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Wednesday, March 25

More portfolio ponderings

Leica M2, 50mm Summicron, Tmax 400 developed in Firstcall Superfine.

T.O.D. contributor David M., in a comment on my previous post, advised against gathering together my "Greatest Hits", lumping them into a box and calling it a "portfolio". David's view is that images benefit from being organised into related groups or themes with each group, if desired, given its own distinctive appearance through image size, paper size, print tone, etc.

As usual, he has a good point. This was something I gave some thought to on my previous portfolio ponderings of 2013 but I was thinking along the lines of a 35mm portfolio and a 6x6 one. I think it jars when a portfolio mixes different formats. I'd even go as far as to suggest that the 35mm groupings might be split into portrait and landscape formats.

Monday, March 23

Portfolio? Is this the year?

I'm starting to gather together some nice Leica negatives that deserve more than
just a quick work print or scan. Leica M2, 50mm Summicron, Tmax 400.

If this question sounds a little familiar then you're probably thinking of the post I wrote here when I explored the not inconsiderable matter of finally printing a portfolio of my best shots. The idea has come to the forefront of my mind again after a very kind and generous reader said he wanted to gift me a box of 10x8 Ilford FB Warmtone paper which he bought with the intention of doing some darkroom work but then realised that there are no facilities within an easy travelling distance of his home.

Friday, March 20

Nothing can eclipse McDonald's!

No prizes for guessing where I watched the eclipse from then. It coincided with my morning coffee today so I whipped out the iPhone and took a few shots. It's just about impossible capturing the actual passing of the moon in front of the sun as the digital sensor just gets swamped with light.

The McDonald's sign was invisible in the dark shadow of the building until the eclipse got well underway and some bright spark decided to switch the lights on. Good move! The shot at the top was done though two sun glass lenses and the windscreen of my car, hence the softness and flare.

The one above was just a straight shot of what was happening but with HDR mode switched on. It didn't seem to make much difference at all. I can never normally be bothered photographing these events as they're just about impossible to do well or with any degree of creativity unless a lot of thought and planning goes into it - and thought and planing aren't my strong suits.

When I got home I put the 10-stop ND filter I have on a Nikon zoom and grabbed the shot above with the D700. The eclipse was almost over by this stage. This shows the problem of photographing the sun like this. A ten-stop ND filter, the lowest ISO setting on the camera, the lens stopped right down and maximum exposure compensation dialled in were needed for this shot - and it's still crap!

Thursday, March 19

The LEICA Diaries - Part Six

There's just something about a Leica film camera, isn't there? I took my 84-year-old mother for a coffee the other day and, while we were tucking into some carrot cake, I brought out the M2 and Summicron to show her.

"Oh, that's a beautiful camera!" she said. "And feel the weight of it." I focused on a window about ten feet away, set the aperture and shutter speed, raised the camera briefly to my eye, reframed and took a photograph of some other customers around the same same distance away.

Monday, March 16

The LEICA Diaries - Part Five

Here's a strange thing that I wasn't expecting with the Leica. Most of us have a "vertical bias" when framing a scene in that we end up with a tilt one way or the other if we're not careful. I hate squint horizons so I try to do my best to keep everything plumb and even.

Sometimes, though, despite thinking I've got everything bang on I'll look at a tilted scene on a negative and wonder how I could have have managed to do that! Surprisingly, this isn't happening with the M2.

Friday, March 13

Artful Cock-Ups

Ilford's Pan F+ is a lovely film capable of producing very sharp and fine-grained negatives but not without its little foibles. For a start, it can be tricky to handle in contrasty light without giving some thought to development. Potentially more serious than that, though, is what can happen to it if you've finished the roll and then wait months to develop it.

Tuesday, March 10

The LEICA Diaries - Part Four

Garden, Westhaven
Leica M2, 35mm f3.5 Summaron, Tmax 400 developed in Firstcall Superfine.

If you read stuff online about loading a film into an early M you might well come away with the idea that it's difficult. Well, all I can say is that loading a roll of film hasn't been a problem at all - it's getting the bugger out that's the hard bit!

Sunday, March 8

Voigtlander Vitessa off to a new home

After much deliberation, I decided to sell my Vitessa despite the excellence of it's fabulous 50mm f2 Ultron lens. It was a hard decision but, after getting the Leica outfit, I realised that you can just have too many rangefinders that you can't frame a scene with. (A wee joke there in case you're wondering).

Friday, March 6

The whys and wherefores of test strips

Contributor David M. continues his look at the essentials of the darkroom with a comprehensive guide to one of the simplest but most important "tools" in the printer's armoury.

A good test strip should give you most of the information you need to produce a
satisfying print.

The Stripper

Here is one of the most encouraging things that I ever learned. There are some things that the great darkroom printers do, and we can do all of them ourselves. This is the greatest lesson I learned from watching a printer I admired. He (it was a he) didn’t do anything that I couldn’t do, and do easily. It was not like making Benedictine or becoming an MP. There were no secrets at all.

Tuesday, March 3

The LEICA Diaries: Part Three

Leica M2, 50mm Rigid Summicron, Tmax 400 developed in Firstcall Superfine.

BLOODY LENS CAPS! Yes, I've taken my first pic with a blinkered lens. The solution? The lens caps now live permanently in a drawer in my darkroom. I've put UV filters on the lenses instead. Just need to remember not to leave the camera out in bright sunshine in case the rays burn a hole in the shutter cloth. Mind you, it's less of a threat up here in Scotland than in California.

Here's another near-first for me. With an SLR, I practically never lose a frame through poor focusing. I'd certainly have no excuse if I did as I don't really photograph anything that moves and can take as much time as I want to get the focus spot on. But with the Leica? Everything looks in focus when you look through the viewfinder and I'm guessing that's the reason I forgot to focus on a couple of frames. On the plus side, the Summicron's bokeh is nice! Mental note: Leica lenses don't focus themselves.