Boreraig – an abandoned crofting village on Skye

In a previous post, “One Camera on the Isle of Skye”, I described carrying my Mamiya RZ67, four lenses, and a tripod on an 11 mile walk around Suardal, Boreraig, Suisinish, and Camas Mulag – I’m rather deflated to read someone else describe this walk as 9 miles. Well, if felt like 11 miles to me !

Here are a few more images from that day, all taken on Kodak TMax 100 at the abandoned crofting village of Boreraig, which has no road leading to the rest of Skye but is well placed for sea travel, being on the shores of Loch Eishort and facing the Sleat Peninsula.

The village was “cleared” by the landord in 1853, to favour the more profitable sheep, and many of the inhabitants emigrated to New Zealand or Australia, as an alternative to starvation.

Boreraig - Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak TMax 100 film, developed in Kodak TMax developer

Boreraig – Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak TMax 100 film, developed in Kodak TMax developer

Boreraig - Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak TMax 100 film, developed in Kodak TMax developer

Boreraig – Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak TMax 100 film, developed in Kodak TMax developer

Boreraig - Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak TMax 100 film, developed in Kodak TMax developer

Boreraig – Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak TMax 100 film, developed in Kodak TMax developer

Boreraig - Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak TMax 100 film, developed in Kodak TMax developer

Boreraig – Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak TMax 100 film, developed in Kodak TMax developer

An un-named waterfall about a mile from Boreraig

An un-named waterfall about a mile from Boreraig

Ansel speaks

I came across this delightful series of five short videos about Ansel Adams, curated by the Getty Museum, on Youtube and wanted to let you know about them. Youtube has lots of videos of people talking about  Ansel Adams, but  four of these videos feature Ansel talking and the last is footage of him and some friends climbing Half Dome, and the resulting still image.

The second video, “Techniques and Working Methods” is an extract from a longer film which also includes Ansel playing the piano and a scene showing how much gear he packed into his van .. it’s in two parts – see below …

In the studio with Lilly

Recently, dull grey skies and strong winds have meant that I’ve been more tempted than usual to spend some time photographing indoors. A challenge on the filmwasters.com site to show six images of one subject from one roll of film gave me a spur to buy a bunch of lillies which I photographed over the period of a few days before and after Christmas.

The images that follow are a modified version of the filmwasters project, because I used two film backs to take some images on Rollei RPX25 film as well as my usual Kodak TMax 100. I had just one roll of RPX25 and wanted to try it out in a non-critical situation; if the shots didn’t work out then I would have the TMax versions as well.

My intention was to show the lillies in diifferent stages of the life cycle from before opening, to dying.

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Location: Hexham Abbey

I find that cathedrals, abbeys, etc (and, I’m sure, similar buildings from other cultures and faiths) produce a good supply of photographic material and I’m often to be seen skulking around the aisles with a tripod and a film camera. Cathedrals vary in their attitude to photography; some don’t allow it at all (St Paul’s in London), others only allow it on certain days (Durham), some ask for reassurance that your work is non-commercial (St Nicholas in Newcastle) and others ask you to pay a small amount for a permit (Southwark).

I’m pleased to say that Hexham Abbey in Northumberland has absolutely no restrictions on photographing with tripods (well, possibly they do during services, but I haven’t visited during a service). I’ve been there twice – first time with a Yashicamat 124G and small tripod and the second time with a Mamiya RZ67 and a very large tripod, have been seen by staff, and not had any problems.

Mamiya RZ67, Kodak Ektar film developed in the Digibase C41 kit

Mamiya RZ67, Kodak Ektar film developed in the Digibase C41 kit

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One camera, one month, one film

I recently took part in a challenge over at the excellent www.filmwasters.com site, to use one camera exclusively for one month, November 2014. Now I have to admit that this wasn’t too much different to my normal way of working because I’d  just come out of October and my trip to Skye when I used only the Mamiya RZ67; although I have a few cameras I’ve been thinning them out to concentrate on a smaller range so it seemed like a natural thing to participate in.

