If there is something that many film photographers have in common it’s their willingness to try things “because they can” even if there are far simpler ways of achieving results. My glass plate project is probably a good example of doing things the hard way (currently on hold until the Spring incidentally). Indeed, it could be argued that film photography as a whole fits this theme given how easy digital photography can be. But, I digress (not for the first time).
So, when someone (I’m looking at you @apkeedle) starts posting colour images created from black and white film negatives my interest is piqued. Colour from FP4! When I saw that it involves using the computer however I mentally consigned it to the “follow with interest but don’t get involved” list. Which is where it has firmly stayed for many months as I’ve enjoyed the images I’ve been seeing, particularly from Andrew, and have been content to consume rather than produce.
Until Andrew (yes, still looking at you Mr K) suggested a Trichrome Party on Twitter and in a moment of weakness I found myself saying “of course I’ll have a go”. I dug out filters, ordered stepping rings and even adapted my Titan 5×4 pinhole camera to accept filters. I then had the bright idea of infrared trichomes too. Ooh, Trichrome pinhole infrared….
The thinking about it has been fun. But now comes the moment when I need to properly understand what is actually involved prior to having a go myself.
So, this post is simply a marker in the sand, a note of intent if you will. The plan is to spend this evening binge watching/reading everything I can find on the subject and then tomorrow I will load a roll of 120 into the Bronica SQ-A and head into the backyard for the test run.
In the meantime here is the image that “started” it all for me from the aforementioned Andrew Keedle who retains copyright and all the glory emanating from this fabulous 7×17 ULF masterpiece …
On a whim I picked up a Canon rangefinder recently; it was being offered for buy-it-now at a sensible price well below the silly money I’ve seen some of these go for. Film-tested, it said, and recently CLAd, it also said, I decided to take a punt. I’ve used compact 35mm cameras regularly but have less experience with a rangefinder camera. Today was the day I popped a roll of film in and tested it out. Not very good light but I needed a walk anyway so off I went.
The Canonet QL17 is a coupled-rangefinder, leaf-shuttered, fixed-focal-length 35 mm camera first manufactured by Canon in 1965 so whilst it doesn’t predate me it’s still a venerable age for a camera being used in 2021. Like me however, it is a bit stiff in the joints which hopefully is simply down to a lack of use. No battery was supplied and as it’s not a common type I’ve had to order one but as the camera still functions without a battery I simply popped a light meter in my pocket and set off.
The Canonet G-III QL17 is arguably the more sought after model in the small Canonet range, born out perhaps by the price differential, but the QL is larger and I felt that it would fit in my hands better. I’ve certainly no complaints with the handling even wearing gloves. The focus lever has a fairly short throw which concerned me until I started using it. The short throw means that I can keep one finger on the lever and focus from close to infinity very quickly. So far, I have only used the camera this one time but already am focusing very quickly and effectively. Indeed, I think I can manually focus more quickly with this camera than any of my other cameras. A bold claim indeed!
One thing that attracted me to the Canonet was the f1.7 lens which gets reasonably good reviews generally although that’s not the primary attraction for me. With the clocks having gone back, I have in mind a series of urban evening images using streetlights and the ever-present Yorkshire rain. With it getting dark by 4:15pm at the moment I can do some “night” photography before tea. A fast f1.7 lens will be a boon for this project as will the discrete size and shape of the camera.
The lack of a battery meant that I couldn’t test the auto exposure function nor could I assess the accuracy of the meter. I was pretty confident from my test firings however that the different shutter speeds would work without the battery – at least that’s what my ear was telling me! Working fully manually has never bothered me though. I decided to adopt the approach I often take when spontaneity is more important than 100% accuracy – meter once and use my nous thereafter. I started at f11 and 1/125th second and during the walk used apertures from f1.7 to f16 and shutter speeds from 1/60th to 1/500th. So, not quite the full range but enough to check if things are generally working OK.
