photographer

Kodak Pro image 100 & Portra 160 review - Portrait shoot out

Now that I have FINALLY settled on some camera kit that I’ll be keeping around for the long term I can focus my energies on exploring different film stocks - not that I wasn’t doing that anyway but I was finding flitting from one camera to the next a bit of a distraction, for the record the cameras which have won my heart are the Nikon F2 and Pentax 67 - today’s blog features a portrait shoot on the F2 shooting with a shiny new portrait lens and using two different film stocks Kodak Pro Image 100 (a new film to me) and Kodak Portra 160 (a film I have used a few times before)

Whilst the main focus of the conversation will be on looking at the two film stocks first up I’ll take a moment to show you the kit I used on this shoot, I’ll then take you through the shoot itself.

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I have just bought the very wonderful Nikkor 105mm 2.5 a lens which has a HUGE reputation as an amazing portrait lens, when i bought it the focus ring was quite stiff so I sent it off for repair to a chap called Miles Whitehead who did a great job of fixing it and it now has silky smooth focus action - I would highly recomment Miles if you have some camera kit in need of some TLC check his site out HERE. In fact as I write this I am reminded that Miles also serviced my F2 when I bought it so double thanks!! :)

I was originally going to include a few thoughts on the 105mm lens in todays blog but I loved using it so much that I think I’ll reserve that for a dedicated blog all of it’s own - suffice it to say that it’s reputation is very well earned, an amazing piece of glass!

Ideal for portrait, weddings and social events dontcha know…..

Ideal for portrait, weddings and social events dontcha know…..

I think most people will be familiar with Kodak Portra 160 which is a mainstay of Kodak’s professional line up, but what’s this Pro Image 100 all about? I’ve been shooting a lot of Portra 400 and 160 recently and whilst I love both film stocks I am always interested in trying new things and the results I’d seen from Pro Image appealed to me - the other great thing about Pro Image is the price! I got this for £25.95 for 5 rolls!

This film stock has only recently come to the UK/European market - despite being around since the mid 90’s, the stock was only sold in warmer climates, big thanks to the good folks at Nik & Trick for being instrumental in making the case to Kodak for getting this film available in Europe :)

Ok so I have a lovely film camera - check, a great portrait lens - check, a shiny new colour film - check, a beautiful location to shoot in….check! What’s next? I need someone to photograph! Fortunately I’m part of a great facebook group for photographers and models to network and arrange shoots - Danni is someone I met through this group and we’ve shot together before when i was testing out my Pentax 645, you can see those images HERE.

Also worth mentioning at this point that i had my films processed and scanned by the good folks at Exposure Film Lab who I must thank again for their brilliant work, I use them for all my colour films these days because I just love the results I get from them - check them out HERE

The vibe for this shoot was a really natural summer look to make the most of the bright sunshine, we had a beautiful location filled with light, flowers, tall grass and trees - let’s GO!

First up i loaded Kodak Pro Image 100…

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Ok then at this stage in the proceedings the word at the forefront in my mind is wow! Danni is a very talented Model which makes my job much easier and the Pro Image film is just lovely :) Let’s move on to the Portra 160 which I loaded up next and we’ll do a bit of a comparsion at the end, here’s the Portra shots…

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The entire shoot lasted about an hour (if that) we went for a stroll through some lovely scenery and together we created some properly beautiful portraits full of light and life! Danni is a great model she did a brilliant job on this shoot, she puts lots of character into her work and is just a natural in front of camera, this really shines through the images - we’ve worked together before which I think always helps so we’re relaxed and comfortable working together and meant we were able to just get right into it and enjoy the shoot. I’m over the moon with the photos we created together - thank you Danni :) Check out her portfolio HERE.

In summary then both film stocks are clearly capable of wonderfully sharp, textured images with great skin tones, colour balance, contrast and detail - I therefore love them both! They each have their own look so whilst they’re comparable I think there are some differences to take into consideration. This was never intended as a ‘one film versus the other’ contest in which we have a winner and a loser but rather an opportunity to look at how these two film stocks worked under the same conditions - to that end I simply invite you to make your own mind up which you like best - or maybe like me, you like them both?!

Here’s a few of my thoughts on each stock:

Pro Image 100 - it has a wonderful grain structure, punchy contrast and I love how it handles the greens and yellows, shadows perhaps not holding as much detail as portra, it has a classic film ‘look’

Portra 160 - minimal grain as you’d expect from portra, slightly muted colour palette although in these images it produced stronger contrast than I’d expected, Portra definitely holds on to more shadow detail and also perhaps slightly sharper.

What does all this show us then? Well they’re very close actually, much closer than I’d have thought! One aspect which does create an opportunity for comparison is the price with a five pack of Portra 160 retailing at around £35.99 and a five pack of Pro Image around £25.95 then clearly if budget is the deal breaker then Pro Image is your winner, if you absolutely must squeeze every bit of detail out of the shot then perhaps Portra is the one to choose - ultimately we’re all winners here as we in the UK now have access to the lovely Pro Image and I’ve got 4 more rolls sat waiting to go! I can’t wait to shoot it again.

Postcard from Berlin Pt1 - Travel Photography on Rollei Retro 80S

Recently I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in Berlin! I was there working for my other job (yes that’s right I have yet to find a way to make waffling on about film photography pay for my lifestyle - yet….) I made some extra time to visit my super cool cousin in law(is cousin in law a thing)?? anyway we’re family and I was really excited to explore Berlin, I’ll just get this out of the way right now… the place is amazing!! I was struck by how laid back and chilled it was especially for a big Capital City - I mean yeah the place was buzzing but just a proper friendly vibe about it, I really loved my time spent there.

Having finished my work I hit the street armed with my trusty NIkon FE2, Nikkor 50mm f2 (a new lens) and some Rollei Retro 80S film - one of my faves film stocks and fitting to shoot the German capital on some German film :)

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This isn’t really a camera review type blog but I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t spare a word or two about my kit for this expedition - so first up the camera body; the Nikon FE2. A wonderful camera, I wrote a blog about it’s older sibling the FE HERE a fine camera itself, but I have long since replaced it with the marvellous FE2. On the surface it looks like a fairly standard 1980’s era SLR but it has a trick up it’s sleeve which makes it a standout - a 1/4000 second top shutter speed :) it is very solidly built and although mine has a few scars gathered during the course of it’s life it works perfectly!

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Attached to the camera you can see the Nikkor 50mm f2 - as you’ll see in the images that follow this lens is very capable!! I picked it up on ebay attached to a Nikkormat FT2 which cost me £40 - I sold the FT2 for £30 so this lens basically cost me £10!! This makes it a perfect travel lens as I’m not carrying around some big expensive piece of kit - but the key here is that there is no compromise on image quality, this thing is amazing!

The 50mm f2 is also very solidly built, the focus ring is lovely and smooth and even though the lens looks like it’s been booted down the road (and probably has a few times during it’s life) it can create beautifully rendered images with great contrast. It is also an enjoyable challenge to just take a simple 50mm lens with you - no more fretting about which focal length to use, no lugging about loads of lenses which you probably wont use anyway. I enjoy the creative possibilities that working within limitations brings and choosing one lens does this effectively, anyway - enough gear talk!! (for now)

Two key things to note - Firstly you can see some Adox Silvermax and Agfa APX films pictured here that i purchased whilst in Berlin but the images that follow were shot on Rollei Retro 80S which was loaded in the camera at the time of the ‘look at me and my camera, film and booze’ lifestyle type tomfoolery and Secondly, yes the beer was a very good accompaniment to the proceedings.

So, without further ado - willkommen in Berlin!!

The images are presented in roughly chronological order of when I shot them, first up is this interesting monument in ‘Invaliden Park’ and was just round the corner from my Hotel - I’m a fan of brutalist architecture so obviously this really ticked that box for me!

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It was a bright, swelteringly hot day - cloudless blue sky, these sunny conditions worked well with the Rollei film which has a good deal of contrast and lovely tones.

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There is LOADS of graffiti in Berlin, I mean LOOOOAAADS! and stickers too! everything is either covered in graffiti or stickers - I love it!!

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Remember what I said about Graffiti? Well there’s loads of street art too! This piece really captured my attention - the building is an abandoned Art School which was either in the process of being knocked down or possibly renovated (or something in between) The building high mural makes the bold statement ‘How Long is Now’ (note no question mark) the blank face, the staring eyes - dark portals keeping watch over the machines at their work.

