Archive for May, 2012

Large Format Pinhole 10×8 in Penarth

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by yammerman

A year or two back I bought a Robert Rigby 10×8 pinhole camera, mainly because I wanted to achieve as big a negative as possible and this seemed the cheapest way of reaching my goal.  Plus it was a manageable size compared to the huge large format contraptions I was looking at on eBay.

It rather goes against the DIY ethos of the pinhole movement not to make one yourself, out of a shoe box or a tin can, so maybe that’s why I never really got into using it.  I did some experiments using photo paper as a negative but ended up with nothing that really inspired me.   The exposure calculations were complicated and I realised I needed some good light and a calm day to ease things along.

This year I resolved to do better and found some 10×8 Fomapan 100 and loaded up the dark slides I’d acquired with film. I then waited for a sunny day without too much wind and after the wettest April since records began, this week that day finally arrived.

The Robert Rigby 10×8 comes with three focal lengths: 150mm, 200mm and 250mm; plus there are three apertures to match with f stops of: f429, f449 and f480.  This is achieved by changing the size of the box and switching the pinhole you are going to use.  It is actually a very neat system and works well.

I found mrpinhole.com very useful in showing me a method of calculating exposure.  I simply set my meter to its highest aperture of f152 and, using a chart that mrpinhole provides, changed the ISO on the meter for the actual f stop of the pinhole.  As an example  with 100 speed film, the meter is set at ISO 10 for f480.  I confess I embarked on this with only a small amount of faith but the results were very good.  It suggested 8 secs given the sunny condition and who was I to argue.

I took a couple of shots of the house and then processed the film in trays. This, of course, is done in total darkness which with Rodinal 1+50 @ 20 degrees  meant about 10 minutes in the dark after stop and fix.  I still find slightly unnerving the sensory deprivation of being in complete darkness with only the indifferent voice of the talking timer to punctuate the silence.  I was willing the time to pass and tension was mounting as I reached the point where I would see if it had been a success or failure. Deep joy when the lights went on; there was at least some kind of image on the negative.  I can’t tell you the relief.  Nothing is perfect and I could see I had a bad light leak, but I also had the biggest negative I’d ever held in my hands so I had to call this a triumph.

With this encouragement I steeled myself to go out on the streets of Penarth and use up the other three dark slides – that’s a whopping six more shots.  The camera is quite light and with a carbon tripod and a small backpack for the dark slides I loaded up the car and went hunting something to shoot.  I attracted some looks as I wandered the streets and  at one point a passing cyclist shouted “Look he’s got an old camera”.  I found the process of taking a shot very simple  as you just have to line the shot up by triangulating some pins on the top of the box.  Afte a hour I had my 3 darkslides exposed.

Below is what I achieved with the light leaks cropped out of most of them. I’ve since stuck a torch inside the pinhole box and turned the lights out so I could see where the holes might be.  It seems I need to increase the rubber seals and I should be able to solve the problem.  The photos aren’t always sharp but they do have a certain evocative mood. I’ve toned them in Lightroom with an Antique Greyscale pre-set.  I’m keen to contact print them on to photo paper at some point.

I didn’t do enough research on agitation methods with trays and seem to have flows of developer across some of the negatives.  This I think can be solved by larger trays.  I used 10×8 trays for 10×8 film which is a mistake by all accounts.  Also continuous agitation seems to be important so I will try that next time with, I assume, a reduced processing time.  I’m far from disappointed by the results and am in fact encouraged to perfect my technique.

It still amazes me that a tiny hole in a box with film at the other end can produce such images.  If you don’t believe in magic, give this a whirl and you’ll be convinced.

First Shots with a Fuji X100.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2012 by yammerman

I haven’t  had a new camera for a while but the occasion of my birthday provided the opportunity to add a Fuji X100 to the family.  This isn’t a pixel peeking review nor an in-depth analysis of its features; just what I felt on  first use.

In a cunning move, Fuji have made the X100 look like a classic camera and provided old fashioned access to aperture/shutter speed and exposure compensation.  It looks for all the world like a baby Leica and its best feature for me is a really fine optical viewfinder.  All the more compact digital cameras I  have tried suffered in this regard, but this one hits the ball out of the park.  Combined with this is an electronic viewfinder which is obtained by simple push of a lever on the front of the camera. That proves useful when the optical viewfinder suffers from parallax at close ranges due the offset of the finder and the lens.  It is a little bigger than my Panasonic GF-1 but with the finder in the camera this seems a good trade off.   This site is good for comparing camera sizes… http://camerasize.com/compare/#241,133

I read the manual over the weekend and figured out the different quirks from the Panasonic and Nikon  with which I’m familiar.   I’d snapped a few shots, but not many, and felt a test run down to Penarth Pier would give me an idea of how the camera felt to use when out and about.  It was a very bright day and the light a tad harsh but I was eager to see what the X100 could do.

