New Year Projects

In a sense the above title is rather misleading at it seems to allude to “New Year's Resolutions” which I don't believe in too much. However, the period between Christmas and the New Year 'Twixmas' as I amusingly heard it referred to, is a time for reflection and a 'gathering of strength for the year ahead plus a time to get your existing goals into sharp focus.

Rather than specific goals, my two immediate projects fall into a continuation of an existing one plus the start of a second which may lead me in some interesting directions. I will start with the first one which is to do with consolidating pictures from the my photographic past.

When I moved down to Somerset back in 2004 was when I really started to get stuck into digital photography and taking literally thousands of photographs. The problem initially is like many another budding photographer, you keep everything and delete little which was possible back then when cameras were in the 5-8 megapixel range but as the pixel wars heated up, this became a bit of a pain. Starting a couple of years ago, I set to wading through this back catalogue inspecting each image and deleting most of them, why keep them if they are not serving any useful purpose ? Of course today when my main cameras are 50, 24 and 20 megapixels, it really isn't so much of a problem, I have learned my lesson and images are pruned ruthlessly as I unload them from my cameras.

photographic negatives and slides

Looking Back

However and starting in December came a rather more tedious variation of this same task sorting and scanning past film negatives and slides from 35 or more years ago and that has been an interesting and at times, an emotional experience. Unlike deleting the dross from my digital pictures which is just making the job of tidying up after I have passed on for my Sons simpler, this task is actually for the benefit of all my 4 children because it is collecting together childhood memories for them. Whether they will thank me for doing so is another matter altogether, I am always aware of that amusing Oscar Wilde quote: “Children start out by loving their parents, after a time they come to judge them, rarely if ever do they forgive them !”

When we went through a divorce in the mid 1980's, my ex wife did give me a couple of albums of my family and our children though she kept back some of the better images from our past, still that was kind enough given the circumstances. Looking back I had made a poor choice in buying a Pentax 110 camera, nice camera but a totally rubbish film format and trying to recover useable images from negatives and slides has been a problem. In addition I shot slides in 120 and negatives and slides in 35mm (thankfully) so during December I started on a 'recovery operation' which to say the least, is pretty tedious but I'm getting there by doing a limited session each and every day.

I am not sure how my children will view this collection once put together but I must admit it was often a pleasant surprise for me, times and places long forgotten bought back into focus (or not) as the case might be, we shall see.

black and white picture of a boat

Going Black & White

Whilst recent digital cameras are technological marvels which allow creative possibilities such as time lapse photography and many other wonders, in the sense of basic photography based upon shutter, aperture and ISO, this sophistication often replaces the concept of art through craft to technology alone. Sometimes such as a raving desire for salad after the rich food excesses of the Christmas season, one needs to travel back in time and get to grips with the basics again so I decided to get back to wet film photography and specifically, to shoot in black and white. The idea being to “refresh” my photographic pallet by looking for visual structures in composing pictures however, whilst I still have a 120 roll film camera, I had long ago given my 35mm gear away so, I needed to buy a 35mm camera which of course would be second hand.

As to what make of camera, that decision had been made by me a couple of years ago when I had bought some vintage Canon FD lenses to use via adapters on Panasonic mirrorless camera bodies. My first purchase was of a Canon FTb camera of the 60/70s era which I got from a reputable camera store which was lucky because it came with a warranty that I took advantage of after the first roll film I put through it.

However and although not my original intention, I picked up two further Canon bodies on Ebay, one being an example from the late 70s early 80s and another from the early 90s and between the three of them they represent a straight line in terms of camera development from the 1960s through to today which is interesting in itself but might also provide me with future material for further projects. I have always considered buying on Ebay a bit of a lottery, rather like playing Russian Roulette but in both my purchases I was dealing with two very genuine people it seems.

Through December and although in terms of the light at this time of year, not ideal conditions, I put a roll of black and white film through each of the three cameras just to check that they worked properly. Only one failed with a sticky shutter/winder and that has gone off for repair which shouldn't be too difficult as cameras of that era were totally mechanical. The two off Ebay have performed flawlessly which is delightful and I intend to run these, one at a time, alongside my digital gear.

Shooting a camera with a mechanical winder which you use after each shot is great fun, I had forgotten what a tactile and engaging experience that was. As an example of how different things can 'conspire' is the processing of these 3 rolls of B&W film. As the purpose was to test the function of the cameras, I sent the exposed film off for processing as 'negatives only' and because I had been doing a lot of scanning, I just scanned them when they came back, I have no need to get prints made, I can do that myself.

Looking ahead, if I find myself shooting a lot with these cameras, I will spend the money on buying the development kit and chemicals to do this myself at home, just developing the rolls of film is not a complex process, you don't even need a darkroom and it does open up the possibility of doing some 'push processing'. However I will wait and see how we go on this, to kit up for home processing is less than £100 and sending each film off to a commercial lab equates to about £5 per roll so you need to envisage a minimum of +1 roll per month to make it justifiable in my view.

35mm SLR camera

Canon FTb

35mm SLR camera

Canon A1

35mm SLR camera

Canon EOS 1N

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