Stoating with the Zorki 4K

I’ve been playing with rangefinder cameras recently, a topic I will return to in future posts. On Monday I needed to nip out to the post office to post a parcel and as the sun was tentatively shining I popped a camera in my pocket. With my chore complete, and with the sun still flitting in and out, I took myself for a twenty minute wander around the bottom end of town. As my regular reader will know, this activity has recently been christened “stoating”, hence the title for this piece.

My way of choosing a camera for an impromptu wander hasn’t changed in years; I pick up the nearest camera that has either a fully charged battery or a roll of film loaded. This time it was a Zorki 4K, fitted with a Jupiter 8 50mm lens and an orange filter, loaded with Ilford HP5+. I set the lens to f11, set the infinity mark to f11 and popped a light meter in the cold shoe and headed off.

I’ve used the orange filter a lot with this lens recently and have very much enjoyed the results. The images, whether on film or digital with the lens on a Fujifilm X-Pro1, have a distinct character that works well for my style of urban imagery. The orange filter helps tweak a bit more detail and out of our dull, winter skies and the combination of the two has been very pleasing.

So, there you have it. The fruits of a quick stoat about with a Zorki 4K, the Jupiter 8 lens and an orange filter. Add a roll of Ilford HP5+ and jobs a good ‘un!

Next up will be some more Chroma Double Glass imagery … but I need to get that written up first!

A bit more Glass

Following on from an earlier post, I’ve had another play with the Chroma Double Glass lens and thought I’d share a few more images. I will do a “proper” review at some point but to be fair, images speak louder than words when considering a lens, especially a fixed focus one such as this.

All images: Zorki 4K, Chroma Double Glass, Y/G filter and Ilford HP5+

Take one image

Just one image.

Every now and then one makes an exposure and immediately knows, or perhaps more accurately, feels, that it will be a good image. As a film photographer there isn’t the immediate validation of a preview on the LCD screen of course, it’s definitely more of a “feeling”. As an aside, I’ve not always found the LCD preview to be helpful; sometimes it convinces me that it’s a rubbish picture and so I move on disappointed and demotivated. You could argue that it’s a bonus when you get the file on a larger screen and see it’s a keeper after all but to my way of thinking the damage was done when the flow was interrupted in the field. But, once again, I digress.

In Chester recently I made an image in a churchyard of a man, sat on a bench feeding the birds, seemingly enveloped by trees. He is a tiny but important part of the scene. I raised the camera to my eye, quickly focused and made two exposures. I quietly walked on and “knew” it was a keeper.

Fast forward three days and I’m just taking the film from the developing reel to hang it to dry and I can see instantly that the first half of the roll is badly under exposed. I instantly suspect user-error. I tend to take a meter reading periodically when out on the streets, tweaking it as required using experience as a guide. I only re-meter when the scene or lighting changes noticeably, I’d clearly got this base reading wrong as I know that the exposures were tweaked and the degree of under-exposure is consistent from frame to frame across the first half of that roll.

If that wasn’t enough, the first part of the roll, including the under-exposed churchyard images, had suffered from light-piping. Again user error (I’d had a bad hour in Chester it seems) as I’d forgotten the requirement to load that film stock in subdued light.

But, these are part and parcel of the film photographer’s daily lot and que sera sera as Doris Day sang. You might argue that had I been able to view it on an LCD screen I’d have noticed and possibly had the chance to try again and you’d be correct. But that’s not an argument in my book for going back to digital. I am a film photographer in part because it isn’t as easy. There are fewer failsafes and checkpoints. Indeed, it’s the absence of the ability to check, review and reconsider that makes photography on the street with a film camera such a fluid experience.

And I’m not alone in this belief. I was watching a video on YouTube recently from Jeff Ascough, a professional photographer with a passion for street photography. In his words, looking at the screen after every shot is a “really, really bad thing” as it takes your eye away from the scene and down to the back of your camera. This breaks the visual flow and you are likely to miss other opportunities whilst “chimping”. For the record, Ascough uses Leica digital cameras and so his views aren’t based on it being Hobson’s Choice.

Realising that I’d made an error was disappointing, but it’s part of the process and proves we are human I guess. I simply didn’t copy the first half of that roll when I was digitising the negatives with my digital camera later that evening and moved on.

Now, I recently replaced my ancient computer and have bit by bit been installing software and peripherals. It takes me weeks as it’s not a chore I enjoy. Fast forward four days from developing that fateful roll of film and I’m sat in my study installing scanner software. I had just installed the Plustek OpticFilm 8100 35mm scanner and needing to test it I took out a strip of negatives which coincidentally included the “lost” churchyard image.

