Friday, April 18

For Nostalgia Lovers Everywhere...



I came across these on the PetaPixel website the other day and just love them, especially the one above. They're screen printed posters done by a guy called Jerome Daksiewicz as a way of celebrating analogue photography.

Wednesday, April 16

Polypan F back in stock


Photo by Michael Raso

Have any readers used this stuff? I'm not aware that it's on sale in the UK but it looks an interesting film. The Film Photography Project sold out a while back but now have more Polypan F in stock and, unlike some Lomography products, it's reasonably priced at $4.99 for a 24-exposure roll. Previously, it had only been available in bulk but the FPP is now hand-rolling it.

Tuesday, April 15

Part Two: Tri X/Acurol-N - The dull day film search goes on!




The pics here are some others from the roll of Tri X I shot in dull and misty conditions and developed in Spur Acurol-N to see if the combination would impart some sparkle to low contrast scenes. It can be dangerous extrapolating from just one roll of film but I have to say that I like this look.

The photographs in this post were of particularly dull scenes - even for me - but it's still been possible to get something with a bit of punch. The four pics here were all shot in about ten minutes after I'd left Cath in the car a short distance away.

It was quite a chilly day and the car was parked half on a grass verge on a narrowish road and I didn't want to leave her in that position for too long in case a big lorry had to pay a visit to one of the local farms. So the pics were taken, chameleon-like, with one eye on the viewfinder and another peering back up the road, all the while listening for rumbling tyres.


The set up here was the same as in Part One - an Olympus OM2n with a couple of Zuiko primes. The shot of the bath in the drystone dyke was done on the 24mm f2.8 and the others with the 50mm f2 macro. The Tri X was rated at 400 ISO, a speed at which it gets a half-zone contrast boost in Acurol-N.

The thing that attracted me to this scene was the bulk of the farm buildings in the mist and drizzle. It made a nice, atmospheric backdrop so it was just a case of finding something to stick in the foreground. I messed around with a few combinations but I like the one at the top of the page the most. I think the picture of the road just above also works because of the way the white paint stands out amidst the murkiness. It's the only real highlight in the scene.


When I was scanning the pic above of the old bath used as a trough by the local beasties, I realised I missed a trick by not rearranging the bottles. I should have pulled them, neck first, to the nearest right hand corner so that they filled the area of water at the front. Never mind, I'm sure there will be other misty, drizzly days around Carnoustie. :)


My first image of the gate had the farm buildings centred directly over the top of it. At the shooting distance, the gate and the buildings were the same width on the film. But it looked a bit static so I took another with the two forms just displaced.

I was tempted to go in closer and get the gate bigger in the foreground but I've learned from experience that it's easy to lose a sense of context when I do that. We've all been told over the years to "fill the frame" but it's not always the best policy. Sometimes space around the subject gives a better sense of place.

So, I reckon that I'll be using a lot more Tri X in Acurol-N in future and would love to see how it looks in medium format. Although I don't mind a bit of grain I don't like too much and, until I print these 35mm negatives, I won't know for sure if the grain is too big for my taste. With medium format, that worry would disappear.

One final thing that struck me on this outing is the great sense of freedom shooting a 400 ISO film handheld gives me. Yes, it's good to use a tripod whenever you can but sometimes it can actually get in the way of photography.

Take the bathtub photo. I was semi-straddling the dyke to get this one and the moss-covered stones were pretty slippery. The front edge of the tub was only a couple of feet away and it would have taken me a while to get the tripod set up for this shot. There's no way I'd have managed to get it and the other shots in ten minutes wrestling with my old Slik three-legged monster!

Saturday, April 12

Talking Gear: Camera Bags, the Devil's Spawn


I've been meaning to write this post for a while as much to garner your opinions about what makes a good bag as anything else. Is there anyone out there who has found their perfect bag? I suspect the silence might be deafening.

Over the years, I've picked up a few bags, mostly secondhand, but, after an initial burst of enthusiasm, they've been relegated to the status of camera storage containers, left behind in cupboards and hardly ever seeing the light of day, dull or otherwise.

They were bought on the recommendations of people on camera forums and include two Billinghams, a Domke, a Lowepro Slingshot and a Crumpler. Of these, the only one I actually use as a camera bag on a regular basis is the Domke. It's an F803 and is a great, no frills bag if you just want to go out with a camera, two lenses and a few rolls of film. I constantly switch one outfit or another in and out of the bag.

www.theonlinedarkroom.com, domke f803, crumpler bunny man, billingham 335, billingham 225, lowepro slingshot, fotima
Domke F803 with my Contax outfit. A nice combination.


www.theonlinedarkroom.com, domke f803, crumpler bunny man, billingham 335, billingham 225, lowepro slingshot, fotima
It's quite a tall bag but it's difficult to make much use of the upper area.

