The third roll of film in my 35mm Lucky Dip was a gift from Jevon and it wasn’t until AFTER I’d used the roll that he expressed his view:
Best of luck. I have rarely managed to get a clean negative but when I have the detail is phenomenal
He’s not wrong of course!
I used the roll on a wander around my local patch with Andy (@Holga_Pics) and sadly the weather was rather overcast and wet; indeed we got a good soaking once we reached the farthest point of the walk from the sanctuary of my front room.
There’s a few on the roll where I’ve clearly misjudged the exposure and these have very blocked up shadows but where I’ve got the exposure right the negatives sing almost. Looking at them on a light pad the detail, even in the 35mm format, is incredible. The base of the film is also exceptionally clear which perhaps enhances this perception when the sheet of negatives is laid out on the light pad.
I’ve “scanned” the roll with my mirrorless camera and also printed one negative in the darkroom so far (more will follow) and the negatives have been very easy to work with in both scenarios.
The darkroom print above, consciously printed a little darker to emphasise the wet conditions, has lots of detail and also lots of potential for further manipulation (tinkering with images didn’t start with Photoshop you know). This was a straight print and when I look at the negative it’s clear that there’s more detail in the shadows. I don’t want to change the overall mood of the finished print but I think there’s room for a little more detail in those shadows; it’s certainly available in the negative as the comparison below shows. The digital version has been fully processed to bring out detail in the shadows.
So, would I use this again? Short answer is that I’d have no qualms about using it. So long as it’s exposed correctly it will reward you with loads of detail and extremely sharp negatives. However, it is a 50-speed film and this couple with its lack of tolerance of poor metering doesn’t lend itself to my style of handheld, urban photography on the hoof.
This time, pleased as I am with the outcomes, I can at least say that it has not deflected me from my “three film” goal. That said, if Jevon wants to send me some more …
In the meantime here’s a few more digital versions from this roll.
Six-thirty am Sunday 25th September. It was a late night last night but despite this I was awake in a Reading hotel room, feeling tired yet ready to start a new day. As it was likely that I’d be the only person up and about for a while I dressed and left the hotel for a wander. No plan as such although I wasn’t going to stray too far from our hotel not least in case the wife woke and wanted an early breakfast!
I wandered out of the front door and took my first lung full of the chilly Sunday morning air. Left, right or straight on? Left was previously unexplored but would take me away from the centre towards mainly residential streets. Straight on had already been “done” over the previous two days so I crossed the road and turned right along the dual carriageway.
The moment I cross the road I am aware that the sun is just peeping above the buildings behind me to my right. It is dark under the flyover although the sun filters in through gaps in the infrastructure creating slashes of light against the industrial detritus to my left. These are the backs of the flashy restaurants that line the River Kennet hereabouts and are a place of shadows, dark recesses, industrial-sized fans and concrete. In the morning light though they are irresistible. Well, irresistible to an urban photographer at least.
These too are for me the Edges. The places where man’s interactions with the land are most obvious. Here the glittering glass and chrome of the restaurants that border the land is replaced by concrete, tarmac and steel and the colour palette moves towards dull black and battleship greys. These are places where most folk hurry past unless they have business there. There is nothing for them here. Suddenly, a flash of light catches my eye as an anonymous grey door opens and someone, presumably a cleaner, momentarily appears in the light before it is extinguished as abruptly as it appeared.
Moving slowly on up the dual carriageway I turn left and find myself at another intersection. This is where the periphery of the City centre shops and the flashy newer Oracle Centre almost touch hands. Its another edge seemingly. The Grosvenor Casino on the corner, dated yet neon-bright, stands sentinel. To its right the old bridge over the River Kennet. From here it is heading steadily to its appointment with the mighty River Thames above Sonning Lock here in the heart of Reading.
Here the rising sun is poking a wary finger through, lighting up the pedestrian crossing. Sun flare and haze greets the eye before the tree branches part slightly and the rising sun briefly assaults the eyes. I check my watch. It’s the first major decision. Do I cross the old bridge and wander down into the city centre shops? It would make for a longer walk hence checking my watch. On balance I decided to turn left and wander down into the newer Oracle Centre that straddles the River Kennet at this point.
It’s Sunday morning, nowhere is open and it is a lot quieter than it had been last night as we had gone in search of some supper. Here too the sun is filtering through gaps in the buildings creating patches of light. It is also reflecting back from the chrome and glass to create similar splashes of light on the opposite side of the river.
