Quick Shot: I Know This Scene?

Every time I develop a roll of film, I rediscover my love of film. If I had taken this photograph with a digital camera, I probably would have deleted the photo. But with film, there is so much contrast. Such strong blacks. The long shadows catch my eyes. I'm lost..... my eyes can't decide what is happening, but I know this scene. It's familiar, but different. I KNOW this scene?

This is the heart of street photography. This is me capturing an ordinary moment and making it different..... putting a spin on commonality and challenging what you think makes for a great photograph. It's not straight. It's not colorful. It breaks EVERY rule of photography, but I love it.

Shot on the Leica M7 + 50mm Summilux with Adox Silvermax film.

Quick Shot: Pyramids

The glass pyramids outside the Lourve in Paris are considered highly photogenic..... although virtually everyone I saw was taking a selfie that involved them pretending to pinch the pyramid, hold it on their palm, or touch the tip of it with their index finger. You could conduct an interesting study on the people who all pose for virtually the same picture.......

Anyway, I wasn't interested in the selfies - I had some film that was itching for exposure! So here are two negatives of the Lourve pyramids that I made on Ilford Delta 100 film using my Hasselblad 503CX. 


Quick Shot: Following My Lens Through London

Street photography is all about making impulse decisions. You get a split second to try and capture a natural human moment before it disappears, never to happen again. There are no do-overs in street photography.

On Saturday I took my Leica M7 35mm film camera with the 50mm Summilux f/1.4 and a roll of Ilford FP-4+ for a walk in downtown London. My goal was simple - see what came in front of my lens and take 36 photographs. When carrying my digital camera I will be more liberal with my shots as I am only inconveniencing a few electrons if I mess up, but film isn't so forgiving. I get 36 exposures and its up to me to make them as great as I can.

After developing the roll and scanning the images, I am left with 11 "keeper" shots - a great ratio of shots to keepers! These are straight scans with no editing. As you'll see, a lot of interesting things found their way in front of my lens yesterday.

En route

En route

Conversation

Look right and wait

Empty train station

Tube station

Shopkeeper's window

Down

Reflected icon

Drizzles

Scribbles

Riding

Quick Shot: Two Eyes

The London Eye is quickly becoming a popular site for tourists who wish to have a tremendous view of the London skyline. The ferris wheel has little glass bubbles that rotate with the wheel over the span of 30 minutes. To get this double exposure showing an eye within an eye, I centered the wheel in the center of my focus screen, then took a few steps back and shot again. This image was created on my Hasselblad 503CX using Ilford Delta film.

Is it Film or Digital?

One of the most iconic places to photograph in Wales is the Llanddwyn Island lighthouse - and it's not a surprise as to why! I photographed this lighthouse with my digital Leica M-240P and my analog (film) Hasselblad camera using both black and white and color film. In other words, I have at least three versions of the lighthouse from the same vantage point. 

So my challenge to you is - which of these photographs was taken with a digital camera and which was taken on film? Leave a comment and let me know - and let me know which is your favorite version. Variations is composition are because I hand held and didn't use a tripod - they have nothing to do with the camera used. And I used several types of film..... so there could be tricks ;-)

Part II: Medium Format Cameras (Rollei v Hasselblad)

Part I: The Joy of Medium Format Film

So you are interested in medium format film photography. There are a litany of follow-on questions including: where do I get film, how do I develop film, and what kind of camera do I use?

There's a bit of good and bad news when it comes to medium format film cameras: there are not a lot of choices. And while there were more choices back in the 1970s, there are only a handful of cameras and brands that have survived the test of time well enough to seriously be considered for a photographer today.

There are two general categories for most of the medium format film cameras - Rollei style or Hasselblad style. Camera makers like Bronica, Mamiya and Yeshica are similar in design to the Rolleiflex and Hasselblad counterparts and the difference is largely related to price.

Since Rolleiflex and Hasselblad are both kings of their respective categories, and they are the cameras I own, I will use them to compare and contrast medium format cameras and you are welcome to extrapolate for another brand as appropriate. 

Let's take a look at each camera individually before comparing them side-by-side.

