My day job is with a motorcycle dealership, here in Bristol. I covered the last Bike Night of 2017, on a digital camera for a change! We were losing the light towards the end of the night, and I had some fun trying to get the white balance right, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with how these turned out.
Festival photography is tricky. Too much gear, and you risk not enjoying the event you’ve come to see, due to lugging three bodies and ten lenses around JUST IN CASE. Rely on phone photography, and your battery will be drained before 5pm, leaving you unable to locate your friends in the seething hoardes. Which is why I absolutely love the Olympus XA4 for taking to festivals – small enough to go in a super-stylish bumbag, and sharp enough to take great photos, whatever the conditions.
Freelensing! What’s that, I hear you scream? It’s the technique of removing the camera lens from the body, and shooting by tilting it to find the in-focus spot. There are expensive Lensbaby lenses that will enable you to do this, but I prefer the DIY method. Using a film camera, I don’t have to worry about dust on my sensor either. Inspired and guided by Lina Forrester’s fantastic blog, I decided to use up the rest of a roll of Agfa Vista 200 on this experiment.
It’s perhaps inevitable that at some point in a film photographer’s life, he or she will mess up a roll. I’ve been having ongoing problems with developing at home, and today was no exception. Yesterday was Grillstock, a festival of food and music here in Bristol, and I took my new 24mm Superwide lens out, loaded with a fresh roll of HP5+. I shot a whole roll in one day, taking loads of photos of the event in the sunshine, as well as lots of shots of my friends and I at night, drinking and chatting and having a lovely old time.
This morning (despite my colossal hangover), I attempted to transfer the roll onto a reel, in a changing bag. Same as I have done, many times previously. However the film just wouldn’t go onto the reel – it kept sticking and tearing and buckling. As I kept trying, getting more annoyed, making the inside of the bag sweatier (nice), the film kept buckling and creasing. After about 30 minutes of annoyance, I eventually had to cut the roll to eventually get it onto the roll. I resigned myself to the fact that this roll was probably ruined – the heat and moisture in the bag had made section of it stick to itself, which is not a good thing for delicate emulsion. I processed it anyway (stand developed in Rodinal 1:100 for an hour), fixed and hung it up to dry. Checking the date on my fixer, I groaned again – it was WAY out of date, and cloudy. This roll was doomed.
One small thing to take from this disappointing morning, was that I seem to have alleviated some of the problems of bromide drag, I’d experienced previously. I did this by pre-washing the film, and keeping the tank in a water bath while it sat for an hour. There is still some evidence of drag, but only on the portions of film where it was also very creased – this probably didn’t help.
So, what did I learn? I need to find out why my reels are sticking and tearing my film. I need to buy more fixer (in a smaller quantity, perhaps). I also need to perfect the pre-wash and water bath technique, to hopefully eradicate bromide drag altogether.
The few salvageable photos are below – I like the energy and fun times captured, but I can’t help but feel disheartened with the results, technically. I’ve been enjoying colour photography a lot more, recently, and this episode has only helped push me towards colour, as I don’t develop it myself!
If anyone has any rips for my reel problem, I’d love to hear them in the comments!
After the almost-documentary photography of Burning Nest, I wanted to try something a bit creative, and without much expectation of an end result. I bought a job lot of cheap Cokin filters from eBay a while ago, including some shaped bokeh filters, and a multi-image glass filter, that splits the image into 5 parts. While visiting a friend in Norwich, we got some fairy lights out of his loft, and shot a roll of images in the dark using the filters. Then, I rewound the film (being careful to leave the leader out) and re-shot the roll in the nearby woods, Mousehold Heath.
Burning Nest is a yearly celebration of art, music, and alternative culture, held in the UK. It’s a free-spirited celebration, its more-famous sibling being Burning Man, held in Black Rock, Nevada. The Cornwall celebration this year was significantly smaller, hosting around 500 people in the glorious grounds of a stately home (I wonder if they knew what they were letting themselves in for).
I’ve used a trusty Nikon Coolscan IV for years, since I bought it for a song from someone who didn’t really know what it was (sometimes in life, you get lucky). It’s a fantastic scanner – quick, produces scans of decent size, and because it focuses on the film itself, capable of producing sharp results. However, it’s only designed for 35mm film – as I’m shooting more and more 120 film recently, I thought it was (sadly) time to replace it.
I last used a proper darkroom in college, for a brief course that set off my film photography obsession with a vengeance. I’ve been looking for darkrooms to use ever since, and thought it was a good idea to have refresher course before I start stinking of fixer and ruining sheets of Ilford Multigrade again.
I’ve always been drawn to super wide-angle lenses. I don’t know why – a combination of the distortion (reminds me of 90’s skate videos) and being able to get REALLY CLOSE to things and still get a whole background in, maybe. A kind person over on the Talk Photography forums kindly lent me theirs – a 17mm Tamron lens, which I quickly picked up an adaptor for.