As I stroll through the riverside cafes my footsteps slow. I suddenly realise that my decision to turn left was made not by my checking of the watch but by a subconscious desire for a hit of caffeine. I realise that I am actually looking for a coffee shop that might be open at 8am on a Sunday. Starbucks, Costa and Caffè Nero are all resolutely shut as are the independents in the main concourse. Nothing is open it seems and it’s looking as if I will have to wait until I get back to the hotel. Then as I walk past the automatic doors of a seemingly dark and closed McDonalds they slide invitingly open and my sub-conscious quest for coffee is over.
I’m definitely sub-optimal this morning. The beer, red wine, casino and a late-night chicken supper weigh heavily on this sexagenarian so the coffee is welcome. I pay my 99p, take the proffered paper cup and retreat to a window seat. My first instinct is to have a look at the images I’d just made but instead I opt for pen and paper and jot down the notes from which I am now writing twenty four hours later; images still unseen.
Sat there with a weak sun starting to warm the autumnal air, behind a large plate glass window, sipping hot coffee and putting down my thoughts on paper is a great way to start a day. I’ve a six-hour drive ahead of me later but for now all is good with the world.
As I’m sat there my eyes wander again to the patches of light on the opposite bank. I’ve crossed the river so what I am seeing isn’t direct sunlight but the reflections from this monument to retail commerce and consumption. I’m inexorably drawn to these patches of light. These too represent the margins, the Edges as I dubbed them in paragraph four. The places at which man’s interaction with the landscape is most visibly displayed. Not in terms of big landscapes though, but more intimate scenes where the man-made meets the natural. Where, in this case, the river has been channelled and tamed by man to enable him to create the centre that I have been happily wandering through this morning.
It may not be on a grand scale but these little vignettes, for me at least, are where man’s impact on the natural world is most apparent. In these intimate, seemingly insignificant interactions I can see most clearly man’s hand at work.
I’ve already written several times about this camera. I have talked about the camera itself, cogitated on my first experiences using a loaned KMZ FT-2 and of course written about loading the film into the cassettes and into the camera itself. To conclude the series I am going to reflect on my first few months with this camera and what I’ve learnt.
Perhaps I should start by saying that this camera can be a fair bit of work. For a start, as we’ve already discussed, it needs two special film cassettes (I only have one) but even with two, loading is a bit of a chore. I borrowed one with both cassettes before buying my own. Firstly, film has to be transferred from a standard 35mm cassette into a special cassette, in the dark. This then needs to be attached to a second special cassette, in the dark, before being loaded into the camera … in the dark. I made a video demonstrating this aspect. To make it more helpful I made the video … in the dark (not).
Let’s skip the using of the camera at this point and jump ahead to unloading the film from the camera … in the dark. I simply dump the camera in the changing bag, pop in a pair of scissors, tank and reel and take the film directly from the camera onto the reel and into the tank. From that point on its business as usual as the film is standard 35mm film. With negatives the size of three “normal” 35mm negatives however there’s only two per strip in the filing sheet.
Now, if you like using a camera one-handed then this one isn’t for you. Similarly, if you like to “run ‘n’ gun” then this one isn’t for you. Shaped like a brick and weighing in at just over 1kg in its case this isn’t a camera you carry about just-in-case you might need it. With just 12 frames (assuming you respool a 36 exposure film) and an awkward loading/unloading regime it is best used when you’ve a definite plan in mind. Not that I take my own advice there of course! I tend to pop it in my shoulder bag alongside my main camera for the day although do occasionally make a trip with just the KMZ FT-2 or, more often, take it partnered with the Horizon S3 Pro.
I’ve never thought of these panoramic cameras as being for specific subjects or situations. My approach has always been to proactively look for compositions that work well in the format. Over time my hit rate has improved and one thing I’ve learnt is that a straight, long, thin, linear subject only works occasionally. In general it is better to look for compositions where the viewer has a choice of where to let his eye be led. Urban images at intersections of two, three or more streets are usually more effective (see below) than a straight-on view of a row of houses for example. There’s exceptions to every “rule” however.
In truth, the principles that apply to other formats also work with the panoramic form. Don’t be afraid to turn the camera on its side to create long, thin and tall vertoramas.
I’ve found that leading lines work very strongly in this vertical format, really dragging the viewers eye up through the frame.
Presenting these vertoramas as diptychs or triptychs works nicely too.
