Wednesday

After a day stuck indoors yesterday I decided I needed a wander before breakfast this morning. The wife was still asleep and as I had three cameras with part-exposed films in this was an ideal opportunity to kill two birds with the proverbial stone.

I surprised myself by heading for the front door. Taking the two or three strides from door to gate I hesitated. Left or right? I wasn’t used to exiting via the front of the house and momentarily I was confused. Turning right I noticed the light on West Vale, nestled down in the valley, I clearly had my photographer’s hat on this morning as I headed toward the top of the hill and a view down into the valley.

Horizon S3 Pro

I stopped to admire the view; it never fails to delight me. With the sun bright in a cloud bedecked sky I watched the patches of light and shade ripple across the landscape before reaching for the first camera.

Having captured images with all three cameras I hesitated again. Down the hill and then a long loop home with much of it uphill? Retrace my steps slightly and wander down Gog Hill which would also necessitate an uphill return. Or walk south, past my own front gate, and into the maze of streets that I wander so often? In the end my stomach decided. Part way down Gog Hill, then cut up behind the sheltered housing and down into the high street and my favourite café.

Gog Hill is the oldest extant street in Elland. Much changed, it had houses along part of its length at one point, it drops steeply down from the top of Elland to the River Calder and the Calder & Hebble Navigation. It is cobbled, poorly maintained and dry or wet it’s slippery but nevertheless I have walked up and down this overgrown lane countless times. For most of its length it is overhung by trees with walls on the opposite side and in the Summer the canopy of leaves keeps the lane shaded for most of the day.

Part way down I turned off the cobbles and turned right up some muddy steps. This part is nearly always dank and dark, little sunlight penetrates in the Summer and being Yorkshire it rains for much of the Autumn and Winter. It’s particularly overgrown at present and I had to duck and walk bent over before popping out onto the street behind the flats. Following the service road I passed the garages and came to the end of the road.

Turning left the familiar bulk of the rear of the Savile Arms pub was partly silhouetted by the sun rising behind it. The sun itself was partly screened by clouds and I thought the resulting contrasts would suit the long-expired ORWO NP27. I took a light reading, dialled it into the KMZ FT-2, making an allowance for the limited shutter speeds available. It was then that the sun, which had been playing silly-beggars from the moment I’d left the house, started a game of hide and seek with the clouds.

KMZ FT-2

By now I was conscious that I hadn’t broken my fast and with just a few frames left in my cameras I made the best of the opportunity before heading to the café which was now less than a hundred metres around two corners. A final couple of frames on the first corner saw all three cameras empty and with no further reason to dawdle I gladly sought out a medium breakfast and mug of Yorkshire tea.

By the way if you’re wondering what the two Polaroid images are all about you’ll need to watch for the forthcoming #InstantRegret post once it’s written! Or just find me on Twitter – @elland_in

Streetlife – shapes and shadows

For many photographers “street photography” conjures up thoughts of candid imagery of strangers but it isn’t what springs to my mind. For me, making images on the street is more about the interesting juxtaposition of elements in the scene, contrasts between the old and new perhaps or patterns created by light and shade. So much so that I tend not to use the term “street” preferring to label my images as “urban”. It’s not that I don’t use people in my photographs from the streets but they are generally contextual elements rather than the main subject.

Figures add scale and context but are not the main subject

Where I am more in tune with “street” is in the use of black and white imagery for the vast majority of my street/urban photography. Typically, but not exclusively, black and white film. The choice of film stock can have a strong impact on the final image and one of my current favourites is Kodak XX although I’ve used many others with Ilford HP5+ my most-used film stock over the last few years. I also like Kodak Tri-X when I can get it at a decent price.

The “right” light is important – this scene needed harsh sunlight to accentuate the contrasts

My cameras of choice for my urban wanders are typically smaller and quieter; I’m thinking of the Fuji X100T or X-Pro1 for digital work or the Nikon L35 AF or the half-frame Olympus Pen EE3 for 35mm film photography. That said I regularly use my Horizon S3 Pro which is to discrete as chalk is to cheese! Recently I found myself in Llangollen with a less-than-inconspicuous Bronica SQ-A in my hand and was surprised that it didn’t attract that much attention. I guess that as a tourist destination it was less out of place perhaps.