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The City is alive with the sound of construction work - cranes, diggers, the whole shebang - there was a palpable sense of ‘growth’ about the place

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The Berliner Dom sits right next to the River Spree, most of this side of the building was in shade but a patch of shimmering light reflected from the River illuminated the middle row of windows. And below the dome of the building - really love the contrast in these images, a combination of the light in the scene, the film and the lens all coming together!

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From the lofty heights of the splendid Cathedral to the minute details of human life - these are ‘love locks’ left by couples seeking to declare their undying love to the universe by placing the lock and casting the keys into the nearest water course, hence there are often to be found on or near bridges.

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Maybe it’s a natural impulse to give physical form to such an intangiable emotion, warding off future relationship woes by locking that loved up feeling in place, space and time… or maybe it’s just a daft tourist fad… whatever their intent, whoever and wherever they are now - I wish them well :)

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Neptune sits atop the fountain - again wonderful tones and dynamic range with this film, shot in mid afternoon bright sunshine but the camera meter, the film and developer all working to produce an image which captures the detail in these carved statues, the water stains rendered in white adding a layer of depth to the carved features.

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The Alexanderplatz TV tower dominates the skyline of the City - if someone asked me to design a TV tower, it would definitely look something like this! I have no idea what purpose the huge disco ball serves (in fact we have a huge TV tower near home which seems to function perfectly well without one) but if the choice is “do you want the huge massive disco ball or not” then the answer has to be yes! Good work people of Berlin!

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Overhead Tram lines make for some interesting compositions…

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Details at street level - Rollei Retor 80S is such a lovely film, it sings in bright sunlight and can also render wonderfully contrasty tones too, the front of the image was awash with light - it made the bicylce wheel really stand out from the background which has translated onto the film as a difference of tone and contrast, the lens is showing off it’s sharpness here too.

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I am a sucker for leading lines, come on - who isn’t? whether it’s a run down, poster covered side street or a neo classical collonade the effect is always the same; a visual invitation… step right this way!

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Neo classical architecture abounds…..

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….none more so than the Reichstag!! I wasn’t quite prepared for just how HUGE the building is! such a wonderful piece of architecture and rich in history.

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Just visible in the background is the huge glass dome which surmounts the building (it’s a shame i didn’t have more time to go and visit properly but it gets very busy and you have to book)

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The final stop on our mini tour of Berlin is the Brandenburg Gate - a beautiful neoclassical monument and famous landmark of the city, during my visit it was closed off in preparation for a concert so I couldn’t get a full length photo of the columns, but it prompted me to work the angles and I quite like how these compositions came out.

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The final shot from this roll of film is taken looking up as I walked alongside the Brandenburg gate; I love the gradation of light to shade on the right hand side and also the contrast of the neo classical and the clean, straight lined modern building next door.

It’s worth noting at this point that I developed the film in Kodak HC110 dilution H as per the Massive Development Chart for Rollei Retro 80S, this is one of my fave film and developer combinations especially for work in bright sunlight.

Berlin is a city with a rich history - one that it wears on it’s sleeve; it’s such an eclectic and vibrant mix which I hope I have conveyed in some small way here! This is Part 1 of my postcard from Berlin - next time I’ll share some images that I took with some film bought locally from the good people at Fotoimpex, in the meantime thanks for joining me on this trip!

Portraits on film - Night shoot with Cinestill 800T and Lomography 800 Colour

Sharing details of another portrait shoot, this is part of a major ongoing series I’ll be working on as a I rebuild my portfolio - it gives me an opportunity to share some insights on the cameras/films I’m using, the story behind the shoot itself as well as a place to share those photos which might not make it into my main portfolio.

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Having made the switch to full time film only and also recently adopting the very wonderful Pentax 67 as my main camera I have been keen as mustard to rebuild my portfolio, to explore the creative possibilities (and challenges) that shooting with film offers and basically have a shed load of fun along the way :) To that end I have been seeking out opportunities to collaborate with some of the very creative souls I am fortunate enough to know - hence this series of blogs! :)

This shoot was for my mate Paul who is a Music Producer under the pseudonym ‘Gamma Prime’ he’s been working on some new material and wanted a set of publicity images to help promote the new work.

The idea was to shoot at night and make use of available artificial lighting to add some creativity to the portraits, this assignment called for some special film stocks - Cinestill 800T and Lomography 800 and I also used a roll of Kodak Portra 400 too. I’ll give you a bit of an overview of these film stocks along the way and some thoughts on their particular qualities in use. I hadn’t used either the Cinestill of Lomo films before so I was excited to try them out - Cinestill is an expensive option and Lomo is more of a budget offering so we’ll see how they stacked up against each other.

First thing to consider when shooting in low light/night time is to take account of sunset! Golden hour light is there for the taking either side of the actual sunset so before I broke out the Cinestill and Lomo films I used a roll of Kodak Portra 400 to snag some of that golden hour light.

Kodak Portra 400

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Shooting with the Pentax 67 you only get 10 frames per roll of film so you really have to make each frame count! As the light fell I loaded the roll of Lomography 800 and since we were still in golden hour I used the first few frames here. At this point it’s worth stating that in a stand up contest Portra 400 vs Lomo 800 there’s really not a huge amount in it, they’re both great films although I think Portra has the edge - crisp grain structure as you’d expect from portra and shadows hold up well with lots of detail. That being said the Lomo film is no slouch and it has a very definite character and feel all it’s own.

Lomography 800

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We drove into town for the night shots and took a walk through the University Campus to take advantage of the artificial lighting and interesting architectural features. These first couple of frames are still on Lomo 800 and I really like how they came out - a very definite grain charachter which I like very much, shadows don’t hang on to too much detail but in this artificial lighting I think it adds to the effect.

Lomography 800

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The images below are all shot on Cinestill 800T - this film stock is repackaged motion picture film, the stuff they use to make Hollywood movies! I was very excited to try it out and it did not dissapoint! the letter ‘T’ in it’s name designates that it’s a Tungsten balanced film so it was designed to be shot under artificial lighting - as you can see the tonality and detail are really great here.

Cinestill 800T

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Note my iphone acting as a fill light here! Focussing was getting a little difficult as it got darker so this helped - I’m thinking of getting a little LED light to help in future

Note my iphone acting as a fill light here! Focussing was getting a little difficult as it got darker so this helped - I’m thinking of getting a little LED light to help in future

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Cinestill 800T has been processed to remove the Anti Halation layer which in some conditions gives lighting a strange glow, it also appears quite prone to light leaks as you can see on the left side of the above image - although in this case I kind of like the effect!

This shoot was planned as a portrait shoot for a friend to create some promotional images for his work as a Music Prodcuer - you can check out Paul’s music HERE :)

I hadn’t planned to compare and contrast these film stocks but the differences between the final images and the way I shot them presented the opportunity to reflect on the different charachters of each stock, overall I like all of these films and very happy with how they came out - here’s my thoughts on each in turn:

Portra 400 - what is there to say about this film which hasn’t been said already? It’s a classic for a reason and is one of my firm faves - clean grain, great details and rich colours. I’m tempted to explore how flexible this film stock is maybe pushing it to 800 and beyond in lower light to see how it coped. Portra is my go to film, a quality product capable of wonderful results.

Lomo 800 - this was a bit of a wildcard choice and it’s a very solid performer, espeically when you consider the price for a pack of three rolls of 120 is about £18. I shot it in good light and in low light in both situations it doesn’t hold up shadow detail as well as the other two stocks but this shouldn’t put you off, the grain structure is more prominent than either Kodak or Cinestill but this is also not bad news - it gives the film a look all it’s own which is good.

Cinestill 800T - this film blows me away - I love the colours, contrast and tones but more importantly for these shots it’s how the film handles shadows with details holding up really clearly even in very low light, it’s expensive stuff that’s for sure but it’s definitely worth a shot in the right conditions. It’s proneness to light leaking could be annoying if you have ‘THE’ killer shot and some random leaks could spoil your hard work - on the other hand it could just add something to the image!

It’s worth stating at this point that I was really pleased with how the Pentax 67 worked on this shoot, I was able to achieve useable images down to 1/30 of a second in low light which pleases me very much! The 105mm 2.4 lens continues to impress me with it’s ability to create 3D like images with pristime sharpness and beautiful bokeh too.

I have some more creative portrait shoots lining up over the next few months so I’ll be continuing the portraits shot on film series and looking forward to exploring more wonderful film stocks!

