It was a cold snowy start to 2013 in London. I’m a big fan of photographing in the snow – its effective at removing distractions and helping you to see scenes that you see every day with a new perspective. This scene I saw almost every day walking from my flat into work. The road is popular for graffiti artists, but this piece in particular was my favourite from during the time I lived in the area. Its a cartoon skull on its side, with a great mouth that wraps around a doorframe. I captured a few shots of this street art from different angles, but I quite like this one with the eye peeping over the snow capped hedge (although the chromatic aberration around the tree branches and the busyness of these branches does detract a little from the poignancy of eye looking over). I chose this image after stumbling across it on an old Facebook album, but upon searching my photo library in my library it appears that I had lost all of the scans from this roll of film. Luckily I had recently been sorting out my negative storage so I could quickly rescan. It just shows that multiple backups are so important in general and its pretty handy to have a physical one as well as digital!
Category: kodak ektar
I have seldom used telephoto lenses with my film cameras, usually really as a novelty, as the situations that require a telephoto tend to have me reaching my my digital. Whether its wildlife or sport generally the need for fast focusing and rapid fire generally mean I feel like its a waste of film. However the Whitchurch Young Farmer ploughing match provided a good opportunity to try out my reasonably new Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8 AF-D on film with some slow moving targets. One of the things that is great about the Nikon system is the great interchangeability of lenses and bodies, and this lens works great with the F3. It does however feel a little unbalanced due to the weight of the lens and the lack of full handgrip like on later SLRs. I particularly like the colour rendition of this lens with Kodak Ektar (especially the brown of the soil). As for the manual focus, 3/4 of the shots from here were keepers, which I didn’t think was too bad.
In 2012 I took a vacation to Rio with my F3 loaded with Fuji Provia and a FM with Ektar. By this point I was fully enamored with shooting film, so much so that I decided to exclusively take film cameras on this trip (my first time doing so). I was also very much enjoying using these two manual focus Ai Nikon Bodies and took a lens selection of the 24mm f2.8 (non-ai version Ai’d), 35mm f2.8 Ai and a 50mm f1.8 Series E. I find this to be a decent travel set-up (so much so I took almost the same gear on my 2017 trip to Utah save for the 24mm which I decided to swap out for a 20mm), although the bodies are made out of metal, the lenses are so small and relatively light, that overall its less weight then I’d have normally taken with digital gear.
I must admit I felt a little uneasy about not taking my DSLR (which was a D90 at the time). What if the X-Rays fogged my film? What if I didn’t nail the shot and didn’t realise until later? These fears proved to be misguided (the film went through 6 X-Ray scanners to no visible detriment) and my decision was also helped by the fact that the year before when traveling with a friend in Belize we had a load of camera gear stolen. He had all of his digital gear taken, whereas I lucked out, in the sense that they only went in the top of my bag and stole my F100 and another 50mm Series E lens. If they’d have rummaged further they’d have found my D90 and lenses. I figured taking older film cameras would make them less desirable to steal and make me stand out a bit less.
One thing I completely misjudged was how much film I should take. I can’t remember exactly how many rolls I’d bought, but put it this way, now in 2017 I still have rolls left from this trip sitting in my freezer. This error I guess was all part of the transition to shooting film. The limitations of the number of shots per roll has made me have a higher value on each shutter press. So naturally I take less photos. But hopefully a better percentage of good ones. I estimated the quantity of film needed based on the digital shots I’d taken on a similar trip which proved a schoolboy error.
As for the photos, looking back on them I enjoy them greatly. The fantastic sunlight of Rio brought out the best of the Ektar, especially around sunset. I love the gradient of how the highlights are blown out as the sun is setting on the mountains of Rio in two of the pictures below. I find this behaviour much more pleasing than digital. As for the Provia – well I’ve had pretty inconsistent results with slide film in general, really down to me not exposing it well (see last picture in the below series). I took it on this trip as a bit of a trial, and to be honest my only regret is not choosing to take some black and white film instead.
I’d wanted to visit the national parks in Utah again ever since I’d been to Monument Valley in 2013; I’d initially set my sights on going to all of Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches and Canyonlands for this trip. However I soon realised the week I’d organised the trip was memorial day weekend (a bit of an error) – so there were tons of people in each of the parks and also lines to get in. This also made the logistics of the trip quite hard, as all of the campsites were fully booked. So this meant we ended up staying at near St George UT and driving to the parks each day.