Medium format film camera on the high street
I’ve walked passed many, many times but only photographed the butty shop this once
Some scenes work well as pairs – this was the Nikon L35 but I often use the Olympus EE3 for these

I rarely have a preconceived plan when I take my urban walks preferring to react to what I see. There are some locations I’m more familiar with of course and I can often tailor my walk to suit the conditions when visiting one of these. As I mentioned above I’m generally looking for contrasts. These can be architectural as in an old church against a modern glass and chrome office building. Whilst the interplay of light and shade is a perennial favourite the use of solitary figures walking into patches of light has become a bit of a cliché, but that’s no reason not to include them in your own portfolio.

Opposite ends of the same complex

I would argue that the most important tool for the street/urban photographer however is an open mind. Keep the gear simple and your mind unfettered of preconceived notions. An experienced photographer sees opportunities in even the most banal of locations and this comes from a combination of experience and keeping an open mind that is receptive to the visual stimuli that are all around us.

It’s not always the picturesque that attract my eye – Llangollen
Halifax town centre
Just shapes and light

In an Instant

I posted recently about the Spring Polaroid Week and commented that I wouldn’t be contributing for various reasons. However, the act of blogging about ‘roid week motivated me to get the Instax Wide 300 camera off the shelf and to make a few images with it.

My collection of shadow images

Now, whilst I did make these images during the week I was insufficiently organised to get any of them posted to the Flickr group that I joined specifically for this purpose. Rather than leave them on the table unused though I have shared them here.

I’m a fan of the Instax Monochrome film too

There are two Instax Wide films – colour and monochrome. I like both although the colour, contrary to the norm, is cheaper to buy so tends to be my first choice. The monochrome does what it says, it produces monochrome prints. Not strictly black and white but definitely monochrome; to my eyes they have a blue/grey hue (see first image) but that’s easily cured if desired (above). For context, I do have mild colour blindness – one of the reasons I mainly use black and white film.

I’ve been sat here this morning wondering what it is about instant images that appeals so much. I’ve not come up with anything erudite however I do think the clue is in the title. It’s instant. It is the nearest a film photographer gets to the instant gratification of the digital worker. It is also very easy to share around with others and in the moment as it were. From capture to consumption – instantly.

So, having missed the boat for the Spring edition I am keeping my eyes open for the Autumn date. In the meantime I had a look back through my more recent instant images – the only proper way to do so was of course to get the box down from the shelf and tip them on the bed!

Instax Wide 300

Zero Image 5×4 Pinhole with Graflock Back, Instax Wide film
Intrepid 5×4 camera, Graflock back and Instax wide film

These first three are all Instax Wide film but with three very different cameras. As well as my Instax cameras (I own a mini and a square, the Wide belongs to my grandson) I also have a LomoGraflok back which enables the use of Instax Wide film with one of my 5×4 cameras.

The next couple I guess help answer the question “why?”, the ability of an instant camera to capture then immediately share the fun moments in life. Be they fun selfies with the grandkids or double exposure selfies, they capture spontaneous moments wonderfully.

Instax Square
Instax Mini – selfies and double exposures

The oldest instant camera in my small collection is a Polaroid SX-70 Sonar. A rather temperamental old warrior that has a charm all of its own although doesn’t always want to play ball.

Polaroid SX-70 and some slightly out of date film
Polaroid SX-70: same day, same location, same pack of film but different results

So, there you have it. A romp back through the (physical) archive of instant photographs covering the last 18-20 months. Looking through the box I kept the duds as well as the successes – hoping perhaps that they will become fashionable one day?

Polaroid Week 2022

This is Polaroid Week, an annual celebration of instant photography. I’ve had all sorts of instant cameras over the years but these days just a couple of Instax cameras adorn my shelf. However, there is a vibrant online community and I do enjoy seeing what is posted. From straightforward images of everyday life to fabulous fantasy creations the instant film community is thriving.

Out of date film is a lottery
But instant photography can be very rewarding
An instant twist on an iconic scene
One camera that I owned and used for a while is the Lomo’ Instant

I have however gone through occasional phases of using instant film as well as a fair number of different cameras and formats. I have blogged about it too of course on several occasions. My Perfectly Imperfect series springs to mind in this context too.

Priceless! Harry and the pepper plant he grew

So, whilst Instant photography isn’t something I do that often, it is priceless for capturing and sharing little moments. Harry is very proud of the pepper he grew from seed … this morning we took his picture with an Instax Wide and he’s proudly carried it to school to show his teachers. Priceless!

ps – the print behind mine is one he took himself

Lomography camera – Instax film
Double exposure: Instax Mini 90, Neo Classic.

