Overlapping frames

Recently, whilst moving files across to a new-to-me computer, I found some in-camera panoramas from a couple of years back. Created by making a series of consecutive images as the camera is passed across the scene. The negatives are then copied/printed as a block to create a joiner-cum-panorama style image. I posted one to my Twitter account (see below) and it gathered a fair bit of attention including some comments about applying the technique to the urban or built environment.

The “tweet” that started this post

I took it as a Challenge.

Challenge accepted … from my armchair.

Within a matter of minutes I’d picked up the Olympus Pen EE3 half-frame 35mm film camera that is my go-to tool for these images. A roll of Ilford HP5+ was quickly loaded and I couldn’t resist a cheeky five-frames from my armchair.

My approach to making these images is very simple and the key is not moving my feet, just my upper body. So, standing (or sitting) still throughout the process, I start with my torso slightly pointing to the left and move the upper half of my body until my torso is pointing slightly right. I’ve found that it helps to decide how many frames I’m planning on before starting so that the middle frame is made looking straight ahead. It is actually easier to do than write down. I typically make three or five exposures per sweep but have also made these images with four, six, seven and even nine. These are usually as a single strip but I do occasionally make nine exposures in a grid pattern.

Diptych, 9-frame grid, multiple-frame panoramas … all grist to the mill
I typically leave sprocket holes as part of the final image to show they are consecutive frames.
Negative … to positive
Two six-frame panoramic joiners ready to process.
And the two finished images.
I live in “Happy Valley” apparently – this is next-door but one to my house.

There’s nothing complex about my technique, see above, but that leaves me free to concentrate on composition. The Olympus EE3 is also an automatic camera which really does mean freedom for this technique.

In terms of post production I cut the negatives into strips corresponding to the composition. So, instead of six strips each containing six negatives (or twelve, this is a half-frame camera) I have lots of strips of three, five or six half-sized negatives. Rather than sleeve these I place the negatives in an envelope knowing the frame numbers will help me reconstitute the grid-style joiners.

If not printing these in the darkroom I digitise them in my usual way with a digital camera. I use a diffuser to place the negatives on (the one from my Pixl-latr works well) and also a small piece of clean glass to hold them flat and in place. I will at some point invest in a piece of newton glass but for now am happy cloning out any newton rings.

In hindsight I should have gone with five frames here

So, there you have it. My simple approach to multi-frame panoramic joiners or whatever you’d like to call them. It’s a technique I’d typically only used whilst away on holiday but apart from the tweeted image at the start all of these were made in my local urban environment a couple of days ago especially for this blog post.

Testing the Rocket

So, in my first FFP update I commented on how underexposed the negatives were and speculated on how I’d test this plastic-fantastic to try to encourage better results next time.

It was very unlikely that the development was to blame as I’ve developed hundreds of films in the last couple of years and have yet to have one fail due to faulty processing; so it’s a possible cause but not a probable cause in my eyes. I even refixed the negatives with fresh fixer just in case but with no changes to the negatives. The most likely cause in my eyes was the camera. Shutter speed and aperture are probably arbitrary concepts for such simple, plastic affairs where shutter speed is dependant on a tiny sprung wire so this was where I concentrated my efforts.

As to methodology, I chose HP5+ as it’s a film I know intimately so that removed the variable of a new to me film stock (Kentmere Pan 400). I also developed it in ID11, again a tried and tested developer, and used fresh fixer to provide a belt and braces approach to the development process.

I made some exposures handheld under normal wandering about conditions and a few on a tripod. For each of the ten different compositions I made a meter with my phone and kept a copy of the reading for my notes. I also kept a note of all eighteen individual exposures recording the number of shutter actuations made for each one and, on the assumed 1/100th of a second shutter speed, the variance of the exposure made from the meter reading. This I collated on the laptop for ease of use. I also taped up all four sides of the camera back, removing light leaks from that source as a variable.

I chose some dubious conditions for the test – we ranged from rain to bright sunshine during the hour or so that I was out.

Now, I’m aware that both the aperture and the shutter speed could be inaccurate, and indeed it’s likely both are, but I decided that as the shutter actuations are more important from a practical point of view (multiple exposures being part of the project) I would leave the aperture as a constant so the only variable was the number of times the shutter was actuated.

So, all the meter readings were taken at f11 and ISO 400. The film was developed in ID11 assuming that the film had been exposed at the box speed of 400. All of the exposures were, nominally at least, between -1 and +3 EV so I was expecting eighteen usable negatives and that is indeed what I got.

When I examined the negatives on a light pad all of them were suitably exposed for darkroom printing or scanning. The “under-exposed” images were usable as were those I had “over-exposed” but the best ones were between one and one and a half stops “over-exposed”. From this I decided that in future I’d make my meter readings on the assumption that the aperture was f11 (it may not be but that is largely irrelevant now) and that the shutter speed was around 1/200th second. There was however an additional test to be made.

This image had four shutter actuations which, based on the assumed shutter speed of 1/100th should have given a negative one stop over-exposed. In the event it looked to be around two stops over-exposed against the others which is in accord with the conclusions reached. Note however that the latitude of HP5+ is such that it’s still a perfectly acceptable result. Incidentally, all the images were processed using identical settings in Snapseed, none have been adjusted to give optimal results unless stated.

