I know my hometown very well. How often have I not walked up to the hill, the graveyard or the nearby woods?
Almost every Saturday I go shopping and do so on foot. I see how the streets change. An old house demolished or a shop that closes its doors, everything is alive, everything is constantly moving.
These days it takes longer though before a closed shop finds a new owner or before the newly build apartments are sold or rented. Financial crisis is lurking everywhere.
Long are gone the days I took my camera with me while roaming my neighborhood. I’ve seen it all and my third eye, my digital camera, is no help in finding the wonderment I’m missing and trying to find again.
Using another camera and film and limiting myself to black & white has changed the way I look at this small world of mine.
At last I find myself discovering my surroundings again and in a whole new way. I look in awe and notice details that eluded me before or never got my attention.
When I decide to capture it I do so consciously.
Light is measured and I try to imagine how a given aperture will change the depth of field. I look at how light falls on my subject and its delicate ballet with the shadows.
The viewfinder is carefully scrutinized so there is no dissonant in my composition. Yes, I try to use the whole negative. I do not want to crop or whatever.
I want to do it right from the first time.
That is what photography should be.
Capturing the world with your eye, dissecting and analyzing it, using your compositional skills and craftsmanship.
It feels so good when I arrive at that decisive moment when I know everything is in place.
I press the shutter button.
Savoring that short moment when mechanics take over. The mirror is brought up, the curtain opens and the aperture blades move to the opening you have set. Then light touches the silver halide on the film and your image has been conceived.
Afterwards, after 36 of those intense moments, ah the pleasure of finally being able to deliver your creations.
To rediscover what you have seen in your mind’s eye a day, a week or a month ago.
A few days ago I bought a second hand yet almost mint wide-angle lens for my Olympus OM-10. It is a G. Zuiko single coated 28mm 3,5 “silver nose”. The filter thread is silver instead of black.
It is early dark now since the hour has changed a few weeks ago. Yesterday though I was at home and had promised my eldest daughter to pick her up from work so she could drive home and add a little experience to her driving skills.
I arrived twenty minutes earlier and took a walk in the neighborhood. Nothing really special to see but I had only 4 frames left and wanted to try out the lens.
Then I noticed this gateway entrance and the coarse concrete walls and the gritty soil of the parking.
This was an ideal scene for a black and white image and even more for the grainy Ilford HP5 Plus film. I moved back and forward until I was happy with what I saw in the viewfinder.
One of the things I want to explore more is long exposure photography.
I think there are advantages doing this with film compared to digital capture. I guess there are some drawbacks too but for the moment I’m not aware of any.
When I shot long exposures with my Nikon D300 my images had high levels of background noise. I am talking about minutes.
This is due to the sensor heating up. The best way in dealing with this is using the Camera Long Exposure Noise Reduction. Then the camera will take a second exposure. It will do so with the shutter closed but it takes the same exposure time as the image you just took. Doing so the camera subtracts with it finds in this black exposure thus decreasing the noise.
Basically this means a 10’ long exposure would take in fact 20’. During the second exposure I can move my camera but not use it.
Surely this not a problem I’ll run into using an analogue camera.
The second advantage is in my opinion an important one.
Let’s say you are taking a long exposure at a rocky beach somewhere late afternoon. In order to obtain an exposure of 1 minute at ISO 100 you are using a 10 stop ND-filter. You are not that too happy as you wished for an even longer exposure.
Let’s say I am standing next to you, impatiently waiting to use your filter on my analogue camera loaded with a 100 ISO film.
While I’m waiting I check my iPhone and smile. Reciprocity Timer is a very useful app. Check it out.
With your 10 stop ND-filter and same ISO I get an exposure time of almost 7 minutes with no extra effort at all. And without wasting an extra 7 minutes for exposure noise reduction.
This is due to the reciprocity law or the inverse relationship between intensity and duration of light and the reaction of the light-sensitive material.
