travel

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!

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!

Just Passing Through

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Hello there! long time no see! It feels like a long time since the last blog although looking back it seems I’ve managed to keep it to one post per month just about! My (non photography) work has taken off in a big way and I’m now working away quite a bit and whilst being on the road is certainly a great experience it does eat into my time for things like blogging and of course being away from home and family for prolonged stints is hard too. It is cool that I get to travel though and see all sorts of weird, wonderful and sometimes just plain ordinary places - it also helps that I have a firm belief that if we have the eyes to see it, the world around us is full of images just waiting to be discovered - good job i write a blog then innit?!

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So what have I been shooting whilst out and about, well literally that…these images represent moments on the go, on the bounce, on the hop, out and about, in betweener moments - inbetween meetings, in between appointments, in between places and spaces, hurrying along to catch a train, a bus, a plane - that in between mindest when you’re moving from one place to the next, just passing through, finding a route, not putting down roots…

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I’d love to stalk the streets for hours on end searching for the perfect shot, the decisive moment but when I’m travelling it’s often as I’m on my way from point A to point B that I have the opportunity to take in my surroundings, to connect however fleetingly and momentarily through the lens of my camera.

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I titled todays post ‘passing through’ by which i mean to draw attention to the difference between being a passer by and the act of passing through places and spaces. Passing by suggests an act of avoidance, a disconnect, whilst passing through a place denotes a willingness to explore, to experience, to navigate, to see…the gift we bring is an outsiders eye, a newcomers curiosity but this is neccesarily a temporary state of being with a transcience that will inevitably lead us out of reach.

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As you’ll have no doubt guessed by now this isn’t a technical review post - I definitely subscribe to the idea that the act of photography is about more than a set of techniques and their technical application (althogh these are of course important aspects, they are ultimately a means to an end not the end itself)

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So what end is being achieved here? What is the intent? With these images and subsequent blog post I wanted to apply a more intentional mindset to my work so that it’s less about ‘testing’ the various aspects of a camera and film combo in order to write about it on the interweb and more about creating images which have an underlying theme as in todays case, I’m also interested in incorporated elements of storytelling and exploring different themes, thoughts and emotions through my work and I’m working on several projects to that end as we speak (or as I type - whatever, you get the idea)!

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These images represent the beginnings of a train of thought for my photography, a desire to create a body of work that is ‘connected’ with the theme of passing through which prompts a reflection on how we navigate the world around us, both physical and metaphorical, are we passers by in our own lives? We are bombarded with imagery online and onland which seek to capture our time and attention, can we make time and space to set ourselves apart from the hubub of modern life and simply ‘be’ in a place, eyes open to the expanse of infinite possibilities of fleeting moments.

And if all of that sounds a bit grandiose then as the great Ferris Beuler once said “life moves pretty fast, you might miss it if you don’t stop and look around once in a while” Amen to that!

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For those who are interested the majority of these images were shot on an Olympus 35RC with a couple of shots from my Holga 120N thrown in for good measure films are Kodak Double X, JCH streetpan and Ilford HP5 all developed at home by my own fair hand….I’ll still write gear reviews of course but I’d like to think that at least some of my photography is capable of being more than window dressing for a rambling rumination on the vagaries of X film combined with Y developer to produce Z effect or extolling the virtues of A lens, B camera and C film - this may just be wistful thinking on my part, the true test comes via your contribution dear viewer and how you receive the images, if you made it this far then my sincere thanks for passing through…

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! :)