself well to this aesthetic. I am also slightly colour blind and occasionally have difficulty in judging accurately the colours in an image added to which my eyesight is deteriorating too. Take the two considerations together, aesthetic choice and eyesight, add in how much I enjoy using my film cameras and then it’s no surprise that 90% of my photography over the last few years had been with black and white film. I do enjoy using colour occasionally, indeed I used to develop my own C41 colour films, but these days I send colour films away for processing.
Looking at my developing book for last year I see that I exposed 135 rolls of film. A considerable reduction on previous years but we’ll return to that. Of these 135 just 10, or 7%, were colour. 2022 saw a 35% reduction in my film usage overall compared to 2021. This trend is likely to continue partly because of financial considerations but largely because my way of working has been evolving. I’m not alone either it seems.
“I am now extremely comfortable in the realisation that I no longer feel the need to be constantly exposing film. Selective, thoughtful, darkroom and cheaper. It may be a phase I’m going through or an evolution.”
Andrew B on Twitter
Evolution. Definitely. It’s been creeping up on me slowly and stealthily yet steadily too. As time goes by I’m being fussier about pressing the shutter release. Be it film or digital. Whereas a few years ago I would measure the success of a trip by the number of rolls of film in my to-be-developed bag, these days I’m more concerned about what images I’ve made and not how many frames I’ve exposed. It applies equally to digital and film which has surprised me. I recently spent a day out with a DSLR and on getting home found I had made just 40 images. In the past 400 digital files would have been a minimum but the 40 I made that day is spookily close to the number of images on a 36-exposure roll of 35mm film.
So, how will the latest price increases affect me? Well, I will probably make the final switch to fully digital for my colour photography. But not immediately as I’ve around fifteen rolls of medium format colour film in my cellar. This is simply a continuation of an ongoing trend as I’ve already mentioned and whilst it may hasten the transition it is by no means the primary factor influencing the change.
I will definitely buy less Kodak film. Ironic, as one of the reasons cited for the increases is so they can expand to meet demand. Whether the price increases will shrink demand sufficiently for them to meet it without further investment though is not something I’m going to attempt to speculate on! On a practical level I am very happy with my go-to Ilford films and the price increases mean I will now use less Kodak black and white film, specifically Tri-X and T-Max, both film stocks that I’ve recently only bought when there’s been a price promotion if I’m honest. Back in the day Kodak Tri-X was my go-to black and white film and price-wise it was on a par with my current day choice of Ilford HP5+. In addition to using less Kodak black and white I probably won’t get to try Portra 800, a film that’s been on my “one-day-I-will-try-it” list for a while now.
But, in the final analysis, my current trend of using less film each year is likely to continue and that in itself will shield me in a sense from price increases; I will spend the same in monetary terms but will purchase and therefore use less film for that budget. For that matter, I’ve enough film in my cellar to see me safely through 2023 without bothering my wallet if things became tight though.
So, in the short term I’m not getting anxious about price increases. Pragmatically, I will further adjust my behaviour if required although ironically it seems I’ve been slowly changing my behaviour already. Based on current usage my 2023 totals will again be lower than in the preceding year and talking to some of my online friends this is a trend many of them are reporting too.
Anyway. It’s not often I publish an opinion piece but I hope this has been of some interest. If nothing else it’s been a vehicle for sharing a few recent images, both film and digital, colour and black & white.
A simple post today. A few images from a couple of nights ago when, needing some fresh air, I took a short walk (aka stoat these days) with the venerable Fuji X-100T in my pocket.
So, there we have it. A few images from a short night time stroll. Whilst not noted for its low-light performance the X100T has never let me down and unless I’m using film then it’s my go-to for this type of urban photography. I hope you enjoyed these few images.
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