The film I loaded was one I hadn’t previously used, AgfaPhoto APX 400. Today wasn’t about testing a new-to-me film however, so I’m not going to comment further on that apart from observing that the negatives were not overly contrasty and therefore scanned very nicely. For the record I developed the roll in my old-faithful, Ilford ID11 which I diluted 1+1. Post-production was carried out in Snapseed on my tablet.
So, there we have it. My first outing with the Canonet QL and on the evidence of these negatives it won’t be my last. In fact I’ve already loaded it with a fresh roll of film ready for the next.
The Zero Image 5×4 pinhole camera that I use has a rotating turret with a selection of pinholes and zone plates. Until recently I was using the basic frame which has just one pinhole and one zone plate, so as a pinhole user I set it to pinhole when I received it and never touched the turret again. However, recently I bought the deluxe version with not only a cable release but with three pinholes and three zone plates on the turret. The camera is modular and the idea is that as you add or remove additional frames (effectively changing the focal length) you slide in the appropriate sized pinhole for that focal length.
On a recent trip to Brighouse I was happily changing between pinholes as I moved between 25mm and 50mm focal lengths and as I packed the camera away I remembered to move the turret back to the 25mm setting.
Or did I?
Of course not; if I had this post wouldn’t have been written!
I next used the Zero Image in the local memorial park on Remembrance Sunday, intending to use the images for my “365” Challenge. However on developing the film all four sheets were fuzzy and not at all what I was expecting. I put it down to the lightweight tripod and the fact that I’d forgotten my cable release. I didn’t immediately spot that the negatives were rather dark, indicating over-exposure.
The following day I set out again with a sturdier tripod and two cable releases. After three sheets I decided to amend the configuration of the camera. As I went to move the pinhole in the turret for the new set-up I saw what the problem had been – when I’d reset the camera after my Brighouse outing I’d lined up not the pinhole but the zone plate!
Suddenly, all made sense. Fuzzy images and over-exposed negatives – not camera shake at all! A zone plate lets in more light than a pinhole so I’d metered “incorrectly” and zone plate images are naturally blurrier than pinhole.
So, will I be doing this regularly? Well, I hope that I won’t accidentally select a zone plate again certainly. As for the images themselves I’m not sure if they aren’t a step too far for me. I have happily embraced the soft, ethereal imagery of the pinhole but the jury is out on zone plate images. See what you think, time will tell if I deliberately set out with zone plate in mind but never say never!
Since I returned to using mainly film for my photography I’ve established a small darkroom in the corner of my office and have enjoyed reacquainting myself with the “dark arts”. I’m no more than a competent darkroom printer, at best, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable aspect of the hobby. It’s also an aspect which provides lots of opportunities for problem-solving which is something I enjoy, not least because it keeps my brain engaged.
Of necessity though I have also had to learn some digital ways, mainly so that I can share images on social media. Even if I darkroom printed everything I’d still have to scan the prints! So, I have had to embrace the so-called hybrid approach and I have to say I’ve enjoyed the challenge. It was also good to refresh some of my digital skills and apply them to a negative-based media.
I was musing on this over the weekend as I was working on a 5×4 negative in the darkroom. I had made the image earlier in the week with my wooden Zero Image 5×4 pinhole camera and after developing the sheet had done a very quick copy with my digital camera. As much of my social media bound images are, this was quickly processed in Snapseed on my iPad and uploaded to Twitter.
The response was, for a post from me at least, phenomenal.
I had already made up chemicals for a weekend in the darkroom but hadn’t decided which negatives to print. I usually only print one or two negatives in a session and, allowing for domestic duties, I expected to get two sessions over the weekend which meant I would usually have earmarked three or four negatives. However, the response to my Brighouse pinhole image meant that there was no need to think too hard … it had been selected for me by my friends and colleagues on the Twitter-verse.
Saturday morning, I set up the trestle table for the developing trays, moved the safelights into position and blacked out the study cum office which as I’ve mentioned before also serves as my darkroom. I positioned the negative in my aged Johnson V5 enlarger, composed and focused the image ready for a sheet of 8×10 paper. Everything was ready for when I could escape the domestic chores. I’d only need to pour out the chemicals and don my apron and I’d be away. As is my usual practice I looked at the negative projected onto the easel for a few minutes before turning off the focusing lamp and heading downstairs.
