Edinburgh LoFi group August outing

Low tech camera fun on a photowalk with three very different cameras.

With our usual meeting place packed to the rafters during the Edinburgh Festival, the Edinburgh LoFi Photography group escape the city every August for a photowalk outing instead. This year we headed west along the River Forth to Blackness and a walk along the shoreline to Abercorn.

I took three cameras: my Vest Pocket Kodak model B loaded with ReraPan 100 127 film, my Harman TiTAN 4×5 pinhole camera loaded with Direct Positive paper and my kit 35mm TLR (plastic Recesky/Graffenflex clone) loaded with Kentmere 100 film.

The company was genial, the weather fine enough and our assorted cameras varied and quirky. I had a reason for each of the cameras I had taken. Here’s how I got on, camera by camera. The images are all straight unretouched scans of the negatives or paper.

Vest Pocket Kodak model B

A junk-shop find gift for Father’s Day from my younger daughter, this camera was in great condition when it arrived except for a small light leak in the bellows. I blogged about repairing the leak here a couple of months ago and this was the camera’s first outing with film to check that all was now well.

There are four aperture settings giving f/11, f/16, f/22 and f/32. I reckon the shutter speed is about 1/30th sec on the ‘I’ (for Instantaneous) setting and there is also a ‘T’ setting which allows the shutter to be opened with one stroke of the lever and then closed with a second stroke. The bellows open to what is effectively a fixed focus setting for infinity. All eight frames were exposed at f/16. Frames three and four, taken inside Abercorn church were exposed for approximately eight seconds each with the camera tripod mounted.

I am really pleased with these. The light leak is definitely fixed and this ninety year old camera functions as it would have done in it’s hey-day. I could have made better use of the aperture settings for frames 5, 6 and 8 as these are a tad overexposed.

The ReraPan 100 film was developed in Ilfosol 3 diluted 1+9 for six minutes at approximately 18ºC.

Harman TiTAN 4×5 Pinhole

I’ve had this several years now and with Direct Positive paper it is one of my favourite image making combos. Abercorn Churchyard was one of the first places I took it to try out. The results of that early outing were put down to being a learning experience, both for angle of view and exposure. This was an opportunity to prove that lessons have been learned! I was not disappointed.

Direct Positive paper is high contrast with a short range that is uncompromising in exposure and development. But get it right and it absolutely rocks with deliciously deep subt’ly detailed blacks and a luscious texture that really needs to be appreciated as an original print rather than as a scanned digital image.

The prints were developed in fresh Ilford Multigrade diluted 1+9 for three minutes at something like 16-17ºC.

Plastic kit 35mm TLR

A birthday gift from my older daughter, this twin lens reflex camera, a clone of the Recesky kit camera which itself is a clone of the original (?) Graffenflex camera, comes as a box of parts with a detailed instruction manual for assembly. I had great fun assembling it earlier this year but after putting a couple of films through it, consigned it to a shelf as an ornament having described it as being about as light tight as chicken wire!

However, I recently took it down from the shelf, disassembled parts of it and attempted to seal up the light leaks with electrical PVC tape and sticky-backed black felt, just as I would do on a homemade pinhole camera. This outing was a chance to find out if I had suceeded! The aperture is fixed at about f/11 and I reckon the shutter speed is about 1/60th sec. The plastic lens can be focussed after a fashion and comes complete with vignetting and a mix of sharp and unsharp ‘zones’. Winding on the film is hit or miss so framing overlap is not uncommon. All in all a truly fun camera with no promise of success! I managed 27 barely recognisable exposures from a length of bulk-loaded Kentmere 100 …

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There’s still some light leaking in but I had so much fun taking these snaps that I’m going to see if I can sort it. I just have to use this camera again!

The Kentmere 100 film was developed alongside the the ReraPan film in Ilfosol 3 diluted 1+9 for six minutes at approximately 18ºC.

 

Filtering the colour from black & white

Assessing exposure factors and effect on black & white film for a cheap set of colour filters.

For a few years I’ve had amongst my camera gear, a set of coloured filters bought on eBay for a mere £7.50 delivered. From time to time I’ve used the yellow one but I’ve never actually assessed their effect on black & white film or measured the exposure adjustment each would require. With a bit of time to spare last weekend, I decided it was time to get experimenting.

