Mar 212014
 

A study in harsh light and tones

By Ibraar Hussain

Dear Steve, would just like to share some Pictures (a small selection) of shots I took last summer when I was bored one day.

The sun was hot and the noon light was very harsh.

I thought it’d be interesting to get some nice tones using my nephews and niece as props to try to get some reflection of the heat of the light onto the celluloid. I wanted some very nice tones, and contrast with some feel of the shadow made by the harsh light. I used the white wall to reflect this. it was Tone which I was concentrating on, I wanted a nice balance between Zones 0 and X with the right levels and contrast where it mattered. I chose Rollei Retro 80s as it tends to lean towards the Red giving lovely contrast and that almost IR effect. I decided to use my Yashica 230 AF SLR with the 60mm f2.8 Makro lens – which i suspect is a rebadged Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar, and this 60mm focal length os very interesting for people – it’s an ‘almost’ focal length, too long to be a standard lens, and too short to be a portrait lens, but it’s very nice.

The Yashica 230 AF is a primitive AF SLR so the focus hunts and can miss – but it has a great Viewfinder and some lovely lenses and it’s dirt cheap! Anyway, I’m certainly no expert and I tend to photograph trees and static objects or people while travelling and have absolutely no experience in making people pose, so I focussed on the light and nothing more. I was relatively pleased with the results (by my own standards) – many of which were similar to the ones I am sending you, hence only a small selection of these snaps are included. It was all great fun, and part of my personal goal to try different stuff and to enjoy the experience and to try to play with Tone and attempt to improve on it.

All photo’s, Yashica 230 AF,Yashica AF 60mm Makro f2.8, B+W Yellow Filter, Rollei retro 80s, Rodinal and finished in Photoshop CS4.

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Jan 282014
 

The Contax RTS II Review 

By Ibraar Hussain

The Contax RTS II Snub-nose with 45mm Tessar f2.8

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Dear Steve and Brandon and all stevehuffphoto.com lovers, hope you’re well and a Happy New Year to you!

And those now bored stiff or sick to death of Autumn or Tree’s and Woodland – turn away now! As I had revisited an old haunt to try out this camera/lens/film combination (and for a walk)

I was looking for a camera, something which would not only be equipped with nice lenses, but which would also be extremely well-built, look fantastic, compact, an SLR, and Manual Wind and Manual Focus – the feel of thumbing the winder back and then focussing the Microprism is part and parcel of photography in itself. I spent months looking and pondering; having sold my lovely (yet flawed) West German Rolleiflex SL35 I wanted something else. The camera had to have, as mentioned, a brilliant range of beautifully made lenses, had to me MF and MW, be built like a Tank, with high quality parts and workmanship, ergonomically designed and beautiful to behold, own, use and keep with results to match. I had a look at the legendary range of Leicaflex SLR’s, they’re exceptional, beautifully built but alas, too expensive, too big, and lenses were out of my price range. The advent of adaptors has made lens price ridiculously high – not that these aren’t worth it, but they’re hardly superior to their Zeiss/Schneider counterparts yet they cost many times as much! I considered the Olympus OM3, but it was again too expensive, very rare so I considered the OM4Ti – but I have always looked upon the OM4Ti’s looks with a bit of disdain as the obvious electronic look to it isn’t as pleasing as the mechanical lines of the OM1/2/3 range and besides, I’d had a Olympus OM2n before and wanted something different. Nikon? Canon or Minolta? The Nikon F3 was attractive, as were the other options including the Nikon FE (which the new Nikon Df is modelled on) , the Canon F-1 but Never been too keen on these – or how about the appealing Asahi Pentax LX? No, I wanted German, so I had to look elsewhere.

So it was back to basics, to Contax, a range of SLR’s which offer everything and I don’t know why I ever looked elsewhere. Contax wasn’t quite the pre-War Contax of yore, but Kyocera/Yashica owned and Japanese built, sure they had the Contax German brand name, and the Carl Zeiss lenses – but then again so is the present day Zeiss Ikon – Cosina made but German branded. I have owned a Contax ST and also the Contax Aria – which had the biggest and brightest and most pleasing Viewfinder of any 35mm sized camera – Film or Digital, I have ever used. I cannot remember why I was foolish enough to sell my Aria (with 50mm f1.4 Planar) but I did. So the search was on – which Contax SLR should I choose? I eventually settled on the Contax RTS II. The RTS II is very special SLR, it is special as it is German designed and branded in every way with Japanese electronics, Japanese reliability and the option of a mechanical shutter release which does’t require batteries. It is special because it is a Contax, with the pedigree and lineage dating back from before The War, it had been specially designed by F.A Porsche in West Germany and lenses designed and made by Carl Zeiss in West Germany. The RTS II has the same design as the RTS, but with much improved electronics, reliability, larger brighter finder, a Titanium shutter and a is a camera the original should have been.

The Contax RTS II is a different best to any Contax camera that came after, as it is the only camera designed in Germany, and by F.A Porsche and thus has it’s German pedigree and connection to the Original Contax intact. It also features manual wind, manual focus, a beautiful contrasty Viewfinder, reliable electronics that assist but don’t overwhelm, and when felt and used, it is wonderful to behold. It is dense, heavy, solid and very comfortable to hold. It oozes quality and confidence, and every part of it is precision built and gorgeously damped. The ergonomics are absolutely spot on – everything from the layout and position of the dials, the AE lock switch and the way it handles was revolutionary and I have yet to see many camera’s come close to it. It is battery-powered, a battery which allegedly will last months of use, and can also be used mechanically with no battery at a set speed using a secondary shutter release. The designers at F.A Porsche sure know what aesthetics are, along with usability and performance, it shows in everything they design, and they pulled no punches in birthing this piece. The camera is small, very small for an SLR, in fact side by side with my Contax G2 – it is smaller in every way, and a much more handsome beast. I spent a while choosing the perfect lens to go with this compact 35mm SLR which rivals a modern mirror less in terms of size and compactness and a Leica M in terms of build quality and perfection. I chose the Carl Zeiss T* 45mm f2.8 Tessar, a classically designed 4 element Tessar lens which is extremely small, compact and suits the look, feel and size of the RTS II. I now have a Contax RTS II Snub-Nose and boy does it feel good wielding this and firing off the Ti shutter.

The Carl Zeiss 45mm f2.8 Tessar is different to the usual 50mm Planar’s that are standard on this Camera. The Tessar’s are slower, but more compact, and yield different results. The Tessar photographs have their own unique look, feel and sharpness with an old world charm to them. This particular lens has the more versatile 45mm – and as I hardly ever shoot at anything less than f2.8, the speed wasn’t an issue. The Tessar is, at optimum apertures, stopped down as sharp as anything with lovely contrast because of the T* coating, but wide open is softer than the Planar – and this I think adds to rather than detracts from it’s beauty. Anyway, shooting with this camera is a pleasure; handling it and holding it to the eye is part of the pleasure of this Porsche designed gem, and part of that human soulful and emotional attachment finds its way into the Photographs themselves. This makes the results, created slowly, with intent and thought, far more valuable and precious. Where does the pleasure in Photography lie? The end result? Megapixels? Resolution or Dynamic Range? Or does the pleasure lie in waiting, looking, searching, glancing and seeing -raising the camera, winding, composing, focussing and capturing forever on the organic silver halides of the gelatine based roll tucked away within the inner darkness of the light-proof box? For me the journey is part of the whole quest, and the goal isn’t any more important. The magic for me lies in the use of an instrument lovingly created and lovingly used, and the surprise and warm feeling of pleasure and pride when weeks or even months after the event when once a click and roll of the shutter – an instance in time, one day, forgotten, captured forever a treasure which I then have been able to find and keep as my creation. The Contax is one of many camera’s which, in my opinion, embody this feeling and produce the Magic. It took Contax over 7 years in redesigning the original RTS to bring us the RTS II, how many iterations of a certain DSLR/Mirrorless have been released since 2005 (8 years ago) ? How many Camera manufacturers will wait 8 years to bring out the Mk 2? Camera’s today have become as disposable as Fast food.

Sure, I’m stuck in the past, and most people have exceeded in terms of quantity and quality anything I could ever achieve with my antiquated equipment and slow processes but so what? I’m no pro – if I was I’d have nothing less than a Canon 5D Mk III with some L lenses and nothing else – making everything else worthless – as the 5D mk III is The Best current all round tool for pro’s, but I’m not a Pro – but someone who enjoys taking pictures as a hobby and only then photographs a roll or two after weeks or even months of idleness. I took a stroll through Epping Forest and Walthamstow Marshes the day the Lens was delivered, the Autumnal Fall colours were abound, and I was lucky that the light was good, the low November Sun was peering through the clouds and lit everything in a golden glow. All 36 exposures were keepers, and I thoroughly enjoyed the walk and using the Contax RTS II. The Results, wide open were as expected quite soft with the combination of 45mm Tessar and Rollei CR200 Slide Film – a remake of Agfa RSX 200 but with a Pet plastic base — a grainy, warm Film with loads of character. I love the soft rustic way the Tessar captured the scene, and most of all enjoyed the experience. I think the warm grainy tones give some flavour to the season.

A smoother finer grained film would yield completely different results – I can imagine Rollei Pan 25, or Fujichrome Velvia 50, but that is the beauty of film, different film for a completely different look and feel without having to copy anything or add effects and filters. The metering is a Centre-Weighted type and most pictures were nailed. the sky and low sun and light did make some tricky – coupled with the limited latitude of the Film and some are a tad dark, but in my eye pleasing all the same. The same area has been presented here before when shot with my Rolleiflex, and again I point out that these are snaps (along with most of my stuff) and aren’t ever going to win any prizes for originality or creativity – but are here to give you a flavour of the day I had, my experience and to add to the review. All in all, if you’re looking for a manual Focus SLR and want it to be compact, beautiful and sound to use and own with lovely lenses than this would be an ideal choice.

All photographs: Contax RTS II. Carl Zeiss 45mm f2.8 Tessar. Rollei CR200 (Agfachrome RSX II 200). Scanned with Plustek Optifilm 8100 35mm Scanner. Epping Forest, Essex and Walthamstow Marsh, London., England. November 2013

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Dec 272013
 

Mama, don’t take my Ektachrome away 

By: Ibraar Hussain

Dear Steve, I hope you’re well and enjoyed Christmas. To kick off the New year 2014 I thought I’d send you an article and some pictures I hope you may find interesting and publish. This is especially for those looking to try some Film and to go traveling this 2014 to some exotic places in the world.