Nikon F2 review

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Having owned the F2 for 6 months now I can confidently say it has become a firm favourite (yes I know i say that about all my cameras)! The F2 has a big reputation for being a seriously kick ass camera and I can heartily confirm that this reputation is well deserved! The Nikon F2 is an absolute joy to shoot with - I’ve used it on portrait shoots, taken it hiking and shot landscapes with it, used it for street photography and candid portraits of my little boy running about and playing at home - in every situation the F2 is the right tool for the job.

Often when we think of professional spec cameras we assume that these are complex esoteric beasts which require some form of initiation rite to operate and only the enlightened few can master it - and while that may ring true in some cases, not so for the F2! It is a VERY simple camera with an intuitive set of controls laid out in a such a way that it allows the F2 to do what all great cameras do - it gets out of your way and allows you to concentrate on your subject, lovely.

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I’ve already introduced you to the F2 on this blog HERE but it’s such a great camera that I feel it deserves it’s very own blog review! I’ll give a run through of the features and operations of the camera and then we’ll get down to the business of sharing photos taken with it on various shoots and thoughts on using the F2 in practice.

The F2 is a modular design and when it was originally released back in 1971 it was a major selling feature that you could choose from a range of different focussing screens, in later years different prism heads were released which were interchangeable with any F2 body made at any time during it’s production run - this allowed you to decide on which kind of metering system (or no meter at all) worked best for you/a particular situation - my F2 is an F2A which means that it has a metered prism head that uses a needle meter readout, I much prefer this form of read over LED’s but if you like an LED readout then you can check out the F2AS head, or if you don’t want a meter at all you can get a plain prism - lovely! These days the interchangeable nature of the F2 is probably less of a selling point although it will be nice to experiment with some alternative viewfinders at some point in the future.

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OK so we get it, its a nice camera - so what? how’s it different to all the other bloody cameras you have…. great question! I’m glad you asked! let me explain:

Form factor: it’s a big camera! bigger than your standard 35mm camera, I like this! fits in my hand comfortably, the F2 is perhaps the most ergonomic camera I have had the pleasure to shoot with so far!

100% viewfinder: What you see is what you get! the viewfinder shows the whole of the frame (not always a given on some cameras) it’s big, it’s bright, it’s beautiful!

Mechanical: The body requires no batteries to operate, it’s powered by springs and gears - I like this very much! (obviously the meter needs a battery)

Build quality: The F2 was hand built to a very high specification for professional shooters, in an age when things were built to last, its like a Swiss watch that you can also use as a hammer from to time (or just maybe, make photographs with it)!

Looks: yes I am shallow enough for this to be a ‘thing’ in my choice of camera, but flipping heck look at it! Industrial Design at it’s finest - an exercise in form following function if ever there was one.

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I enjoy shooting with the F2 so much and I am such a big fan of the amazing Nikkor lenses that I’ve decided to concentrate my 35mm kit around two Nikon F2’s (I just bought a second one) and an FE2 which I already own (and who knows what other Nikon F mount bodies I’ll take a shine to in future) in part because these are simply amazing pieces of equipment and also because running several different lines of camera (Olympus, Pentax, Canon and Nikon) at the same time gets a bit expensive!

I’d much rather own several bodies which can all utilise the same lenses - giving me more capacity to get some killer glass and shoot it across any camera body that takes my fance. Obviously for Medium Format shenanigans the indomnitable Pentax 67 will be a fixed feature and for just the sheer lunacy of it a Holga 120N is also firmly on my ‘keeper’ list of cameras!

I want to share some of the images I’ve taken with the F2, to date I’ve used it on several portrait shoots and also a few hikes into the wilderness to shoot landscapes, I’ll start with some of the portrait images which I took on a shoot with my friend Arya Ravenswood you can see the full shoot HERE these were all shot on Portra 400 on the F2 with the Nikkor 50mm 1.4 AI lens.

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And now a few images from out and about in the moors around my home, the following images were taken on the same day at two different locations - first three are from Dovestones Reservoir and the rest are from West Nab, all shot on Fomapan 200 on the F2 with the Nikkor 24mm 2.8 AI lens and an orange filter (the observant will notice this is also the same time that I took the header shots for this blog - planning ahead you see, I don’t just throw these things together you know)!

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So there we have it - another blog during which I heap praise upon a particular camera, stating something like ‘so this is the only camera I’ll ever need’ or whatever, clearly I’ve established that I am prone to bouts of enthusiasm when it comes to this kind of thing but this time it’s different… as a result of how much I enjoy working with the F2 I’ve sold off pretty much all my other cameras now, I‘m a photographer not a collector so my ultimate aim here is to shoot not to have loads of cameras just sitting on the shelf - the F2 is a shooters camera, a pro series camera from a time when being a pro photographer was a badge of honour. I make no claims to that badge myself and certainly just owning a decent camera will not make you a better photographer, but owning something as well made with such attention to detail and design is a joy in and of itself - to use it as intended to create work that you are proud of is a whole other level of joy. I can’t guarantee that I won’t buy some other random cameras in future but what i can say is that for me the F2 is the ultimate 35mm film camera.

Portrait shoot with Arya Ravenswood

I recently had the pleasure of working with my friend Arya Ravenswood who is a practicsing Occult Magician & Witch. Arya wanted to create a fresh set of images to use on her website and Social Media (the occult is a very 21st Century operation ya know) and I was thrilled to be asked to help Arya realise her creative vision!

A huge thank you to Arya for the opportunity to collaborate on these images, check out Arya’s website HERE and also a Periscope TV channel HERE Arya has a real gift - go visit her website and find out for yourselves!

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Since I am in the process of rebuilding my portfolio it was a great opportunity to put my new Pentax 67 through it’s paces on this shoot. To mix things up a bit I also used my Nikon F2 as a second shooter, filmwise on both 35mm and 120 formats this was an all Kodak Portra 400 affair mainly to give a consistent look and feel to the images so that they can hang together as a set and also because I bloody love the stuff!

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Working with Arya was amazing, she created two really strong (and of course very Witchy/Occult inspired) looks for us to shoot, we chose two locations (one for each look) and got to it - here’s the first look shot in a local graveyard.

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We didn’t scout the locations beforehand so it was very much a case of paying attention to our surroundings and allowing ourselves to be drawn towards particular details and working with them; having explored one graveyard we moved on to a second just across the valley. As i reflect on these images now I am reminded of the beautiful surroundings, the palpable stillness, the lush green of the grass and moss covered graves contrasting with Arya’s monochrome outfit, the Occult and Christian symbolism, life and death - as above so below….

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Our second look for the day was an opportunity tor Arya to channel her inner Stevie Nicks with a more bohemian, naturalistic look replete with lace, jewelry, bangles, occult symbols and also incorporating the tools of Arya’s trade - a bronze knife, a crystal ball, a chalice and cauldron. We chose some local woods for this look emphasising the natural elements and giving us a new setting to explore this side of Arya’s persona.

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This second set of images is certainly more expressive than the first and the wooded location was the perfect backdrop - walking through the trees we came upon a rocky outcrop which provided the setting for our shoot being set back from the main path and out of view of inquisitive dog walkers and their dogs! (I’ve never seen people skidaddle so quickly upon hearing that we’re doing a ‘Witchy’ shoot)! ;)

The combination of the Pentax 67 and Nikon F2 worked great for me - the Pentax is capable of some uniquely stunning images with a very distinctive, almost 3D look which I love, the F2 is no slouch either and some of my favourite images from the whole shoot came from the 35mm camera, I think this will be my default combination of cameras for the foreseeable future.

There were so many images to choose from on this shoot! It was great to work with Arya to create these images and full credit goes to her for styling the shoot, she did an amazing job on the day too and as a result we made some powerful images together, I think this is some of my best portrait work to date (if i do say so myself) I wish Arya every success in her Macgickal endeavours!

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Pentax 67 review

Ever since I first picked up a film camera and got slowly drawn deeper into the wonderful world of film, I’d heard tell of a mythical monstrous machine called the Pentax 67, today dear friends I am happy to report that my long held dream of owning such a mechanical marvel is realised - behold! the behemoth!!

