A Sunday Morning Stoat – part 2

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

So, back to last Sunday morning and the tale of two cameras. In part 1 as well as talking broadly about the route I took I also shared some images from the Fuji. This time it’s the turn of the camera in my other pocket, the Zorki 4, a relatively recent addition to the kit bag – or indeed to the pocket!

I still had the Chroma Double Glass* lens attached from the previous day’s walk and was happy to leave this in place. Bear in mind that this is not a typical, optically perfect, lens. It has two glass elements and a unique look that in my opinion is well suited to 35mm photography. I popped a Cokin filter holder in my pocket and an orange filter too. The Weston Master V was in my back pocket (note to self: don’t sit down) so I was all set. The roll of HP5+ was to be rated at box speed of ISO 400 as the light was such that I’d need all the help I could get!

This lens has a very distinctive rendering – something I will write about at some point

Now, I don’t believe that I’ve written about the Zorki 4 in my blog as yet. The Zorki 4 was possibly the most popular of all the Zorki cameras, with around 1.7 million made by the KMZ factory. The Zorki 4 was also the first of the Zorki cameras to be exported in large numbers to the West. It is a fully manual camera, and does not have a lightmeter, hence why I had a Weston Master V in my pocket. I’ve a few of these old rangefinder cameras on my shelves, less used these days if truth be told, and whilst they are essentially Leica copies they lack the mechanical finesse of their putative progenitor.

Even an orange filter didn’t help!
The weather/light really was this grotty

The Zorki 4 uses a wind-on knob which does the job but isn’t as pleasurable to use as a lever-style wind-on mechanism. But, it’s not a deal breaker so it’s something to be tolerated. The rewind knob though is a different matter. Narrow enough to be aesthetically pleasing but not large enough to use comfortably, especially as it’s also fairly stiff. There is also a small collar around the shutter release that needs moving to facilitate rewinding the film and it’s a little temperamental which also detracts from the rewinding experience as well as interfering with the subsequent loading of film. I lost a third of a 36-exposure roll to this idiosyncratic arrangement. It probably worked perfectly fifty years ago to be fair. My Zorki 4 was manufactured in 1969 to be fair.

The solution to this came to me a few days ago though. Don’t rewind the film and don’t move the little collar. Simples!

So, once home, I now pop the camera, without rewinding its fully exposed film, into the changing bag along with scissors, a film reel and tank. Snip! Film cut out of camera and popped onto reel. Matter of 30 seconds and painless! I’ve also taken to loading film as if this were a bottom-loader so that I do not have to disturb that problematic collar. It’s made using the camera much more pleasurable and by way of a bonus I’ve been getting 26 frames from a 24-exposure film too!

Gotta say, I’m liking this lens!
I do need to remember not to put important detail on the edge of the frame with this lens

With a sky that wasn’t anything to write home about (see above) I’d decided to keep the Zorki in my pocket for the most part. A few frames would undoubtedly be exposed, mainly out of interest in seeing how the Chroma Glass performed, but I was not expecting to use all 24 exposures. Oh, and a note on this unusual use, for me at least, of short rolls. My first play with the Zorki 4 was with a 36-exposure roll of film. Towards the end I started suffering spacing issues. On a hunch I moved to shorter rolls which solved the problem. Andy suggested that perhaps being an older camera, and a copy of one that was probably even older at that, it wasn’t designed for 36 exposure rolls. I was just pleased though that my solution worked.

Once again, the orange filter might as well have stayed at home

In the end, I did use the whole roll. The light was forcing me to look for more intimate compositions with the Fuji digital camera and some of the textures I found were screaming to be captured on film, especially with the Chroma Glass attached. I also enjoy using the Zorki too if I’m being totally transparent.

So, presented here are a selection of images from the Zorki 4, the Chroma Double Glass lens and a roll of my go-to film, Ilford HP5+. I hope there is something here that appeals to you. This lens though, renders like no other lens in my kit bag apart perhaps from the Lensbaby. But that’s another blog post!

* I will write about this lens in a future post. So far I’ve posted two sets of images made with the lens, those in this post and also those in my previous post entitled Marmite.


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!

The Frugal Film Project – February images

After reading my previous update, one of my contacts remarked that it was “Dave’s not-so frugal film project”. Which was probably fair comment but hopefully January’s shaky start is now behind us and it will be much smoother sailing moving forward.

I soon got in the zone with this new-to-me camera

The inaugural roll of Kentmere 400 through the Zenit 12XP certainly gave no cause for concern. Despite not having a working meter (a defect since remedied by installing fresh batteries) I found it a joy to use. My preference for simple, intuitive cameras was well and truly satisfied with this sturdy and unpretentious camera. Zenit quality control often gets a bad rap but I was perfectly happy by the way this copy functioned and handled. Bear in mind too that this was its maiden voyage under my stewardship.