I do adore E6 Slide Film, and especially Kodak Ektachrome; released as a modern alternative to Kodachrome, it outlasted it’s ancient sibling by not even two years! So much for being modern, well Digital killed them both off.

I love Ektachrome, I wasn’t enthusiastic enough in days gone by to shoot Kodachrome – I only managed to shoot 3 rolls of K25 – and had those developed as part of one of the last batches from Dwayne’s. But I managed to shoot a lot of Ektachrome, and Ektachrome e100vs in particular.

I don’t think there is another Film or medium in existence and available today which can match Ektachrome e100vs (Vivid Saturation) as a medium to capture warm, exotic travel images which really pop. I still have quite a few rolls in the freezer saved (120 and 35mm) for future trips abroad to Asia and Africa where this Film can really shine.

It is great as an all round Travel Film – and works well with shots of sun-kissed dusty streets, railways, platforms, people and bright colours and flavours, and especially portraiture.

It’s portraiture I’d like to concentrate on, coupled with the Contax G2 which is The Best camera I have ever used or experienced, especially for Travel. The 45mm lens in particular is superb, versatile and renders each subject beautifully, along with the 21mm Biogon makes for a killer combo.

I’ve written and submitted a couple of articles before to Steve (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/02/21/the-contax-g2-travel-companion-by-ibraar-hussain/) (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/02/17/daily-inspiration-317-by-ibraar-hussain/) which feature this combination but those were more about the Contax G2 and featured other Film including Fujichrome Velvia. Sure Velvia has finer grain, and is unrivalled as a Landscape and Nature capture medium, but Ektachrome e100vs has different strengths entirely.

I tend to photograph static subjects, people I manage to talk to and build some rapport with – before asking them if I can take a picture. I think taking picture’s without permission is rude and insulting, I do not speak of candid street shots where the person doesn’t realise, but of more obvious in-yer-face pointing the lens kind of thing – whether at random people on the street, countryside or villages.

The best approach is if you already know someone – that way you can access and capture an intimacy which would be impossible for an outsider.

Children and women in particular can be tricky, so some rapport, friendliness and genuine willingness to talk and interest goes a long way.

I find that lady travellers have far more luck, as they are invited into house holds and given more freedom than men. As a man, I suppose I needed to try harder – but bear in mind, a mission to capture a frame wasn’t my priority – I have always been genuinely interested in people and of by the by I manage some picture’s than that’s a bonus.

 

Portraits with a black background and front lighting

 The following picture’s are of Elf like daughters of a friend of a friend who invited me round for Tea and I was fortunate enough to be able to photograph his family.(Contax G2. 45mm Planar T* @ f2.8. Kodak Ektachrome e100vs. Chak 11, Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan)

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I have noticed that a person standing on the threshold of a room or house, where it is dark or with the lights off inside, and full front light sunshine means the subject is beautifully lit and stands out from the background which usually fades to black. This is a technique I often use and take full advantage of as I find it works.

I had to watch out for harsher light which tends to darken parts of the face leaving the eyes in shadow. The eyes of course are the priority, that catch light in the eyes is the key here and if I manage to catch them then the photograph is a success. I shot at f2.8 on the 45mm f2 for some of that 3D effect you get from the G Planar – and of course to make sure camera shake was at a minimum. f2.8 I feel is better than wide open, as a too shallow depth of field also means parts of a face lacking focus which looks rubbish.

The 45 is wider than a Portrait lens, so I had to make sure I wasn’t too close; as that would mean a strange perspective and possible defects like nose out of focus (because of the wide aperture).

The Kalash family and friends were great, again I was introduced by a friend who knew them and this way taking pictures was natural and great fun and a novelty for them to be involved rather than as curiosities. The little girl sitting on a bed wa stamen just at the doorway so the same lighting was pretty effective. the slow speed meant the picture is softer and slightly out of focus.

(Contax G2. 45mm Planar T* @ f2.8. Kodak Ektachrome e100vs. Balanguru, Rumbur valley, Hindu Kush mountains).

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Standard shallow depth of field with diffused front lighting Portraits

The other type is obviously the normal shallow depth portrait, taken no matter where (rather than in a doorway for a black background) with some front lighting for some catch lights in the eyes.

Again, f2.8 for some shallow depth to help the person stand out enough from a distracting background. Slightly diffused light due to clouds makes for a softer light which illuminates everything is excellent for face detail, and catch lights in the eyes. The less light the less illumination (hence the final one is darker).

A young Kalash girl, a Kalash school boy in Uniform and Mr Munir Kalash proprietor of The Kalash Guest House Hotel. Here is one example of the 90mm f2.8 Sonnar T* .

The 90mm Sonnar is a superb lens, more natural for portraits in particular, but I seldom use it as I find the 45mm is so versatile and changing lenses is such a chore.

 

(Contax G2. 90mm Sonnar T* @ f2.8 (first one). 45mm Planar T* @ f2.8 Kodak Ektachrome e100vs. Balanguru, Rumbur valley, Hindu Kush mountains)

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Harsher midday sun light and group portrait

Front lighting can be harsh, so a reflective item helping to illuminate the face and provide catch lights is good. A reflective item could be a white car, wall or even a white shirt worn by oneself to act as a reflector or anything which acts as such. Photography books tend to advising avoidance of harsh midday sun which gives too much shadows on the face, and I agree, though some reflective light illuminating the face helps combat this. If you’re keen you could try using a reflector, or even fill flash, but I don’t use fill flash as I don’t know how to as haven’t the skill. Another option would be to increase exposure compensation, but I find that spoils the background as it over exposes it.

Sometimes an f8 aperture is great if the background permits, the beauty of f8 is that everything is sharp and this is the setting I use for group portraits, f8 all the way to get all of them in focus – here’s an example of three brothers – there light was harsh midday sun and it was hot! The best light I think is on the chap in the centre – the other’s eyes are too dark.

(Contax G2. 45mm Planar T* @ f2.8. Kodak Ektachrome e100vs. Chak 11, Sargodha, Punjab)

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Ektachrome gives the skin tones, and the colours a warmth and soft evocative feel, sure, it’s not Kodachrome, but it almost gives a feeling of looking through a Nat geographic or Time or The Sunday Times magazine of the 60ies, 70ies and 80ies look and feel which is missing from the clinical drab super sharp digital images usually seen these days. Ektachrome e100vs also gives me a sense of smelling and feeling the place.

 The shadows some may feel are blocked up, and the colours somewhat fake – but this is the beauty. And for a real feel of actually being there, there is absolutely nothing like seeing a real projected slide show of Ektachrome in a dark room in a huge wall size.

Environmental Portraits with a Wide Angle

I also enjoy taking a wide-angle Environmental portrait, the 21mm Biogon shot at f2.8 gives a shallow depth of field and a wide-angle.

The depth isn’t too shallow, but slight enough not to distract but focussed enough to appreciate the background and environment and home the person belongs to or the job they do.

I think the 21mm Biogon is brilliant for this and I recommend a wide-angle portrait to be tried by everyone.

Mr Noor at his garden in Ayun near Chitral along with Police Constable Khadim of the frontier Police and his issue Kalashnikov patrolling the valley’s.

 

(Contax G2. 21mm Biogon T* @ f2.8. Kodak Ektachrome e100vs. Balanguru, Rumbur valley, Hindu Kush mountains)

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A Kalash boy posing with his pet Kid Goat in his village and a Kalash mother and daughters weaving cloth by her home.

All these show the Environment, which i suppose gives the viewer a general idea of the person’s home or situation.

(Contax G2. 21mm Biogon T* @ f2.8. Kodak Ektachrome e100vs. Rumbur Valley and Birmorgh Lasht – Chitral Gol National Park, Hindu Kush mountains)

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Cutting legs off is a pet hate of mine, and I tend to focus on having the usual head and shoulders, or torso and up shots if not a full body one. But sometimes when needs must or when it’s appropriate I don’t mind trying one where the legs have been cut off – depending on background or composition.

Kalash child by her front door and Mr Fayzullah a large chappie who is the Chowkidar (caretaker) of the Summer palace at the Chitral Gol National park in the Hindu Kush

(Contax G2. 21mm Biogon T* @ f2.8 and 45mm Planar T* @ f2.8. Kodak Ektachrome e100vs. Balanguru, Rumbur valley, Hindu Kush mountains)

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Anyway, I have a limited skill set, and limited technique, but what I have I use and I think I manage to use effectively, and when out in wild climes travelling, and especially when using Film and Ektachrome e100vs in particular, the last thing I want to do is waste precious frames or not capture the photo – to get home and see it’s blurry or dark or just crap, hence I think my simple technique’s help and I thought I’d share them with you.

Other’s are far more experienced and talented than I, so I welcome any advice and chat about the subject, and about using such exotic looking Slide film such as Ektachrome e100vs which I don’t think Digital can match in what it manages to achieve.

Anyway, Ektachrome e100vs is gone, but I hope one day Ektachrome is revived, and I also wish one day Kodachrome will be revived, until then I have my frozen stock of e100vs and am always sourcing more.

Happy snapping!

Dec 262013
 

Will the Smartphone ever replace the camera?

By Ibraar Hussain

For enthusiastic amateurs and those with more than a snap shooting interest in Photography, I’d say no, not now, not ever.

There are certain things Smart Phones lack, and even if you gave a Smart Phone Full Frame and a gazillion Mega Pixels; it’ll still never pass the test – I consider Ergonomics a powerful feature no amount of technical advancement can compete with.

Anyway, this isn’t a discourse on Smart Phones and Photography, it’s about Hipstamatic on the iPhone.

Hipstamatic, in my opinion, is the best thing about Smart Phone photography – and unfortunately at the time of writing it is only (to my knowledge) available for the iPhone, so sorry Androids and Windows.

If you haven’t used it before, it’s a Square Format Camera Application which mimics toy camera’s and vintage snap shot cameras of yore, with choices of lens, Flash and Film which one can select for so many different combinations.

The combinations and options are phenomenal, brilliant in simplicity, ease of selection and results.

We have BW Films galore, colour, cooked ones, XP, IR, expired, different flash types, and lenses ranging from soft ones, to vignetting or ones giving an illusion of shallow depth of field, ones that leak light and others that are completely bizarre – and the range vast, with creative possibilities limitless.

Want moody black and white Noir-ish Film with strong vignetting? Want a platinum look print with soft tones? Want a punchy Velvia like look with sharp lens? A burnt out vintage 70s look with a multi hued flash effect? Or a Polaroid look with loads of colour? It’s all there – and to make things even more interesting, you can order prints on-the-fly, from within the Application.

