Location: North East Land, Sea, and Air Museu

I had lived in North East England for nearly fifty years before I found out about the existence of the North East Land, Sea, and Air Museum (or NELSAM for short) which might give you a clue that the promotional activities of the museum don’t keep up with the better-known museums. Before you go, check the directions on their web site and be prepared for possibly driving past the entrance and needing to turn back. To be fair though, it’s run by volunteers and the admission price is very low, so I can’t complain.

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Mamiya RZ67 and Fuji Provia 100F, home developed in the Tetenal E6 kit

I don’t have a specific interest in aircraft or military vehicles so my approach when visiting the museum is to look for details of interesting shapes, colours, and texture, of which there are plenty.

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Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak Ektar, home developed in the Fuji Hunt C41 kit

If you do want to photograph an entire aircraft, then the problem you will find – apart from obviously needing a very wide lens – is that the items displayed inside the hangars are, of necessity, placed quite close together so it is difficult to photograph one display item in isolation without including another item in the view.

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Mamiya RZ67 and Fuji Provia 100F, home developed in the Tetenal E6 kit.

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For the indoor objects – and most of the displays are indoors – you’re going to need a tripod, and fortunately there are no objections to using a tripod, as there are at some museums.

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Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak Ektar, home developed in the Fuji Hunt C41 kit

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I call this the “camera tram” (or maybe it’s a “trolley bus” because of the adverts on the side, for a defunct camera shop in Leeds. RZ67/Ektar

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A detailed shot of the “camera tram” RZ67/Ektar

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The camera tram again. RZ67/Ektar

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A Dutch tram awaiting restoration. One of the volunteers was surprised to learn that I prefer my subjects to look decayed”. RZ67/ 75mm/ Shift Adapter / Ektar

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Wing fragment from a crash site. RZ67 / Ektar

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RZ67 / shift adapter / 75mm lens / Ektar

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RZ67 / Shift Adapter / 75mm lens / Ektar

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Entrance to an Avro Vulcan bomber. Canon EOS300 and Fuji Pro 800Z

All in all a good place to spend a few hours. There are some more images from NELSAM in my blog article about the Lomo Fisheye 2 camera.

 

 

 

 

 

Equipment: Lomo Fisheye 2

My latest camera purchase was the Lomo Fisheye 2 which I bought used from eBay for £16. I’m not usually one for the “Lo-Fi” approach but I didn’t fancy paying £450 for a fisheye lens for my Mamiya RZ67, or even £120 for Zenitar 16mm fisheye for 35mm cameras, bearing in mind that I’m only likely to make occasional use of a fisheye.DSC_0017

The field of view of the lens is 170 degrees, which seems to equate to just about everything I can see, including my feet or fingers if I’m not careful. Unlike my pinhole camera, which don’t have a viewfinder and require a lot of guesswork to determine what will be, the Lomo Fisheye has a handy viewfinder which fits into the hotshoe.

The viewfinder doesn’t give any information about shutter speed, aperture, or focussing; but then there isn’t any information to give. There is only one shutter speed of 1/50s, one aperture of f8, and fixed focus.

The Angel of the North

Given the fixed aperture and shutter speed, the user is dependent upon the light being within a certain range, and the relatively high tolerance of negative film. The manual recommends ISO400 film but I chose to load “Poundland special” Agfa Vista 200 film, because it’s cheap and I had a few rolls. That seemed to work OK.

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Newcastle Civic Centre

I had expected the images to be almost circular, and indeed they are; you see the full radius of a circle on the long side of the film, but not on the short side of the film. What i hadn’t expected, is that you can see what appears to be the inside of the lens assembly in the area outside of the image circle. I find it a bit distracting, but you could add a vignette in post processing to darken it down.

Memorial to the Boer War, Newcastle Haymarket

Newcastle Civic Centre

 

Vintage fire engine at the North East Land, Sea, and Air Museum. It was pretty dark inside this shed so I was surprised at how the image worked out.

 

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Bloodhound missile and Avro Vulcan bomber

 

A Dutch tram awaiting restoration at the North East Land, Sea, and Air Museum.

So far I’ve taken two rolls, in Newcastle and Gateshead, and at the North East Land, Sea, and Air Museum.

I don’t think the Lomo Fisheye 2 is going to become my main camera any time soon; I don’t even think I would pay the £60 some eBay sellers of new cameras have priced  them at. But for £16, it’s been an interesting change.

Ships and boats on Agfa Precisa slide film

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I blogged recently about my first experience with Agfa Precisa CT100 slide film. It wasn’t a totally succesful experience because my task was to photograph waterfalls and the dynamic range of the locations were a bit too much for the range of slide film.