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So… another new camera eh? yes dear friends - let me take a moment to explain… I’ve sold all my Digital camera equipment!! I’m officially now full time film only! regular visitors to the website will have noticed a different look/format - no more commercial/events/wedding pages, in fact I’ve completely re-imagined my photographic practice so that it’s more in line with my passions and interests and one thing that i had realised for some time was that my digital gear only ever saw the light of day for commercial/events work - having decided to forgo that area of work my digital kit was effetively rendered redundant - i loved my Canon 6D, it served me very well in the 33,000 ish clicks that i made with it.

Having decided on this course of action and sold off all my digital kit and studio lights i was in the market for a suitable main battle camera to replace my 6D and of course in a very short space of time my attention rested upon the Pentax 67!

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I’ve spent the last couple of weeks putting the Pentax 67 through it’s paces,adding a few more lenses and accessories to the set up, just generally getting to grips with it and starting a complete overhaul of my portfolio with the resulting images, let’s take her out for a spin and I’ll show you around….

A BIG part of the draw towards this camera was this lens - the Super Multi Coated Takumar 105mm 2.4 - it is properly LEGENDARY!! able to simultaneously render dream like out of focus areas alongside super sharp and crisp details, giving a wonderfully 3D effect - it’s my favourite lens ever, ever, ever! Here are three of my fave portraits shot with it so far :)

The 105mm fulfills the ‘standard’ focal length on 6X7 format giving an equivalent field of view to a 58mm lens on standard 35mm format, what’s even better is that thanks to a cheap adapter I can also use this amazing lens on my other Pentax medium format camera the Pentax 645 (see review of that camera HERE) when used in this way thanks to the smaller negative size of the 645 it works as an 85mm portrait lens :)

Anyway back to the Pentax 67 - in use it’s actucally a very simple and surprisingly ergonomic experience for such a large camera, as usual the internet is rife with ill judged, misinformed claptrap perpetuated by people who’ve never even held the camera - first and foremost being the “you can’t shoot it handheld” to which i say (insert swear word of choice) I’ve had sharp results hand holding this beast consistently at 1/60 of a second with no problem at all and with a bit more care and attention 1/30 is totally doable too, the mass of the camera is such that any mirror slap is soaked up by the sheer weight of the camera body, plus most of the vibrations/noise comes from the mirror returning to it’s start position i.e. after the shutter has closed and the frame has been exposed so total myth about handholding.

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My version of the Pentax 67 is the thrid version and dates from about 1989 - 1994 (I have no idea how to specifically date the camera by it’s serial number) and to my mind is the best version; earlier models had some mechanical issues present within them from the outset and of course are also much older, there is also a later model the 67ii which is the pinnacle of the range but… it’s EXPENSIVE! and really the only thing it adds is a built in grip (I don’t need this) and an aperture priority mode (I don’t need that either)! so if you’re looking for one of these cameras then go for one that says ‘67’ on the front of the body (earlier models have 6x7 written on the front)

It’s a modular system which means that you can change the prism finder to a wasit level if you like or a metered/non metered head - mine came with a metered head. looking through the prism the finder is about 90% of the actual image which is a bit of a shame but i guess having a 100% finder on a camera this big would have rendered it too unwieldy, it’s not the brightest viewfinder in the world but it’s good and pops into focus well, remove the prism and the focussing screen is HUGE and wonderful!!

let’s get this out of the way… it’s heavy… no denying that, you’ll notice that you have this camera slung over your shoulder!! it’s also big, no getting away from it - although considering the format of negative you’re working with it’s actually smaller than other 6x7 cameras, I really like the straight forward SLR format too - this makes it very easy to transition from your 35mm manual SLR camera and just start shooting straight away.

My latest fave camera combo - the P67 alongside the lovely Nikon F2 a perfect match

My latest fave camera combo - the P67 alongside the lovely Nikon F2 a perfect match

My camera came with the wonderful 105mm 2.4 lens already- i swiftly added the very cool looking lens hood to this and then started casting about for more lenses to try out, the great thing about this system is that these lenses are generally very large and so aren’t really coveted by the mirrorless digital camera crowd, this means they are pretty cheap! By shopping around (in the case of the 200mm that meant importing from Japan and in the case of the 55mm it meant not being too picky about cosmetic condition of the lens body) I was able to put together a selection of three amazing additional lenses for my 67 for less than £250 in total! here they are:

From left to right:

55mm f4 - a wide angle lens equivalent to about 28mm on 35mm format

165m f2.8 - a short tele lens equivalent to about 85mm on 35mm format

200mm f4 - a medium tele equivalent to about 100mm on 35mm format

I’m still testing these lenses out and deciding which to keep in my line up, since I love the 105mm 2.4 so much the two portrait lenses don’t get much of a look in at the moment, despite being fine lenses in their own rightonly time will tell if they will remain in my collection; the 55mm on the other hand is a keeper! Just to prove that the P67 is a flexible camera and suitable for landscape as well as portraiture here are a few shots I got on a short hike in the wonderful West Yorkshire Moors near my home and all shot on the 45mm f4.

It’s a bloody brilliant landscape shooter - I don’t know why this surprised me since it is basically an oversized 35mm SLR, but i was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it was to shoot on this walk, it’s weight is a bit of a limiting factor for longer walks and as someone who enjoys the great outdoors I’m not sure I would i regularly take the P67 on a long hike as it is a heavy beast to lug up hill and down dale but I’d definitely take it on shorter walks or to shoot specific scenes with the intention of darkroom printing the results, the 6X7 negatives are wonderful, lots and lots of lovely detail and the 45mm lens is amazing, I’m looking forward to getting into the darkroom soon and printing some of these!

So there we have it, my dream camera is living up to expectations (if not exceeding them) the P67 has helped me to transform my portfolio in a way that no other camera has, it’s flexible enough to shoot on location for portraits and is a very capable landscape shooter too - as with any camera nothing is perfect, but the Pentax 67 is the next best thing!

Street Portraiture on 35mm film with the Nikon FE2 & F2

 
Partners in crime - my trusty FE2 (left) alongside it’s new bezzie mate the F2

Partners in crime - my trusty FE2 (left) alongside it’s new bezzie mate the F2

Lots and lots and lots to update you with since the last blog post which was all the way back in December!! I’ve been mega busy with lots of different projects and got loads to tell you all about, so since it’s almost a quarter of the way through already let’s finally get the 2019 blogging season off to a start shall we!

Remember last time I was saying things like “I’m going to focus more on creating photos” and “I won’t be doing as many gear reviews” and “gear just gets in the way” well I still think that’s true but owing to my contrary nature I’d like to introduce you to my latest gear acquistion… the Nikon F2!! Rather than just a boring old review thought this time I’ll be sharing some images i shot with this amazing camera on a recent portrait shoot as well, but first let me take you for a walk around the F2

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Ever since selling my Nikon F3 last year I have had a Nikon F Series shaped hole in my heart/camera collection (check out this link for the reason why I sold the F3) back in mid December I decided (after not very much deliberation) to buy myself an F2, cos ya know..I worked really hard last year and it’s nice to treat yourself every now and again and it was the run up to Christmas and… well, you get the idea…

I found this beauty on Evilbay for the ridiculous price of £70 and so a deal was done, the caveat being that the camera was from Japan so taking a bit of a punt on condition and shipping times, but as with my previous experience of international purchases the shipping is mega quick, it’s really only on arrival into the custody of Her Mahesty’s rip off merchants here in good old blighty that things slow down, after an almost literal ice age in UK customs my camera was finally released to me and there was much merry making and feasting by all….. sort of… two things became clear fairly quickly 1: it was in very good condition and functionally worked perfectly 2: there were traces of dreaded fungus in the viewfinder and in the mirrorbox which didn’t bode well and therefore i was going to have to shell out some more cash (and wait even longer) before getting to grips with the F2 - it’s all sorted now though, fresh from a good clean and service I even managed to negotiate a part refund from the ebay seller which paid towards the cleaning :)

There’s oodles of info out there on the interwebs about the F2 so there’s not much point in me re-hashing it all, suffice it to say that between 1971 and 1980 if you wanted a professional level Nikon SLR then this was it!! Instead of reeling off a list of it’s features and functions I’m going to share with you a series of images I shot with both the F2 and my trusty Nikon FE2 on a portrait shoot recently, I’ll share my experience of shooting with it too of course and no doubt indulge in some techno-babble along the way as is my want…

Oh yes and interesting/geeky factoid alert! The serial number on my F2 is 7865098 and thanks to the wonders of the internet and some Nikon nerds who collate all this info I was able to date manufature of my particular camera to between May & August 1977 - so this camera is only a few months older than me! :)

Ok so that’s enough camera geekery for one blog, what’s the damn thing like to shoot I hear you cry… well… it’s amazing! build quality is second to none, it just feels very well balanced despite being quite a large camera, the viewfinder is HUGE and bright and lovely which makes manual focussing a doddle, alongside the ever brilliant FE2 I now have my perfect 35mm dynamic duo!

