South of the River
April 11, 2021
Sarah and I moved in November, that was agonizing, moving just as another Covid induced bloody lock down was forced upon us, thus ensuring I could only get help from within my circle. Sarah, who was not feeling too clever and had not been for a while. We managed one day before lockdown bit hard, hired a van and got some help from James, a dear and long-time friend – that broke the back of some of the larger items.
In fact as we have endured a terrible time, in December I lost my dear Dad, my darling mother became very unwell and was in Hospital all over Christmas and New Year, the New Year started and Sarah became quite unwell, had several procedures and an operation but that's a whole another story - life has been a bit testing of late, I am not going to lie.
So, we moved and started living out of a box, we had been previously living in a box at our old address which I had rented for 2 and ½ years, it was home, we were happy, I had met Sarah whilst living there, it had been our lovers nest, you know the deal etc., …but it was home, no it was really home, it offered me sanctuary from harm after my bitter break up with my wife and I loved my own space that I initially shared with my Daughter Gemma, and then Sarah who moved in with me.
We had been so happy there, despite its tiny size and extortionate rent, but no regrets, time to move on.
I could finally get the darkroom established, something Sarah and I had wanted for some time and something that could enable us, not only to realise a dream, but also to express our art in celluloid form properly – I had developed and scanned for ages at the old place but would never be able to wet print there due to space.
I now find myself returning more and more to film for pleasure, I just prefer the workflow, I enjoy the science, the chemistry, the challenge – after all anyone can take a good photograph these days with a digital camera, even people who don’t have a clue about the science of photography.
Why film, and more specifically, why mostly manual film. I say mostly because I have a few clever film cameras in the form or the Nikon F100, the F5, the simply fabulous Olympus OM4ti and of course the Leica R7 – all capable of taking outstanding images on 35mm.
But I prefer the OM1 and Leica M3, the Nikon S4 and not forgetting the Rolleicord Vb and the Zeiss Ikon Nettar medium format cameras – we better not even go into 4x5 because Sarah is itching to do wet plate work and I can see it becoming involving, expensive and damn good FUN – how I love that woman.
So, I write, killing time as yet another roll of film is pickling in soup – this time Ilfords FP4 in Kodak HC110 for an hour stand development – I‘ve not stood FP4 before but am told it works fine, in fact better than the T grain films I have done previously – see the excitement is there, this may, but of course, may not be another recipe for success – many notes are made along the way. The best thus far is with Delta 100 stood for an hour and agitated at the 30min mark but who knows – this could be a disaster ha – the fun of film.
We got back from the duck pond, both armed to the teeth with the long glass on our digital cameras, yup banged those through lightroom, easy all done in 20 mins #bored ha ha
Timer going back soon ……….
Ok so the film’s souped, fixed and drying – the drying cabinet is the best there is, run the shower on full hot for 3 mins with the door closed – then open the door, whip the film out and hang it up in the warm damp space – oh nothing dries film dust free like this – it works, and it was a great technique, I learned over 20 years ago, from an old timer who really knew his stuff.
Today I rattled off the last few frames of FP4 on the OM1 and my beautiful 50mm f1.4 which I acquired from OM Labor in Germany. Gordon is a lovely guy with a passion for all things Olympus and Zuiko, his knowledge is vast, and his work is simply stunning.
My OM1 itself has just been given some love by the OM Doctor in the UK that is Rob Clements, and he gave her a full CLA and replaced the aging prism, that was all tarred up with the degrading foam as well as the battery modification that gets the meter reading correctly with LR44 1.5v cells instead of the original 1.35-volt cells. I again was delighted with his work and again what Rob does not know about the OM cameras is, well, pretty much not worth needing to know. He knows only too well where I will entrust my flock when they are sick and one needs to remember that there is a flock of them here, with the OM1, 2, 4ti, 10, 20 & 30 in the stable and an OM 40 on its way too – yes, I have a deep love for these wonderful little pocket rockets.
Here we are……all moved in, no were still living out of a box, every day that more is unpacked is a milestone. Sarah lived next door, YES, the mother-in-law (I can hear the gasps) is over the fence and Sarah’s possessions are all there too, on the other side of the Berlin Wall, her clothes, her Guitars, her Giraffes and of course her ducks!!! Sarah has a thing for Indian Runner Ducks and like my cameras her flock is continuing to grow ever more with every birthday and Christmas they expand ever more – well because of Covid Lockdown restrictions she has not even been next door to get her belongings – yes we really have been that good – seriously THAT GOOD. We have talked over the fence on across the driveway – Christmas was a bag exchange in the drive! God, how I (we), hate this thing that’s been forced upon us – I pray we will be rid of it soon. How I despise those that blatantly flaunt the rules just to get a mediocre picture off a beach during lockdown – I feel their pain, but I lost my Dad to this scourge, that pain I shall endure for all time, but here is not a place for those personal innermost thoughts.
So…. moving on, the film is drying and once dry I will scan the negatives and then once I am off work next week, I shall enjoy wet printing the negatives I feel are worth of that treatment. Our black and white work tends to get developed the same day it is exposed – colour has to wait until it has a batch for the C-41 treatment. WE both enjoy shooting colour film despite its expense and are looking forward to, in the coming weeks the adventure of learning how to print it using RA4 colour chemistry and some Fuji colour paper that I managed to scourge off eBay for a princely sum.
The film is a failure………………..
What happened – a development disaster, oh my God, I messed up, something has gone wrong in the process stage, somewhere. My negatives are good and punchy the exposure was pretty close, remember part of the reason for exposing this film in the first place has been to try out the refurbed OM 1 and also to gauge the meter’s accuracy and also experiment with the window of good exposure from the meter indicator in the viewfinder. I generally like to overexpose my mono films, or expose for the highlights, which seems to be the modernist answer for the hipsters. Generally, by about a stop, I have the latitude after all and it works for me – you see I shoot a lot of the same film with the Leica M3, it has no meter. I shoot using the sunny 16 variation and that really does work for me most of the time, especially when I shoot with the same film, you kind of get a feel for how it’s going to expose for you for any given light situation.
Exposure is good, the compositions are ok, one or two images from the roll that I really like, its just a walk around a small village here in Kent called Aylesford, which is incredibly old, very famous too for lots of reasons people know nothing about, unless they care to study history, of course.
My film has white spots, huge white clumps in the darker areas of the print so the bright areas of the negative. What could have cause it, I used the same process a half dozen times before and not had this problem, could my HC110 be tired. hmmmm I doubt it, that stuff goes on forever. My fixer was fresh and new, but I did use a new wash aid, I did agitate (might not work with this stuff) – have a looksee at the images, I have shown a couple with the spots and a strip of negs, it’s all over the film.
I attempted to re-fix the film and re-wash it, but to no avail it has not cleared. That’s a shame because these will never be wet printed now, the spots I can remove in photoshop, post scanning, which I have done, touching up after a wet print would be a labour of love, not worth it, in this case.
I shall shoot off another roll, and then I will clip test the roll by cutting the film out in 4-5 exposures and see if I can replicate and eliminate the cause of these spots. One of the things I love about celluloid photography is the science, the chemistry and the experimentation – digital just is so solid, it works every time, disasters and failures aside. Film needs more, makes it more fun, well it does for me, and it makes me happy too, when I am happy, Sarah is happy, and life is good.
Thanks for reading, thanks for following the blog if you are and thanks more than anything for taking an interest in what is nothing more than one man’s ramblings.
Take good care, be safe, be well.