Dark Room Photography Part 3

In this lesson that I had on Thursday we were going to be creating a contact sheet from our negatives which I was very excited about but at the same time slightly apprehensive as I wasn’t sure how much light had leaked onto my negatives (see Dark Room Photography Part 2) for more information on this.

First of all we had to cut our long line of negatives into strips of six frames, with a minimum of three frames to be cut on the last part. For instance, if I was cutting into six frames and saw at the end of my strip I would only have two frames left then on the last part I would cut five frames then three.

Thankfully my strip worked out in multiples of six plus three at the end.

I was happy to see that most of negatives showed pictures. I knew I’d be able to see which images had been damaged by the light leak once I produced the contact sheet.

The first step was to produce a test strip from a line of six negatives I’d cut to determine the correct exposure needed (aperture and time). It will not be the same every time because of differences in the negatives, the height of the enlarger and possibly the type of photographic paper used.

It would work out very costly testing whole bits of photographic paper as it could take a lot of attempts to get the correct exposure so instead, we cut the photographic paper into strips and then using a wooden board, covered most of the strip of negative except for half a frame and worked down the negative strip in 1 second intervals, exposing a further half frame of the negative each time until you reach a total of 12 seconds where at that point the whole strip of negative would have been exposed to the photographic paper.

We only had two hours (actually less than that as a good 20-30mins was spent with teacher providing a demonstration of what we needed to do which didn’t go to plan as he over exposed the test strip initially so had to do another one).

We also used a piece of glass to keep the negatives flat then put a wooden board over that.

I used a strip of six negatives which had roughly the same shade of images so I would hopefully get an overall idea of the correct exposure to use. I initially set my enlarger up with an aperture of f/5.6 with one second intervals and here is the result of my test strip:

You’ll see by how dark it is that it was clearly over exposed. I then tried again putting down my aperture by two stops to f/11 again with one second intervals and here are the results:

I was much happier with this exposure and once I looked at the test strip in the daylight I decided that exposing the image for four seconds would be best.

The next step was to put all my negatives together to make a contact sheet. Unfortunately time was not on my side by this point so I rushed the process of putting all the strips of negatives together without putting them in the correct order of how they were taken. Here is the final contact sheet:

First of all I was very excited about producing my own contact sheet and could easily get addicted to just doing this process alone as from an artistic perspective, I think you could create some amazing contact sheets depending on the images you took.

However the perfectionist in me was annoyed at myself for rushing through the negative line up and in hindsight I should have spent a little more time using the light box and matching my negatives in the correct order. I also realised after developing the contact sheet that the top line of my negatives were upside down (aaargghh). Again, a silly school boy error which could have been avoided if I hadn’t rushed so much at that stage.

Overall though I’m aware it’s my first attempt so make allowances in myself for these silly mistakes. The most important thing is I managed to produce a contact sheet and I’m very happy about this.

I’m even more happy that there are some images I’d like to use that weren’t damaged by the light leak so I can work on making photos of them in next weeks lesson.

Also, there was a cool night time image I took which had a bit of light leak which I think adds to the atmosphere of it and may actually look quite effective if made into a photo but it all depends on what I can get done in my two hours next week.

Dark Room Photography Part 2

Following on from Part 1 of my Dark Room blog, I had my second lesson on Thursday.

For my homework last week I was asked to take some pictures using my SLR camera and black and white film.

I decided to use my Pentax K1000 camera and Kodak 400TX black and white film for this assignment.

Once I had taken 36 pictures, I unloaded the film from my camera ready for my next lesson.

In this lesson we were taught how to take the film out of its outer case and transfer it onto a plastic reel which winds the film into a circle which is then put in a container which is locked so light cannot get into it. I am telling it in basic terms here (as I know there is plenty of information on various websites that gives good technical information about this).

This all has to be done inside a black light proof bag which has two arm sleeves on the bottom of the outer edges so you can put your arms inside the bag and then you ultimately have to do this process blind.

The reason for this is so that the film won’t get exposed to the daylight before it’s been developed and you won’t lose the images.

We initially had some ‘practice film’ to try on and did it in the daylight without the bag to see what we were doing. Once we felt comfortable with the process, we then used the practice film in the bag before moving onto our actual film.

We were recommended to have 2 x reels in the bag just in case for some reason one of them was faulty. We also had a pair of scissors (for cutting the film from the plastic tube) and a device which is a little like a bottle opener which allows you to prise open the plastic round film case once it’s inside the bag.

I was surprised at how easily I was able to do this process, considering I couldn’t see anything.