Something was nagging at me as I walked downstairs and it was whilst I was folding the washing that I realised what it was. Whilst the digital camera had pulled every last bit of detail from the negative and the localised adjustments applied in Snapseed had created a lovely result the negative itself was horribly underexposed around the bottom and very overexposed in the centre particularly. This would be a huge challenge for my basic skills.
After my usual test strips to get a feel for the negative I quickly realised that my concerns were real, the bottom left and the centre of the image were going to be tricky. I made a test strip from the whole negative and used this as the basis for a printing plan … which got overwritten numerous times.
Long story short, I had three sessions in the darkroom over the weekend and ended up working with just the one negative and with just one “finished” print hanging to dry overnight. I’m definitely not finished with the negative however as I’ve not yet created a final print I am totally happy with. I went to bed a little low but woke up reminding myself that it was a tough negative to print and that I am by no means an expert darkroom printer. There will be another day!
It also reminded me of the importance of getting it right in-camera, something I do strive for and always have, but brought home very forcibly over the weekend. Could I have done much more at the taking stage? Possibly, possibly not. I was using an ambient light reading as I rarely take my spot meter out when working with pinhole cameras. On this occasion I might have made good use of a spot meter though to accurately place the shadows on zone III but without filters the central portion would still have been over exposed. However, there’s no mileage in playing “could’ve, should’ve” at this stage, simply add it to the store of knowledge and experience and move on.
On this occasion then, my hybrid workflow will eventually* provide me with a nice print from this negative. I learnt a fair bit from trying to print it in the darkroom and I will no doubt learn plenty more from playing further with the negative in the darkroom; I’ve already started scribbling notes to guide my next attempt.
I’m enjoying this hybrid approach although have to say I’ve also enjoyed being in the darkroom this weekend.
Which, all leads me to conclude that there is a lot to be said for my approach. Part-hybrid and part-traditional, I am at least able to complete my vision with a print and to me it’s not a photograph until you can hold it in your hand.
*as my regular reader might remember I do not have a digital photo-printer at the moment. I have however ordered a small printer for this purpose and you can be sure that this will be the first image I print on it!
I’ve mentioned before that I keep the process of digitising my negatives as simple as possible. However, it is not that I am a Luddite nor that I am an incompetent, I simply prefer fresh air to a computer keyboard. My purchase of the RSS 6×17 though has meant I have needed to rethink this a little as the negatives are so large I waste over half of the sensor if I try capturing the whole negative in one go.
My previous post mentioned that I had stitched two “negatives” together to make an image with a wider field of view by harnessing the power of having a camera with top and bottom shutters. It didn’t however mention that the two files I used were each comprised of three parts which were also stitched together.
My technique was essentially the same as I would use to capture a digital panorama in the field adapted slightly for the new purpose. I adjusted the height of the camera on the copy stand until the vertical side of the negative completely filled the frame. I then made three exposures, moving the negative between each to ensure I captured the whole of the 6×17 negative (see below). Three exposures gave me a good overlap between each negative which helps the software with the stitching. Incidentally, I had photographed each portion of the negative with the same settings on the camera and at this stage I have not made any adjustment to the RAW files.
Selecting the three RAW file in Adobe Bridge I then selected the Tools menu and then Photoshop and Photomerge from the sub-menus.
Tools > Photoshop > Photomerge
I then sat back and let Photoshop do its magic and after a few moments it presented me with a stitched file with three layers. It appeared to have done a very good job of aligning everything and so I simply flattened the file and processed it as normal.
Now, there’s no point asking me for optimal settings etcetera as I won’t know the answer! This method was intuitive and worked for me. I am sure that I will take more notice of discussions on stitching in the future so may well improve on this methodology but for now it works for me!
My latest acquisition in my panoramic explorations is a 6×17 pinhole camera from RealitySoSubtle (RSS). It’s anything but subtle. From its black, boxy exterior with no fewer than four chunky silver clips to the massive negatives it produces the RSS 6×17 screams “look at me!”
