This afternoon I was invited on to the Lensless Podcast to chat about my photography, my love of pinhole and whatever the host, Andrew Bartram, chose to bring in to the conversation.
Well, somewhat belatedly, the final part of my semi-stand series has finally made it into the ether. The last, but not least, of the films that I am going to talk about for my semi-stand week series is FT12. It was the first roll of film I used during the week and because I’m a contrarian I’ve left it to the end of the series. This was a completely new-to-me emulsion that I bought on a whim from the good folk at Nik & Trick.
So, I spotted the film on the website of Nik and Trick in Folkestone. The blurb states that “Replacing Eastman Kodak’s fanatically loved SO-331 … we think that this lush 50asa film – that was not originally intended for photographic purposes – is better!!” Two exclamation marks, how could I resist. Especially as they went on to claim “… incredibly high contrast negs with a good range of mid-tone detail and amazing sharpness with near zero grain…”. They recommended rating the film at 50 ISO and stand developing in Rodinal for forty five minutes. The semi-stand week was born.
Admittedly I chose a fairly dull day when there was little or no interest in the sky but even I was surprised by how contrasty the negatives were. They certainly delivered exactly what the folk at N&T promised!
The conditions were probably not ideal for such a simplistic camera as the Horizon S3, with limited control over exposure and no local exposure options such as graduated filters. My usual urban compositions which typically look in two directions at once, as in the image above which looks down the main road to the right and the cobbled back lane to the left, just weren’t working when I got the negatives on the light pad. I was able to crop (see below) but whilst that helped with tonal balance it spoilt the composition to my eyes.
To summarise, FT12 is a slow (50 ISO) film – that was not originally intended for photographic purposes! I believe it is intended for sound recording. Based on this one roll, it certainly produces incredibly high contrast negatives with a good range of mid-tone detail and amazing sharpness. To be fair this is exactly as promised! Whether or not it’s the film for you though is a matter of personal preference. It has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone for sure.
So, there we have it, a week of semi-stand development in Rodinal and a week in which I found a new respect for this venerable old developer. Would I do it again? Indubitably! Do I keep Rodinal on my shelf at all times? Absolutely!
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.
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.
For the last six months or so I’ve been using Twitter to interact with some of the film photography community scattered across the globe. I’m not a huge social media user, in fact this was the third or fourth time I’ve had a try at using Twitter. This time was slightly different as I’d written an article for a website and the owner had suggested a few people to follow and a way of insinuating myself into the community. Six months on I’ve a good circle of like-minded folk that I regularly interact with; some I’ve collaborated on projects with, others who I’ve established an off-Twitter conversation with and three of us who chat regularly and have even combined to purchase raw chemicals to make our own chemicals.
One thing I have enjoyed has been some of the themed projects and even anti-social me has joined in and enjoyed the experience. The main “event”for April 2020 has been the annual “FP4 Party” and I purchased four rolls of 120 especially for the occasion. Admittedly one I used on the day before the party so it’s been “disqualified” but the thought was there.
Most people set themselves a particular challenge and so entering into the spirit I decided to shoot my film exclusively in the Bronica ETRS with a 40mm lens and yellow/green filter, rating the film at box speed of 125 ISO. Ilford’s FP4+ is a film I rarely use so simply using it has been a novelty in itself. I’ve also been using my Horizon S3 almost exclusively recently so forcing myself to use a well-loved but rarely used camera was also in the spirit of #FP4Party I felt. If that wasn’t enough I also decided on a semi-stand development in Rodinal at 1+100 for 45 minutes. 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.
The first full week of April has been set aside for exposing the film and the second week for developments etc before “show and tell” week in the third week of April.
I’ve made three trips this week with just this camera in my bag (my S3 is sulking in the corner) and today was my final “shoot” for the party. The final roll was developed at lunchtime and I’ve now got three rolls of negatives sleeved and ready for printing. I’m planning on printing six images on Fotospeed Oyster RCVC paper for sharing on Twitter during w/c 19th April. Three of these are drying as I type and I now need to choose another three to print over the next few days.
Sadly, no pictures to share though as these are embargoed until week three!