Well I can report it’s a great camera; the layout of the controls and the design ideas really work when you actually come to use it in the field. The flipping between optical and electronic is so simple with the lever on the front and the brief image review in the finder was all I needed before moving on to the next shot.  I bought a wrist strap knowing that’s what I prefer and it really felt like I was using one of my Leica film cameras.

I did experience some minor cons.  I had trouble focusing on a gate at one point and when I was overexposing I didn’t notice a real warning in the finder.   I suspect these are both due to some lack of knowledge at this stage in my use.  The battery didn’t seem to last as long as my Panasonic and the OK button on the back of the camera is a bit too small for my chunky fingers.  All in all though, it really matches the way that I work and will probably replace my GF-1 and 20mm.

I loaded the images in Lightroom and they look great so far.  I did give them a tweak in Lightroom to match my tastes but mostly just subtle changes.  I had the camera set to all the standard setting at this point but you can change to Fuji film types  in the menu so I may start to customise  a little from here on in.  All in all, I’m really pleased with my purchase and looking forward to using it lots.  If you like to zoom, this isn’t the camera for you; but if you can deal with the  a 35mm  field of view, this is a brilliant small camera.

Life Mimics Art with Panasonic GF1 & 20mm Pancake.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2012 by yammerman

After we’d been to Emsworth at the weekend, it was such a beautiful evening that we decided to embark on a stroll before the sunset. A grumbling child and pesky flies couldn’t spoil our enjoyment as we meandered through the familiar Sussex landscape.

I took a series of dull photos and then with my final shot of the day I looked through the viewfinder and was instantly reminded of a piece of art I had bought in Alice Springs in 1995. It’s called ‘Guardians’ by Sue Charles  in acrylic on 6×8 canvas board. I have it above the door of my attic and, since James has been born, it always reminds me of our own family unit.  I clicked the shutter and though I took  a few more staged shots after I knew what I was trying to recreate, it was the first that was the best.

I enjoy coincidences like that and take it as a sign the universe is nodding its ascent . Or maybe it just goes to prove I’m a bit barmy.

Yesteryear Today with Panasonic GF1 and 20mm Pancake.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2012 by yammerman

A trip to West Sussex at the weekend meant I had an opportunity to visit my old friend Bob Machin and take my 1963 Fender Jaguar to the workshop of Joe White guitar maestro.  A previous owner had stripped off the original finish and as I’d hoped, Joe suggested he could put it back to the authentic 1963 sunburst look.  So I’m looking forward to getting it back in a few weeks and peeling off some licks inspired by its new vintage vibe.

We then visited Guitar Village to inspect a used Gibson 335 and imagined how good it would be to own it.  The price tag kept this idea in the realms of fantasy and we made do with a slap up lunch instead.

I then returned to my family in time to suggest a trip to Emsworth a town I had myself lived in 1965. My Jag would have been two years old then and was no doubt helping hip young Britain to  swing through the 60s. I on the other hand was taking the grand sum of sixpence to the toy shop in Emsworth and buying an Airfix Spitfire Kit.

I wandered down to the waterfront and took some snaps of people messing about on boats. Looking at them in Lightroom I’d thought of going B&W but when I clicked on the Yesteryear colour preset that golden glow reminded me of all those Kodak moments every 60’s family must have stacked up in boxes, probably in the attic.

The chemists will tell you that that the yellow tint is a result of the chemcials in the colour film development breaking down or badly calibrated processing machines. But those of us who lived through those summers know that we really were bathed in a golden glow.

A lot a people will think they look unreal but I like to think they contain tints of the truth.

Geocaching in Penarth with a Panasonic GF1 and 20mm Pancake

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2012 by yammerman

One of my favourite rituals took place last weekend when the Cup Final between Chelsea and Liverpool took place. Since I was kid it was always a good excuse for a gathering and  I’ve carried this through in to my adult life with the addition of booze, friends and food. (That list may or may not be in order of importance and that comma is optional.)