Although the challenge didn’t require a single choice of film, I decided to add in to the constraints just using Kodak Ektar; I’ve used a lot of Kodak Portra over the last year and just wanted to explore Ektar a bit more.

So here’s the results, drawn from three 120 films, spread over five locations. All images were home-developed with a Jobo CPE2 processor and the Digibase C41 kit.

Wallington, Northumberland

I thought Ektar did a good job with the boathouse image below; it was very dark inside and I thought I would an exposure blend to handle the dynamic range, so I took three exposures. As it happened the middle exposure was enough, with selective lightening and darkening in Adobe Lightroom.

Wallington Boathouse

 

A foggy morning in Earsdon, North Tyneside

2014-11 Earsdon churchyard, RZ67, Ektar, Digibase,  001

Ektar converted to mono in Adobe Lightroom

 

 

Actually, this one is TMax 100 - a slight deviation

Actually, this one is TMax 100 – a slight deviation

 

Rothbury, Northumberland

 

Arcot Lake

2014-11-22, Arcot Lake, RZ67, Ektar, Digibase,  002

Freshwater Mussel

Freshwater Mussel

2014-11 Arcot Lake, RZ67, Ektar, Digibase,  004

Marina

2014-11-30, Rothbury, RZ67, Ektar, Digibase,  006 2014-11-30, Rothbury, RZ67, Ektar, Digibase,  007

 

 

One camera on the Isle of Skye

In my last post I wrote about moving away from 35mm. Part of that process, as well as selling off most of my 35mm cameras, was to spend a week on the Isle of Skye with just one medium format camera, my Mamiya RZ67.

At the Storr with the RZ67

At the Storr with the RZ67

 

 

The resulting image on Kodak Portra 160 film

The resulting image on Kodak Portra 160 film

Lots of people on the internet describe the RZ67 as being “only for the studio” or perhaps “only for use near the car”. I can see why people think this – the camera weighs 2.65 kg with a waist level finder, one film back, and 110mm lens. Add a 50mm and 65mm lens and an extra film back will take it up about 3.2kg, that’s before you think about a tripod.

However I have used the RZ, together with a Manfrotto 075 tripod and 029 three-way head, for walks of up 5 or 6 miles. I don’t find the weight that outrageous if I’m on a trip where the main purpose is photography. By the way, that’s not because I’m particularly young and fit – I’m a slightly tubby 52-year old with arthritis. Granted, if the trip is a casual outing with family and the slight possibility of taking an image or two, then you might not want to carry that lot around.

So that I can get more use out the RZ, I made a couple of changes; first by adding a lighter tripod to my collection (now standing at four plus one monopod); secondly by choosing to carry the kit in a proper walking rucksack with a metal frame and hip belt, rather than a photo-specific bag.

Here is my “old” carrying arrangements, with a Lowepro Fastpack 250 loaded with the RZ, three lenses, an extra film back, and Sekonic spotmeter. 
L1190715-2

It does just fit in but there isn’t much room for anything else. The longer the walk (and the more remote the countryside) the more you need to factor in the space to carry waterproofs, food, drink, etc.

Hence the new arrangement pictured below, for longer walks. The Karrimor rucksack has been in my possession since the 1980s, but very little used. I created some extra padding in the base compartment by using an old Camera Case Systems over-the-shoulder bag and cutting bits off. I purchased the bag for £2.49 in a charity shop – it was very dirty hence the low price, and cut off the lid and strap.

L1190718-2

 

I have also used bits of foam to line the compartment; this works OK but the cut-off camera bag stays in place better. The bottom compartment only really has enough room for the camera body, film back, and lens – I could squeeze another item in but I prefer to carry the lenses, extra back and meter in the other rucksack compartments. There is loads of space in the top compartment for maps, guides, food, drink, waterproofs, etc, and the hip belt + metal frame makes it much easier to carry the weight for several hours.