The speed of the exposure is determined by a spring which pulls the lens turret around. Brakes are used to vary the speed giving the four shutter speeds found on the FT-2. At 1/400th second when all the brakes are off the camera physically bucks in your hand from the force. Pop the camera on a tripod, set it to 1/400th, cock the shutter and watch the whole thing shudder when you release the shutter. Which explains why I believe the best results from this camera come from using it on a tripod. That said, I do tend to use it handheld, especially when photographing urban locations such as my own local patch.
Book-ending subjects can work well too, as in the example above where a very simple scene has been bookended by trees which give added context and hold the viewers attention in the central portion of the frame.
One thing I’ve not mentioned is that as the film wind-on and cocking of the shutter are two distinct operations the opportunity for double, triple, whatever exposures is the photographers for the taking. The one below is three or four exposures for example.
Don’t be frightened to crop as there’s plenty of real estate available.
In summary, it isn’t the easiest camera to work with but I’ve never been afraid of working for my images. Despite everything I’ve said about its idiosyncrasies it is however great fun and worth the effort in my view – your mileage may vary of course!
I’ve been digging around on the internet for background information on the Nikon L35 AF that I was using in Salford Quays recently. Lots of opinions on the noise the camera makes, vignetting of the lens and the lack of manual controls. But none mentioned a big positive in my eyes – 37 frames per 36 exposure roll! I’ve just developed five rolls of black and white film, four Tri-X and one Kentmere 400, and every roll has 37 frames. Bargain! Did some of the other reviewers not get through a whole roll I wonder? [takes tongue out of cheek]
On the subject of vignetting, yes, there is a slight vignette but its not obtrusive and in my case I often add a more obvious vignette myself. The image below is un-processed apart from inverting the “scan”. There is a slight drop off in light at the edges but it isn’t objectionable to my eye.
Another thing that gets mentioned, albeit generally positively, is the +2 exposure override function. As I’ve mentioned previously its easy to use and the lever is well positioned. With the benefit of hindsight I found that in most cases it wasn’t needed, even though I made liberal use of it. I suspect that for portraits, especially closer in than I typically get, this function will repay its deployment but for the urban photography I practice it’s simply nice to know that it’s there. Overall I found the cameras exposure to be pretty good. Possibly a tad over at times but none of the negatives from this trip are problematic and as I’ve already noted my “scanning” might be a factor. Certainly the negatives look fine on the light pad.
In the example above the automatically derived exposure is pretty close whereas the +2 is definitely over-exposed. In both cases though the negative would be usable, especially in a hybrid workflow. My take-out from this is that for general scenes such as these I really don’t need to bracket as I was doing last week on occasion.
The other thing mentioned regularly is the filter ring. This point and shoot accepts proper screw-in filters and automatically adjusts the exposure accordingly. Neat. I only had a red filter with me but left it on for the whole of one roll to see what happened. The camera didn’t miss a beat and I’ve a nicely exposed sheet of 37 negatives … did I mention 37 frames from all five rolls?
So, there we go a few more thoughts on the Nikon L35 AF, and another blog post squeezed from a two day trip with one point and shoot camera and a pocket full of 35mm film.
Back in October 2020 I bought a new-to-me camera, the Horizon Kompakt. A Russian-made, swing lens camera for shooting 120 degree panoramas on 35mm film. In January 2021 I added the Horizon S3 Pro to the bag having also played with an Horizon 202 in December 2020. This post is a summary of the key things I have learnt whilst working with this incredible but very idiosyncratic tools. They are in answer to questions I’ve been asked over the last few months and are in the order they tumbled out of my head!
1. So long as you load the camera properly and wind on smoothly there should be no problems with torn film. Unlike my Kompakt and 202 the S3 is relatively very smooth.
2. To the right of the film gate in the S3 there is a silver bar with sprockets – the film goes under this BUT make sure you also thread the film UNDER the black bar to the immediate left of the silver bar. This is important to ensure film lies flat and reduces tearing risk considerably. With all of the models the basic advice is that if it can go under then it should!
3. Some film stock is inherently thinner and prone to snapping, I’ve used mainly HP5+, Tri-X with the S3 although have used self-rolled Kodak XX successfully. The key as I’ve said is to be gentle.
4. I use an app on my phone to gauge exposure and it’s rarely too far out. It’s a wide field of view though so I use my experience to tweak if appropriate, especially high contrast scenes such as the one above. I rarely bracket but that’s an option too I guess. If shooting something like HP5+ there’s plenty of inherent latitude within the emulsion itself.
