A lot has happened…

..on the film front. While waiting for my Intrepid 4×5 camera to arrive I did a bit of investigation into panoramic cameras as it’s always been a dream to own a Hasselblad Xpan camera.

What I found was a huge following for pinhole cameras especially one made by a guy in France who goes under the name of Reality So Subtle. He makes a number of cameras with pinholes for lenses. He makes one with a format of 6×17 which gives negatives 60mm high by 170mm long. In film photography terms, that’s a wide negative!The unusual thing about this camera is that it has a curved film plane to control perspective. With pinhole cameras, if the film plane is flat to the pinhole, the edges of the frame go out of focus as the distance from the pinhole to the film is different across the film. With a curved film plane, the distance from ther pinhole to the film is the same across the frame so that the exposure is the same from edge to edge. The downside to this is that the camera must be kept perfectly level or else the horizon will curve. With this in mind, the camera comes with two pinholes; one upper and one lower. Using the upper pinhole puts the horizon on the lower third of the image with more sky and the lower one puts the horizon on the upper third with more foreground.

 

Composition is an issue with some pinhole cameras but this one has sight lines engraved onto the top and sides so that you get a rough idea what will be in your image with solid lines for using the top pinhole and dotted lines for using the lower pinhole.

 

Calculating the exposure is easy as the aperture is fixed at f233 and there are plenty of apps available for calculating exposure for most films with some even calculating the reciprocity failure as well. All in all, this is a great camera to use and gives really good results. I’m still going to hang on for an Xpan but this will keep me going in the meantime.

Car Show

Every year, Inverness holds a classic car show in the city centre. This year the weather was really nice with beautiful sunshine. The downside of this is the sheer amount of people that turn up! Because of this, it’s pretty much impossible to get a clean shot of any of the cars without people getting in the way. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to shoot the smaller details. This was shot on a Hasselblad 503Cx with a digital back and it was amazing the number of people who came up to ask about the camera. Compared to some of the digital cameras on the go, it can look like quite a big lump of gear and I think that’s why people find it fascinating. So, in true Bill Eggleston fashion, it was a case of looking for shapes and colour contrasts and the red and black of this scene jumped out at me. Shot handheld at ISO 200 with a bit of sharpening applied in post to the red light.

More things to learn

So, at the end of last month, I put the vast majority of my digital gear up for sale to concentrate more on shooting film. With the proceeds I’ve invested in an Intrepid 5×4 large format camera. This camera is super simple, as most large format cameras are. There’s somewhere to put a lens, somewhere to put film and bellows in the middle. You can read about them here.One thing I did want to do was to have the ability to scan my film negatives after they were processed. I can’t see me going down the route of doing my own developing as the lab I use is very good but the scanning part can be a bit hit or a miss. With this in mind I investigated the possibility of doing my own scanning. Countless web pages and YouTube videos later, and with just enough money left over from selling my digital gear, I plumped for an Epson v850. Great reviews with enough resolution to make decent sized prints.  The image above was my very first scan. The scanner comes with Epson and Silverfast scanning software and most of the videos I watched, the Epson software was recommended so that’s what I went with. It’s pretty much fool proof and gives great results. This was a scan of a negative shot on my Hasselblad using an 80mm lens on FujiPro 400H film (the Intrepid camera has a lead time of 8 weeks). Although it’s a bit difficult to see as it’s a low resolution image, the scanner has managed to pick up the threads of a spiders web between the bars of the gate. I was absolutely amazed by the quality of the scan and I can’t wait to get the Intrepid to get the bigger negative and see how those scans compare. Roll on the end of August!

Panoramic Cameras

For years I’ve wanted a Hasselblad Xpan panoramic camera. I very nearly bought one a couple of years ago but the seller was asking far too much and wouldn’t barter. It takes 35mm film and shoots in two formats. Either single frames or panoramic frames that measure 24 x 65mm. Obviously, any image can be cropped to this size in Photoshop but, for me, this defeats the purpose. I’ve got a lot of images that I’ve cropped in the past and i’ve shot them wide so i had enough room to crop them down but that’s framing after the fact. With an Xpan, you see exactly what you’re going to get. The image below was framed and shot using the poor man’s Xpan which is 

I was on holiday in the Scottish Borders in April and I ended up in Kelso. In a charity shop I found a plastic panoramic camera for £2. Nothing ventured, nothing gained so I handed over my money. It’s a point and shoot camera as it’s a fixed aperture, fixed shutter speed, fixed ISO and fixed focus. Point it at a composition and press the button. The best bit about using this camera is finding a composition that suits the panoramic format. Unlike the Xpan that gives 21 panoramic frames on a 36 exposure roll, this gives 36 frames on a 36 exposure roll as it only masks the top and bottom of the frame. The lens is totally plastic and, if you look at the image above the centre is really sharp but as you go out to the edges, things get decidedly softer and out of focus. Despite this, i really enjoyed shooting with it. I take it in my camera bag with my Hasselblad. It’s the cheapest camera I own but, with most things film related, there’s a bit of thinking involved using it. Until I get an Xpan, it’ll have to be the next best thing.