The scanner functioned as expected, saved the scans to Dropbox as instructed and was clearly functioning as expected so I moved on to the next job on the list. Later that evening though I remembered the churchyard image that I’d scanned and downloaded it to my iPad for a better look.

I was not expecting to be able to create a usable image but was curious as to what could be done.

I needed to crop out the effects of the light-piping, evident only across the foreground of the image and the sprocket holes fortunately – my first bit of luck with this roll. I then proceeded to apply global and local adjustments to the image to tease out the best from the scene that I could (see below). Of course, I was doing this in Snapseed on my tablet rather than in Photoshop on the computer but remember I habitually work this way as I avoid the computer as much as possible. Half a dozen steps is my norm, this one has eleven!

My Snapseed workflow – “Brush” is where the dodging and burning happens

I rarely spend more than a few minutes with an image on the tablet. If I wanted to spend hours on individual images I know from experience that the computer is far easier to use so I deliberately restrict post processing to a few minutes. A gentle toning was applied followed by some light dodging and burning before adding a border and clicking “save”.

“Contemplation” – Leica IIIf, Elmar 50mm, Washi Z film

I was happy with the result. It’s not exactly as I’d envisaged being darker and moodier and of course has had to be salvaged as it were but it’s still a pleasing result. I hope both my readers enjoy this final image too.

LINK to larger file on Flickr

A Touch of Glass

Last time out I talked about Chroma Cameras and my recent purchases. One item I mentioned was the Chroma Double Glass, a double coated glass optic with two elements weighing virtually nothing (well, 16 grams to be exact). I’ve had it on the Zorki 4 twice this week and whilst that’s not long enough for a considered review I thought I’d share some images from today’s roll.

All images Zorki 4, Chroma Double Glass, yellow filter and Ilford HP5+

So, there we are. A very enjoyable couple of outings, I’m going to have fun with this lens.


Marmite. You either love it or you hate it. I love it but I’m in the minority in my household. But, what has marmite got to do with photography? Well to be honest, nothing. However, the images I created for this blog post will probably be like Marmite; some will love them, others will think I’ve lost the plot.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m quite lazy when it comes to processing images. I primarily use the Snapseed app on my tablet and only occasionally make use of Photoshop on my desktop computer. In the past I’ve tried all sorts of Apps on my tablet but most end up being deleted as I turn to Snapseed for most things. I do use a little App to create small collages, diptychs etcetera and another to resize images for this blog. So, not a particularly extravagant set up! I do have another App that has escaped the regular culls however. Step forward Distressed FX.

Creating gorgeous artwork from your photos has never been easier. With Distressed FX, simply take a photo and choose from a wide range of textured images and overlays. Transform even the most mundane photo into a work of art.

I’ve always tried to keep an open mind about photography. I’ve embraced the so-called hybrid approach; film capture, digitising the negatives and then digital post-processing. I also use a traditional approach in a darkroom. One thing I’ve also dabbled with in the past has been digital textures using Photoshop. I’ve created my own textures with a digital camera or scanner and then combined them in Photoshop with my own digital images. The Distressed FX App does the same sort of thing using it’s own library of textures and overlays. Less nuanced but quick, easy and highly effective. I confess to occasionally indulging myself!

So, here are a few images which all use Ilford HP5+ negatives from a recent outing with the Zorki 4, a Chroma Double Glass lens and a yellow/green filter. The negatives were digitised with a Fuji X-H1 and processed in Snapseed before being let loose within Distressed FX.

All above images: Zorki 4 and Chroma Double Glass lens
Base image: Fuji X100T, monochrome

Love them or not I’d be interested in your views.

A Sunday Morning Stoat – part 1

Stoat: Scottish slang, meaning to wander around aimlessly. For example: “I was just stoating aboot the toon”.

Sunday morning, up early and feeling in need of some fresh air I decided a walk was in order. Spring hasn’t arrived yet so I’m still wearing a warm coat which means I have two large pockets – camera-sized pockets. In to one went the seemingly ever-present Fuji X100T with its fixed 23mm lens. The picture mode selected in the camera’s menu was “monochrome with red filter”. The “red filter” was probably wishful thinking as it was another dull morning with a lifeless, bland, grey sky.

I wrote recently about becoming more selective in making film photographs which was why I had the Fuji with me. The conditions weren’t brilliant hence opting for a digital camera.

