Velvia Misadventures

Sligachan Bridge – Hasselblad

That exposure is important is a self-evident truth that doesn’t need expanding upon here. Imagine my disappointment then when two precious rolls of Velvia 50 came back from the lab with muddy shadows, muted colours and on one roll evidence of winding on problems with the film holder.

That was 2015 – and so disappointed was I that I threw the two sleeves in a drawer to lay undiscovered … until today.

The offending film back is history needless to say. After first checking that it could not economically be repaired I placed it on a shelf until many months later when I felt ruthless enough to get rid of it. I did however decide to scan a few of the images today and reflect upon the disappointment publicly for the first time – luckily I only have one reader!

The picture of Sligachan Bridge at the top of the page was one out of a tiny number of images from 24 negatives that did not disappoint and I clearly got the exposure just right by luck or judgement. To be fair it was a tough day for metering such an uncompromising material as slide film as it was generally dismal, grey and prone to raining. The very occasional ray of light filtered briefly through but on the whole it was naff – I vividly remember struggling to adjust the camera settings with one hand whilst holding an umbrella with the other.

Sligachan FAIL!

To try to deal with the differences in tonal range between sky and foreground I decided to use my Lee filters. I also chose to fit the holder with the attached polariser figuring this would help me control the glare from the water. I made so many mistakes you’d think I was a complete rookie. The reflection of the filter holder can be seen in the image above around the edge and a bright circular area in the middle shows it is the filter holder and polarising filter we are seeing. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m wanting to record my learning this image wouldn’t see the inside of my hard drive let alone public gaze.

Hasselblad in the rain on Skye in 2015

But, it was not all doom and gloom, especially as I am able to sit here today and reflect upon the myriad small things that went wrong, the Sod’s Law of a defective film back and of course a couple of pleasing images. In hindsight it was a crap day weather-wise and I should’ve stuck to the Nikon DSLR in my other bag!

Photoshop has rescued this one to some degree but not totally

The image below was a direct result of the faulty film back. It was a newly purchased second back and I was using it for the first time. I had one roll of the 120 Velvia 50 in this back and the other in the original film back I’d been using ever since I’d purchased the Hasselblad. Whereas most of the other frames on that roll have a small degree of overlap this is a complete double-exposure. But its not all bad news as it was in fact this frame that alerted me to the exposure errors I’d been making all morning as, unlike the other frames which are generally too dark, this had a reasonable exposure level despite being exposed twice. I’d forgotten the old film adage “expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights” it seems.

An interesting, if unintended, double-exposure

I couldn’t do much about the faulty film back, that was pure bad luck and I stopped using it the minute I realised it was slipping. Sadly, as I only have 120 roll film developed when I have half a dozen or so exposed rolls, I’d put three or four more rolls through the back before I found out it was defective.

So, there we have it. My dirty washing publicly aired as it were. I hope the lessons I learnt will be useful for others:

  • This is film – expose for the shadows,
  • Shield filters to prevent glare or reflections especially when they stand proud of the lens,
  • Check the filter holder is large enough not to encroach into edge of frame,
  • When using a Lee 105mm polarising filter in the standard holder ensure it isn’t reflecting off the front element of the lens (the front element of the lens I was using is fairly deeply recessed in the lens barrel),
  • Meter once, meter twice and meter once again,
  • Check “new” gear before entrusting lots of film to it,
  • Expose for the shadows – this is film!

Lomography: in an Instant

Scanned with an Epson Perfection V550

Lomography – love it or hate it, a true lomography image has a very distinct look. Despite being an old-f@rt I love the look of these lo-fi images and have indeed owned a couple of film Holgas for quite some time now. Imagine my delight therefore whilst exploring the world of instant photography for the Instant August project to discover a Lomography instant camera. Even better it was half-price in a flash sale on their website. Just as well because the full retail price is ridiculously expensive for what is in fact a cheap plastic box with an extremely basic, need I say cheap, plastic lens. It’s the one thing that spoils Lomography as a company for me – they price their cameras way too high and whilst the prime target market may well be affluent enough to afford them I for one could not justify that sort of expense. Even at half-price it was pushing things (even so, I told my wife it was half again of what I actually paid!).

Lomography film on the other hand is well priced but this may be because there is a lot more competition in the film emulsion market than there currently is in the production and sale of plastic cameras. I like to be even handed in my criticisms.