But I often want to take a lens or two more than that and that's where I have a few problems with the Domke. I can fit more gear into the expanding pockets at the front but the trouble comes when you want to change lens as there's nowhere to put the lens I'm taking off and holding it between my knees - as I often do - is inviting disaster.

Thursday, April 10

Part One: Tri X/Acurol-N - The dull day film search goes on!



www.theonlinedarkroom.com, analog, analogue, silver gelatin, film, darkroom, tri x, kodak,, om2n, om2, olympus, developer, development, spur, acurol-n

This might seem like an obsession to some readers but if you knew the number of dull days we get in the part of Scotland where I live you'd maybe be a little obsessive, too. A "normal" film and "normal" development results in some very flat-looking negs. I've tried a few film and developer combinations in search of something that endows a scene with a little sparkle. After this quick look at Tri X and Acurol-N I reckon this combination is the front runner just now.

Spur Acurol-N is a developer that seems to give a little boost to mid range contrast and not just denser highlights which is sometimes the only effect of extending development in search of extra oomph.

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An acutance developer, it can be used at dilutions of up to 1+150 although most of the time it's in the 1+35 to 1+70 range. Tri X has to be rated at 250 ISO to achieve a normal contrast range with Acurol-N at 1+50. Shot at 400 ISO and given the 1+35 treatment, it gets the equivalent of about plus half a zone contrast increase. At 640 ISO, it gets a +1 zone increase and at 1000 ISO a whopping +2 zone boost.

www.theonlinedarkroom.com, analog, analogue, silver gelatin, film, darkroom, tri x, kodak,, om2n, om2, olympus, developer, development, spur, acurol-n

I decided to start slowly and build up to the higher contrast treatment if it was needed so I shot the roll at 400 ISO and gave it 15 minutes at 1+35. It might not look it from the pictures on this page but it really was quite a dull day which speaks volumes for the Tri X/Acurol-N combination. The negative scans got a levels tweak in Lightroom, a slight edge burn and a light sepia tone so they're not "straight". But I know from trying some other film and developer pairings that much more drastic post-processing treatment is often necessary to achieve a similarly nice tonal range.

For a variety of reasons, I just haven't been able to get into the darkroom for a while and I'd much rather print from the negs before saying too much more but, from what I can see from the scans, they're nice and sharp and the grain is very crisp. It's not the finest grain I've ever seen - nor the most obvious - but it's quite acceptable and actually adds something to the moody look I was after.

www.theonlinedarkroom.com, analog, analogue, silver gelatin, film, darkroom, tri x, kodak,, om2n, om2, olympus, developer, development, spur, acurol-n

The subject for all these pics is Westhaven, a small fishing community just along the coast from my home in Carnoustie. They show the old moorings set into the rocks, something that can only be seen when the tide is out. The camera was an Olympus OM2n and the lens the lovely little 24mm f2.8 Zuiko.

There wasn't an awful lot of light around but I was mostly shooting into whatever there was. The OM2 is great for this type of thing. Instead of using it on manual, I keep it on aperture priority auto and use the large exposure compensation dial when I need to make adjustments. For some of the shots, 1.5-2 stops extra exposure was needed to get some detail in the shadows. Dialling that in through exposure compensation is quicker than switching to manual but you have to remember to reset the dial or everything will be shot with the same exposure adjustment.

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I had about ten pics off the roll that I thought were worth showing but that's too many for one post so I'll split them up and add them in Part Two. The photographs divide up quite nicely as the rest are from a different subject - but still shot on a dull day!

You might also like:

Firstcall 400S In Rodinal
New Spur HRX Dev: Same Grain, More Speed
A Sharp Wee Number

Monday, April 7

Why do we talk such rubbish about lenses? Part Two


I've had my Zeiss lenses for the Contax system for about eight years and have come to love their look. The negatives from the 50mm f1.4 Planar and 28mm f2.8 Distagon just seem to have a sparkle about them and I've often imagined that I can pick them out just by that look alone.

So it was natural that I should do a few test shots with the Planar to show how much better it is than other 35mm system lenses I have such as the Zuikos and, in particular, the famed 50mm f2 Macro. Bad idea. 


The fact is that the Zeiss negatives didn't really look any different when directly compared with those from the Zuikos. I was keen to get some high res scans done to prove to myself that this weird anomaly was just an aberration.

