Cropredy Bridge

This short series of photos was taken at Cropredy Bridge Cars based in rural Oxfordshire. Since 1972 Cropredy Bridge have specialised in the restoration of classic Jensen cars in particular the famous Interceptor. The Jensen Interceptor is a genuine British classic, built at their West Bromwich factory from 1966 to 1976 it was a truly international car with its Italian designed body and American V8 power, it is rightly considered one of the most beautiful cars of the last 50 years.

 

All photographed with Hasselblad 500c/m on Kodak TMAX400 & Kodak Ektar 100 film.

Expired 1987

KODAK VARICOLOR III - A TRACE OF SOFT TOE

A couple of years ago I wrote about shooting a roll of 21 year old expired Fuji Velvia 50. A friend had given me a couple of rolls that had expired in 1993 and I used one somewhat unconventionally for a series of portraits. I'm not much of a photographic experimenter but I do enjoy using expired film. Last month I was given a bag of various long expired films from a photographer who had converted to digital in the early 2000's. He had kept them in his attic hoping one day he might shot some film again. Finally realising that this would probably never happen he decided to give them to a good home, me. Now in my fridge the bag is a mishmash of 35mm and 120 film all dating from the late 80's. What caught my eye were some rolls of Kodak Varicolor III Professional 160.  I wasn't familiar with this film and so did a bit of research online. Discovering that it was sold as a professional grade general portrait film and was described by Kodak as "Medium speed color negative film designed for fine portraiture, it combines a “soft toe,” moderate contrast, and moderate color saturation. For fine portraiture, these characteristics maximize the retention of highlight and shadow detail, with exceptional flesh-tone reproduction under controlled lighting".  I was pretty sure that I wouldn't get any soft toe whatever that is from my rolls of 29 year old Varicolor, but it would be interesting to see what I could get. So in a pool of strong evening light and after shooting Rosie with some fresh Kodak Portra 800 I shot a roll. 

I exposed the ISO 160 Varicolor at ISO 64 and developed it in Tetenal Colortec C41 at 38ºc for an extra 45 seconds; 4:00 not the usual 3:15. The developed roll had a distinct blue sheen when wet, something I've not seen before however it did eventually dry back to orange. The negatives were very thin, apparently an issue with Varicolor even when new. Kodak's own notes stated  "Because of the film’s “soft toe” and moderate contrast, photographers (under many circumstances) prefer to “build” slightly higher contrast and color by exposing the film at ISO 125. This also provides additional protection from potential underexposure". After scanning I made some simple post processing adjustments with curves and some local burning-in of the dark areas to produce the final photos. What struck me were the flecks of blue sky coming through the trees, the intensity of this blue is curious. This for me is a kind of signature. Overall the final photos are a true testament to photographic film's ability to withstand the passage of time and still deliver beautiful images.

Tripod... It's a Monopod

On a recent family day out we visited Hampton Court Palace the famed Tudor residence of King Henry VIII.  Sited on the River Thames at Hampton some 11 miles from central London this 500 year old royal palace remains one of the largest Tudor buildings in England.  I don't usually take a camera on outings like these, beautiful palaces and castles don't whet my photographic appetite.  Even though I live very close to the palace I had not been there since I was at school and at this rate I may never go again, and so as a sort of challenge I thought why not?

Shooting Kodak TMAX 400 film I was fairly sure that there would not be enough light to hand hold and so I bought a monopod with me.  Sure enough in the interiors rooms at ƒ8 I needed 1/8, well within the usable limits of a monopod.  Before shooting any interior shots I asked staff if it was okay to use a monopod.  The staff member consulted with a colleague on her walkie talkie and said that a monopod was okay, however for future reference a tripod was not.  At this point I also established that the photos were not for commercial use and that in effect I was a tourist like the hundreds of others visitors surrounding me, all happily shooting away with their phones and DSLR's - on ISO6400 no doubt.  Albeit I was using a rather strange contraption, a film camera.