Portra 160 with the FE2 and series e 100mm 2.8

Portra 160 with the FE2 and series e 100mm 2.8

These images were taken on a portrait shoot with Model Rebecca back in Feb when we had a mini heat wave - I was so glad we made the most of the sunshine! The FE2 was loaded with a roll of Portra 160 and with the F2 I shot a roll of Fuji Acros 100 and a roll of Portra 400 - I enjoyed using this combination of film and cameras so much and was very happy with the results that I decided right there and then that I’m going to shoot film from now on for portraiture.

Fuji Acros 100 on the F2 with Nikkor 50m 1.4

Fuji Acros 100 on the F2 with Nikkor 50m 1.4

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the film stocks used on this shoot - I’ve had a couple of rolls of Fuji Acros 100 on ice in the freezer for a few years now and since buying it Fuji have discontinued production :( having only shot one roll of it before I figured I’d give it a whirl and I love the results, developed in HC110 it has a clean and balanced finished with lovely contrast.

Colour film duties were fulfilled by Kodak Portra one roll each of 160 and 400 flavours - I think i overexposed the 400 speed a couple of stops to 200 and shot 160 at box speed - having developed these myself I had some issues getting the right colour balance when scanning at home and for some frames it took me a little while to get the colours to look and feel ‘right’

Portra 400 on the FE 2 with Nikkor 24mmm 2.8

Portra 400 on the FE 2 with Nikkor 24mmm 2.8

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So there we have it - I was so pleased with how both cameras performed and I continue to be impressed at the quality of the Nikon lenses, the images here were shot on the Nikkor 50mm 1.4, Nikkor 24mm 2.8 and the Series E 100mm 2.8 - super sharp shooters the lot of them! If you’ve not tried an old Nikon camera and lens I would urge you to do so - there’s a reason why these were the manufacturer of choice for professionals back in the day.

Portra 160 on the FE2 series e 100mm 2.8

Portra 160 on the FE2 series e 100mm 2.8

I developed the colour film at home too - the first time in a long time that I’ve done that, I was really pleased with how they came out and I’ve got a write up of the process and kit that I used on the way, I promise it won’t be another 3 months before I write another blog, in the meantime happy shooting!




Learning how to make Darkroom Prints

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As I've become more involved with film photography over recent years I've come to appreciate and value working with a tengible substance - a film negative. I find the challenge of working with a physical substance requires a different thought process and approach than working on digital there's the lack of an immediate opportunity to see if you got 'it' so you need to be more careful about your lighting and compostion but also I can't just hit delete and start again like I can with digital not only does this slow my creative process down it makes me much more intentional when I do (eventually) press the shutter button.

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So if you're such a big fan of actual factual 'things' then why the flipping heck don't you print more of your work I hear you cry! great question!! I am the first to admit that I don't print enough of my photographic work - film or digital! In fact I hardly print any of it! In this digital age the vast majority of photographs I've shot in either format are just floating around on the web somewhere or hidden away on hard drives or filed away in actual files in the case of negatives - probably never to see the light of day! Worse than that, in the case of my digital files - if I wait too long they might NEVER see the light of day.

Have you tried extracting files off a zip drive lately? what about a floppy disk?remember them? Where is technology going to be in 5 or 10 years time? Who knows what kind of electronic storage devices we'll all be using in the future and even if I can access them, data routinely gets corrupted and is lost for all time. But a 35mm negative is here with us in the real world! A different proposition entirely! My interest in film photography as tangible 'thing' is a combination of the challenge of working with a finitie, physical substance and there are literally physical limits to how far I can push this physical 'thing' to achieve my creative intentions (this is a good erm 'thing' - note to self, stop saying thing now)

OK so we get it, negatives are physical things (aaargh) and this is interesting to you, but then you just scan them into the computer so....what's that all about? Exactly my point!! A film negative is a finished article in waiting - it's a halfway point a pre-photograph, these days most people digitise their negatives to complete them but then we're back in the realm of electronic ephemera again, originally the negative was a halfway point on it's journey to becoming a photographic print and I want some of my film negatives to finally reach that destination!

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I've been wanting to learn how to make proper darkroom prints of my work for aaaages and a recent BIG birthday presented the perfect opportunity to do so (thanks mom)! I found a course being run by Dave Butcher a master printer who worked for Ilford and was trained by them in darkroom printing techniques, Dave is also a professional photographer too and his work is A-mazing! You can check out Dave's work here http://www.davebutcher.co.uk and also the oodles of resources and guides on darkroom printing he has created too by visiting http://www.darkroomdave.com if you are so inclined then I can heartily recommend Dave's Darkroom workshop, it was an awesome experience! I would like to say a huge thank you to Dave and his wife Jan for making feel so welcome during the course, it was fantastic and I cannot recommend it enough! :)

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I won't try to explain the finder details of how to use a darkroom becasue a: there are a few steps involved and b: there are load of resources out there that explain the basic steps including Dave's websites linked above - suffice it to say that I spent the day at Dave's house being shown how to use all of the darkroom kit and process invovled to create black and white prints of my negatives - I took a selection of some of my fav images and I was away!! The process itself is remarkably straight forward although there is a significant amount of kit and caboodle required to enable all this - Dave is a fantastic teacher and it was great to be able to learn from someone with such a depth of knowledge on the subject, of course I am only scratching the surface and just at the beginning of this journey, what I discovered is that with the right kit, some knowledge and a bit of practice you can make decent prints and be happy - but then spend an entire lifetime learning how to make GREAT prints!!

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I was over the moon to leave my first day in the darkroom with these prints to show for it! the detail, sharpness and tone of images that until now I had only viewed on a screen blew me away - I chose a selection of travel, street and architectural images along with a couple of shots of my little boy (had to be done) it was difficult to choose a small selection! but what now? surely you need a load of kit and space to set this kind of thing up right? well - yes, but not as much as you'd think and fortunately I was very lucky to have been given a complete set of darkroom equipment a few years ago which has been patiently waiting in the loft for just this very occasion!!

So here it is! my very own darkroom enlarger which i got along with a box full of bits and bobs that actually make sense to me now I've been on the course - before which I was really not sure what I was looking at TBH!

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So there we have it - a thouroughly enjoyable experience! I am intrigued at how different our experience of photographic prints is to viewing images digitally on a screen - ever been round to someones house and they get the family photo album out? how does that compare to viewing some images on a screen? no value judgements here (ok well maybe some) but it's just different isn't it? our emotional response is different it's a tactile, tangible physical experience - we respond, relate and react differently to it as a medium - and this is fascinating to me, why haven't I been printing my photos more you ask, well that's about to change - big time!

Nikon FE Review

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I have been on the look out to join the Nikon film camera gang for ages - it's a proper gang with hats and handshakes and everything - and now I have! Welcome the Nikon FE!! Is this another case of Gear Acquistion Syndrome you ask? yes, probably! Does this camera do anything special that my other 35mm SLR's don't? no. not really? do I love it anyway? Damn straight I do!! here's why!

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So upon handling the camera the first thing you notice is the build quality it's really well put together, feels solid and the mechanical components feel smooth and sounds great (the all important shutter 'schtick' noise is present and correct) but obviously you'd expect that since back in the day Nikon were undisputed purveyors of quality cameras.

