Tag Archives: photography

Blogs I Read

As I am running out of cameras, due to..

  1. Lack of Japanese second-hand store bargains in England.
  2. The ever-increasing price of film cameras.
  3. Lack of full-time work, attached to point 2
  4. The act of trying to reduce my collection.

…I am going to start adding more thoughts and musings. You may have already noticed some recommended reading posts. Hopefully, they be photography based, but they might not be. They will not be political or (hopefully) controversial. It is just not worth the hassle.

I don’t think I will publish to a schedule, just as and when I feel like it or have time. I think I have mentioned all this before.

Anyway, while I was thinking and musing about this I was perusing other blogs. One I read has a nice collection of photography blog links. Not only is it a great list…but I am on it 🙂 Big fat grin appears on my face 🙂 Have a look.

Camera Bloggers Alliance

Another related, but unrelated article I would like to share is this one.

It really explains why and others like film photography in a digital age.

And just to remind you about point number 4 above, reducing my collection. I will be at this vintage fair selling some cameras and stuff. Come along and haggle.

Hmm, maybe I do need a schedule? What do you think? Do you prefer blogs that stick to a publishing schedule or ones that publish as and when?

Large Format Camera Pre-1906 (4×5 sheet)

Some posts are quick to prepare, process, and write. This post is by far the longest in terms of time and biggest in terms of effort, that I have written.

I received this camera over 3 months ago from a new friend. Soon after we started wandering and walking together she mentioned she had an “old” camera in her loft and I could have it, but it probably doesn’t work. Of course when I heard “old camera” I was hooked. I asked questions…

What kind of camera? What film does it take? Does it use batteries? Where did you get it? To all questions, I got a shrug and an “I don’t know, it was in the loft when we bought the house.”

So I just waited and one fine day she brought it over to my house.

*Gulp* It was not what I was expecting at all. I have no experience with this type of camera. I didn’t even know where to begin. These photos are after I dared to open it up and attach the lens.

Talking of the lens, can you see the big gap between the glass and the front of the cylinder? The front element had detached… is it an element when there are just two pieces of glass and a barrel? The front piece of glass was loose and moving around inside the brass barrel. I was going to give up on that altogether, then I looked at the prices of replacement lenses *gulp* and put the whole thing back in the bag/box and put it under my bed.

To be honest the whole project made me nervous and I tried to get rid of the responsibility and the camera. One of the people I offered it to said, “get a grip you can do it.”

So a few days later I took the camera out again and took a deep breath. The first thing I looked at was the bellows. If they were damaged then I was screwed, I could not buy or make a new one. I could possibly fix very small holes. Here is a great resource if you ever need to do that. Fortunately, the bellows seemed perfect, no holes at all. Great start.

Next was to use wood glue on any parts that were split. In my worry and haste, I did not take great photos of this process. The main part that needed fixing was the lens plate holder. That was in two parts.

Now one part with a previous repair on the left.

That part of the camera gave an obvious clue about its history. Ralph Cuthbert was a chemist in Huddersfield, you can read about one of his exploits in this article. And this entry states that he formed a limited company in 1913 and that he died in 1917. As the camera’s label doesn’t mention “Ltd” then I guess it is from before 1913. The Byram Arcade was first seen on a map in 1890, so the camera is probably from after that point.

Another clue was inside one of the film holders, it was a glass plate.

I rested it on my iPad to act as a light-box.

I used an app to turn it into a positive photo.

Either J.Wright owned this camera at some time or Mr. Cuthbert went on holiday.

I posted the photo online and one of my friends said there was an Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Blackpool. After a little search online I found this article. As you can see, the photo in the article is of the same building and if you read the text you will find out the building was demolished in 1908. Therefore, Mr. Watson, we can surmise this camera is probably from around 1900. Bloody hell…and it is now my responsibility. Just to confirm the date, here is a collection of similar cameras with details of dates.

OK, next issue, the lens. I had to put the front glass back in the right place. I know this might make a few people *gulp* just like me. But I unscrewed the only screw I could find and just superglued it back in place. There was no shutter mechanism and I stayed very clear of the aperture blades.

Just a bit of glue put it back in place.

Before I put the lens back together I waited for the glue to fully set to avoid any issues with a residue like I experienced with this camera. Then I screwed it onto the plate and slid it onto the camera.

But did it work, would it focus…I had no idea at this point as I did not know how to focus the damn thing, the lens only has apertures from f8 to f64. So more research was required. First I found articles like this one. Hmm, mine doesn’t seem to have a shutter release at all. This one seemed more likely.

