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Sunday, March 25

Walkabout with the OM1


It's hard to believe it's been so long since my last post. I suppose I must have just lost the motivation necessary for regular blogging. Don't know if I've got it back to be honest but, at least, I'm sitting at the computer writing something so that's a start.

The winter was a bleak time in terms of my photography - no motivation again. There's a pattern emerging here. But once February came round and there were tentative signs of growth in the countryside - snowdrops are a lovely sight - I got the urge again to pick up a camera and get out and about.


Since then I've gone through 14 films with a ratio of about 2:1 in favour of 35mm over 120. Those I developed have all been 35mm, mostly Tmax 100. It's the 120 HP5 I'm looking forward to seeing, though. They were exposed during the snowy conditions a few weeks ago, rated at 200 ISO for development at 1+2 in Perceptol.

My Carse of Gowrie project has occupied me most but I've also been getting in some decent early morning coastal walks in the company of a small Olympus OM1 outfit in a bid to build up a little fitness and shed a few pounds.


My enthusiasm for photography has completely returned, I'd say. I'm itching to get out to the Carse whenever the opportunity arises. And I'm quite pleased with the variety of images I'm getting, the snow helping no end to freshen up some over-familiar scenes.

I still can't make up my mind whether I'm a 35mm photographer or a medium format man. Does it even matter? Just now I'm using the two formats interchangeably and it's working well. The next tool I'm going to add is a step ladder. The Carse is quite flat and even the ability to raise the camera 10 feet or so above the landscape can make a big difference.



The days are still quite dark up here in Scotland when the sun's not shining and the Tmax 100 I've had in the OM1 has been borderline in terms of speed for hand-held photography. The standard exposure on a dull day is 1/60th at f4 which doesn't leave much room for manoeuvre. I'll be switching shortly to HP5 for my 35mm stuff in the Carse as well although that'll only give me an extra stop because of the speed loss in Perceptol.

I think I've got another eight films to develop but there will be no printing for a little while. The darkroom is still doing double duty as a bicycle workshop so it's negative scans only for the time-being.




So that's the up-to-date picture regarding my photography. On to the photographs now. I was going to post a mix of the Carse shots and my walkabout stuff. The latter is good for "keeping the eye in" but never seems to produce many photographs beyond "OK". However, the post would have ended up a right guddle so I'll keep the Carse shots for another day.

The pics in this post were all taken on Tmax 100 with the OM1 and either the 24mm f2.8 Zuiko or the 50mm f2 macro Zuiko, both great lenses. Number 1 was an early morning walkabout shot of a nice sky over the North Sea. I was looking for something in the foreground that might mirror the distinctive cloud pattern. I tried sand patterns and some rocks along the beach but liked the steps and railings the most.

Number 2 is a simple shot of a residential caravan overlooking the beach. The various elements just seemed to come together in a harmonious composition and that was enough for me. Confession time: number 3 was a set-up. I saw the empty Fanta bottle lying at the side of the road. Some ignorant git had apparently found it easier to throw it out of his or her car window than deposit it in a bin - of which there are plenty in the area - so I picked it up to do the job for them. I loathe litter-bugs. Anyway, on the way to the bin, I saw the puddle with the light shining through the spars of a fence and placed the bottle in the middle of it. Had the bottle been floating off the beach I might have called this one Fanta-Sea. Fanta-Puddle seems to be lacking something.

Numbers 4 and 5 are shots of Arbroath F.C.'s Gayfield Park. It's quite a big step away from Old Trafford or the Bernabeu. I tried to capture the bleak and spartan nature of lower league football grounds. I'm too readily attracted to scenes with a variety of vertical poles and lines.

The next pair were taken at the old stables just north of Dundee that I've featured on the blog before here. It's got loads of character and atmosphere although every time I pay it a visit it shows itself to be more and more dilapidated. It's probably just a matter of time before the landowner decides that it's so far gone that he'll be able to overcome the stables' listed building status and replace it with a couple of ugly houses. Such is modern life. These were done on the OM1 as well but I do wonder if I might be better tackling the stables with the 5x4 as there's a lot of texture there that really needs a large format neg.

And now we've reached number 8, a quirky wee shot. When I took this I had a vague idea in my mind that the stones and benches were spectators. But what might they have been looking at? Could it just be the reflection of the sun on the wet path? Perhaps, like me they were looking for signs of spring.

Finally, I thought I'd say something about walkabout cameras and lenses. I've tried various combinations over the years but the OM1 with the 24mm and 50mm Zuikos is proving to be a great team. Sometimes just one lens can prove a bit limiting. A body and three lenses is overkill and too heavy for that type of casual photography. The Olympus outfit I'm using is not only light but compact as well. I'm using the 50mm f2 Zuiko macro but the standard fifty would do just as good a job really in tandem with the diminutive wide angle. There's not much you can't tackle with those two lenses.

One thing about the OM mount that's useful if you're doing a lot of lens swapping is the fact that the lens release button is on the lens mount and not the camera. As far as I'm concerned, it's so much easier grabbing the lens with a thumb on the release button, a quick twist and it's off. I can't think of a quicker system for changing lenses short of a zoom.


Martyn Lacey said...

Welcome back Bruce

dave bjorn said...

what iso did you shoot the tmax at? what developer? they look pretty awesome. also, do you adjust the histogram when scanning? thanx for sharing.

Herman Sheephouse said...