I did find that the field of view from the 58mm lens was a strange one to work with. It’s longer than the 35mm I typically use but not as obviously short telephoto as a 135mm lens would be. It’s stuck in an optical no-man’s land for my style of urban photography but was quite useful when moving in close for a more intimate composition. As there is still room within my FFP budget I might see if I can pick up something a little wider to use alongside the 58mm lens.

The 58mm lens is prone to flare, especially with the low winter sun in the scene

So, with the malfunctioning Sprocket Rocket RIP drama a thing of the past we start the next chapter in my FFP for 2023. I’m hoping it’s not going to be a saga!

Sprocket Rocket RIP

36 @ 17

Now, my reader is used to my film photography exploits but I do also own and use digital cameras too. I don’t use them anywhere near as much as I do the various film cameras but I do dabble occasionally. Indeed, my diminutive Fuji X100T is rarely far away from me; especially useful for my ongoing 365 Challenge.

My film usage in January came to the equivalent of a roll of film (35mm or 120) every day plus a sheet of 5×4 every two days, add in chemicals and it was an expensive month. So, I’m going Frugal February, aiming to have a more affordable month. One way of doing this is to dust off the Canon 5Dii, a full frame DSLR, and wallow in some digital nostalgia. This camera has seen action from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands and all points in between. Landscapes on Skye, night photography in London, urban/street photography in Manchester and Liverpool. For a time this was my daily camera, a real workhorse that never faltered whatever the weather. From sun to snow and from balmy days to blizzards this camera took it all in its stride.

When I mentioned my decision to a couple of my #believeinfilm friends I was met with good-natured derision and micky-taking. Once they’d had their fun however they embraced the concept and John challenged me to take the widest lens I had and use only the widest focal length. The 36 @ 17 challenge was born. My widest lens for the Canon is a 17-40mm zoom, so 17mm. I’ve turned the LCD screen off on my 5Dii as I rarely chimp these days; let’s face it you can’t with the cameras I typically use. I would also restrict myself to 36 shots, the equivalent of a roll of 35mm film. As I wouldn’t be using the screen I’d rely on instinct to tell me when to stop and discard any additions later. In the event I ended up with 40 suggesting my film photography mentality is well ingrained.

All images Canon 5D MkII and 17-40 f4L lens at 17mm

These are the results. Or some of them. I would say that the challenge was a great success looking at the images I made that morning in less-than-ideal light. The camera operated flawlessly and I was amazed that despite it having sat on a shelf for a long while now I still had the muscle memory intact that made using it intuitive. The only slight downer was when I got home. I’m used to processing my Fuji files on the iPad but my aged tablet, whilst happy to download the RAW files struggled mightily to open them in Snapseed. I was reduced to turning the laptop on!

“Here be Rats” – revisited 2023

The Influence of Intent

Does intent influence photography? By which I mean that if I’m just out for a walk and happen to take a camera with me will my images be any different to those I’d have taken if I’d gone out intending to complete a dérive or make images for my portfolio? Or if I’m out and engaged in routine domestic activity will that change how I see the world through my camera? For that matter, does what photographic device I am carrying (phone, digital or film camera, pinhole etc) make any difference?

School run 28/9/22

I’ve probably not explained that very well so let’s take this morning. It’s a weekday and on most weekdays I leave the house around 8.20am to walk one of my grandsons to school. There are basically two routes and he always chooses; it makes no odds to me as both take the same time.

Today it’s the front door route. Out of the house, turn right and walk to the end of the terrace and through the enclosed path behind the pub. Down a slight incline, turn right and walk in a straight line until the school gates are reached. A simple walk, it takes under ten minutes, twenty if you include the return.

School run 28/9/22

On days like today I leave the house intending to return straight home after seeing Harry safely into the care of his teachers. I always have my phone and sometimes a camera as I often make an image during the walk back. I’ve been working on a picture-a-day project since October 2017 and these “insurance” images take the pressure off me if the day evolves in an unexpected way. So, whilst I have a camera the purpose of the walk is practical and mundane and definitely not something I’d class as a dérive. Or “serious” photography.

At this time of the year the sun is still working it’s way up above the terraced houses yet it still sneaks it’s way through the gaps, bouncing off windows and creating wonderful patterns and shapes. I can’t resist. Never.

School run 28/9/22

This morning I made four images during the journey. Each uses the shadows created by the rising sun as it filters through gaps in the houses. None are what I’d call pictorial; I doubt if anyone thinks they are pretty and they are certainly not traditional picture postcard material. I’m probably the only person who will like them, especially once I’ve removed the colour.

