My Holga Week Diary 2021 – Day 7

I hadn’t intended going out today so for me the final day of Holga Week was going to be getting ready to process the scanned images. In passing, it seems odd that my week is finishing on a Thursday but I got over it pretty quickly.

I wanted to finish the scanning from earlier in the week and develop the three rolls from yesterday. Not necessarily in that order. School run complete, a leisurely breakfast consumed and I was ready to develop the films. I find developing films a relaxing process and not the chore that some seem to find it. I’ve use Perceptol as stock for this week’s films, mixed fresh on Day One, so today would be films 4, 5 and 6 and the end of this litre of developer as I typically only put half a dozen rolls through each batch. It all tied up nicely.

Until. Looking at the accumulated negatives once I’d finished the development of these final three rolls, I realised how exclusively urban they were. Not a surprise really as it’s been my go-to genre for a while now. I hesitated. Was it such a bad thing? After all it’s what I do. Then the little imp on the shoulder chipped in. “But there’s a fresh roll loaded in the Holga … would be a shame not to add another roll. Make a tidy 7 rolls, one for each of the days in Holga Week”. A quick trip down to a local nature trail would give me the chance of a few rural images too I thought, rather unhelpfully aiding the imp.

Here’s one from this walk that I did earlier – Fuji X-H1
September 2021

The imp won. And so it was that I found myself enjoying some early afternoon sunshine and a short stroll. I took just the Holga and that one roll of film for my final trip out for Holga Week 2021.

I’m not sure why, perhaps it appeals to the completer-finisher in me, but an average of a film a day seems about right. I managed to get out on five of the seven days too which was more than I’d anticipated. In terms of effort then I’d class Holga Week 2021 a success.

Just one roll to develop and I’m ready to start on the shortlist for my three submissions. Fingers crossed I can get that done on Friday or at the very latest Saturday.

I shall be back soon to share some images I hope!

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)!

The Last C41

One job I’ve been putting off since my grand colour film clear-out is disposing of the C41 chemicals. And this week I’m glad I prevaricated! Getting a camera ready to package up and post I found it had a roll of film in it. Just six frames exposed so I wound it back and popped it in a Sprocket Rocket intending to double-expose the start of the roll and have a play with the rest. The film was Kodacolor 200 and I was pleased I still had the chemicals as I probably wouldn’t have bothered to send it off for colour processing and would probably have developed it in Rodinal.

Who forgot to wind on!

Now, having seen the developed roll, the pictures themselves are nothing special … we can’t always be on the top of our game I guess … but I would nevertheless have sent the roll away for developing so having the chemicals on hand has saved me a few bob too.

So, there we have it, the final, small episode in my short C41 “career”. Since developing my first colour film in early 2020 I have enjoyed the challenge but my colour blindness has created some additional frustrations and I have decided to concentrate on my black and white photography. The last of the C41 chemicals have been properly disposed of and I am a colour-free zone.

Apart from twenty 5×4 sheets of Ektar in my fridge!

Dry: Seconds out … round two!

Back to the canal today with a couple of J Lane Speed plates (the last in the box) along with the Intrepid 5×4 and a bag full of optimism. I’m using the new ChromaGraphica double dry plate holder. When I used it for the first time last week there was a suspicion of a light leak but I suspected then that it was probably me loading the holder for the first time and in a hurry. So, I had a few dry runs this morning with one of the earlier “failed” plates before loading the two new plates in a changing bag. I realised that the dark slide needs an extra final push to fully seat it in place. This probably explains the slight light leak I experienced a couple of days ago. The slides are currently very tight and need a good push but I suspect they will get smoother with use.

Back to my “muse” location and unfinished business

I headed for Elland Wharf, scene of the previous disappointment but also a favourite location. I also regularly test cameras out here so it was, and is, a logical place to head for as I started phase 2 of the dry plate project. I’ve used the Intrepid a fair bit recently and have got much quicker at setting it up on location so it wasn’t long before I was taking spot readings and determining exposure. I will share the notes I made in a separate blog post – suitably tidied up of course!

