Archive for camera

Holiday with a Teenager in North Wales with a Fuji X Pro 1

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2014 by yammerman

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We headed north on our summer holidays this year to visit the tribes of North Wales.  The idea was to visit Anglesey, a place we had been denied access on a previous visit by an over turned lorry.   The selected accommodation in Criccieth looked great in the online pictures and on this occasion the photos did not lie.  The place was huge and immaculate with stunning views of the sea.  Our hooded teenage monster grunted his approval and thrust his tablet at me and demanded wi-fi which, as any parent knows, is as important as oxygen to the young these days.

A first day walk along the beach set the pattern for the holiday with demands for me to calculate equations of distance v time, to which the apparent answer is framed in units of misery.  We set off walking on sand, my objective a rocky promontory in the far distance.  The mood was only enhanced by the rhythmic chorus of ‘Can we turn back now?’.   It was with great joy that we reached our way point only to discover that the incoming tide had pretty much covered the sand and we were forced to return on pebbles.

Why no one has not yet come up with an exercise machine based on such a surface I know not – or rather I do, it’s because it really is not very pleasant.  As we trudged back, the percussive sounds of our footsteps were accompanied by a chorus of ‘I told you so’ and adoption of a stick as a weapon.  I can’t entirely blame the boy as it is in his DNA; I remember his mother selecting similar tactics on a beach in Australia many years ago.  If one day, I should not return from a family outing and the reason given is that I accidentally fell off a cliff edge, a pier or into a river, I urge that the witnesses are questioned closely.

I thoroughly enjoyed the holiday, though it followed much the same pattern for the remainder of its duration.  The boy was dragged to Anglesey, Port Merion, Criccieth Castle, Beaumaris Gaol, the National Slate Museum and any number of fine beaches.  My wife and I loved the Llŷn Peninsular and the magnificent house we stayed in – wish that it was for sale.

The highlight of the holiday though was when we stopped for supplies in Criccieth and, rather than shop, the boy selected to stay in the car.   Now I swear this was an accident but, as I retrieved some bags from the back of the car, I closed the boot and automatically locked it, setting the alarm.  My wife and I then spent a pleasant 15-20 minutes perusing the High St until our return to the car where to my surprise the hazard lights were flashing.  Upon unlocking the car, a rather disgruntled teenage boy asked ‘Where the hell have you been?’  Apparently the alarm went off four or five times and he’d discovered you have keep very, very still to avoid tripping it. The family sitting on a bench nearby eating ice-creams seemed remarkably unconcerned and really I hardly laughed at all.

We might give the boy a break from holidays next year if he does well in his exams, oh and I love him really.  Anyway here are some snaps taken with an Fuji X Pro -1 and toned with an Aged Photo preset in Lightroom

 

 

Garden Macro with a Wista 45 and Nikon 120mm

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2014 by yammerman

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Enough time had passed since my last large format macro shots that I’d forgotten how testing it can be but, with the sun shining on the garden, the urge came upon me.  Internet wisdom suggests that 5×4 macro is a waste of time and only for the foolish, which makes me its target market.

When attempting large format photography, it’s like living in a camera flow chart; you need to know your gear and remember the steps.  Open the shutter at f5.6, compose the scene and focus, check the exposure, close the shutter, adjust aperture and time, set the lens to fire, put dark slide in, then open the slide and press shutter, and then close dark slide.   I’m bound to have forgotten something I usually do.  A whole heap of agro you might think, but it appeals to the purist in me and forces upon me a discipline that is quite unnatural.   The payoff is to view the scene so large on the ground glass, looking quite beautiful, it’s upside down of course  but almost everything looks stunningly clear and it gives me a thrill of pleasure every time.

Of course, you have a dark cloth over your head while composing and focusing so it gets darn hot with the sun shining.  Then there’s the wind shaking those darling buds whenever you point a camera at them.  I also found on this occasion that I needed a small torch to see the aperture numbers so, with the exposure meter, loupe, dark slide and torch, your hands are pretty full.  A manservant would be the ideal accessory, perhaps serving a small aperitif before each shot.  When I think of photographers in the 19th century out in the world, working like this with tougher conditions and more cumbersome equipment, my jaw drops in respect.

After an hour of huffing and puffing and the occasional curse, I had, what I hoped, were some interesting large negatives to process. This gave me the opportunity to use a new method of development, replacing the trays with a MOD54 plastic frame that allows six 5×4 negs to fit in a Patterson three reel tank.   This means I don’t have to stand in complete darkness for ten minutes with only the robotic female voice of an audio timer for company.   Operating the timer and manipulating the film into three trays while experiencing this sensory deprivation is an art in itself.   A weaker man than I might experience the return of his childhood fear of the dark, or be forced to confront hideous monsters of the Id, in the gurgling nothingness that is a light tight darkroom.

