New toys!

This week has been a bonanza for new toys, with five new cameras and some darkroom goodies. Here’s the round-up.

The first camera I purchased –  a large format Horseman 45HD. This is to improve my landscape and architectural photography by increasing the field of view from my current Horseman 980. Some time soon I’ll finish and publish another article comparing the two cameras in more detail.

The other four cameras I was given. It’s ironic that in the same week I bought my largest camera I also obtained the smallest. The four donated cameras all have different and relatively unusual film sizes. In decreasing film format size:

Since obtaining a large format camera, I also needed to acquire a large format enlarger to make darkroom prints. I replaced my LPL C7700 with a De Vere 54. The De Vere is much older and much more basic, but can take huge negatives and make huge prints.

I had to re-jig a few things in my darkroom to fit it in. It has interchangeable baseboards. The one that came with it is enormous and takes up a lot of my worktop and is only really needed when making prints 16×12″ or larger. Most of the time I make 10×8″ prints so I made a smaller baseboard for everyday use. It only takes a few seconds to swap baseboards when I want to make large prints. Here the De Vere 54 is pictured with my smaller homemade baseboard.

As I drove to London to collect the new enlarger, the seller kindly gave me a few extras that weren’t worth selling. I happily walked away with two enlarger lenses, some multigrade filters, some 5×4″ film tanks and a slot processor. This stuff is all expensive if purchased new, but I think the seller was glad to see it go to someone who would make use of it.

Now all I need is some time to use these goodies!

Sue & Tony’s Wedding

At the weekend, I attended the wedding of one of the choir, Sue, and her husband Tony. Naturally, I took one of my cameras although with a professional photographer and his assistant getting pictures of the wedding party it seems that I took more photos of friends outside the church than of the happy couple themselves. The pictures with me in them were taken by Ed.

These photos were all taken with my Mamiya C220 TLR using an 80mm f/2.8 lens. This type of camera was a classic wedding photographer’s camera of the 1960s, until 35mm SLRs came into vogue in the 1970s. These pictures were all shot on FP4+ and developed in ID-11. Ed visited my darkroom yesterday to make some prints, which we toned in selenium to give the warm brown/purple hue. The pictures on this website are scanned from the negatives, not the prints, and the selenium effect was faked. Sorry! :(

While we’re on the subject of Sue & Tony’s wedding, this seems a good opportunity to plug the video that the choir made to commemorate the occasion!

Wide angle lenses – now with 4×5″

A while back I wrote a short article comparing wide angle lenses on various formats. This is a small update to include large format (4×5″), which I have recently bought into to overcome problems with super-wide lenses on 6×9 (or lack thereof)

This diagram shows various common film formats, ranging from 4×5″ (large format view cameras) down to APS-C (most digital SLRs).

Negative areas

Negative areas

Let’s have a look at my widest lenses on each format. Lens specifications only usually quote the diagonal field of view but if you know the dimensions of the film format, you can use some trigonometry to work out the horizontal and vertical angles too. When photographing churches, I’m most interested in the vertical angle of view so I don’t chop the spire off.

Lens Format Diagonal angle of view Horizontal angle of view Vertical angle of view
Horseman Super 90mm f/5.6 4×5 83° 70° 58°
Horseman Press 65mm f/5.6 101° 88° 75°
6×9 76° 66° 47°
Mamiya Sekor C 50mm f/4.5 6×7 84° 70° 58°
Canon FD 28mm f/2.8 35mm 75° 65° 46°
Canon FD 24mm f/2.8 84° 74° 53°
Canon FD 17mm f/4 104° 93° 70°

Before I had 4×5 available to me, the biggest format was 6×9, although with a lens of only 65mm this couldn’t go that wide. However, I’m delighted to find that the 90mm on 4×5 is wider than the 65mm on 6×9. This will probably be sufficient for most purposes but if not, the 65mm lens can still be used on 4×5 and on that format it goes into the realm of “ultra wide angle”, along with the 17mm lens on its respective 35mm SLR format.

I look forward to lugging the new beast around Somerset in search of pretty church towers :)

M42 – Now with extra Hydrogen-alpha!