The double plate holder is quite a bit thicker than my usual film holders and stretches the Intrepid to its limit. It also needs a little persuasion to sit properly but once it’s in place you know it’s going nowhere. I exposed two plates choosing two slightly different compositions rather than one composition and bracketing the exposures. I chose to do this on the basis that despite all the issues I’ve had, obtaining correct exposure hasn’t been one of them.

Back home, I prepared 500ml of HC110 (dilution B) and headed for the darkroom. Thirty minutes later I had two successful glass plates in the print washing tray. Both look well exposed, sharply in focus and not a light leak to be seen – fingers crossed.

They are now drying and tomorrow I will copy them and share the results in a new blog post and no doubt on Twitter too! The new holder also worked well and I’m keen to crack on with the project. I am however awaiting delivery of a new box of plates but it’s good to know that a corner has been turned and it’s full steam ahead.

Dry: An Update

If it’s been rather quiet on the dry plate front it’s not because I’ve not been busy. Indeed, I’ve used most of a box of the Speed plates in the last ten days or so. So, why the silence? A picture might help here.

Notice anything odd?

The example on the left of the three is something I’ve seen before as it happened on my first plate and I’d put it down to user error. However, chatting to Andy who owns the plate holders I was using, revealed he had a similar plate so unless we were both making exactly the same error, be it with loading or seating the holder, then the likely culprit was the holder. We were certainly not using the same camera and lens!

The issue with the other two is different to the first plate, suggesting perhaps that one holder was used for the first and the other for the second two examples? The shape of the light leak, whilst not exactly the same, is very similar too. There’s clearly an issue so some more thinking and testing was called for.

In the case of all three glass plates, used on two different days, each was exposed using exactly the same set up and at the same time as a sheet of 5×4 film. The sheets of film were all absolutely fine. Looking at the scans above shows that the exposures used for these plates were good too which is a small positive from this. I’ve plenty of experience with 5×4 and whilst it’s not impossible I think I can rule out loading errors. To be sure, I used one of the failed plates to load both holders in daylight and could find no way to mis-load them without it being very apparent.

I’ve even tested the plates from the current box themselves. Taking a fresh plate from the box in the darkroom, staying at least six feet from the safelight and putting it straight into the developer gives a perfectly clear plate. What we would expect. Later that morning I used a plate in an Ilford Obscura pinhole (no holder required) which also confirms the plates are probably fine. The other factor in favour of the plates not being the issue is that my first fail was with one of the plates that Andy gave me initially and not from those that I bought for this project.

As a final test I exposed a further plate with a newly-purchased double plate holder. It was a very bright, sunny day and the holder was positioned with the slide pointing upwards as is my norm for vertical compositions. There is the suspicion of an ingress of light, perhaps from where the slide goes, but nothing like the pattern on the earlier plates. I will remember to cover the plate holder in future just to be on the safe side, although that’s something for another day. Taken with everything else though this final test does seem to suggest that there is an issue with the holders I’ve been using.

Speaking to Andy last night he thinks he can see a split in one of the holders so we’ve both spoken to the manufacturer and explained our respective experiences. He is sending replacements to Andy and is going to test the original holders. I have to say the response from him has been first class and very refreshing.

So, a disappointing end to this phase of the project not to say an expensive one as I’ve used one and a half boxes of plates getting to this point. Undeterred though, my new double plate holder arrived last week and I am going to be ordering another box of plates today, I go into the next phase with some confidence.

Despite the issues I’ve demonstrated that I can accurately calculate exposure and I’ve had valuable hands-on experience in handling the plates. The developing methodology I’ve adopted is working well and I’m pleased with the results from the HC-110 too. So, loads of positives and I genuinely believe that despite the setbacks and disappointments I’ve learnt a lot so far. The next stage is to concentrate on compositions and locations that will utilise the glass plate aesthetic to its full.

That’s gonna be the tough part!

A Sense of Place

After the very successful ‘zine of urban panoramas last year I’m currently working on my next ‘zine offering. Whereas the panoramas were all made within a short period of time the images I will be using for A Sense of Place were created over a much longer period of time and in fact were not originally intended as a series, let alone a zine.