So I need to move the rail somehow, I looked the camera over.

Found it!! This moves and the camera will focus somehow. I looked at the back of the camera and I couldn’t see anything on the glass plate. The image was too light, I needed more lightness and darkness. I took the camera outside but I didn’t have a blackout cloth, would a towel work?

YES!!!

First objective achieved, an image…an upside down image. Now for stage two, getting a negative.

The bag had three plate holders inside, one was missing the middle light shield.

Once the camera was focused you lifted the focusing screen and slid the holder into place. The holder had to be prepared beforehand by inserting glass plates coated in a light-sensitive material.

However, there was no way in the world I was going to prepare and use glass plates, so what is the nearest modern equivalent? 4×5 sheet film. Holy moly it is expensive, plus I need a holder. My heart sank. At the very least I would need.

  • Sheet film – the cheapest on eBay I could find was Shanghai ISO100 £25 for 25 sheets
  • At least one 4×5 sheet holder, about £10 from West Yorkshire Camera
  • Some way to develop the sheets, a 4×5 developing tank adapter around £20+ on eBay
  • And a loupe to attain a fine focus £10+

At least I already had a tripod and surprisingly the camera fit modern tripod screws 😦

I put the camera away and reviewed my out of work finances. Even if I could get all the things I needed, how could I fit the 4×5 cassette in the camera?

As you may know, I am not a patient person when it comes to things like this and sometimes I actually “dream” an answer. The next day I woke up and went, “THE BROKEN HOLDER!!!”

If I could cut down the broken holder to take the 4×5 cassette it just might work. Sacrilege? Cutting a Victorian glass plate holder? Don’t care, it is now mine to do with as I please…sorry. Really I am, but it had to be done.

I decided to sell a camera to pay for the things I needed. Bye bye OM2, hello saw and chisel.

I have never tried this kind of thing before, but would you believe it…the 4×5 cassette fit like a glove.

A bit of wood glue, nothing to see here.

Gosh this is turning into a very long post. Ok, onward and forward, loading the sheet film.

Simples. Plus…don’t forget to take off any movement activated watches with an LED display 🙂

We are getting there. The next issue, no shutter just a lens cap. That meant I would have to use the lens cap as a shutter by taking it off and putting it back on. So the exposure would have to be at least 2 seconds to avoid camera shake or suchlike. Luckily the lens cap was in good condition and attached to the lens when I received the bag.

So this is the sequence of events.

  1. Prepare the 4×5 cassette. Make sure the film shield are showing the white label (or black depending on your own choice)
  2. Find a subject for a photo. This might mean lugging the camera and a tripod to a location.
  3. Find the exposure setting using a light meter, make sure it is over 2 seconds for 100ASA film at f22 (or whatever ASA you are using).
  4. Put the camera together.
  5. Place on a very sturdy tripod.
  6. Set the lens aperture to the largest to let in more light, f8.
  7. Use the towel, coat or something dark to focus the camera on the subject and use the loupe to get a sharper focus.
  8. Reset the aperture to f22 or smaller depending on what is needed for a longer exposure time.
  9. Once focused and framed PUT ON THE LENS COVER
  10. Move the glass focusing plate and slide in the adapted holder with the 4×5 cassette
  11. Put the light cover, my towel or coat, over the back end of the camera and remove the light shield protecting the sheet.
  12. Remove the lens cover and count out the “elephants” needed
  13. Put the lens cover back on
  14. Put the film shield back in with the black label showing
  15. As a film cassette holds two sheets take out this holder and replace the glass focusing screen.
  16. Return to number 2 for the next shot or go home and develop the sheets.

All that effort for 2 shots. For my first test I stayed at home and tried to take a photo of a swan feather I retrieved the day before. That way I would not have to lug the camera anywhere. I worked out that I would need 6 elephants to get an image. I only managed to get one shot as I put the second light shield back in the first slot and jammed it, fogging the second sheet.

Putting the sheet on the developing holder was a pain in the butt. I was sure, even if it worked, it would be covered in finger prints. After the development process I could barely wait to see the developed sheet.

THERE IS AN IMAGE!!!!! Can you see the feather?

I almost cried. I didn’t care if it was out of focus, I could see a feather. I waited for it to dry and put it on the iPad and took a photo with my phone.

This is the first test shot.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Of course I tried again immediately. As my dad was engrossed in watching TV I took a photo of him. He had to stay very still for eight elephants.

You can see lines from the iPad, I think, but I didn’t care…I DID IT!!!!