M42 Orion nebula

Last night it was clear so I went out with my telescope for the first time in ages. It should have marked two firsts:

  1. First successful use of autoguiding and remote control of telescope & camera via laptop
  2. First field use of my CLS-CCD filter

Unfortunately, the autoguiding failed spectacularly after the laptop decided that the product key I had previously entered was no longer OK, and refused to co-operate. There was no 3G signal at all at my dark site, so with the laptop out of action and no prospect of remote control, I controlled the camera by hand (it was cold and I got numb fingers).

On the plus side, I achieved the first proper use of my CLS-CCD filter with a full-spectrum DSLR. It serves a dual purpose of allowing a lot more hydrogen-alpha radiation through and cutting down on the amount of orange sodium light pollution that is still visible in the sky an hour’s drive away from Bristol.

The CLS-CCD filter let through so much extra radiation compared to a non-modified DSLR that my “usual” exposure settings for astrophotography massively overexposed M42, the Orion nebula. Eventually I found that 25 seconds at ISO 3200 did a nice job, and I rattled off a few frames

This picture is the result of 19 frames and 4 dark frames stacked with DeepSkyStacker. When I have the autoguider working, I’ll be able to expose for longer without motion blur and will be able to reduce the ISO (and the noise) even further.

M42 Orion nebula

M42 Orion nebula

A foggy day in Bristol town

Troopers Hill playground

This week we had a couple of really foggy days in Bristol (and much of the rest of the country too, I gather). I love the fog so I went out shooting. I took a Zorki 4 rangefinder with Jupiter 8 and Jupiter 12 lenses and my Canon EOS 600D DSLR with Canon EF-S 17-85mm lens. It should be obvious which is which, because the film photos are more grainy than a bag of rice.

Then & Now

St Augustine's Parade (1955)

My entry for this week’s Photo Challenge is a pair of pictures taken on St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol – also known in the past as The Tramways Centre and today simply as The Centre.

The first picture was taken in 1955 by a relative of one of my colleagues. I took the second picture on 13th March, 2014 – 59 years later.

St Augustine's Parade (1955)

St Augustine’s Parade (1955)

St Augustine's Parade (2014)

St Augustine’s Parade (2014)

The two pictures are taken from quite different places. The 1955 version was taken from further away with a normal lens. In 2014, there are some large lampposts, signs, trees, a statue and some roads so I had to move closer and use a wide angle lens.

The 1955 version was shot on Kodak Ektachrome transparency film in 6×6 format. I have no idea what kind of camera was used. The colours have faded quite badly so I did some restoration work, although it still looks a bit odd.

The 2014 version was also shot on film, but this time I used Agfa Vista 200 (from Poundland!) in a Zorki 4 camera with Jupiter 12 lens. The Zorki 4 was released in 1956 – just a year after the first picture was taken.

If anyone is reading this in 2073, please feel free to take another photo of the same place and send it in :)

Daffodil time lapse

Hannah bought a bunch of daffodils so I decided to take a time-lapse of them opening up. Bonus points if you spot my two cats jumping up on the table! Bad kitties.

The first frame was taken at 5am on the first day and the last frame was taken at 7pm on the second day, with a picture taken every 3 minutes. A few pictures are missing (2pm-5pm on the first day) when the intervalometer did a whoopsie.

I left the light on overnight to allow photography to continue. The artificial light gives the wall behind the daffodils a warmer brown colour. The camera was set to auto white balance but it didn’t do a very good job of fixing it.

The pictures were shot on a Canon EOS 600D with a Canon EF-S 17-85mm lens. It was set to auto exposure to account for the varying brightness throughout the day and night. I set the resolution low and turned off the LCD screen to make the battery last longer. I used a cheap intervalometer to control the shots. I processed the frames on Linux using phatch for batch resizing and mencoder to compile the individual pictures into a video, played back at 15 frames per second.

Next time I think I will leave the light on permanently for the duration of the time lapse to achieve more even results. As the battery lasted much longer than I expected (after 36 hours and 700 frames, it was still only down to about half) I would also increase the capture interval to two minutes between frames. Other than that, I think this was a success :)

Old pictures of Bristol

Recently I scanned in some old slides for a colleague of work. Most were family photos but there was a handful of pictures of Bristol in decades gone by. He has very kindly agreed to let me publish these pictures, so here they are.

