Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Then and The Now

  It is a particularly slow day at work today and i find myself tired of looking at website after website.  My mind is drifting, looking back over the past year or so that i have been a photographer and thinking of the mistakes made, the cameras bought and the photos taken.

  I remember first getting into photography because my girlfriend (now my wife) was a keen photographer.  She had studied digital photography at college and i thought i would get a camera so we could go out on trips together, after all – she would come rock climbing with me, it was only fair i do things she is interested in with her.  I ended up with a Lomography Diana F+ as i liked the look of the lomo style photos and wanted a film camera.  I bought some rolls of film off Ebay (Fuji Provia and Ilford FP4+ if i recall) and got shooting.  I got my films developed at a local(ish) lab and started uploading my photos to Flickr. 

  As time went on i kept acquiring more film and shooting more rolls and i really enjoyed it.  Jess’ interest was starting to wane however, she very rarely picked up her camera anymore and when she did she just didn’t seem motivated to shoot at all.  As i got more and more keen i started picking up more gear.  A Jobo CPE-2  to develop C-41 film at home with, a Paterson tank for black and white developing, a Holga 120 WPC for panoramic pinhole shots, a Lubitel 166B, an Epson v500 to scan all my negatives and eventually my Bronica SQ-A kit.  The Bronica is my main camera these days, it’s just great to have a camera which i can change film backs/lenses on and which has apertures of f2.8 on the lenses.  Im getting into off-camera flash photography with it which is really interesting as it’s an extra avenue of investigation to take.  I feel like i have neglected my Diana lately though, perhaps i should shoot more rolls with it soon.

  I have also got into Polaroid shooting over the past 6 months or so.  I started off by finding an old Polaroid 100 integral camera at a local antique store for £5.  I got some Impossible Project film and got shooting.  Not so long after that i picked up a Polaroid 645CL 600 camera from the same store for the same price.  I stumbled upon a guy online who was selling 30 twin packs of Polaroid 600 film for £90.  Needless to say i bought it, kept some for me and sold some (mostly to pay house-related bills).  A few months later i discovered the Polaroid folding Land camera range.  Wow those cameras look great.  I scoured Ebay and found a 103 for £20 and bought it immediately.  I modded the battery and loaded it with some Fuji FP-100C and got shooting.  Not long after that i saw a 101 with case, flash and spare bulbs going in a local auction.  I placed my bid and won.  I have modded the battery but haven’t yet managed to load any film into it.  Hopefully i’ll get some soon and it will all be working fine; im looking forward to trying out the flash.

  It’s interesting to look through all my photos and see how i have progressed.  Some of my favourite photos even now are ones that i took mere months into my photographic career.  My favourite may well be this photo of Jess smelling a flower.  I took it with my Diana on some cross processed Provia 400 and i just love it.

  I think about all the technical mistakes i have made.  Developing black and white film in C-41 chemicals, pulling film out of my changing bag instead of the paper backing, shooting a roll without removing the darkslide-all mistakes i am sure many people have made.  But i guess we learn from making mistakes, even though we may feel stupid at the time.  I have got my black and white developing technique nailed now and im happy with how my C-41 negatives are coming out.  I’m still working on a definitive scanning process to improve the quality of my digital images though, and i haven’t even started to think about darkroom printing.

  Im not trying to brag about the gear i have or what i can do or anything, it’s just interesting to look back at where i started and where i am now.  The first time i picked up my Diana i had no idea that soon i would be developing my own film and shooting wide angle pinholes, swapping lenses on an SLR and doing emulsion lifts on Polaroids.  I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for me.  I would like to get a telephoto lens for my Bronica and maybe another flash and some extension tubes.  Maybe even a Hasselblad one day (those Zeiss lenses are so sharp).  I’d love to maybe even own a Graflex Speed Graphic one day and shoot some Collodion Plates.  Maybe one day ill even have my own darkroom and i will be able to do my own printing, which would open up a whole new world on toning, tinting and alternative processing. 

  Im thinking lately about getting shooting slide film normally instead of with a view to cross processing.  I have some Fuji Velvia 50 in my film box which i have cross processed every time i have shot it; perhaps it’s time i got it developed in E6.  I’ve also been working on some cyanotypes lately.  My wife bought me some Sunography paper, but i note you can get kits from Silverprint that you can use to coat your own paper; perhaps ill invest in a kit at some point soon.

  When im not shooting it’s nice to look around on websites like Flickr or THIAPS for inspiration, or the Strobist site for lighting technique.  Sites like APUG are good as well as it’s good to be able to advise others and get advice yourself from people who know what they’re talking about.