Zero Image pinhole camera, Ilford HP5+ Cresswell Bay, October 2020

Although I have been creating images by the water for as long as I have been making photographs the genesis for this collection are the four pinhole images above. They were created one after the other at Cresswell Beach in the north of England using a Zero Image pinhole camera and Ilford HP5+ film in early October 2020 after four months of being confined to the house and a further three months confined to within a few miles of home. I had never been to Cresswell before – but it was like coming home.

Whilst I’ve not made the final selection yet, and in fact I have not finished the photography yet, all of the images will feature water; representing my “happy place”. Time spent by a river, alongside a lake, walking the canal towpath or strolling on the seashore is always a relaxing and peaceful place for me. I am at peace alongside water, calm and relaxed – even when the camera is playing up!

WWT Martin Mere

We took a trip out to the Wetland and Wildfowl Trust at Martin Mere during the school holidays with Ted.  I’d have liked the opportunity to spend an hour or so in various hides just watching the birds, chilling and taking a few photographs.  That isn’t an option with a hyper four year old however. 

The Wisp

Walking and snapping wasn’t that easy carrying in my right hand a 100-400mm lens on the Fuji, a picnic in a rucksack on my back, the camera bag over one shoulder, the bag for the Fuji on the other and Teds belongings in my left hand. Try steadying the equivalent of a 620+mm lens with two bags hanging off the arm that you are using to steady the lens!

Red Admiral

So, rather than bemoan my fate I made the best of the day, set a fast shutter speed and concentrated on what was achievable within the limitations of my packhorse status. I came away with a pleasing set of images but more importantly Ted had a great day.

I popped a few images from the day onto Flickr in the album: WWT

“Embracing the Blur”

I’ve pinched the title for todays post from a photographer-friend of mine to describe the latest twist in my photographic journey. Perhaps twist isn’t the right phrase, just adding another branch might be a better way of describing it.

I’m a landscape photographer primarily and so the recent brutal weather, at a time when the doc isn’t happy for me to be out in it, has been very frustrating. It’s brought home that I need an alternative outlet for my creativity for those times when the outdoors is closed to me.

There is also the 365 to consider. Taking a picture a day has been challenging but, touch wood, I’ve kept the variety of images fresh even if I have had to reuse some locations several times.  I have used a variety of cameras – DSLR, mirrorless, compact, drone and even a phone. I have used lenses from 23mm to 300mm and shot at all times of the night and day. I do still have some ideas for the coming weeks but unless I can regain full mobility I will be struggling come the Summer.

Then, the light bulb moment.

The image of the day for 4th March (below) was, as you can see,  heavily manipulated. I started with lovely early morning misty light and transformed the original shot by use of textures, blending modes and layer masks in Photoshop. This naturally, or at least naturally enough for me, led me to researching the subject online, purchasing an on-demand course, producing the images in my Floral Dance blog post and ultimately on the Definitely Dreaming website from where I stole the title to this piece.

© Dave Whenham
As shot (unprocessed)  –  Final Image

As I mention in Floral Dance it’s a while since I seriously played with floral photography, indeed I discovered that it was way back in 2008! That’s pretty much right at the beginning of my digital photography journey. Back then my floral  images were very clean and literal but as you will have seen in the Floral Dance my current approach is dramatically different.

Embracing the blur refers primarily to Janet’s love for the Lensbaby optics, of which she has a good sized collection I believe. These quirky lenses were not new to me but I last used one in 2016 and hadn’t really kept up to date with developments in the Lensbaby world.  So, of course that meant another diversion around the internet which ended up on the Wex website, where else, and the purchase of not one, but two Lensbaby optics along with the Composer Pro II which is needed to mount these optics onto the camera.

© Dave Whenham
Lensbaby fun in North Berwick harbour. Canon 5DIII with Lensbaby Spark (2012)

They won’t arrive until the end of the week so I’ve plenty of time to read and research further, and of course look at some of the fascinating Lensbaby imagery online. I will blog my progress of course but if you notice a flurry of blurry images then at least you will know why!

Forewarned is forearmed!


UPDATE: delivery brought forward – due today, three days ahead of schedule!