In an effort to beat the crowds, the first afternoon we visited Bryce. They’ve got an convenient shuttle service so you can park easily outside the park and take the shuttle to all of the main sites. We got off at Bryce Point (the first bus stop after the visitor centre) and walked along the rim to sunset point. Then we took the hike down through the hoodoos which was pretty epic – the scale of these eroded monoliths is best appreciated hiking around them.
Then we drove to near Capital Reef national park and secured a campsite there to break up the drive to Arches. It was not really a fun drive, along winding roads in the pitch black, with deer jumping out in front of the car. The next day, with a significant drive to Arches still ahead of us, we powered on and didn’t stop in Capital Reef. The scenery from the car was still fantastic.
We arrived to Arches to a queue of cars waiting at the entrance. This was at maybe 10.30am on the Sunday of Memorial day and it took maybe 45 minutes to finally get through the date. Once inside we headed straight for the hike to delicate arch, as we figured this would be busy already and only more so as the day progressed. The road into the park is stunning, to be honest photos don’t do this place justice – the shapes and scale of these eroded rocks is phenomenal. I had to stop for a few snapshots along the way.
There is a short easy 3 mile hike from the bursting full car park to the arch itself It seems so improbable that rock would erode like this, so its easy to see why this is such an icon. An icon that everyone wants their picture taken under, perhaps unsurprisingly, and there was indeed a massive disneyland style line of people waiting to have theirs taken. Its great that the national parks are accessible for people to enjoy, however the next time I visit here I’ll definitely plan it for the off season. I managed to get a few snapshots of the arch (with the poor lighting) finally without anyone underneath. We stayed for a while longer in the park itself but finally the mid afternoon heat got the better of us and we decided to get on with the 5 or so hour drive back to Ivins, leaving Canyonlands next door for a future trip.
So Snow Canyon State Park seems to be an absolute undiscovered jewel of Utah. Its right by the town of Ivins and on the Monday of Memorial Day weekend there was barely anyone there. The scenery is sublime, with petrified sand dunes, lava flow rocks and lots of great trails. Its easy to see why they shot Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid here. Theres just one road through it so its easy to see in a day, but we spaced out a couple of visits to the middle and north side of the park over two mornings.
Finally, we visited Zion National Park on the Tuesday after memorial day, hoping the park would at least be a bit quieter than the weekend. Perhaps it was, but we arrived around 7am and already the visitor center car park was already pretty full and there was a big line for the shuttle busses. The Angel’s Landing hike was my most anticipated of the trip. It did not disappoint – its a pretty strenuous 5 mile round trip hike with a narrow trail with steep drop offs at times. There was already a good number of people who were coming down the mountain by the time we got near the top, and many sections are essentially one-way for any given time, so there was plenty of waiting for people to pass. The view from the top was spectacular. After descending we stopped at a few other spots in the park, and drove around the other side before heading back. I view this trip more as a photography scouting mission, as I aim to return again to get a few more shots. Things to work on next time is definitely metering – as you can see from below. I realised there was a fault with the meter on the FM quite late on into the trip, leading me to overexpose quite a few shots from where I’d wanted to be.
After getting back into film photography after a couple of years not really shooting any rolls, I did not hesitate to decide to exclusively take analog cameras. However deciding which gear to take was pretty tough. I was torn between taking two 35mm Nikon bodies or my 6×6 Bronica SQ. In the end I went for the former due to a lower cost per shot but as I do really enjoy shooting 6×6 I also decided to take my Zeiss Ikon 517 as well. This is such a great travel medium format camera as it is so light and compact. I’m also consistently impressed with the colour rendition and sharpness of the lens.
Its very easy to take kilograms and kilograms of photo gear on trips like this, but with Nikon Ai lens being so lightweight and compact this set up seemed a good option. I went for a 20mm Ai f4, 35mm Ai f2.8, 50mm Ai Series E f1.8 and a 200mm Ai f4. These all also have 52mm filter threads which is also a boon, as I mainly used a Nikon R62 filter for the black and white photography, so it could be used across all of the lenses. The only lens that I’d reconsider is the 200mm as it didn’t get much use really. I think a shorter telephoto like a 105mm would have been better for compressed landscape shots. The lens itself though is great and light, and if there had been more in the way of wildlife I suppose it could have come in handy. This was also the first time I’d used the 20mm Ai f4 which I was quite excited to see the results from. It was definitely a great focal length to have, but to be honest I was pretty disappointed with the corner sharpness of this lens. Most of the shots were taken at f8 or f11 and focussed to maximise DOF from the scale on the lens. Maybe this was the issue as I have since read that corner sharpness is better when focussed towards infinity, or maybe I have a poor copy of this lens.