So, to those of you celebrating Polaroid Week 2022, good luck, have fun and I’m with you in spirit!


the zipper at dusk
Finally, a link to the online ‘roid week album on Flickr

World Pinhole Photography Day 2022

This was my third World Pinhole Photography Day (WPPD) and as in previous years I had definite plans for the day. In 2020 a global pandemic confined me to the backyard; I compensated for the disappointment by using one of my last rolls of original Acros. In 2021 I planned to use two pinhole cameras at a coastal location but travel restrictions confined me to the local area. On both occasions I still produced results I was happy to submit which eased the blow a little.

The marina

2022 was to be different. My plans revolved around a favourite location locally and so I felt very confident. The weather was forecast to be favourable and I had cameras readied, film holders loaded and everything was set for a pinhole Trichrome-fest on the Sunday. I was planning on using 35mm, 120 and 5×4; my most ambitious Trichrome project yet. However, I failed to anticipate the demands of family life and totally didn’t see the curved ball which relegated me to chauffeur and my WPPD plans to the bin.

Brighouse, upper lock

BUT. Where there’s a WPPD there’s a way and I found myself with a short window whilst in Brighouse to disappear for a short period. Allowing for walking to/from the location I had around 30 minutes to play with the ONDU 6×6 that I’d managed to slip into the car. I had loaded it with a roll of TMax 100 and a mini tripod completed the set up. I decided to head for a weir on the river that I’d seen images of but never photographed myself. I spent fifteen minutes trying to find the way down to it but failed miserably. To fail to prepare etc although in my defence this wasn’t what I’d planned for! I decided to cut my losses and walk back to the adjacent canal.

Brighouse, upper lock

I chose a part of the canal that I was familiar with to start my brief “shoot” and from there walked down a very short way to a lock that I’d not photographed before. Fifteen minutes probably stretched to twenty five but I still got back to the car on time and with a roll of exposed TMax in my pocket I was pleased that I’d managed something for WPPD 2022.

Footbridge over Calder & Hebble Navigation

The following morning I loaded the roll into a tank, made up 600ml of Rodinal (at 1+50) and set to one of my favourite parts of working with film. I find developing film therapeutic and a good way to switch off. It wasn’t long before a roll of properly exposed negatives were hanging to dry and I eagerly anticipated looking at them properly on the light box later.

Footbridge and walker

The first two frames (bracketed as it was a low-contrast, dimly lit scene) failed to Wow! me but it was good to see them in the right ballpark for exposure; it boded well for the rest of the roll. Frames three and four were both views of the marina with the only difference being the addition of a yellow/green filter for the fourth. I left the filter on for the rest of the roll as I felt, rightly it transpired, that the sky would benefit from its presence.

Lock keepers gate

I “scanned” the roll using a Fuji mirrorless camera and, unusually for me, processed them on my computer using Photoshop. My usual approach is to upload the “scans” to my iPad and use Snapseed but this is WPPD so deserved a more consistent approach. I made very similar adjustments to each image, made easier by a consistently exposed negative, and finished each with a gentle selenium tone in Silver Efex Pro.

From the roll of twelve I shortlisted seven from which to select my WPPD 2022 submission. All of them are presented in this post and as only one of them can be submitted I will make my choice after I’ve cogitated for a few days at least.

Bridge and mill flats

So, in conclusion, WPPD 2022 followed the tradition of not going entirely to plan but it was still a success in my eyes. It may not have been what I intended but I’ve managed some very pleasing images and I am definitely not disappointed as I was in 2020.

Here’s to WPPD2023!

#WPPD2022

Cross Street – a work in progress

I photographed these disused, near-derelict houses in Cross Street a few weeks ago for my 365 Challenge and at the time decided to return when I got a chance with a medium format camera and a couple of rolls of black and white film. This short series of images puts Cross Street in context and finally focuses in on the small vignette that so attracted my attention on that first visit.

Looking at these again this morning before posting them to my blog I am thinking about printing them but also about producing a zine with a series of short urban vignettes such as this drawn from my local area. Before I do either of these though I need to reprocess them to produce a visually consistent set of images. I believe this will help tell a more coherent story.

Which, I guess, tells us a little about how we consume images these days. Increasingly, images are viewed individually as little bite-sized portions on social media. The photo-essay (and I’m not suggesting this post constitutes a photo-essay) is less often seen in an environment where individual images are the predominant form in which photography is viewed. That said, I actually took these with the intention of creating a short series that hopefully told a story but I then post-processed them as individual images over the course of an evening and morning. This was partly because I wanted to see how they had turned out and also partly because I wanted to post one to Flickr as that day’s image for my 365 Challenge. In other words, they were produced individually to feed social media in as timely a manner as possible. As such, the “final” series doesn’t fully reflect my aims when starting out so I shall consider this set as a marker along the way. A more visually coherent set is the next step, followed by a set of prints (I will print more than this selection and play with the sequencing on the table) and finally their inclusion in a zine as the “final” form.