The learning curve on the new MOD54 wasn’t without mishap as I tried to load it to its full capacity of six negatives.   Having practiced in the light, it all seemed to be going so well in the changing bag until I took out the filled tank to find a sheet of film had fallen off in the bag and was now ruined.  I’ve learnt to shrug off these disasters now, as it seems to be the price for not practicing this art more regularly.

The massive Dev chart suggested 9 mins @20 degrees for HP5+ in Ilford HC, but experience has taught me that my set-up and method always needs less time, so I knocked it down to 7 mins.  The only other problem was my fix had gone off a tad so, although it appeared to be working, it was cloudy with white bits.  I pressed on regardless as the corner shop gave up stocking photographic chemicals a long time ago.

The negatives turned out OK (though with a fair amount of white specks possibly dust or fix debris) but some seemed to have been mis-loaded or had jumped out of their grooves during agitation plus, to my horror, the MOD54 seemed to have scratched them at the edges.   A quick Google confirmed that others had suffered the same fate and the suggestion was to load less sheets and to smooth any burrs on the plastic of the MOD54.  I followed this advice and processed four in the second batch and appeared to have no scratches. I think practice will make me better, so it’s a big thumbs up from me for this method of developing 5×4 film.

Smart people will spot that I messed up one of the sheets with a double exposure, which I put down to poor method and a lack of discipline.  I quite like the others, though some might say that 35mm or digital would produce better results a lot easier.  But, heck, where’s  the fun in that; plus when I die and go to photography heaven, I can look those Victorian antecedents in the eye and say at least I tried on occasion to do it their way.

A few tweaks in Lightroom 4 and then scanned with a Epson V700.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light Found in a Bin with a Nikon F3 and 60mm Macro.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2014 by yammerman

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I’m tidying the darkroom/studio in my attic  the night after I’ve seen ‘Looking for Light‘  the quite splendid documentary on the life and work of Observer photographer Jane Bown. I’m thinking about the huge 35mm prints up on the screen and the Olympus OM-1 sitting in a bag somewhere amongst the pile of old cameras I’ve acquired  over the last few years.  I’m feeling inspired by the images I’ve seen and the slight grain I could see in the prints leaves me itching for the smell of fixer and the gurgle of water.  But the rain hammers on the roof  and I must clear enough space so that my brain can function before I shoot anymore film.

I plod on and then as I throw redundant packaging and old guitar strings into the bin, I see the roll of film I’d processed on Sunday and grumpily thrown there when I’d discovered my own stupidity manifest as a light leak. I remember an image in the viewfinder of a  plant standing tall and a twisting piece of metal looking like a cobra about to strike. I surveyed the roll and discover that image and several others have escaped the full eviscerating effect of their accidental exposure to light. ‘There you are’  Jane Bown used to say after wandering around her subjects till she found the person she was seeking for her portrait and I mumbled  the same as an incantation to the gods of photography.  They are not perfect as the gatecrashing light seeps in one side of the images but I like them well enough that I’m glad I gave then a second chance before the oblivion of landfill. I found twelve images I could rescue and after scanning choose the four below as worthy of posting.

I love a happy ending though it’s back to the tidying for me now.

 

A Few Shots with a Nikon F3 and 60mm Macro

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2014 by yammerman

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Further use of the Nikon F3  using the 60mm Macro, which has always been a favourite for both film and digital.  A stroll to the pier and then some macro in the garden. It was all going so well until I discovered the back of the camera opened as I rewound the second roll. Give light a second and it does it worst to those grains of silver. A  deep sigh then processed and found to be ruined so straight in the bin. Naturally the second had the award winning images on so that was a damn shame. Here is the best of the first roll.

Shot with  Ilford FP4 at 125 processed in Rodinal/Adonal 1 to 50 for 12 minutes at 21 degrees.

Training for a Marathon with a Nikon F3 and 18mm f2.8 Lens

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2014 by yammerman

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I’m in training for a marathon; not the 26 mile torture that involves the human body searching for a wall to hit, but the photographic kind. The Cardiff Photo Marathon has been going since 2004 and I try to take part as often as I’m able. The rules require 12 photos in 12 hours on 12 topics supplied 4 at a time throughout the day. Sounds easy enough but it is in fact a grueling test of both your physical and creative stamina.

It was switched to digital a few years back which meant the loss of the delayed gratification that comes with using film.  There are no weeks of excitement now, waiting for the exhibition to see what on earth you captured on your precious roll of film. At the end of a long day, you now know if you have got photographic gold or a series of ‘What was I thinking?’ moments. I realised last time that deleting as I went along was a mistake, because by keeping all your ideas for each topic in chronological order you can then edit the set with a retrospective view on the whole day.  There is nothing wrong with that but it’s quite a different challenge than when you use film. The truth is, I imagine, that plenty of people were taking digital snaps to see how their film idea was going to work……I sure did once or twice.