However my second roll produced a much better match of film to subject. I took a short journey to Blyth, a harbour town in Northumberland, previously home to mining and shipbuilding.

I took my new Mamiya ZM 35mm SLR together with a Mamiya 50mm f2 standard lens, and Tamron Adaptall 28mm and 135mm lenses. I took my Sekonic Digital Master L-758 spot meter to help ensure accurate metering and that worked well. I squeezed 38 shots out the roll and only two of them were out exposure-wise.

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I don’t usually use lenses longer than 50mm very much, and I’ve been through a few telephoto lenses in the past and sold them on without making many images with them. On this occasion however the the 135mm lenses was used for over half of the images and proved ideal for searching out small details in the ships and boats to be found in the harbour.

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It was a bright sunny day which gave typical exposures of 1/125s at f11. The winter sun was at a low angle which gave vibrant colours, well matched to the Agfa Precisa film (rebadged Fuji Provia).

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Some of the jetties are locked near the ends but there is still room to get a substantial number of images. The get the image above. I poked the lens though the gate shown below.

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I always get a surprise when I see a ship at the bottom of a street:

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This lighthouse used to be on the shore, but the harbour extended outwards so it is now land-locked, and built onto the end of a house:

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Nearby is the remains of a “rocket station” where rockets were used to send ropes over to boats which were wrecked near the shoreline. This is the door of the rocket station:

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The support ship “Grand Canyon” was moored at what used to be a dedicated quay serving Bates Pit,. a coal mine:

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The local fishing boats were dwarfed by the 125 metre long Grand Canyon:

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Bates Pit, which once employed 1800 men, closed in 1986. It stood behind the sign below and the state of the sign sums up the desolation left by pit closures. The National Coal Board, in closing the pit, ignored the advice of an independent tribunal, and the Government Minister in charge didn’t even turn up to debate the issue in Parliament.

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On a brighter note, a family of swans enjoyed the sunshine and basked in the reflections of a shop on the opposite bank of the river:

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I hope you enjoyed these images, which I hope give a good impression of the capabilities of Agfa CT Precisa film.

 

 

The new family member: Mamiya ZM

I mentioned in my last post that I was using a new camera which I got for Christmas so I’m giving it a bit of an introduction here. The camera is a Mamiya ZM 35mm SLR which was released in 1982.

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The family

The third image above might give a clue why, out of all the cameras listed on all the auction sites in the world, I chose the Mamiya ZM … it was for purely sentimental reasons, to fit with my small family of Mamiya cameras. I have enough parts to make up two Mamiya RZ67’s;  you can see above one on the left with a 50mm wide angle lens and waist level finder, and on the right an RZ67 with a shift-tilt adapter, 75mm short barrel lens, and a prism finder.

Needless to say, the ZM 35mm, at 480 grams, is a lot lighter to carry around than an RZ67.

It works well, although I did experience two difficulties on the first serious outing with the camera. First, I dropped the camera body on to some rock, whilst changing lenses. The immediate effect was that the meter readings, which had seemed pretty accurate in my tests, were now way off. The camera was giving readings which indicated that it thought the aperture was always open at f2.

Fortunately I had my Sekonic Twinmate meter with me for backup so I used that for the rest of the day. I usually do carry an exposure meter with me, because most of my cameras don’t have inbuilt metering, so the lack of metering is an inconvenience rather than a disaster.

The second problem came to light a little later when the shutter would refuse to fire. It was rather intermittent and sometimes a little fiddling with the wind on lever would sort things out. When it finally died, I came to the conclusion that the batteries may be low. The seller had said it had fresh batteries, but my testing, combined with forgetting to switch the camera off, could have reduced the battery strength. Furthermore I had been puzzled by why the camera beeped every time I took a meter reading …. not realising this was actually the low battery warning.

So when I got home I put some new batteries in (unfortunately this is one of those cameras which needs batteries to function at all, not just for metering). That made no difference to the metering, so there’s probably been some damage to the pins that read the aperture. With regard to the shutter winding, I discovered that if I wound on twice, the shutter woild fire OK. The second wind-on would move film transport by just another millimetre, but was somehow enough to tell the camera it was ready for another shot.

The wind-on lever does have a rather unusual design, which means that only half of the lever actually moves when you wind on. Whether this has anything to do with the problem, I don’t know.

The most important lesson is, don’t drop your camera, especially without a lens or body cap fitted! But I am quite accident-prone, and lost a lens cap later in the day by dropping it into a raging torrent of the River Tees.