I rushed into Leeds and bought three more cassettes and loaded them up. I was going to visit a friend for some cosplaying photos in an abandoned house, perfect for this style of shot. She could stay still, well the building could anyway. We lugged the camera uphill for a kilometer. I set up the camera.

…and then realised I left the film cassettes in the car, bugger. Lesson learnt.

To finally use the loaded sheets, I took the camera to my local park, double checking I had the cassettes.

And now finally the shots, it took a while to develop them as I can only do two at a time.

Just one didn’t come out, not quite sure why.

Done, completed, success. I have a few sheets left and I will probably take the camera to Blackpool to get a shot of the new Old Tom’s Cabin building. After that, I am not sure I will ever use it again. It is a lot of effort. This part was a challenge and therefore fun, but I much prefer 120mm or 35mm.

Now, this post is very long and picture heavy, it seems WordPress is having an issue and keeps losing my pictures. So I am going to upload it before it disappears again.

You can own this camera and all the spare cassettes. The tripod is NOT included.

Genuine Victorian Camera

Please check the photos and read the text, that way you know exactly what you are buying. The amount includes postage to the UK. I will not post it outside of the UK due to the size and age of the item.

£400.00

Developing Issues and Darkroom Courses

I recently switched from using Kodak D-76 to Ilford Ilfosol 3 to develop my films. I tended to reuse the D-76 and got used to that process. What I didn’t know or read was Ilfosol was a one use only developer. So when I started developing my own film again, the first one was great. The rest got lighter and lighter, tremendously so. I was increasing the developing time, thinking it was my fault. It was, but not in the way I thought. After the 3rd roll, I went back to the bottle and read the instructions…one use. Crap.

I managed to get images from all the rolls with a fair amount of post-processing, but they were obviously not the best negatives I have ever seen.

It was disappointing as I had just come back from Iceland and had been to a gig in Manchester.

For the busy negatives, they are OK. But the ones with sky you can see a definite issue.

The gig film was the last one I developed before checking the instructions. I actually thought it was blank and didn’t take too much care of it once I took it out of the wash. When it was dry, I saw a reflection of a faint image. To be fair the location was very dark and the singers were wearing black, but still, I expected more.

The first person with the drummer is from Hater, and the lady in the hat is Jennifer Castle. I actually liked both artists though they were quite different. I used my Nikon F2 for both locations, the gig used Ilford Delta 3200 pushed to 6400.

Luckily I did take a medium format and a digital camera to Iceland. I read the instructions again before I developed those…no development needed for the D750. If you want to see more results from that trip you can check out the iBook.

Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 13.57.44

 

Download it on iBooks. (There are some errors in the description which I have corrected, but the new version has not updated yet.)

 

 

 

 

While I was contemplating the development issues I received an email from an outfit in London. A darkroom! Or rather a Bright Room. They run courses on developing and have darkrooms to hire. I am thinking I might take a trip to London and include this location as a stop. You can never stop learning apparently. But wait, they have a pop-up van…maybe they can visit me and some friends??

Delving into their website more, there is an Artist series, where you learn directly from an artist to see how they work. That is just up my street. OK time to save or sell more cameras to try one of those.

They did tell me they will be starting an online gallery on the 30th November 2018, but I haven’t been able to find a link online for that. Sounds interesting though as I love looking at other photographer’s work. I will look back at the end of the month.

I am glad I can develop my films again, I am relieved I know what the issue I was experiencing actually was.

Dual Dreams Zine

With the help of my friend Midori I have created my first zine. I created the photos using a Pentax ME Super, expired film, double exposure, and a little bit of luck.

Here are some sample pages from the 32 page zine.

Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 16.23.02Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 16.23.29

Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 16.27.27

You can order your copy here and on the stuff page.

Dual Dreams Zine

This is a 32-page booklet/zine that I created while living in Tokyo, Japan. It features double exposure shots of Midori, a model and friend who has her own unique style. The price includes shipping.

£5.00

Yashica Snap

I was tempted by this camera even though it was in the junk bin and I had no guarantee it worked, like most of my cameras. Without a battery, there was no way to check as this camera is battery dependent.

It was originally produced in 1978 and it seems similar to the me1, which is not surprising as the snap is a derivative of that camera. It was released along with two other similar cameras, the diary and the flasher.  I can’t find a lot on the net in English about this camera and the few sites I have linked are Japanese. I don’t think the camera was only released here, but that might be the case.

Anyway, once I put in a battery it made all the right noises, bar one…the shutter it did not move at all. The blades of the shutter are exposed inside the film compartment as you can see in the photos. I avoided touching them but dropped a small amount of lighter fluid directly on to them. The blades immediately snapped open. I waited for the liquid to evaporate and tried the shutter again, after winding the imaginary film. Nope, stuck again, so I repeated the process….many, many times. Then, after getting tired and bored. I poured loads into the small well and left it sitting there overnight while I went to bed.