Three for the price of one – Halifax Piece Hall

One of the things I enjoy about instant photography is the (almost) immediate gratification. Now, it could reasonably be argued that digital photography actually does give truly INSTANT gratification as you can see the image on the LCD screen immediately after pressing the button. However, in my world the final product is a physical print, regardless as to whether it starts life on a piece of plastic or as a series of 0s and 1s is irrelevant to me; the ultimate aim of every image I make is to print it. Now, don’t misunderstand me I do not print every digital image I make, think of the time required if nothing else, but I am always aiming for an image worthy of printing and ultimately hanging on my wall. Instant photography therefore, whilst a side-line in my photographic interests, appeals to me because the objective EVERY time is a print.

Lomo’ Instant – Piece Hall, Halifax 12/9/2019

What the Lomo’ Instant does is offer me the best of two of my niche interests – lomography and instant photography. I shoot images every day, without exception, but I don’t shoot film, instant film or create images in a lomographically-inspired vein every day. The vast majority of my 365 images for example are straight-forward digital images. Year to date 71% of my 365 images have been made with a Fuji camera for example with only 9% coming from the iPhone and a mere 2% from my instant camera collection, none of which were made with the recently acquired Lomo’ Instant.

Piece Hall – a Grade I listed building

I couldn’t tell you exactly why it is for me that lo-fi photographs appeal so much. Perhaps it’s a reaction to the homogeneity of so many technically excellent yet sterile and soulless images that bombard us constantly these days. Or is it the fact that they are deliberately different thus appealing to the inner rebel? The “Perfectly Imperfect” tag sums it up for me quite nicely. These are not perfect images but flawed and therefore somewhat more human as a result – is that what gives them “soul”? Or are they actually just junk and I’m deluding myself?

The only image here not scanned on my Epson, this was copied with my phone

Before you start shouting hypocrite at me I do know that it is the wonders of digital technology that enable me to share my photographs, instant or otherwise, with a wider audience than the people in my company at any time. The fact is that even if I were not sharing my images online I’d still be making instant prints, I’d still be printing from both film and digital cameras and I’d still be framing prints and hanging them on the walls of my house. The digital sharing is a bonus and a welcome one at that – I’m neither a hypocrite nor a Luddite!

I thoroughly enjoyed my first outing with the Lomo’ Instant and you can bet it will be going out with me again very soon.

9 in 45: reflections

When I posted my first 9 in 45 series I chose not to ponder on the experience but to leave it a few days. With the benefit of those few days I’m now ready to jot down some observations.

The linear route for
9/45 #1

1 The first stop was at the top of Salterhebble Hill. A view I’ve seen countless times on foot, from the car and from the top deck of the 503 bus. Yet until the timer stopped me at this point its one I’ve never thought to photograph, and yet it makes a nice image.

2 Stop 2 came a few yards too early for the image I’d usually shoot from this stretch of the canal. With a fixed 23mm lens there was no “cheating” so I was forced to work with what I had. It was the only time on the walk I wished I was working in colour.

3 Spoilt for choice at this spot however in the end the final composition was dictated by the very bright sunlight. I used the overhanging branches to shield the lens and effectively shot into the light here.

4 A simple composition, I love converging lines.

5 One of my favourites from the walk and surprisingly not a composition I’ve shot before. I usually stop five paces further on underneath the bridge and work with the shapes and reflections.

6 This one needed little thought and in fact I’d hoped I wouldn’t find myself stopping at Woodside Mills, somewhere I can rarely resist snapping. I tried to make something a little different from the norm therefore by focusing my attention on the water rather than the brickwork.

7 If I could strike this from the series I would.

8 I’ve had this in mind for a while, but with a view to shooting it with the Holga 120-Pan film camera. I did in fact return the following afternoon and shoot this with the plastic-fantastic toy camera and am looking forward to the comparison.

9 The observant will notice how close this is to image number 8. In fact just the other side of the bridge. A call came through on my mobile phone which I needed to take and I was stood here when the timer went off for image 9. Rather than miss the timings I shot this with the phone clamped between shoulder and ear. An example of total familiarity with the camera being an asset – especially as I decided on a very shallow depth of field and also the diagonal light and shade composition.

Images 1, 4, 5 and 9 are my favourites from the challenge. In fact the only image that I do not like at all is number 7; if I’d been walking slightly faster I’d have had a fascinating old factory building in sight rather than a line of parked cars! Thinking it over now I might have gone for a view down the line of parked cars and tried to do something with converging lines perhaps.

