Capture the night: a Lomography workshop

There is currently a photo exhibition at the Museum of London that I wanted to visit called London Nights.

London Nights Exhibition shows photos of the capital at night. There are over 200 works displayed by 60 photographers which range from the late 19th century to the present day (with some photos never seen before).

I have lots of fond memories of many nights out to London over the years so I knew I’d find this exhibition very interesting.

Whilst planning my visit, I noticed that Lomography were holding a workshop there on Friday 13th July called ‘Capture the night: a Lomography workshop’ which was tied in with the London Nights photo exhibition. I immediately knew I wanted to incorporate this workshop into my visit, since I’m recently knew to learning about the Lomography cameras so I booked two tickets for my husband and myself.

The cost of the workshop was £45 each (including access to the London Nights exhibition and use of a disposable lomography camera) and started at 6pm which lasted for 4 hours. The first hour was spent looking at the London Nights exhibition by ourselves (unfortunately I wasn’t able to take any photos inside the exhibition).

I did enjoy the exhibition and enjoyed reading about each photo. The photos taken at the early part of the 20th century were really interesting and some of them almost looked like paintings. I also enjoyed looking at some fashion negatives which had been taken in the 1920’s and wished I could have taken those home with me to frame on my wall.

After we had finished looking at the exhibition we were told to head to a conference room in the museum at 7pm to meet the Lomography workshop organisers.

Once we met them we were given a goody bag each which consisted of a Simple Use camera, a lomography Fish Eye 2 camera keyring, an information card about the lomo lab and 3 x greeting cards where I can add my own photos before giving them to somebody.

The Simple Use camera is a disposable camera (but we were told by the organisers we would be able to load it with further film if we wanted to once we had used up the current film). It is pre-loaded with 36 frames of 400 ISO colour film.

The camera has three different Colour Gel Flash filters (Yellow, Cyan and Magenta) which can be mixed and matched to tint the shots with different colours. I especially loved the Magenta and Cyan combo which produces a purple tint to the flash. There is a battery built into the camera which enables the flash to work.

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The camera also came with helpful instructions on the back:

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In the workshop we were given a brief overview of the Lomography company and how it all began. We were also shown how to use the Simple Use camera.

It’s been years since I’ve used a disposable camera…..I used to use them a lot during the late 90s on nights out with friends and also the odd wedding when they were put on the table (although photo booths have become quite popular at weddings recently).

We were then told to head out around London and take some photos and meet back at the conference room at 9pm.

We weren’t made to go around together as a group but to go off by ourselves. Most people in the group had come with either a friend or their partner so we all naturally went off with whoever we had come to the workshop with.

When we initially headed outside it was still quite light and the purpose of this workshop  was to take photos at night using the coloured flashes on the camera so we had to wait for it to get a bit darker. Thankfully it didn’t take too long to get dark so we wondered around near the museum and took some photos. It unfortunately began to rain by 8pm and we were beginning to get a bit hungry so decided to pop to a sushi restaurant to get a bite to eat.

We used up the remainder of our film and headed back to our meeting place at 9pm. Our organiser kindly unloaded the film for us and told us that as part of the workshop package, Lomography would process the film for us free of charge and email the shots to us in a week’s time. She also asked us if we had any further questions or wanted any further advice regarding the Lomography products as the workshop didn’t technically finish until 10pm. By this point my husband and I were quite exhausted (we had been at work since 7:30am and had rushed up to London in the afternoon) and we both knew we had the inevitable train journey back to Brighton so were keen to be gone before 10pm as my husband had to work Saturday morning.

After a week of waiting I hadn’t received the emailed photos that I was expecting so I phoned the Lomography store in London where I discovered the organiser had taken my email address down incorrectly (good job I checked!) so then I instantly got the photos emailed over to me and here are some of them:

 

I’ll be completely honest and say that I didn’t have high expectations of using this camera since it was a disposable one and like I previously said, I had used them a lot years ago so was fully aware of the quality of photos they produce.

I therefore did find the photo quality pretty average and not always great. The flash only works at close range so a lot of our photos taken of buildings were dark and underexposed.

I think these cameras are fine if you’re on a night out with friends and are taking close up shots and having fun with the flash. I wouldn’t recommend it for architectural shots!

If I was to go around London at night taking photos again, I would take my Pentax K1000 loaded with Cinestill 800 film and a flash as well.

Overall, I’m glad I got to see the photo exhibition and do the workshop as it was something a little different rather than just going to London for the night and sitting in a bar all evening.

Since I didn’t have high expectations from using this camera, I wasn’t disappointed with the results. My only disappointment was that I didn’t prepare in advance more and bring along my Pentax K1000 as I reckon I would have got some really nice shots. At least this gives me an excuse to visit London one evening again and take more photos so that’s good.