The camera came with a 50mm f2 lens which seems to produce good images, although the movement seems a little loose when focussing. I also have two Tamron Adaptall lenses with a Mamiya ZM adaptor; a 28mm f2.5 and a 135mm f2.8. So for a total of about £90, I got a very nice three-lens setup, albeit with some minor niggles.  I can also use the Tamron lenses with either my Praktica MTL3 or my Canon FTb. The 135mm lenses also came with an Olympus OM adapter, so if I ever get one of those Olympus SLRs….

I’ve now run a second roll of Agfa Precisa CT100 slide film through the camera and I’ll post the results as soon as the scanning is finished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agfa Precisa CT 100 slide film

Within the past year on this blog, I’ve made statements to the effect that (a) I was moving away from 35mm in favour of medium format, and (b) I wouldn’t be buying any more slide film, instead using negative film for colour work.

And yet, Xmas 2016 saw me the proud owner of a new-to-me 35mm SLR from the 1980s and four rolls of Agfa Precisa CT 100 slide film. Indeed, these were presents I selected myself, for the family to give me. How can this contradiction be explained ? Well the easiest way is just to recognise that rational behaviour is not essential when pursuing your hobby; I just felt like having an extra 35mm camera and some slide film.

I will write about new camera in a separate post to follow and concentrate on the Precisa film in this post.

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Agfa Precisa film is much cheaper to buy than some other slide films. I paid just under £29 for four 36-exposure rolls, including delivery, from an eBay seller. By contrast, 4 rolls of Fuji Provia 100F would cost around £47 including delivery, from the cheapest supplier I can see on eBay right now.

The strange thing is, that Agfa Precisa is re-packaged Fuji Provia 100F …..

Every 35mm film canister has a numeric code printed next to the bar code. The number on this film is 105574. You can feed that number into the very useful and simple web site at https://dexter.pcode.nl and find out what the film is. The result looks like this:

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Now somebody who created the dexter web page must have entered those codes into a database, and it is possible they could be using incorrect information. But it’s not just dexter that thinks Agfa Precisa = Fuji Provia.

The photographic supplier Firstcall states on their web site that “we were intrigued to try the new Agfa Precisa CT100 which is actually not from the old Agfa company at all. In fact it’s not even made by Agfa but actually Fuji Provia F in the box.” I am sure that Firstcall would not make that claim if it wasn’t true, as I don’t suppose they would be allowed to sell Fuji products much longer if they made a false claim.

Having established that we are actually dealing with Fuji Provia 100F, everything that I say below about Agfa Precisa would apply equally to Fuji Provia 100F.

I have used Provia before in medium format, but not in 35mm.

My first outing was a family walk in Rothbury, Northumberland, which produced a few snaps.

 

The next outing was a dedicated photography outing to Teesdale in County Durham, where I would be walking past several waterfalls, on the grounds that there would be plenty of things to point the camera at.

Problem is, waterfalls are a bit of a challenge for slide film, due to the typically very high contrast between the foaming water and the surrounding rocks – the brightness range of the scene will often be too wide to be captured in the limited dynamic range of slide film. In fact, I also prefer photographing waterfalls in black and white, another reason why colour slide wasn’t a particularly rational choice on that day.

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Gibson’s Cave near Bowlees in Teesdale. The stone at the top looks like the underside of a bridge but it is a natural feature.

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The last two images above give some idea of the difficulties in capturing such a wide contrast range on slide film. On the third image, the point where the waterfool enters the pool is very bright. Lightroom doesn’t give the flashing warning for burnt highlights but it must be very close. The dark rocks do have some details but they are a little “muddy”.

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Low Force, on the River Tees.

I would have liked to have the ability to vary the tone on the rocks in the image above in Lightroom, by using selective exposure adjustments to make them lighter or darker. However, attempts to make them lighter just made them a rather muddy purple.

The scanned slide images (scanned on an Epson v700 as 48-bit Tiffs) had very little “headroom” for making adjustments, compared to colour negative film, before image quality suffered.

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The top of High Force

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Vintage post office set into the wall of a farm building at Bowlees

The experience of using Agfa Precisa just reminded me of what I already knew; that slide film doesn’t cope well with a broad subject brightness range; and that the exposure has to be spot on. It also became clearer to me that the scope for adjusting the images in post-processing is mich more limited than it is for colour negative film (in particular Kodak Portra).

I’m not seeking to put any readers off trying out Agfa Precisa; it’s a good film if you are aware of the limitations of slide film and can work within those limitations. If you already like Fuji Provia 100F, and you work in 35mm rather than medium or large format, then it makes a lot of sense to pay less for the same film packaged in an Agfa box.