Rolleiflex

There are several models of the Rolleiflex - they were built for several decades- but the general design of a Rolleiflex (or Rollei for short) is straightforward. It is a twin lens camera - the top lens is used for focusing and composition while the bottom lens has a shutter in it that actually takes the photograph. The benefit of this design is that you are focusing through a bright lens and that can make using the camera in sunlight easier. The Rollei is completely manual; no batteries or circuits. Every time you fire the shutter, you rotate a side crank that advances the film and rechecks the shutter simultaneously.

There are several designs used in Rollei cameras to set the aperture and shutter. One version (seen on the model T) has a plastic ribbon that moves shutter speeds and apertures simultaneous; adjusting just one requires pulling out on a metal tab. Other Rollei cameras use a set of spinning wheels on either side of the lenses to adjust the settings. Some Rollei cameras also include a solenoid meter gauge, but at this age, they are hardly reliable. 

Rolleiflex are fairly compact and much of that is because the lens is fixed - you cannot swap to a different focal length. There are two common focal lengths offered in a Rollei that convert roughly to a 50mm equivalent on 35mm film (remember that a 80mm lens on medium format = 50mm on 35mm film). There are also a selection of different apertures available (ranging from f2.8 to f3.5, or a difference of a half stop). Finally, there are different types of lenses offered for Rolleiflex cameras. Each of these differences has an incredible affect on the pricing; a beginner looking to start can save considerable money by getting a Rollei with a "less desirable" lens or aperture. I've had both sides of the spectrum and think they are both great cameras.

Focusing a Rollei is done by flipping up the top hood and looking down through the top of the camera. The image that is seen is reversed and this causes some initial confusion as panning the camera right moves the image to the left and vice versa. But with practice, you'll get used to a reversed image. From there, you rotate a big knob on the side to move the entire face of the Rollei forward or back, bringing the image into focus.  

Hasselblad

Almost everyone has heard of (or at least seen) a Hasselblad in their lifetime. Why? Because it's the camera taken by the Apollo astronauts to the moon. Of course their version was modified to accommodate their gloves and space stuff, but that camera is remarkably similar to the ones produced through the 1990s. When looking at a Hasselblad for medium format film photography, most people are looking at something coming from the era of 1950-1990, starting with the model 500CM.

There are lots of online resources for learning about all the differences between Hasselblad models (and this isn't one of them), so we'll just look at the big picture. Hasselblad cameras are designed to be tough, to withstand work and use by a professional, and to be very modular. Virtually everything is modular, which is one of the best parts of the system.

Unlike the Rolleiflex, this is a single lens camera, so the photograph is composed and shot via the single lens on the front. As a result of this design, the camera has a mirror that flips out of the way of the image, much like modern dSLR cameras do. To protect the film from accidental exposure to light, there are two shutters-one in the lens and another in the back of the camera (although its the timed lens shutter that captures the image, the back shutter is controlled by pressing and holding the shutter). Lenses are interchangeable and you can opt for a wide angle 50mm for one shot and then a 150mm portrait lens for the next. 

The modular system of a Hasselblad also means that you can change film mid roll. That's right folks, you can switch between black and white and color film mid roll and not have to 'sacrifice' exposures. This was one of the most important features for me - I often want to switch between film types between shots - be it for color or a different ISO speed, etc. You can also use the removable film back to create multiple exposures easily.

If that wasn't enough modular-ness, you can also switch out viewfinders, prisms, grips, electric winders, etc. The list of Hasselblad modular components is nearly endless! 

With a 80mm lens (50mm equivalent on 35mm film), the Hasselblad is only a little bigger than the Rolleiflex, although it is certainly heavier, which is the result of the sturdy construction. Like the Rolleiflex, it is a completely manual camera (later versions used batteries to control metal shutters or for the electronic winder) and focusing is again achieved by looking down on the viewfinder from the top. Settings like aperture and shutter speed are set on the lens itself, removing any controls beside shutter from the body of the camera. Film advance and shutter cocking are done simultaneously from a knob / twist arm on the side of the body.