It’s all great fun and has a superb interface – simply look through the square viewfinder (on the screen) and press the yellow button – and press a button to flip over so you can change film, lens and flash with a swipe.

And of course, you can buy more and more stuff.

With use you’ll start knowing which combination to use for which subject and have personal favourites, and to be honest, even the most mediocre snaps can be made to look superb with the colour and effect possibilities.

There is some creative control – touch a part of the Viewfinder image and it’ll focus and expose for that, move the iPhone up and down and you’ll see the exposure change in real time.

Anyway, that’s all the fun and funky stuff out-of-the-way, you can have all the funky effect things in the world but ultimately, if you lack even a microgram of creativity and talent, it’ll all look somewhat like a turd rolled in glitter.

What I really love about Hipstamatic, is the ability to work on composition using the brilliant Square Format, and this is what I use it for (apart from family and friends and such snaps).

The 6×6 Square is a great compositional aspect ratio – there’s no room for messing around, and the simplicity enables framing to be easier than oblong aspect ratios.

One, with the large square view finder of Hipstamatic, can really go to town on working on composition, framing, using key subjects, lead in lines, rule of thirds – and one can do it with the minimum of fuss and headache – just open the Application and off you go.

And the user can select the appropriate ‘Film’ to take the scene using the different creative Film/Lens or Filters available, and interpret the scene however they wish and easily.

I have been working on composition with this Hipstamatic for a while now, and I think it has improved my ability to see and express a scene more so than traditionally (with a real camera Film or Digital).

I don’t worry about sharpness or resolution – as such things really don’t matter one iota to me, sure to others they may well do – colour, composition, mood, tones and subject matter make sense to me and for this, Hipstamatic on the iPhone 5 is what I enjoy using as and when I require it.

I’ve included several shots here, just detailing the sort of things I tend to work on, composition, arranging elements in a scene, subject matter, colour, light and tone. With some studies of different places (Stone henge for example)

Cheers!

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Dec 132013
 

Friday Film: One lens, One roll

by Ibraar Hussain

Hi Steve,

It’s been a good year, 2013 has almost rushed past and Christmas is on its way now, so need to get the shopping done and make do the preparations! :)

I’ve been out and about and have thoroughly enjoyed my (limited) photography this past Summer, and am looking forward to the Winter being a short one.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed most of the reviews and contributions on your site! Been absolutely Great!

In response to many people who assume stevehuffphoto.com is solely a ‘Gear Site’ – I’d like to stress how wrong they are! Steve, your site is The Best photography related on the Web, by a huge margin, and sure it involves Gear and new stuff people want to read about, but it’s all encompassing – showcases older Film stuff, Art, technique and lucky for those to be published – some great photography of all sorts! (Thanks Ibraar! – Steve)

I’d like to finish off the year with a sort of Inspiration. The 23rd of November was probably the best time to see some Autumnal Fall colours here in Epping Forest in Essex on the outskirts of London.

So I took an afternoon stroll through my favourite woods armed with a Rolleiflex 6008i, a Rollei 80mm HFT Planar lens and one roll of Agfa Ultra 50 with 12 Exposures to see whether I could give myself a One Lens, One Roll Challenge to capture the colour, flavour and atmosphere of the passing of the year and the last display before the leaves vanish and Winter takes over.

I had a great walk and needless to say every one of my 12 exposures were ‘keepers’ (well, keepers to me anyway) and I have a nice set of 4×4 inch prints in small square frames which I’ve mounted – of the following 6 pictures I’d like to share with everyone here and perhaps inspire others to take a similar walk with similar intentions and equipment – or a challenge for Digital shooters to shoot with 1 lens and to shoot 12 pictures and ALL 12 have to be keepers! Let’s see how people get on :)

Regards

Ibbs

Ps. I’d include the other 6 here but you’re probably bored stiff of trees! :)

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Oct 112013
 

Friday Film: An ode to Agfa Ultra 100 and Goodbye Summer 

By Ibraar Hussain

Dear Steve, it’s been a long time since I have written to you and a long time since I have submitted an article or photographs.

I’ve been enjoying myself this last year, and experimenting with different camera’s and formats; mostly my iPhone 5 and Hipstamatic, also my Canon 700D, but mostly I’ve been enjoying photographing for my own pleasure, working on composition and trying hard to make things look and feel right to me.

I always find myself coming back to my old friend, my trusty Contax G2 – a camera I can use without thinking as it’s so intuitive, and such a pleasure to handle and use, and so reliable, and a camera which I prefer over any other.

I went to Barmouth in Southern Snowdonia in Wales this summer for a week, and shot a few rolls of Film with my Contax G2.

Barmouth is a lovely secluded Sea Side town, at the southern end of Snowdonia. A dreamy place, on The Irish Sea dominated by the Mawddach Estuary, golden sand, the harbour and the wooden Barmouth Bridge.

I also took along one precious roll of Agfa Ultra 100 – a punchy and highly saturated print film which is very rare nowadays.

Agfa Ultra 100 was released to replace the splendid and superior Agfa Ultra 50.

I do love using old world Films, especially Agfa emulsions which I find to be extremely pleasing with their own unique look.

Sure one can hope to get the technicolor look with Apple Aperture or Photoshop but there’s nothing like the real thing, my opinion of course.

It is quite grainy, but has an old world look and feel and obviously false colour which I think is perfect for Summer Holiday snaps.

The prints are superb, luscious vibrant things, fit enough to treasure and mount, and the straight Lab scans (as I have here) are delightful in their vibrancy; all I did was adjust horizons and crop/frame.

I have sourced quite a few rolls of Agfa Ultra 100 and Agfa Ultra 50 in both 120 and 35mm, and am using them sparingly.

These Agfa emulsions are long gone and very rare, and I take great care in crafting every precious frame – slowly, taking my time and I was quite pleased that all 36 exposures were keepers.

Photography to me is about composition, balance and vibrancy, and colour is an essential element, and it plays a big role in what I find attractive and appealing – I don’t care one bit about bit depths, pixels or resolution.

The prints I have made (on paper and canvas) on 35mm are big and very pleasing to the eye, and are to be found mounted on the walls of friends and family – so I don’t understand this extreme need for greater and greater resolution and detail (though it helps if one is a Pro and makes mural sized exhibition prints).

I like the simple things, things which make me happy and give me a feel of the place and situation, be it white clouds, a blue sea, brightly coloured houses and boats.

I think many people have forgotten the joy and simplicity of photography and miss the point entirely, and for this I think Print Film and apps such as Hipstamatic on the iPhone are brilliant tools to use to express.

Anyway, I’ve submitted a few snaps which I hope you can publish, as an ode to long gone Agfa Ultra 100, a Summer Holiday Film, where reds are really RED and the colour reminds one of a sunny seaside holiday and dreams of childhood.

Only snaps, but I adore this Film

Agfa Ultra 100

Contax G2 with 45mm Planar, 90mm Sonnar and 21mm Biogon

B+W Polariser

Developed and Lab scanned by Forest Photographic, Walthamstow, London.

And a nice hot summer in Barmouth

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barmouthknots

beach

people

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AGFA Ultra 50

Dear Steve, as an addition to the Contax G2 and Agfa Ultra 100 article, I’d like to add some snaps I took with a precious roll of Agfa Ultra 50 last summer with my Rolleiflex 6008i.

This Film, Agfa Ultra 50 is warmer and with more colour saturation than the newer Agfa Ultra 100.

Agfa Ultra 100 was made to replace Ultra 50 a few years after Ultra 50 was discontinued.

Last Summer I was lounging around in Dorset, on the South Coast of England and managed some Summer snaps with my Rolleiflex on one precious roll of Agfa Ultra 50.

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Nov 022012
 
The MPP Microcord TLR by Ibraar Hussain

Dear Steve, I thought I’d send you this article and a sort of inspiration too for those (like me) turning their noses up at the punitive and extortionate prices Leica want to charge us for their Leica M Monochrome. Sure it’s a great camera, but

Photography is about the Photograph, not gear….

….but I admit I do like old vintage camera’s, and their quirks, use and enjoyment is part and parcel of the whole process.

Why spend 1000′s when you can spend peanuts?

The 1950ies, a time when Britain was still an ailing Super Power, The Suez Crisis and The Malay Campaign were testament to this.

It was a time when the E-Type Jaguar was first designed, probably the most beautiful car ever to grace tarmac, The English Electric Lightning was first flown, in my opinion the most beautiful aeroplane ever to have reached for the skies, it was a time when Britain still had a manufacturing industry and in a small workshop in Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey just outside London, Micro Precision products engineered their Microcord and Microflex TLR camera’s.

MPP were famous for their Micro press Camera’s, based on Linhof designs and they also took inspiration from Franke & Heidecke with their TLR (Twin lens Reflex) designed Rolleicord and Rolleiflex.

I’m not going to go into the rise and fall of MPP, its history or relate the story of the Microcord and Microflex TLR cameras – this information is readily available from the Internet.

The week before last I was passing by a Camera shop behind the British Museum near Russell Square and decided to pop in.

My gaze instinctively fell upon the TLR’s the chap had in a glass cabinet, a Rolleiflex and a Rolleicord – they gleamed like jewels, the twin glass lenses twinkled and reflected the daylight from the shop window and they looked gorgeous, much smaller than I at first thought (I had never really seen a TLR before close up, and I had assumed they were probably the same size as a Medium Format SLR such as the Hasselblad or a Bronica) and I knew then I had to get one for certain!

I, being a Rollei lover was on the lookout for a Rolleiflex TLR, and seeing the expensive prices for these I sort of lowered my expectations and sought out a nice Rolleicord, at the same time I was also (and still am) on the look out for a nice 5×4 Press Camera to get me started in 5×4 Large Format photography, and that’s when I struck upon MPP. Upon further investigation I discovered that MPP also had a Rollei TLR ‘clone’, and that’s when I first read about and came to admire the Microcord TLR.

I then decided to, after reading some reviews of the Microcord (the Microflex is extremely rare) treat myself to one, I found a lovely example at ffordes and bought it!

My MPP Microcord is a mk II with a working and fairly accurate Prontor SVS shutter, and a super fast top shutter speed of 1/300 ;-) It has a 4 element Ross Express f3.5 77.5mm lens (which I have read is said to be of higher quality than the comparable Tessar in a Rolleicord)

It has its Microcord brown leather ever-ready case with neck strap, and a twin lens cap (a Minolta one) but the ground glass is clean as a whistle, relatively bright, with crystal clean optics and it all has been well oiled CLA’d and looked after.