A little later I was in another wing of the palace and a guard came up to me to say that I was not allowed to take photos using a tripod, I told him it was a monopod and that I had sought permission and that it had been granted.  Of course he went off to check and so as I wondered out of the room yet another guard stopped me and asked if I could wait (and not leave the room) while they awaited their response.  "No, if you want to find me I will be in the next room" I told them.  Having no desire to stand about waiting because they didn't know their own rules.

10 minutes later while standing in the garden with my wife and daughter a senior guard came up to me and politely told me that photography is not permitted in the palace with tripods.  It's a monopod I explained.  He said that they were not allowed either.  Okay no problem, “But can you tell me why I had been told it was permitted when I asked and now it’s not?"  He pointed to the two bands around the cuff of his red jacket in a puerile implication that he was in charge and went on to say that tripods are a health and safety concern as other visitors can trip on them and that they damage the floor - like shoes don’t!  Furthermore he went on to say that basically they don’t like “proper" photos been taken by photographers, "Only tourist with point and shoots cameras really".  Apparently the people at Historic Royal Palaces get snooty when unofficial photos appear on the web and in publications he added.  Er… what do they think it is, the 1980’s?  It could be argued that phones can take a perfectly good photo of an interior and moments later it will be on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr or any other web site.  All this, while I'm still loading a film in the back of my camera and fiddling about with my light meter.  He even asked me what type of photos I was taking?   I couldn't see the relevance of the question but my response was measured and polite "I’m taking photos of the palace, like everybody else."  Later at home I looked on the official Historic Royal Palaces web site and this is the one and only rule surrounding the whole debacle, nothing about health and safety, nothing about monopods and certainly nothing about “proper” photography.

• The use of tripods inside the building is not permitted unless arrangements have been made in advance with our conservation team (to protect the floors from the tripod base so that it doesn't cause damage).

The protection of cultural treasurers and valuable antiques is an important job no doubt, but hassling paying visitors who have not done anything wrong I'm sure is not. I might just go back to photographing empty doorways in Staines at midnight! 

 

 

Thamesmead

A couple of weekends back I met up with fellow photographer Andy Feltham for a wonder around one of London’s largest 1960's housing estates, Thamesmead. I'm still trying to understand what attracts me as a photographer to this type of brutalist architecture. The buildings are often formed in geometric modular blocks linked together by skywalks and surrounded by parklands or in the case of Thamesmead, a large lake. I guess it's the mixture of forms that appeal to me along with the symmetrical lines and shapes. This together with the concrete!  Concrete with its grey, raw and often unfinished surfaces cast in to brave shapes, strong blocks and open expanses. On closer inspection surfaces reveal details of their casting method, impressions of wooden planks can often be seen, a tiny bit of natural interest on an otherwise unremitting manmade construction. All this mathematical design interacts with perspective and along with the texture and lines work with light and shadow which for me, almost create photographic compositions automatically.    

I don’t necessarily see beauty in the style itself, in fact it appears to me that unless scrupulously maintained the surfaces are very prone to unsightly weathering, pollution and water staining.  Constant cycles of hot and cold crack facades and rust streaking from the internal reenforcing bars mark walls and surfaces. However these details have their own photographic qualities and contrast strongly with the modernist and utopian ideals of their original designers.

While wondering around we met a guy from Leeds who's girlfriend was at a conference in London. He chose to spend his morning visiting Thamesmead! In conversation he asked if we were members of the Facebook group 'The Brutalism Appreciation Society' a group with over 30,000 members, so it looks like I'm certainly not alone in my attraction to brutalist architecture after all. 

 

Monday Morning Special

I was really pleased to have my photo Urban Vignette picked for the weekly feature 'Monday Morning Special' of Italian photography web site ISO400.

