My old friend Ian Whiteley came to visit last weekend bringing with him his fifteen year old son Silas. It is hard to imagine we were once that young and difficult to admit that we are now this old. It was to be a weekend of duality, old and young, night and day, film and digital etc. If you can’t shoe horn some clichés into a blog, when can you?
While sorting through my cameras and trying to decide what I might use, I came across an old 5cm Leitz Elmar f3.5 that came in a lot with my Leica M2. It looks old and I’ve hardly used it, mainly because the aperture is on the front of the lens making it a pain if you use a filter. I couldn’t find a serial number at first but Google soon showed me it was engraved with tiny numbers on the black rim of the lens. Even with a magnifier I struggled to see the first digit but after much tilting I dated it to 1937.
Now, there’s a date to make you feel young, it being 20 years before my own birth. It makes you wonder what it has snapped in its previous 75 years and easy to see why it might regard my camera bag as a good place to retire. I love the mojo in old objects and so felt compelled to shoot with it for the weekend. I had a few rolls of Fomapan 200 to use up so I fitted it back on my M2 which dates from 1960 when I was but a toddler.
We decided to take our visitors across the barrage as we could combine the brave new world of 21st century Cardiff, the Barrage and the Bay, with my son’s favourite food – pizza. We set off late in the day and though it had been spectacularly sunny the light was fading fast and my shutter speeds got slower and slower. It all seemed a bit dull photographically and the problem of being sociable on a group walk while maintaining a cutting edge artistic aesthetic raised its ugly head. My family are used to it but it hardly seemed fair to the members of the party who had made their way half way across the country for the visit.
It took an age to be fed and watered (I mean wined) so it was quite dark as we picked our way back across the barrage. The council while having done great work to secure a passage through reluctant businesses land, have not bothered to light the way. This proved a master stroke, as it is not often you get to walk through a darkened urban space with half the cities lights reflected in the water beside you. With judicious use of posts I was able to shoot some digital snaps with my Panasonic GF1and 20mm. Using the film camera would have been slow and left me isolated from the party and prey to what ever evil may have lurked in the darkness. The couple sitting on the rocks by the Bristol Channel strumming an acoustic guitar in the dark, had B movie victims written all over them. Let’s hope they made it home because we know how those scenes go. The next day we walked to Penarth Pier, a must for every visitor, and I finished my first roll. I finished another roll back at the barrage during the week as two is a must for me when processing.
I processed them in Rodinal 1+50 @21degrees for 9 minutes. Then the trouble began because the first roll I shot had a line through for about 24 frames which I suspect was a piece of grit in the film canister. I’m used to these kinds of horrors with analogue photography and should, I suppose be grateful for the 12 frames that remained. The second roll wasn’t without its problems as the grain is lumpy and, for some reason when scanned, covered in white specs. I suspect a combination of factors produced this result which is all most unsatisfactory but there is not much I can do now. I salvaged what I could from the two rolls and hope that when I next process things will turn out better. Below is a mixture of the digital shots and a few of the black and white that were usable. I used an Antique Greyscale preset in Lightroom to cover a multitude of sins. I guess I’ll retire the Leitz Elmar 5cm once more and go back to something more modern. Still apart from the photography a fine weekend was had by all.