It’s easy to load, by opening the hinged (removable) back ‘lid’ and simply winding a roll of 120 Film in, the cover is then replaced and secured.

You then have to wind the film on by depressing the button on the film wind knob, until the window shows ’1′ and then have to do the same for every frame – press the button, wind the knob, focus using the forward knob, and then cock the shutter (located under the Ross Express) – press the shutter release and the shutter depresses with a snick – very quiet!

The Microcord is like a Rolleiflex ‘lite’ rather than a full blown Rolleicord type – as Aperture and Shutter speed are changed using the Rolleiflex type wheels (and the values are viewed in a small window on top of the viewing lens).

Anyway, the camera is beautifully made, everything about it is of very high workmanship, Rollei makes no junk, and neither did MPP.

The camera takes standard Bay I Rolleicord Filters and is very cheap to buy.

I spent £120 on the camera (from ffordes with a year warranty), £10 on two rolls of Rollei Retro 80s and £10 on a Rollei Gelb Hell Yellow Filter.

I then, (with my Missus) on Thursday (6th October) took the Tube to Embankment, forded the Thames by crossing the Golden Jubilee Bridge, made my way to The South Bank, turned left, walked past Gabriel’s Wharf, Festival Pier, and The Tate Modern, walked past The Millennium Bridge and towards Borough, past The Shakespeare Globe Theatre, the many Thame’s bridges, Francis Drake’s Golden Hind, around Southwark Cathedral, then over London Bridge toThe Monument and then the Tube home again. All the while I was under the watchful eye of St. Paul’s Cathedral – iconic landmark and Wren’s masterpiece; a building which is the most beautiful in England and the views of it are spoiled by ugly modern eye sores such as ‘The Shard’ and ‘The Gherkin’ and other sky scraping office block monstrosities.

I took along two rolls of a Film I have never tried before – Rollei Retro 80s, an asa 80 super-panchromatic sensitised Film, with high Red sensitivity all the way to 750nm. It comes on a clear base which makes it almost Agfa Scala like, but as i discovered it is also very E6 like when it comes to exposure and can be very unforgiving in regards latitude and highlights. It is a very contrasty Film, very fine grained and smooth but it’s a case of you’ll either love it or hate it. Shadow detail isn’t great and even with a Yellow Filter the photo’s look ‘Infrared – ish’.

I loved it, I shot using a Rollei Yellow Filter (as always, Don McCullin shoots with a Yellow permanently attached and he’s the Don) I metered the light using my Minolta Autometer III (Incident) and on the odd occasion I used the excellent spot meter on my iPhone ‘Light Meter’ app.

I had a great few hours, the camera is a real head turned, most people walking past noticed it, people looked and stared and quite a few people made friendly comments, a few photographers stopped and chatted about the ancient contraption around my neck.

Forget about being inconspicuous, everyone notices this baby – but I did notice that the nature of the camera, with the Waist level viewing, people aren’t too concerned about it, I’m no street shooter so my Street Photography and Reportage is at a minimum. I do however like the sights of London and love the Bankside of the Thames.

Anyway, I shot two rolls, and luckily most of the shots were keepers, I include a selection here – these were scanned with an Epson 4990 as Jpegs using Epson Scan – quick no nonsense scanning. The negative was developed in Rodinal 1+50.

The only Post Process I used was to clone a few spots of dust off and resized in Photoshop – ok, they’re hardly Leica Monochrome shots, a 60 year old camera is ultimately a 60 year old camera, but I wouldn’t get any better results with the Leica, I can only photograph as much as my capabilities and creativity dictates, (not very good) and I reckon it is the same for everyone else.

 

Tower Bridge with HMS Belfast, viewed from London Bridge. 
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Southwark Cathedral
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Pier at Gabriel’s Wharf. With St. Paul’s Cathedral. South Bank.
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From the Golden Jubilee bridge, Eastwards towards St. Pauls. Embankment.
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The Millennium Bridge towards St. Paul’s.
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Buskers, South Bank. Out of Focus, but I quite like it.
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Jazz Band. Under Blackfriars Bridge.
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Outside Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
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Band on the Millennium Bridge, by The Tate Modern.
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Self Portrait, St Paul’s.
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Under the Millennium Bridge. Tate Modern, Towards St. Paul’s.
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Another one of the many Pier’s.
Sep 082012
 

The Rolleiflex 6008 integral 6X6 camera review by Ibraar Hussain

It’s difficult to review such a camera as the Rolleiflex 6008 integral, as it is very advanced, yet needs to be made the most out of by able hands, who can get the most out of the handling and astounding lens line up. I wanted a 6×6 camera and I ended up buying this instead of a Hasselblad 500CM.

The Rolleiflex 6008i is part of the 6000 series of Medium Format 6×6 SLR which Rollei released as competition to the Hasselblad 6×6 Cameras, which was a mistake, I was told by a friend to look out for a Rolleiflex instead of a Hasselblad, but I didn’t know he meant the TLR – and instead I end up with this!

Rollei had traditionally been famous for their TLR’s such as the Rolleiflex and Rolleicord series of Cameras.

But with Hasselblad striking new ground with their SLR’s and the gradual disinterest in TLR’s Rollei engineers set to work on a 6×6 SLR system which would leave Hasselblad years behind technologically.

The SL66 was released which was purely mechanical, though it is a beautifully crafted piece, it’s main downfall is its size, weight and the V series like structure meant ergonomics were not up to modern standards.

This was followed by the SLX, and it is a futuristic camera compared to the SL66. It lacks the traditional look of the Hasselblad V series, and instead is very modern in design and electronics.

The shutter and everything is electronically controlled, so without a battery it will not function – this could be a disadvantage to those used to mechanical cameras.

From Carn Llidi, Pembrokeshire Coast. Wales. 50mm Distagon HFT f4. Fuji Provia 100F

The SLX was followed by a series of 6×6 Camera’s which follow the same design ethic. Easy to use 6×6 Medium Format SLR’s with advanced features, superb build quality and stellar lenses.

There are many available, and some more advanced than others. They are BIG, boxy creatures, heavy, yet fairly compact (not behemoths like the SL66) with perfect ergonomics and very versatile – incorporating a ‘grip’ with features such as shutter speed control and shutter release on them. So these could be used in a Studio, and also on the move.

The SLX mk 1 has solid German engineered build BUT has quirky electronics, and collectors/dealers suggest looking out for Mk 2 version which is far more reliable.

The crowning glory of this series are the lenses; superb glass from Schneider, Zeiss and Rollei (Mamiya) are all beautiful and pin sharp.

The most advanced Manual Focus version is the Rolleiflex 6008 integral II, and this was followed by (I believe) the worlds first 6×6 Auto Focus SLR; the Rolleiflex 6008 AF.

Light, shadow and clouds over the Beacons. Wales. 80mm Planar HFT f2.8. Fuji Provia 100F

This I believe was a competitor for the Contax 645, as both had Auto Focus, yet the Rolleiflex had the better build, larger negative size and a much wider array of Lenses (the downside being that many were MF rather than AF), plus a more illustrious lineage (as Contax 645 was Japanese built and a Kyocera camera rather than a purely German made SLR). I’ve spoken to photographers who have had both, and by and large they all prefer the look and feel of the Rolleflex images rather than the Contax.

The 6008i and AF can take Digital backs, so are more than geared towards the Digital age (though I have never used, nor can I afford a Digital back)

Rollei’s last foray into the market was the Rollei F&H designed and built Rolleiflex Hy6 6×6 SLR, which was also funded by Jenoptik (spun of company from Zeiss Jena which, I suppose, makes this possibly the last purely German Zeiss camera)

This magnificent camera takes Film along with Digital backs.

Though you can find Leaf and Sinar badged versions of the Hy6 – it is a purely German built beast and is STILL manufactured in Germany by F&H under their new guise

Sunset over the irish Sea. Pembrokeshire. Wales. 50mm Distagon HFT f4. @ f16 Hitech 3 stop ND Hard Grad. B+W Polarizer. Fuji Provia 100F

DHW Fototechnik interesting article 

Anyway, I have the Rolleiflex 6008i. I bought it a few months back and my kit consists of the standard camera, 120 Film back, a Polaroid back, Grip, battery and 2 lenses; The 80mm HFT Planar PQ f2.8 and the 50mm HFT Distagon f4. I’m looking to purchase a 150mm f4 Sonnar portrait lens. I’m also on the lookout for any Schneider lenses, which can be very expensive.

The PQ lenses are geared towards the more advanced features of the 6008i, AF and Hy6, the non-PQ lenses are compatible with every Rolleiflex 6000 and Hy6 series camera, but they can only be metered using the ‘stopped down’ method on the 6008i and AF and Hy6, on other 6000 series and SLX they are perfectly normal.

Saying that, the non-PQ lenses are identical to the PQ optically and are Bargains, costing less than half that of the PQ.

I bought the 6008i for travelling! Yes, a big heavy beast to take around the Mountains of The Hindu Kush and Karakoram when I go to visit again next time (with my Missus this time, I know you’re reading this, I won’t leave you behind again!)

But this beast, it’s easy to carry, the Action Grip is a revelation, it has a camcorder like strap, and can be adjusted to suit, it has a shutter lock, exposure lock and power/motor drive switch – it means I can trek, climb even, and won’t be resorting to clunky holding and fiddling as on a Hasselblad and can hold and shoot with one hand!

Marching Sheep being herded. brecon Beacons. 80mm Planar HFT f2.8 Fuji Provia 100F

Focussing the waist level View Finder gives you a massive bright image, it’s quick to shoot, and can shoot at 3fps.

The ergonomics are second to none in a camera this size, and I can shoot on FULL AUTO with ease! yes, a MF camera with full A mode, that even a compact digital camera snap shooter can use as long as they can focus manually!

the 6008i features centre weighted metering, spot metering along with multi-spot (a la the OM4Ti)

The other superb feature, which tends to put people off from MF camera’s is the Magazine dark slide, a simple slider! And one can chop and change magazines with ease!

I have only shot two rolls with this camera, as I’m ‘saving it’ for holidays and treks – I can only imagine the portraits I’ll get with Ektachrome e100vs of exotic looking peoples in the Hindu Kush and Karakoram.

Until then, I’m including a few photo’s I’ve taken on a Roll during my recent trip to Pembrokeshire in Wales, where I thoroughly enjoyed using it, but felt like a bit of a twat walking around with it as I got so many stares!