It's a brilliant web site that's dedicated to all things analogue. There is plenty of great film photography to look at along with insightful articles featuring many excellent photographers; well work a visit at iso400.it

Getting my hands wet

Just before Christmas I temporarily swapped cameras with my friend, he now has my square format Hasselblad 500c/m and I have taken in to care his beast of a Mamiya RZ67. I love to borrow and swap cameras, it's a chance to experience a different machine, feel and see what can be produced and well just try something else. The Mamiya is big and feels like a statement even before I take the lens cap off. Its 70 x 56mm negatives are also big, full of detail and easily the equal of what I'm used to in terms of image quality. For me, it's a refreshing change to have landscape and portrait available and in the case of the RZ67 via a nifty switch and revolving back, so there is no need to turn this monster of a camera on its side. But best of all I have three superb Mamiya Sekor lenses to play with, a wide 50mm, standard 90mm and portrait 127mm. It really is a great camera but be warned you'll need a battery and probably a tripod!

Moreover I've finally bought some chemicals to develop my own black and white film and so now after a 29 year hiatus I getting my hands wet again. Back then I processed black and white film for a living. I worked in the darkest reaches of a lab where I spent most of the day sleeping and developing the odd roll of film, that was until 4 o'clock in the afternoon. The lab had a contract with the Racing Post, a daily newspaper dedicated to horse racing. Everyday the sports photographers would drop of their days films, anything between 30 and 50 rolls of the stuff and I only had two hours before they collected them again for the printers. And so I'm kind of an experienced novice!  With tanks, thermometer and jugs in hand I lost no time and so here are four photos from my first two rolls, well my first since 1986!


Vogue Italia

How cool to have this pair of photos chosen by the picture editors of PhotoVogue, the daily photographic showcase for Vogue Italia.

I guess it makes Elizabeth's endurance of a freezing cold floor and my clambering about high above it worth while!

Fuji Neopan 400 | Hasselblad 500c/m

Redux

Two years ago my sister had a summer party, there wasn't much parking space outside her small cottage and what space there was was taken up by a magnificent Buick Wildcat, all 18' of it! I lost no time finding the owner amongst the guests. Andy seemed quite unperturbed by my desire to photograph his car. The detailed explanation of my photographic methods, the use of medium format film and my love of cars in general was probably unnecessary as he agreed to meet up the next Sunday.

The following weekend during Andy's lunch break we met at the industrial estate where he worked.  I didn't want to use all of his free time so I shot my roll of Ektar 100 fast. My final frame was a portrait of Andy in the drivers seat as he left. For me, this photo has a special significance, back then I sent my films to a lab for processing and scanning. One thing that had bugged me though was that often scans which came back from the lab were terrible. Being new to hybrid film/digital workflow I was never certain if it was bad scanning or my own camera work. In fact it was that portrait of Andy which was the final straw, it came back from the lab as a totally unusable scan. Because I could see it's potential I inevitably felt compelled to finally purchase my own film scanner and learn to scan myself. I could not believe the difference between the lab scans and my own first effort, without any experience I managed a decent improvement; one that certainly left me with no regrets over my recent hardware purchase.

Two years later and quite a bit of scanning later too I have finally embarked on my redux project, that of scanning all of my old lab scanned negatives to see if I can extract any other presentable images. I started with Andy and the Buick Wildcat and if there is one thing I know now for sure is that "If you want something done properly, it's probably worth trying yourself"


Assembly

With a roll of Ilford FP4+ 125 loaded in the Contax S2 and Zeiss Planar T* ƒ1.7 50mm mounted, I shot this short series with Sky. They were all taken in natural window light. I've never been much of an Ilford user, but I have to say that this film greatly impressed me especially as it expired in 2005!

 

Expired 1993

FUJICHROME VELVIA - 21 YEARS IN FOIL

A while ago my friend gave me her late fathers old cameras and lenses. In the camera bag pocket were two rolls of expired Fuji Velvia 50.  The boxes were covered in mildew. However, Fuji sealed their Velvia in thick foil wrappers and so even though they was 21 years out of date and been stored in the loft space above a garage, through many hot summers and cold winters, I figured it was worth shooting just to see what I got. 

Velvia is a highly saturated daylight colour reversal film that's popular with nature and landscape photographers, both of which I'm not. But I do like portraiture so after shooting Izzy with some Kodak Portra 160, I thought why not try that old Velvia? she's got beautiful red hair and the meadow we were in was sort of a landscape! 

