Single image: Raindrops on grass

I’ve recently returned from a 6-day trip to Scotland, staying most of the time in Callander, in the area know as the Trossachs, but with calls at the Falls of Clyde, south of Glasgow, on the way out, and a detour to the Fife Coast (Crail, Anstruther, and Pittenweem) on the way home.


I returned with 12 rolls of medium-format colour negative, and two rolls of slide film. So far I’ve developed 7 rolls of film and I’m planning to wait until I’ve got them all done before posting some location-based selections here.

In the meantime I’ll leave this single image which was taken in the Falls of Leny car park near Callander, on a Mamiya RZ67 loaded with Fuji Velvia 50 slide film, and a 110mm lens. I’d just stopped to drink some coffee from the flask, in pouring rain, and noticed these raindrops hanging on the grasses just next to the car.

I would have liked a little more depth of field, but the light levels were very low, and if I pushed the shutter speed too long the breeze may have been a problem; I think the settings I used were 1/15s at f5.6.

More to follow …




Single image: sunflowers

Sometimes I have a roll of film in a camera so long that I forget what was on the film, particularly at the beginning. That’s particularly likely to happen to photographers who have too many cameras (which I do, but probably less than the average). I also have multiple film backs for my Mamiya RZ67, which increases the potential of losing track, including the possibility of forgetting what type of film is loaded …

Anyway I finished off a roll of Tri-X in the RZ67, four months after it was started, developed the film in Firstcall B&W developer, and was pleased to find this image:


Tri-X pushed at Locomotion

I took a trip to Locomotion: the National Railway Museum at Shildon last weekend. This is an outpost of the National Railway Museum at York, and much smaller than the York site but also much closer to home.

I wanted to use the Mamiya RZ67 but wasn’t sure if I’d be able to use a tripod, so decided I would take a monopod and be prepared to push Kodak Tri-X film up to EI1600. This gave me exposures of 1/60s to 1/125s when near the windows of the museum “shed” and 1/30s when further away from the windows, with apertures around f5.6 to f8.

I also limited myself to two lenses – the 110mm and 50mm (equivalent to 55mm and 25mm in 35mm-equivalent terms.


I developed the film, as usual, in Firstcall B&W film developer, but I didn’t have a time for pushing the film to ISO 1600, so  I used the Massive Dev Chart to eastblish the typical time differential between processing at 400 and processing at 1600, and used a time about 2.25 times for ISO400.



After scanning with EpsonScan to TIFFs, I imported the images into Lightroom, darkened the blacks, and used a “Selenium Brown” pre-set. When I think an image might need quite a lot of adjustment, I prefer to scan to TIFF rather than JPEG, to avoid the “Jaggies”, i.e. gaps in the histogram following processing.

I had to open up to f2.8 with the 110mm lens for the image above, which gives the same limited depth of field as f1.4 on 35mm film or full-frame digital, i.e. not much !


I’m not keen on Tri-X in 35mm, which I find too grainy, but it’s OK in medium format and I think the “gritty” approach of push-processed Tri-X suits these images well.


By coincidence, there was a classic cars display outside the museum that day, so I took some shots of the cars. These haven’t been processed yet but might make an appearance in a future post.



Infrared with Efke IR 820c Aura

I’m not usually one for using obsolete films – in fact I’m trying to standardise on a small range of currently-available colour negative and B&W films. The colour choice is pretty fixed at Kodak Ektar and Kodak Portra 400 – at least in medium format. In 35mm, I’m not averse to using Agfa Vista 200, at £1 for 24 exposures, when the results aren’t critical.

For black and white I’m concentrating on Ilford FP4+ for the slow-medium speed range but still haven’t settled on a faster film. I like Tri-X in medium format but find it too grainy for my liking in 35mm. I’ve never used Ilford Hp5 but all the results I’ve seen online look too grainy for me.

Getting a little closer to the title of this post, I recently purchased 8 rolls of Rollei IR400 in 35mm together with one roll of the defunct Efke IR 820c Aura, second-hand for a very reasonable price.

I’ve blogged about Rollei IR400 before; in that post I developed the 35mm version in Rodinal and liked the film but found it a bit grainy. Since then I’ve used the medium format version in a Yashicamat 124G and other developers, which resolves the grain issues.

Having eight rolls of IR400 is enough to make it worthwhile doing some testing to determine a good base ISO and developing time, for my now favourite/only developer, Firstcall’s own brand B&W film developer. 

As well as using the film for infrared with a Hoya R72 filter, I also intend doing more tests without a filter, for use as a “normal” faster film. If that goes well, then the Rollei IR400 may take it’s place alongside FP4+ in my small range of chosen films, doubling up for infrared and those occasions when I need a little more speed than FP4+ can provide. We shall see.