So all in all, an electronic, versatile, very easy to handle and use, wonderfully built 6×6 SLR with stellar lenses in the right hands (not mine) whose quality will most likely blow any 35mm sized SLR, DSLR or RF from here to Timbuktu! With the legend “Rolleflex” boldly inscribed on it! Pure class!

Drystone wall across the moors. Brecon. 80mm Planar HFT. Fuji Provia 100F

The SLX mk 2 can be bought for as little as $400 more or less with WLF and 80mm Planar, other’s can be bought for even less or for very expensive prices. If you want AF (the AF is obviously not to modern standards) you can check out the 6008 AF but these demand high prices.

The SLX mk 2 can be bought for as little as $400 more or less with WLF and 80mm Planar, other’s can be bought for even less or for very expensive prices – much less than a Hasselblad 500C/M.

QUIRKS

I need to mention these, in case people start lambasting me for failing to mention these.

1) Electronics, as mentioned earlier, the SLX mk 1 suffers from Electronic issues. And earlier versions of other models (correct me if I’m wrong) are said to have issues too. Though later ones do not, well, they’ll have as many issues as any other electronic camera I suppose

2) Battery. The Battery pack is an old fashioned one, and over time holds less and less charge – BUT these days that doesn’t mean much any more as alternative battery packs compatible with the charger are offered by some camera show and Dealers, and you can get a car charger accessory plus spares.

3) Ultimately the SLX/6000 series is an Electronic camera, so don’t expect eternal ownership, one day electronics MUST fail on every sort of electronic camera, whether a DSLR, Leica M Digital or Contax SLR/645/G series and the Rolleiflex.

4) In heavy rain, I have heard that if the rain seeps in it MAY affect the electronics UNTIL the camera has dried.

Sunset. Pembrokeshire. 80mm Planar HFT Fuji Provia 100F

Sep 032012
 

The West German Rolleiflex SL35

by Ibraar Hussain

In the history of photography there are a few legendary marques which have achieved Grail like status, and will always have a place high up in the pantheon of the Photographic Gods, far above Oriental pretenders. Marques which are coveted by collectors, professionals and those wishing to own a piece of History and precision, beautifully crafted engineering. Carl Zeiss of Jena (Est. 1846), Leica of Wetzlar (Est. 1913), Victor Hasselblad of Gothenburg (Est. 1841) and Franke & Heidecke of Braunschweig (Est. 1920) also known as ‘Rollei’.

Hasselblad and Rollei have been famous for their Medium Format cameras, Leica the M series, and Zeiss everything from 35mm to Medium Format Pentacon’s. Back in the day, the industry was smaller and more ‘in house’, and Rollei were the first to move production outside Germany when they acquired factories in Singapore, but their TLR’s were always German built.

Young Cadet 50mm SL-Xenon B+W Yellow Filter Agfa APX 100 Rodinal

The sands of time flow and times change, nowadays some of the original companies are great behemoth like Multinationals with factories and offices throughout the World. Carl Zeiss has been splintered into many factions, or spun off to form other companies such as Jenoptik, Docter Optic and Praktica (a shadow and mockery of its former glory) with other great associated names such as Exakta Ihagee and Pentacon having bitten the dust.

These days it’s 35mm Range Finder, the Zeiss Ikon is manufactured by Cosina in Japan, Zeiss manufactures Optics in Germany.

Modern Hasselblads are manufactured (bar the V Series) in Japan by Fujifilm and Leica make their M series in Portugal (complete with Chinese made components) (and are then ‘finished’ in Germany to warrant the ‘Made in Germany’ inscription).

Rollei has been split into three companies, the brand name ‘Rollei’ has ended up like Praktica has, owned by RCP-Technik GmbH & Co makers of budget Digital Cameras and accessories. The other branch specialises in producing old Agfa Film stock under the brand Rollei Film, but the real Rollei still survives as a small German based camera manufacturer spun off by Rollei engineers and employees with a direct connection to the original founders. DHW Fototechnik manufactures extremely expensive high-end and collectable Medium Format Cameras such as the Rolleiflex Hy6, the Rolleiflex 6008i and new versions of the Classic Rolleiflex TLR. These cameras are very expensive, but oh so beautiful and exquisite – especially the new TLR’s.

Schneider Kreuznach 50mm f1.8. Agfa APX 100, Rodinal. Silver reflector.

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My Niece Rolleigon 135mm f2.8 Agfa APX 100 Rodinal

Anyway, enough of the history, I seem to be going on and on a bit too much!

Most people covet a Leica M, and for good reason, they’re beautifully built and in the right hands make beautiful photographs, and they’re wonderfully built, solid, heavy and with a feel of precision, damped metal perfection – they look, feel and manifest sheer quality that just to handle one and own one is a joy – think Patek Phillipe or A Lange Sohne.

There are other camera’s out there which are just as beautiful to behold, and just as well-built and exude just the same feeling of quality, worth and treasure, and the Rolleiflex TLR is one such, others are hidden gems, overlooked, under rated such as the Exakta series and Pentacon Six, and can be bought relatively cheaply – if a Mint example can be found, in the 35mm sized world one such example is the Rolleiflex SL35.

The SL35 was Franke & Heidecke first 35mm SLR, and the original SL35 (and the far more rare and expensive SL350) is Rollei’s best.

A snap in Medieval City of Nottingham SL Xenon 50mm f1.8 Agfa APX 100 Rodinal

There are three versions of the SL35, the German-made SL35 of 1970 – 1972 and the later Made in Singapore version 1972- 1976 – both identical on the surface, but not the same underneath. Sure they are made using the same looking parts, but the Singapore versions aren’t built with the same love, care and precision as the German-made ones. I have both examples and you can feel the difference.

The German-made SL35 and SL350 are collectors items, a Mint example is a camera to keep – forever.

Later SL35E and SL35M aren’t in the same class as even the Singapore built SL35 and to be honest, aren’t worth bothering with as collectors items (though they are worth it if you want to use the exquisite optics and the more advanced features they have).

The SL35 is beautiful to behold, it has a simple, totally spartan but elegant bauhaus like design, devoid of superfluous switches and dials, even the hotshot is an after market accessory. The simple lines are difficult to date, 50ies? 60ies? 70ies? the design is timeless and in my view is as glorious as any classic Range Finder.

The German SL35 I have is the stealthy SL35 black, and the attention to detail on it just makes one smile and it begs to be used. It is crafted of solid metal, and feels dense, weighty. Ken Rockbuster describes a Leica as feeling like a well oiled revolver, and I can tell you that this Rolleiflex feels much the same. I also have a Mint German-made SL35 Silver body which is also a beautiful piece of work.

Pembrokeshire Wales. SL-Xenon 50mm f1.8 Kodak Portra 400

Comparing it to the redoubtable Olympus OM2n, the Olympus looks and feels sort of cheap in comparison! Sure the Olympus is a better camera, by better I mean it has Aperture priority and a user-friendly light meter, but then again a Seiko is probably more reliable and accurate than a Patek, and a Casio even more so. The Rolleiflex doesn’t need any gimmicks, it’s simplicity is its strength and any photographer who’s worth his or her salt should thrive with it.

The Film wind crank winds forward with a precision mechanical zip and it’s released to be eased back with a nicely damped slide. The shutter emits a satisfying thunk as it trips.

Looking at top of the camera, the only controls we have are the Film wind crank, shutter release with the stylised “R” situated on top of the shutter speed dial, the button near the shutter release is the stop down/ depth of field preview button. On the other side we have a solitary film rewind knob/ dial.

At the front we have the self timer lever and that’s about it! Basic as it gets!

Olympic Stadium Stratford, London. SL-Xenon 50mm f1.8 B+W Yellow Filter Agfa APX 100 Rodinal

The Camera has a built-in light meter, powered by a small watch size battery and this is activated by pressing the Stop Down Button, it manifests itself in the form of a needle, visible through the big bright viewfinder (about as big and bright as the VF on an Olympus OM2n)

The meter isn’t the highlight of this camera, as it’s annoying pressing the stop down button, then having to control aperture and shutter speed to get a correct exposure. I have used it, and it’s fairly accurate but only to test it out – I find it easier and thus tend to use a hand-held incident Minolta Autometer III which is pretty good, but the internal meter is there if ever required.

The lenses, well, there are some gorgeous lenses available for this camera, lenses made by Zeiss with the HFT coating (HFT is Rollei trademarked T*) Schneider Krueznach, Voighlander and Rollei Rolleinar lenses. They render beautifully, they probably aren’t as sharp as more modern equivalents but that doesn’t matter, as they manifest a lovely feel in the photographs.

By Lord Byron’s House, Nottingham. SL-Xenon 50mm f1.8 B+W Yellow Filter Agfa APX 100 Rodinal

The Zeiss and Schneider lenses are expensive, some more than others, the Voightlanders are rebranded Zeiss and Rolleinars, the Rolleinars can be bought for peanuts, but that doesn’t mean the Rolleinars are crap – on the contrary they’re superb lenses, made by Mamiya in Japan, well built and of very high quality, in fact tests show they’re to a hairs breadth of the Zeiss and Schneider in terms of quality.

I have the Schneider 50mm f1.8 and the Rolleigon 135mm f2.8 portrait lens., My next lens is going to be a 28mm Rolleinar, though I am watching a 25mm Distagon on eBay.

To sum it all up, the Rolleiflex SL35 is a stunning piece, and to demonstrate how much I value mine I wouldn’t swap it for any other camera bar a new Rolleiflex 4.0 FW – even if offered an Leica M3, M6 or an M9 I wouldn’t swap it – it is my favourite camera and even though I’ve not owned it long, and have only shot a couple of rolls with it, I prize it above all my others. the Rolleiflex SL35 just oozes class, a camera which you can keep and use FOREVER – it’s a joy to own and to handle, turns heads and in my opinion is just as classy as any Leica and it has those magical legend “Rolleiflex” inscribed on it!

 

Bird over Bedfont Lake. Middlesex. SL-Xenon 50mm f1.8 B+W Yellow Filter Agfa APX 100 Rodinal

my rudimentary ‘blog’; http://rolleiflexed.wordpress.com and Flickr; http://www.flickr.com/photos/71817058@N08/

I’ve only shot three rolls of Film with this Rolleiflex SL35, two shot on Agfa APX 100 and developed in Rodinal, the other roll is Kodak Portra 400. It currently has half a roll of Agfa APX 100 left in it. The shots were basic family snaps and stuff, and I’ve included a few examples here – I’ve yet to shoot the camera in anger! Rudimentary scans with Epson Scan Epson 4990.

