Birthday + Polaroid + Friends = great time!

Cake!I had a birthday party (of sorts) last weekend* and invited friends etc. over to our house for drinks/food/chat. In light of the recent announcement by Polaroid that the production of instant film was to stop, I decided that this would be a good time to have a go with Polaroid… I picked up a camera from freecycle, bought a twin-pack of 600 film from Boots, and I was good to go.

Well, y’know – Polaroids are way cool fun! Much more entertainment than a digital camera – especially the wait for a picture to appear – and a real conversation piece. Most people weren’t aware that Polaroid was stopping, and a couple even said that they were going to go and get a camera before the chance disappeared completely!

Anyway, thanks to all of the people who turned up. Hope you had a good time, and we’ll try and get together again soon, Ok?

*(for those who know me and feel disgruntled that they weren’t invited, it may be that we don’t have contact details for you – give us a ring: our number hasn’t changed for about 10 years!!!).

Happy birthday to me….

My collection of photographic equipment grows ever-larger – got a HP Combi-Plan developing tank from my wife and her parents (Hooray! Now I hope I won’t scratch my 5×4 negatives), and am getting a decent tripod from my parents (Manfrotto 055xprob + 808RC4 head – I really need to keep the MPP still!).

Also received a CD by Elbow (“Asleep in the back” – having enjoyed their appearance on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross a couple of weeks back, as well as their version of Independent Woman courtesy of, a James Brown compilation CD (I actually only own one James Brown record – a 12″ single of ‘Get Up’ from the 1980s, so this addresses a shortcoming in my music collection!), and a Family Guy DVD (Blue Harvest).


Now, what I have just decided that I need is a Polaroid camera, so that I can document my upcoming birthday party….


My sense of timing is, as ever,

… perfect.

Just days before Polaroid announced they were shutting down production of their eponymous instant-film, I bid on ebay for a Polaroid film back (so I can use instant film with my LF camera). I have been chasing various 545 film backs (taking Polaroid ‘Type 5x’ sheet film) but they always went up to silly prices (and the film isn’t cheap either). I therefore started looking at the 405 back. It takes a smaller image – 3.25 x 4.25 inches (in a pack of 10 pictures) – but it will allow me the instant feedback on my pictures that I desire.

So, between bidding and winning the 405 back (hooray!), Polaroid made their announcement. Which probably helped me win it actually (for about a tenner less than others had gone for). Fortunately, the 405 back takes ‘pack’ film – and you can get this from the saviours of film (or so it would seem) FujiFilm.

fp100c-1There are minor hurdles in that my MPP doesn’t have quite the right sort of a back to mount the Polaroid holder securely (but it’s good enough for now), but this evening (drum roll please) I took my first ever ‘polaroid’.
Not bad for a first attempt even if I do say so myself… using flash as well, which is a bit of a departure…

Anyway. Instant film is FANTASTIC. I’ve only taken one picture, but blimey – try it NOW… get a camera, and get some film while you still can!

A photographic state of mind

I caught the last 85% of a program on BBC one (imagine… : The Secret of Life) where Alan Yentob looked into (I’d say investigated, but it was more of a chat with various people) the self help industry. One of the segments touched upon Zen buddhism, and it struck me (ever so slightly) that the concept of living in the moment, or mindfulness – the ability to notice what’s going on around you at a moment in time; whether it be savouring the flavour of the meal you’re eating, noticing the pattern of the shadows as the sun breaks through the bare winter branches, or noticing the multitude of birds that you can hear, etc. and so on – the ability to actually notice things is perhaps the kind of state which a photographer needs to attain to be able to recognise ‘the decisive moment’; to see a pattern, a beauty, a symmetry, a point of interest, that may connect at some deeper level with viewers of the resultant photograph.

Anyway. For some while now, I have been trying to look at things with ‘a photographer’s eye’, to think of things framed within a rectangle with a 3:2 aspect ratio (35mm film frame), mainly to see things, rather than just notice them… (As a side note, cycling to and from work every day makes me realise how many people may as well walk around with their eyes shut – and behave as if they are, crossing roads without looking, blocking cycle lanes etc.)

perhaps I should investigate this Zen stuff…?

I Am Now Mediocre…

Well, I suppose I set myself up for this one (Read my previous rant here).

Even though I have been singularly scathing about the level of pictures that I have seen in photographic exhibitions presented at our camera club (York Photographic Society), I must admit that I cannot level the same complaint at the club competitions themselves – the judges have not always scored the interesting photos particularly well, preferring safety over great art.

Freakin' November 3rd 2007 - PatAnyway, back to the point. Last night saw the judging of the annual digital and projected images competition. I had entered five pictures – one digital, and four slides (digital entry is on the right). The judge (Peter Yeo) offered extremely helpful, directed, comments, suggesting both technical and compositional tips for each picture shown.

In all, there were 140 entries for the digital images competition, and 40 for the slide competition. My digital entry was ‘dynamic’, but didn’t make it into a place. My slides, however, fared somewhat better – I had two ‘walkway’s and two ‘York Fog’s – one of the walkway pictures (My favourite, by the way – Manchester airport at night, fact fans) had very interesting technical comments (good control of highlights, perhaps half-a-stop extra exposure would have made it even better), but the big surprise was that my ‘York Fog 2 – Millenium Bridge’ gained second place.


Ok, so none of the entries I made were specifically pandering to the judge; they are all pictures that I am pleased with, so that’s good (they are all unmanipulated too, not even cropped – what a purist). It’s just a surprise to actually get placed. One downside (Heh, there has to be one!) is that I am now not eligible for the ‘New Members Print Competition’ (which I was hoping to enter) since I have now gained a ‘first, second, or third place’.

Oh – one more thing… There’s a releated competition – The John Saville Rose Bowl which is awarded for a picture depicting an aspect of the City of York.

‘York Fog 2 – Millenium Bridge’ won that.


Better LF

repeatI know that this is getting a little repetitive, but I am still enjoying the whole Large-Format-Photography experience – this is my favourite recent pic, this time scanned from a contact-print, so it has a bit more punch. Unfortunately my jpeg-editing has darkened it a little too much, but hey – the web isn’t a medium for high art!


I was going for a Chandler-esque (Polly, not Raymond) view here – plenty of movements – didn’t make notes I’m afraid)

MPP (1/50 @ f4.5),
Fomapan 100,
Rodinal 1+50, 6’30”
Contact-printed onto Ilford MG IV RC paper

Further Large Format musings…

I did another batch of contact prints from my set of Large Format (LF) negatives last night, mainly because I wanted to do a reasonable set of prints of the ‘family portraits’ I did of my sister and her family before they emigrated to Australia. The plan is to get a set of decent prints and send them off to their new address.

Yesterday also coincided with my receiving a 5×4 negative holder from ebay (I have a plan to construct my own 5×4 enlarger, so a neg holder seemed like a good place to start). The holder itself had two detachable 5×4 ‘frames’ which looked like they may come in handy – as indeed they did. Placing two LF negatives on a sheet of 10×8 paper, I was able to use the ‘frames’ to both hold down the negative without using a sheet of glass, and to give a nice broad white border.

The addition of the broad border really makes a difference which is quite amazing. The shots themselves are not all that great unfortunately (if I were able to do them again, I would – using a lens hood etc. – but that’s the way it goes I guess).

toucan (still life #1)
However, the real revelation was my first ‘still life’. The negative scan (reflective scan, so not a great start – shown here) is flat and lacking – but the print is full of bite and detail – perhaps it’s just the physical object, but I feel that it’s a promising sign for things to come 🙂