IMG_8084

Luckily I have little to no sense of smell. In the morning I tried again and voila! the shutter opened and shut as it should. I loaded a film and set off for work to use it. I didn’t want to spend too much time taking photos as I really didn’t know if it would stay ‘working’, but it did. I took the film directly to the mall and played video games while it processed.

Here are the shots I got back.

It seemed to cope well with all situations. Even my classroom looks great and there is no flash on the camera. I was expecting some residue on the lens, but the photos look fairly sharp with no haze. Yeah for persistence and lighter fluid.

I set the camera to auto for all the shots, there is a needle display inside the viewfinder and it will not fire if there isn’t enough light. The focusing is zoned and it seems quite forgiving as these photos attest.

Keep or sell: I often feel like keeping cameras if I have actually fixed them, I grow attached to them. But at the end of the day, I have many cameras and quite a few like this so I am sending it to a Yashica collector. Unfortunately while writing this blog I tried the camera again and the blades are back to being stuck. I hope my Yashica friend has better luck.

 

 

Olympus Pen FT

I just don’t like half frame cameras, but I keep trying to get over my dislike. So when I saw this camera in a junk sale cabinet I thought I would try again. This camera is supposed to be the pinnacle of the half frame line. As you can see by the photos there is some damage to the lens. There is also some haze in the viewfinder. Still, it was less than half the price of better examples on eBay and the lens, despite the damage, is actually pretty clear. The Olympus FT was produced between 1966-1972 so a little damage to the lens isn’t so bad in my eyes.

It came without the lens cap, but I saw one for sale online and decided to complete the look of the camera. Having the lens cap meant that the light meter, which was working, did not constantly drain the battery. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the camera is fully mechanical, but a light meter is handy even when it is not linked to the functioning of the camera. The light meter gives an EV value which can be matched to the numbers on one side of the lens barrel. You set the speed and the meter gives you the EV aperture. If you pull out the front of the lens and turn it around, the other side has the regular aperture sizes. This is useful if the meter or batteries fail as the camera can be used in fully manual mode.

Recently a friend sent me a roll of 12 exposure film to go with a camera he had also purchased on my behalf. I decided this was the perfect opportunity to use it. I set the ASA on the bottom of the speed dial and set to shooting. With a 12 exposure film, I still had 24 chances to test the camera.

Hmm, my test shots are not as sharp as I was expecting, especially when compared to this site.  Maybe there is more damage to the camera than I realised. I do not fancy paying for another lens, but I am willing to give this one another go especially if I try a project like on this super blog. Then I will see if the sharpness is still lacking. It was also a rainy day as you can see by the clouds, so maybe a brighter day would help. To be honest, I did feel pretty cool walking around with this camera, it does look awesome. It felt solid and comfortable to hold. I still don’t like half frame camera as much as 35mm, but this camera did persuade me somewhat.

Keep or sell: Keep for now until I have the chance to try it again.

UPDATE: I tried it again and wow, I love it. I tried it over a few days, mainly sunny ones. I also used the 30-year-old Russian film. Here are the results…

Wow, this camera is great. I am loving it more and more, but it is still a half frame. So I will part with it eventually.

Buy this camera – Olympus Pen FT

Please check the photos and read the text, that way you know exactly what you are buying. The amount includes postage to the UK. If you live outside the UK please contact me for postage details.

£100.00

Leica III Barnack

After spending years wishing for a Leica, any Leica, I happened upon an advert for a Leica III that caught my eye. Now, to be honest, I really wanted an M3 with the attached light meter as in King Kong Skull Island fame, but that was way out of my price range. I was almost as enthralled by the camera as I was by Kong himself. I have even bought a couple of Russian Leica copies, including the Zorki 1 to quell my desire, but still, I wanted one. If I actually was ever to own a Leica, it would have to be a thread mount like the Zorki, not an M series due to the price difference. And there was the advert, saying they had a Leica III in great condition with a lens, just serviced and with a 20% discount. The camera the Zorki 1 was based upon. I still thought about it for a couple of days. I looked at other listings and their prices, it just seem too good to be true. Finally, my sister said, “oh just do it!”

So I did.

So looking at this website and given the serial number on mine is 140686, it was made in 1934. That means it was made 10 years after the series was first produced, a very early model with only 1500 being made. There is so much history and information about this camera on the net and in books, I am not going to go into any of that now.