Next we see the “new” tripod side by side with the “old” 075 tripod, first at minimum height and then at max height. The new model is an old Manfrotto 055 aluminium model with a ball head which I purchased for £65 in ebay. I haven’t been able to accurately weight the two ‘pods but the 055 seems about half the weight of the 075.

L1190629

 

The difference in minimum height does not seem too significant in the image above, but in many situations such as rocks, you can’t really use the 075 at this height because the struts which make the tripod so strong get in the way of objects on the ground.

L1190624

 

I  also modified the 055 tripod (using as my guide this youtube video by Mike Sowsun) to remove the centre column. On most tripods I would avoid using the centre column if at all possible, as stability drops dramatically. The 075 is however an exception, as the geared centre column is very strong and can be safely used:

It helps to be 8 foot tall if you need to use the tripod in this configuration

It helps to be 8 foot tall if you need to use the tripod in this configuration

I’ll come back to talk about how the new tripod worked out, after taking a tour around Skye with some of the photos I took during the week. Most of the colour photos were on Kodak Portra 160, plus a couple of rolls of Ektar, and the black and white shots were either TMax 100 or Ilford XP2 Super. In total I used 12 rolls of colour and four rolls of black and white. The Mamiya takes 10 shots per roll so that was 160 images.

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Farewell to 35mm ?

I’ve been thinking recently about moving away from 35mm to concentrate on medium format film. I already shoot more rolls of 120 film than I do of 35mm, but I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of 35mm. There’s no doubt that the bigger negative helps produce a smoother image; my Mamiya RZ67 produces negatives which are about 4.5 times the area of 35mm. Quite often I’ve taken a photo on 35mm that I think is promising but not quite there, and if I’ve travelled a distance on that occasion, I feel that the outing was wasted by compromise too much on the portability vs resolution spectrum.

Of course an advantage of 35mm is the relative weight and portability of the equipment. My Pentax MX fits easily into a small bag with 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm prime lenses; my Olympus XA fits into almost any pocket.

Top view of the Pentax MX

Top view of the Pentax MX

But having said that, my Yashicamat 124G is pretty light, and slung over my shoulder it’s almost un-noticeable. However, the Yashicamat has a fixed 80mm lens (50mm equivalent in 35mm terms) which isn’t as wide as I would like for landscape work.

Yashicamat 124G

The Mamiya RZ67 is my next step up from the Yashicamat, having the advantage of removable and revolving film backs, a very bright and clear viewfinder, and high quality interchangeable lens ; I have lenses in 50mm, 65mm, 110mm, and 180mm focal lengths, which equate to 25mm, 32mm, 55mm, and 90mm in 35mm terms.

The Mamiya RZ67

The Mamiya RZ67

The big disadvantage of the RZ67 is weight – I tried to weigh it for the purpose of this blog post, but managed to break the cheap kitchen scales – although to be fair that happened when I dropped them on the floor rather than from weighing the camera. According the manual, it weighs 2.4kg with the 110mm lens, that’s before you add a couple more lenses and a film back to your pack.

Despite the weight, I’m making a conscious effort to use the RZ67 for a higher proportion of my photography outings. I’m going to the Isle of Skye for a week’s photography soon and I’ve adapted a 65L walking backpack to carry the kit, including foam padding in the bottom compartment. The alloy frame and substantial shoulder and hip straps should make the weight manageable and there will be lots of space left over for food, spare clothing, etc. I find that the majority of photo-specific backpacks just don’t leave enough room for walking equipment.

After the Skye trip I’ll blog about how things worked out with the backpack and hopefully have some decent images to the post too.

Having spent a few paragraphs bemoaning 35mm, I’m now going to show some 35mm images … I had decided I needed to use up some of my existing 35mm film, particularly a few half-used films loaded into cameras, so I took the Pentax MX and an Olympus XA to Beamish Museum. I have to say that, despite everything I’ve just said about 35mm, I was happy with the results from this outing.