Overall, I enjoyed the discipline that the Challenge imposed. With hindsight I would not have chosen such an oft-trod route, especially for my first go, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. For my next attempt I will chose somewhere less well known. Accepting Mr C’s further challenge I will also shoot in colour, out of my comfort zone, but to ensure I comply I’ll shoot JPEGs which can be posted as-shot.

If you’ve not tried the Challenge then I urge you to give it a go!

Film Friday

Alliteration is an “in” thing it appears, Throwback Thursday was the one that caught my eye recently along with Flashback Friday. I have to admit to being partial to a bit of alliteration especially in image titles. But as always I’m digressing before I start.

The aliteratively-challenged Instant August was a very successful project in my mind and if it weren’t for the inherent cost of doing so I’d have continued the project into September. It did however reawaken the long suppressed itch to get the film cameras out of their box. I have a Mamiya C3 twin lens reflex camera that I’ve never used; a birthday present last year that came with a jammed shutter so hasn’t yet seen a roll of film.  I can’t even remember if I resolved the issue or not.  There’s also a Mamiya RB67 and a Hasselblad gathering dust in the cupboard. In a box underneath are a dozen assorted SLRs of various vintages and brands some with lenses others not. 

Birch Trees (1)
Birch trees …Hasselblad 500C/M FP4+ Home developed and printed

So, totally ignoring the cost implications, I ordered six rolls of 35mm black and white film and five rolls of 120 film.  All black and white and none of them my usual Ilford or Kodak emulsions. Adox Scala, Redscale, Kosmo and a few different Foma emulsions are all on order and will shortly be sat next to my medication on the middle shelf of the fridge. I’ve a tin full of out of date film to play with too but wanted some fresh film initially. With developing costs it might have been cheaper to stick with “Snappy September” (I needed a thesaurus to come up with snappy for instant!).

The plan, insofar as it is a plan, is to post one shot taken on film each Friday until the end of the year, so that’s 17 posts for Film Friday 2019. The first few posts are likely to be images from the archive but the aim is that those from October onwards will be new images. 

© Dave Whenham
The shot here does have a certain atmosphere or charm I guess – Holga 120 PAN.

All of which leads me to think about where my photography is heading at the moment. A move from landscapes to urban subjects, a tendency to focus my lens on the more mundane aspects around me, instant photography and Instant August , Hipstamatic and Distressed FX on my iPhone and now plans for Film Friday.

One of the blogs I follow regularly is Postcard Cafe, proprietor Mr C.  He recently commented on one of my posts that:

“… with photography I feel like I’m on a constant learning curve to improving my eye, skills, images and enjoyment.  I cannot see a point where I stop learning from my photography.”

Mr C … Postcard Cafe

That resonates with me. Add to that a naturally restless nature and a tendency to get sidetracked very easily and my photographic meanderings in 2019 look normal. I find that recently I’ve been very drawn to more “mundane” scenes with a more graphical quality both in colour and black & white. Not sure if it’s a sign of tastes evolving/changing or whether it’s a natural reaction to the 365 Challenge where I have to rely on what’s around me for my daily image. That the single stand-alone landscape images that I have in the past always been drawn to are less achievable for many reasons is one reason I guess. 

I also think that the discipline of a daily image is slowly retraining the eye to look beyond the obvious. When I accepted the 365 Challenge I also set myself the added criteria that I needed to be proud of the image hence no snaps of my tea or other social-media staples. It’s a source of great satisfaction that I’ve achieved this aim.

So, whether or not we could have predicted Film Friday at the start of 365-2019 is debatable. I do think however that it’s genesis is possible to predict with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight!

365 – 650+ images in!

October 2017, an email from Max innocently suggests I join the 365 group he’s involved with, starting with the next iteration of the challenge on 1st January 2018. Great idea! Why not?

Twenty-four hours later I remembered, a year or two before I’d attempted a picture-a-day for February, the shortest month no less, and I not only struggled I produced some really abysmal images. What was different in 2017 that I thought I could manage 365 consecutive days? I started looking in all the drawers for the marbles I was certain I’d lost the day before.

© Dave Whenham
2017 – the first 36 images of the 63-2017 Challenge


The 63-2017, as I’ve commented before, set me in good stead for 2018. So much so that I’m now well into the 2019 Challenge and over 650 consecutive daily images to the good.

To satisfy the inner geek here are year to date camera usage figures, with 2018 in brackets:.