In my experience, a Rollei is a little more forgiving for a beginner than the Hasselblad, but that's not to say the Hasselblad is a hard camera to use. For instance - Rollei is more "point and shoot" while the Hasselblad requires you to remember to remove the dark slide, make sure you load correctly (its more involved than the Rollei), etc. I would strongly suggest a buyer of either camera visit YouTube for a variety of video tutorials on both types of cameras. Film's too good to be wasted learning (and I've wasted my share......)!

Comparisons

Rollei Pros

  • Small size
  • Less expensive
  • Easy to use
  • Great image quality
  • Quiet shutter
  • Easy to hand hold down to 1/30 and 1/15th second

Rollei Cons

  • No interchangeable lenses
  • No removable film back - can't change film mid-roll
  • Used cameras can have mold, fungus, etc as problems
  • Not very modular. Accessories are limited to filters and a terrible Rolleikin (35mm film adaptor that doesn't work well)

Hasselblad Pros

  • Interchangeable lenses
  • Carl Zeiss optics (considered the best medium format lenses)
  • Modular film backs allow for hot swap of film mid-roll
  • Possible to buy newer cameras from the 1990s
  • Solid construction and design

Hasselblad Cons

  • Bigger and heavier
  • Pricey; some models can cost more than a digital SLR camera
  • Not as easy to use, more steps and things to remember (not hard though!)
  • Noisy shutter (clop-clop sound)
  • Hard to hand hold because of flip up mirror at slow shutter speeds

Looking at this list, you may have a strong inclination one way or another, but I encourage you to really think about the features rather than which camera has more pros or cons. For instance, I place tremendous value in the removable film back, so I'm willing to sacrifice price, shutter sound, and size to get that feature. I also recommend you search for high quality used versions of these cameras and maybe pay a little more for one from a photography shop that specializes in the cameras. eBay can be wonderful, but a camera shop is more likely to catch that fungus in the lens or a shutter that doesn't 'feel' right. Here's some recommendations of places to look:

There are other places to buy these cameras, but I have experience with these, hence my recommendation of them as resources for buying. And I don't get any kick backs or perks for recommending them!

Quick Shot: Not So Normal

One thing I really like about film photography is the ability to do some not-so-normal things with it. For instance, unlike with a digital camera, I can combine two different scenes on one negative to create a single image, called a double exposure. In this case, I shot a wooden plank door on one of the colleges in Cambridge, followed by a scene overlooking punts on the river Cam. 

The interesting thing about these shoots is that it's very difficult to pre-visualize the resulting image. In this case I really didn't have high expectations, but the resulting negative is one of my favorites from the roll. I particularly like how the trees in the upper right corner are almost 'segregated' by each wooden plank from the door.

The photographic society Magnum used to require photographers to submit prints showing the borders to prove there was no cropping or funny manipulation. So in a nod to Magnum photographers, I have scanned it so you can see the whole border of the print - no photoshop involved!

Shot with Hasselblad 503CX + 80mm f/2.8 lens on Ilford Delta 100.

Part I: The Joy of Medium Format Film

This year I discovered the joy of shooting medium format film, and it has completely rejuvenated my interest in film photography. To start my series on medium format film photography, I'll share with you what makes this photographic medium so attractive.

Background

I started shooting large format film, which is about as backward as it can be! I enjoy it, but large format requires big cameras, a big tripod, and isn't exactly an easy system to shoot in a busy environment. So although I loved shooting film, I didn't do it but every so often - for "special occasions."

Interest

I really didn't know much about medium format film (since I had been shooting large format) until early 2015. I often spend a few hours before bed surfing the internet and searching for the work of other photographers to help inspire me. One evening I discovered the work of Vivian Maier, a photographer whose work only became well known after her death. Her work intrigued me - there was a rawness and curiosity to her work that made me explore more. Upon researching her work, I found she shot with a Rolleiflex camera, a brand that was relatively unknown to me. 

My collection - Rolleiflex T whiteface, Hasselblad 503CX and a Rolleiflex 2.8F

Rolleiflex

Off to Google I went. I quickly learned what a Rolleiflex camera is and about the type of film it shoots. The Rolleiflex (called a Rollei for short) is a twin lens camera that uses one lens for framing and focusing and the other to capture the image. Compared to the large format view camera, the Rollei is very compact and portable - perfect for travel.