I tried to take some pictures of the Rolleiflex with my Kodak Easyshare Z990 – but pictures cannot do it a justice.

For more information check out this excellent site:

http://captjack.exaktaphile.com/rollei/dugrew.html

I bought my Black with SL-Xenon for £175 (around $280) and the SL35 Silver body for a meagre £20! That’s $30 !!

Aug 072012
 

Closing out the Summer with some film and the Yashica 230AF by Ibraar Hussain

Goodbye Summer..

Well, the Summer is almost over, and we didn’t get much of one, by much I mean an extended couple or more months of heat, sunshine blue skies and not much else. We got mostly rain, May was fine for the most part, but All of June and most of July was a complete wash out, and August has freaky changeable weather.

But I was lucky, lucky that for a few days here and there when the weather was fine, I was off from work and on leave and was able to go and visit my favourite place in the whole wide world – Wales, especially Brecon and Pembrokeshire. On the few visits I lugged around a huge backpack packed with camera’s, and I thoroughly enjoyed using them

I had a few Cameras in my bag, the Rolleiflex 6008i, Rolleiflex SL35 and a Kodak Easyshare max Z990. The Rolleiflexes are out of this world and precious, and I will give a brief review soon.

Amongst these was my Yashica 230AF, a relic from a bygone age, but a camera which also heralded in a new age – a sort of cross over. It was one of the first Auto Focus SLR’s. It was also the first and best of the Yashica AF SLR range which was made alongside the Contax/Yashica mount range.

The special thing about this camera is that you can only use the Yashica AF lenses with this series and NOT with any other, nor Digital as no adaptor has been made for it. So the lenses are pretty unique. The lens line up isn’t vast, you get a 50mm f1.8 prime, a 28mm, 24mm, a kit zoom, a 70-210mm zoom, a 60mm Macro lens, a 28-85mm zoom and a couple of other longer lenses. The body is pretty well made, constructed of plastic and metal and very solid and dense with a real 80ies type design. The controls intuitive enough yet different in ways from more modern SLR’s, the selector is a slider rather than a toggle, and it uses a ‘cyclops’ flash unit which is actually part of the body set up but can slot out.

As expected, the AF is slow! it’s quicker on the Primes, but it’s pretty usable and if things get a bit slow there’s always the MF option – and with the huge bright Viewfinder, focussing shouldn’t be a problem. the light meter nails it every time, it’s simply flawless with E6 slide film. It has a clever way of compensating for backlit subjects which meant I was not obliged to use exposure compensation much – the user manual does specifically state this too.

It also has a clever feature called ‘trap focus’, which i’ve never used but I presume it allows you to pre focus pretty easily. I have in my kit bag the 50mm f1.8, the 28-85mm f3.5-4.5. The 70-200mm f4.5 and the 60mm f2.8 Makro.

The 50mm f1.8 is an able performer, sharp and contrasty. I suspect the lens range is basically the Yashica ML range in this form, I’m no expert on lenses but I’ve used various ML (and Contax Zeiss) lenses and these lenses are easily comparable to at least the ML range and much better than the DSB. The 60mm Macro is very special, research and you’ll discover that it is very similar to the Contax Zeiss 60mm Makro Planar, some say it’s probably the same lens! regardless, the results are also very pleasing, and it doubles as a beautiful portrait lens. The 28-85mm is a versatile quality lens, and has a useful Macro feature which enables closer focussing. to be honest, all the lenses are pretty decent, even the standard Kit zoom is pretty good, I’ve heard it’s much better than the Minolta, Canon and Nikon contemporaries.

The longer zoom has a fixed aperture and a one piece design – it looks superb and is also a good performer, and all three of these especially are beautifully constructed, metal, solid and very fine with attention to detail. The range lacks a long portrait prime or even a telephoto prime, and a faster standard lens, but it was short-lived so perhaps can be forgiven. The one big advantage for buying into this system is price. Most lenses and the bodies are dirt cheap, a scout round eBay will get you a decent 230Af body plus a selection of lenses for around £40.00 (That’s how much I bought my one for – with the kit zoom and the 70-210 f4.5). In fact the only lenses which cost a premium (and are pretty rare too) are the 24mm f2.8 and 60mm f2.8 Macro.

Look out specifically for the 230AF, it is a much better camera than the others in the series, it’s Japanese made, solid, and mechanically/electronically very reliable.

For more information go to;

http://www.yashicaforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1578

So WHY use this camera? Why bother when there are others available? Well I use it as i like it, i like the controls and feel, it was so affordable I was able to get an almost complete kit for peanuts, and I like the look of it – it’ll give you some unique photo’s and is a decent piece of kit! All in all, I really enjoy using this camera, it is unique, has character, charm, the photographs are very pleasing and high quality, and it is built by the same guys who were responsible for the excellent Contax G2, N1, 645 and Aria SLR ranges, so they were hardly amateurs. Using it attracts stares as it’s obviously an 80ies camera, and most importantly, it’ll gives you very nice results for such little outlay.

My slides were scanned as quick basic Jpegs in Epson Scan Epson 4990, they don’t do the slides a justice. So don’t expect drum scans. i assure you, under an 8x kaiser loupe on a light table and projected the slides are lovely.

 

Grasses in sunlight
60mm Macro f2.8. Fuji Provia F100F. St Davids, pembrokeshire, Wales.

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Rainbow over Carn Llidi

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Pembrokeshire Coastal Path
60mm f2.8 Macro Fuji provia 100F

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At the Seaside
60mm Macro f2.8 Fuji provia 100F (top)
28-85mm f3.5 Fuji Provia 100F (bottom) Newgale Pembrokeshire Wales

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Kayaking
28-85mm f3.5 Fuji Provia 100F Newgale Pembrokeshire Wales

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Under the rainbow
28-85mm f3.5 Fuji Provia 100F Brecon Beacons, Powys Wales

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Achtung Sheep!

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The Beacons Road
28-85mm f3.5 Kodak Elitechrome EBX 100 Brecon Beacons Powys Wales

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Pembrokeshire
28-85mm f3.5 Kodak Elitechrome EBX 100 Pwll Deri, Pembrokeshire Wales

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Kid with a Sheep Mask, binoculars, camcorder and toy gun
50mm f1.8  Kodak Elitechrome EBX 100 Pembrokeshire Wales

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Bluebells and Flowers
60mm Macro f2.8. Kodak Elitechrome EBX100 Pembrokeshire Wales.

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Kid goat at a Farm (50mm f1.8 Kodak Elitechrome EBX 100)

Jun 252012
 

Photographing Tree’s. By Ibraar Hussain

Dear Steve, I hope all’s well mate.

I’ve really been enjoying the reviews and submissions and thought I’d add something else into the mix.

Here’s a short article about photographing Tree’s. Tree’s are usually looked over, and ignored, they’re just, well, tree’s! they’re always to be found and I love photographing them. Yes, I am a bit of a Tree Hugger, am quite conscious and positive towards ‘green issues’, and a ‘born again Pagan’, (not really, I just like the sound of the last bit! )

Tree’s are very interesting and curious to photograph. they have a lot of character and charm. To look at and to study their shape, way of growth, form and texture is something which can be a very fulfilling task.

The best thing about them is that they’re (more or less) to be found everywhere, in cities, along avenues and pathways, gardens, parks, forests, plains, high mountains, moorland, deserts and even in and around offices and shopping mauls – concrete jungles!

They’re also very interesting subjects on their own, collectively, or as part of a scene – urban or rural.

I like to mix it up bit and my pictures range from photographing a favourite tree at different times of the year with different mediums, (some folks have made some perfect examples of a tree during the year – blossoming in Spring, Fully laden in Summer, golden in Autumn and naked and bare in Winter – and of course covered with snow. Tom Mackie, a well-known landscape photographer has many examples, as does Joe Cornish and Charlie Waite in some of their books – superb stuff) to a shot of a scene where the line of tree’s make up the main subject.

I also like to capture fascinating or strange or historical tree’s such as The Druid oak in Burnham Beeches, or the major Oak in Sherwood Forest. I’m sure countries all over the world have their important landmark tree’s – and these can make interesting subjects.

Another idea would be to create a sort of abstract photograph combining certain elements from a tree – whether the branches as I am won’t to do, or the trunk – focussing on a specific aspect. Some people concentrate on the texture and look of the trunk – something which I think is very difficult to get ‘right’.

And Infra red – as this makes the leaves resemble snow! You can get some crazy results with this medium (whether film or digital).

And of course, tree’s can combine with the elements (both flora and fauna) in a landscape to make up the scene.

I also love to try to capture the play of light and shadow and the rays of the sun through branches when I am able to.

Anyway, here are some examples, and as for myself, I will be going out more as soon as the dire weather clears up, and will be having a look at interesting tree’s in the City. I’ve also just received my Polaroid SX-70 and a pack of Impossible Colour Shade Film – and I reckon tree’s will be amongst the things I’ll be photographing with it!

This is of one of my favourite tree’s in Epping Forest in Essex – just outside London. A lovely ancient forest which i enjoy walking in all year round.

it is an Oak, and a very attractive one at that, I just love the shape, the way the branches flow and extend upwards and outwards, and the curious shape of the trunk – the number 4 painted on it – well, I don’t know what that’s all about but I presume it’s an important tree and has been registered with the Corporation of London who own the Forest.

I photographed it with Tri X 400 (developed with ID11) with a GA645 Fujifilm camera.

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And I also snapped it with the same camera and Fuji Velvia film.

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This is a very interesting and dominant tree I came across in The Chitral Gol national park in the Hindu Kush. I love the way it fills outwards. (Fuji GA645, Fuji Velvia 50)

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The Druid Oak, a 500 year old Oak in Burnham Beeches in Berkshire. (Contax G2, 21mm Biogon T* Kodak e100vs)

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Line of trees in Osterley park – I love the form of the upper branches, the way the middle tree disrupts the shape,  and the reflections. (Fuji F200EXR converted to BW, dodge/burn, Film Grain added)

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The following line of tree’s is to be found near Turville in the Chiltern Hills. The Moon plus Red Kite add to some magic – i like this as it gives me the vibe of the place (Fuji GA645 Fuji Velvia 50)

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The following photos are in Epping Forest. The BW are my favourite as I wanted to capture the shafts of lights flltering through the branches and the magic they create in this beautiful spot. (Fuji GA645 Ilford Pan F 50 ID11)
The 3rd photo is a different spot – Fuji GA645 and Agfa RSX 200
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This photo was a hit n miss affair with the Contax G2 21mm Biogon and a red 25 filter. The Film was Kodak HIE Infra-red, which I didn’t have a clue how to expose for, nor develop – so was pleased with the results. Virginia Waters – Surrey
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The following is a snap of branches, I like the light and shade and reach of the branches backlit. Epping Forest. Fuji GA645. Ilford Pan F 50.
May 222012
 

Summer is almost upon us by Ibraar Hussain

The weather has been pants lately, but there is hope, our weather forecasters are telling us that the extended April Showers are at an end! I absolutely love the summer, school holidays are a time of fun, country loafs, beach trips and generally chilling out and enjoying the British weather (when it’s fine). I tend to take out my smaller cameras, my Contax G2, especially my Contax Tvs III and Contax T2 which are both adorable things.