Back in January when I was stocking up with film for the Spring/Summer months I picked up a few single films of different stocks to my usual to try out as the opportunity arose. I think that in the back of my mind was that these would be used for something “special” or a specific project that took into account each film stocks particular properties or quirks. As an enthusiastic (digital) infrared photographer, I have an IR-converted Fuji X-T1, and so I picked up a couple of rolls of 120 Rollei Infrared 400 intending to use it whilst in Devon for a family wedding. Well, I’m consigned to barracks and in any event the wedding is postponed until 2021. So, the first roll, which I bought to test before using the second in “anger”, has now been exposed within the confines of my back yard.
Now before any one shouts I realise that Rollei INFRARED 400 is not a ‘true’ infrared film, but one with near-infrared sensitivity to about 820nm. I’m not going to quibble though and in any case this was about experimentation.
My weapon of choice for this experiment was a Bronica SQ-A, for no reason other than I like using it, plus the mirror lock-up would be useful. The film was rated at 400 ISO per the box and I shot a couple of frames without any filtration at this speed. I then attached a 720nm infrared filter and based on what I had been reading metered the scene at 12 ISO, an increase in exposure of five stops. Finally, I developed the film in Rodinal (1+25) at 20°C.
Contrary to some reports I’ve seen elsewhere on the web, the film went onto the reel very easily with no obvious curl to the acetate.
So, to the pictures. My first impression on hanging the roll of negatives to dry was how sharp and crisp they were. Some were clearly over-exposed but as I kept detailed notes that will enable me to learn from these. Popping the dry negatives on the light pad was an exciting moment as it was then I saw just how successful the experiment had been.
The first three frames (see above) had been taken with no filter, a polarising filter and lastly a 720nm infrared filter that I use with a full-spectrum Fuji X-T1. Just looking at the negatives I could see the dramatic differences between the first and third negative; even the negative has an ethereal feel. The third of these frames is shown, fully processed, below.
So, what did I make of this quirky film? Well, I have to admit that I was predisposed to the idea as I’ve shot a lot of infrared on my digital cameras as can be seen on my FLICKR account. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much I liked these simple front/back yard images. They add a whole new dimension to the portfolio of images I’m creating during the Lockdown. The day I chose was cloudy with sunny intervals and not the full-on sunny day with blue skies I had hoped for but I love the feel of these images nevertheless.
So, what special project will the other roll be saved for? It is simply being saved for the next sunny day here in my back yard. I want to see what effect blue skies will have and can’t wait until I finally get released from the house. Never fear though as I’ve ordered another five rolls to keep on hand for when I do get back out with the camera!
When you‘ve got an itch – you’ve gotta scratch it!
Sometimes an idea pops into the head and the only way to get it out again is to stop what you are doing and attend to it. It happened to me last Sunday, and by 7pm, just as I was about to settle down with a book for the evening, the itch became unbearable. So, I grabbed my Bronica ETRS, the 220 film back that I’d purchased in error and a roll of expired 35mm B&W film and headed into the garden. By 7.30pm I was mixing chemicals and by 8pm the still-wet negatives were hanging in my bathroom to dry.
So, what got me so motivated? And surely that’s a typo – 220 back and 35mm film?
The idea of putting 35mm film through a medium format film camera is hardly new or innovative but it’s been niggling away at the back of my mind for a while now and I’ve been itching to try it for myself. I’ve seen a handful of images online and even watched a couple of YouTube videos on the subject so I did have some thoughts on how to approach it. So long as it is loaded carefully into a medium format film back, it is possible to shoot images that extend across the sprocket holes of the 35mm film to cover the whole surface of the film and with my ETRS back you get 45x33mm negatives, including the sprocket holes. If I was to do the same with my SQ-A then the negatives would be around 60x33mm although I’ve yet to try this. I say careful incidentally because you need to ensure the film runs centrally down the film plate as you wind on if you want to be reasonably certain of your compositions.
Spoiler alert: this experiment with the ETRS worked and I’ve already loaded the ETRS 220 back with a roll of 35mm colour negative film for a more “serious” session – when the sun decides to reappear.