The day looked set for good even light from a bright sky. My plan was to load six sheets of FP4+ in holders for my Intrepid camera to make exposures of the same subject set up under even lighting, each with a different filter: unfiltered, yellow, orange, red, green and blue. Before doing that however, I would assess the exposure adjustment that each filter would require. My Sekonic L-758 meter set up on a tripod would be used for that.

The L-758 can measure Exposure Values (EV) in tenths of a stop and can be set for spot metering, 3D incident metering with the lumisphere extended or directional incident metering with the lumisphere retracted. I used it with the lumisphere retracted and compared the difference in EV when uncovered against the EV when the filter was held in front of it. I took three readings for each filter, averaging the results for each.

Yellow … -0.7 EV
Orange … -2.1 EV
Red … -3.1 EV
Green … -2.1 EV
Blue … -1.7 EV

It took a little time to carry out and record my exposure measurements. By the time I had finished and then prepared a ‘set’ to make exposures with each filter, the sky had clouded over and lost any brightness. It meant longer exposures than I would have liked and less contrast in what light there was but having started I pressed on.

Set setup for filter testTo aid identification, I printed a ‘label’ for each filter. Unfortunately I forgot to use them for the yellow and red filters so edited the developed film sheets with marker pen! Also in the setup frame was a colour chart and the L-758. I would sit on a lime green camping chair wearing a bright blue polo shirt with bright yellow piping around the collar.

The lens I used allowed for thirds of a stop settings so I was able to apply my exposure adjustments with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Here are the results:

The results are better than I expected. The filters appear to work just as they should which makes them exceptionally good value at just £1.50 each and they came in a handy protective pouch too! And it’s good to have at last, what seem to be accurate exposure adjustment factors. The effect each colour filter has on subject colour is quite obvious for my shirt but can also be seen across the spectrum on the colour chart stuck to the wall of the shed (click on the images to see full size).

Split grade printing

Some months ago I won an online auction for a complete set of Ilford Multigrade below-lens filters in near pristine condition. Today, I had the opportunity to put them to use.

Some months ago I won an online auction for a complete set of Ilford Multigrade below-lens filters in near pristine condition. Today, I had the opportunity to put them to use.

About a month ago I posted a blog about a forty-something year old contact strip discovered at the back of an old photo album (The abandoned croft house of Roddy Stewart). I’ve since scanned the contact strip and created a set of 35mm film sized digital negatives on Permajet acetate sheet to print from. This morning the rain rained and looked like it would be on all day so I set up my darkroom and disappeared within it for the rest of the day!

The digital negatives, created from an old and quite marked contact strip were already quite high contrast and with pinhole-like soft focus but the images have resonated strongly with people who know the house and its history. They have a story to tell and I’ve felt compelled to make what I can of them. Since discovering the images I’ve re-visited the house albeit briefly and been able to take a couple more photos of it as it is today.

I printed on 5×7 Ilford MG Art 300 paper. It’s a cotton rag base paper with a textured, egshell matt finish that not only feels ‘right’ for the vintage of the subject matter but also hides some of the imperfections inherent in the images. I expected the high contrast of the digital negatives to be troublesome to print so I’ve been reading up on split grade printing in the hope of smoothing the way.

IMG_5742

The below-lens filters were a breeze to use. One test strip at grade 2½ gave me a base exposure for shadow detail. Halving this gave me exposure times for a split grade test strip/print, half at grade 5 for shadows and half at grade 0 for highlights and overall contrast. From this print I could determine any adjustment needed to the exposure given at grade 5, and to adjust the brightness and overall contrast of the print I could change the exposure at grade 0 and/or change the filter grade. (There’s a great set of video tutorials for this on the Ilford Photo website).

Some prints worked better than others but on the whole they are much as I had expected and hoped for. I’ve already posted a set of the contact strip images so it would be wasteful to post another set of the prints. However, here’s a then and now comparison of a split-grade print made via a digital negative from the original contact strip and a split-grade contact print of an FP4+ 5×4 negative exposed just a couple of weeks ago, both from much the same viewpoint.

20170806_001sm
then
20170806_002sm
now

Since my blog post last month and re-visiting the area I’ve discovered quite a lot about the house, its history and the family who lived and worked in it. I need to do more research and put together the photographs and the story for posterity, perhaps in a wee book.

Update

Since posting this I’ve carried on experimenting with split grade printing. To find out how I’ve got on and discovered more about the process, check out my ‘Darkroom daze’ post here: https://donaldtainsh.wordpress.com/2019/12/19/darkroom-daze/