Firstly Bruce, pick up this ball and run with it. These are great photos - I like them all and it is good to have you back writing and doing what you always do, exposing little bits of the unknown East Coast and making them look something beautiful.

Secondly, the stables . . . SL66 all the way. You'll struggle with a large format camera in such dull conditions - it really isn't easy at all, and with the SL66 at least you have a bit of perspective control. Looking forward to them already!

Good to have you back!


DcAnalogue said...

Nice to read you again Bruce.
I'm in the same situation and motivation is at its lowest level. My darkroom (and my blog) are closed since some months. Some rolls remains unfinished into some cameras and some still wait to be developed.
Ok I've job problems but nevertheless hope to find some motivation regarding film... sooner or later.... ;-)

Tony Cearns said...

Yes, good to hear from you again. My problem is slightly different. I have competing projects,( photography, fly fishing, dog training, mountain walking, philosophy) which means I don't get good at any particular one. So I struggle on... I enjoy the openness and honesty of your blog. Very different to many that I read.

Martyn Lacey said...

The chairs and stones remind me of one of James Ravilious shots of chairs having been abandoned by people who were occupied elsewhere in the course of their holiday. There is a sort of connection disconnection going on if you see where I am coming from.
Incidentally, I have just acquired a new book "The recent past" James Ravilious introduced by John Hatt with forward by Robin Ravilious, James's widow. Robin has her own book out too "James Ravilios-A life" which will be my next purchase book-wise. who says us southern softies don't get snow.

DavidM said...

At last, some decent breakfast-time reading and viewing.
As a roaring lion, eh? Well done you.
For the textures, a tripod will help. And if you're using a tripod, the biggest neg possible, although an SL66 is probably quite good enough for most things, unless you have a great deal of sideways perspective correction to do.
As everybody else has said or thought: Welcome back.

Dave Jenkins said...

Welcome back, Bruce. I've been checking your blog every day.

I'm a big fan of the Zuiko 24mm/f2.8. When I got my original Olympus OM kit in 1979, I bought both the 21/3.5 and the 28/2.8. In 1982 I acquired a 2nd-hand 24/2.8 and found it handled my wide-angle needs just fine. The other two lenses mostly sat on the shelf from then on until I sold them.

Thanks for the heads-up about the Ravilious books, Martyn. I love his work and have four of his books, but did not know about the latest two. I just ordered the biography by his wife, but "Recent Past" is not cheap and will have to wait. I note that all his books have gone up quite a bit, so if I wished to sell the ones if have (I don't), I could make a tidy profit!

Steve Weston said...

Welcome back Bruce. Like you I had mojo failure for at least the last 18 months. The darkroom has become a bit of a store room and cameras sat Idle with half eaten rolls in them. I did remember to take the batteries out though. I was very close to selling up but every time I looked at them I decided I needed to wait a little longer just in case. Recently following a conversation with one of the locals I decided to pick a camera up and take it out for a walk. Im sure the shots won't be anything great but it did fill good to be using the camera again. So now I'm off to have a cleanup of the darkroom and see if that comes back.

Kodachromeguy said...

Very nice! I love that type of soft or gloomy light. Where I live (Mississippi) much of my photography is in fall/winter/spring because the summer light is unfailingly sunny and glarey. As for Tmax 100, I had not used it much in past years, but have recently been using it a lot. I am more and more impressed. It is not quite like my old friend, Panatomic-X, but the Panatomic was almost always tripod-only because I exposed it at EI of 20 or 25. The Tmax 100 at EI of 80 is certainly more convenient.

One suggestion: try to find some of the long-discontinued Ektar 25 or Gold 25 (the same thing) and use it on wet or gloomy days. I really like the color palette under those conditions.

Bruce Robbins said...

Many thanks for all the nice comments everyone. It's good to be back. I think Sinatra has still had more comebacks than me but he's no longer in a position to make any more. It's difficult responding to all the comments using this comments system but there are a couple of questions from Dave Bjorn that need answers. The Tmax 100 was at box speed. The developer was ID11 at stock. I normally use it at 1+1 or 1+3 but decided to give it a go undiluted and I think I prefer the tonality that way. There seems to be a little bit more contrast. Remains to be seen how much of a hit sharpness takes or if it's even noticeable. All of the scans are given levels and curves adjustments. They're usually sharpened a little. I try to print them all full frame although I've found it easier adding a black border in Photoshop than using the negative rebate.

It's a shame to see a few people also struggling with motivation. I'm not sure what the answer is. I just waited it out until I got the urge to pick up a camera again. Forcing myself to take pictures doesn't seem to work for me. Projects can help but it's got to be something you find intensely interesting and that's not always easy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bruce, nice images as always :). I have a OM4Ti and an OM2n. I love shooting them but both have light leaks (foams have been replaced - the light leaks are visible from about frame 25 to 32). So I either go about with my two M6’s or with Nikons. Nothing wrong with those - especially the lenses - but the OM’s are so nice in the hand. Cheers, Koen

MartyNL said...

Congratulations on a cracking first post in a while Bruce.

Kerstin said...

I am very happy to see you at last found some words. Your last post made me somewhat worried and I have missed your personal writing and imaging. OMs are very nice cameras and my favourite walkabout gear. I have a setup deposited in the office for casual lunch walks, which is my best medicine against lost motivation. They get me out of the building which is always a good thing. And more often than not I find something worth a few frames. Looking forward to read your next post.

John Carter said...

I vote for number 7.