I chose the 220 film back as it was designed for longer rolls of medium format film which allowed for 30 shots on the ETRS so I would not be advancing the film back past the number of shots the 35mm film would provide. There is however a lot of wasted film at the start of the roll due to the way the Bronica winds on the 120 film at the start of a roll, the back is designed for roll film and needs to pull sufficient backing paper through to reveal the film buried inside the roll. I did however manage 21 exposures on this 36 exposure test roll (remember this is a 6×4.5 back and not 6×6 so if using a 6×6 format camera the number of images obtained will be less although they will be wider). I could try sticking a length of old backing paper to the start of the 35mm film I guess to minimise this wastage but that is an idea for another day.
As the image above shows the idea worked and the subject is lined-up correctly and not sloping due to wonky film loading. So what did I learn?
Vertical = horizontal and horizontal = vertical!
As the picture of the loaded film back shows, first and foremost: vertical = horizontal and horizontal = vertical! The film in a Bronica ETRS back runs top to bottom unlike a 35mm SLR where it runs left to right. Which means the 35mm film inside the 220 back is running down the middle rather than width-ways. It takes some getting used to, and I may cut a mask for the viewfinder to remind me, but basically when holding the camera normally the film is covering a vertical strip down the middle of the viewfinder. Tip the camera on its side (as you would normally to shoot a portrait or vertically orientated image) and the strip now runs horizontally across the middle of the frame.
That aside, and I have a lot of spoilt images because I hadn’t noted that quirk earlier, everything else went well. I used a pair of adaptors on the 35mm cassette which enabled me to insert the film in the same way I would have inserted a 120 roll. In a traditional film camera the 35mm film is loaded with the glossy side towards you but as the emulsion is on the other side of the plastic strip you need to reverse this when loading 35mm film into a roll film back (see above); basically the emulsion (non-glossy) side needs to be foremost in the holder so it is exposed to the lens when the film back is attached to the camera and the slide removed.
This quick and impulsive test was in most respects successful. Yes, every frame is orientated in the opposite direction to that in which I shot it and so many do not make compositional sense but this was not about creating masterpieces but about seeing if I could make it work – and I did. The first few frames were horribly under-exposed as the light meter I was using was still set to 800 ISO from an earlier session and I had also chosen to underexpose by a couple of stops, partly to give a darker frame to the main subject but mainly to achieve a shutter speed at which I could handhold the camera.
There were a couple of images however where, by dint of the 40mm lens I was using, the subject was centrally placed and therefore the composition does still work. Sadly, they were also amongst the first few underexposed frames but I have salvaged one of Grandson Harry which gives an idea of the kind of image I was hoping to capture.
Like many of these techniques, this one is unlikely to become my go-to method of shooting and needs to be used sparingly if it is not to become cliched and, dare I say, a little boring. The occasional 35mm cassette for a bit of fun is all I expect to be exposing in this manner. That said, I have ordered a 220 film back for my 6×6 Bronica SQ-A so I can try out the larger format. I’m hoping to shoot some panoramic images of the rooftops opposite for a sub-project within my main 366 project. There is also a roll of 35mm colour negative film in the ETRS 220 back .
So, as has been said countless times before – watch this space!
Something different for this take on Mr C’s 9/45 Challenge. Colour and a walk that apart from the first few hundred metres covers an area of Halifax that I’ve not been to before nor indeed passed through as it is an area of back streets beyond the town centre itself. I walked in a meandering loop ending up not too far from where I started.
Starting at Bull Green at around ten past eleven, my first shot was taken as I turned into Gibbet Street and the second at the other end of the same street. The first makes use of the colour contrasts and a bright blue sky. It’s a safe composition but a good start and set me up for the rest of the Challenge, which was indeed more challenging than I’d expected. I’d normally not take a photo walk so late in the morning, especially with a bright harsh sun in a blue, virtually cloudless, sky and this coupled with the environment I was walking in made for an interesting walk. The second image is a historically interesting image, so lets precede it with some history.
The Halifax Gibbet was an early guillotine , estimated to have been installed during the 16th century, it was used as an alternative to beheading by axe or sword. Halifax was once part of the Manor of Wakefield, where ancient custom and law gave the Lord of the Manor the authority to execute summarily by decapitation any thief caught with stolen goods to the value of 13½d or more, or who confessed to having stolen goods of at least that value. Decapitation was a fairly common method of execution in England, but Halifax was unusual in two respects: it employed a guillotine-like machine that appears to have been unique in the country, and it continued to decapitate petty criminals until the mid-17th century.
