So, the journey continues…

I now have some filmholders (double-darkslides) to go with my recently-purchased MPP Micro-Technical camera. I bought the camera at a camera fair just before Christmas and spent a few contented hours getting the shutter up to scratch and making a temporary ground-glass screen.

Having bought some film (which arrived before Christmas too) I have been champing at the bit somewhat – unable to take pictures without darkslides (I should have got some filmholders with the camera, but the seller said that he was going to send them on – they have now arrived!). This has meant that I have been able to read up on and experiment with the effects of the camera movements.

I think that this weekend I will do a few portraits of my sister’s family before they emigrate to Australia on June 22nd… and hope I don’t mess up the processing!

Equipment…

I probably have too many cameras. There, I’ve said it. I cannot possibly use all of them all of the time, but I do use all of them some of the time.

I have been wondering about getting a digital SLR, since it would give me more scope for experimentation (at least the feedback loop is much shorter), but have simultaneously been feeling the pull of yet another film format – this time large format (LF). LF cameras use sheet film rather than roll film, generally have a negative bigger than 6cm x 9cm, and offer all sorts of exciting movements, where the relative positions of lens and film can be moved around.

Last Sunday, the large-format pull won. I picked up a Mark VI MPP Micro-Technical camera from the Boston Spa camera fair. The price was good, but there are some caveats: There was no ground-glass screen, the shutter was erratic and the cosmetic condition left something to be desired. However, this is a complete camera and has set me back about half what I was expecting (looking at ebay etc.).

The digital SLR will have to wait…

However, as I said at the top – I have too many cameras. I managed to offload one of my cameras to the guy who I bought the MPP from, but he wouldn’t take two of the others I had with me. Still, that retained equilibrium in the camera count.

Until Wednesday, when my local camera club had an auction to raise funds for the club… The idea being that people bring in their unwanted photo gear and auction it – all proceeds going to the club funds. I spent a whopping £11 and picked up 11 rolls of 120 film, an unopened pack of 12×16″ black and white photo paper, various darkroom odds and ends, and…. another camera. A Yashica-Mat TLR from around 1960. Perfect condition, and only a fiver.

I really must stop buying these things!

A small list of my current objects of desire…

I’ve started selling up some of my accumulated clutter in order to buy some stuff I actually want. My list (currently) is:

  1. Fender Jazzmaster guitar
  2. Ebow
  3. Some form of digital SLR
  4. A decent photo printer (A3+)

Of course, this is all going to take some time, and may require the shedding of a lot of stuff…

So far, I have sold a bunch of old BBC Magazines; next up is one of my BBC micros (c. £50), (probably) my Marlin Sidewinder Guitar (c.£35), and a whole load of NMEs etc.

eBay here I come 🙂 (again)

Accepting Commissions…

If anyone would like to have me work on a particular photographic assignment, please let me know via the Contact Form. So far, I have carried out a single assignment for a friend (portraits of their pet greyhound) which has been very well received (there’s no point in spouting a load of BS at this point, I’d only get found out).

Since my experience is low, so the prices are too – I’m pretty much doing this to build a portfolio. Heck, if the assignment is interesting enough I may even do it for nothing… or at least just for expenses.

Depending upon the subject matter, 35mm or medium-format would be used. A full contact sheet would be provided, and from that a number of 10×8 shots can be selected.

So, if you think you might like some photos taken (As is usual for me, this would be using black-and-white film), please ask away.

Cameras pt.2

So. The Ixus. Fantastic, so I got another one – and so far it hasn’t been stolen. Unfortunately, the APS film format now seems to be dying out – it never did kill off 35mm with it’s user-convenience being outweighed by the smaller negative and more costly processing.

Of course 35mm (the 135 format) didn’t kill off roll film – 120 film, with its 6cm square negatives is still very much alive and kicking about 100 years after its introduction. Reckon we’ll still be using Compact Flash in 2094?

So after a few years, digital inevitably reared its head, and in 2003 we bought a Canon Powershot A40, which is still my only digital camera (I don’t count the camera in the phone). The A40 was rather liberating in that it allowed us to take hundreds of pictures without a care for the cost of processing – however what that actually meant was that we hardly printed any pictures at all!