Once our film was safely locked in the black plastic container we then had our 3 x chemical process which was timed and measured according to the film we were developing (my development time was around 3 minutes). This was slightly reduced because the developing chemical needs to be around 20 degrees in temperature but it was a warm evening so it went up to around 21-22 degrees, hence the reduction in development time which would normally have been nearly 4 minutes. There are ways to cool down the developer chemical but we didn’t have any ice to hand.

Once we had put the film through the chemical process and rinsed our film, it was time to take it out of the plastic container.

We unrolled the film from the plastic reel and removed the excess moisture by running our fingers down the film. We then hung our film up to dry using a peg at the top and also one at the bottom of the film to weigh it down.

On initial inspection I was pleased to see images had been developed on my film which was a relief. However, my tutor quickly discovered areas on certain images which seemed to be over exposed due to a light leak (shock horror!).

I knew it wasn’t a light leak from my camera since the light seals had been recently replaced and other films I had got developed from my Pentax at the local film lab came out fine.

We then discovered another woman on my course had the same problem and I instantly knew what had happened. What both me and the other lady have physically in common is that we have slender arms!

I could have kicked myself because I already knew as soon as I put my arms into the sleeves of the black bag and started to work on winding my film onto the reel that the sleeves were quite loose on me and I thought to myself at the time ‘I wonder whether light is leaking in?’ but I stupidly didn’t do anything about it or comment to my tutor and just carried on because I was so focused on getting the film wound onto the reel and correctly locked into the plastic container.

The lady also felt the same problem with her sleeves. Our tutor agreed this was most likely the cause of the light leak.

Whilst I’m frustrated at myself about this, I’m also a firm believer of learning from your mistakes and I certainly would never let this happen again!

I’m also positive in the fact that I still learnt the process of unloading the film inside a bag.

Next week we’ll be making a contact sheet / test shots and looking at developing our most strongest shots.

I’m really hoping that not all the images got damaged by the light leak but if they did, perhaps there may be some that might look effective/arty with the light leak (I can but hope!).

This is what I do love about film photography. It’s all about trial and error and I still think it’s great fun. I learnt a long time ago in film photography (pre-digital when I used to shoot film) not to get too precious about my photos (which I know can be hard to do) as there were times years ago where my camera may have not quite wound a film back (if there was a fault with the auto winder of a 90s camera I had and I lost pictures for instance).

There was also an occasion back in the 90s where my family and I had recently returned from a holiday and my mother had left the camera in the car as she was going to get the film developed when next in town but before she was able to do this, her car was broken into and the camera was stolen along with all our precious family photos on the film still in the camera! We were all more disappointed at the time about losing the photos than the actual camera and the car stereo which had also been stolen. Again, it taught me a lesson that I just have to move on and not dwell on it. Besides, it gave us an excuse to book another holiday and take more photos (and not leave the camera in the car)!

Olympus Pen FT Lenses

When I first purchased my Olympus Pen FT (see previous post) I knew that I would like to try different lenses on it since they’re interchangeable.

I immediately fell in love with the 40mm Zuiko lens that the camera came with as it is of fantastic quality in my opinion and the photos were nice and crisp when I got them printed.

From looking at the Olympus Pen FT manual I found that a total of 17 Zuiko lenses were produced for this camera and they fell into 6 categories:

  • Standard Lens
  • Wide Angle Lens
  • Telephoto Lens
  • Super-Tele-Photo Lens
  • Zoom Lens
  • Macro Lens

I knew that ideally I would like to purchase some kind of zoom or telephoto lens and also a wide angle lens for this camera. Realistically I didn’t see myself ever owning the full set as they seem to go for a fair bit of money (some cost more than the camera!) plus not all the range seem to come up for sale where I’ve currently looked.

In view of the quality of these lenses I can understand why they can potentially fetch a high price on the second hand market.

On eBay the lenses mainly come up for sale again in Japan (like the camera) and this is where they seem to be the most expensive too.

As luck would have it, when I started looking at these lenses after purchasing my camera, I saw somebody selling one in the UK on eBay which was a bid auction rather than buy it now. The lens was the 100m Auto T Telephoto Lens and it was after 11pm on a weekday evening and the lens literally had less than an hour before bidding ended.

The lens was described in excellent condition and whilst looking at this auction I also found two other of the same lens (one not in as good condition) both in buy it now auctions in the UK for £99 and £149. Admittedly the £149 lens came with the original case.