The device consisted of an axe head fitted to the base of a heavy wooden block that ran in grooves between two 15-foot (4.6 m) tall uprights, mounted on a stone base about 4 feet (1.2 m) high. A rope attached to the block ran over a pulley, allowing it to be raised, after which the rope was secured by attaching it to a pin in the base. The block carrying the axe was then released either by withdrawing the pin or by cutting the rope once the prisoner was in place. Incidentally, the axe head fitted to the gibbet is a replica – the original is in a museum.
From Gibbet Street I turned down Bedford Street North, ending up on one of the main roads into the town centre and the third image was taken on the corner of Pellon Lane and Hanson Lane by the retail park.
I then proceeded along Hanson Lane and from here I wandered, taking turns at random and initially when I sat at the computer I could not be sure where these next few images were taken but Google Maps/Street View has helped me reconstruct the route and I’m now pretty confident on where I took the remaining images. The one above was taken along Hanson Lane looking over the fence into the Hanson Lane Memorial Garden.
A few twists and turns led me to Francis Street, a long, mainly residential street with cars parked pretty much everywhere. I stopped when the phone bade me do so and if I wanted to avoid cars then there was only one direction in which to point the Fuji.
I had just turned into Parkinson Lane when the timer sounded again. This was at the farthest end of the Calderdale College campus and I was grateful that the timer hadn’t gone off before I had turned the corner as the street was full of students and tutors on their lunch breaks. I was therefore particularly pleased with the simple composition I found to my left.
Continuing down the lane I turned left onto one of the main roads back towards the town centre. I quickly took another left though, into Park Road, to get me off the busy, and noisy, dual carriageway. This was a broad, tree-lined street which hinted at the prosperity this part of Halifax once enjoyed. These old villas were largely multiple occupation now or undergoing repairs and the whole area was consequently a little shabby around the edges.
The bright blue sky contrasted well with the stonework of these magnificent old villas. At the end of the road is the entrance to the park which runs along most of the length of the road and from which the road clearly takes its name. I couldn’t resist a peak inside and so my eighth image is taken in the peaceful surroundings of The People’s Park.
Stepping back onto Park Road I then turned right down Hopwood Lane towards my final destination which turned out to be the Elsie Whiteley Innovation Centre, home to a thriving community of creative, digital and innovative businesses, according to their website. For me it was the final shot of the set and another chance to play with shadows and contrasts. I used pretty much all of my allotted minute waiting for someone to walk into frame and whilst I’d hoped for someone approaching along the sunlit strip this was the best I saw before my minute was up and so “snap” the Challenge was completed.
These 9 in 45 walks are challenging me in a way that I was not expecting. I’m forced to resist the temptation to take images which is counter-intuitive. I usually walk the streets looking for images and taking whatever opportunities arise. This challenge focus me to keep my camera in my bag until the appointed moment and I find that hard. Yesterday I was tempted to walk back to one location once I’d completed the Challenge to take an image that had caught my eye earlier in the walk, however a raging thirst and a desire to sit down with a coffee took precedent. Instead I shall go back next week at some point.
The mix of horizontal and vertical images shows I’m not afraid to turn the camera on its side too!
I mentioned in an earlier post that I’d also retained the “RAW” files from my Hipsta Edition photo walk. Here’s what the series would’ve looked like if I could’ve resisted the Hipsta-lure!
Fujifilm Neopan 400 black and white film was discontinued around 2013 I believe. It was never a film I played with much back in the day, being more of a Tri-X or HP5 kinda guy, but I clearly bought a few rolls of 120 film around 2010 because I’ve just unearthed the negatives!
Now I’m told that Neopan 400 was never the greatest film in the world and I shall take other peoples word for it but I must have bought a few rolls as I’ve found negatives from a Pentax 645 as well as the Mamiya RB67.
On Wednesday I put seven rolls of exposed film in the post for developing by Digitalab in Newcastle. Watch this space!