A few frames … Olympus Pen EE3

Over the years I’ve acquired a fairly random collection of cameras alongside the day-to-day “system”. One that only gets the occasional outing is the half-frame, 35mm Olympus Pen EE3. I loaded it with a roll of high-contrast Rollei Blackbird recently and it spent three weeks in my bag being used as and when I got the inspiration.

The Pen EE-3 is a compact, yet tough little half-frame camera from the 1970s and as with all half-frame cameras, you get two pictures on a single 35mm frame. The EE-3 has fully-automatic exposure with the EE standing for Electronic Eye. It measures the available light with the selenium cell meter which surrounds the lens and chooses between two shutter speeds: 1/125th and 1/30th of a second. The aperture is fixed via the ISO/ASA rating of the film which is set just below the lens.

My method of using this camera has evolved since I’ve had it. I started by making individual pics in the same way as I would use any other camera. However, I’d not had it long before I realised there was, for me, a better way. In-camera diptychs. Pairs of complementary images occupying a single 35mm frame.

More recently I’ve taken that further and have made three-, four-, five- and six-frame sequences. This takes the diptych concept further and the four-plus sequences fit the panoramic format very nicely.

For the last three weeks I’ve picked this little camera out of my bag on around half a dozen occasions slowly using the 72 frames at my disposal. Mostly pairs and triplets but also plenty of four-, five- and even six-frame sets. The biggest problem is cutting the negatives to fit into a conventional sleeve. My solution is to scan the full roll before cutting it and ensuring I have full runs of consecutive negatives captured.

Blyth beach. Six consecutive half-frames to create a panorama Olympus EE3, Rollei Blackbird rated at 64. Id11 (1+1) 10.5mins

I will write a few notes on scanning at another time although I will just say that I used a Pixl-Latr for the three- to six-frame sequences and an Essential Film Holder for the diptychs.

My semi-stand week: FT12

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!

Orthochromatic – a new treat

Ilford Ortho is an ISO 80 orthochromatic black & white film with fine grain and sharpness and “perfect for stunning landscapes” according to the Ilford website. When they brought it out in 120 last year I bought a few rolls but for various reasons I hadn’t used them until very recently when the arrival of a 35mm roll of Rollei Ortho 25 Plus prompted me to have a play.

Over the course of three days I used a roll of the 120 in my Zero Image pinhole camera and another roll in the Bronica SQ-A and finally the Rollei Ortho was put to use in my Horizon S3 35mm swing-lens panoramic camera.

So what is an orthochromatic film? The film stocks we typically use nowadays are panchromatic meaning they react to all colours of the visible spectrum. Orhochromatic films on the other hand are only sensitive to a part of the visible spectrum, ranging from blue to the end of green. Early films were typically orthochromatic until the process of adding dyes to increase this sensitivity was developed. Orthochromatic films can create interesting effects in pictorial applications in that red colours become dark or black, and everything blue becomes white or light coloured.

The first roll, through the pinhole, was not destined to be a big success due to a schoolboy error. Remember me saying that orthochromatic film has no red sensitivity? So, why did I pop an orange filter inside my pinhole camera? I was pretty disappointed with the negatives until the light bulb moment happened and I realised that whilst the conditions that day were good for an orange filter – the film wasn’t!

The following day, like a grown-up, I opened a second roll and this time put it in a Bronica SQ-A and headed for a small patch of woodland with a tripod and a set of filters.

Given what we know about the sensitivity of orthochromatic film the results are not surprising. The red version has more detail incidentally only because I over-exposed it by one stop compared to the orange filtered version. The key characteristics of blue skies turning almost white and reds becoming very dark are clearly apparent as is the emulsions ability to give more nuanced colour separation in the greens.

“Rest-a-while”: Bronica SQ-A, 150mm, yellow filter, f5.6 1/15th second. Ilford Ortho Plus @ ISO 80 Tripod and cable release. Calder & Hebble 14th May 2021

I had read that a yellow filter was a useful tool with orthochromatic film and whilst there are differences between the no filter and yellow filter test shots they are subtle to my eye.

“Dappled”: Bronica SQ-A, 80mm lens, f22 8second, Ilford Ortho Plus @ ISO 80 with a green filter

What I did find very useful in this woodland setting was a green filter however and I was lucky that it was a relatively still morning as the combination of a slow film and a small aperture meant exposures up to 8 seconds with the filter in place.

Bronica SQ-A, 50mm lens, f22 8second, Ilford Ortho Plus @ ISO 80 with a green filter

So, I clearly enjoyed the Ilford Ortho 80 in 120, but what of the Rollei Ortho 25? I put this roll of 35mm film through my go-to 35mm camera – the Horizon S3 Pro. This was the first time I had used the S3 on a tripod but with the aperture kept to f16 for maximin sharpness and depth of field the resulting exposure times of between 1/4 and 1/2 of a second left me little choice. Well, look no further than the next image in this post, one of the most pleasing compositions from my S3 to date and look at those tones.