5. Expect 21 frames on a 36 exp film. Around 14 on a 24 exp film. Don’t be tempted to try and squeeze an extra frame – therein lies film snapping potential 😀
6. Some users report banding at one end of the frame. Not regularly however and when it does appear it is mainly when the sun is around in my experience – so not that often up here! There’s some debate as to whether it’s light leaking in through the shutter hood as it travels. Myself and many other Horizon users I know tend to keep the camera in our shoulder bags until we are ready to shoot. Anecdotally this does appear to work. In my experience, it’s not as big a problem as many make out though and in any event the negative is wide enough that you can crop it without an issue. Interestingly, the more basic Kompakt seems to suffer less from this phenomenon in my experience.
7. If your Horizon has the handle use it as it really helps keep stray fingers out of the shot. I also hold the right hand side of the camera from the back between finger tips to keep stray fingers out of harms way when pressing the shutter. It feels (and looks) a little odd to start with but is worth persevering with.
8. I used HP5+ exclusively to start with as it’s a film I’m very familiar with. Now I’m confident with how everything works I’ve used all sorts of film stock with success, even home-rolled Redscale. In short, I would say that once you know what you’re doing then anything goes film-wise!
9. Metering: I took my spot meter out just the once but decided that this just slowed me down and took some of the spontaneity out of using the S3. Now I take a basic reading when I leave the house using my phone, set that and then tweak as I need to based on my assessment of the scene. If the light changes dramatically I take a new reading.
10. One last thought, make sure the film is tight on the take up spool too as this helps ease pressure on the film as it moves through the film gate.
I’ve not talked about composition here, just the mechanics of using the camera and creating images. I may well pen some thoughts in that area too … but don’t hold your breath as this post is my first in almost six months! I must rectify that.
I made a conscious decision today to shoot my 366 image with my iPhone during the school run (which would include a detour to get the wife’s newspaper). I took half a dozen images, two of which I liked a lot but this was the final choice for the 366 once I’d “lived” with both images for the day.
It’s been a while but the X100t and I took to the streets over the past couple of days after quite a long gap. With an open mind and a fully charged battery we pottered from Liverpool Lime Street down to the Albert Docks with many a detour along the way.
I’m back home now and have just had a little chimp at the back of the Fuji. I’d posted a handful of images Thursday evening to Flickr so knew I had some “keepers” but the acid test will come when I download the files to the computer and have a proper look.
Some of my iPad edits look promising and there are a couple which will warrant a blog post of their own. It wasn’t just the Fuji that I used however so expect a “Street – shot on iPhone” post too. I also explored the RC Cathedral and it’s crypt with a 360 camera before I left so that is to follow in due course I hope.
Most mornings I wander down to the local newsagent for the wife’s paper and sometimes venture as far as the local supermarket. Reading my recent posts it would be easy to think that I only go out with a film camera these days but that wouldn’t be accurate. My Fuji X100t still accompanies me everywhere.
This morning I took the Diana F+ in order to shoot the last six frames of Lomography 400 colour negative film that had been in the camera for months. It’s a camera I will be selling as soon as I’ve confirmed it’s working properly by developing the roll of film. With those six frames completed I pulled the Fuji out of my pocket and shot the equivalent of a roll of 35mm film with that.
The X100t is an old friend and a camera I’m completely at home with. When the X100f came out I didn’t even look at the specifications of this successor such was my total faith with the “t”. The X100v was released recently, with tilting screen and a new processor, but other than briefly looking at the press release I’ve not even considered it – within the X100 series I’ve found the iteration of this camera that suits me nicely. I did buy the original X100 but it’s idiosyncrasies were too much for me and I sold that camera before returning with the third iteration in the guise of the X100t.
So, three images here all captured whilst I walked to the supermarket this morning using the Fuji X100t digital camera that I carry with me everywhere even when primarily shooting one of my film cameras.
A week or so ago I was considering selling this little camera … but since then I’ve shot five 36 exposure rolls with the Ricoh and haven’t left home without it.
I’ve shot with it in the rain, on the bus and even in the sunshine (although not many sunny frames) and it hasn’t missed a beat. So, it will be staying – it’s sat on the table next to me already loaded with a roll of TMax – but I still need to decide on a camera or three to release back into the wild!
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