They aren’t really documentary images either except in the sense that they are documenting something I saw. Rather they represent the way I responded to the urban landscape. These are the vignettes, small slices of the landscape, that caught my eye this morning on a walk I’ve probably made hundreds of times now.

School run 28/9/22

As I’ve been writing and thinking this morning I’ve realised that, to answer my own question, whatever my reason for being out I still photograph with the same intent. What differs is the amount of time I can devote to the act of photographing the world around me. However, this is something that has evolved over time so in a way is a learnt behaviour. I do remember a time when I termed an outing as either a “serious” photographic expedition or a “snapshot” day. The former would inevitably be me alone with “proper” kit including a choice of lenses, two or three cameras and a bag containing filters etcetera. The latter? Any time when I was with a member of the family or when the trip was for a specific purpose other than photography.

So what changed? Well, I did I guess. I believe that subconsciously I must have gradually realised that any outing could form the basis for “serious” photography. Slowly the things that caught my eye when out with a camera started to merge into a more coherent form. Still an eclectic mixture but the “serious” and the snapshot have gradually merged and I just take photographs these days. Perhaps “serious” photography should be renamed as “my” photography?

Whilst not necessarily “pretty” my photography still exhibits fairly formal composition – part of my “style” perhaps?

Thinking about it, I have always made photographs that appealed to me. Yes, I went through a brief period of entering competitions and did so successfully. But I very quickly realised that in many ways I wasn’t being successful as a photographer but as someone who could identify an image that a camera club judge would deem worthy. I enjoyed the accolades at the time but it was a brief dopamine hit if truth be told especially as I realised that in a lot of cases I no longer liked my own photographs any more! I soon reverted to making work for myself. If anything I took a conscious step away from the typical camera club aesthetic and returned to film photography, embracing pinhole for the first time and in doing so found a photographic genre that really resonates with my view of the world.

Reading: pre-breakfast wander 25/9/22

I have habitually carried a camera at all times for the last fifteen or more years. Every time I leave the house I am full of intent. My intent is to capture images that resonate with my view of the world. Whether that’s through a day dedicated to the craft or something I fit around other activities is irrelevant to me. Be it a couple of quick images on my phone or several rolls of film. But it hasn’t always been like that and I’m sure the same is true for many people.

Turning briefly to the last question in my opening paragraph. What difference does the type of camera make? The only difference it makes these days for me is from a practical perspective. I routinely carry a wooden medium format pinhole camera in my bag and with exposures lasting into the minutes I am constrained in where I can place the camera in an urban environment by the need to stay out of peoples way. My panoramic swing-lens camera has a clockwork motor and is not a discrete tool; I was using it recently at an indoor exhibition (photography was allowed) and in the cavernous mill loft I was sure that people at the far end of the room could hear every exposure as it was made.

The Ian Beesley retrospective at Salt Mill

In truth I can only answer the question I originally posed through the lens of my own experience. For me the answer would be that it used to make a difference but not any more. I make images that appeal to me, that reflect how I interact with the world and how I interpret it. Increasingly, the images that I share are the most personal rather than sugar-coated picture postcards (think stunning sunsets or sunrises) and in many cases are the complete antithesis of the work currently in favour amongst many photography enthusiasts.

Finally, I spoke with someone yesterday that I’d not spoken to since before the pandemic. She and I had both been on the same college course a few years back and had stayed in touch. Writing on the college forum later she said: “Love the images you shared, very evocative and they are very much your style.” That made my day.

As for style that’s a topic for another day but perhaps the evolution of intent has been hand-in-glove with the evolution of my style?

A Sense of Place – eZine now available

I’ve finally got my act together and uploaded the next eZine to my Ko-Fi shop. Entitled A Sense of Place it explores my “happy places” down by the waters edge. With a mix of digital and film images it’s a celebration of some locations that are really inspirational to me.

Link below – or click the picture!

If you are interested in knowing more the link is HERE. Thank you for looking!

Cross Street – a work in progress

I photographed these disused, near-derelict houses in Cross Street a few weeks ago for my 365 Challenge and at the time decided to return when I got a chance with a medium format camera and a couple of rolls of black and white film. This short series of images puts Cross Street in context and finally focuses in on the small vignette that so attracted my attention on that first visit.

Looking at these again this morning before posting them to my blog I am thinking about printing them but also about producing a zine with a series of short urban vignettes such as this drawn from my local area. Before I do either of these though I need to reprocess them to produce a visually consistent set of images. I believe this will help tell a more coherent story.

