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.

Something borrowed …

… something blue.

The something borrowed was a Minolta X-300 with a Hoya 28-85mm f4 lens. The something blue was a roll of Fomapan 100, OK the packaging is blue, a film I normally only use in 5×4 sheets and rarely, if ever, in 35mm.

Jim (@Gravmadboris on Twitter) recently offered me the loan of his Minolta X-300, a well-respected 35mm SLR film camera which was produced between 1984 and 1990. The X-300 was also marketed as the X-370 in the U.S. and Canada so anyone looking for more information online needs to keep this additional model number in mind.

It’s a very simple camera to use but nevertheless still a very pleasurable experience I found. In fact it’s probably the ease of use that makes it a joy to use. I set the ISO on the camera, set the aperture to the desired value and just keep an eye on the shutter speed in the right hand side of the viewfinder. The view finder itself is bright and consequently easy to use.

As it was a dull, grey, dismal morning I wasn’t expecting any photographic masterpieces (not that I ever do if we are honest) but that didn’t really matter. I enjoy using cameras and was soon forgetting the conditions as I concentrated on composition and the tactile pleasures of a well considered piece of photographic machinery.

Given the conditions and the likelihood of rather low contrast images I opted for developing in Rodinal at 1+50. I normally use Fomadon Excel with Fomapan 100 but felt that this would benefit from the extra bite of Rodinal. It was a good choice and whilst there is grain clearly present it works well I think with the subjects and the conditions.

So, in conclusion this was a lovely camera to use. The Hoya zoom is a very nice lens but rather heavy to my taste, making the camera front heavy. If I decide to add a Minolta to my kit bag (and the chances are high I will) then I will definitely look for a couple of primes rather than a single zoom and from my researches there is a nice little 45mm f2 available in this mount. I reckon that this combination would fit in my winter coat pocket very easily.

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

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.

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

An Urban Nocturne

As a by-product of my regular 365 Challenge I was challenged to come up with 31 daily nocturnal images for January. I’m coming to the end of this additional mini-challenge and it has been very challenging indeed.

I’ve photographed with black and white film, including handholding a 5×4 camera, with my phone and with my digital kit. These latter images, being RAW files, are capable of giving both colour and black and white images. Once January is finished I am planning a small e-zine to complement the challenge but as this will be an entirely black and white endeavour I thought I’d share a few colour ones to my blog by way of introducing the subject. More will be written in due course but for now here’s a few colour images from my nocturnal rambles – or stoating about in the dark!

And a couple of early morning ones to finish with.

So, a handful of images that won’t make the e-zine … but will their black and white doppelgängers make the cut? Time will tell!

Testing the Rocket (II)

So, it’s been a few days since I tested the Sprocket Rocket with a roll of HP5+ and although the camera has been back on the shelf whilst I’ve pursued my nocturnal project I’ve still been cogitating quietly on the matter behind the scenes. Key questions in my head have been, will my metering plan work with the Kentmere 400 and should I wait until the February roll to find out?

My reader knows that doing nothing is rarely my answer to matters photographic however, especially when I have the means for doing something so readily available. I accordingly made up a short roll of the Kentmere 400 and loading the Rocket once again headed out.

Now, I’d already decided that I’d assume the camera was f11 and 1/200th (it could equally be f22 and 1/40th of course) and that I’d meter accordingly. The other question was at what speed to rate the film. I’d done some more online research and also consulted friend and technical consultant Andy (@holga_pics)and had decided to rate the film initially at ISO 200 although I might even move to ISO 125 at some point. A handy scrap of paper enabled me to check my logic (see below) and if the meter reading was 1/30th then I’d need seven shutter actuations to build the necessary exposure. Unless I took a tripod then I’d probably be looking at ICM [(un)intended camera movement perhaps?] given the typically grey day here in West Yorkshire.


I wasn’t looking for portfolio images but for the answer to the question “is it worth pursuing this quest for another 12 months?” As Andy had said:

The film is sub par and the camera is junk, so you’re trying to make a silk purse from a sows ear.

Sir Andy of Holga
Could Sir Andy be right?

In fairness I have to agree. The roll I put through the Nikon F801 was perfectly acceptable; not on a par with HP5+, why should it be, but OK. The camera is plastic, made with virtually no noticeable quality control that I can see and will almost certainly be donated to an unsuspecting victim once the December roll is in the tank. Form an orderly queue please!

I developed the film in Perceptol, freshly made stock solution, for ten minutes which is the recommended time for the film exposed at 400 ISO. The resulting negatives were an improvement but decidedly lacking in contrast. Perhaps this is a feature of the film but regardless as I’m digitising the negatives for this project it is not an issue. Every exposure was made using the principals outlined above. Where the metered exposure was shorter than 1/250th I gave just one shutter activation but on the whole erred on over exposing. Only one of the fifteen negatives exhibits any over exposure so I’m heading in the right direction. For February I will rate the film at 125 and develop in stock Perceptol I think.

Metered at 1/350th so single shutter actuation
Quite pleased with this – it’s definitely a distinctly lo-fi aesthetic
My favourite from this test and the last frame on the roll

I’ve now used six rolls of film testing this set up, including a roll of HP5+ and a roll of Kentmere 400 that I sent to a friend for an independent view. I have nine further rolls made up and stored in the cellar which should see me through until the October roll. There should be enough of the bulk film left for me to make rolls for November and December once I have a couple of donor cassettes available!

Next update will, hopefully, be in February.

Snapshots in the dark

A couple of days ago I reached an intermediate milestone in my 365 project – 1,900 consecutive daily images in an unbroken sequence from October 30th 2017. I wanted to mark the occasion suitably and after some cogitation decided to bring forward the handheld 5×4 in the dark idea I’ve been contemplating.

