Friday, 21 December 2012

Down with film!

Back in May I picked up an old film camera for £25 and stuck a roll of XP2 in it. I fancied the idea of using my range of lenses for some flm shooting instead of being stuck with the option of 50mm or 135mm with my Pentax.

It took me a while to use the film up and today I finally got the film back - after a month.

You don't get much for £25 these days and the camera proved to be a slight disappointment. When it was good it was great. The meter worked fine. The fly in the ointment is a light leak. Only some frames were affected. It seems to be the early frames on the roll that are most affected. I'm guessing that the leak wasn't severe and if I loaded and used a film within a day it wouldn't have been a problem. As I'm not intending using lots of film I shalln't worry about it and the camera can join a pile of others in a cupboard.

My old Pentax still has a film in it from around May too. Much as I'd like to finish the roll off digital is too tempting for its speed. Which wasn't a problem when I developed my own films as I could have the negatives ready shortly after using the film up. It's the having to send away and wait that is the frustration.

While rummaging around in the camera cupboard the other week I found an undeveloped roll of slide film and a compact with a part used roll of the same and a dead battery. I bought a battery and finished off the film. I'm still waiting for those two to be developed. They're both at least six years old so the results could be 'interesting' to say the least!

Looking at the scans from the B+W film today I'm not all that sure that the 'look of film' isn't more to do with the frame size as opposed to some magic in the film itself. To me, it doesn't look much different to the results from a 'full frame' (FF) digital camera.

I think what really appeals to me about using film cameras is their physical size, and the way you consider each frame more than you do with digital. There is also something engaging about having to physically advance the film after each shot. I can see why some people enjoy the process of shooting film. But for me the rest of the process now seems rather archaic.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Unexpected benefit

Being busy with work my photo-time has been limited of late. With a sunset in store I managed to get out just too late the other day and was stuck with the afterglow. Despite having a DSLR with a fast lens and great low light capability the most successful shots were taken with the X10. The reason being that it's small sensor delivers a greater depth of field at a wide aperture. This means less need to stop down in low light, faster shutter speeds and lower ISOs.

The more I sue this small sensor the more I come to think that it makes sense for landscape photography. Certainly if ultra large prints aren't the aim - which they are not for me.

A day later and I again had just a short time spare before dark. And it was raining. I called in at the sandplant knowing that one of the barriers had been broken down so things would have changed again.

Something else I like about the X10 is the sweep panorama function. It can be easily overused but there are times and places it serves a purpose. Out on the flatlands is one instance that springs to mind, but there are others.

Inside the sandplant the rain had created large puddles and there were new things to look at. I spent a little while playing with new ideas but lacked the time to pull them off before the light went completely.

Larger here.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Too many choices

While digital photography is great in being able to take lots of photographs for little out lay and no waiting for processing to see the pictures there is an attendant problem created of having to choose between more images. Then there's the option to turn a colour photograph into black and white, or vice versa as I have been doing lately.

The picture below was one of just three I took of the scene. Easy enough to select one that had nothing chopped off and was in focus where it needed to be from just three. On the odd occasions I make many more exposures it becomes more difficult. I do try to get it as right as I can first time, just as when shooting film. What the instant review of digital does is tempt you to take a peek at what you've got and try to improve it. With film you are stuck with what you've got. I do wonder if the 'not quite perfect' film images have a little more of an 'edge' to them because of that slight lack of perfection?

With using the X10's viewfinder more of late I also came to wonder if, in the days of film cameras with less than accurate viewfinders the imprecise framing mattered less because by the time you developed the film you had forgotten exactly how you had framed the shot - so the slight misalignment was overlooked. I might find out soon if the slide film I used up last week after some six or more years in a compact camera of mine processes okay. I also have a black and white film to pick up this week (all being well). There will be surprises on that as I can't remember what I shot on it.

Back to deciding between colour or black and white. I like both versions above, but they definitely have different moods to them, despite being from the same file. On balance the subtlety of the colour version wins for me, and it was the colours that drew me to make the exposure. The graphic nature of the monochrome version has its merits too, but I find it slightly more 'obvious'. Tomorrow I might feel differently.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Unexpected pleasures

Today I had to take a trip to Liverpool and left enough time for a wander and a visit to the Tate.

I'd found out that there were some Keith Arnatt photographs on show in the Thresholds exhibition. The A.O.N.B series won't be to everyone's taste but it chimes with my view of the British landscape. Somehow I had missed the fact that there was other photography on show, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the work of Martin Parr and Sophie Calle exhibited.

What struck me was the different ways in which the works were presented. Arnatt's gelatin prints were mounted and framed in traditional style and hung in a row. Parr's laser prints were pinned to the wall unmounted in a grid. Calle's black and white pictures appeared to be printed as a grid on one sheet, framed behind glass, with a similar frame above of a colur picture and explanatory text. There was another work by Simryn Gill (who was new to me) consisting of 260 prints pinned to the wall in a large grid. I found that the least well presented as the prints were too small, detailed and numerous to be viewed or read easily. The lighting was also a bit dim at that end of the gallery.

None of these works seemed drastically different to viewing them in print or on the web. The image areas were no more than A3. The Arnatts a mere 8"x10". What was different was the Thomas Demand. At screen or book size the pictures of scenes recreated in card and paper look convincingly naturalistic. At the large size presented in the gallery the deception is clearly apparent. While this is no doubt a major part of the point, it made the exercise less interesting for me. I think I'd rather view the actual construction. Even so, as with much concept driven visual art, the idea is greater than the object. And when it's been done once, does it really need repeating?

The Open Eye Gallery has two new exhibitions opening on Friday, so I'll try and make longer cultural visit to the big city soon to visit that and revisit the Tate.

The rest of today's half decent stuff here.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Another way of seeing

I'm not sure why, but I've set one of my cameras to shoot in black and white. Using RAW all this means is that the review on the back of the camera is in monochrome. When I import to the computer they are rendered in full colour. An early afternoon visit to the sandplant revealed more to look at. Different light, and yet again things had been moved around.

What's more thinking in black and white also seemed to make me look at things differently.

I also had another camera with me set to colour. Which didn't throw me for some reason. Even so on the computer I left all the shots as colour pictures. Quite what this proved I'm not sure. Certainly the better shots made in b&w worked that way, but they also worked in colour , only differently. After all they were seen in colour. I do think I was looking in a different way though. Thinking more in terms of tones than colours.

The sandplant project is, I'm pretty sure, drawing to a conclusion. It's not finished yet, but it's getting there. Of course if the place alters dramatically that could change. And there's the chance that if it doesn't change until spring I might find new things to photograph as the plants begin to grow and bloom. I do have a clearer idea of how it will all come together now though.

See gallery larger.