So finally getting to the point – my single roll of Efke Aura. I shot the film with a base ISO,  allowing for Hoya R72 filter, of ISO3, but also shot additional shots with an extra stop on top of that reading. On the whole the shots with the extra stop were probably the more useable ones, but I didn’t take careful records as I only had one roll and didn’t expect to repeat the experience. The film was shot at two National Trust venues in the North East of England – Washington Old Hall and Gibside.

I couldn’t find a published development time for my chosen developer so followed a very unscientific route:

a) Looked at the Massive Dev Chart filtered for all developers and Efke IR film, then took a mid-range guess of 8 minutes at 20c.

b) I then used the Massive Dev Chart time and temperature convertor to take account of the actual temp of my chemicals (18.5c) and the reduction needed when using constant agitation in a Jobo processor. This gave a time of 7m 54s.

So here are selected results.


2016-8-14, Washington Old Hall, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,026

Washington Old Hall – the home of the ancestors of US President George Washington

2016-8-14, Washington Old Hall, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,0312016-8-14, Washington, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,023

2016-8-21, Gibside, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,001

The Column to British Liberty at Gibside, completed in 1756

2016-8-21, Gibside, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,002

2016-8-21, Gibside, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,015-Edit

The ruined Gibside Hall

2016-8-21, Gibside, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,016

The Hall has been deserted since 1920 and visitors cannot enter

2016-8-21, Gibside, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,019

The Orangery at Gibside

2016-8-21, Gibside, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,018

A view from the Orangery

2016-8-21, Gibside, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,020

Sunflowers in the walled garden at Gibside


2016-8-21, Gibside, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,004

So how was the Efke Aura in comparison with Rollei IR400 ? Well of course it is impossible to say after using only one roll. I didn’t see much of the “bloom” that the Efke film is known for, and it probably needs even more exposure to bring out that feature. I certainly liked the results (or the ones that worked well, and the hit rate with IR film is always going to be lower than it is with normal film). But I didn’t like it three times better than Rollei IR400 – and the few rolls of Efke Aura for sale on eBay are going for 3 times the cost of the Rollei IR400 film.





Birthday pinholes on Skye

August 2016 saw me head to Scotland for a week’s family holiday, at Balmacara which is on the mainland not far from the Skye Bridge. Family holidays naturally mean less dedicated time for photography than, well, a dedicated photo trip, so I left behind the RZ67 and heavy tripod and took the Ondu Multi-format Pinhole camera with Fuji Acros.

2016-8-4, Fairy Pools, Ondu 6  6, Acros, Firstcall Dev 1+15, 3

One day in the week was my birthday so I got to choose where we went and to devote some time to photography. A trip over the bridge to Skye was my choice, specifically to Glen Sligachan and the Fairy Pools, which lie either side of end of the Black Cuillin mountains.

2016-8-4, Fairy Pools, Ondu 6  6, Acros, Firstcall Dev 1+15, 4

I had photographed at both these spots before so I wanted to do something different rather than replicate my previous approaches, so the pinhole camera was the obvious choice.

2016-8-4, Sligachan, Ondu 6  6, Acros, Firstcall Dev 1+15, 5

My previous visits to the Fairy Pools had been in May 2012 and October 2014, and there hadn’t been more than a dozen other visitors spread out over a mile of the stream bank. This time, in August, there were literally hundreds of visitors, with both car parks overflowing and cars parked on the verges, leading to struggles to get back up the crowded single-track road on the way home.

So quite a lot of effort was involved to try to minimise the number of people in the images; some were reduced to ghosts as they moved through a ten-second exposure.
2016-8-4, Sligachan, Ondu 6  12, Acros, Firstcall Dev 1+15, 2

All the above images were taken on Fuji Acros developed, as usual for me, in Firstcall B&W developer. After scanning they were imported into Lightroom where toning a large amount of clarity added.


Poundland film and Northumbria Bastles

Usually when I go for a walk in the countryside I’ll carry a medium format camera such as the Fujifilm GA645Zi but also tuck one of my two 35mm Olympus 35RC cameras in the bag. If there’s black and white loaded in the GA645 then I’ll take colour in the 35RC, or vice versa.

A few weeks ago I walked the Tarset Bastles Trail in Northumberland with the GA645 loaded with some expired 220-format FP4+ and the 35RC loaded with AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200. The Agfa film is re-badged Fujicolor 200, which can be purchased for £1.00 for 24 exposures at Poundland, a discount store in the UK.

I used to think of this “budget” film as being only of use for testing a camera in case of light leaks etc, but I am becoming more of a fan. It’s no Kodak Portra or Ektar but it is pretty accceptable. I usually turn down the vibrance in Lightroom when using this film because I prefer more muted colours.

