The Russians are Coming..

Well, the film from my test shoot with my aging FED IV is back from the process lab. On the plus side there is something on every frame…that’s sort of it really. I’ve taken a look at a couple on the scanner and this one is so far the best.

So, being positive, it’s got that vintage feel which many people spend a fortune on presets attempting to achieve and much of it is almost sharp. Straight out of the scanner it was badly lacking contrast and the colour rendition wasn’t great but Lightroom has put some of that back into the image, and actually I kind of like that muted, slightly desaturated pallette. The biggest problem with some of the others is that they’re way off sharp, however I’m not used to a rangefinder, and as some are sharp(ish) that might be me having problems using it. Amazingly, the exposure isn’t far off, which suprises me as I had doubts about that shutter speed accuracy. I’m definitely going to explore some of the other images with the scanner, and I think I’m going to put more film through it; possibly a fairly contrasty monochrome…

A Photoshoot doomed by technology (possibly)

I’ve just sent off for processing a roll of film on which, frankly, I’ll be astounded if there is anything worth looking at. Any failures I shall, justifiably I think, lay directly at the door of the equipment!

First, the film. A while back my son’s girlfriend came to visit the UK (she’s Dutch) and for fun picked up an old Olympus Trip to try out. She’d never shot film in her life, I forget that lots of people have never shot film, when did I get old? Anyway, to cut a long story (and roll of film) short she’d not made sure the film was tight and it had wound itself so loosely round the takup spool it had popped the back off the camera. I took one look at the, by now, fogged mess, took it out of the camera and loaded a fresh roll of film from the fridge. I was just going to bin the damaged roll but thought that by my guestimate there were probably about about twentyish shots left on the roll. Seemed a pity to waste it so I trimmed a new leader and put it in the fridge on the grounds it was going to come in handy one day..maybe…

Now the camera. In 1979 I bought a FED IV, which were of course new and shiny (if the FED was ever ‘new and shiny) in 1979 as a backup camera for my K1000. I shot a roll of film with it to try it out and discovered that the K1000 was so reliable that I never needed a backup camera. The fact that I still shoot the K1000 now and again demonstrates that. The photos from the FED were, well, okay. It’s sat in various cupboards as we’ve moved house ever since and I sort of felt that I’d quite like to give it a spin again. I have a dark suspicion that I might have at some stage checked it was working mechanically and forgot the golden rule of the soviet rangefinder…never set the shutter speed without cocking the shutter first. Whatever, it felt a bit rough.

So I put the two together, the half(ish) roll of possibly slightly fogged film into a camera which hasn’t seen any film in 4 decades – what can possibly go wrong? Well in a few days I’ll let you know when it comes back from A G Photolab.

I decided not to spend the extra on the optional scanning….

Oh, that’s an old copy of Black and White Photography from 2004. Somebody I know donated me a bag of old issues from the loft. You’ve not missed an issue!

Venturing into Polaroid

Ever since I got back into shooting film, I’ve had a hankering for a polaroid camera; it appears unusually none of my relatives ever owned one, I have no recollection of any of my friends having one either, in fact so far as I can remember I’ve never even seen one used! I was in one of Cirencester’s Charity Shops a couple of weeks ago (Helen and Douglas House in Cirencester if you’re interested, lovely people) and they had one. I got them to take it out for a look, and it looked okay but of course with the battery in the film cartridge you can’t test them. I decided as it was very sensible money I’d take a punt, and they even offered to let me return it if it didn’t work! So I ordered a pack of Polaroid Originals 600, watched some videos on how to use it, and loaded up the film. There was a lot of satisfying whirring and the dark slide popped out, all good thus far….so I pointed and shot…

Well, you have to photograph the cats don’t you?

Who do I think I am, David Bailey?

If you’re British, and of a certain age, you’ll remember the commercials for the Olympus Trip with Brian Pringle as the wedding photographer and David Bailey as, well, himself. If you don’t remember them, or just want a rip down nostalgia lane, you can see it on here on youtube. I never owned one in the 70s mind you, way out of my price range.

But a while back I found myself thinking of getting a nice film compact camera, something I could put in my pocket. There was also an element of the fact that we’re going to Berlin later this year and I rather liked the idea of shooting film in that most creative of cities, on a vintage camera. Sort of get in touch with Bowie changing popular music, that sort of thing. So when I found myself thinking ‘vintage point and shoot’, well there really was only one camera springing to mind. An Olympus Trip. I checked on eBay and they were consistently available, and I read some online reviews by people who said that a good one really held up well and produced some great photos, almost certainly due to that bit of Zuiko glass at the front. So I started following them and set myself a ceiling price of forty quid and it had to be a decent one. I missed several as they were going for forty plus, and I’m in no time pressure, when somebody advertised one going with a Yashica 35 (for which I also found postive stuff online), so I set a celing of fifty five on the grounds there were two of them and got them for fifty one. The whole thing being made even better by the fact that while they weren’t tested the seller said if they didn’t work he’d take them back for a refund.