Quoting from the website, the RealitySoSubtle 6×17 is a dual pinhole/shutter curved film plane 6×17 panoramic pinhole camera that uses 120 film. The dual pinhole allows for the horizon to be placed on the upper or lower third of the frame, although what exactly comprises the horizon is dependant on the level that your camera is at. I regularly use a pinhole low down to the floor so for my test roll I popped the camera on a mini tripod and headed to my front yard and a much-photographed bench.
Whilst I was deciding whether or not to buy the RSS6x17 I got into a discussion with John Farnan on Twitter. I’d originally intended to buy the “F” version which has one, centrally positioned, pinhole with a filter ring. I use contrast filters a lot in my black & white photography so it was a logical choice for me. However, I had underestimated the power of a dual pinhole camera, a fact that John was quick to point out! He also shared some images to prove his point and so I found myself emailing RSS to amend my order!
The two images above demonstrate the benefits of the dual pinhole quite nicely. The top version is using the top pinhole and the bottom using … yup the bottom pinhole! A powerful tool to add to my compositional armoury.
Of course, with the negatives on the light pad I quickly saw the opportunity for combining the two negatives for some added real estate (look at the two pictures above again). By stitching the two images together in Photoshop (other photo-software is available) I created a 2×1 image which still kept the 141° horizontal field of view but brought the foreground back too giving what I would estimate as a 60° vertical field of view, for another take on the scene. Despite only four frames per roll I can see me experimenting with this a fair bit initially. However, John assures me I will quickly default to the top pinhole 90% of the time!
I think that me and this pinhole camera are going to be emptying my wallet of beer tokens at an alarming rate over the next few months! I probably should set up a KoFi account! 🙂
I wrote recently about my unintended foray into the world of using a Holga handheld in bulb mode. I was initially annoyed with myself but I digitised the negatives regardless and copied the files to my iPad and a few evenings later settled down to have a play using the Snapseed app.
Now, none of them are likely to make my 2021 Top Ten Images, and many are just bleugh, but some I quite like! So in the spirit of sharing and perhaps also a spot of public flagellation, here’s a selection!
So, what do you think? I’d love to hear your honest (but polite) thoughts on these images – drop me a note below.
I have owned a Holga or five over the years but until this last week had only ever used them occasionally and rarely more than once in a single week. Nevertheless I’ve used them often enough to know how to handle them (bear with me, there’s a reason for saying this). I currently own two, the 120N and the WPC, and whilst I loaded both at the start of the week I only ended up using the 120N in the end. I’m not short on practice with it therefore.
I’m currently looking at the three rolls from Day 6 and have noticed something odd about the third roll. The first six frames are fine but the second six are all very over-exposed.
I’d spotted it when hanging them to dry but had assumed it was just the “Joy of Holga”. Until now.
On the light box I can see that they are all delightfully blurry!
The roll from Day 7 is still in the Holga, awaiting my release from daily chores when I can develop it (which is looking like Saturday now). I pick up the Holga, turn it over, and … you’re ahead of me I suspect!
Somehow after frame six of roll six I managed to knock the switch on the bottom of the Holga from N to B. I’d used it in bulb mode for those six frames. It also means I’ve used it in bulb mode for all twelve of today’s rural images!!! I don’t normally indulge in multiple exclamation marks but think this is worthy of them.
So, despite being used to the Holga, despite understanding it’s unique quirks, despite knowing to check the N/B switch regularly, the first time I’ve forgotten to check is also the first time I actually managed to knock the switch.
But, this is Holga photography. We know what we are signing up for before we start and we embrace the quirky results. Sometimes we even need to embrace unforeseen “quirks” too!
I at least know that Day 7’s roll has been over-exposed I guess so I can reduce development time to compensate in terms of exposure. Unfortunately it won’t sharpen the images – my only rural images at that!
I hadn’t intended going out today so for me the final day of Holga Week was going to be getting ready to process the scanned images. In passing, it seems odd that my week is finishing on a Thursday but I got over it pretty quickly.
