Salford Quays Panoramas

Have you ever tried working with a KMZ FT-2, in its (n)ever-ready case, in the rain with an umbrella in one hand and the camera in the other?

I have … and even attempted some “street” at the same time.

The thing though, is that this camera has such a wide field of view that even with people just a few feet away they are still very small in the frame! This couple were no more than six feet away when I pressed the shutter release.

As ever, the FT-2 excelled with the architecture and not for the first time I was a little frustrated that I only get 12 images when I take the camera out. I’m not yet ready to take out a changing bag and the rest of the kit that would enable me to change film on the go however! You really need to think with this limitation. Perhaps next time I will take the kit and change rolls in the hotel overnight and that way get a roll, or twelve frames, a day. One to ponder.

I did try the typical “street” approach of finding a spot and waiting for someone to walk into frame but could only devote two frames to the experiment. Again, even with people reasonably close they are still tiny in the frame. However, I did manage to combine my two “allocated” vertorama frames with people in the frame so made the best of it.

A couple of vertoramas to finish

Random colour

Slightly OTT – but at least on my terms (see below).
Friday morning Salford Quays

As a follow-up to last nights post here’s a few random colour images from yesterday and this morning. The phone will capture in black and white, although I rarely do so preferring to convert the images myself in Snapseed. Still on the phone but I at least take control. The first image above is a case in point. Despite constantly turning it off the wretched phone keeps turning Live Picture on. This not only captures a gaudy HDR-style image on many an occasion but also captures a few seconds of video either side of the actual image. I converted this one to B&W for a Twitter update but when I decided to post some colour images I was torn. I liked the composition but not the colours. I therefore desaturated it and added a negative vignette to tame the image. It’s still a bit over the top for me but it kinda works I think.

I was terrified I was going to drop the phone – the hotel window was restricted so only a few inches gap to push phone into.
Thursday evening – Salford Quays

I have a love-hate relationship with colour. I stopped using colour negative film a while back as I had massive problems getting natural colours when processing the negatives on the computer. My daily urban style of working probably isn’t best suited to colour slide film although I enjoy playing with Instax instant colour print film. However, some scenes scream out to be photographed in colour, Autumn in particular, and for this I have my digital cameras.

Thursday morning – Salford Quays
Thursday afternoon – yes it is colour!
Thursday lunchtime – I also photographed this scene with my Nikon L35 AF, will be interested in seeing a comparison

So, as I was using a Nikon L35 yesterday loaded with Kodak Tri-X I also made a few images with my phone. My phone was also in my pocket early this morning when I went out to photograph before breakfast. The glorious morning light will look very nice on my Tri-X negatives but it also looked very pleasant on my phone too.

Worth getting up for whilst the wife snoozed on

When I made yesterday’s post I added a tongue-in-cheek plea for people not to judge me for using a phone when I had a fully-loaded camera with me. For clarification I’m of the firm opinion that we should make use of whatever tools we have at our disposal. Whether that’s an Intrepid 5×4, a KMZ FT-2, a mirrorless digital camera or a phone. Each of these is capable of producing images worth enjoying and I wouldn’t hesitate in using any of them. I forgot that a dry sense of humour isn’t always appreciated in the written form 😊

Checking compositions ready for the morning

Another use for the phone is in checking compositions especially when the light isn’t quite as I would like it and I’m planning on returning another day. I did this Thursday evening as we walked back to the hotel from our pub meal. I’d deliberately left the camera in our room but the phone enabled me to check a few compositions before returning before breakfast on Friday morning.

The other thing I regularly use my phone for, especially if I don’t have my Fuji digital camera with me, is behind the scenes style images for my blog. Friday morning was no exception and the final image here, already converted to black and white and inserted into the blog post awaiting me developing the films from this short trip, is a case in point.

My weapon of choice for these couple of days away.

So, there you have it. Two iPhone posts in as many days and one in colour too. Normal service will be resumed in the next day or so.

120 into 5×4 does go

Some time ago I bought a 120 roll film back made by Horseman which has a plate to mount the back to a 5×4 camera fitted with a Graflok back. The Graflok fitting has been the de-facto large format accessory mounting standard internationally for the past seventy years or more. My simple aim was to use 120 roll film with my Intrepid 5×4. My first roll was a disaster, I simply couldn’t get the film advance to work correctly, and try as I might I couldn’t get to grips with it. I had been able to load it correctly and that first test roll eventually became a sacrificial lamb as I struggled in vain. I decided to leave it for another day, but I was at least confident in actually loading the back so I loaded a roll of Fomapan 100 ready to try again in a day or so.

That was last October.

Yesterday afternoon, I came across the back, along with its cardboard template, in a cupboard and with time available decided to work it out once and for all. I reread the manual, not once but a few times, and after playing with the back noted what I’d been doing wrong. There’s a silver switch you move to the left to enable wind on. I’d been holding it to the left which was why the film was continually advancing as I stroked the wind on lever. It needed pushing to the left and immediately releasing! Bingo! And Doh!