 

Number 5

I got my first film camera back when I was 18, a Minolta X300 with a 50mm f1.7 prime lens. I used it to take this image a couple of weeks ago. Like me, it’s beginning to show its age. It’s still a lovely camera to use but it’s got it’s issues. In every roll of film, at some point it will jam and refuse to wind on. If I put it down and leave it for a couple of days it will unjam and work perfectly. I really didn’t want to get rid of it mainly because it was my first “proper” camera and the lens is brilliant.

I was delighted therefore when a friend called me and told me a local charity shop had the same camera for sale with a 35-70mm zoom for £20. After snapping it up I loaded a roll of Kodak Portra 400 and went for a wander around my local area. After frame 14, it jammed and wouldn’t wind on. After a bit of digging about, I’ve since found out that it’s a capacitor failure that causes this problem. If anyone reading this is an expert on electronics, feel free to give a repair a go. I’ll happily send the camera to you! With this in mind, I’m currently on the lookout for a fully manual 35mm film SLR.

Anyway, back to the image above. Shot using the Minolta X300, 50mm f1.7 on Kodak Portra 400. I had the film rated at ISO 100 which is an overexposure of 2 stops which lifts the shadows and, for me, gives a more balanced exposure. Metering was done using a Sekonic 758 in incident metering mode. There’s another wee story to follow about this image which I’ll explain after the end of June!

An Industrial Still Life

Entering competitions is a good way to get feedback on your images. I entered this into Inverness camera clubs monthly competition with the theme of “still life”.  Its sometimes a difficult thing to interpret a theme. When I think of still life I think of fruit in a bowl or wine bottles, flowers in vases, in fact, if you search online for still life images the vast majority of the results will be fruit! With this image I tried to think of something different and, at work one day I was in the welding workshop looking at the bench and the idea came to me.

I tried to gather together everything that said “welding” and arranged the elements into a rough composition.

At this point I started to think about the lighting. Right behind the camera position was a large floor to ceiling window that let in a lot of natural light but it was quite flat with no contrast. To add a bit more contrast I added a video light camera right and played about with it until it looked good. This light was metered, using a handheld meter, at one and a half stops brighter than the window light so that the shadows were filled and not absolute black. I played about with the composition until I got it to look good then set the focus. I shot using an 80mm f2.8 lens which gives roughly the same angle of view as a 50mm lens on 35mm format.

Focusing on a “V” series Hasselblad, in fact, everything about a “V” series Hasselblad is manual. I use a horizontal split screen on mine, meaning it’s a lot easier to focus if something in the scene if vertical. I placed a welding electrode on the table and leaned it on the small bucket to give a point of focus in the middle of the scene that would ensure the front part of the image was sharp. Aperture was f11 which allowed the background to go slightly out of focus. I took three images, shifting the elements in the scene a couple of times and this was the third.

I was really happy with the way it turned out. Post production consisted of a black and white conversion in Lightroom, adjusting the sliders until I got an image that had good contrast with a bit of sharpening on a couple of elements at the front.

Overall the image got really good feedback from the judge. If I remember correctly he gave it either seventeen or eighteen out of twenty which was pretty good for about half an hours work.

Start at the beginning

I got a bit fed up with taking photographs. I had a collection of all singing, all dancing digital cameras. Switch them on, point and shoot. What I wanted to do was to get back to thinking about taking a photograph. To this end I went back to my very first camera, a Minolta X300 and a Hasselblad 503CX. Both fully manual cameras although the Minolta has a built in exposure meter which I don’t use. I was partly inspired by a couple of large format photographers that I follow on YouTube and the process they use for finding and composing an image.

So, the main point of all this is to try and change the way I take photographs and hopefully be a bit more considered in what I shoot.

Firstly, a couple of issues. I’m lucky enough to have a digital back for the Hasselblad but, as all Hasselblad owners will know, it’s just a big box that has lots of nooks and crannies to hide dust in! I hadn’t really thought about this until I put the first couple of images into Lightroom after using the back. This is a 100% crop on a full resolution file which is only a small part of the image. Took forever to clone them all out!!

 

 

 

Cleanliness will be an issue especially since I’ll be swapping between film and digital backs. I had a can of compressed air handy so it’s as clean as I can get it for now.

Second issue is the Minolta stops winding on randomly. It’s over 30 years old so I’m going to try and find out what’s wrong. It was my first camera so I’m determined to keep it going for as long as possible.

There are a few other things that I need to take into account and a couple of other issues I need to solve but I should be good to go so here goes…