Category Archives: Diary

5
Dec

The Ennead

This is what happens. You have film in a couple of cameras and then you pick up a new (old) camera and think “I had better put some film in here and see how it goes” and then you pick up an old camera that you haven’t used for a couple of years and you think “I like this camera, I’ll give it another spin” and before you know it, you have film in 9 cameras.

That would be an ennead of cameras. (ennead = group of nine). There are hidden advantages to this, but also disadvantages. For example, you can find that you have in your possession, pictures of forgotten days that make you smile. Also though, you might discover that your film has deteriorated, and if your camera is especially primitive, light may have got in and wiped a frame or three. I once had film in a Zenit for 3 years. Some of the frames were ghostlike, but it still had a certain vague quality which was appealing.

Right now I have film in:

  • Agfa Trolix (made of bakelite) 1936.
  • Zorki 4
  • Kodak Colorsnap 35
  • Olympus mju 1
  • Kodak Instamatic 233
  • Halina 35X
  • Olympus 35RC
  • Pentax auto 110
  • Mamiya 645

Clearly it is time I used up these films. The Instamatic has had film in for over a year, and it was already well out of date. Kodak stopped making 126 cartridge film in 1987, so that gives you some idea of how very expired this film is. In the summer, when the light is good and everyone is outside it is easy to get through film, but as the days grow short, photography gets stalled. You can still get the pictures, but they require considerably more effort and dedication. By the time I get my work done, it is already getting dark, so photography must be squeezed into the weekends.

It is all – for me at least – a wonderful exercise in uncertainty. Analogue photography is the end of a spectrum, and quite the opposite of the control and precision that has come to characterise the digital market. You put old film in an old camera and you have no idea what will come out. That is the beauty of it. I’m okay with uncertainty.

 

Brownie Flash III on Fuji Acros 100

There isn’t an outing in this house that doesn’t involve at least four cameras each (per adult) and one each for at least three of the children… That’s a *lot* of cameras…

And there’s a danger with this modus operandi: one tends to forget which camera does or doesn’t contain film.

I had assembled my photographic equipment for our walk the other day: my Halina Paulette, Bencini Comet IIS and my Lomo Lubitel 2, when another appeared on my ‘pile’ – a Brownie Flash III. I asked Jem if he’d put it there and he told me he’d noticed it had a ’4′ in the red window. Eek! That meant it had film  in it and I had no recollection whatever of when or where I had loaded it and taken the first four shots. The only thing I did know (because it was another of our ‘live and learn’ moments) is that it was loaded with Fuji Acros 100… because I had put a sticker on the bottom of it saying so.

So, now that we’re up and running with our own developing, it seemed prudent to finish the film as quickly as possible and get it processed.

Of the mere eight shots that a roll of 120 yields from a Box Brownie, only four and a bit really came out. Despite the fact that the camera had been stored in its original canvas case, the film had still deteriorated and there’s serious fogging throughout, totally destroying two shots, making the third unusable, but the other five came out with varying degrees of success.

My lessons for today, then, are:

  • Remember which camera is loaded.
  • Make sure you use it till it’s done.
  • If you store it for a while without using it, make sure you cover the red window with electrical (or similar) tape.

One of them, however, came out beautifully in spite (or maybe because) of the deterioration. One of our favourite photographic spots:

Cathedral Cloisters

The other shots can be found here.

Late

“Late”

Kodak Brownie Six-20 D / Ilford HP5+

The Anchor Brewery

“The Anchor Brewery”

Viewed from St. Benedict’s in Norwich
Kodak Duex / Fuji Pro

This shot was mostly an experiment taken with the 1940 Kodak Duex, I was keen to see what it would do with some high-saturation colour film in it. I have discovered that it only really likes somewhat distant subjects (over 8 feet) and good light.

Bullards ceased beer production in 1966 and the impressive edifice is now home to an insurance company. Now that’s dissonance!

1938 Voigtländer Brilliant

There has been quite a saga accompanying this camera. The Voigtländer Brilliant of 1938 was the world’s first focusing TLR, and as a template it has spawned several copies, most notably the Lomo produced Lubitels (of which we have two), but even if the copies are great – for reasons of lomography – they don’t quite have the pedigree of the Voigtländer. I realised after trustingly putting a roll of Ilford through it that the focusing mechanism was off kilter, so I resolved to try it again using zone focus and a roll of Ektar.