For me there remain two other practical problems in using slide film. First, because of the limited dynamic range, I am reluctant to go out for a “serious” photography trip with just slide film. That means that the camera loaded with slide film needs to be a second camera, not the only camera, reserved for occasions when the conditions are suitable. So I might shoot the remaining rolls in a nice compact Olympus 35RC for that reason.

Secondly, when I use colour negative film I process it myself and the cost of the chemicals works out about £1 a roll. The developing and postage for one colour slide film cost me about £9.50. I have processed colour slide film  before, but because of the limited shelf life of the chemicals it isn’t practical to keep both the E6 chemicals for slides and the C41 chemicals for colour negative in use at the same time, as they would expire before they are used up.

Finally, the film world is agog with the news that Kodak plan to reintroduce  Ektachrome slide film later this year, which had been “retired” in 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A batch of boathouses in the Trossachs

The Trossachs, and Loch Ard in particular, are well known for their photogenic boathouses and I couldn’t resist their charms. They do make good subjects, and they don’t move !

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Mamiya RZ67 and Fuji Velvia 50 film, Loch Ard

The above image was taken at the “narrows” of Loch Ard, which is the exit outflow from the Loch, more like a river really than a loch. Just opposite that boathouse is the one below:

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Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak Ektar film, Loch Ard

On the other side of Loch Ard is what is probably the most photographed of the Trossachs boathouses:

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Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak Ektar film, 50mm lens

This is typically photographed with the wooden jetty, which is on the right of my image, in the centre foreground. However there was actually a queue of three photographers waiting to take that image – even though these were the only other photographers I saw all week. (The Trossachs is a bit like the English Lake District, but with only 1% of the number of people about).

I walked around to the other shore and got behind the same boathouse:

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Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak Ektar film, 110mm lens

The same path led me to the distant view of some more boathouses … at this point two of the three other photographers had taken position near the spot I was looking towards, with a pink sweater rather clashing with the autumn hues … I had to be patient.

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Mamiya RZ67, Kodak Ektar, 180mm lens

I moved on to Loch Chon and found another boathouse ….

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Mamiya RZ67, Kodak Ektar, 180mm lens

The next day I cycled around Loch Katrine – it has a private road with very few cars – and found another one. This one is a little more utilitarian but it does have a nice view of Ben Venue on the other side of the loch.

Fujifilm GA645Zi, Portra 400 film

Fujifilm GA645Zi, Portra 400 film

 

The Falls of Clyde in Autumn

The Falls of Clyde are a beautiful collection of four waterfalls near New Lanark, about twenty miles south of Glasgow, which I visited en route to a few days stay in Callander, in the Trossachs area. I was surprised by how nice the countryside was close to Glasgow and there are lots of photographic opportunites in the area.

After driving a few hours from Newcastle, I was eager to get started with photography and too impatient to thin out my camera rucksack so did the walk carrying the Mamiya RZ67, three film backs, and 50mm lens, 75mm lens with tilt-shift adaptor, 110mm lens, and 180mm lens. I think I did use all the lens but I could have managed with less and had a lighter pack.

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This is the Bonnington power station, unusually attractive for a power station ...

This is the Bonnington hydro-electric power station, unusually attractive for a power station …

The water supply pipes at the back of the power station

The water supply pipes at the back of the power station

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Corra Linn

Corra Linn is the highest of all the falls, at 84 feet. Other visitors told me that the water level was much lower than normal. Obviously the amount of recent rain will influence the water level, but more importantly water can be released from a dam further upstream in order to regulate the hydro power system. I have seen photos with great torrents of water at this spot, which must be quite a sight to see; but personally I find that photographs of waterfalls in heavy flood are less pleasing than the more normal conditions because the shapes and finer details of the water are lost.

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All of the images here were taken on Kodak Ektar film and home developed. I also took a couple of shots on Fuji Velvia 50 slide film, which are lovely to look at, but I used up my last slide film on this trip and don’t plan to buy any more. Most readers will know that slide film has a much lower dynamic range than colour negative film; but the deciding factor for me is that I can’t justify keeping both C41 chemicals for colour negative and E6 chemicals for slide film at home as they would go bad before being used up. So I sent my last two slide films away to The Darkroom UK, who do a fine job with quick return, but commercial processing of slide films work out about three times the cost of home processing of colour negative.

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A ruined iron bridge near Bonnington Linn

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A tiny stream on it’s way to join the River Clyde. The 75mm lens with tilt-shift adapter was used for this image.

You can find more information about the area on the Scottish Wildlife Trust website which includes a short colour movie made in 1926.