The Frugal Film Project – February update


The Sprocket Rocket has bitten the dust. After using four rolls of film last month testing the thing and working out its personal film speed with Kentmere 400 it has gone to that darkroom in the sky.

The sun was shining this morning. A cold, bright wintry morning and made for photography. To avoid being distracted from my purpose I took only the Sprocket Rocket, loaded with it’s February roll, and set forth. I was confident that I had everything in place for a successful roll this time after January’s disappointing experience.

Spotting some lovely light on a house wall (incidentally, it’s the house used as the pharmacy in Happy Valley) I stopped, metered, and settled on four shutter actuations to get the February roll underway.

click, click, click, click

Something is wrong here … it should have been KER-LICK!! KER-LICK!! KER-LICK!! KER-LICK!!

Mission aborted. Phone snap of the scene captured and return to base.


Whilst I walked home I cogitated. This camera has been very problematic and the likelihood is the piece of wire that acts as a shutter has given up the ghost. It’s not worth worrying about though as I bought it several years ago for very few pounds. I would take the camera into the darkroom, transfer the roll into a Holga and continue on my way. Being a 120 camera, if I don’t put the dedicated 35mm back on, I will get a similar result to that from the now defunct Rocket. The lo-fi aesthetic would continue as would shooting the film sprockets and the slightly panoramic format.

Back home in the darkroom I removed the film from the Sprocket Rocket RIP and using some 35>120 adapters successfully transferred the roll to a Holga 120N. With the lights back on I had a look at the now deceased Rocket and sure enough, the shutter assembly was even dodgier than a very dodgy thing. I carefully placed said piece of precision equipment in the bathroom bin and went downstairs with the Holga in hand.

Heading back out I found that the sun had shifted enough to render the planned shot unobtainable – cue a dilemma. In addition the bright blue sky had given way to a uniform greyness through which the sun was struggling to make itself felt. Pragmatism came to the fore, the Holga went back in my pocket ready to try again another morning.

Holga 120N – note the flare across the frame … with sun behind me!


Another day, another attempt to make my February images for the Frugal Film Project. Not that it’s been that frugal; four rolls last month working out the best way to expose the frugal film in this idiosyncratic frugal camera, a camera which is currently on its way to landfill . Still, I wanted panoramic format with full on sprocket holes so the Holga will hopefully be a good substitute.

A full-on day of childcare today but I did dive out quickly to make the image of shadows and light on the end terraced house (see Monday above). Fingers crossed. However, duty calls so I put the Holga away until tomorrow.

An unintentional double exposure – Holga 120N


Some heavy duty thinking and soul searching overnight. The Holga will give me the near panorama and exposing over the sprocket holes I would have got from the Sprocket Rocket RIP.


Much as I love the Holga I couldn’t see me loading a MF camera with 35mm film for the next eleven months without losing enthusiasm for the task. I also couldn’t realistically change camera again so it was time to be pragmatic and I looked over my shelves for something suitable.

There, at the back, was a camera I bought for £35 a few years back but haven’t yet film tested. Surely, nothing else can go wrong … I’m hoping that isn’t famous last words. Spoiler alert: it functioned fine.

So, the February roll of film is now in its third camera body in as many days. I’ve hopefully wound it on sufficiently to protect the three frames I made with the Holga. That said, of my two Holgas this one produces a huge flare across the middle of the frame (see above) and on 35mm this will probably mean the full height and width of the negative. Hadn’t thought of that before, probably another reason to justify my final choice of camera.

Immediately after taking the grandson to school today I had a quick wander around the block taking in a range of lighting situations. The 12XP is a fully manual camera but does have an onboard, uncoupled, light meter. Mine wasn’t working due to a lack of suitable batteries but I will remedy that on another occasion. I used an app on my phone to determine exposure and quickly fell into my usual routine of measuring once then adjusting the speed or aperture based on a gut- feel. Some call this experience I believe, but good old photographic intuition works for me.

The camera was a joy to use, a real throw back to the 1970s for me. Manually focusing the 58mm f2 lens was a lot easier than I’d expected and the lens is so well damped that it instils confidence that it will stay where you leave it regardless of what else happens. I liked using it. I found the 58mm focal length a little long for my usual style though so will probably try to find a 28mm or 35mm which are both more within my comfort zone.

So, the Zenit 12XP will be my Frugal Film Project companion for the next eleven months. The roll of film is hanging to dry but watch this space for the February images from the Frugal Film Project 2023.

Impulse buy > early adopter

Whilst often prone to impulse buys, I’m not usually an early adopter of technology, indeed the only example I could come up with in my entire adult life was the Canon 5D MkIII DSLR camera back in early 2012. Ten years later though I’ve repeated the phenomenon.

It’s only a few months since I upgraded my Mavic Pro camera drone with the DJI Air 2s and also added a lightweight Mini 2 drone to the mix. Two drones that nicely complement each other and if we are honest, together they meet all of my aerial photography needs admirably. So, why have I just taken delivery of the latest small drone, the Mini 3 Pro, from DJI?

Well partly the influence of other people on the drone fora I frequent to be sure. Partly fear of missing out. Partly because by chance I happened to have funds available at this time. But mainly because I need* it.

So, what do I think of it?

Fabulous in a word.

Seriously, I was very impressed with the way it handled straight out of the box. I couldn’t get out for a full flight yesterday but wanted to try it so I took it into my front yard (very tiny) and placed it in the middle of the yard which is only two to three feet from the wall of the house). It acquired the requisite number of satellites very quickly to enable me to take off and I was very impressed with how smoothly it responded to the sticks as it rose up through the gap twixt house and trees. It was rock solid and didn’t drift at all, a major consideration in such a tight space.

Flying is not my hobby, I‘m a photographer who also uses drones, so the most important factor will ultimately be image quality and that too looks promising. As anyone who’s followed my blog for a while will know I am predominantly a film photographer and I’m used to working with black and white film. Many of my drone images end up in mono too, so the response of the Mini 3 files to image manipulation will be important. I’ve yet to test the image making potential but will do soon I hope.

Unlike my other/past drones the Mini 3 Pro doesn’t rely on my phone for a screen but has one built into the remote controller. If I’m totally honest, whilst very excited by this option I did not find the Mini 3 controller with screen as comfortable to use as the one I usually use but that’s going to become easier with practice I’m certain; and to be fair I’ve only used it the once.

Forecast for next few days is strong, gusty winds and rain so it may be I can’t fly it properly until the end of the week or even early next week but first impressions are very positive. I will keep you updated!

In the meantime, I nipped back into my front yard just before bedtime to capture the sunset.

Images: DJI Mini 3 Pro

*need in this context means “want” if I’m really honest.

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