River Calder 16th May 2021 Horizon S3, f16, Rollei Ortho Plus

Using filters on the S3 is a fiddly process and so I generally leave them at home and such was the case on this day. The negative has a very white sky but a little bit of burning-in has revealed some detail. These images are all digital scans by the way, I have yet to try darkroom printing any of these negatives. Even from the scans however the tonal separation in the foliage is very evident and my sense from looking at the negatives is that when I do get the time they will print very nicely.

Horizon S3, f16, Rollei Ortho Plus

All of the films were developed in Ilford ID11 (1+1) at 20°C with the Ilford film given 10 1/2 minutes and the Rollei 8 minutes. Whilst I may experiment in the future I see no reason to change this for my next roll of either film.

Whilst the Rollei was a single roll of 35mm film that I had been sent I do have a few more 120 rolls of the Ilford Ortho 80 in the fridge and I shall be looking for an opportunity to play with them further in the future. Clearly green or yellow filters will be a useful addition to my bag on the day depending upon the intended subject and I have a mental note to have them at the ready.

Tuesday Triple

Three images from a recent visit to Scammonden Water, within sight and sound of the busy M62 motorway. I was on my way home from a local reservoir where I had been practising with the Intrepid 5×4. Like many of us I do practice setting the camera up whilst I’m at home, developing muscle memory as it were. However, being out in the field is a different experience, especially stood a few feet from a busy road hence the occasional trip out. I will (hopefully!) be going to the coast for a few days at the end of the month and will be taking the Intrepid for some long exposure photography.

All images: Horizon S3, Orwo UN54, Rodinal (1+50)
All images are scans created with a mirrorless camera

Whilst my main purpose for the short trip was practising with the 5×4 I still had a couple of other cameras in the boot of the car, one of which was the Horizon S3. Having spent around six months making urban panoramic images with the Horizons it was a joy to point the camera at something that was living.

Sunday Pinhole

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.

Sheet 1: I could have got a lot closer to the gates

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.

Take 2!
Spot the difference

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!

Sheet 2: This will be a challenge to print – on the negative the centre is much brighter than the edges

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.

Sheet 4: A Sunday morning pinhole – around 7am to get an empty car park! Zero Image 5×4 Pinhole camera, Fomapan 100, 2 second exposure, developed in Rodinal (1+49)

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.

Modifying my pinhole

I am a relatively recent convert to the joys (and unpredictability) of pinhole photography, even building one myself not so long ago.  As with the majority of my film photography I tend to use black and white film in the pinholes, indeed cannot remember ever having used colour film in one.  I have pinholes that accept 35mm, 120 and 5×4 film of which my most-used is a Zero Image 612b, multi-format pinhole that uses 120 film.  It is multi-format in that it has a pair of baffles inside that can be moved to facilitate using the camera at 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7, 6×9 and 6×12.

Zero Image 612b pinhole camera, Fuji Acros, orange filter. Developed in Kodak D76(1+1)

As a black and white photographer I routinely use filters to control contrast, indeed with most of my film cameras a yellow or yellow/green filter is ever-present on the lens.  However, my Zero Image is the basic version and therefore has no bells and whistles such as external filter rings. I lack the tools and skills to adapt the front of the camera working around the sliding “shutter” so have reluctantly accepted the lack of filter options.

Until now.

I have recently modified the Zero Image to accept filters internally. I did this by taking a 25-37mm step up ring and asking my grandson to take the 25mm thread off (without removing his own fingers).  This was then super-glued inside the camera, with the pinhole centrally situated within the ring.  Because of the camera’s internal dimensions a 37mm filter ring was the largest filter diameter I could accommodate and still screw filters on/off with my old fingers. By incorporating a screw thread inside the camera and purchasing a few small filters I am now able to use not only contrast control filters but also a 720nm filter to enable me to use infrared film with the pinhole. The only downside is I have to choose upfront what filter I will need and install it before loading the film.  In addition, I cannot change the filter part way through the roll. Other than that it works fabulously though and the 37mm yellow filter is rarely out of the camera.

Zero Image pinhole camera | 720nm filter | Rollei Infrared 400

At the 6×12 setting the outer edge of the ring is visible onthe edge of the negative as a very definite vignette BUT once cropped the usable negative area still measures 6×12.1.  There are no issues at 6×6, 6×7 or 6×9. I haven’t yet tried 6×4.5 but on this evidence I do not envisage problems, although I very rarely use the smallest negative size with this camera.

My semi-stand week: Ilford FP4+

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.

Split-grade printed on Fotospeed Oyster

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.

Bronica ETRS, Y/G filter

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.