Well the box arrived, and the trip wasn’t in good condition, it was pretty much factory new! Not a mark on it, no scuffs, dents, none of that stuff cameras pick up in the process of being used. It felt mechanically okay so I stuck a roll of hp5 in it and saw what it could do. I was blown away, the results were great. The selenium light meter coped admirably with snow, which is a challenge for anything and I got crisp and clean images well on a par with those I get from film SLRs. There wasn’t any flaring, but I checked and the light seals are shot and will need to be replaced. I even went out and got a genunine original skylight filter and a lens cap for it to protect the glass.

Fairford in Snow
Fairford in Snow – taken with the Olympus Trip on HP5 (you really need to leave the edge of the frame when scanning :-))

Okay, so Bailey really used a Rolleiflex for most of his stuff, but he didn’t really care much about the hardware so I can believe he might well have shot with one…well I want to believe he did anyway.

Looking for somebody edgy

I’m a fairly regular, though by no means exclusive, film shooter; of course coming from the pre-digital days what all the hipster types are calling retro I’m just treating as normal. I’m not especially brand loyal, but I do tend to buy HP5 like I did back in the 70s. Side note of course, back in the 70s I mainly bought Kodachrome….all hail Kodachrome….bring it back….pause for nostalgia.

Okay, nostalgia break over and back to the post. I was looking on the Lomography site and found they were offering a film called Berlin Kino 400. Now I’m self-knowing enough to realise that this is buying right into the whole aesthetic of an arty, edgy middle europe, the one in which Bowie re-invented himself and wrote Heroes, in which people created art communes in the shadow of the wall, of students sitting around talking about important things, etc. Heck I know what’s going on here! On top of that the reviews and sample images from people who’ve tried it were positive, and now I can do my own monochrome processing (you did read my blog post on that didn’t you?) it’s more economical and fun. Also, got to admit the packaging is gorgeous (it’s actually a colour pack, but hey, it’s a mono film)!

img_1711

So I bit the bullet and ordered 5 rolls of it, I’ve never actually bought film by more than a single before so this was a bit of a first; I have ‘stock’. My wife is very good about not commenting on the erosion of the top shelf in the fridge door to film too..

Well, the thing is of course, I want to use it for, well, photos which have the air of something Bowie might have appeared in while heading to the studio, photos with an edge, perhaps a bit of somewhat run down industrial (I do like a bit of run down industrial). I want to consider the images I want to make, and then go out and make them. I want to look at them and be pleased with them and how they fit in with my vision. But, and there’s a but.

What I really need now is somebody with the right sort of 70s or 80s continental art student edgy look: the Cotswolds is a bit from the Brandenburg Gate for that.

Was ‘it’ worth keeping, you bet your backside it was.

Following on from the vintage theme of my last post with this one.

Several weeks ago at the school where I work they were cleaning out an old storeroom and gave me a shout. “Any idea what this is?” they asked pointing at a leatherette case “and is it worth hanging on to?” What they meant of course is that they didn’t want it so if I thought it worth hanging onto then I was going to have to find room for it in my dept. But what, I wondered, was “this”. I opened the latches and looked. We were briefly in the terms of folks who would enjoy this blog, in the territory of Indiana Jones without snakes, fiendish traps and rampaging nazis.

It was a Kodak Carousel projector, in mint condition, with it’s manual still in the plastic bag.

Naturally I declared it worth hanging on to and took it back to my empire for safekeeping. I didn’t really believe of course that anybody on site was ever going to use it for anything, but hell you can’t not hold onto something like that now can you?

Fast forward a few weeks. My wife and I are going to Rome and wanted to revisit our previous trip from 20 years earlier, when we were younger….and I shot Kodachrome.

I had the projector home in short order because, well a Carousel projector and Kodachrome, the dream team of 1970s AV, you have to do it. My 15 year old was amazed by the spectacle of my loading slides into the magazine, amazed as in “what the hell is that?” amazed. I explained what it did, I explained what slides were, he made some comment about ’21st century’ the ‘the wireless’ and stumped off upstairs. No matter what the young’uns think though eh. My wife and I sat down with coffee and revisited our trip to the first city of the word in the glorious glowing colours Kodak intended.

Oh, and no, it’s not gone back into work. I’ve got more Kodakchrome to revisit.