‘Mystery Is A Compass’ photo book by Jonathan Liu

A couple of months ago, I went to a Photo Book fair at the Phoenix Gallery in Brighton.

It was part of the Brighton Photo Biennial that was held from 28th September – 28th October 2018 around various places in Brighton.

The Brighton Photo Biennial is a month of free photography, exhibitions and events for professional, enthusiasts, students and families alike.

I love to collect photo books (especially film photography ones) so was keen to attend the photo book fair which was within walking distance from where I live.

Whilst at the fair, I was drawn to this book called ‘Mystery Is A Compass’ by Jonathan Liu. What drew me to the book was the simplicity of the front cover, the title of the book (I love a good mystery) and it had a couple of re-printed handwritten notes plus a photo attached to the front cover with a vintage bulldog clip.

It was a publisher stand called Duende Print who was selling the book and after having a chat with them, they confirmed to me that the black and white photos were taken using a film camera which appealed to me even more. I’ve since spoken to Jonathan who confirmed to me that the photos were shot on a mixture of large format (4×5) and medium format film along with stills from a Super 8 film reel.

The book looks into the disappearance of 20 year old Everett Ruess who was last seen in November 1934 heading into Davis Gulch off Escalante in Utah, USA.

Investigators were sent in search of him and found what looked like a campsite with some of his supplies. Further along the Canyon was an arch with an inscription at the base which read ‘Nemo, 1934’. In latin, Nemo translates to ‘No one’.

The book describes the theory of ‘Plato’s Meno’ where to summarise, there is a mystery to this unknown entity and that this mystery can act as a compass guiding you through the seemingly unknown.

Jonathan decided to follow Everett Reuss’s route to the Southern Utah desert because he wanted to find a deeper understanding of what his motivations were, and to witness the beauty that ultimately consumed him.

Jonathan describes in the book that the only physical legacy Everett Reuss left behind is in the form of a drive through fast food restaurant in Escalante named ‘Nemo’s’.

Jonathan has cleverly mixed photographs he has taken along with excerpts of Everett’s letters that were left behind when he disappeared.

I really wanted to blog about this book because I found it to be such an interesting read and I liked the black and white photos Jonathan had incorporated into the writings.

The book is a nice compact size measuring 150mm x 210mm and is a 52pp french-fold book which means some of the photos go over two pages which is a bit different to a standard photo book.

The book was published in May 2018 and there were 30 First Edition copies printed. My copy is number 28.

For more information on the book and Jonathan Liu, you can visit Jonathan’s website at http://www.jonathanliu.net

I would highly recommend the book and checking out Jonathan’s other work.

Using the Ilford HP5 Plus Black and White 120mm film with my Lubitel 166B

Since I really loved the previous black and white photos I had taken using my Lubitel 166B, I thought I would try out the Ilford HP5 Plus film as it’s a very easy film to get hold of in a few of my local shops in Brighton.

The more I use the camera, the more I continue to love it. Since my last blog, I’ve now discovered how to focus the photo properly by using the attached magnifying glass in the viewfinder and looking at the central circle in the viewfinder.

I also thought I’d test out the eye level viewfinder on the camera which is a small square in the plastic at the top so you don’t actually look into the picture part of the camera. Here are two photos I took using this method of shooting:

I didn’t feel that using the little square viewfinder gave an accurate image of  what I inevitably shot so I know I definitely prefer using the actual picture viewfinder and mainly shooting from the hip.

It was a cloudy, windy day in Brighton and the waves were immense. I wanted to capture this as best I could using the Lubitel and here are the results:

I wasn’t sure when taking the photos if I was going to find them boring once developed but I do really like them. Again for me, I just really like the style of photo this camera produces.

Shooting black and white film with the Lubitel 166B

Following on from my recent blog about using the Lubitel 166B camera for the first time and after being quite impressed with the photos I took with some colour 120mm film, I knew I wanted to try out some black and white film in the camera.

I had some Lomography Lady Grey 400 120mm black and white film in my stash so promptly loaded the camera with it and had a walk along Brighton Beach.

I’m still getting used to the camera so there were again some wonky photos but that aside, I was really impressed with the overall style of the black and white photos that the camera produced.