The template sits on the ground glass of the 5×4 Intrepid to show the area of the scene covered by the 120 film (see example of the mask in use below)

Time to expose some film in earnest. I’d used my Zero Image 5×4 as the host camera whilst I experimented, and eventually solved, the problem yesterday and had ended up with six exposed frames (the back is 6×9 so I should have got eight.)

Zero Image 5×4 pinhole camera and 120 Fomapan 100
I just love pinhole sunlight scattering – flare? Fomapan 100

Encouraged, I developed the film to make sure all was well. It was – see examples above. So, I loaded a roll of Fomapan 400, collected the Intrepid 5×4, and exposed a couple of frames in the dining room with the 180mm lens fitted.

The next morning I took the Intrepid and the 90mm lens into the backyard and exposed the final six frames. Forty minutes later there is a roll of film hanging to dry with eight successful negatives.

Cracked it!

The 6×9 mask in place. I remove the mask for focusing.
This what happens if you don’t use the mask – that’s the full negative on the right. The view of the ground glass has been rotated for ease of comparison – it is usually upside down

The beauty of this is four-fold I think. Firstly, I can practice with the Intrepid without wasting more expensive sheets of film. Secondly, it gives me access to a much larger range of films to use in my 5×4 cameras. Thirdly, I can change film whilst out; as I finish a roll I can put another in and keep working. Finally (fourthly), I can also use this film back on both my Zero Image 5×4 pinhole and my Intrepid field camera meaning I can get both pinhole and lens-based images on one roll of film.

90mm Fomapan 400
90mm f16 1/4sec Fomapan 400

Despite the unintended crop I do like the image of the two wine bottles (one mine and one the Boss’s). It was an oversight to forget the mask but serendipity was on my side as I had photographed the ground glass with my phone so it was an opportunity to illustrate the value of the mask.

Backlit (window light) 180mm f16 with front tilt and 230mm extension.
3.5 minutes exposure allowing for reciprocity failure and bellows extension. Fomapan 400
Only here because I was pleased with my spot metering! Fomapan 400

So, there you have it. A 5×4 camera and a 120 roll of film. All the benefits of tilt etcetera and quality large format less with the convenience and economy of medium format roll film. Eight 5×4 sheets of Fomapan would set me back around £6 whilst a roll of 120 is around £3.50. But, cost isn’t the big factor her, film choice is. In particular colour film. I have stopped using colour film almost totally but with Autumn approaching I’m beginning to wonder what a few rolls of Ektar 100 would look like through this combination. I can send the exposed film to Peak Imaging for developing and if needs be scanning too – a tempting proposition.

Hands on with another FT2

I’ve written a fair bit recently about the KMZ FT-2 but you will notice that the FT2 of today’s title has no hyphen. That’s because it is neither a swing-lens camera nor a panoramic one. It is however still a 35mm camera. You’ve no doubt realised by now the titular camera is a Nikkormat FT2. Introduced in 1975 the FT2 has been dubbed “the poor mans Nikon F”. Whilst the Nikon F series were aimed at professionals the Nikkormat FT series were squarely targeted at the amateur market. With a build quality comparable with the Nikon F series however the Nikkormats were no slouches and can still hold their own today.

Like my KMZ FT-2, the Nikkormat FT2 is a very idiosyncratic camera, I guess that’s another thing the two have in common. The layout of the camera controls on Nikkormats is, to put it mildly, unconventional. Rather than a shutter-speed dial, Nikkormats feature a concentric shutter speed ring located around the lens mount, whilst ISO settings are selected using a sliding dial situated at the bottom of the lens. That said it is so well thought through that it can still be operated without removing the camera from my eye. ISO is set once whilst loading the film. My left hand is used for focusing (manual no auto focus here), changing the aperture (which I typically set before I start frame up the picture) and I can change shutter speed with a single finger (there is also a basic display in the viewfinder showing the selected shutter speed).

Negative > Positive

I haven’t really used any of my SLR cameras since I picked up the Horizon S3 ten months or so ago. The odd roll here and there but nowhere near the number of rolls of film that have been through the Horizons and most recently the KMZ FT-2. It was a misunderstanding from Phil on Twitter that prompted me to dust off the Nikkormat; until then I’d not noted the similarity between the camera’s names nor indeed that both were quirky in their own right.

Fear not, I’m not about to launch into a review of a 45+ year old camera, it’s not my style and it wouldn’t actually make much sense. Instead I’m going to share some images from a couple of rolls of HP5+ that I have used over the last few days and ruminate gently on the joy of using a fully manual camera.