As for now I haven’t had the opportunity to do really long exposures with my analogue camera and the two examples in this post are a mere 10”.
Hope to do an extra post on this topic very soon.
Besides the look ‘n feel of analogue black & white there is the real pleasure of shooting. It is about slowing down and thinking about what you want to capture and how you are going to do it. Measuring the light with an external light meter and taking the image. No chimping. One has to wait until the film is processed.
About two weeks ago I went for a shoot taking with me only two analogue cameras and two rolls of Ilford HP4 Plus. I try to stick to the same film and developer so eventually I’ll that film and that process will have no secrets and I’ll be able to play more with the materials.
Yet I did feel like some kind of time traveller lugging around with a 70’s Olympus OM-1n. It has quickly become my favourite camera.
It was hard to imagine we were well into November as the sun was shining and the overall temperature was about 14°C.
The image of this bridge is one I particularly like. There is the overall tonality of course and the look and feel of real grain. Yet I am aware that I’ll still have to learn a lot about scanning techniques to get the most out of my negatives.
In my opinion this image is about solitude and symbolizes the way I was touched by the surroundings. I am not talking about aloneness in a negative way here but more how I felt related to the moment and the place.
Another piece of gear I own is a Bronica ETRSi and a few lenses. It is hard to believe I used this camera professionally as a wedding photographer about 20 years ago.
Boy is it heavy and, compared to nowadays digital camera’s, extremely slow in using.
I don’t want to start to think about the precious and intimate moments I did not capture during my reportages. There is much to say for auto-focus in high speed social events.
I haven’t used this camera for ages but now I have a working setup for scanning the 4,5 x 6 film I think I am going to use this beast more often. It will slow me down even more and that is a good thing. After all the whole purpose of switching back to analogue black & white is to get back in touch with photography.
The camera still had a film in it so I finished it with a few simple studio shots to check if everything was still in working order.
Then I developed the HP 5 Plus film and scanned a few images I took somewhere around 2007.
To my big surprise the scan quality is not that bad and the HP G4050 with Vuescan delivers rather crisp images.
So if a crappy scanner can give this results what will an Epson V7xx or V8xx do? I am pretty sure its results will blow my socks off.
I bought this Yashica Mat in a small shop in Antwerp specialized in second hand photo gear. The year was 2008.
The shop is long gone and I can’t remember having ever used this camera. Soon after acquiring this beauty my attention was needed for something completely different but that is a whole other story.
The first Yashica TLR with crank advance was the Yashica Mat, released in 1957. The earliest models are equipped with a 75-mm 3.5 Lumaxar taking lens and a 75-mm 3.2 Lumaxar viewing lens. It was succeeded by a 80-mm lenses with the same specifications. (source Camerapedia)
This it the model I own. It takes 120 film and gives 6×6 negatives.
The camera has been sitting in my cupboard for years, safely tucked away in the furthest corner and hidden by a few lenses I never use.
Yesterday I got it out though and it feels heavy and sturdy and looks simply beautiful.
Albeit I know I’m not going to use this camera a lot I decided to put a film in it. When I opened the back I noticed it contained a roll of film. Apparently I had used it but never had taken the film out.
Wow, forgotten frames I thought while sitting in my bathroom with the lights out winding the film on the spool so I could develop it.
I developed the film a little longer than I would do for an Ilford HP5 Plus anticipating on the age of the film and so.
Finally I guess 9′:30″ was a little too long and the negatives are somewhat denser than I prefer.
Scanning them was a whole other story.
The HP Scanjet G4050 is not the best scanner around and for some reason the HP software was giving horrible results on my iMac with OS X Yosemite. The results were somewhat better when scanned with HP Software on Windows 7 running as a virtual machine on my Mac.
It was only when I downloaded a demo version of Vuescan that things changed for the better. The software offers a ton of options and I finally purchased a license. It works well with my Minolta Scan Elite 5400 as well and offers options I don’t have with Silverfast SE8 like multiple passes.