The choice of camera was easy. I recently purchased a 5×4 camera specifically for handheld large format photography. The Chroma Snapshot was the logical choice and whilst I’d some experience with a loaned copy this would be my first outing with my own which had arrived prior to Christmas but which a bout of the flu had prevented me from christening.

Chroma Snapshot, 65mm lens f5.6 1/30th handheld

As I’ve already written in an earlier post I’ve been using a Nikon F801 and Ilford HP5+ to gain some experience of photography in the dark with film so I was confident that, whilst I’d not finished my experiments, I had enough knowledge to make it a feasible proposition. I had a few sheets of HP5+ in 5×4 left from a project last year and so I loaded up a couple of film holders and set forth.

The lens I have paired with the Snapshot is a wide-angled 65mm but it only has a maximum aperture of f5.6, two stops slower than the f2.8 of my Nikon 24mm which I’d been using on the Nikon F801. Looking back at my notes, 1/15th to 1/60th of a second at ISO 3200 was the ballpark for exposure depending on how much streetlight was in the frame. Bear in mind that I was planning on handholding the Snapshot, I would have preferred to have set 1/60th but needing to make up at least two stops I went for the pragmatic choice of 1/30th and bumping ISO to 6400, knowing that I was heading beyond the 3200 limit that both Ilford and many online commentators considered the maximum for this film stock.

A bit of extra detail pulled out at the expense of some increase in grain

I had four sheets so would photograph one scene (top image) where the subject was reasonably well lit (well lit is a relative term at night) and I would get in close, a second would be a similar scene but from a distance of around 15 feet (middle image) and then two others where the scene was a wider field of view with the light points well scattered (bottom image).

Would have benefited from a little extra exposure

So, as the results above show this experiment was a reasonable success albeit with room for improvement in terms of my technique and perhaps also my copying of the negatives and subsequent processing. I will cogitate and come back to this in a future blog post.

For completeness, these sheets were developed in stock Microphen for twenty three minutes; the suggested time was twenty minutes thirty seconds which I rounded to twenty three to allow for the fact that I’d already used the chemicals for a previous roll.

The other thing to note is that all the images here were created by copying the whole negatives with a mirrorless camera as a single frame and then inverting the images in Snapseed. For improved quality I need to copy the negatives in three or four segments, stitching and processing them in Lightroom. I shall do that for the next stage of the experiment.

Watch this space!

Stoating in the dark with the Nikon F801

It was a forgone conclusion that having spent several evenings perambulating the streets with a digital camera that I would then proceed to load a roll of film and give that a try. Indeed, I intimated as such in an earlier post:

As night-time photography will of necessity mean pushing the film you can expect some blog posts on the subject. I’m thinking that a roll of Ilford HP5+ rated at ISO 3200 and developed in Microphen will be a good starting point but watch this space!

Dave in Elland

I’d been looking at the EXIF detail from my Fuji X100T image files and noted that ISO 3200 and 6400 were the two most common settings (I was using Auto-ISO) and so that gave me a ballpark for choosing a film. I wanted to use a film stock that was available in 35mm, 120 and also 5×4 formats – I was looking even further ahead than simply a 35mm SLR. The logical choice for me was Ilford HP5+, my go-to black and white film, but I still did my research online to understand other peoples’ experiences. To cut a long story short I stuck with HP5+ but decided that, to start with at least, that ISO 3200 would be my ceiling. Let the testing begin!

Now, I’ve never used a digital camera in the field to meter a scene for a film camera but nevertheless I thought that studying the EXIF data further might be a useful place to start thinking about shutter speeds and apertures. I’d used the Fuji wide open, so f2.8, and the most common shutter speeds were in the range 1/15th to 1/60th so that gave me my starting point.

In terms of an aesthetic I am looking for images with inky shadows and bags of contrast so after studying the images from the Fuji I set ISO 3200, f2.8 and 1/60th of a second on my Nikon F801 paired with the 24mm Nikon lens. The logic in my lens choice was that as it’s a wide angle lens it might be a little more forgiving of being handheld at slower shutter speeds.

The other consideration was developing the film. I’d kept this in mind whilst researching what film stock to use and had tentatively decided on Microphen, a box of which has been in my chemicals box for several years. How I came by it I’ve no idea, I’ve never used Microphen, but as it was in powdered form I was confident it would be fine to use. However, one of the benefits of the #believeinfilm community is that there is generally someone online ready to offer support. So it was that Andy (@holga_pics) and I had a conversation during which I laid out my proposed treatment of the film and Andy offered his views and a slight tweak to my proposals. I was ready to go.

Before I left home, I put the F801 into manual mode, set f2.8 and 1/60th of a second and was thus prepared to go outside as soon as the street lights came on. I’d also set the ISO manually to 3200 so I could keep an eye on what the camera was thinking of my exposure settings. I found that for most of the time it was able to autofocus quite happily but when needed the 24mm lens was easy to focus manually too.

Having little or no previous experience of night photography I’ve now got a fair few urban stoats (that word again!) under my belt and I’m comfortable with both my film choice, the developing thereof and the camera settings.

All images Nikon F801, 24mm Nikon lens at f2.8 and ISO 3200

My long term aim is to create handheld 5×4 large format black and white film images of my local urban environment in the dark (there I said it) so everything needs to be capable of scaling to an aperture of f5.6 which is the widest aperture on the lens I use with the Snapshot. Realistically, this means that I may need to compromise in terms of ISO but thus far I’m thinking that I might just get away with it at ISO 3200!