  But for now im content with what i have and what im doing.  Im happy being able to just go out and shoot with my different cameras and films; finding new locations and honing my skills, working on new techniques and improving my shots.   

  That’s my story so far anyway.  I’m sure that soon there will be something to add to it.

  I’d love to hear from you about your story, however long you have been shooting.  Feel free to comment on this blog or even email me about it.


  1. Hi,
    I came across your blog via 120 film, via Facebook. I just finished ready your story, and find it very interesting! I've been shooting film as a creative outlet/hobby for nearly 2 years, and got into it quite by happenstance. One day in an art store I picked up a Diana Mini, because it looked cute and retro, and I thought I would use it while accompanying my daughter on her high school photography class assignments. A few rolls later, I was hooked--I loved the colors, the dreamy quality. I look back to then, and where I am now---with my collection of large and medium format cameras, pinhole cameras, and, like you, developing my own black and white. When I picked up that Diana Mini, I would never have thought I'd be where I am today in this grand adventure. I am having SO much fun and love every aspect; I even embrace the mistakes, though sometimes frustrating, as just part of the whole process.

    I've always been involved in something creative--prior to film photography I focused on mixed-media collage. But film photography and the cameras have "grabbed" my interest and imagination in a way nothing else ever has.

    My eventual goal is a 4x5 camera and alternative processes, including wet collodian. I have participated in a cyanotype and Van Dyke Brown workshop, and am very excited about exploring these processes further. Other than traditional developers like D-76 and HC-110, I've done some caffenol development.

    My favorite cameras include my 4x5 pinhole, in which I've only shot paper so far, and my Holga pinholes, both the WPC and PC. I also love my Yashica TLRs and 50's box cameras. My most recent acquisition is a 2x3 Graflex RB Series B.

    I spend a lot of time researching, love experimenting, am very appreciative of all the inspiring artists I've come in contact with, and can't believe I've learned this whole new language. :)

    Here's to the grand adventure of film photography!

  2. Hey SparkySteph, great to hear from you. its always nice to get comments on the blog form fellow enthusiasts. sounds like we started in much the same way except i went for the Diana F+! Great little cameras. i am jealous of your 4x5 - i am starting to regularly check out graflex speed graphics on google images - damn those are beautiful machines! but i must resist!

    my wife has just granted permission for putting an enlarger in our spare room (at last - a darkroom) so im currently working on getting gear for that together. once thats setup its print print print and then when im used to that time for some alt processes. i would love to try wet plate collodion because those types of photos look amazing. but thats something for the distant future for me at the moment.

    where can i check your photos out? do you have a flickr page or blog at all?

    i like your spirit - keep it going!!

  3. Hi again :)

    Yes, here's my flickr page:

    Oh, I'm jealous you are setting up a darkroom! Right now I work out of the smaller of my two bathrooms. Its workable but very cramped. I load my film in there, and also tray develop my 4x5 paper. The biggest drawback is lack of ventilation, as I have the window covered, but I'm only using 4x5" trays, so the amount of chemicals is small. I was given a bunch of paper 5x7 and 8x10 paper, so I cut that down on a rotary cutting board in the bathroom, too, under a safelight.

    My best friend and her husband are giving me a 4x5 Bessler enlarger they bought for their son, but has been unused and in storage for a few years. I'm moving soon, to another state, so I hope my new abode will have space for me to set something up.

    My 4x5 camera is a beautiful mahogany and brass pinhole, built by a local photographer friend. Last month I was closely watching a number of 4x5 Speed and Crown Graphics on eBay, along with the Graflex RB Series B and D. I narrowed my search to the Graflex RBs, as I've been fascinated by them for awhile. The bidding on the 4x5 went too high for me, so I got a 2x3 instead, and its a beauty! I would still like a 4x5 someday. And I probably will end up with a Crown or Speed, too. I know what you mean about having to resist! The Graflex was a birthday gift to myself, with help from my mom, so I was able to justify the purchase! :)

    Yes...there is just something magical and moving about collodian. When I relocate, I'll be an hour away from a business that specializes in alternative processes. I'll have to teach myself, however, as the workshops are way too expensive. Hooray for the internet! But at least I can go there to check out the chemistry, and talk to people.

    All for now...have a good weekend!


  4. a free 4x5 enlarger is a nice find! think ive finally found someone with a darkroom kit for me to buy - checking it out on wednesday and hopefully tis in good condition so i can buy it. have you seen the documentary with ian ruhter about the huge collodions he makes using his van as a camera? its amazing.