I am not completely satisfies with the scans but I think this is the best I’ll get with the HP Scanjet. I’m putting some money aside so I can get the Epson V750 or V850.
I enjoyed the long weekend taking a day off from work past Monday as Tuesday was a Holiday too and I don’t work on Wednesdays.
For the first time in ages I really went away to shoot images. I drove to Zeeland, just over the border, in The Netherlands. Lots of water, a zillion windmills and lots of nature, most of it protected.
It is difficult to believe it is almost half November. A sunny day it was, the harsh wind not to cold and temperatures around 14°C.
I had a great day and enjoyed shooting and walking and being by myself. Of course I would have been happier sharing these moments with Princess but that is still almost impossible.
I had two camera bags with me. One with the Zenza Bronica ETRSi and 4 lenses and another one with the Olympus OM-1 and a few lenses and to be on the safe side I had also my digital Olympus OM-D M10 with me. I didn’t use that one though but shot two rolls of Ilford FP4 Plus.
Wow, an afternoon shooting and I only made 70 shots.
Back home I developed them and to be safe I used separate tanks. It took about 2 hours for the film to dry and even more to scan each negative with my aging Minolta Scan Elite 5400.
The Epson V700 or V800 is now officially on my wish list.
I still find it difficult to scan the negatives. It is a technique I am not completely acquainted with yet. The Silverfast 8 Se offers so much options and possibilities.
I simply love the gritty look of these black and white images. They are so much more real compared to the ultra sharp, grainless and slick digital captures.
Yesterday, Wednesday morning, I did something I hadn’t done in years.
I developed a black and white film!
I searched the Internet for the development time of an Ilford Delta using Kodak’s TMax film developer. I had no idea if the film would be exposed correctly so I settled for 8 minutes at 21°C with a 1+4 mixture.
Then I prepared the 300ml of developer, a recipient with 1+1 vinegar and water and 300 ml 1+4 fixing liquid.
After rinsing the dust covered Paterson film developing tank I set everything ready in the bathroom and gave the tank, scissors and film I had retrieved from the camera a place so I could find everything in the dark.
Out went the light and I started moving the reel to get the film on it. To my big surprise it was easy and I hadn’t forgotten how to do it. After closing the tank I switched on the light and walked to the kitchen.
I set my iPhone’s timer to 8 minutes, filled the developing tank and turned it around every 1 minute, putting it down with a harsh tap to remove the air bubbles that could have settled on the film.
After 8 minutes I emptied the tank, filled it with the diluted vinegar and after moving the tank for 45″ I replaced the stop bath with the fixing solution.
Six minutes later I drained the tank once again but before starting the rinsing process I wanted to see if the film was well developed.
I felt immensely excited when I opened the tank.
Wow, at first glance the negatives seemed perfect and well developed and showed a correct density.
I rinsed the film for about 5 minutes and then added a few drops of Agepon wetting agent to prevent water drops staying on the film and create spots while drying.
It is almost noon and the film is drying in the bathroom.
I am still so excited and cannot wait to start scanning the negatives.
*** *** ***
The bigger part of the afternoon I spend watching The Social Network, a biopic about a Jewish nerd who hates nipples and founded Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg and taking a nap.
I find the negatives a little too dense. Or I overdeveloped the film or it was slightly over-exposed, maybe by about 0,7 EV. The battery could have caused the latter. Originally the Olympus OM-1n took a 1,36 Volt mercury battery but they are banned due to environment issues and there is no replacement except the ones that are sold by Wein on eBay. In my Olympus is a 1,5 Volt battery so that could be the reason why the exposure was a little over the top.
I loaded my second film, an Ilford FP4, and set the light meter to 160 ISO instead of 125 ISO so we’ll see.
It seems there is an issue with the scanner software too. Scanning 6 negs is not a problem but when I eject them and load 6 new ones the preview totally screws up. I’ll try to figure this one out later on before opening a support ticket at Silverfast.com. Note. After rebooting my iMac the problem went away.