The Contax Tvs III I have has a lovely Vario-Sonnar T*30-60mm f3.7 to 6.7 lens. The lens is contrasty and sharp, not the fastest, but it sure renders slide film nicely as the Meter is spot on! it’s absolutely beautiful, built like a little sleek black tank with the coolest of lens flap mechanisms. The View Finder is on par with that built into the Contax G2. It has Aperture priority, exposure compensation and a Manual Focus mode – but I use it with Flash off, set to A priority AF and it nails the images every time! If you haven’t handled one, I recommend it, as just by looks, feel and handling alone it’ll put a smile on your face! It’s the type of camera you can use for just about anything, but great for Family days out and snap shots.

The Contax T2 is slightly more rotund, and more geared towards ‘serious’ photography. It is very fast in use, turns on almost instantaneously, and has a BIG Viewfinder, big and bright – much bigger than that on the G2. It also has a pinsharp fast Zeiss Sonnar T* 38mm f2.8 lens, faster and sharper than the Tvs III, AF which is very rapid, built-in flash, exposure compensation, Aperture priority and the usual to be found on a quality compact from this era. The Aperture is changed using the lens barrel and feels right (The TVS III uses buttons on the front of the camera).

Many people prefer the T2 to the much more expensive and sought after T3, I’ve never handled a T3 so cannot comment. The T2 is very special indeed.

I think both cameras are worth having, seeing as they’re to be found for bargain basement prices these days! The T2 is comparable to the Fuji X100, whereas the Tvs III is funky – like an original Contax T or Minox perhaps? The only downsides? Well, no facility to add filters to these! (whereas the T3 and Tvs I and II have!) In summer I tend to go completely nuts with super saturated slide film such as my favourite Kodak Ektachrome e100vs, and Fujichrome Velvia 50 and 100 and Sensia. I used to use print film such as Fuji real – but don’t touch print Film any more, too difficult to scan, and who likes scanning?

I also chuck on the Polariser (on the G2) and have fun with clouds and skies! Love em or hate em, saturated summer pictures sure as hell put a smile on my face, and I hope they do the same thing to you – reminding you of summer, blue skies and inspire you to go out and take some proper summer photo’s – unlike my snaps!

I’ve included some more shots here taken with the peerless Contax G2 as well for you to love or hate or troll! – either way, Summer’s here, go out and shoot some!

 

Durdle Door, Dorset Coast. Contax Tvs III. Fuji Velvia 50.

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Summer chilling, Stourhead. Wiltshire. Contax T2. Fuji Velvia 50
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Cliveden, Berkshire. Contax T2. Fuji Velvia 50
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Kid playing by a lake, West Wycombe park, Buckinghamshire. Contax Tvs III. Fuji Sensia 100
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Poppy field, Wiltshire. Contax Tvs III. Fuji Sensia 100.
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Church Steeple. Pitstone, Buckinghamshire. Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T*, Fuji Velvia 100. Hoya MC Polariser
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Wheatfield, Pitstone, Buckinghamshire. Contax G2 21mm Biogon  T*, Fuji Velvia 100. Hoya MC Polariser.
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Walk, Pitstone, Buckinghamshire. Contax G2 21mm Biogon  T*, Fuji Reala 100., (old print scan) Hoya MC Polariser.
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Triplets. Bales of Hay. Wiltshire. Contax G2 21mm Biogon T*. Kodak e100vs. Hoya MC Polariser.
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From Mount Snowdon, Wales. Contax G2, 21mm Biogon T* Kodakchrome K25 (my last roll of Kodachrome) Hoya MC Polariser.
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Swan lake on Fire. Virginia Waters. Surrey. Contax G2 21mm Biogon T*, Kodak e100vs. Hoya MC Polariser.
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Golden Summer Afternoon. Turville Village. Chiltern Hills. Berkshire. Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T*. Kodak e100vs.
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Polarised Clouds. (old scan from print) Contax G2 28mm Biogon T* (sold the 28 a while back and bought the 21) Fuji Reala 100 Hoya MC Polariser.
May 172012
 

To celebrate the release of the new Olympus OM-D I thought I’d take everyone for a trip down memory lane with a selection of snaps from my precious Olympus OM2n with the Zuiko MC 50mm f1.8 lens For those who haven’t had the pleasure of handling the OM2n, it’s a gem of a camera.

The OM philosophy was (and now is again) (in my own words) to create a high quality, beautifully engineered, precision photographic instrument with sharp quality optics in a compact size. The OM2n is certainly that.

The OM2n runs on a small watch type battery which lasts for years – this powers the (fairly accurate) meter and enables Aperture Priority operation, It’s widely available and isn’t one of the more sought out versions of the single digit OM series,That honour lies with the OM3Ti which is a fully mechanical camera and as rare as hens teeth!

The most advanced version is the OM4 and OM4Ti, these feature a revolutionary multi spot metering system which was and is highly regarded.

What I love about this camera is the fact that it looks superb and feels superb, strolling around the streets of London with it in my hand and around my neck, winding the film crank, and hearing the satisfying trip of the shutter, it attracts a lot of attention, it oozes class and sophistication, something Leicaman thinks is exclusive to him, but us Olympians know better!

The optics are also readily available, check out http://www.ffordes.co.uk who are brilliant when it comes to used camera equipment at bargain prices. I just love the Zuiko lenses, they’re small, compact, beautifully made and are a joy to use and focus smoothly, and most importantly produce crisp, contrasty pin sharp results (if you have decent eye sight as they’re all manual focus).

Well, if you’re used to Auto focussed fast DSLR’s with tunnel like viewfinders, or Micro 4/3rds compacts, or even Range Finders with quirky focussing – you’ll be surprised and pleased with using and playing with the OM series, with the HUGE bright View Finder (the only 35mm sized camera I’ve ever seen or used with a larger brighter Finder than this huge one on the OM is the peerless VF on the Contax Aria) the SLR design, and i’m going to get a LOT of flak for this, is better than a Range Finder design for making photographs and visualising – as you see what the lens see’s! (my personal opinions, so feel free to disagree).

For those purchasing the OM-D who have never used a classic OM – they’re affordable and worth investing in! You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the beauty and bright view finder, and for those complaining that Micro 4/3 cannot get you the shallow depth of field an APS-C or full Frame gives you, well, the 35mm Film is larger than either, so you’ll get as much shallow depth as you like!

Anyway, is the OM series worth getting in this day and age? Yes it is, as for the price of a cheap digital compact you can possess a beautifully made SLR with tack sharp lenses, which will serve you for many decades to come.

Anubis, the British Museum, OM2n 50mm @f1.8. Fuji Neopan 400.

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Kid at the Beach, OM2n 50mm f1.8  Agfa Precisa 100

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Coffee Break. Fuji Neopan 400 50mm Zuiko f1.8

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Kids At the Beach, 50mm f1.8 Agfa Precisa 100

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My Nephew Zuiko 50mm f1.8, Fuji Neopan 400

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Street vendor and Donkey in a Sarai Alamgir slum, Punjab, 2009. (this is either the 28mm or 50mm) Agfa Precisa 100 followed by a village girl 50mm Zuiko f1.8 Agfa Precisa

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Three is Company. Sheep under the full moon at dusk, Brecon Beacons. Kodak tri X 400, hand held. 50mm Zuiko f1.8 (cropped)

Apr 232012
 

Traveling and Film Photography by Ibraar Hussain

When people talk about travel and photography, exotic National Geographic or Lonely Planet type pictures come to mind, blue lagoons, snow-crested mountains, arid deserts and dusty hot Asian streets with notes of markets, food and spices emanating from the image.

One hardly thinks of England and Wales as exotic, and Travel photography and the two are hardly mentioned in the same breath. But England and Wales hold many delights for the adventurous, inquisitive, curious, wonder seeking and creative photographer.

We have The North of England and the Midlands; Cumbria and The Lake District which a well-known American photographer; Tom Mackie, says is his favourite place to photograph in the whole world, The Peak District, Yorkshire Dales and “Wuthering Heights, Bronte country”, The North York Moors, Worcester and the Malvern Hills where Tolkien was brought up and upon which The Shire of Lord of The Rings fame is based among many other places, Nottingham of Robin Hood fame, Oxford and Cambridge and of course the old cities of York, Worcester, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham complete with their architecture, nightlife, history, people and football clubs!

We have the Cotswolds with their rustic thatch roofed houses, villages and bubbling brooks and water wheels, and we have The Victorian Mill towns which Don McCullin has covered so well, farther East we have Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and East Anglia with their windmills, marshlands and dreamy coastline, we have Kent and the so called garden of England.

On the western most side of the British mainland are Devon and Cornwall with their Jamaica Inn, Bodmin, Dartmoor, Lands End and St Michaels Mount. I’ve never had the chance to visit Cornwall and Devon yet, but hopefully this summer I will!

In this article I will concentrate on the Counties lying west of my home in London and Wales.

London itself is a fantastic city, with everything a photographer could wish for, but if you’re like me and born and brought up in a place you’ll probably know less than the average tourist about it! Any how, I love London but I tend to avoid it (though I do love walking through Epping Forest) , I’m not one for busy streets and zillions of people taking my space – call me an unsociable b’stard and misanthrope who will, but I prefer the Countryside – and besides, London to me is like being married, course you love your wife but she doesn’t half get on your nerves – but it’s better as I can ‘cheat’ on her all I like, dump her for a more attractive lover, then come back when I feel home sick! ;)

Anyway, we have the “Home Counties”, quaint olde world but rather more affluent counties and green belt surrounding London such as Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex, I think they’re called the ‘Home Counties’ as they belong to

Travel West out of London, past Heathrow Airport and you’re into Berkshire with Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire slightly North of it. Through Berkshire and its villages, English Country gardens and Stately Homes, , the Chiltern Hills into Wiltshire with Stone henge, Avebury, its White Horses, ancient chalk figures and burial mounds. South of Wiltshire and we’re in to Dorset with its beautiful and rugged Jurassic coastline. Westwards and we’re into Somerset, Arthurian Glastonbury and then eventually over the Severn Estuary and into Wales.