CameraImages%
Fuji16974%. (65%)
Smartphone4017% (3%)
Drone83%. (9%)
Instant camera42%. (-)
Other94%. (1%)
Nikon– (22%)
365 August 2019 mosaic
The latest set of daily images which includes two Instax prints

It’s too early to do a complete “review” of the 2019 Challenge but suffice to say I continue to make a daily image and continue to enjoy the experience. Many of the images I’ve taken would not exist if it were not for the Challenge BUT there are none that I would not, with hindsight, have taken so hopefully that means I have not compromised on quality because of this focus on quantity.

The Hunstanton Blues

© Dave Whenham
A drone image – sunrise over Old Hunstanton

Back in February Amanda and I booked a few days in a B&B in “Sunny Hunny, the Hunstanton of the title.  It was to be our third visit in twelve months and on each of the others we’d been treated to fabulous weather; sunshine, bright blue skies with lovely white fluffy clouds. Perfect for an audiovisual extolling the delights of this seaside town. I’ve not attempted a travelogue style AV previously so now was a good time.  We were booked to go in the third week of March so I had several weeks in which to plan and prepare.

The elegant resort of Hunstanton is the ideal base to enjoy Norfolk’s superb coastline. Hunstanton, or ‘Hunston’ as it is known locally, is renowned for its unique striped cliffs and magnificent sunsets, made special by its position as the only west-facing resort on the East coast.

Thus starts the script that I started writing in early March. I also started a basic shot list and felt that having both would inform my shooting whilst away. It was a family holiday and not a photographic trip so I’d have to fit the photography around the vacation. Not that I saw that as a problem, the types of images I wanted were more suited to the daytime and I didn’t think that black and white long exposures, my usual fare at the seaside, were really suited to a travelogue. 

Hunstanton Minimalist
Hunstanton minimalist – my usual seaside fare

So how did it go? Well, given that it’s August and no AV has yet been forthcoming that might give you a clue. I have however started to rewrite the script:

The sun is out, the sky is blue, there’s not a cloud to spoil the view but it’s BORING

Hazy – great for strolling, not so great for a travelogue

Yup, harsh, bright sun in a blue, tending to white, sky with not a cloud in sight. For three days. With no let up. Not once. I shot some images of course, but bland skies were not part of the original idea. I needed a rethink.

Ironically, I’d written in my diary the day before we arrived: “… I could also produce a VLOG, behind the scenes as it were, talking about shooting for the edit and being adaptable…” Prophetic words indeed and in the event it was May before I returned to the subject of Sunny Hunny, writing on 1st May: “my Sunny Hunny AV needs rethinking owing to the hazy weather. Perhaps ‘Hunstanton Blues’?”  The real lesson from March was that I shouldn’t approach a project with too fixed an idea. I did try to adapt but for some reason I really struggled to do so, I shot relatively few images and no video at all despite the idea of a behind the scenes VLOG. Which was odd as adaptability, particularly to the vagaries of the British weather, has always been a key part of my photography in the past. Perhaps it was because AV and VLOGs are all still very new to me and I’m having to work hard on the basics?

Hunstanton Beach 180 (Mavic Pro)

So, apart from the few images I’ve shared here my Sunny Hunny trip remains hidden on my computer. I think however, that I do still have enough usable images for a shorter AV, say 3-4 minutes rather than the 6-7 minutes I’d originally planned. The original idea was for a travelogue style AV and I think that is still the way to go but with a shorter sequence and so I shall have to rewrite the narration to fit and drop some of the subjects I’d planned talking about. The other option would be to write it as a photographic cautionary tale although that rather limits the audience. But that’s not stopped me before and two of my previous AVs, Square Shooter and The Dark Art both fared well in front of more general audiences this year.

Purpose-built as a seaside resort in 1846, Hunstanton retains its Victorian charm to this day. We’ve visited several times over the last few years and whilst the summer crowds tend to be smaller now than in the 1980s the promenade area has always been  busy. However, strolling north or south along the promenade the crowds quickly thin and we can enjoy a pleasant walk.

The script re-write has begun …

Watch this space!

Why do we do it?

(c) Dave Whenham

Why do we do it?
The 3am alarm call
Driving two hours in the dark
And the rain

For a picture?
Why do we do it?

Why do we do it?
Hiking for miles
With a twenty pound pack
On a protesting back

For a picture?
Why do we do it?

Why do we do it?
Freeze in the snow
Shiver in the rain
Roast in the sun

For a picture?
Why do we do it?

Why do we do it?
At one with the landscape
Experiencing the sights
In awe of the Sublime

For a Picture?
Why do we do it?

Why do we do it?
Enjoying the solitude
Embracing the challenges
Living the life

For a picture!