Bronica ETRS, Y/G filter and a roll of Ilford FP4+ developed in Kodak D76(1+1)

One frame on: FERRANIA P30

I shared my thoughts on this film as part of my semi-stand series. Unlike some online resources I’m not claiming that the single roll I’ve exposed makes me an expert on the film by the way. These were very much first impressions based on using semi-stand development. I have one other roll in the fridge which I will use at some point and I will probably develop that with another process to compare and contrast. First impressions are that this is a very contrasty film but with the right subject it will probably deliver some very nice results. Definitely not an everyday film.

Ferrania P30 – semi-stand in Rodinal (1+100)

My semi-stand week: Ferrania P30

In this part of the semi-stand series I am going to look at another new-to-me film stock: Ferrania P30. This was recommended to me by a contact on Twitter after they read my response to my first roll of FT12; the film which incidentally kick-started semi-stand week and which I will talk about in the final post in this series.

Horizon S3, Ferrania P30, Rodinal (1+100) semi-stand.

In the first part of the series I talked about the methodology and also mentioned why I was having a week of semi-stand development. The suggested timings for Ferrania in Rodinal (1+1) were a good example of why I often fight shy of using this method. Sixty minutes! By the time you add in stop, fix and washing cycles you are looking at between one and a quarter and one and a half hours depending on how fast I agitate during my adapted Ilford wash cycle. For one film!

This roll of film ended up being a roll of two distinct parts. The first part of the roll was used on a wander around the back streets of the small town in which I live. Like all of the negatives on the roll these are sharp, punchy and have bags of contrast. The second part of the roll was used up on the moors above Elland and with a foreground in heavy shadow apart from patches of sunlit moorland and a lovely bright sky the film was no match for the dynamic range of the scene. With no means of using a neutral density graduated filter I plumped for a middle-ground exposure and hoped for the best. To be fair I wouldn’t have used the Horizon in such conditions usually but this was an impromptu trip and the Horizon with Ferrania loaded was all I had in the bag at the time.

Overall I like this film, deep blacks and bright whites are its main characteristics (based on using one roll – this is NOT a definitive review!!) with loads of contrast and personality.

On the left, negative with a positive created by simply inverting the negative in Photoshop and adding a Levels adjustment. On the right, the negative and below it a full-worked version created in Photoshop. I rarely do more than the a simple inversion and Levels when posting to social media. Full-blown conversions are a rarity from me these days as I’d rather spend the time with a camera.

So, once again the semi-stand development in very diluted Rodinal has produced some lovely negatives. I am looking forward to working with some of these in the darkroom but before I do I just wanted to say a few words on the so-called hybrid approach. Using a film camera to capture the images and traditional development methods to produce negatives with this approach that is the end of the “analog” part of the process and from here on its purely digital. The negatives are scanned or otherwise copied using a digital camera and the workflow from there involves the photographers software and digital processing techniques of choice. The image at the top of the page was created this way as were those immediately above.

Some people decry the hybrid approach as not being “true”. I think this is a high-handed attitude and have no time for those who denigrate hybrid workers as somehow not being “proper” photographers. To my mind it matters not whether you are a died-in-the wool traditionalist who only uses “analog” (I detest the term) processes, a purely digital photographer or someone who straddles both camps and uses the hybrid method. We are all producing photographic images – it matters not to me how an image was produced. Whilst I can fully appreciate the skills and art that go into producing a darkroom print it does not make the final image somehow better for having eschewed contact with a computer. Anyway, soap box away for today.

Horizon S3, Ferrania P30, Rodinal (1+100)semi-stand

So, there you have it. Another successful semi-stand experiment, another new-to-me film with plenty of contrast and bags of personality and whilst it won’t be added to my regular shopping list I look forward to playing with this combination again.

The first part of this series outlined the methodology employed for the semi-stand development of each roll in this series. The second post covered the “scanning” methodology, a basic conversion such as I would do for Twitter for example and also touched upon the benefits of researching beyond simply looking for development suggestions when using a new film. In this part, I looked at Ferrania P30 in semi-stand and talked about a hybrid digital-analog approach to film photography. I hope you have enjoyed it.

In a future post I will look at the development of three rolls of 120 Ilford FP4+ and my approach to printing these negatives. I will conclude the series by looking at another new-to-me 35mm film, FT12, the film that started the week and which is destined through a quirk in my personal logic to close out the semi-stand series.


One frame on: Orwo UN54

A single image from yesterdays wander with the Horizon S3 and a roll of Orwo UN54. I talk about it a little in yesterdays blog post too. I bought a single roll of this film to see how it would work for me and my urban photography – I’d seen evidence of why a lot of my friends like the film from pictures they’ve shared on Twitter and the like but would it work for me?

Horizon S3, Orwo UN54, semi-stand in Rodinal (1+100) for 40 minutes. 13th April 2021

Look at those textures! It’s also held up very well in challenging conditions as the fence on the right is in the sun and everything on the left in shade. I’ve burned-in the fence a touch as I would do in the darkroom.

Fair to say this film is on my shopping list and I’m very tempted to use semi-stand again when I do get some if these results are typical.