I also took the opportunity to buy a lighter travel tripod. An aluminium Giottos tripod has served me well for the last 5 years, but its nearly 3kg with a ballhead attached. I’ve never hiked with it and its always felt like a pain to lug around. So after some research I decided to get a Manfrotto Be Free carbon fibre tripod which only weighs 1.1Kg. To be honest its not a cheap purchase but its built really well and comes with a 10 year warranty. It was no hassle to attach to my camera bag for hiking.
So this was a fantastic trip and I am happy with the photos that came back, but I see it more of a scouting mission as I hope to return at some point in the future. However next time I think I would choose different B&W film – one I was more familiar with like Delta 100 or TMax 100. I wasn’t blown away but what I got out of SFX. As for the colour film I was surprised how much I liked the muted colours of Portra, as this isn’t a film I’ve used much before. Normally I go straight for the Ektar so it was pretty cool to shoot both on similar landscapes. But the main thing I’d reconsider going back to these places is to camp nearby and visit less places in a similar time. It was hard to get to the parks when the morning light was good (sunrise was around 6:15), and due to the late sunsets (somewhere near 20:45) the same applied as we generally had long drives back to where we were staying. The heat in the midday was also very exhausting. I think September or October could be a good time of year for my next trip there.
I’ll be writing a full trip report and also sharing some more photos soon. But for now some medium format images from the trusty 6×6 Zeiss Ikon folder.
I took my Bronica along with me when taking a helicopter tour shortly after moving to NYC. It was quite a challenge to frame shots with the movement of the helicopter and the back to front nature of using the waist level finder, so I had to straighten them up in with cropping. I’m also not really sure if I like how the colours scanned in, so I tried to correct the white balance in digitally. Despite this I do really enjoy these photos, particularly the one above. I used to work in one of these buildings so its a pretty nostalgic shot for me.
There was a forest fire nearby providing the mist on the evening I arrived. At first I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to get any good shots, but actually it produced my favourite shot from there. I think it makes the landscape mysterious.
This was taken with my F3 hooked up with a waist level finder. I’d wanted to get one for a while because I really like the ergonomics of taking photos with one, and finally got one early this year. Even though the focussing screen is really small for 35mm cameras compared to a medium format SLR, I still find it a very engaging way to take photos. I’ve also not had too big of a problem focusing with it either. And as a final bonus it shaves a noticeable amount of weight from the camera, as opposed to using the normal finder!
A highlight of Coney island is riding this sweet coaster.
Whilst living in Walthamstow in North East London I walked past this garage every day. I found the colours very interesting in the bright spring morning sunlight.
The Nikon F100 was a fun camera while it lasted (someone stole it in Guatemala later that year). This is one of my favourite Ektar photos – I just love the tones in the sand, rust and wall complimenting each other.
Nothing like a sunny day to make you notice interesting everyday colours.
Walking on the side streets near King’s College in London looking up at the architecture around, this building caught my eye. I’ll be honest, this was a shot I thought nothing of at the time but once developed (by myself at my university darkroom) its been one of my favourite architecture photos since. The contrast of how the light is hitting the different sides of the building, and the consistency in the white border, really brings out the sharp angle of the corner.
Looking back at photos from this particular camera, I’m always intrigued by the images it produces. Whats better is the camera is very light and (relatively) small, so is a great choice to carry around the city.
This photo was captured after taking the cable car up Sugarloaf near sunset. I just love the way the highlights of the sunset are rendered on this film, almost like a haze hanging across the back of the city. Most often I scan my film myself on an affordable Epson v500 flatbed, but for the film from this trip I got them scanned professionally by mail order lab Peak Imaging. I regret not getting a higher resolution; I wanted to print this photo A4 in a photobook of my trip, but the resolution of the scan was not good enough (would only really print 5×7 well). So I tried myself (my scan on a v500 below), but it really pales in comparison in terms of vibrance and punch, particularly of the sunlight in the top left.