120mm Film

Part of learning about the Rollei involved learning about medium format film. These days, the term medium format film most often refers to film that is 120mm in size. Each resulting negative is about the size of a post-it note. It offers the big negatives with full resolution that I loved about large format, without being so massive that it's hard to travel with. 120mm film is shot on a roll, each roll is 12 images. 

A Square Affair

At first I wasn't interested. Unlike the other film sizes (large format and 35mm), 120mm film is normally shot as a square. There are other rectangular shapes, but they aren't as common - it's almost entirely a square format affair. This did not appeal to me. It seemed faddish- probably because Instagram has made square photos popular on the internet. And everything I shot was cropped to 16:9 (widescreen) format. How could I go to square after being in love with big rectangles?

Discovery

Although I didn't like the square format of 120mm film, I figured I would go look at a used Rolleiflex and see how it felt and worked in person. It is hard to really get a sense for using and holding a camera by just watching internet photos or YouTube videos - I needed to experience it to decide. Thankfully it's not hard or expensive to find used medium format film cameras; as attics get emptied the market has filled with affordable choices. Of course there's some risk involved in buying a 40 year old camera - parts can be hard to find and issues like fungus and mold become concerns. 

I headed to one of the local camera shops that specializes in film cameras called West Yorkshire Cameras in Leeds, England. They advertised having a mint condition Rolleiflex model T Whiteface Edition in stock for a reasonable price, so off I went. First impression was that the camera was surprisingly small. It was lightweight and straight forward. Instructions for use were easy: load film, wind crank, focus, set aperture and shutter, push shutter release, rinse and repeat. The camera is completely manual - no batteries, no light meter, no circuits to break. This version, the T Whiteface, was in impeccable condition and looked like it'd never been used. Although I was still very skeptical about the square format, I liked the camera, so I figured why not. I bought it and a roll of Ilford HP4+ and went home to play with my new camera.

My Rollei T Whiteface - the camera that started my obsession with medium format film photography

Hesitation and elation

There's something very unnerving about loading a roll of 120mm film, taking some photos, unloading the roll, and developing it at home and hoping you got it all right. One slip up - one little bitty bit of light leak, and it's all gone. You can imagine my relief when I opened the film drum after developing to see a dozen perfect negatives..... phew!

My hesitation with the square format quickly turned into an obsession. I love square format. Its geometrically a very interesting and complex shape to shoot and offers so many different compositions from my normal rectangle. I could start to see the world in square, and boy it made sense. 

Big negatives are the name of the game. Here you can see a roll of 120mm film once exposed, the developing spool, and some finished negatives.

Fast forward

Today I'm all in. I have three medium format film cameras (a Hasselblad 503cx, a Rolleiflex T whiteface and a Rolleiflex 2.8F). With these I have shot hundreds of frames of black and white film - I took the cameras to Africa and around much of Europe. Opening a new roll of 120mm film is like my camera crack - I can't get enough. I savor each of those shots and plan meticulously to get the perfect shot. I have discovered a new creative world in the form of double exposures and taking images that are otherwise impossible with digital. And unlike with the digital camera, there's a certain creative freedom. I don't get to peek at a viewfinder to know if I got it right. I've ruined rolls of film. But those are liberating feelings. I don't have to worry about hitting 100 buttons on the camera, instead I focus on the 12 photographs in front of me and try to make each one count. 

This has quickly become one of my favorite streets to photograph with film. It's located in Cambridge and the row of chimneys is so very British! Shot on Ilford Delta 100 with Hasselblad 503CX.

Coming Soon: Part II - Rollei vs Hasselblad

Quick Shot: Love that Black and White Film

I LOVE shooting 120mm film. I love the square. I love the look. I love the size of the negative and the detailed enlargements. I love the look of film. There's nothing my digital camera can do to compare to the images that I can get from 120mm film. 

I took my Rolleiflex 2.8F 120mm film camera along to Greece and was rewarded with some wonderful film shots. Today I'm sharing a selection of those images - developed and scanned in my home studio. I think you'll be able to see what makes these film shots so unique from their digital equivalent. 