My wander started on familiar territory although this is a scene I’ve not photographed that often

Walking down the high street I was on familiar territory so I decided to walk out to the edge of town, somewhere I’ve not walked to for quite some time.

Another scene I’ve never photographed.

The road out of town is rather steep. At the top there is a fabulous view back over the town but I wasn’t planning on walking to the top this morning. Half way up was enough for me and so, having made a few images, I pocketed the little Fuji and turned to retrace my steps – downhill this time! On the way back I spotted a side street I’d not walked along before, time was on my side so I turned left.

A new subject!

After exploring a few new-to-me compositions, and noting them for future reference when the light was more helpful, I found my footsteps leading me back onto more familiar territory. One of the difficulties of familiar scenes is in looking at them differently. This morning was no exception but with less than optimal light I wasn’t going to stress about that.

Back to an old favourite location

Now, this is titled “… part 1” which suggests a part 2 is coming. Remember I mentioned at the start that my coat has two large pockets. As we’ve seen one held the Fuji and as we will see in part 2 the other held a Zorki 4 loaded with Ilford HP5+ and in my back pocket was the Weston Master V.

Two pockets … two cameras

You didn’t think I’d go out without a film camera did you?

This back lot has changed a lot since my last visit six months ago
A texture-fest!

That’s it from the Fuji X100T for this episode, I’ll see you in part 2!

Another nocturnal stoat

A simple post today. A few images from a couple of nights ago when, needing some fresh air, I took a short walk (aka stoat these days) with the venerable Fuji X-100T in my pocket.

Don’t worry … it’s all black and white from here!
The night of the lonesome cone
First of two takes of this scene
Take 2
The Sentinel

So, there we have it. A few images from a short night time stroll. Whilst not noted for its low-light performance the X100T has never let me down and unless I’m using film then it’s my go-to for this type of urban photography. I hope you enjoyed these few images.

Something borrowed …

… something blue.

The something borrowed was a Minolta X-300 with a Hoya 28-85mm f4 lens. The something blue was a roll of Fomapan 100, OK the packaging is blue, a film I normally only use in 5×4 sheets and rarely, if ever, in 35mm.

Jim (@Gravmadboris on Twitter) recently offered me the loan of his Minolta X-300, a well-respected 35mm SLR film camera which was produced between 1984 and 1990. The X-300 was also marketed as the X-370 in the U.S. and Canada so anyone looking for more information online needs to keep this additional model number in mind.

It’s a very simple camera to use but nevertheless still a very pleasurable experience I found. In fact it’s probably the ease of use that makes it a joy to use. I set the ISO on the camera, set the aperture to the desired value and just keep an eye on the shutter speed in the right hand side of the viewfinder. The view finder itself is bright and consequently easy to use.

As it was a dull, grey, dismal morning I wasn’t expecting any photographic masterpieces (not that I ever do if we are honest) but that didn’t really matter. I enjoy using cameras and was soon forgetting the conditions as I concentrated on composition and the tactile pleasures of a well considered piece of photographic machinery.

Given the conditions and the likelihood of rather low contrast images I opted for developing in Rodinal at 1+50. I normally use Fomadon Excel with Fomapan 100 but felt that this would benefit from the extra bite of Rodinal. It was a good choice and whilst there is grain clearly present it works well I think with the subjects and the conditions.

So, in conclusion this was a lovely camera to use. The Hoya zoom is a very nice lens but rather heavy to my taste, making the camera front heavy. If I decide to add a Minolta to my kit bag (and the chances are high I will) then I will definitely look for a couple of primes rather than a single zoom and from my researches there is a nice little 45mm f2 available in this mount. I reckon that this combination would fit in my winter coat pocket very easily.

An Urban Nocturne

As a by-product of my regular 365 Challenge I was challenged to come up with 31 daily nocturnal images for January. I’m coming to the end of this additional mini-challenge and it has been very challenging indeed.

I’ve photographed with black and white film, including handholding a 5×4 camera, with my phone and with my digital kit. These latter images, being RAW files, are capable of giving both colour and black and white images. Once January is finished I am planning a small e-zine to complement the challenge but as this will be an entirely black and white endeavour I thought I’d share a few colour ones to my blog by way of introducing the subject. More will be written in due course but for now here’s a few colour images from my nocturnal rambles – or stoating about in the dark!

And a couple of early morning ones to finish with.

So, a handful of images that won’t make the e-zine … but will their black and white doppelgängers make the cut? Time will tell!