For anybody interested in attending the workshop, it is on again in October and here is a link:

Capture the night: a Lomography workshop

Also for anyone interested in purchasing the disposable camera, they can be purchased here:

Simple Use Film Camera

 

Half Frame Club

I’m finding from my journey into film photography this year that I’m developing a real passion for half frame photography.

In previous blogs I’ve spoken about a couple of the Olympus Half Frame Camera’s I own and the results of the photos I’ve taken with them.

Through Instagram, I’ve discovered that I’m not the only person with a love of half frame photography and it was great to see so many other people also loving half frame cameras and seeing what photo’s they’ve taken.

It was via Instagram that I stumbled upon a website called #HalfFrameClub – Half Frame Camera and Photography Club.

I’ve got to admit it was a website I wish I had invented but since I’ve only recently discovered half frame photography it was understandable that somebody would have thought of this idea first and I’m really happy to see they came up with a website dedicated to it.

It’s an online community for half frame 35mm film photography and cameras which is curated by @danmar_photos. The website ‘does what it says on the tin’. It’s a community for half frame camera enthusiasts to discover and look at photos taken by half frame cameras.

On instagram myself and other people are able to tag #halfframeclub onto our photos that were taken with a half frame 35mm camera and the curator will feature various ones on a daily basis, which is great to see. There are also themes such as ‘Monochrome Monday’.

The website itself is concise and clear and really easy to navigate. On the home page you are greeted with photos taken on half frame cameras and if you click on each photo, it will take you to a link in instagram where you can find out more about the person who took the photo and look at their other work.

This website and their instagram page certainly does provide a lot of inspiration for people who like to take photos with 35mm half frame camera’s.

The website releases a Zine every season and will ask for submissions for this from the half frame community. They’re currently looking for submissions for their Summer Zine until August 15th.

I love the fact that you can easily click onto the submission page and a theme is brought up for the type of photos they would like submitted for that particular zine issue which is great and gets the photographer to have more thought into the type of photos they would like to submit (and possibly inspire them to go out and take further photos to meet the theme).

The website also has a section for reviews of cameras and film. The curator encourages fellow members of the half frame community to contribute to this which is great.

Lastly there are links to websites for General Photography and another one specifically for Half Frame Photography and the types of Half Frame Cameras which is very informative.

Here is the link to the website which I encourage all half frame photography enthusiasts to check out:

www.halfframeclub.com

 

Dark Room Photography Part 4

Yesterday was my fourth lesson in learning about dark room black and white photography.

I was quite excited because I knew this lesson would involve making an enlargement of one of my negatives.

I had already decided on the negative I wanted to initially try which was a picture I had taken of one of my cats who is a Silver Tabby using my circular fisheye lens which was attached to a 28mm lens on my Pentax K1000.

I liked the fact this picture had my shadow in it and the white walls and patterned tiles in my garden also made the picture more interesting.

First of all I had to make a sample sheet once I had decided on the size of the enlargement.

In this lesson I unfortunately picked an enlarger with a temperamental digital timer so if pressed slightly wrong, the image wouldn’t expose for the full second which was annoying.

I set my first sample sheet using F/11 as per last week although I was informed by my tutor that the times wouldn’t necessarily be the same as before because I was doing the photo at a different size and distance to my contact sheet, hence why we do a sample first. Here is my first sample sheet:

I decided I liked the area that had exposure of around 4 seconds but because my timer was temperamental, I wasn’t sure if this was entirely accurate. Here is the result

I decided it was a bit dark so tried again at 3 seconds:

I preferred this contrast to the previous one but I discovered a little lighter circle in the left corner where I must have accidentally splashed some chemical before developing (that will teach me to wash and dry my hands before using a new piece of photographic paper!).

I wasn’t quite happy with the alignment of the images on the photographic paper as shown below:

I therefore decided to do another enlargement making the image larger on the paper. This meant I had to do a sample sheet again due to changing the focus:

On this sample I again used an aperture of F/11 and decided on an exposure of 4 seconds. Yet again the timer had not worked correctly so I wasn’t 100% sure if this would be accurate and here was the result:

I was really happy with the border but the image was too light. I was nearing the end of my lesson with 5 minutes to spare so my tutor suggested I quickly do it again with an 8 second exposure and here is the result:

I was really happy with this image and exposure plus the border.

For a first attempt I’m definitely pleased with the end result. In next weeks lesson I shall be developing more photos but perhaps I’ll use a different enlarger with a timer that works properly.

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 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:

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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:

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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:

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

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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: