Rocking the Rollei

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.

© Dave Whenham

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.

Rollei Infrared Film 1
Bronica SQ-A 150mm lens Rollei infrared 400 film 720nm filter 1/4sec f16
Rollei Infrared Film 2
Great definition in the clouds from the infrared film. Bronica SQ-A 150mm lens
Rollei infrared 400 film 720nm filter 1/4 sec f16. Developed in Rodinal (1+25)
© Dave Whenham
A typicsl IR scene – green foliage turning white whereas the table and other fittings are rendered more “normally”

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.

Bronica SQ-A 150mm lens Rollei infrared 400 film 720nm filter – and a blue tone in post-processing

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!

Scratching an itch

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.

Out of date Ilford HP5+ 35mm film in a Bronica ETRS 220 film back

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!

9 in 45: Take 3

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.

A fairly standard shot for me and an easy first shot in many ways

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.

I was a minute or two late taking the image as I got distracted by the information board

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.

Greenmount Retail Park

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 can rarely resist a chance to shoot into the sun

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.

Francis Street

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.

I so wanted to crop this square but was sticking to the rules!

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.

Yes – my thumbs itched to correct the converging verticals

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.

Walks end … and another ten minutes saw me back where I’d started!

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!

Image recap

9 in 45: the Hipsta Alternative

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!

The walk took me from Hunger Hill in Halifax to the bottom of Salterhebble Hill via the back streets and cobbles that run almost parallel to the main roads.

Film Friday #2

Surprise View: Pentax 645 Neopan 400

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!

Surprise View: Pentax 645 Neopan 400

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.

It’s a shame about the edge of the umbrella creeping in! Schoolboy error. I’m still posting this though because of the detail especially in the banner. Mamiya RB67 Neopan 400

On Wednesday I put seven rolls of exposed film in the post for developing by Digitalab in Newcastle. Watch this space!

9 in 45: The Hipsta Edition

I had another go at Mr C’s 9 in 45 Challenge today. I’d intended shooting a colour set, and indeed I still could as I have the “RAWs” from these, but couldn’t resist shooting with the Hipstamatic app on my phone. These then are the images straight out of the Hipstamatic App with a few minor tweaks to Levels. The walk took me from Hunger Hill in Halifax to the bottom of Salterhebble Hill via the back streets and cobbles that run almost parallel to the main roads.

365-2019-255
The nine images can also be found on my Flickr feed
12.29 – 5 minutes from the start at Hunger Hill
12.35 – former mills
12.40 – Devon Ambulance Service, vintage vehicles
12.46 – a popular rat run and no proper pavement!
12.52 – graffiti amongst parked cars
12.57 – one of my favourite spots close to the hospital
13.05 – the first image of my first 9/45 was taken from the other side of the road almost opposite
13.10 – wandering along the route of the now abandoned Halifax Arm of the canal
13.15 – walks end – the former Punch Bowl pub and my bus stop just beyond it (out of sight)

I enjoyed this immensely. I’ve shot lots of single images with the Hipstamatic App but this was the first concerted project or series of images. I actually like them all although believe they work best as a set and not as individual images. I also think I’ve used the quirks of the App to good effect.

The Hipstamatic App creates square jpeg files which are what I’ve used here. There is also the option, which I use, to save the full, un-filtered image and I shall now look at those and perhaps produce an alternative 9/45 where I am not restricted to 1×1 format, heavily filtered images.

iPhone XR: Hipstamatic app: minor tweaks in Photoshop

9 in 45: reflections

When I posted my first 9 in 45 series I chose not to ponder on the experience but to leave it a few days. With the benefit of those few days I’m now ready to jot down some observations.

The linear route for
9/45 #1

1 The first stop was at the top of Salterhebble Hill. A view I’ve seen countless times on foot, from the car and from the top deck of the 503 bus. Yet until the timer stopped me at this point its one I’ve never thought to photograph, and yet it makes a nice image.

2 Stop 2 came a few yards too early for the image I’d usually shoot from this stretch of the canal. With a fixed 23mm lens there was no “cheating” so I was forced to work with what I had. It was the only time on the walk I wished I was working in colour.

3 Spoilt for choice at this spot however in the end the final composition was dictated by the very bright sunlight. I used the overhanging branches to shield the lens and effectively shot into the light here.

4 A simple composition, I love converging lines.

5 One of my favourites from the walk and surprisingly not a composition I’ve shot before. I usually stop five paces further on underneath the bridge and work with the shapes and reflections.

6 This one needed little thought and in fact I’d hoped I wouldn’t find myself stopping at Woodside Mills, somewhere I can rarely resist snapping. I tried to make something a little different from the norm therefore by focusing my attention on the water rather than the brickwork.

7 If I could strike this from the series I would.

8 I’ve had this in mind for a while, but with a view to shooting it with the Holga 120-Pan film camera. I did in fact return the following afternoon and shoot this with the plastic-fantastic toy camera and am looking forward to the comparison.

9 The observant will notice how close this is to image number 8. In fact just the other side of the bridge. A call came through on my mobile phone which I needed to take and I was stood here when the timer went off for image 9. Rather than miss the timings I shot this with the phone clamped between shoulder and ear. An example of total familiarity with the camera being an asset – especially as I decided on a very shallow depth of field and also the diagonal light and shade composition.

Images 1, 4, 5 and 9 are my favourites from the challenge. In fact the only image that I do not like at all is number 7; if I’d been walking slightly faster I’d have had a fascinating old factory building in sight rather than a line of parked cars! Thinking it over now I might have gone for a view down the line of parked cars and tried to do something with converging lines perhaps.

Overall, I enjoyed the discipline that the Challenge imposed. With hindsight I would not have chosen such an oft-trod route, especially for my first go, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. For my next attempt I will chose somewhere less well known. Accepting Mr C’s further challenge I will also shoot in colour, out of my comfort zone, but to ensure I comply I’ll shoot JPEGs which can be posted as-shot.

If you’ve not tried the Challenge then I urge you to give it a go!

9-in-45

Finally, I got the opportunity today to accept Mr C’s Nine in Forty Five challenge. What is that? Put simply, nine photograph in forty five minutes following the following rules, taken directly from Mr C’s “forty Five” blog:

RULES OF FORTY FIVE

  • Select a starting point for your walk but do not take a photograph.
  • Walk for 5 minutes and take your first photograph from where you stand.
  • Repeat and stop every 5 minutes for the duration of 45 minutes to complete a set of 9 images.
  • Take only one photograph at each location and none in between.
  • Spend no more than one minute selecting, composing and shooting the image then move on to the next.
  • The first image at each location will be the one you keep.
  • Do not delete or retake any images.
  • Images can be taken in colour or black &white.
  • Photographs should essentially be straight from camera.  Any post processing should be minimal – levelling, tweaking and minor cropping are permitted.
  • Photographs should not be heavily processed or put through filter styles.
  • Selfies are not eligible for inclusion on Forty Five.

I’m not going to reflect upon the challenge in this post, I will do that later with the benefit of a few days distance from the challenge, but what I will say is that whilst there are several images her that I would not otherwise have taken I do wish I’d walked a route I’m not quite so familiar with for this first 9-in-45. In the meantime here are all nine images, click on any image for the full-sized versions:

My first attempt at the 9/45 Challenge started at 9.37am on Thursday 5th September, walking from Calderdale Royal Infirmary in Halifax to Elland Bridge, finishing 0n the bridge at 10.32.