All the images were taken with Rollei RPX100 film, which is the same thing as Kentmere 100, and developed in Kodak TMax developer.

The trainee blacksmith Pentax MX with 35mm lens

The trainee blacksmith
Pentax MX with 35mm lens


I often find that I’m attracted to odd corners containing rubbish as much as the more obvious scenes. The image below is my favourite from the set and was just behind where the blacksmiths were working. I just liked the interplay of the shapes and I thought that the brambles helped create the slightest suggestion of a “crown of thorns” theme:

Ironwork shapes.  Pentax MX and 50mm lens

Ironwork shapes.
Pentax MX and 50mm lens



2014-8-11, London, Olympus XA, RPX100, Tmax Dev 4mins, Jobo 23C, 029

2014-8-11, London, Olympus XA, RPX100, Tmax Dev 4mins, Jobo 23C, 036

2014-8-11, London, Olympus XA, RPX100, Tmax Dev 4mins, Jobo 23C, 022

Beamish Home Farm

 

The sewing spot

 

 

2014-8-11, London, Olympus XA, RPX100, Tmax Dev 4mins, Jobo 23C, 021

Ready to fire, I mean cook

 

The images above were all taken in one small area of Beamish museum, the “Home Farm” area, which is set in the style of the early 1940s.  The interior shots were taken with a tripod – there’s no restrictions on using tripods at Beamish although obviously you have to show consideration for others if it is busy.

As well as the Pentax, I had with me an Olympus XA, also loaded with RPX100 film. Unfortunately due to a developing error most of these had serious fogging on the side of the film nearest the lid of the developing tank. Later I realised that, after having dismantled the lid of a Jobo tank, I had put the funnel back in the wrong way round, so it wasn’t light tight. The film from the Pentax was further away from the lid and mostly avoided the fogging. When it comes to developing, I’m close to having committed every mistake it is possible to make !

This one did survive from the Olympus with a fair bit of cropping:

The ace of spades

The ace of spades

Finally here’s a few images taken on a previous trip to Beamish, again with the Pentax MX but this time loaded with Kodak Ektar colour negative film, although I converted two to mono because they just didn’t need colour. On that occasion I carried just the 35mm f2.8 lens, which is my choice when I really don’t want to be changing lenses. That was a trip with my family when faffing around for too long causes issues ….

Captain Mainwaring goes to Beamish

Pure Milk

Pure Milk

 

The kitchen at Pockerley Manor. I didn't have a tripod on this occasion so  had to for 1/15s at f2.8 with Kodak Ektar film at IS0100

The kitchen at Pockerley Manor. I didn’t have a tripod on this occasion so had to settle for 1/15s at f2.8 with Kodak Ektar film at IS0100

So will I actually be giving up 35mm altogether ?

Well, these trips to Beamish reminded me that 35mm can have a role when you’re in a crowd and have to select your viewing angle quckly to match a moving subject. But I think I will, at least, be reducing the numbers of cameras I use so that I’m concentrating more on making the image rather than trying out different cameras.

I have been finding that the quality of the viewfinder is becoming more important to me – maybe associated with age and deteriorating eyesight – so I like the good clear viewfinder in a 35mm SLR such as the Pentax MX, and even more so the waist-level finders of the Yashicamat and Mamiya.

The waist-level viewfinder of the Mamiya RZ67

The waist-level viewfinder of the Mamiya RZ67

The smaller viewfinders of my Olympus XA, Zeiss Ikon Contina, Voigtlander Bessa 6*9 folder, and my other 6*6 folders, are more difficult. Accurately framing the image, and ensuring it is level, is much more difficult with these cameras.

So I’ll certainly be doing more of my photography with the Mamiya RZ67, and the Yashicamat, but the Pentax MX may still have a role in using up the remaining 9 or 10 rolls of 35mm film. And then, there’s also the Baby Rollei which is currently in the repair shop and has 12 rolls of 127 film waiting to be used… camera choice remains a complicated issue.

 

 

 

 

 

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