As soon as mine arrived I put a film in it and went to Tokyo, taking photos along the way until I reached a one-hour developing shop. I already knew how to use the camera due to my experience with the Zorki 1, they really are very similar. The feel, the action, the sound. I shot and then I waited. It was a dull, cloudy day.

When I got the contact sheet back I was a little underwhelmed. I had paid for a cd so I went to one of the shop machines and printed a couple of the shots. They seemed ok, but not what my heart was expecting.

So the next day I loaded a Rollei RX 25, the right speed for the camera’s era, and went for a walk around where I lived. Then developed the film at home as soon as I got back.

There are three similar shots that I tried at different speeds and apertures, none made a difference, still too dark. Again I was a bit disappointed, but I wasn’t sure why.

Maybe it was the lens, maybe it was my expectations, but I thought I would try a newly arrived Jupiter lens on the Leica body and see if that changed my feeling towards the camera.

So this time I tried JCH street pan with the Jupiter lens and Leica body.

 

I took it to my workplace, taking pains to avoid faces when taking shots. I wanted to see it capture moving people. This was really the first camera portable enough to capture life and people living it, moving in it. Then I walked to another camera shop, forgetting I had used a black and white film…so then I walked home and developed it in D-76.

Ok, so the Jupiter lens has a different quality to it…but still the feeling persisted. And finally, two books I had ordered at the same time as the camera arrived.

IMG_7533

I had been looking at this camera all wrong. I was comparing it to my other cameras. It is nothing like them. This camera is a piece of history, a trailblazer and the machine that started an industry. It is the Model T of cameras. Of course, cars would have come along without the Model T and cameras would have eventually become more portable without the Barnack. But this was it, this was the camera series that started it all……and it is still working. It is still working so well that I compared it to cameras 80+ years younger which I have not done with the other very old cameras I have tried.

The Leica III was much easier to use than the folding cameras and the results were far better. Even though I might not use this camera much, I will never sell it. I have yearned for a Leica from the moment saved up my pocket money and I bought a Zenit 11. I think I just need a little more time to appreciate what I have and what this camera has seen. AND it is an investment that will only appreciate over time.

UPDATE: I tried the summar lens with a UV filter to try to reduce the haze. Here are the results.

It didn’t really help. Though I do like the photos. I looked at the lens and it seems really clear, so I am not sure why the haze persists. Maybe I am over exposing the negatives.

Update 2
I recently cleaned a couple of lenses, with my confidence boosted I decided to take off the front element of the Leica lens and attempt to clean the haze. In the end, it was just one tiny, tiny screw. It was more awkward than difficult. Once I got it all back together I retried the lens on this camera. Unfortunately, I had a little difficulty developing the film. It got stuck on the reel and I had to load it a couple of times. Even so here are a few shots from the cleaned lens.

Well despite the issues with development, I think the haze has improved. I think I still prefer the Canon lens though.

 

Redscale Film Trials

As I have mentioned before, I was sent a package with a variety of items in it. Two of the items were redscale film. This blog gives you the lowdown on what redscale film is.

So, as I had just fixed the Spotmatic I decided to use that camera first to try out the film. This one was Kodak Gold 800asa, the instructions said to set the camera to overexpose by 2 or 3 stops. I set the camera to 2 stops under at 200asa. The Spotmatic meter was now working really well and the needle was moving as it should. I wandered around my home city and finished the film. Getting the film developed was not quite so easy. I tried to tell Yodobashi Store that it was a redscale, but I couldn’t seem to communicate it. A few days later, I received a phone call that said the film would take an extra 2 weeks and be $3 more.

For this film I paid for negative scanning. Here are the results

Some were underexposed and the redscale didn’t really rock my boat. You can see that the different lighting conditions changed the colour of the shots you get. The more underexposed are more green, the more overexposed are more orange as the article I linked to before suggested.

There was another film to try. I thought I would put it in the Pentax ME Super as it works really well and I prefer it to the Spotmatic. I thought it would give a fairer chance to the experimental film. This time I set it to 3 stops under, so for the Kodak 400asa I set the camera to 64asa and waited for a brighter day. I was more prepared when going to the developers, Kitamura. They also seemed more aware of redscale film. It was the same 2-week wait and $3 extra though. This time I chose not to pay for the scan and used my CanoScan to digitize the film.

I much prefer these shots, so I think 3 stops is the way to go and a reliable camera of course.

I enjoyed trying this out and know I could make my own redscale quite easily, but getting it developed in Japan is too much of an effort for me to try regularly. If you do feel like trying this out, this is how you can make your own homemade redscale film.