So it was we had friends from West Wales and the local environs come round to share the day. The weather suggested soup but I plowed on with salad as the darling buds of May require even though, in a middle class failure on my part, the garden furniture has not been oiled due to all the rain. Ever deceasing circles just doesn’t cover it.

The FA as guardians of the game in England have seen fit to undermine the oldest cup competition in the world in a myriad of ways. This year, for the first time in my life, the kickoff had been moved to 5:15. To say I was outraged when this came to my attention was an understatement. These  guardians of the game who seem indifferent to ritual and tradition might as well not bother. I mean, semi-finals at Wembley for a few extra quid these are tawdry times indeed.

With no obvious underdog we were left to choose  from two fat cat prima donnas of the Premiership who have been a bit rubbish this season, while also being embroiled in racism rows.  Two teams who have a sense of entitlement, one through tradition and the other because of a Russian oligrach.  In the end I backed Chelsea as Liverpool had rather luckily defeated Cardiff in the Coca Cola Cup ( the League Cup to old folks) and as I live here I felt I could cloak myself in their disappointment for an afternoon. As it turned out I backed the winner for the first time in a number years but really who cares as it was  all about the company.

On the Sunday the ladies went shopping  so the gentlemen, when tired of ripping it up on guitars, felt perhaps we should do something with the kids to prove our credentials as 21st century husbands.  In the old days a walk in the fresh air would have sufficed but now thanks to the wonders of the modern age we could go geocaching. It’s an activity 17th century pirates would have had a handle on with all that buried treasure and maps. The modern age means an object can be hidden and it’s location discovered by the use of a GPS phone.  Go to Geocaching.com and all will be explained.

My friend Paul Williams was fully geared up for this with an app to guide us to the very spot  not a 150m from the house that a cache had been hidden.  Only a short work then but I think it’s important to ease yourself gently into new things. With aid of a GPS phone and enthusiatic  children we found the location with ease but recovering the cache proved more difficult. We struggled for a good 10 minutes  to locate it and were pondering the possibility that some one had nicked it, when my son happened on the correct magic words  ‘Come on lets give up we’re never going to find it’  and there it lay before me underneath the metal fence rail. It was just a film canister with a log inside which Paul duly signed and we placed it back in its hiding place.

I sense readers that some of you are snorting at the legitimacy of this activity and perhaps consider it all rather pointless but for me it was great fun. I mean who doesn’t love a treasure hunt.  Paul informs me sometimes there are actual trinkets that you can take and replace with your own. Anyway we were so emboldened by our success that we went and found another one up by St Augustines Church. This was a nano cache so small I’d never have found it with out Paul’s experience. All in all I’d highly recommend it as a pursuit for people who wish to walk with a purpose.

I took the  Panasonic GF1 and 20mm Pancake into the harsh midday sun something we haven’t had much of this year and below are  the snaps tweaked in Lightroom.

Fomapan in the Garden with Nikon F100 and 60mm Macro

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2012 by yammerman

I wanted to test my processing after the dust on the last batch of B&W so, before I went on holiday, I shot a roll of Fomapan 200 and when the sun shone briefly yesterday I shot another. I used my Nikon F100 and 60mm macro in the garden.

I processed in Rodinal 1+50 for 10 minutes at 20 degrees and used the same stop and fix as last time. The only change I made was some  new Kodak photo flow for drying as I suspected the last lot was getting old. They dried quickly and looked fine but when I scanned them it was like a starry starry night with white specks in abundance. Much nashing of teeth and cursing left me trying to figure out the problem.

I was convinced it must be dust on the scanner glass so I gave that a good clean and tried again with pretty much the same result. I then had a close look as the negatives and could see a myriad of tiny black specks . My instinct is the problem is in the emulsion and it is some flaw with the film.

The only other culprit might be my fix but I don’t see how though as I’ve not changed my routine. This is going to make me wary of cheap film which is a shame because I’ve had some good results in the past. Googling Fomapan 200  there do seem to be some references to problems with a recent batch (see thread) so I’m going to shoot a couple of rolls of Ilford HP5 and see if things improve.

The seductive power of digital photography is never greater than when films delayed gratification turns to disappointment. I spent a bit of time cloning out the specs in Lightroom but got bored with that pretty quick. At monitor resolutions these shots are just about bearable so I’m posting them anyway specks and all. I used the Antique Grayscale tone in Lightroom.