The FT2 has a metal focal-plane shutter with vertical (downward) movement; speeds from 1 to 1/1000 sec., plus Bulb mode. Compared to the 30 seconds to 1/8000th of the mighty Nikon F5 this is fairly mundane BUT I’ve yet to find a need for anything more. If I’m using a shutter speed below 1/30th I’m most likely on a tripod anyway and Bulb is just as easy to use as a dedicated 30 seconds option on the dial.

Tactile. If you like tactile you would enjoy this relatively hefty camera. It’s has a comforting weight (almost two pounds without a lens) and bulk that reassures you it’s in your hand. Mine doesn’t currently have a strap (most of my cameras are devoid of any strap) which saves my neck! Everything, as you’d expect, is set on the camera itself as we’ve seen. Aperture via a ring, shutter speed via a lever on the lens itself.

As for metering, It has a through-the-lens CdS meter, centre-weighted at full aperture. In terms of informing the user, there is a needle which is visible in the viewfinder but also, and this is a useful feature for tripod users, on the top plate. The camera will not set anything itself, but silently let’s you know what it feels is the correct combination of aperture and shutter speed. Usefully, the camera does not need a battery to be used. A dead battery simply removes the safety net of the exposure metering system. I’m well used to metering for myself but having checked the onboard meter against a handheld I’m confident enough to trust that the camera isn’t steering me wrong.

Cheers!

I’ve been using 35mm single lens reflex cameras since the mid-1970s and whilst I’ve used fully electronic marvels I still gravitate towards the more manual cameras. I like doing everything myself it seems. Used in fully automatic mode there’s not much difference between using a fully modern electronic SLR and a digital camera. I’ll just leave that there and wait for the flak!

I mentioned how tactile the FT2 is and this is the most compelling reason for me choosing to use what is in effect a manual camera. I enjoy the full experience; from choosing and loading the film, setting the aperture and shutter speed appropriate to my vision, tripping the shutter and winding on the film – pure ASMR to this photographer. I even enjoy rewinding film manually (not least because this way the film leader doesn’t disappear).

For John Martin

So, there we are. Some random thoughts on the Nikkormat FT2 and some even more random images!

Demolition

They’ve been demolishing an old building this week that’s been laying empty for over 19 years and of course getting increasingly vandalised and dangerous. There’s a fence around the site which is around seven or eight feet high so even a six-footer like me has to wave a camera over his head to get a picture. Still, it was an interesting subject for the KMZ FT-2 so I gave it a go.

All images KMZ FT-2

So, there you have it, four panoramas and two vertoramas and to round it off here’s one from the first visit.

Horizon S3 Pro, Ilford HP5+ at 250 ISO Deeloped in Perceptol (stock) 13 minutes 5th August 2021

Pulled … again!

I know I said I wouldn’t deliberately pull 35mm Ilford HP5+ again.

But.

I did.

Yesterday.

Let me explain.

I’ve not yet written about the KMZ FT-2, the latest addition to my camera collection and a swing lens panoramic camera to boot. I will rectify that shortly (ie within the next few weeks) but suffice to say, this is an interesting camera to load not least because it needs to be done in the dark. It also means that swapping out a film is not really a straightforward task. So, having loaded HP5+ the night before expecting an overcast day there was no way that when I awoke to clear blue skies and sunshine that I was going to swap the film out for some FP4+. Choice of film speed is critical with this camera by the way as it has one aperture (f5-ish) and a fastest shutter speed of 1/400th of a second. That probably puts things into perspective.

Had I spotted it in time I would have waited for the narrowboat to emerge further from under the bridge

What to do? Leave the camera behind? I was loath to do that as I’m still working out how to best overcome the camera’s physical handicap (more later – you tease!) and this was to be the first non-test roll. I would also be in somewhere other than Elland which doesn’t happen very often at the moment. Brighouse was to be the destination and whilst the wife was shopping I was to have a thirty minute pass to take some photographs.

Underneath the road bridge (see below) I took the first meter reading of the day. At ISO 400 I was getting 1/60th at f16. A breeze for the Horizon S3 but extrapolating for the circa f5 aperture of the KMZ FT-2 meant a shutter speed of around 1/1000th second. With a nominal top shutter speed of 1/400th of a second and allowing for the flexibility of the film emulsion this was still a good stop adrift. It was either, put the camera away, expose at 1/400th and trust the film could handle it or rate the film at 200 and pull in development. The first was a non-option. The second wasn’t ideal given I’m still feeling my way with this camera and so I went with the option to pull the film. Given the contrast in the scene it turned out to be the best choice too.

Who could resist those reflections on the underside of the bridge?

The image, above, of reflections underneath the bridge has really benefitted from the pulled process as it’s brought the contrast in the negative down nicely and made for an easy conversion in Snapseed. I rarely mention my choices for hybrid working but I really like to keep it very simple. I copy the negatives with a Fuji X-T3 and an old Nikon micro lens before opening the file in the Snapseed App on my tablet.