These days it’s possible to gauge shutter speeds fairly accurately with an app on the phone and a small optical measuring device. I cannot find mine as it’s been put away somewhere safe but Andy reminded me that the app does have a sound activated mode. Now this isn’t as accurate as the optical but it would be a useful test so I made four tests using the app (see below) with the result that the measured shutter speed came out at 1/40th of a second; not very close to my estimate from the testing but consistent with the aperture being one stop smaller than assumed!

Not a perfect method but I got the same result on two of the four measurements
In theory this was two-stops over exposed based on the original assumption which now suggests it was just one-stop over exposed and indeed has produced a very usable negative.
Finally, an individually processed image from the test roll. Taping up the back of the camera has I think helped with contrast too.

Moving forward then I will assume a shutter speed of 1/200th of a second and set the meter at f11 on the basis that, based on this test roll, this camera thrives on plenty of light. I now need to decide whether to wait until February to run that months FFP roll of Kentmere Pan 400 through the Sprocket Rocket or to make up a short roll in order to test it with the FFP a film of choice.


The Dentist

Since the pandemic started our weekly routine has undergone a massive change and as a result so has my photography. We no longer pop into Halifax or Huddersfield just to wander (me with a camera), have a look at the shops, enjoy a coffee or some lunch. Such trips are now based on necessity rather than leisure and so I’ve photographed closer to home far more extensively in the last two and a half years.

Can’t resist a shadow-selfie

These last few months though I’ve had an ongoing issue which has necessitated regular trips to my dentist which although I no longer work in the town is still based in Halifax. And a trip to the dentist always includes a wander with a camera. It’s my one photographic “rule”.

So, here are a few images from my most recent dental appointment and there’s not a molar or a drill in sight!


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

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

Horizon S3 Pro

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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.

Three digital files cover the whole of the 6×17 negative

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.

Three “scans”, one stitched file and the final result

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!

Not really so subtle

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.

Same camera placement – the only difference is in the pinhole chosen.

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! 🙂

My experiences using the KMZ FT-2

I’ve already written several times about this camera. I have talked about the camera itself, cogitated on my first experiences using a loaned KMZ FT-2 and of course written about loading the film into the cassettes and into the camera itself. To conclude the series I am going to reflect on my first few months with this camera and what I’ve learnt.

Perhaps I should start by saying that this camera can be a fair bit of work. For a start, as we’ve already discussed, it needs two special film cassettes (I only have one) but even with two, loading is a bit of a chore. I borrowed one with both cassettes before buying my own. Firstly, film has to be transferred from a standard 35mm cassette into a special cassette, in the dark. This then needs to be attached to a second special cassette, in the dark, before being loaded into the camera … in the dark. I made a video demonstrating this aspect. To make it more helpful I made the video … in the dark (not).

Let’s skip the using of the camera at this point and jump ahead to unloading the film from the camera … in the dark. I simply dump the camera in the changing bag, pop in a pair of scissors, tank and reel and take the film directly from the camera onto the reel and into the tank. From that point on its business as usual as the film is standard 35mm film. With negatives the size of three “normal” 35mm negatives however there’s only two per strip in the filing sheet.

Now, if you like using a camera one-handed then this one isn’t for you. Similarly, if you like to “run ‘n’ gun” then this one isn’t for you. Shaped like a brick and weighing in at just over 1kg in its case this isn’t a camera you carry about just-in-case you might need it. With just 12 frames (assuming you respool a 36 exposure film) and an awkward loading/unloading regime it is best used when you’ve a definite plan in mind. Not that I take my own advice there of course! I tend to pop it in my shoulder bag alongside my main camera for the day although do occasionally make a trip with just the KMZ FT-2 or, more often, take it partnered with the Horizon S3 Pro.

I’ve never thought of these panoramic cameras as being for specific subjects or situations. My approach has always been to proactively look for compositions that work well in the format. Over time my hit rate has improved and one thing I’ve learnt is that a straight, long, thin, linear subject only works occasionally. In general it is better to look for compositions where the viewer has a choice of where to let his eye be led. Urban images at intersections of two, three or more streets are usually more effective (see below) than a straight-on view of a row of houses for example. There’s exceptions to every “rule” however.

In truth, the principles that apply to other formats also work with the panoramic form. Don’t be afraid to turn the camera on its side to create long, thin and tall vertoramas.

I’ve found that leading lines work very strongly in this vertical format, really dragging the viewers eye up through the frame.

Presenting these vertoramas as diptychs or triptychs works nicely too.

The speed of the exposure is determined by a spring which pulls the lens turret around. Brakes are used to vary the speed giving the four shutter speeds found on the FT-2. At 1/400th second when all the brakes are off the camera physically bucks in your hand from the force. Pop the camera on a tripod, set it to 1/400th, cock the shutter and watch the whole thing shudder when you release the shutter. Which explains why I believe the best results from this camera come from using it on a tripod. That said, I do tend to use it handheld, especially when photographing urban locations such as my own local patch.

Book-ending subjects can work well too, as in the example above where a very simple scene has been bookended by trees which give added context and hold the viewers attention in the central portion of the frame.

Count the leading lines

One thing I’ve not mentioned is that as the film wind-on and cocking of the shutter are two distinct operations the opportunity for double, triple, whatever exposures is the photographers for the taking. The one below is three or four exposures for example.

Don’t be frightened to crop as there’s plenty of real estate available.

In summary, it isn’t the easiest camera to work with but I’ve never been afraid of working for my images. Despite everything I’ve said about its idiosyncrasies it is however great fun and worth the effort in my view – your mileage may vary of course!

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