Quick Shot: Leeds Tower

I once purchased a book on abstract photography, and although I've never come close to creating anything like the book demonstrated, I do look for naturally occurring opportunities to create something more abstract.

Such was the case with this photograph, which was taken from inside a shopping mall in Leeds, England. The mall was semi-open air and had a very neat glass roof that created an interesting dome over the mall. I could have taken a hundred photographs with the interesting shape of the ceiling, but I focused on trying to make one great image. I couldn't tell you what stores are in the mall because I walked all three levels looking up the entire time trying to find the perfect shot. On one of the top floors, I found myself looking at this - a tower outside cutting vertically through the scene, while the natural curve of the roof made the windows and frame wrap horizontally. It was the sort of interesting geometric contrast I was looking to get!

To help balance the frame, I exposed for the clouds. This made them visible and "moody" while darkening the window frames and tower. The resulting image I think is very dramatic and geometrically intriguing. 

Shot on my Leica 35mm MP with a 75mm lens and Kodak Tri-X film.

Film Shootout: Adox Silvermax 100

Film Name: 

Adox Silvermax 100

Type: 

Black and White

ISO: 

100

Grain: 

Fine

Sizes Available: 

35mm only :-(

Size Tested: 

35mm

Development: 

Following MassiveDev chart, using Kodak HC-110B developer. Seven minutes development time, 1 minute stop bath (Ilford), 5 minutes of fixing (Ilford), 10 minute rinse and Kodak Photo-Flo. 

Developing a roll of 35mm Adox Silvermax 100. I measure all of the chemistry first and use the MassiveDev app on my iPad as a timer. Film is loaded into a Paterson tank.

Developing a roll of 35mm Adox Silvermax 100. I measure all of the chemistry first and use the MassiveDev app on my iPad as a timer. Film is loaded into a Paterson tank.

Rinsing is a critical step in development. I always rinse for at least 10 minutes in a heavy flow of water.

Rinsing is a critical step in development. I always rinse for at least 10 minutes in a heavy flow of water.

Fact Sheet (Provided by Manufacturer): 

ADOX SILVERMAX is an orthopanchromatically sensitized B/W film with classical grain and a sensitization optimized for greyscale separation. The film is made from two separate emulsions in a single layer coating and yields a very large exposure latitude.

SILVERMAX has an increased silver-content compared to regular negative films. This enables him to built up a DMAX of >3,0 if reversal developed or reproduces up to 14 zones in our dedicated SILVERMAX Developer if developed to a negative.

This way SILVERMAX catches it all for you: brightest highlights and deepest shaddows. SILVERMAX is incredibly sharp due to it ́s anti-halation layer between the emulsion and the base.

The detail contrast is enhanced by this as well. SILVERMAX features an extremely fine grain, comparable to tabular-crystal films. This speed and covering effect comes from the high silver content. SILVERMAX is coated onto clear triacetate and can be reversal processed in the SCALA process or any other reversal process. 

Packaging:

Packaging of a 35mm roll is a black plastic case with a textured grip cap.  Expiration date is printed on the bottom of the label. Label contains information in both German (the film is made in Germany) and English.

The exterior of a roll of 35mm Adox Silvermax film

The exterior of a roll of 35mm Adox Silvermax film

Canister guts left over after extracting the film for developing

Canister guts left over after extracting the film for developing

The exterior of the film canister. I liked this film so much that I purchased another 10 rolls of the stuff before my first had even finished drying. Sadly, it's harder to find in the states than it is in Europe.

The exterior of the film canister. I liked this film so much that I purchased another 10 rolls of the stuff before my first had even finished drying. Sadly, it's harder to find in the states than it is in Europe.

Scanning:

The 35mm film was scanned on an Epson V700 scanner using the provided film trays and Silverfast 8 software. I scanned for internet and printing, so the files were not the absolute best the scanner can achieve, but I don't need a million DPI either. I set the scanner to 900dpi using a RGB color profile. 