It has taken a while to get the camera this far. I bought it very cheaply last year and like all of the Brilliants, it hadn’t aged especially well. The finder was loose and rusted, the mirror had lost nearly all its silver, the film chamber’s painted interior was flaky and the counter wouldn’t move. I cut a new mirror and replaced it then set to work drilling out the rusted screws from the finder. I carefully removed the prism finder and put it out of the way: it’s a beautiful and precise piece of glasswork after all, then a few moments later heard a crash. I looked up to see that one of the boys had decided to have a look at this rather gleaming jewel, picked it up and promptly dropped it on the floor.

Even though I immediately recognised this as an excellent opportunity to practise mindfulness, I was still devastated. The entire corner of the prism was smashed and at first glance it looked as though the camera was going to have to go for spares.

In the end I cleaned it all up and put it back together anyway and found that because the finder hood covered a good portion of the prism, it was still in fact usable. I wasn’t able to fix the focus because the viewing lens was moving freely through its range in tandem with the taking lens, there was nothing to adjust. For some reason, it just doesn’t match up anymore. I suspected that this might be because the infinity stop had shifted but I checked the film plane for accuracy and it seemed good. So I loaded up some Ektar and took it to Norwich with me at the weekend.

The reason that focusing Brilliants with good glass are so desirable is not so much the focusing ability of the camera, but the quality of the Skopar lens. It operates at a very decent  ƒ3.5, and is reputed to have excellent characteristics. The vast majority of surviving Brilliants have much less capable lenses than the Skopar.

Upon seeing a few of the results, I have to agree. This camera takes a great deal of patience to use, it is after all 74 years old now, and has taken a few knocks, both old and new, but it is still a classy performer all the same, as you can see.

Even so, I think I shall be selling it. Even without a focusing viewing lens, a partly smashed prism and a non-functional film counter I think I can get a decent price for it because the lens is gold, and as any serious photographer will tell you, the lens is pretty much the whole story, regardless of its innate style. I love plastic lenses, which cost a few pence, but they give a very different style. If you are looking for accuracy, then the Skopar beats many more modern competitors hands-down.

Plus, I recently bought a Yashica from Pakistan and I cannot really justify owning five TLRs!

Ensign Ful-Vue Super in Monochrome

After the roaring success of the Ful-Vue Super in colour (Ektar, to be precise), I decided to give it a go in black and white. So I filed down a roll of Ilford HP5 120 film to fit (it being a 620 medium format camera), loaded it up and off I went. (Home-developed in Ilford LC29 and home-scanned).

The results can be found here. But here are one or two to be going on with:

My favourite walk

 

Jem and Juno

 

Pushchair escapee

The only problem I had is that once again it began sticking and slipping at around exposure 4, and by number 10 I had to give up winding on, so I have lost 2 shots per roll so far. And on a roll of film that only contains 12 exposures anyway, that’s a pricey fault!

I suspect that the culprit is the filed down 120 film. 120 comes on a much thicker spool and I don’t think the more streamlined mechanism is coping with it at all well, so for the next roll, I’m going to have to attempt respooling 120 film onto a 620 spool.  I am assured that once you’ve got the hang of it there’s really nothing to it…

*gulp*

;)

Wish me luck!

A Tribute to Alice

Here is a shot of Alice from a roll of HP5 taken with the Kodak Brownie Six-20 model D, of which I have two copies procured from a local antique shop, neither costing more than the price of a lifestyle coffee in the city.

Alice is a great photographic subject, which somebody pointed out to me yesterday. It is not that I’m unaware of how strong and refined she is. Her calm, poise and her peaceful nature are easy to get used to, but they sometimes really show in a photograph too.

I will put up a few more shots from this roll later. It is remarkable to consider that the camera is several decades old and hasn’t even been particularly valued or cared for in most of that time. I have much more expensive and high-end cameras than this but even so, they can’t compete with some of the  old-timers for sheer style and elegance.

A bit like Alice in fact.

Bencini Comet IIS loaded with 35mm Fujicolor C200

Once again, a steep learning curve ;)

It wasn’t until I’d developed the film that I realised how much of the shot you lose to the top and bottom when shooting 35mm in a 127 medium format camera. So I’ve lost heads and feet… But, fortunately, most of the shots I took were either landscapes or far enough away not to be too significant.