Then there was video. I had an idea that I could start making music videos (and I have done – see elsewhere on the site), so I bought a Canon MVX250i. It does widescreen, has firewire, and can take half-decent stills (and has a monster optical zoom too).

And video prompted Super8 (I know, but I was looking for a different angle for shooting movies) and only 3 minutes and 30 seconds of film – not reusable like video of course.

This was actually liberating – rather than videoing everything, Super8 meant that I was selective – which is much easier to deal with in post-production! And after shooting movies on film, it seemed logical to go back to taking stills on film too, and a local freecycler provided me with two Yashica SLR Bodies (an FX-3 and an FX-D), along with 5 lenses. The light seals and body-covering were shot, but ebay provides, and soon I had two perfectly functioning cameras (the FX-3 can even do without batteries).

Since then I’ve acquired more cameras (including some medium-format cameras using the above-mentioned 120 roll film – very nice results) and basically home-processed a load of black and white films and prints. I guess I’ve come a long way since the instamatic…

Cameras pt.1

image from ozcamera
My first camera was a Kodak Instamatic 177X which I was given for a present (Christmas I think) when I was something like 9 years old. This was a fixed-focus camera with ‘cloudy’ and ‘sunny’ settings, and using 126 cartridge film. If it was too dark, extra light could be supplied by ‘magicubes’ – little plastic items containing four flash bulbs. The pictures (when they’d been developed and you’d got them back from Boots) were square which, looking back at them, seems a bit odd.

This was my main camera until some time in the mid-80s when I upgraded to a Canon AF35J – motor wind, (and auto focus if I remember correctly). Unfortunately, the camera died some time toward the end of the decade, whilst the Instamatic still carried on being used.

Now, the next camera I remember getting was a Canon Ixus in 1998 (a graduation memento), so I either kept on with the Instamatic, or there’s a camera in there that I’ve forgotten about.

I absolutely loved the Ixus. Ok, so the APS film format is not going to give me the best prints, but the sheer size (or lack of it) meant that I carried it around all the time: “The best camera is the one you have with you”…

Unfortunately, the camera was stolen in a burglary on our house in 1999. I obviously should have been carrying it around more…

Old-fashioned photography

As you may have noticed, all of the photographs on this site were taken on film (discounting screenshots of OS X screensavers, CGI, and video of course).

Why should anyone living in the 21st century still cling on to such an archaic form of image capture? Personally:

  • I like the quality of a real photograph; sure, having taken the picture, developed and printed myself adds something to the artefact itself, and yes, it’s a long process (a quick turnaround would be a couple of days between taking the shot and hanging it on a wall), but there’s something about the visual quality that just pushes my buttons..!
  • I’ve never been happy with the quality of images printed from a computer – they seem kind of flat somehow. Maybe I need to shell out on a better printer. Or a better digital camera. Or both.
  • Knowing that I’m dealing with a finite resource (I may have packed an extra roll or two of film, but that’s still limited compared with a 2GB memory card) – and getting to medium format? Only 12 shots per roll!

Using film also means that I’m take more consideration about shooting; shots are framed and focussed, depth-of-field and shutter speed are taken into account with more deliberation.

Sure, maybe I’d be the same with a nice DSLR (one day, one day!) but with that LCD, there’s the temptation to chimp 🙂

I also found this when I started using Super 8… DV tape is a reusable commodity (and a tape will last an hour!); Super 8 forces shots to be considered (and rehearsed) – 3 minutes 20 seconds at 18fps – or 2 minutes 30 seconds at 24fps is not a long time – better get that shooting ratio up!

Totally Retro…

My creative side has been gradually becoming more and more bipolar:

On one side, I love new technology – whether it be digital video captured from a camcorder; pure computer graphics created in Blender/Quartz Composer; or simply digital stills caught from my PowerShot; or on the audio side perhaps some new softsynths or plugin effects running within Logic.

On the other side, is the retro – I’ve owned a bunch of analogue/vintage synthesisers and drum machines for ages, and I still occasionally pick up my guitar; however the latest retro-fad I’ve been looking at is visual; super8 filming and 35mm still photography.