The transparencies were a real surprise to me, they were so punchy and vivid, but in hindsight that is to be expect from Fuji famous film. What I didn't expect is the beauty and robustness that emerged from  of such old and uncared for film. They did have a colour shift toward magenta, possibly due to age, that was reasonably corrected with post processing. The overall final result suited my unorthodox experiment... using Velvia for portraits!

 
 
 
 

First Contact

Noel has been developing and printing his own work for over forty years and so as well as knowing a thing or two about photography he is an excellent teacher. I've been spending a bit of time in his darkroom and he has been encouraging me to take control of the ADOX! After developing the film, making the contact sheets was a great way to see how my latest shoot with Elizabeth unfolded and immediately which frames had potential.

All photographed with Contax S2 & Zeiss Distagon T* ƒ2.8 28mm using Fuji Neopan 400 and expired TMAX 100.

Fuji Neopan 400 Contact Sheet

Bullitt

Another test roll from the Flexaret VII, this beautiful Czechoslovakian TLR made by Meopta between 1966 - 1970, is an impressively solid machine. It's Belar ƒ3.5 80mm lens is really sharp and has a max 1/500 Pentacon Prestor shutter. Around the lens is a toothed ring, that locks the shutter speed and aperture together for EV type exposure. Focusing is done by means of a swinging anchor at the front of the camera. Other than that operation is pretty straightforward. My only reservation is the faint and dark focusing screen, this made composing the subject a lot harder than I'm used to. 

In keeping with the age of the camera I took some photos of one of Bill Shepherd's 60's classics, this superbly restored 68 Ford Mustang 390GT features modern brakes, suspension and power. It's all expertly restored to replicate the car driven by Steve McQueen in the 1968 film Bullitt. The iconic highland green car was used during one of the most memorable movie chase scenes ever shot. 

 

All shot with Meopta Flexaret VII and expired Fujicolor NPS 160Pro

 

Headland

In the far southern corner of Kent lays the headland of Dungeness, home to one of Europe's largest expanses of shingle and an important area of natural conservation. On it's wide beaches are small wooden homes some occupied by fishermen, whose boats both functioning and abandoned lay scattered on the beach. Dungeness is a special place with it's expansive wild landscape and it's big skies spread clear to the horizon; a view only interrupted, almost surreally, by the imposing concrete of the Dungeness B Nuclear power station.

All photographed with Contax S2 & Carl Zeiss Distagon T* ƒ2.8 28mm lens on Expired Fujichrome Sensia 200 transparancy film.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Quo Vadis, Baby?

Fuji Neopan 400 | Hasselblad 500 c/m

 

Kodak Portra 400 | Hasselblad 500 c/m

 

Fuji Neopan 400 | Hasselblad 500 c/m

 

Kodak Portra 400 | Hasselblad 500 c/m

 

Fuji Neopan 400 | Hasselblad 500 c/m

 

Kodak Portra 400 | Hasselblad 500 c/m

Urban Maze

Like vital arteries these access and service passages exist in every town and city. For me, they are a sort of backstage, an opposite to the often sparkling and gleaming front of house that they serve. Like multi-story car parks, warehouses and subways I find myself attracted by their unremarkable and ubiquitous nature. Maybe the challenge is to find some interest in these mundane but essential pieces of banal infrastructure.

All photographed at ƒ8 and ƒ11 with an exposure of 1 to 2 seconds. Shot with Contax S2 & Carl Zeiss Distagon T* ƒ2.8 28mm lens on Kodak Portra 400 film.

Fogbound

Looking through the window a shroud of heavy fog blanked out the view. It was 6am and I stood to think for a moment before I grabbed my camera... Spring will be here soon no time to loose.

All photos taken with Sigma SD15 and Sigma EX ƒ1.4 30mm lens. Foveon RAW files processed with Sigma Photo Pro 5.5 and post processed with Adobe Photoshop CS6.