The current bid on the one ending in less than an hour was around £30 and seemed to have several bidders. I decided to go in with 10 seconds to spare and put in a maximum bid of £60 (not expecting to win). To my utter surprise I did win the lens for £46! I couldn’t believe my luck and was even happier when I received the lens and it was exactly in the condition as described. It even came with the cool ‘F’ Black and Silver metal lens cap.

Here are two half frame pictures I took using the 100mm lens using Kodak Colour Plus 200 film:


This spurred me on to continue my hunt for further lenses. I also was regularly checking in with my local second hand camera shop but they told me they rarely get these lenses in which is a shame.

My birthday was coming up and my husband offered to buy me some further lens(es) for the camera as a present if I could find anymore.

I still didn’t feel comfortable paying the prices in excess of £100 (to over £300 for some of the lenses) from Japan so my search continued.

Again, I couldn’t believe my luck when on eBay 2 x further lenses came up for sale from a UK seller who had come across them in a house clearance they had recently done and they had poorly described them in the listing as they didn’t have a clue what camera they were for.

The lenses were a 50-90mm zoom lens (Zuiko Auto Zoom) F3.5 (which included a skylight filter) and a 150mm Telephoto Lens (Zuiko Auto T) F4.0 which came with another cool ‘F’ black and silver metal lens cap.

Both lenses were described as in great condition and they had a ‘buy it now’ price of £55 each (with free postage). I instantly snapped them both up!

Again, once I received them, I wasn’t disappointed as they were both in fantastic condition as they had clearly been well looked after even though they didn’t have their original lens case.

Here are some example pictures taken on the 150mm Telephoto Lens using Cinestill 50 daylight film:


Here is a picture of me using the lens taken by my husband on our Olympus Pen EE half frame camera using Kodak Colour Plus 200 film:


Here are some pictures I took using the 50-90mm lens using Cinestill 50 daylight film:


Another great feature of theses Zuiko lenses is that they have a ‘depth of field’ focus button on the side of the lens.

I’m now currently on the search of a wide angle lens as I recently took some pictures using my 40mm lens which unfortunately were unsuccessful because the angle wasn’t wide enough and I couldn’t step far enough back. One example of this was in my friend’s classic 1965 Mustang car where I wanted to take a picture of the steering wheel but I couldn’t sit back far enough in the car to get the full wheel in on the 40mm lens.


So the hunt continues. I’ll be updating my blog with photos if I’m lucky enough to find any further lenses that are reasonably priced to add to my collection.


Olympus Pen FT Half Frame Camera

I first discovered this camera when I was reading the Tokyo Camera Style book by John Sypal.

I initially fell in love with the design of the camera but was also very intrigued when I discovered on the internet that it’s a half frame camera.

Half frame camera’s were popular before I was born so I wasn’t sure what this type of camera was.

After further research I discovered that a half frame camera uses twice as many frames at half the normal frame width on a 35mm negative to an ordinary film camera. For instance, if I loaded this camera with a 36 exposure film, I would be able to get 72 images instead of 36. This was because developing pictures back in the 1950s/60s was quite expensive so this was a great way to get twice as many photos developed for the same price. As development of photos got cheaper in subsequent years, the half frame camera became less popular.

I found this highly fascinating and immediately knew I would love to add a half frame camera to my collection.

After further research I found lots of half frame cameras had been released into the market over the years. Initially Olympus had released the Olympus Pen F camera and some of these camera’s have a cool F design on the front of the camera (like the lens cap design in my picture) but these didn’t include a self timer. Olympus also released other types of half frame camera’s as well as these Pen SLR camera’s.

I also discovered that Canon released a half frame version too. In the end I decided that the Olympus Pen FT was the camera I really wanted to own and use. The main reason being that it had a self-timer.

Unfortunately my local second hand camera shops didn’t have any in stock and although they’re not rare, they are not as readily available as perhaps an Olympus Trip 35 and they also come at a higher price tag.

I’d already decided that I was willing to pay more for a nicer condition one as I prefer to have my cameras in great condition, especially if I’m going to use them regularly.

Initially I found that most of these cameras are available for sale on eBay but are mainly for sale in Japan. Ideally I wanted to purchase mine from a UK seller so knew I had to be patient as they are few and far between.

After several months of searching and checking in with my local second hand camera shops to see if they miraculously had one come into their shop I finally found the one I wanted on Etsy.

I bought it from a gentleman in Scotland who is a professional photographer and refurbishes vintage camera’s as a hobby. He mainly finds his vintage camera’s in charity shops and he told me a lot of them are a complete write off and beyond repair but every now and again, he’ll find a camera in amazing condition or which he’s able to easily repair and cosmetically it’s in great condition.