This camera really is very wide!
It can still be used for more “intimate” compositions though

I mentioned last time that pulling HP5+ wasn’t something I’d do on a regular basis but I’m really glad that I had the technique up my sleeve as it were when I went out yesterday. Knowing your film stock and knowing how it reacts to different processing methods is a very useful thing. To acquire it you need to work with the film regularly and be prepared to experiment. Putting in the effort to do so may seem like a pain at the time but it rewards the patience in the long run.

Three for the price of one to finish.

Dry: successful start to phase 2

This is just a quick update following yesterday’s post. It comprises of just a few images – the negative, positive and “final” version of one of the two plates I exposed on the canal. Both were successful but I’ve only used one for this update as they are very similar and this was my favourite compositionally of the two.

One thing I do need to keep in mind is that owing to the nature of the emulsion detail in skies is probably going to be a rare commodity. The composition that I rejected was in the vertical format with a large amount of sky which was simply a dark block on the glass.

I metered for the shadows in the black area at the bottom of the building and looking at this part of the plate I’ve got exactly the amount of shadow detail I was anticipating. This is good news as it confirms that my exposure calculations, which include spot-metering and a touch of applying my nascent experience, are working out well thus far.

What is very apparent, even in these scans, is the amount of detail in the plates. Of course, I was using a good quality 180mm lens, stopped down to f32 with everything rock solid on a tripod. Nevertheless, the detail, especially in the wall and vegetation in front of the building, is lovely.

For the “final” image I cropped to 16×9 to exclude some of the sky and also gave the image a sepia tone which seems to suit both the subject and the conditions quite nicely. Your mileage may vary of course.

Onwards and upwards (when I get some more plates of course)!

Pulling HP5+

I’ve been using film since the 1970s and in the last year or so it’s become my main photographic medium. In the last eighteen months I’ve developed over three hundred rolls of film and around a hundred sheets. One thing I’ve not done in all this time however is to “pull” a roll of film. Over-exposing when making the exposures and then reducing development time to compensate. Some people do it deliberately. Pulling film reduces contrast and brings out details in the shadows so can be helpful but it’s not something I’ve ever felt the need to do, certainly not with a roll of film. Until this week.

Arriving at the beach in Seaham on Monday afternoon I pulled the ONDU out of one pocket and the roll of Fomapan 100 out of the other. Only it wasn’t Fomapan; I had inadvertently put a roll of Ilford HP5+ in my pocket. Now, I like Fomapan 100 in the pinhole. The slower speed and the gravity-defying reciprocity give me many seconds of exposure which makes life easier when the shutter has to be opened and closed manually. With a 400 speed film I was getting shutter speeds of half-a-second and faster. What to do.

Seaham – North Beach

In the end I rated the film at 100/200 ISO, whatever gave me a workable shutter speed, and ignored the reciprocity factor. By my reckoning I will have therefore over-exposed the film by between one and two stops. After cogitating, and speaking to fellow photographer John, I decided that a 20% reduction in development time would be about right.

Getting low

So, today was the day. Back home, the laundry up to date, grandson Louie having his morning nap and I am in the kitchen developing the film. Ilford HP5+ developed in Ilford ID11, diluted 1+1, would normally get thirteen minutes in the tank but today I’m reducing that to ten minutes.

The negatives are well exposed although as expected they are a little flat in terms of contrast. Loads of detail in both shadows and highlights too. Perfectly printable in the darkroom however or indeed readily converted in a digital workflow. The images here were in fact copied with a digital camera and converted/processed in the Snapseed app on my iPad.

So, what’s the verdict? Or more pertinently would I do it again? Undoubtedly I would not hesitate to pull HP5+ again if the need arose. Would I do it deliberately? Probably not. Don’t forget we are talking roll film here. Using sheet film, where we can tailor the exposure and development of individual negatives, I would have no hesitation using this approach if the scene demanded it. This experience has shown me that the concept works and I suspect that I was lucky that the whole roll was used on the beach in consistent light and conditions. Had the roll contained a mixture of scenes and lighting conditions the results might not have been so consistent.

Face in the wood

So, the outcome of this enforced experiment has been very positive. Whilst I would not aim to deliberately over expose and under develop roll film it can work and my logic on this occasion was sound. I didn’t use the technique deliberately but nevertheless it’s been a very useful exercise and further proof that you’re never to old to learn new tricks!

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 Swing

The Pen EE-3 is a compact, 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 wraps around the lens and chooses between two shutter speeds: 1/125th and 1/30th of a second. The aperture is determined via the ISO/ASA rating of the film which is set just below the lens.

Salford Quays. June 2021

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. This gives tiny negatives, okay for small enlargements in the darkroom. 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.

Salford Quays June 2021
Blyth beach, Northumberland
Cresswell beach.

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.