I wanted to finish the scanning from earlier in the week and develop the three rolls from yesterday. Not necessarily in that order. School run complete, a leisurely breakfast consumed and I was ready to develop the films. I find developing films a relaxing process and not the chore that some seem to find it. I’ve use Perceptol as stock for this week’s films, mixed fresh on Day One, so today would be films 4, 5 and 6 and the end of this litre of developer as I typically only put half a dozen rolls through each batch. It all tied up nicely.
Until. Looking at the accumulated negatives once I’d finished the development of these final three rolls, I realised how exclusively urban they were. Not a surprise really as it’s been my go-to genre for a while now. I hesitated. Was it such a bad thing? After all it’s what I do. Then the little imp on the shoulder chipped in. “But there’s a fresh roll loaded in the Holga … would be a shame not to add another roll. Make a tidy 7 rolls, one for each of the days in Holga Week”. A quick trip down to a local nature trail would give me the chance of a few rural images too I thought, rather unhelpfully aiding the imp.
The imp won. And so it was that I found myself enjoying some early afternoon sunshine and a short stroll. I took just the Holga and that one roll of film for my final trip out for Holga Week 2021.
I’m not sure why, perhaps it appeals to the completer-finisher in me, but an average of a film a day seems about right. I managed to get out on five of the seven days too which was more than I’d anticipated. In terms of effort then I’d class Holga Week 2021 a success.
Just one roll to develop and I’m ready to start on the shortlist for my three submissions. Fingers crossed I can get that done on Friday or at the very latest Saturday.
Day Six. Wednesday 6th October, designated by Senior Management as the start of Christmas shopping for 2021.
But, I’m not despondent as over the 45 or so years we’ve been together we’ve slowly evolved an understanding about marathon shopping sprees. I don’t do them. What I do though is drive to the designated shopping centre or wherever, park up and then we go for breakfast. Suitably fed we then part for the duration; the wife goes shopping and I take a walk, with a camera. Usually my Fuji X100T or the Nikon L35AF with its ever-present YG filter. But this is Holga week so it’s the Holga 120N and Ilford HP5+ this time.
Today it is Huddersfield town centre and the sky is blue. A novelty as invariably it’s raining and I get a good soaking. However, as I’m just as likely to be stood in dark alleyways as out in the autumnal sunshine I opt to rate the film at 400. That is to say that I will develop it as if it was exposed consistently at 400 ISO. Not that consistent is a word usually found in the same sentence as Holga! It’s one of the camera’s charms and one of the reasons I always enjoy playing with it, even if it isn’t something that I use every week.
I mentioned in an earlier diary entry that I could pull/push this film if required and whilst each of the two lighting situations I’m likely to encounter today would normally have me rate the film at 250 or 800 it is unlikely that any of the rolls I use to day will be exclusively exposed in one type of light. This will add to the excitement of the morning I hope.
11.20am. I’ve spent the last hour or so zig-zagging my way through the town centre, down alleys, up brightly lit streets and ambled through a town centre park. It’s busy, there’s a university in the town centre, but nowhere near as busy as I remember it from 2019. Two completed rolls are nestled in the pocket of my shoulder bag and a part-used roll sits in the Holga awaiting the next opportunity. It’s time for a strong black tea though and an opportunity to update this diary. In pre-pandemic days I’d visit Huddersfield every few weeks but we’ve not been here for well over a year now. I’m pleased to find my favourite coffee shop still doing business and even happier to find my “usual” table upstairs is free.
This is the first time I’ve attempted a daily diary and it’s rather strange talking about going out and using the Holga but not including examples of the resulting images. I’ve not noticed anyone on Twitter, my main social media outlet, sharing images as yet so I guess it’s not the “done” thing. I’m still developing within 24 hours though, usually within a few hours, so I at least am able to see the fruits of my labours.
But enough of that I’ve a roll of film to finish and potentially a fourth and final roll awaiting its moment in the sunshine. My weekly tally from the first five days has doubled in just over an hour this morning. I’ve a good feeling about these rolls.