On to the subject matter – bastles are medieval fortified dwellings which were built around the borders between England and Scotland at a time when “rieving”, ie cattle theft, murder, kidnap, etc, was fairly common. The best preserved example on the walk is Black Middens Bastle – I took a pinhole image of this site which unfortunately was ruined by some exhausted developer.


2016-7,  Oly 35RC, Agfa Vista 200, Fuji Chems, 006

Boghead bastle – unusual in that it’s built in a boggy depression rather than on a hill with a lookout view

2016-7,  Oly 35RC, Agfa Vista 200, Fuji Chems, 007



2016-7,  Oly 35RC, Agfa Vista 200, Fuji Chems, 008

Shilva Hill

2016-7,  Oly 35RC, Agfa Vista 200, Fuji Chems, 009

This one isn’t actually a bastle, it’s just a gatepost – but you can see that the same local stone has been used. The stones from bastles would often be re-used once they had been abandoned as habitations

The film was home developed in the Fuji Hunt X-Press C41 kit and I was fairly pleased with the image quality. ‘Tis a pity it’s only 35mm …

Thinking about Ilford FP4+ reciprocity failure

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I had made some pinhole images using Ilford FP4+ without accurately adjusting for reciprocity failure. My quick fix for pinholes has been to switch to Fuji Acros, which requires no adjustments for exposures of less than two minutes. However I then went off and shot two rolls of FP4+ in dark woodlands, with measured exposures of 1-2 seconds, and failed to take any account of reciprocity failure.

Many of the images also used a green filter, and my estimate of the required extra exposure may have been too low.

So I decided that to avoid forgetting to take account of reciprocity failure, I really needed a handy table which I could carry around to guide me. I went off to read the Ilford data sheet for FP4+ which can be found here

Here is the relevant section:


The problem with this table is that it is too small, and is lacking intermediate gridlines, to enable an accurate assessment to be made of the adjusted exposure time. This is particularly true in the <5 seconds range. We can see that a 5 second measured exposure requires an adjusted exposure time of somewhere in the range of 12 or 13 seconds, but measures of less than 5 seconds require a great deal of eyeballing and guessworking based on a very small chart.

So I used the Microsoft Clipping Tool ™ to capture the graph from a PDF, saved it to a JPEG, inserted the JPEG file into Word, and resized the image to fill a page, making sure to keep the original aspect ratio of the image. This enabled me to draw minor gridlines on a 1 second basis between 1 and 10 seconds and to estimate the following set of adjusted exposure times:


I graphed the resulting numbers to get this chart:


My chart allocates more space on the horizontal axis for the measured times up to 10 seconds, than for the times above ten seconds. My rationale for doing this was that I will frequently use exposures in, say, the 1-8 seconds range, whereas for me exposures of 10+ seconds are commonly only used for pinhole images.

As well as displaying as chart markers the adjusted exposure times for 0.5, 0.7, 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and 60 seconds, the graph includes minor grid lines on the horizontal axis at 1 second intervals, so that intermediate values can be read off the graph for a measured exposure time of, say, 12 seconds.

I should now give some caveats. First, although I think I have been able to display some information with a finer degree of granularity than the original chart, there are limitations to the process, based on issues such as the the quality of my eyesight ! In some cases my estimated interpolations give an adjusted exposure time in between a whole second, eg 6.5 seconds; I have rounded these up because I can’t directly enter these onto a camera. In fact with most of the cameras I use I would be relying on “bulb” mode above 8 seconds and there is no way I can accurately time a bulb exposure to half a second.

Therefore, these tables are nothing more than my initial starting point, which I will try out for a few months to see how they work. I make no guarantees whatsoever about their accuracy !

Now I don’t like to leave a blog post without showing some of my photos, so here are a few examples from the last couple of FP4+ rolls. The underexposure is not too obvious in these images, as the scanner has managed to make adjustments, but some of the images have very poor shadow details when viewed larger.

All images were taken with a Fujifilm GA645Zi and developed in Firstcall B&W film developer.

2016-6-11,  Wharfedale, GA645, FP4+, Firstcall Dev,  034



2016-6-11,  Wharfedale, GA645, FP4+, Firstcall Dev,  035


2016-6-11,  Wharfedale, GA645, FP4+, Firstcall Dev,  036


Looking down the dale

Nentdale viewed from the Nenthead mines

Nettled window

Ruined miners cottages in Rookehopedale

2016-6-11,  Wharfedale, GA645, FP4+, Firstcall Dev,  041


2016-6-11,  Wharfedale, GA645, FP4+, Firstcall Dev,  043


2016-7-4,  Nenthead, GA645, FP4+, Firstcall Dev,  007

Tributary of the Tarset Burn

2016-7-15,  Devils Water, GA645, FP4+, Firstcall Dev,  020

The Tarset Burn