So, having used this blog post to choose the final images and view them as a set, I will now transfer the RAW files onto the computer and re-process the final selection using a consistent and hopefully coherent treatment. I might even try a sepia feel to them too but that’s getting ahead of myself.


TECHNICAL NOTE: All of these were made with a Bronica SQ-A medium format film camera and I used two rolls of film, one my old faithful Ilford HP5+ which I rated at 250 ISO and processed in Perceptol and the other a new-to-me roll of Kodak TMax 100 which I developed in Rodinal (1+50). I “scanned” the negatives with a Fuji X-H1 and post-processing was done using the JPEGs on an iPad with the Snapseed app.

Trying Trichrome – a workflow

Disclaimer: this is a work-in-progress and not a definitive workflow. I’m sharing it as my reader has expressed an interest in what I’ve been doing with Trichrome post-processing. I’m currently using Photoshop 2022 but plan to explore this process in Affinity Photo too at some point. Please note I have assumed at least a basic knowledge of Photoshop in preparing these notes.

So, the first step is to scan the images and I will work on the basis that anyone considering this process already has scanning under control. These scanned triplets then need preparing and I do this in Photoshop.

We now have a file containing the three different images, each with the filter colour displayed as part of the layers name. This will be very handy in the next stage but first we need to align the images so they match up properly and, optionally, trim off any excess around the edges.

Having got the three negatives aligned and in register we come to the bit where the magic happens. Firstly though, it is wise to double check that the file is in RGB mode at this stage (Image > Mode > RGB).

If I’ve copied this down properly from my notes you should now have a basic colour image on your screen, a negative or a positive depending on whether you inverted the black and white layers earlier. From here it business as usual as you tweak the image to your taste. For me I am currently choosing to leave myself with a colour negative which I import into Lightroom in order to convert it with Negative Lab Pro (NLP). In the example below, the left hand image was a colour negative that I inverted in Photoshop and tweaked using colour balance etcetera. The right hand image was imported as a colour negative into Lightroom and put through NLP without any further adjustments. Both versions have their merits of course.

Take One
Take Two

Whether you prefer one version or another is of course purely a personal choice and partly dependent on your aims. If your aim is to get as close to a natural colour image as possible then you will post-process appropriately and likewise if the lysergic aesthetic appeals you will post-process accordingly. It’s good to know there are choices.

I’m as ready as I’m going to be for some “serious” work now

So, there you have it. An approach to creating Trichrome images from three black and white negatives. Note my previous disclaimer though; this is a work in progress and not a definitive workflow. As and when I make further progress or add refinements I will share them on the blog.

Trying Trichrome – the test roll

I have already shared my initial thoughts on exposing film with the intention of creating my first Trichrome images – colour images from black and white negatives. I’ve also shared the negatives and camera settings. The Twitter-verse already knows the test run was successful so I thought today I’d talk about the part of the process that I wasn’t looking forward to – the computer bit. I’m no technophobe, nor am I a Luddite, I simply prefer to be outside after a working lifetime in offices stuck staring at a computer monitor.

I started as we all do these days by scouring the interweb for articles and video tutorials and whilst I sought enlightenment, I quickly became confused. Some pieces I read/watched were contradictory, others only half-explained things or explained them in a very confusing manner. Some were using older versions of Photoshop and some made assumptions about the readers existing PS skills and knowledge. After an hour or so of tinkering I suddenly, and to my bewilderment, found myself with a coloured image on the screen, two A4 pages of scribbles and a very confused look on my face. Twenty minutes later I had three more coloured images, none produced in the same way as the first, and, more encouragingly, the start of a proper set of notes. Success of sorts and so I shared them on Twitter (see below); although I was confident that I could improve on them I’ve been sharing the experiment and it seemed only right to recognise the moment.

Take One and time for tea

It was however time for tea. And I was cooking!

Suitably refreshed, I returned to the computer and reviewed what I’d done earlier. I then went back and methodically reprocessed each of the four sets of negatives, refining my notes as I went and by the end of this had four far better-looking images and a set of scribbles outlining a workflow I could repeat. Most importantly I knew what I’d done to achieve the second set of four images.