In fact (at least initially anyway) the only fly in the ointment is the lens - or should i say the action of the lens, coming from a line up of OM and Pentax cameras I have to say that at first glance the basic Nikkor 50mm 1.8 lens didn't pass muster with me in terms of the focus ring which manages to feel loose and notchy all at the same time and makes fine focussing a bit of a faff to be honest.... I've gotten more used to it having shot a few rolls of film with it now so perhaps it just takes a bit of getting used to, the flip side of this is that now all my OM and Pentax lenses feel a bit stiff! (will the madness never end)?!!! :P

I'll have to see how I go with this lens though it is more likley is that my copy has seen one too many turns and is literally a bit worse for wear - it's ok to use but it doesn't exactly scream 'quality' when you're using it, and achieving fine focus is a bit of a chore twisting the focus ring back and forth so I'm now actively on the look out for it's posher older brother the 50mm 1.4

A juicy red apple is nice, but not every apple is red..... super sharp shooter Nikkor 50mm 1.8

A juicy red apple is nice, but not every apple is red..... super sharp shooter Nikkor 50mm 1.8

You cannot argue with the quality of the optics on the 50mm 1.8 thought - seriously very good! The next couple of images were taken on a short walk around my village - the people's republic of Slawit, shot on Lomography 400 Colour film, unfortunately some of the frames have what appears to be a light leak across one side with a band of blue ish light affecting the image, bit of a pain really, or maybe that'sa special 'Lomo' feature for the film!! I'll change the light seals and see if there's an improvement - otherwise I like the Lomo 400 film it's a cheap alternative colour film, in fact I'm going to be shooting a LOT more colour film as I've been totally focussing on Black and White for ages and feel like a change. The weird thing is that I don't think it's the camera as the roll of HP5 i shot doesn't have any of these issues - ah the joys of shooting 40 year old cameras I guess, comes with the territory!

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Focus ring faffing aside shooting with the FE is otherwise great, the controls are well placed (although at the risk of offending my new Nikon gang mates) I still prefer the OM2n layout - being able to control aperture and shutter with one hand whilst not taking your eye away from the viewfinder is a dream! again - it's probably just my technique having grown accustomed to the Olympus 'way'

These next three images were shot on Kodak Portra 400 with my recently added Series E 100mm 2,8 lens and I have to say that I love this combination! the lens was very cheap for how well it performs and of course Portra 400 is a fantastic film to play with, I took it for a spin around Huddersfield town centre and also grabbed a portrait of my friend Marco too.

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My Nikon FE is in great condition - it's clearly been used over the years with a bit of brassing and the odd dent/scrape here and there but in my experience that's a good sign! Mechanically the FE is smooth as silk and runs really well, whenever I've bought cosmetically 'mint' cameras they can often have internal issues as the reason they are 'mint' is they've sat in uncle nobheads cupboard since 1972 and never had a roll of film put through them, it's usually much better to have a camera that has been used as intended although it may have picked up a bit of battle damage along the way.

I bought mine from West Yorkshire Cameras - a big thank you to Howard and Hattie for being super helpful and for running such an awesome shop, if you're ever in Leeds I highly recommend a visit!

The following black and white images were a good test of the Nikkor 50mm 1.8 focussing whilst trying to get my little boy to sit still for half a second (an impossible task)! I shot HP5 rated at 800 and developed semi stand in Rodinal and I'm really happy with how they came out, the 50mm 1.8 lens really is very sharp and contrasty so I can forgive it's wobbly focussing!

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So in short I flippin love this camera, it's very well put together, the lenses are sharp and contrasty just the way I like! I'm now on the look out for some more of the legendary Nikon glass to put in front of the FE so watch this space as the next few blogs are likley to be all about those!

In the meantime if you've enjoyed today's blog post why not subscribe to the blog and get updates on new posts - see you next time! :)

The Ineffable Pathos of Ruin....

I flipping love a good ruin, don't you? I also love hiking and film photography - if you like those things too then today's blog will be right up your street, or path or moorland, whatever - you're in the right place!

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Raistrick Greave is an ancient derelict farmhouse atop Heptonstall Moor in West Yorkshire - these photos were taken on a walk in 2017 but the roll of film has been languishing in the fridge since then (i keep film in the fridge - it's a thing, honest) but no longer, the images have been awoken from their icy slumber to tell the tale of the haunted ruins of... RAISTRICK GREAVE!!! (que thunder sound effects and scary music)!

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Not only do I love a good ruin but I flipping love an open moorland too, the seemingly endless expanse of sky and undulating sea of grass - I can't resist the urge to stick my walking boots on and head for the horizon, which sounds like a really polite way of telling someone to bugger off doesn't it?! These photos were taken on one of my all to infrequent jaunts out into the wilds, on this occasion accompanied by my mate Dom who had discovered the ruined farm house on a previous walk and suggested we take a look.

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On the approach to the site the first traces of human occupation appear - the remains of rough stone walls sunken into the ground tracing the boundary of what must have once been grazing or even farm land but is now very definitely open moor - this just adds to the sense of dereliction and dissaray.

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It is difficult to obtain much detail about the history of the place except for it's name Rasitrick Greave and that it was (obviously) a farm house - when I say difficult to obtain I don't mean that the information is hidden away behind myriad booby traps in an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom kind of way, just that having spent, ooh... litreally minutes on google I couldn't find anything - anyway myself and my esteemed Colleague Mr. Dominic Ranson Esq reckoned it to be 17th Century ish and that's good enough for me - alternative suggestions are welcomed!

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Looking back at the photos now It's difficult not to get into a reflective mood -  this was once a home, build to withstand the elements and provide shelter and warmth, a place to live! People lived here, the buildings were... alive....host to all the mundanities of daily life, the hustle and bustle, the highs and lows, the births and the deaths....but now fallen silent, deprived of the one thing that brought them meaning - life! Home now only to the wind whistling through the cracks in the wall

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I wonder how many people sat around that hearth warming themselves by the fire after a hard days work in the fields,how many times did they sit at the window and take in the views, what were there hopes, dreams and aspirations? All that's left are these tumbledown stones, monuments to forlorn hope. I wonder if in a few hundred years enough will remain of my own home for some itinerant soul to ponder....

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I'm feeling far too reflective to bang on about the film gear used to create these images suffice it to say that they were shot on Rollei Retro 80S on my trusty Olympus OM2n and developed in Adonal which has once again prove itself to be a great means of creating images with contrast, depth and sharpness.

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Shooting 35mm film in the studio

Using film in the studio is a really enjoyable experience, I was fortunate to be asked to second shoot my friend and fellow Photographer Ruth's fashion shoot in her studio a while back and had the opportunity to grab a few shots of very awesome model, Zivvy. All of the black and white shots were taken on Fuji Acros 100 film on a Canon EOS 3 camera, all the colour images on a Canon 6D DSLR.

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I love working in the studio - it's a real treat, most of the time I shoot on location which requires some flexibility in your approach to allow for all sorts of variables in lighting and the general randomness that comes from shooting on location (although that is part of the fun)! However in the studio YOU are in full control!  In these images there are three studio strobes - one either side and another overhead, with a fourth light providing a backlight to the white background so there's a lot to take into consideration, it's an exercise in balancing and shaping light to achieve a certain effect depending on the look you're trying to achieve. I take no credit for coming up with the concept or the lighting arrangements for this shoot - that was all Ruth!

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It can take a while to get your lighting and composition worked out even when using a digital camera with the benefit of being able to instantly review  your shot, the process becomes slightly more protracted when using film, which is why I recommend using a combined approach - shoot film AND digital!

Back in the day photographers would often use a polaroid camera (or back for their medium format camera) to assess how the light was falling on their subject, polaroid is still available but it's expensive stuff, you can also get flash meters but they're not cheap either so I used my Canon 6D DSLR to meter the shots and judge the lighting - think of it as a digital polaroid! :)

Zivvy, Gav and Ruth reviewing the mood board and deciding on final styling

Zivvy, Gav and Ruth reviewing the mood board and deciding on final styling

As second shooter I took some behind the scenes photos on my 6D as Ruth, Zivvy and Gav the Hair Stylist did their thing - I really enjoy shooting candid, reportage images like this as it shows the hard work that goes in to making the final images - it's normal to spend a long time getting ready for even a simple shot and it's all part of the creative process that often gets missed out, behind the scenes shooting allows you to tell that story.

Zivvy trying out some vintage bling

Zivvy trying out some vintage bling

The key to a successful model shoot is not lighting, or kit it's....wait for it.... team work! Your ability to communicate, collaborate and ultimately create with the stylist, model, hair and make up artist is fundamental, I was fortunate in that Ruth had put together a great team and concept (and also put her make up skills to good use), Zivvy is a very talented model and the hair stylist Gav was also awesome, having a good team of people working together towards a shared goal is much more important that a whizzbang camera or lens or whatever (although of course they're nice to have too) ;)

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In order to integrate my digital and film sets ups when working in the studio I used a Canon EOS3 which has exactly the same mounts, inputs as the 6D so i could use the same lenses and flash triggers switching between film and digital as required, nice and simple it's no good spending ages faffing about trying to get ancient film gear to talk to modern studio lighting whilst the model, Hair and MUA, stylist et al are waiting for me to figure it all out, I like to shoot quickly and keep the energy going as I think this translates to the final images so having a fully integrated set up is a real bonus.

