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!

35mm Lucky Dip – Adox HR-50

The third roll of film in my 35mm Lucky Dip was a gift from Jevon and it wasn’t until AFTER I’d used the roll that he expressed his view:

Best of luck. I have rarely managed to get a clean negative but when I have the detail is phenomenal

Jevon C

He’s not wrong of course!

I used the roll on a wander around my local patch with Andy (@Holga_Pics) and sadly the weather was rather overcast and wet; indeed we got a good soaking once we reached the farthest point of the walk from the sanctuary of my front room.

There’s a few on the roll where I’ve clearly misjudged the exposure and these have very blocked up shadows but where I’ve got the exposure right the negatives sing almost. Looking at them on a light pad the detail, even in the 35mm format, is incredible. The base of the film is also exceptionally clear which perhaps enhances this perception when the sheet of negatives is laid out on the light pad.

I’ve “scanned” the roll with my mirrorless camera and also printed one negative in the darkroom so far (more will follow) and the negatives have been very easy to work with in both scenarios.

Printed straight at grade 3 … I’m going to reprint at grade 2 and also dodge a little detail into the windows particularly above Andy’s head.

The darkroom print above, consciously printed a little darker to emphasise the wet conditions, has lots of detail and also lots of potential for further manipulation (tinkering with images didn’t start with Photoshop you know). This was a straight print and when I look at the negative it’s clear that there’s more detail in the shadows. I don’t want to change the overall mood of the finished print but I think there’s room for a little more detail in those shadows; it’s certainly available in the negative as the comparison below shows. The digital version has been fully processed to bring out detail in the shadows.

Digital top and darkroom print below

So, would I use this again? Short answer is that I’d have no qualms about using it. So long as it’s exposed correctly it will reward you with loads of detail and extremely sharp negatives. However, it is a 50-speed film and this couple with its lack of tolerance of poor metering doesn’t lend itself to my style of handheld, urban photography on the hoof.

Cropped and edited

This time, pleased as I am with the outcomes, I can at least say that it has not deflected me from my “three film” goal. That said, if Jevon wants to send me some more …

In the meantime here’s a few more digital versions from this roll.

The only image here taken with the Jupiter 11 (135mm) lens – all the others are Jupiter 12 (35mm)
The film captured a full range of tones … the key is careful metering
Probably my best exposure … detail throughout in a very contrasty scene
One for Andrew K
A reminder of the conditions.

I know my favourite … what’s yours?

Frugal Film Project – May update

A short-roll this month as it turned out. Most of my hand rolled cassettes have 30-36 exposures but for some reason this one had less than 20. A fact I only found out when I got to my ultimate destination and found just one frame left in the camera. Ho hum, the FFP has been good at throwing curved balls so far this year so I wasn’t that surprised. Slightly disappointed as I was looking forward to exploring a new-to-me location.

The FED-4 performed impeccably again although this time out I paired it with a new-to-me lens that had only arrived that morning. The Jupiter 11 lens has a focal length of 135mm and a maximum aperture of f4. This isn’t the time or place for a lens review. However, my lack of experience with the lens, indeed I have limited experience of using a telephoto lens within the urban environment, meant that not ever image worked out. By the end of the short roll though I was starting to get my eye in I thought.

Polling station selfie

The viewfinder of the FED-4 is calibrated for the 50mm lens so with a 50mm lens fitted you focus and compose using the same viewfinder. Fit a 135mm lens though and whilst you still focus using the viewfinder you need to fit an external viewfinder to the cold shoe in order to compose the image. It was an interesting experience especially as mine kept sliding out of the cold shoe which made for some fun and games.

Depth of field is going to be a big consideration with this lens
I even managed an image for a forthcoming project – “Peeking”

So, despite the disappointment of an unexpected short roll I really enjoyed this month’s roll. The 135mm lens will add a new dimension to using this camera too; I just need to practice a bit more with it before June!

WPPD 2023: the runners-up

I used eight sheets of Acros for my WPPD entry this year, of which just one will be submitted to the WPPD portfolio. I’ve narrowed it down to two (see previous post) but what of the others? Well, of the eight, one sheet just didn’t work out for me, but the others are presented here for posterity along with the shortlisted two.

I probably need to take the processing for this one!

I chose an iconic location and made the iconic composition albeit with a pinhole camera. I then explored a few compositions that I’ve previously photographed with a lensed camera, before my final two sheets which were a composition I’d not spotted prior to that visit. Whilst I did take them with the Canon VL before leaving the two sheets through the ONDU 5×4 Rise pinhole camera were the first and they are also the shortlisted pair.

World Pinhole Photography Day – the image

So, the sheets have been developed and I’ve been deciding which image will be my WPPD contribution for 2023.

Behind the scenes

The ONDU 5×4 Rise pinhole camera has three pinholes enabling for more control of the composition. The “middle” puts the horizon line central whereas the “top” captures more of the upper portion (sky) of the scene and less of the foreground.

“Middle pinhole”
“Top” pinhole

So, I’ve chosen from the five different scenes, but which version of this chosen scene should be my WPPD submission? The jury is still out!

World Pinhole Photography Day – on location

Well it took some negotiation but I managed a pass for WPPD despite grandson having a rugby match close enough for us to get to easily. Negotiations only concluded the night before and so I awoke on WPPD with no clear idea on a location. I’d only decided on the camera I’d be using the night before.

I decided to use the ONDU 5×4 Rise, packing an orange filter and eight sheets of expired Fuji Acros (original not the current Acros II) in the shoulder bag with it. In previous years I’ve used two pinhole cameras but I wanted to keep things simple this year. For the same reason I left the spot meter at home and took the TT Artisan cold shoe meter with me and cross-checked exposures with my phone.

On location
Metered at 1/10th second became a twenty second exposure

Still undecided on exactly where to go I jumped in the car and allowed myself to go with the flow. I found myself heading into Halifax and at that moment made a decision. The snicket it would be.

Unusually for me a “shot list” began to form in my mind. Two from the bottom (the traditional viewpoint), two half way up and two of the bridge at the top. The composition for the final two sheets would occur to me once I was on location I thought, as indeed it did.

The third composition

So, eight sheets of expired Acros 100 have been exposed, I will hopefully get to develop them tomorrow morning and once they have been developed, dried and digitised I will be back with WPOD – the images.


35mm lucky dip – a mini project

At the start of this year I decided that this would be the year that I used up all the odd rolls of 35mm film in the fridge so that I could start 2024 with just three 35mm film stocks in my kit bag. I also want to standardise my developing regime too and start the new year with no more than three, perhaps four, developers in regular use. Looking in my odds-n-sods box yesterday I realised that whilst I’ve made some inroads I’m not likely to meet my objectives unless I stop using my go-to Ilford films for a while. I’m using far more 35mm film this year owing to my rangefinder experiments but I am constantly falling back on my old favourites of Ilford HP5+ and FP4+, especially for testing cameras. I actually ran out of Ilford HP5+ a few weeks back, necessitating the purchase of a 100 foot bulk roll.

Ilford HP5+ | Leica IIIf

Indeed, I’ve just totted up and found I’ve used 16 different B&W film stocks this year so far and used 9 different developers (it will be 10 when I open the 510 Pyro that arrived in the week). There are other films in my fridge I’ve not used before so 16 won’t be sweet 16 for much longer if I do manage to make inroads into my stockpile. So much for 2023 being the year I simplify my workflow!!!

Ilford Delta 100 | Canon VT de luxe

So, in an attempt to move things along I’ve just put my hand in and drawn out four films at random. These will be the next four 35mm rolls I use. Given that I’ve some weird and wonderful films in the box, including some 2 and 5 ISO films, I was amazed that of the four random films three were rated at 100 ISO. The next four films I will be using therefore are:

Adox CHS-100 II
Adox HR-50 (a bulk-loaded roll gifted to me)
Kodak ProImage 100 (colour!)
Orwo UN54 (also a bulk-loaded gif

I will make individual posts for each of these rolls in due course. For now the CHS-100 has been loaded into the Canon VL2 paired with the Jupiter 12 35mm lens. The ProImage is in the Leica IIIf. A deliberate choice as the Leica is perfect for my exploration of the photographic style of Saul Leiter and whilst he did use black and white film he is better known for his use of colour. I doubt that I will use this roll up as quickly as the other three.

Adox Silvermax 100 | Leica IIIf

So, there you have it. A small-scale project that should produce four more blog posts too. I just need to pull my finger out and make some inroads into my odds-n-sods box.

The Frugal Film Project – April update

Up until two days ago I was planning on knocking this project on the head. I was encouraged to participate on the basis that it would be interesting and fun. Well, it has been interesting but as for the fun. Hhhmmm.

The Sprocket Rocket (RIP) sent me down a rabbit hole of testing the film before it departed this life. The Zenit XP works but it is an absolute pain in the butt to remove the film from and I just can’t be bothered with the hassle. It was time I felt to throw in the towel. Until, I had a brainwave. The Soviet-era FED 4 (£29 + p&p) sat on my shelf would be ideal. It fits the budget and it works.

So, today, just a week before the end of the month, I loaded the April roll of Kentmere 400 and headed into Halifax. Returning home I loaded the film into the tank, poured in stock Perceptol and sat back to wait for the negatives to dry.

It was worth it too! For the first time since I started the FFP I’m keen to share the results. I’ve had good reports from friends of mine regarding Kentmere 400 and this is the first roll thus far where I can share the same thoughts. Gritty, grainy. Well yes, but in a good way. This roll has soul almost!

So, here are a good selection from the April roll, I hope you enjoy them too.