This camera was one he had discovered in immaculate condition and only needed some slight refurbishment. He had personally owned the camera for over a year but found due to other photography commitments, it wasn’t getting the use it truly deserved so reluctantly he decided to sell it.

The camera came with it’s original leather case and the Zuiko 40mm f1.4 lens. The Olympus Pen FT camera was in production from 1966 to 1972 and what I loved even more was that the camera came with the original receipt which showed that it was purchased on 11th June 1972 and written on the receipt was the serial number of the camera and the serial number of the lens which matched my camera and lens.

The shutter speeds on this camera are B/1 to 1/500 and it has a unique rotating disc design that syncs with the flash at all speeds. The aperture is from f1.4 to f16. It has a light meter reading in the viewfinder which is numbered with a needle rather than a needle which you aim to point to the centre which I found unusual but was easy to understand. Basically the needle in the viewfinder will point to a number (ranging from 0 – 7) and you’ll match the number on front of the lens to make sure you get the right exposure. You can adjust the shutter speed to change this number if you need to.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed when I received and started using this camera. It’s an SLR and has interchangeable lenses. I also loved the half frame viewfinder and how I had to think a bit differently when shooting an image in comparison to taking pictures with a normal camera.

It’s a much smaller camera in comparison to my Pentax K1000 so I can literally pop it into my handbag which is great.

Here are some photos I’ve taken using the 40mm lens. I took the film for development to my local film development shop called Colourstream in Brighton. They told me they could only develop the film on a normal frame width which means that there would be two photos on the frame with a black border. They also informed me that the exposure would be a compromise between the two images rather than each individual one.

I was keen to get my first film developed asap so was happy for them to develop the film this way and was interested to see how two photos would turn out printed together.

Here are some of the results which I shot on a Kodak Colour Plus 200 (36 exposure) film:


I also experimented using the self-timer which was great fun. However, one of my friends who is a photographer and has a lot of knowledge on vintage camera’s since informed me that I was taking a great risk in using the self-timer option as vintage camera’s are notorious for having the mechanics of the camera break on you if you use this because they are old and fragile. I therefore haven’t risked using it anymore but below is an image on the left where I used the self-timer:



Leica Sofort Instant Camera

Following on from my recent blog where I was discussing my Polaroid Snap Shot Instant camera that I’d owned for the past couple of years and the issues I had with the print quality of the photos, I decided I was due an upgrade.

I felt I could justify an upgrade of instant camera as I do use it regularly, especially when I’m out with friends or family.

Whilst I appreciate the cost of film can be quite pricey I do tend to use it carefully and for me personally, I tend to buy instant film every one to two months so the cost isn’t too expensive for me. My basic rule is that I try to shoot quality over quantity with film camera’s.

My upgrade came about when I discovered the Leica Sofort Instant camera for sale in the UK. Whilst I appreciate all camera’s are ‘tools’ I couldn’t help but fall in love with the look and design of this camera.

Since it’s a Leica, this obviously comes at a higher price compared to a lot of instant cameras out there. In the UK the cost of this camera ranges from £200 – £250 and that is for the basic camera. That doesn’t include the cost of the case, film or cool orange, mint and white camera strap.

The camera is currently sold in three colours….white, orange and mint. Personally for me, I absolutely love the orange one.

It uses the fuji instax mini film and also the leica version of this same mini film which is produced by fujifilm.

Whilst the camera isn’t fully manual, it does have a built in flash and has several shooting modes:

  • Macro
  • Bulb
  • Automatic
  • Self timer
  • Party and People
  • Sport and Action
  • Double Exposure
  • Selfie

So far, I’ve mainly shot in standard or party and people mode. I’ve found the photos of people to be very flattering and many of my friends have commented about how the photos make them look younger which they obviously love.

The instant film is easy to load and there is a digital counter on the back which tells you how many photos you have left in the camera which I find really helpful. The film comes in packs of 10.

I find the camera lightweight and very portable. It is slightly bigger than my polaroid snap so doesn’t always fit into my smaller handbags but the cool strap enables me to wear it over my shoulder like a handbag.

There are two colour cases available for this camera in black and brown with a white canvas section on the side parts of the case. Again the cases aren’t overly cheap and retail for around £19 in the UK. However, I was pleased with the quality of the case.

I bought the brown case as I felt this colour complimented the orange shade of camera I owned.

The camera comes with a black Leica neck strap but I didn’t feel this colour went with my orange camera and didn’t look anywhere near as cool as the orange, mint and white strap. I therefore purchased the other strap for around £15 in the UK.