I also have the impression that activating the ICE option (dust & scratch removal) does not make the scanner happy albeit it is hardware supported. The final scan resembles nothing and reminds me on how the world looks after enjoying a few magic mushrooms.
Anyway, as the negs are fresh and I take care of them I haven’t a real issue with dust and other imperfections so the lack of ICE is not an issue.
The lack of EXIF-data is something that really troubles me. Obviously information on date, time and camera settings are not available so I have to take notes or say something in my iPhone each time I take an image.
Yes, this is going to trouble me as I keep all my images sorted on date. I do not care that much about the camera settings though, but date and time are very important to me. I guess I’ll have to skip the time notion and I hate the idea. I know my Princess is smiling now when she reads this…
The guy who sold me the Olympus also gave me a Vivitar 85-205mm f3,5 zoom lens to test. It is a heavy lens and it is mine for 25 Euro. A no-brainer if you ask me even if I’ll never use it wide-open as I guess it will be way to soft. But at f8 it is a very sharp lens.
So I developed a film.
The first results?
Really, they are incredible.
This is real black and white and not some Photoshop (plugin) substitute.
I love the discrete grain, the organic look and its large dynamic range. At the moment I am not looking for Kodak Tri-X or Ilford HP5 high-speed film drama. The 100 ISO suits me well as it slows down everything I want to do.
This is what I want to achieve.
Imagine visiting a new place, landscape or abandoned site, whatever, and walk around being limited to only 36 images. Hell, let us take the battery away from the camera too so you’ll have to work with a hand-held light meter.
You’ll have to change the way you look and if you find something you want to photograph you’ll have to suck it in before pressing the shutter button. You will have to consider light and other technical aspects because you have only 36 frames. You’ll have to slow down. You’ll have to look and observe.
No shooting like a madman and browsing through 500 shots in the evening. No chimping or, if you are an experienced digital photog, analysing the histogram.
When you press the shutter you must be 100% sure you have it right.
When you drive back home you’ll feel excited and you’ll enjoy the anticipation and pleasure while developing the film, waiting for it to dry before you can scan it and see what you have created.
This is photography in its purest form and a craft forgotten by most of us.
It is something I want to find again, to experience and see as pleasure and art and not as something tedious I had to do so many years ago in order to get my degree in photography.
I want to take my time and see and observer before I take an image. I want to be Zen and in balance with what I see when I press the shutter button.
Also I want to stick to one type of film.
Back in my schooldays my film was Ilford’s HP5. I did not need a light meter to nail the exposure. My eyes looked at a scene and my brain knew what the film needed.
I could develop this film with pee if needed and drunk, stoned or both I knew the exact time and mixtures for almost every mainstream developing product to get 100% perfect negatives.
Yeah, I know, I was a nerd back then.
But guess what, the nerds get the best chicks, albeit I had to wait some 35 years for mine to fall in my bed.
No, I am not going to throw away my digital Olympus and prime lenses. Don’t forget, I am a very lazy person. But my digital micro four thirds Olympus cannot deliver what a full frame can.
At f1,8 the depth of field is very shallow and the bokeh is simply delicious. I paid 40 euro for this kit. A Nikon D600 and a f1,8 lens would set me back at least 1500 euro but it would make taking photographs easy. It would be a no-brainer but one I cannot afford.
Buying a D600 is not a problem. Buying the glass that goes with it is though. And it becomes even more an issue with a Nikon D800 as 36 megapixels needs lenses that can deliver in resolving power. Yet we all fall on our knees when we see, for example, images made by Magnum accredited photographers.
René Burri, my all time favourite Henri Cartier-Bresson, hell even Ansell Adams. Or my even bigger favourite and inventor of the so-called porno chique Helmut Newton did it all with film.
You buy art?
You buy what you like and not because it was made with a 6,000 $ Leica.
Less is more. Art is what the heart of the viewer feels. That is not necessarily what the artist wanted to express.