If you’ve never been to England before, you’ll hardly be surprised that the official language is, English! And road signs are in, you guessed it, English. But cross the ‘border’ into Wales and everything isn’t in English, but in Welsh! Welsh is a Gaelic/Celtic language, but differs greatly from Irish or Scots Gaelic – words in Welsh tend to be real tongue twisters and seemingly unpronounceable! I mean how does one go about pronouncing “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch” ? haha! Look it up! It’s possibly the longest place-name in Europe and one of the longest in the world and probably the most unpronounceable place-name ever!

Wales is a fantastic place, absolutely gorgeous, sparsely populated with perhaps more Sheep than people! Lovely Villages, towns and pubs, great food, stunning landscape, hills and beacons and best of all, magnificent Castles and ruins and the Magical Roman town of Caerleon with its Roman Amphitheatre, Baths and Barracks.

The best thing to do, if you ever visit England and Wales and want to really see and enjoy the sights, is to join The National Trust. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/

Best thing I ever did, as I now have access to historic houses, gardens, mills, coastline, forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, nature reserves, villages and pubs! The national trust was founded in 1895 to save the Nations Heritage and to protect it, and 116 years later, boy, they’re doing a sterling job of it!

If visiting Wales, I recommend the National Trust and visiting http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/?lang=en CADW is the Welsh historic environment service which plays a similar role to The National Trust. You’ll have access to so many castles ruins and places of interest that it’d take years to visit them all!

Wales is dotted with castles, priories, monasteries and fortresses, as Wales has always been a bit unruly, and rebellious. Wales also has The Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire and Snowdonia, and these places are dotted with Castles and Forts and Standing Stones.

If you’re adventurous and want to stay in some stunning remote locations throughout England and Wales for peanuts, I recommend http://www.yha.org.uk the Youth Hostel Association. I’ve stayed in many YHA places, in some stunning locations with my family and love every second of the experience.

Anyway, on to some photography, I have spent many years photographing some of these places and am in love with quiet dreamy places tucked away amongst the hills and valleys – I just wish I had more time, and more talent to really capture the feel and mood of some of these places.

Walking or driving around the countryside, Spring will see the woods awash with Bluebells, which bloom in late April and May, summer will see deep red poppy fields showing off their colour and glory, Autumn will show New Englandesque displays of gold, russet and crimson and Winter has its own beauty.

Below I’ve included a small selection of photographs, I’ve taken far too many to post here and I have no gallery or anything online anymore, but I hope you enjoy the photographs, they’re no masterpieces but I hope they can inspire people to perhaps visit!

They’re mostly Black & White, but I had to include a shot of a bluebell Wood and a Poppy Field.

Stowe Landscape Garden

 A huge classical themed Landscape Park in Buckinghamshire

 Fuji GA645, Ilford Pan F 50, Ilford ID11. Epson 4990, Adox MCP 312.

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Tretower Court and Castle

 Ruins of a 12th Century Fort, Castle and Manor House. Powys, Wales

Fuji GA645, Ilford Pan F 50, Ilford ID11. Epson 4990.

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West Kennett Long Barrow
Neolithic Burial Mound, Near Avebury, Wiltshire, with Silbury Hill – a 5000 year old chalk Monument.
Fuji GA645, Ilford Pan F 50, Ilford ID11. Epson 4990.
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The Brecon Beacons
Wales
Fuji GA645, Ilford Pan F 50, Ilford ID11. Epson 4990.
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Drystone Wall in the Brecon Beacons, and Llansteffan Beach and Castle.

Olympus Pen F . G Zuiko 38mm f1.8. Agfa APX 100, Rodinal. Epson 4990.
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Bluebell Wood, Epping Forest, Essex
Fuji GA645, Expired Agfa RSX II 200, Epson 4990.
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Poppy Field
Wiltshire
Fuji GA645, Fuji Velvia 50, Epson 4990.
Mar 132012
 

User Report: Choosing and Using a Black & White Film by Ibraar Hussain

With the demise of Kodak Ektachrome things seem to be getting from bad to worse for Film and options for film users seem to be dwindling. A shame, as I adore e100vs and nothing in my opinion can replicate it. But with all the doom and gloom, one thing, which in my belief will always be around, is good old Black and White Film. There are more B&W Film manufacturers than Colour these days, and a decade ago this would’ve been unthinkable.

So many choices are available for the photographer; we have Kodak, Ilford, Efke, Rollei and Agfaphoto to name a few. B&W Film has its own beauty, and each emulsion is very distinctive. Digital photography has progressed and has reached new horizons, but I think it still lacks the feel, look and character of Film.

Many digital photographers have been pushed and have striven for grain free images, their quest for the extermination of Grain has led to, in my opinion, more clinically flat images lacking depth and character. Sure, they’re very high-resolution and have a beautiful range of tones and qualify as B&W fine art, with some being far superior to others, but in the transition I think something has been lost. I’m no master photographer, and most may consider my skills and vision has mediocre at the best, but that’s not why I’m writing.

My aim is to try to demonstrate and show some examples of different film, their individual characteristics, and the use of Filters, which can give a different look and feel. Developer used and developing times also have a large influence, but my Negatives are always developed at manufacturers recommended times and temperature.

The beauty of B&W Film is that the choice of film/ filter/ lens/ developer plays a vital collective role in the creative process. A creative decision is made prior to the shots being taken, i.e. The subject and location matter, of course, but the photographer may decide upon a certain look and feel and for that will choose a certain Film and/or Filter to give them what they’re after. The choice will also be constant – i.e. once the camera has been loaded there’s no turning back! (Unless the camera is a MF with interchangeable backs).

Grain is a thing of beauty, it gives character, detail, and mood, and is used to good effect, and to portray a certain atmosphere or feel. I tend to try different fast films for a different look – Kodak TMNZ 3200, Ilford Delta 3200 and Fuji Neopan 1600 all have their own beauty. Pushing film, say Ilford HP5+ from 400 a couple of stops also heightens grain.

Some photographers may require lots of grain, to give the photograph a gritty reportage like feel, or to give stormy skies a more dramatic and moody look, others may require grain to give their nudes or models a certain effect. And this can be achieved to some extent with artificial grain adding filters and plug-ins, but it’s not the same!

Filters add a lot too. Some people shoot all day every day with a Yellow filter permanently attached. One such Great is Don McCullin – B&W photographer par excellence. His photographs are simply spellbinding, stunning, grim, dark but his vision is on another level entirely. Best known for his War photographs and pictures from Cambodia, Lebanon and Vietnam – his landscapes and documentary photographs are brilliant – utterly!

A few books to look out for are; In England, In Africa, Don McCullin and Open Skies.

Red filters add more contrast and darken blue skies and a light blue filter strengthens skin tones. A really good book to read and which explains a lot about B&W photography is The Art of Black and White Photography by John Garrett. I enjoy experimenting with Film, and my Contax G2 has helped me along in the creative process. The G2, being a rangefinder is superb for B&W. The reason why I say superb is because you don’t view ‘through the lens’, but through a Viewfinder, and attaching Filters – even semi opaque deep red filters doesn’t impede your vision.

The G2 is also quick, has a great meter and the lenses are very contrasty – some may dislike this aspect, others love it. As for myself, I enjoy photographing people – friends, family, people on the street, and travel shots and the G2 is great for this – and I love using fast films with plenty of grain (most of the time)

I’ve included various shots here, with a brief description of the film used and Filter/developer – they’ll give some visual information as to the feel of the different Film/Filters.

My negatives have been scanned with an Epson 4990 into 16bit TIFF. Loaded up into Photoshop, and then I use layers – new later – overlay – 30% (or as required) to use the brush tool to dodge and burn. I also use levels to play with contrast. I’ve also started playing with prints in my darkroom, and when I’m free, the weather is dire, I’m at home and the missus isn’t busting my balls I enjoy playing in the darkroom just as much if not more than going out shooting! There’s heaven and Earth difference between pratting around on Photoshop and in the traditional darkroom – if you have never tried it, give it a go!

I hope photographers can try out some B&W Film, and give developing a go. Developing is easy, as is scanning, and I believe there was an article on Steve’s website not long back about basics of developing Film.

Young lad in a suit. London. 45mm Planar T* Ilford HP5+ pushed 1 stop @ 800 asa.

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Guy on a  boat. Istanbul, Turkey 2008. 45mm Planar T*. Kodak TMZ 3200. Ilfotec ID11.

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Galata Tower Istanbul, Turkey 2008. 90mm Sonnar T* Kodak TMZ 3200. ID11.

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Istanbul by the Bosphorus. 45mm Planar T*. Kodak TMZ 3200. ID11.

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Kids on a Boat. On the Golden Horn, Istanbul, Turkey. 45mm Planar T*. Kodak TMZ 3200. ID11

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Turkish Market vendor. Istanbul, Turkey. 45mm Planar T*. Kodak TMZ3200. ID11.

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Amongst the Pillars.  In The Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey. 21mm Biogon T*.  Fuji Neopan 1600.

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Dad watching TV. 45mm Planar T* Ilford HP5  pushed to 1600 asa

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Mr Ali. London. 45mm Planar T*. Fuji Neopan Acros 100. ID11

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On The South bank of the Thames. London. 21mm Biogon T*. Fuji Neopan Acros 100. Red 25 Filter. ID11

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Elvis with shades on. People watching a street performer. South bank, London. 90mm Sonnar T* Fuji Neopan Acros 100. Yellow Filter.

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Homeless Guy on the Golden Jubilee bridge. Embankment, London. 45mm Planar T*. Fuji Neopan Acros 100. Yellow Filter.

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Heart on her lapel. Cranford, Middlesex. 45mm Planar T* Ilford Delta 100 pro. Red 25 Filter. From my first roll in the G2 2005.

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Storm clouds a Brewing. Twickenham, Middlesex. 90mm Sonnar T*. Ilford HP5+ @ 3200 asa. Red 25 Filter.

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Epping Forest. Essex. 21mm Biogon T*. Ilford SFX 200 with red 25 filter. SFX is a pseudo IR Film.

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Pashtuns. Mingora, Swat Valley, Pakistan. 2007. 45mm Planar T*. Kodak Tri X 400.

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