I was very impressed at how quickly the photos came out of my camera in comparison to the Polaroid Snap. The quality of the pictures are a million times better than the zinc  printed paper in my opinion and I’m very happy I decided to opt for an instant camera with this type of film.

The downside to this type of instant camera is that you cannot choose between colour and black and white photo modes like I could on the Polaroid Snap. To do this, I either have to load the camera with colour photos or black and white photos then use up 10 shots before I can change the colour. I can also only print one photo at a time as it doesn’t have different style modes, like the Photo Booth option on the Polaroid Snap. However, the picture quality more than makes up for this.

I tend to use the Leica colour film over the own named fujifilm. There have been many arguments that they’re exactly the same, just with Leica noted on the back of the film prints instead of fujifilm. I personally have found that the Leica film produces a warmer colour picture which I prefer.

However, on the black and white photos, I actually prefer the fujifilm brand over the Leica one because I think the photos are slightly cooler in tone which I personally prefer.

I’m sure there are many people who disagree with me about the difference in the film quality but I’m going from my own personal experience of shooting with both of these brands of films.

I tend to buy my Leica colour instant film online from Harrison Cameras as they currently sell a pack of 20 (2 x packs of 10) for £16.00. I can buy my black and white normal fujifilm from any local camera shop since I prefer the own brand of that to the Leica one.

I won’t deny it, this camera was definitely a luxury treat to myself and I’m sure the fujifilm camera’s take just as good photos for the fraction of the price of this camera but I have to be honest and say the look of this camera was what I loved.

I also loved the fact it was a Leica (admittedly not a German produced high quality Leica) but then it would have cost even more if it had been produced in Germany with all metal casing etc.

Ultimately this camera is great fun, is a great conversation point at a party and I’ve had much fun taking photo’s with it. I love the cool retro design and the fact it’s not too bulky to take out with me like a full size Polaroid camera would be.

I certainly don’t regret my purchase and can see me using this camera for many years to come.

Here are some instant photos I took at a family party this year:


Here is an instant photo I took of the steering wheel of my friend’s 1965 Mustang:





Dark Room Photography Part 1

When I was a teenager, I was fortunate enough to have a friend who’s parents had a dark room in the basement of their house.

The enlarger was from around the 1960s and was all chrome and dome shaped which looked really cool.

The dryer was a rack with a cream canvas which was discoloured due to it’s age and the chemicals it had been covered with.

I have fond memories of spending hours down there with my friend developing black and white photographs we had taken. Her parents had shown her how it all worked and in turn, she taught me the developing process which I found great fun at the time.

Now I’m rediscovering film photography again, I really wanted to get back into a dark room to see how much I could remember of what I’d learnt many years ago and also if I still enjoyed the developing process.

I found an adult education course in black and white photography at Varndean College in Brighton which is for a 5 week period on a Thursday evening from 7pm – 9pm.

I attended my first lesson yesterday evening and absolutely loved it!

I was given the basic introduction to the dark room and aside from the enlarger and timer being a lot more modern version to the one I had previously used, I was surprised at how much I still remember from those days. The timer I would be using on this course was digital whereas I’d previously used a manual timer.

There was a massive clock on the wall so I was able to count the minutes for the developing process.

The dryer was also completely different as it was a roller version in which the photo was slotted in one end wet and came out the other end of the machine dry. The tutor informed me that they had to order the drying machine all the way from Japan as they were unable to get hold of one in the UK.

In this initial lesson it was assumed we hadn’t yet shot a 35mm black and white film (although I’ve actually shot several over the past few months) so we therefore created camera-less photograms using objects around us to get a feel of how the enlarger works and how we transfer the image onto paper which we then develop.

I had never done a camera-less photogram before so this was all very new and exciting to me. We also had an introduction to basic camera technique so I only managed to do two photos but I was extremely happy with the results which are shown below:




Tokyo Camera Style Book

I discovered this book by John Sypal during one of my regular visits to Zoingimage in Brighton where they had the book for sale.

I was instantly drawn to the front cover and could tell it would be about film cameras. I also love Tokyo which I visited a couple of years ago as I have several friends who live there (one of them owns a really nice bar called the Ipcress Lounge).

I purchased the book and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Apart from the introduction, the book is made up of pictures of vintage cameras that people had in Japan. The book also makes a note of the camera the person is holding which I found to be really helpful.

There are so many amazing cameras in this book from the Leica’s to the Nikons, Pentax etc.

As a newbie to film photography I really did enjoy looking at all the different cameras and learning what they were.

One of my favourite looking cameras in the book was the Olympus Pen FT camera.