This year I noticed they were allowing 50 people to use film and in a purist moment of madness, I volunteered for this option.  Since then, I’ve been slightly panicking about what kind of hair shirt I’ve just pulled on. Choosing a camera is exercising me; should I take the easy option of a modern AF or old school manual.  To this end I’ve been shooting with my trusty old Nikon F3HP to see if it can hold up to the challenge. This did not start well and it pains me to confess the first roll didn’t load correctly and, unspotted by me, was failing to wind.  Imagine my horror when I realised this after an hour of purposeful photographic art … oh, how I chuckled.

Chastened by this disaster, I considered abandoning old school in favour of a Nikon F80 but thought I’d probably learnt my lesson and persisted.  This time I made sure I loaded the film correctly in the F3 and selected a Nikon 18mm lens to wander around the Cardiff Barrage.  I’m really not used to shooting this wide and had no idea what to expect which I guess is half the fun.

The viewfinder on the F3 is huge and uncluttered like a HD TV stuck to your eyeball.  That is a great advantage compared to looking at a digital LCD on a sunny day. I did occasionally forget I’d moved the exposure compensation dial and using 18mm as your field of vision increases the danger of tripping over stuff, but not for nothing was this camera a classic.  It feels solid and comfortable while all the controls fall easily to hand.  It was a dull old day and frankly the Barrage has very little new to offer me, but I managed two rolls of HP5 with ease.  By the end, I was warming to the idea of rocking up at the Millennium Centre with this rather lovely machine.

I processed in Ilford HC at 20 degrees   1 to 31 dilution for 6 minutes.  It’s the first time that I’ve used this developer for a while and it always seems stronger than I expect, resulting in over-processed negatives –  not so great for scanning.  It all gets a bit grainy for my tastes, so I’ll probably increase the dilution next time.  A tweak in Lightroom 4, with some Antique preset, and I’m done.

 

Catch the Sun with a Fuji X Pro-1 and 60mm Lens

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2014 by yammerman

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As my marigold clad hands scrubbed the wok used to prepare a rather fiery stir fry (the radical chilli flourish perhaps a mistake) I happened to notice a fine yellow light was playing on the  flowering clematis.   I expected it to have vanished by the time I reached the final sponging of the surfaces, but for once the camera gods smiled upon me.  So I snatched up my Fuji X Pro-1 and 60mm lens and went to catch the sun as the band Doves once so wisely advised.

If I had paid more attention in physics at school or had not foolishly wasted my memory to recall the fine goal Plymouth Argyle scored against Peterborough Utd in 1974, I could perhaps tell you why the light is yellow in the evening.  Thankfully both you and I can look that up in our own time when we have exhausted the trivial addiction that is social media and have some spare time for a proper use of the internet.

I can tell you that it had likely taken 8 minutes for the sunlight that now caressed the clematis to get to Earth and I suspected I had somewhat less than that to capture it.  I didn’t really expect success, in much the same way that vast beautiful landscapes are rendered dull in holiday snaps, as light is a slippery fish at times.  It is generally more by luck than judgement that I obtain in the halides or pixels what I actually saw at the time.

The photo gods, like the golf gods, realise that in order to keep you coming back for more, they should allow you some success once in a while.  Not, perhaps, in the way you’d intended but just the beautiful crack of a ball on club, or a photo that shows the world not as a chaotic unjust shambles peopled by greedy bankers and corrupt politicians, but something sublime and beautiful that you will miss so very much when the lights go out.

These are by no means perfect,  after all the tripod was up too many damn stairs for my dodgy knees, but I do like them enough that continuing to press the shutter may yet provide me some degree of pleasure.

 

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Walking in Penarth with the Fuji X-Pro 1 and 35mm f1.4

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2013 by yammerman

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The clouds parted briefly in the New Year and, with school approaching, it was time to tire the boy out enough that he might actually go to sleep before midnight.  Naturally the prospect of being disconnected from the global network was not met with much enthusiasm, but the possibility of ice-cream was dangled and the bait taken.

We wandered as always with me striding off and James, his hood up, following in a manner that suggests to an outside observer that I will be his next mugging victim. We strike up a good healthy dialogue normally, as he tells me I’m old and stupid and I counter that he is young and knows nothing.

We then spend the rest of the time negotiating the length of this shared pleasure and whether killing things all day long might have a detrimental effect on the mind of a teenager. To be fair to him, in his games he’s always a mage or a healer and surprisingly moral considering he has such a dissolute father.  He tested me on some Walking Dead (it’s a game) plot lines once and it turned out I might be a bit of a liability in a zombie apocalypse situation.

We did the full circuit of Penarth seafront but sadly the ice cream vendors had their feet up at home. I was forced to promise ice-cream on our return as we trudged up the very steep climb home.

Here are some more efforts with the Fuji X-Pro 1 and 35mm f1.4 with the usual Yesteryear preset in Lightroom.