Take Two: Spot the difference!

I will share the workflow in the next post (to be published within the hour!) but bear in mind that whilst it works this is a work-in-progress and I will be refining it as I learn more. I will also be investigating alternative methods which may simplify the process too. My current approach creates a colour negative initially although it is possible to create a colour positive directly and I will share that step in my walk through too.

I like the results I got from this methodology today, culminating in a colour negative so will stick with the additional steps for now.

Take Two: Lysergic Skies

In addition, I’ve been using Photoshop, yet I distinctly remember Andrew (remember him?) saying he uses Affinity Photo which apparently offers a simpler workflow. I shall be swapping notes with Andrew before the #trichromeparty for sure. In fact, he currently has one set of my RGB negatives to play with so we can compare notes. There’s lots to learn and discover yet clearly!

Trying Trichrome – the negatives

This is the first of three posts being posted over the next hour and simply records the four sets of negatives and the camera settings employed and are being shared in order to give the reader a full understanding of what my process was. The second of today’s posts talks about my experiences with the computer processing side of things and the third contains my full workflow as of today.

Ready for composition one and the first set of three negatives

I used a single roll of Fomapan 400, exposed at box speed and a tripod-mounted Bronica SQ-A. I metered with a Polaris handheld meter. The three filters, red/green/blue, were from a set of budget filters. For each of the four compositions I exposed the negatives in the sequence Red, Green, Blue or RGB as I felt that a consistent workflow would lead to less confusion. The roll was “scanned” using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera and a Nikkor 60mm micro lens with an appropriate adapter.

I kept the aperture consistent within each set and varied the shutter speed to adjust for the different filter factors. Whilst testing beforehand suggested the green was around +2 or +2.5 I think that in future I will simply use a factor of +3 for each filter as my starting point. With a base exposure of 1/60th sec I was using shutter speeds of 1/8th or 1/15th as appropriate. A cable release completed the set-up.

The film was developed for thirteen minutes in Ilford ID11(1+1) at twenty degrees using my normal process so everything was kept as normal as possible to reduce the chances of processing variation.

Trying Trichrome – the testing!

Yesterday’s snow took us by surprise here, it wasn’t forecast for our part of the country and in any event sheltered by the Pennines as we are we don’t usually get too much of the white stuff. Nevertheless, after breakfast this morning I headed into my backyard for the first part of my Trichrome project – the test run in the field (or backyard in my case) and capturing the images.

I started by using the light meter on my phone to check the filter factors of the red, green and blue (RGB) filters I had purchased especially for this test. These suggested that the relevant factors were three for red and blue and two for the green; in the ballpark of where I’d expected them although I decided to do the second of todays four sets at R3, G3 and B3 rather than 323.

I set up three compositions. One with some colourful objects I found in the snow and I photographed this six times, two sets of three images, in order to have a reference for the green filter as discussed above.

Ready, steady, test!

I had the Bronica SQ-A setup on a sturdy tripod and fitted with a cable release. Once the composition had been made and the lens focused I touched nothing apart from the cable release and the wind-on lever. My mind thinks of these colours as RGB so it made sense to make the first exposure with the red filter, the second with the green and the third with the blue. Your mileage may differ but the key thing to remember here is that whilst red and blue have the same filter factor the green I was using has a different filter factor (probably – this test will confirm). I took all three exposures within a few seconds of each other, just enough time to carefully change the filters over without bumping the camera, and altered the shutter speed to adjust the exposure for the different filters, leaving the aperture unchanged.

This first composition was photographed twice. The second time I treated all three filters as if they had a filter factor of three (see above). However, I reverted to 323 for the second half of this roll of Fomapan 400.

Whilst the first composition was a still life and evenly lit the second was a wider scene encompassing more of the garden and a little of the sky too. The final set of three was very similar to the second composition but included far more of the sky in the frame.

I wasn’t expecting any issues with taking the images, I’m very familiar with my gear, I’d prepared myself beforehand and had the filters laid out ready to use. I’d considered the filter factors for these new filters and I’d dug out the sturdiest tripod I own so knew nothing would move. A cable release ensured no camera shake and a light reading with my Polaris meter would give the best chance of properly exposed negatives. Being organised and knowing up front what I was going to do helped with a smooth session in the backyard.

Next job is to develop the film, scan the sets of negatives and carefully name the files to incorporate red, blue or green as appropriate in the file name. All being well I will be in a position to try assembling the Trichrome on the computer tomorrow evening or possibly tonight if other things don’t get in the way!

Keep watching this space!