All of the black and white images you see here are Fuji Acros 100 35mm film which I semi stand developed myself in Adonal (on reflection probably not the best developer/process for the job as it's known to bring out the grain of the film and Acros is renowned for being smooth - next time I'll use something else)! I love the high contrast though!

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After the shoot I had a couple of frames left so I used them up around the studio.....

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Fuji Acros 100 is a lovely film, I kind of wish I'd been more patient and bought some more appropriate developer/used a more appropriate process but I was impatient to see the final images! Don't get me wrong though I love the images and am very happy with them I just think that a developer like Xtol or D76 would've made for a smoother finish perhaps - oh well! live and learn!

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Of course I wasn't just metering with the 6D - I enjoy digital photography very very much also, here are a few of my digital shots...

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So that's it then - I hope you've enjoyed this latest blog post. I'm really looking forward to working with a combination of film and digital cameras in the studio again soon :)

Rollei 35S review - shooting from the hip!

Today we'll be getting to grips with the Rollei 35 S pictured here with a 50p next to it for scale (50p being the internationally recognised unit of scale) and really just to make the point that this thing is TINY!! I mean really tiny.... look at it.... next to the 50p and everything... tichy...

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I was VERY fortunate to have been gifted this camera by a friend of a friend and I am very grateful especially so since I absoltuely love this camera!! At first glance I thought it might be something special and whilst I hadn't heard of a Rollei 35S before I was familar with the brand Rollei as they manufactured the legendary series of 'Rollei-flex' cameras and also some of my favourite 35mm film Rollei 80S (they really like the designation 'S' don't they)? which i have banged on about in a previous blog post HERE so I had high hopes for this camera - and a after bit of googling I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this is a very highly regarded piece of kit. Even without the internet's say so it's apparent from the build quality - this thing is very solidly built and feels well put together with the body being mostly metal, although still fairly light.

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The other thing I noticed on closer inspection was the lens - a 40mm f2.8 'sonnar' lens.... again this is something i have heard of, Sonnar being the designation of a Zeiss lens design... Zeiss being the name of the supremo German lens manufacturer who are basically super awesome....so in short this thing is 1: tiny, 2: VERY well built and 3: has a super sharp lens on the front of it.... that my friends is a win, win, win!!

In practice the control and use of this camera is quite unusual - in fact at first i was a bit put off by it, I'll attempt to explain but take it from me that having shot a couple of rolls of film through this thing now, it's actually really easy to use and it's probably more complicated to explain, or at least it'll probably sound more complicated but trust me it's not really complicated....oh god it already sounds complicated and I haven't even started yet, right.... here goes....

The lens is not connected to the view finder so you have to focus the lens by judging the distance between yourself and your subject and then using the scale on top of the lens to set focus..... so that means that you have to read the numbers of the dial around the lens so looking at the image below we can see that with the lens focussed thusly then at f16 I'd have everything from about 4 feet to about 10 feet in focus -with the centre point being 6 feet - a top tip when shooting with this camera is to keep the aperture small, i generally didn't go below f8 so that you know you've got enough depth of field to compensate for the lack of fine focussing ability and guesstimating the distances (unless you want to go around wth a tape measure and literally work out the distance)! so it took a bit of getting used to but as I said it's actually more difficult to explain than it is to actually do! 

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the dial on the left of the pic above adjusts shutter speed and the on on the right of the image does the aperture - it's actually very ergonomically designed and easy to use and adjust settings, the meter is untested as they don't make the batteries for this anymore but my trusty i-phone app is more than up to the job so it's no bother. (I might do a review of the app soon).

As I mentioned using the depth of field to help focus is key to successfully using this camera,  the images above demonstrate - on the right is an aperture of about f4 so only the front portion of the wall is focus whilst the iage on the right is about f11 so a really small aperture and therefore most of the image is in focus - simples!

Becuase the focus is done in this manner and the lens isn't linked to the viewfinder makes the Rollei 35S perfect for street shooting becuase you don't have to hold it up to your eye to focus, it's tiny size also supports this stealthy approach - I've always been a bit self conscious when it comes to shooting street photos and these days folks don't really take too kindly to having their photos taken which kind of kills the 'documenting life as it happens' ethos of street photography - but no longer! with this I can snap away completely under the radar..... it opens up a whole new realm of creative possibilities which I find very exciting!

Enough techno babble! more photos! I've shot two rolls of Rollei Retro 400S with this camera - the first on an afternoon in Leeds City Centre and the second back in what is seemingly becoming my fave street shooting destination... Dewsbury! I developed both rolls of film at the same time using a semi stand development process and I have to say I am very pleased with the results, really great contrast and detail with a good grain texture - it has a painterly feel to it in some of the images which is really appealing....this is my fave development technique not least becuase my time is so limited these days that it's just easier for me to throw the film in the developing tank and get on with something else while the Rodinal does it's thing! Sorry - that was even more technobabble! ENOUGH!

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And now on to Dewsbury - different conditions it was quite overcast vs the bright sunny day I spent in Leeds with a much darker feel, I like!

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Fomapan 200 35mm film review

Film photography is a dear doo, don't let anyone tell you otherwise - if it's not cameras, lenses or film then it's developing kit or just random bits of film related paraphenalia all of which takes it's toll on the old bank account! So it can be very welcome to discover some relatively cheap film - enter Fomapan 200...but is it any good? well if you can't be bothered to read the rest of this review then the short answer is YES! Hopefully you'd like a little more insight than that, and hopefully I can oblige!

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The first group of images were taken on a photo walk around the fair city of Bradford in West Yorkshire on my Olympus OM2n and trusty Zuiko 28mm 2.8 lens - I wax lyrical about this combo HERE,and the second group of photos were shot with the same camera and lens many months later in the fair town of Dewsbury West Yorkshire with a couple of shots in Hull and Huddersfield for good measure - it's like a tour of all the most glamorous towns in the world!!

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I started my Bradford photo walk in the National Media museum - hoping to catch the National Photography collection before it was pilfered (sorry I mean transfered) to London... as sods law would have it I missed out by two days and was presented with nothing but this snazzily decorated staircase leading to a locked door :( whilst i was gutted to have missed the exhibition I was quite impressed how Fomapan 200 handled the dimly lit scene, helped along no doubt by my chosen development process of Semi Stand developing in Adox Adonal (Rodinal) for 1 hour (with 3 inversions at 30 mintues) at a dilution of 1:100 - this is my go to sem stand process and as you can see from the results here the Fomapan 200 responded very well to it, I was slightly nervious first time round for two reasons 1: at that point 200 speed film was the fastest film I'd semi stand developed and 2: Fomapann 200 is a 'Tabular' grain film (in the same vein as Kodak Tmax and Ilford Delta) formulations which traditionally do not respond well to stand development. Your mileage may vary but I think it works great in this developer - there is a grain texture which looks more like a classic old school film grain rather than 'Tabular' grain which is inherenlty smoother but for me grain is a good thing, when I shoot film I want it to look like, well - film! I've recenlty bought some developer specifically for Tabular grain films so I'll be interested to compare the results some day.

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Fomapan Creative 200 (to give it's full name) is manufactured in the Czech Republic by long standing film producers Foma, there aren't really that many 200 speed films around most manufacturers offfer a choice of 100 or 400 films but Foma in their infinite wisdom have provided for those who would like a little more flexibility - in fact they claim that the film can be rated anywhere between 100 and 800 ISO but I've only ever shot it at box speed so I can't comment on how it performs when pushed/pulled in that way, what I can say is that on photowalks in varied lighting in and around busy city centres, inside buildings and the like it performs wonderfully!

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They do a good line in 60's architecture in Bradford - here I've used the perspective to enhance the brutalist vibe of this civic building, the home of some truly brutal bureaucracy no doubts!

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I find that the tonal range is very pleasing with rich blacks, smooth greys and clean white areas, look at he mod scooter above! very smooth image with a nice texture and finish - proper two tone! BELL BOOOOY!!!!!

The following two images are from Bank Bottom Mill - a semi abandoned building near where I live, I was just using up the last couple of frames on my roll after my visit to Bradford - again a great balance of tones, quite high contrast and nice detail and grain throughout.