Here are some of the photos I took and you can judge for yourselves:

img787fullsizeoutput_1826fullsizeoutput_1827fullsizeoutput_1828fullsizeoutput_1829fullsizeoutput_182ffullsizeoutput_182bfullsizeoutput_182cfullsizeoutput_182dfullsizeoutput_182e

I’m definitely going to be shooting more black and white film with this camera, perhaps with some different makes of film to see the difference in the photos.

Interview with Lomography

I recently did an interview with Lomography which has now been published in their online magazine about the Highgate Cemetery Workshop I attended in October.

Check out the interview and photos here.

Highgate Cemetery Tour with the Diana F+ Camera

On Saturday 20th October I visited Highgate Cemetery to do a Lomography workshop using the Diana F+ camera.

You’ll see from one of my other blog posts that I already own a Diana F+ camera so am familiar with how it works, but I’ve always wanted to visit Highgate Cemetery so thought this would be a good opportunity to finally go.

The cost of the workshop was £20 which included a loan of a Diana F+ camera, a roll of black and white 120mm lomography film, entry to Highgate Cemetery’s East side plus development and scanning of the film that was used during the workshop.

I arrived at the cemetery’s box office (where the meeting point was) and quickly saw how popular this workshop was going to be since there were a few of us.

There were several employees from Lomography who also attended the workshop so they were able to split us into two groups.

Before we went into the cemetery, we were given a handout about occult photography in the 1800’s. We were told that with the Diana F+ we would be able to create some ghostly style images and were even offered some tissue paper if we wanted it to create an ectoplasm effect.

There was a whole bunch of Diana F+ cameras in different colours on display at the meeting point which were pre-loaded with black and white 120mm film. The nice thing was that we were allowed to pick a camera ourselves rather then just be handed one.

We were shown the features of the camera and were informed that we’d always be best off using the cloudy setting on the camera for UK weather even on a bright sunny day. The day of the Workshop was very bright and sunny which I was pleased about since we’d be outdoors. I’d also learnt something new as I personally would have used the Sunny setting if I hadn’t have been told this.

We were talked through how double exposures can be taken on the camera to try and create a ghostly effect. We were also shown how we could take pinhole photos if we removed the main lens and took a longer exposure in bulb mode.

Since the film only has 12 shots, we were also able to purchase more film if we needed it for an additional £5. I’d thankfully thought ahead and brought my own Diana F+ camera with me and some spare black and white Lomography film. However, I initially used the camera they loaned for the workshop since it already had the film pre-loaded.

We proceeded to walk round the East Side part of the cemetery and it certainly didn’t take very long to use up the 12 shots. I then used my own Diana F+ camera with the spare film I had brought with me.

I decided to take the used film home with me rather than let Lomography develop and scan them since I have my own flat bed scanner that I scan my photos on and I wouldn’t have to wait for them to post me the negatives after scanning the film etc.

Here are the results of the photos I took using the camera that Lomography loaned me during the workshop:

fullsizeoutput_1740fullsizeoutput_1741fullsizeoutput_1742fullsizeoutput_1744fullsizeoutput_1745fullsizeoutput_1743fullsizeoutput_1749fullsizeoutput_1747fullsizeoutput_1748fullsizeoutput_174afullsizeoutput_174bfullsizeoutput_174c

I can see why Lomography used this particular camera for the workshop as the heavy vignetting produces a great dreamy effect which I think works really well with the graveyard shots and also the black and white film gives them an old fashion feel.

Here are the photos I took using my Diana F+ camera and the black and white 120mm Lomography film I own:

fullsizeoutput_1734fullsizeoutput_1737fullsizeoutput_1738fullsizeoutput_1736fullsizeoutput_1735fullsizeoutput_1739fullsizeoutput_173afullsizeoutput_173bfullsizeoutput_173cfullsizeoutput_173dfullsizeoutput_173efullsizeoutput_173f

I think most people will agree that the photos I took using my camera are a real disappointment and this is because the backing paper from the film has imprinted itself onto the negatives.

I can see this has happened on a couple of the shots too using the loan camera from lomography but it’s not been no where near as bad as my film.

I’ve since discovered this will most likely happen if the film is expired or not stored correctly.

I normally store my film in the fridge, however, I have to admit that I had originally intended to use this black and white film in my Diana F+ camera several months back for another project which I didn’t end up doing and I lazily left the film on the side and didn’t end up putting it back in the fridge. We’ve also had quite a warm summer in England and the room where the film was left does get very warm so I think this has definitely been a contributing factor.