Which, I guess, tells us a little about how we consume images these days. Increasingly, images are viewed individually as little bite-sized portions on social media. The photo-essay (and I’m not suggesting this post constitutes a photo-essay) is less often seen in an environment where individual images are the predominant form in which photography is viewed. That said, I actually took these with the intention of creating a short series that hopefully told a story but I then post-processed them as individual images over the course of an evening and morning. This was partly because I wanted to see how they had turned out and also partly because I wanted to post one to Flickr as that day’s image for my 365 Challenge. In other words, they were produced individually to feed social media in as timely a manner as possible. As such, the “final” series doesn’t fully reflect my aims when starting out so I shall consider this set as a marker along the way. A more visually coherent set is the next step, followed by a set of prints (I will print more than this selection and play with the sequencing on the table) and finally their inclusion in a zine as the “final” form.

So, having used this blog post to choose the final images and view them as a set, I will now transfer the RAW files onto the computer and re-process the final selection using a consistent and hopefully coherent treatment. I might even try a sepia feel to them too but that’s getting ahead of myself.

TECHNICAL NOTE: All of these were made with a Bronica SQ-A medium format film camera and I used two rolls of film, one my old faithful Ilford HP5+ which I rated at 250 ISO and processed in Perceptol and the other a new-to-me roll of Kodak TMax 100 which I developed in Rodinal (1+50). I “scanned” the negatives with a Fuji X-H1 and post-processing was done using the JPEGs on an iPad with the Snapseed app.

Digital Zines

Just a very quick update to say that I’ve opened my own shop on Ko-Fi to sell digital editions of my zines – one small step for me!

First up is “Ode to a Wooden Box”, my love letter to the pinhole camera and this is available now as a digital download.

The first edition of the highly successful “Elland Panoramas” will be available very soon. Some of you may remember that the physical zines sold out in a matter of days so this will be the first chance to get hold of a digital version.

Head to https://ko-fi.com/s/e629f1a8a2 and check out my fledgling shop!

Flirting …

… with a DSLR!

Yes, I know, the “D” refers to digital and I’m primarily a film photographer these days. But whilst it was film in the beginning, there was a good-sized digital window along the way. Indeed, as I’ve recounted before it was a digital camera that rekindled my passion for the hobby at the point when my film use was down to a dozen rolls of 35mm – a year!

Canon 5DII and 28-135 EF lens

Just recently I’ve been confined to barracks again and with time on my hands and no inclination for anything strenuous I’ve been solving number puzzles and thinking back over my years in photography. Starting in the late 1960s with a Kodak Instamatic which I believe used 126 film. I’m not going to rehash a previous post except to say that my first experience with a DSLR was the diminutive Canon 400D, bought as a twin-lens kit from Jessops in Huddersfield. Bought on a whim and it was only a matter of a few months before I realised it was too small for my hands. In those days I actually had a disposable income that could be measured without the need for a microscope so I was able to move up to a Canon 40D fairly quickly. My next move though was a fair few years later when I followed the herd into the world of full frame. Not the best DSLR I would ever own, but my first and by a good chalk my favourite – the Canon 5D MkII.

No surprise then that I briefly put my pencil down and grabbed the iPad to “just see” what prices were like these days. I was both horrified and quietly pleased … a very good condition 5DII with just forty thousand shutter actuations, ready to be delivered the following day for £350! With a six month warranty too. It was exactly as described, came with a 5DIII strap and two batteries.

What can I say? Senior Management just raised her eyes patiently towards the heavens. The following morning, I fitted the Canon 50mm f2.8 II “plastic fantastic” that I use on my EOS 300 and disappeared onto the wet streets of Elland. With the 28-135mm also in my pocket I had a very productive, but most importantly, a thoroughly enjoyable walk eventually ending up walking along the canal.

It was like I’d never sold my original camera. The years fell away and I was once again immersed in the part of photography I love best, composing images in the viewfinder.

Now don’t misunderstand me, I’m not about to launch on another “I sold my DSLR to move to mirrorless then sold it all to go back to a DSLR” story. My reasons for moving to the Fuji X-series have not changed and I am still very happy with the weight savings in particular. A view that has been reinforced over the last week as I’ve been taking the 5DII on my perambulations.

Sweet, sweet irony. I sold my full-frame DSLRs with some lovely glass in the name of reducing weight and here I am, older and arguably more in need of weight savings, repurchasing a “heavy brick of a camera” for the sheer pleasure of using it!

I’m not going to list the pros and cons especially as in terms of ergonomics this camera is starting to show its age (and I never liked the on/off switch). I would say though that it takes just as good images as it ever did and for an experienced photographer it offers a very satisfying experience even in 2022.

Canon 5DII – a very satisfactory “return”

Am I returning to digital? Am I returning to a DSLR and forsaking my mirrorless system? No and no. However, it’s a timely reminder that its not about the gear … its about having fun and this “relic” of the recent past has given me a blast!