User Review:

Adox is a German company that only makes a small selection of films. From what I've found on the internet, they are less commonly found in the United States - the film is also several dollars per roll more expensive in the states than in Europe! I'll be stocking up before I move back home.

Adox claims that this film has an extra silver content, which allows for extreme latitude in the exposures and, if developed in their special developer, the film will offer an incredible 14 zones of dynamic range. Holy crap! My digital SLR offers less than half that many stops of dynamic range! Unfortunately, everyone in the UK who sells the developer was sold out at the time of writing, so I had to resort to HC-110B, a popular developer from Kodak. As soon as I can get my hands on some of the Silvermax developer, I will put it to the test.

My first roll of Silvermax was shot during a long weekend trip to the Lake District in northern England. I also shot several popular Kodak and Ilford films that weekend, but the negatives from my Silvermax roll are by FAR my favorites. There is more contrast, more definition between blacks and more "umpf" than some of the other films. By comparison, those films were very blah grey- they didn't have the same contrast and grab of the Silvermax. 

I absolutely adore this film. It took one roll for me to be hooked, and I haven't even finished testing all of my other black and white films! Yes, Ilford has some nice films, but this was in another league, in my opinion. I loved it so much, I ordered another 10 rolls before the first one had finished drying following development!

Most film photographers will recommend that you find one film and stick with it so that you can learn the nuances of that film. As soon as I finish all of these reviews, Silvermax will become a permanent resident in my Leica 35mm camera.

I have two complaints about this film. First, in the United States it isn't as widely sold and it costs far more in the USA than in Europe. Second, they only make it in 35mm. I would LOVE to shoot this film in 120mm sizes, but Adox is saying that they will only offer it in 35mm and Super 8. Bummer. This means I HAVE to be a two film shooter, and I don't like that.

Even without using the Adox developer, these negatives show incredible dynamic range in the shadows and highlights.

Inside the Darkroom with John Blakemore

I had the opportunity to join famous UK photographer John Blakemore for a black and white printing workshop in the darkroom at a studio called the Photo Parlour outside Nottingham this past weekend. It was my first real adventure in darkroom work and I wanted to share some of the process for anyone who is curious what working in a darkroom is like. I should warn you - it's addicting!

The workshop was held at the Derby Photo Parlour, which is a community darkroom and developing studio run by Dan Wheeler. Through his relationship with local famous UK photographer John Blakemore, Dan is able to offer some workshops to a small group of students who want to learn from one of the masters of the darkroom. The workshop ran over two full days and although I was tired at the end, I was still eager to keep printing!

Day 1 of the workshop began with John running through some of his work to describe tonality, visualization, the zone system, and his general philosophy towards many things! After a lunch break we headed into the darkroom to watch John as he made about six prints from one of his negatives. The powerful thing was to watch him explore a negative-  taking it from a dark and gloomy image to a bright and uplifting image....... all from a single negative. My brain was going a million miles an hour trying to keep up, and I couldn't wait to get my hands wet in some chemicals the following day. 

John laid out many of his prints for us to inspect and discuss - having a photographer deconstruct their work is one of the best ways to learn a new technique.

John laid out many of his prints for us to inspect and discuss - having a photographer deconstruct their work is one of the best ways to learn a new technique.

Looking at some of the prints John made under our watch. Although it's a basic iPhone photo, you can still tell the difference in tonality between the two prints, which are made from the same negative.

The second day was where we got our own turn at printing on the series of enlargers available in the darkroom. Under the guidance of Dan and John, we selected a negative to print and began setting up home in the darkroom. 

The row of enlargers on the dry side of the darkroom.

The row of enlargers on the dry side of the darkroom.

If you've never been in a darkroom, I'll give you a general layout. It's broken into two sides: a wet side where the chemicals for developing the paper are kept, along with drums to wash prints, and a dry side which is where the enlargers are located. Wet should never enter dry and vice versa. Despite the name, a darkroom isn't totally dark - special red lights called "safelights" are on to provide some light from which to work, but it's faint and not good lighting for really evaluating your work, so you are regularly exiting the darkroom to view prints in the daylight. Access in and out is via a special rounded door that spins so that light from outside cannot enter the room. It's a cramped little door and looks like it should belong on the side of a space station, but it works!