  1. The Centre in 1955, compared with modern view
  2. The Centre in 1955, compared with modern view
  3. Portway in 1955, underneath the Suspension Bridge. Compare with modern view
  4. Clifton Suspension Bridge in 1961, compared with modern view
  5. Clifton Suspension Bridge in 1964, compared with modern view
  6. The salvaged wreck of the SS Great Britain returning to Bristol in 1970

 

Development test

This article is about something I should have done long, long ago. I regularly use Ilford FP4+ as my “standard” film but I don’t really know exactly how it behaves in different developers. It behaves nicely in all Ilford developers but for my purposes (mostly landscape photography) I would usually pull by about one stop and shoot it at EI 50.

My “standard” developer for some time now has been Ilford Microphen which is not suited to pulling films. I only use it because I was given ten litres of it! I decided to buy some Ilford ID-11 and at about the same time I was also given some Kodak T-Max developer. As I now have three film developers in stock, I thought I should try a side-by-side test.

I shot an entire 120 roll of film of the same frame in my trusty RB67, metered using a spot meter to yield an exposure of 1/125 at f/11. For those who are unfamiliar with the RB67, it is quite laborious to repeatedly shoot – there are three distinct and awkward movements to advance the film, cock the shutter and fire the shutter on this 4kg camera. It feels a bit like firing a musket.

Mamiya RB67 Professional

Mamiya RB67 Professional

Incidentally, I use an excellent app called Film Tracks to log my exposures so I know what settings I used, where and when. It also makes these Zone System diagrams. Strongly recommended for all film photographers!

Zones

Zones

After shooting the film, I cut it into three pieces and developed each separately:

Developer Time Temperature
Ilford ID-11 6:00 21°C
Ilford Microphen 8:00 21°C
Kodak T-Max (1+4) 4:00 21°C

My method of calculating development times is slightly complicated:

  • I use The Massive Dev Chart to calculate development times for various combinations of film and developer. However, neither Microphen nor T-Max have times for FP4+ exposed at EI 50, so I followed the traditional rule of thumb by reducing the time by 1/3.
  • You must compensate for the temperature of the developer, if it is not 20°C. Fortunately, The Massive Dev Chart handles that for you.
  • On top of that, you have to allow extra time for the number of times the developer has been used previously.

Taking account of all these lengthenings and shortenings, the three times came out surprisingly close to 6, 8 and 4 minutes respectively so I rounded them to the nearest ten seconds.

Coming out of the tank, all three films had decent and roughly similar density, so that’s something. The strip developed in Microphen had a little bit more density but the ones developed in ID-11 and T-Max are more-or-less indistinguishable on the light-box. These images were scanned directly from the negatives using the scanner’s auto-exposure so they should appear the same brightness as each other, but no other editing has been done.

ID-11

ID-11

Microphen

Microphen

T-Max

T-Max

The ID-11 seems to have the least contrast. Look at the dark tufts of grass – they are darker in the Microphen and T-Max frames. The sky is also a bit darker in the ID-11 frame, indicating lower contrast.

Lower contrast in this context is probably a good thing, because it means there is more information available in the negative to be used when making a fine print (or when scanning it properly and doing some post-processing).

Aside from knowing that Microphen is not ideal for pulling negatives, this experiment doesn’t really help me decide on the best developer. I am going to continue using ID-11 as my “regular” developer, Microphen as my push developer (e.g. interior shots of cathedrals, a favourite subject of mine) and T-Max for when I treat myself and use T-grain emulsions, like Ilford’s Delta range.

Bristol Cathedral

Regular readers of this blog will know that I enjoy photographing the interiors and exteriors of churches and cathedrals. Bristol Cathedral, just a couple of minutes walk away from my office, is conspicuously absent from my list so far. Last week I decided to take a lunchtime walk around the cathedral as the sun was out and brilliant light was shining into the cathedral through the windows and giving a wonderful impression of light.

As is the usual for my pictures of cathedrals, these were shot on film. I used my Canon FTb with Canon FD 17mm ultra wide angle lens and exposed a roll of Fuji Neopan 1600. I usually push this to EI 3200 but on this occasion there was enough light to shoot it at its native EI 1600. Most of the exposures were 1/30 sec at f/4 or f/5.6.

This is the first time I’ve used the 17mm lens “properly”. I noticed that on the shots that include bright windows, there is a large bloom effect. I initially assumed that this was lens flare but having looked more closely at the negatives it seems to be halation on the film.