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We leave Bradford behind us and our travels now take us to Dewsbury - same camera, same lens, same make of film, same bottle of developer and guess what..... same outcome! Very balanced images with perhaps a touch more grain in than the roll I shot in Bradford - this could be from the development process maybe I introduced some extra inversions (which encourages grain) and of course the two rolls were shot months a part from each other so lighting was totally different, either way once again I am very pleased with the results so the first roll wasn't a fluke!

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I've walked past this doorway so many times I can't remember, it's amazing how having a camera in hand encourages the eyes to pick out previously unseen details and generally be more open to your surroundings....in this case my eye was drawn to the faded paintwork where a Christian Cross was once fixed...suddenly this dilapidated old doorway was transformed, it had a story to tell - one that spoke of a once proud heritage but no current sense of purpose, a forgotten place echoing with the ghosts of finery long since faded... or something like that, whatever... either way cool doorway eh?!

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Change your perspective and see the world afresh! For me this is part of the enjoyment of  photography, how do you show a subject (in the case above a building) in a new light, how do you generate interest through form and structure - it's a constant challenging to your composition to make the most of your surroundings within the confines of a 35mm frame, and of course you dont get to look at the results until you've developed the film! It's also one of the many valid reasons for shooting with a fixed focal length/prime lens - if you want to change your perspective then you need to move your body! it's a more physical and therefore meaningful experience - this is a lesson I need to translate into my digital work more and stop relying on telephoto zooms to do the work for me!

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I suspect that films are NOT developed there anymore, in fact last time I cheked this building was covered in even more scaffolding so perhaps (unusually for Dewsbury Town Centre) it's about to be redeveloped - I'm not bashing Dewsbury although I think anyone would agree that it's a bit rundown - this makes it a great subject for street photography as many of the buildings have an evocative (if somewhat forlorn) sense of what used to be which I find quite visually appealing "the ineffable pathos of ruin" indeed! Having said that I do hope things start to change for the better for the town!

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We leave Bradford and Dewsbury behind and head East for the next image which was snapped whilst on the train to another fair City - Hull, capital of culture no less - and what better subject than the Humber bridge, I really must go back and shoot this properly (i.e. whilst not on a train) it's an amazing structure - looks so graceful in the distance spanning the Humber estuary, for those who are interested in it's history have a look HERE

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Photographically speaking (this is a photo blog after all) I quite like the reflection of the train lighting in the image and the blurred foreground which gives a sense of motion and direction to an otherwise static image, the shot was literally from the hip before the view was obscurred by trees and stuff so I was pleased it came out as well as it did.

A big yorkshire sky filled with cloud (it's default setting) underpinned by the Emley Moor Mast which is the seventh-tallest freestanding structure in the UK, fourth-tallest tower in the EU (sorry brexiteers) and 24th tallest in the world! At the risk of this turning into some sort of public information service about the buildings, bridges and towers of Yorkshire (that would be a niche website) there's a link for more info about Emley Moor Mast HERE

I like the simple composition a thin band of landscape and the tower piercing the huge blanket of sky - this image just presented itself to me as I was driving along one day, my view of the foreground obscurred by a wall and I literally abandoned the car in a grass verge and jumped out to see if I could match the image that originally caught my eye - and I did! The number of times I've been out and about without a camera and seen sweeping vistas, tiny details and all manner of scenes that I would have wished to capture are imeasureable.. all these moments are now lost, like tears in the (yorkshire) rain...

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We've seen lots of buildings on our tour of Yorkshire with Fomapan 200 but what's it like on other subjects - portraits and the like? well the above photo taken in the fields behind my house attests to the loveliness of the film (and the horse)!  great contrast and level of detail and that grain structure that by now we've come to know and love too. it also works on people - here's a shot of my son when he was about 6 months old :) in it he's doing a great impresssion of one of those old Soviet propognda photos like he's a baby Kosmonaut or something!

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So in summary then I am a huge fan of Fomapan 200, it's versatile, works well in mixed lighting, gives great contrast and high levels of detail, works well in a semi stand development process and ultimately it's very reasonably priced - you can buy 3 rolls of it for £14.99, which these days is pretty bloomin good! I heartily recommend this film, it's lovely, there is no compromise in quality in my experience and it creates a really useable alternative to all those 100 and 400 speed films out there, give it a whirl!

Pentax Spotmatic F Review

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I'm gonna get a bit of camera geekery out of the way and walk you through the controls and features of the Spotmatic F and then we'll get in to the more important business of sharing some images taken with it.

The controls are well laid out - there's a shutter control dial (pictured below left) which incorporates ISO setting and next to that is the film advance lever which is well positioned and ergonomically curved with a smooth action and quick return so it's easy to rattle off a few shots in quick succession, on the opposite side of the camera is the film rewind lever and a helpful dial which you can set with details of the film loaded (B&W, Colour, Tungsten number of frames on the loaded film) this is just visual guide in case you forget what film you've loaded it doesn't control any settings in the camera.

The thing that sets the 'F' model apart from other cameras of it's age is that it also includes the ability to use 'open aperture metering' when used with Pentax own branded lenses (which are in themselves legendary) this means that it can be used as an Aperture Priority camera thanks to the the built in light meter - what's that? Yawnsville Arizona you say??! how VERY dare you! I'll have you know that this was ground breaking stuff back in the day!! ;)

On mine the meter is slightly out of whack by a couple of stops so I usually use my iphone light meter app to double check exposure and then just correct it whilst im shooting. If you wanted to use non brand M42 mount lenses on this camera you can do but without the open aperture function - in the second image from the right (above) you can see on the side of the lens mount a switch which you can use to activate the stop down metering function.

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Looking through the viewfinder the classic simplicity continues - you get an elector mechanical needle read out on the right hand side which tells you if you are under/over exposing the scene and a focus screen with a circular etched centre to allow you to visually check focus and that's it! nothing else to clutter the view and get in the way of your eye and the subject - lovely!

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They just don't make em like this anymore....it's as silky smooth to operate as the day it was made (although obviously I have no way of double checking that unless i can literally go back in time - maybe it was even silkier and smoother back then). The design is simple with classically understated clean lines which I like very much but it's the superb construction, fine handling and top notch build quality that really sets it apart from the crowd.

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I picked mine up for a measly £30 on evilbay which included the amazing Pentax SMC 55mm 1.8 lens and is therefore a complete bargain!! the low price was due to the very visible dent on the prism viewfinder casing but it doesn't affect the use of the camera so whilst it would be nice to have a mint copy I don't want to pay £100 for one! it is otherwise in mint condition though and mechanically excellent with a very satisfying 'schtick' shutter sound.

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t's so nice to use that in the first couple of weeks of owning it I burned my way through 8 rolls of film which is something i haven't done before with any of my film cameras (and probably won't again as it's a very dear doo) but the Spotmatic F is such an enjoyable camera to use that it kind of makes you want to shoot more and more!

It's a little heavier than my OM2n and whilst it's only a bit of a difference after a day lugging it round you do notice so on long hauls I would probably go with the Olympus if only for it being so light - the reason that the Pentax is heavier is becuase it hails from a time when no expense was spared on the internal moving parts of the camera which are therefore predominantley brass as opposed to the plastic of the slightly later OM2n so whilst it adds weight it also adds to the smooth handling and feeling of quality.

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The lenses are totally amazing also - i was dimmly aware prior to purchasing the camera that the 'Takumar' range of lenses were very highly regarded by the internet (which in real terms means basically nowt most of the time) but I am very happy to report that it is indeed true! these are very very very good lenses - so much so that I very very very quickly added a 135mm 3.5 lens and a 35mm 3.5 AND most i just the other day added the almost legendary 50mm 1.4 lens to my collection. So yeah I could probably pontificate on the pentax's perfect performance inperpetuity - but leaving my alliterative allusions aside...I won't - I'll save the lenses their own mini reviews for a future date as I'd like to get them involved in some digital action with the old SONY NEX3n as well.

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So in summary then I flipping well LOVE this camera it is quite firmly on my list of cameras that I would never part with, it's a very well made and very simple camera with no bells and whistles, it just does what you need it to do without getting in the way which is what all the best cameras should do, if you have the chance to try one or even better own one then I heartily recommend you do it! 

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All of these images were shot on a visit to Brighton earlier this year on the Pentax Spotmatic F (of course) on Fomapan 200 and Ilford FP4 film (except for the one below which is Fuji Acros 100) and using either a Chinon 35mm 2.8 or an SMC Pentax 55mm 1.8 lens.

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