The wet side of the darkroom. Each tray holds a different developing chemical. The black and silver thing at the end is the light tight door.

The wet side of the darkroom. Each tray holds a different developing chemical. The black and silver thing at the end is the light tight door.

An enlarger is essentially a projector with a timer on it. You load your negative, set the timer, and the light in the enlarger stays on for until the timer expires. Below the enlarger is where the image is projected onto an easel that holds a piece of special paper coated in an emulsion. As the enlarger projects the image onto the paper, the emulsion reacts (just link with normal film). The "disturbing" thing is that you don't get to see the photo appear on the paper immediately. In fact, when you are done on an enlarger it looks like you've just made a white piece of paper!

The enlarging station I worked from - this is obviously before the lights went out for the day. The timer is the big orange button on the back right corner.

The enlarging station I worked from - this is obviously before the lights went out for the day. The timer is the big orange button on the back right corner.

From there you cross to the wet side and submerge the paper into a developer bath for around a minute (depending on the paper). While the paper soaks, an image begins to appear on the paper, which is extremely gratifying to see! From there the paper moves to a stop bath which (as the name implies) stops the developer from reacting further. Finally it's into the fixer, which (again, clever naming) fixes the image into the paper permanently. Technically there is one more step, which is to wash the paper for hours to remove these strong chemicals as they could degrade the image over time.

One of my prints (this is "Dali's Tree") in the day and being reviewed in the daylight after developing.

One of my prints (this is "Dali's Tree") in the day and being reviewed in the daylight after developing.

This is all overly simplified of course...... how long to you set the enlarger's timer to project the image onto the paper if you can't see the image appearing on the paper in real time? How do you get it dark enough / light enough? This is where the real magic of the darkroom comes in..... before making an actual print you first make a series of test strips at different intervals to help you select the proper exposure time. You then make a straight print before starting to play with dodging and burning (selective darkening or lightening of particular areas). Because so much of this process is human driven, no two prints will ever come out exactly the same, which is the fun of it! I can press "print" on my inkjet machine and get the same photograph repeatedly, but I didn't work for it, my sweat isn't in it, and it's lacking personality. Each of the prints I made that day have their own personality and feeling. When I hang them on the wall, the extra effort will mean a lot more than so many of my other prints.

Test strips! It took many of these to really dial in the proper exposure times for the print. In the case of this test strip, each "step" is an extra three seconds exposed to the light.

Test strips! It took many of these to really dial in the proper exposure times for the print. In the case of this test strip, each "step" is an extra three seconds exposed to the light.

More test strips! The bottom one helped me determine that between 13-15 seconds was the proper exposure. The one in the white tray is a side by side of 13 and 15 seconds to compare those exposures more closely.

More test strips! The bottom one helped me determine that between 13-15 seconds was the proper exposure. The one in the white tray is a side by side of 13 and 15 seconds to compare those exposures more closely.

John was a fantastic instructor - he offered many tips and tricks for improving each print and wasn't afraid to challenging you outside your comfort zone. I particularly appreciated the challenge he offered and have already started shooting some new work with his advice in the back of my mind. 

John reviewing some of the work we did- in this case, one of my prints.

John reviewing some of the work we did- in this case, one of my prints.

John offering a quick primer in touching up a few spots on a finished print.

John offering a quick primer in touching up a few spots on a finished print.

While I'm here in the UK I will continue to visit the Photo Parlour to refine my work. When I move back stateside I'll probably build my own darkroom, but for now, there is much to learn! I cannot wait to get back into the darkroom and would strongly recommend this class to anyone interested in improving or learning to print in the darkroom.

I came away with six prints which were then left hanging to dry in my bathroom at home. Unlike film, which dries in roughly an hour, the prints take over eight hours to fully dry.

I came away with six prints which were then left hanging to dry in my bathroom at home. Unlike film, which dries in roughly an hour, the prints take over eight hours to fully dry.

Quick Shot: Cambridge Lounger

I always carry a camera when I walk through downtown Cambridge - the college environment with lots of young folks milling about naturally lends itself to a place of unexpected photo opportunities. 