This was a seriously fun experiment.

I’ll talk you through it.

I started off with a dark-bag, a canister of 36 exp Fujicolor C200 film, a 127 spool and used roll of backing paper, scissors, an empty plastic film canister, and a length of string with which to measure the amount of film I needed for the roll. I had already marked the backing paper with masking tape where the film needed to begin and where it would end and, in the dark-bag, I used that tape to fix it to the backing paper. I opened the canister, used the string to measure out the amount I needed, cut it off the rest of the roll and put the remainder into the black plastic film pot (which I marked with its contents). Then I fixed it, as mentioned, to the backing paper and wound it on to the spool. Which is all jolly good fun and gives a whole new lease of life to the expression ‘fumbling in the dark’.

Once it was wound really tight, I could use a little more masking tape to secure it, and then it was ready to load into the camera. A friend-in-the-know (that’s you, Juliet) mentioned that, since the 35mm is a more sensitive film, you need to cover the red window with some dark tape (I used electrical tape) and peel it back in subdued lighting in order to wind the film on to the next frame. This worked well.

Here are a couple of the shots (you can find the rest here and, for the sake of a laugh, if nothing else, I have included the headless shots ;) ):

Teddy running free

The Old Station House

Bencini Comet II S and Rollei 80s Retro 127 film

Well, you live and learn. :)

Bencini Comet II S

I got ridiculously excited about this camera partly, I suspect, because it is *so* beautiful. Bright and shiny and small, with smooth motion and very simple mechanisms. But each time you use a new camera you are, of course, unaware of its capabilities or limitations.

This camera and film combination, I have discovered, is not much good for taking pictures of people. But photographs of architecture, under the right conditions, can be lovely. The lens on my copy is not very sharp, nor the focusing very accurate or easy, but I suspect that beautiful results could be achieved with a rich colour film and some woodland / countryside.

Out and about in Norwich yesterday, I saw this chalkboard and the one in the shop window and thought them rather charming. This, I believe, is one of the shots that came out best.

St Benedict's, Norwich

 

This one, too, I liked, of the Belgian Monk and the church next to it.

The Belgian Monk, Pottergate, Norwich

 

The rest of the roll can be found here.

I have just done something that felt rather brave and risky. In a dark bag, I spooled some 35mm film onto a 127 spool and backing paper, and I’ve loaded it into the Comet. Another experiment in the offing… :)

Ensign Ful-Vue Super – the results are in!

I wrote about the Ensign Ful-Vue before. In short: saw it, loved it, used it, was totally underwhelmed by the results.

Then Jem surprised me with an Ensign Ful-Vue Super; a slimmer, smaller, more streamlined version with a twisting focusing lens and viewfinder cover. Whilst I appreciated its obvious beauty, I’d been seduced and disappointed by its predecessor, so I approached this one with a little more reticence. I filed down a 120 roll of Kodak Ektar to fit, as it takes 620 film, loaded it up and off we went.

The only real problem I encountered is that the take-up spool began slipping before I was halfway through the film. By exposure 10 neither gentle persuasion nor brute force was going to budge it. Since it was loaded with Ektar and we haven’t got as far as home-developing colour film yet, we were taking it to the shop for a develop only, and I was tasked with removing it from the camera and putting it in a light-tight case inside a dark-bag at the shop counter. This, I discovered, was a very different experience from the privacy of my own kitchen table! Thankfully, it went without a hitch, and when we examined the camera afterwards, it was quite obvious that the pins that turn the take-up spool have bent upwards and are no longer gripping effectively. Jem assures me this won’t take much to fix. :)

So home we went to scan our films and I was incredibly happy with the results.

This is the portrait I attempted, bright sun outside, in our bedroom window, my eldest son. The tones, colours and sharpness were a real surprise. I should add that I don’t believe it has a light-leak, in spite of the fact that this exposure appears to have one. Rather, I believe I left the counter window open in bright sunlight, which has flooded this shot somewhat. Oops! You live and learn, eh? ;)

Ensign Full-Vue Super, Kodak Ektar film

And here is an example of how well it works in a sun-flooded room:

Ensign Ful-Vue Super, Kodak Ektar. A sunny June Saturday.

It also has a lovely quality when photographing buildings:

Recommissioned church in Norwich. Ensign Ful-Vue Super on Kodak Ektar

You can find these and some other shots from the roll here.

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