Overall, I found the workshop great fun and the Lomography staff were really nice and extremely supportive with any queries we had throughout the workshop which ran from 1pm-5pm.

I thought the workshop was great value for money and such a good thing to do around Halloween time.

If they run one next year, I would highly recommend it to anyone who can get to London and is keen to try out the Diana F+ camera.

Contrast Filters – Black and White Dark Room Photography

Last week I had the chance to try out a contrast filter for developing a photo during  my black and white dark room photography lesson.

I’m already aware of contrast filters being used on cameras on the lens.

Contrast can be high and low (depending on whether you want your picture be dramatic and bold or if you’re after a more subtle and soft photo).

I learnt that in the darkroom, you can use contrast filters to alter the tonal contrast of your prints (providing you use multigrade or multi-contrast paper).

Contrast filters are built into some enlargers but if the enlarger you’re using doesn’t have this, then a contrast filter can be added to the enlarger (usually fitted into a slot below or above the negative holder).

A contrast filter on the enlarger will allow some light through and alter the way the the tones look on the enlargement.

Contrast filters for the enlarger are numbered and go up in half increments as follows

00 0 1/2 1 1 1/2 2 2 1/2 3 3 1/2 4  4 1/2 5

The lower the number (e.g. 00), the lower the contrast.

The higher the number (e.g. 5), the higher the contrast.

One final thing to note is that when a contrast filter is used on the enlarger, the exposure time will be affected, so I would always need to do a new test strip with the filter in order to work out the new correct exposure time needed.

The title image in this blog is a photo taken during my recent trip to Singapore on my Pentax K1000 camera using Kentmere 100 black and white film. I used a 3.5 contrast filter in the enlarger to make the hotel building more darker and at the same time, make the sky almost white.

My Contact Sheet Obsession

Back in July I took an adult education course in Black and White Darkroom Photography (which I’ve written about in some of my previous blogs).

I decided to take the course again from September because it was slightly longer (eight weeks rather than five) and I felt I’d be able to expand on knowledge from what I learnt in the original course.

One of the parts I have really enjoyed from doing the course is making the contact sheets. For some reason I love this process over actually enlarging a photo and making a larger print and have ended up spending the last few weeks of the course purely doing contact sheets from some of my existing black and white negatives.

Developing contact sheets has almost become second nature to me from working on a test strip to establishing the length of time the negatives need to be exposed under the enlarger.

Here is a contact sheet I originally developed back in July with some negatives that unfortunately had a light leak (please refer to my previous blog post about this).

The negatives were taken on my Pentax K1000 using Kodak Tmax 400 black and white film:

fullsizeoutput_164b

On this particular contact sheet I placed the negatives over the photographic paper and placed some glass on top to keep them nice and straight. My first rookie mistake was not placing the negatives in number order and also the first row of negatives are upside down.

However, I had learnt from this mistake and was ready to do better in my current course. What was even better was my tutor introduced me to a really handy piece of darkroom photography equipment called a 35mm contact proof printer which is made by Paterson:

PTP619_02595f665506d04

The reason he had suggested I use this was because the negatives I was trying to develop into a contact sheet were really curly and it was proving impossible to get them straight under a piece of glass.

In this current course I initially wanted to develop some black and white half frame negatives I had taken on my Olympus Pen FT camera using Cinestill BWXX film.

However, after doing the test strip and then using this device, to my disappointment I found the contact sheet came out really blurry:

fullsizeoutput_1644

After chatting to my tutor, I’d found I’d made yet another stupid mistake……I hadn’t shut the door of the contact proof printer properly, hence the blurry images.

I had to wait until the following week of my course to develop a couple more of the above contact sheets until I got the exposure I was happy with (as the first one was under exposed):

fullsizeoutput_1645

fullsizeoutput_1646

I absolutely love the Paterson Contact Proof Printer and for me, it’s the best and quickest way of developing my black and white negatives into a contact sheet.

I developed a further contact sheet from my black and white negatives I had taken on my Pentax K1000 camera using Kosmo Foto Mono 100 film and the Paterson Contact Proof Printer:

fullsizeoutput_1647

I’m hoping to develop another contact sheet in my lesson next week from another set of black and white negatives.