Ironically, I had just been talking to my friend as we walked about another photograph I'd seen where the photographer imaged straight down on some Cuban men playing dominos. It was a creative and fun use of a different angle in the photograph. No sooner do I finish telling him this then we come across one of many bridges crossing the River Cam. I looked down and saw this scene of two punters lounging on break.

I immediately knew I was going to take the photograph, but I was a little nervous of being "caught"..... I don't want to steal a photograph of someone, but looking straight down on a subject would lead to an awkward look if he saw me. There's no way to pretend you aren't photographing someone when looking straight down on them!

Thankfully, the punters were both deep in conversation and didn't notice as I composed and shot this image. I think it tells a wonderful story and am glad the photograph of the Cuban men playing dominos inspired me to try my own top-down shot.

Shot on Leica MP with Adox Silvermax 35mm film. Developed in my home studio and scanned on an Epson V700.

Quick Shot: Dali's Tree

"Of all the subjects in the world to photograph, why choose this one?"

It's a great question..... what makes this subject worth photographing at the moment of capture? In this case, the motivation to make the print was because my subject reminded me of one of my favorite painters, Salvador Dali. While it would be ta stretch to say any of my photographs are "Dali-esq", this tree with its twisted and mutilated shape reminded me of the sort of tree Dali would imagine and dream up.

We were walking along a trail in the Lake District on our last morning before heading home. I had just switched to a new type of 35mm film that is made in Germany called Adox Silvermax. The film has more silver content than most films and the manufacturer claims it can get up to 14 stops of dynamic range..... to put that into perspective, my digital camera gets about half of that!

I really liked this tree. It's warped from years of abuse by the wind and the morning light cast a nice glow on the surrounding grasses. Using my Leica MP and a 75mm lens, I composed and took the photograph, deciding that at that instant, this was the best subject in the world to photograph.

When I look at the negative (which I developed using Kodak HC-110 - same stuff Ansel Adams loved) and the scanned image, I can't help but think of the works of Salvador Dali. What do you think? 

Quick Shot: Trees on a Hill

My start in film photography began in what most people would consider the wrong direction. Rather than first investing in a 35mm camera, I started in large format photography with a Zone VI 4x5 film camera. If you aren't familiar with the camera, it looks like the old style bellows camera that you imagine Ansel Adams using (he actually did use this style!). The film it takes is sheet film that measures 4x5 inches in size, so the negative is huge and therefore captures extreme details. 

I brought the camera along when I moved to England, but had to wait a little bit while I sourced film before I could take it shooting. After finally getting some 4x5 sheet film, I headed to one of my favorite local sites, a National Trust area called Lyveden New Bield to take a few shots. Four actually - that's all the film I packed!

I took this photograph on a complete whim. I wasn't sure it would work, but I liked the hill with a few trees that was being back lit by the sun. It was early spring, so the trees just had the little buds where leaves would emerge any second. Framing the image was tricky - especially as the wind kept blowing the trees pretty heavily! I loaded a piece of film and waited several minutes for a slight reprieve in the wind and then shot at the fastest shutter speed on the lens hoping to freeze the limbs for a perfectly sharp silhouette. I got lucky!

Developed at home in my studio - film is Ilford Delta Pro 100.

Quick Shot: Boardwalk

Using my digital SLR camera, I was always taking a color image and converting it to black and white, but using black and white film opens a new world of possibilities. Suddenly I find myself evaluating a scene for contrast and tonality and trying to make an educated guess about how that will translate onto the black and white film emulsions.

I had been walking along a coastal section of England's Lake District taking photographs of the sand dunes and waves. While the images were interesting, I wasn't overly inspired with the subject and was headed back to the car when I turned around to see the path I'd just been walking. The late afternoon sun was casting a nice glow across the top of the grass, but there were some dark shadows along the path as well.... I figured it would make for a good black and white image, so I grabbed the Leica MP and fired a single exposure. Turns out, it was my favorite photograph from the walk on the beach!

Shot on Kodak TMax 100; developed in my home studio and scanned on an Epson V700 scanner.