Saturday, April 5

Production problems hit new Ilford Classic



There's an interesting thread at the Film and Darkroom Users Group (FADU) about the recently-introduced Ilford Classic FB multigrade paper, specifically the fact that it's just about unobtainable in the UK at the moment.

A few tentative theories were advanced as possible explanations - most correct in some part -  but now Matthew Wells, who runs AG Photographic, has stepped in to shed some light on an issue that only affects Classic and not the Cooltone or Warmtone FB versions.

Thursday, April 3

Why do we talk such rubbish about lenses? Part One


OK, it's a provocative title and I'm as guilty as the next person of hyperventilating about lenses but it's still a question worth asking. We go on and on about sharpness, contrast, bokeh, glow, etc, as if they make a huge difference - but do they?

We all know what an unsharp photo looks like but, providing an image is "sharp", does it really matter how sharp? Has a photograph ever failed because, although sharp, it wasn't quite as ultimately sharp as it could have been given a fair head of steam and a tail wind?

Yes, the best Leica lenses are probably better than the rest but what does that mean? That you can only take a valid picture with a Leica? Hardly. In fact, if you take a look round Flickr I think you'll find that many of the really boring images were taken with a Leica. Although it has to be said that the pet cat and garden flower close-ups are usually very, very sharp.

Tuesday, April 1

Great Landscape Work


Caption: The Beach Flower, Camera: Hasselblad H1, Lens: 35mm,
Film: Fuji Velvia 50, Aperture: f/16, Exposure: 4s, 
Filters: Lee ND
 Graduated Hard 0.6. By Marek Potoma.

I've always spent a lot of time looking at photography websites, something that intensified after I got an iPad which I plug directly into the cerebral cortex via an enhanced USB connection - at least that's what Cath suspects. And yet, there are always new sites that I stumble across and immediately wonder how I could possibly have missed them.

One such is this landscape site which is published by a photographers Otakar Hevler and Marek Potoma. It's full of quite stunning landscapes, many in good old film. I found it whilst looking through the stats for The Online Darkroom. It was in the list of referring sites which pass traffic on to me. I'm always curious what the referring blog has to say about TOD that would prompt its readers to pay me a visit so I had to go and check it out.

Their website gave TOD a mention saying it was "one of the best blogs related to traditional darkroom", which was very nice of them. Of course, this didn't in any way colour my judgement when it came to giving Land and Colors a plug here. It really didn't. No.

Otaker is another who shares my view of the ideal photographic weather. He said, "Most of my friends do not understand why I am going out when the weather conditions are so miserable that nobody would let the dog out and why I am always complaining when the perfect sunny day is pleasing all of them."

However, it seems they took this to extremes earlier this month when they were stranded on the Isle of Harris when strong winds led to the cancellation of the ferry back to the mainland, causing them to miss their flights home. Foreign visitors sometimes don't realise what we Scottish photographers have to put up with until they experience it for themselves.

Marek explained, "The Isle of Harris and Lewis sounded like the right destination, and we have not changed the timing of our annual Land & Colors tour despite I read somewhere that coming to Hebrides in the winter time calls for lots of problems. Now I know what they meant… I can hardly remember a less favourable weather conditions, way too much of heavy raining and winds often prevented us from pulling the cameras out at all. I love tough goings but this just has been largely excessive. The cancelled ferry service speaks for itself…"

Been there and got the t-shirt. It's one of the reasons I haven't done much long-exposure photography lately: I got fed up of being buffeted by strong winds, soaked by horizontal rain and risking the onset of trench foot as the waves repeatedly drenched my trainers.

Please have a look at the Land and Colours site if you'd like to see some lovely landscape work. I don't do much colour work myself but I still appreciate it if it's done on film. I can't say the same for digital as I'm fed up of over-saturated, semi HDR'd images. There are also plenty of lovely black and white images. Their blog, in particular, is an enjoyable read.

If only we could persuade Otakar and Marek to stick exclusively to film we'd be able to give Land and Colors an unqualified thumbs-up!

Saturday, March 29

Death to Spammers


I've been on the receiving end of so many spam comments that I'm going to have ask that anyone leaving a comment (thank you all!) from now on appends a name to it, even if it's a pseudonym. Obviously it would be nice if you left your real name but I totally understand the preference some people have to keep their web presence as quiet as possible.

The bottom line is that I can no longer accept anonymous comments. I'm getting several hundred a week and, since a few bona fide commenters leave anonymous comments, I have to check each one to make sure I don't miss anything. It takes quite a while to do this.

If I know there will be no legitimate comments left anonymously by readers then I can just delete all the spam comments without reading them. I've left a message to that effect on the comments form. Since I can't personally track down and dispatch the spammers, this is my only option. Thanks for your understanding.