I’ll be writing up my 52 Rolls summary in the next week or so, but suffice to say that shooting so much film through 2016 has been a complete game-changer. When I read about the project (on Emulsive) in Poland the week before last New Year, I couldn’t have imagined that it would have become so all consuming, changing the way I take pictures completely, and costing me a small fortune in cameras, film and processing.
But more on that to follow…
For now, I’ve gathered one film photograph from each month of 2016 here as some kind of ‘best of…’ post (Of course, ‘best of’ is impossible. It’s actually my favourites as I write today. They could all change tomorrow).
As usual, they’re all very different. Shot with different cameras and film, there is no cohesiveness to my (film) work, but at least they’re pretty pictures. And as you’d expect, being father of the world’s cutest toddler means that she features several times (I could have done this summary with only pictures of her).
Lomo Lubitel 166U, Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100, Ilfotec HC for 5:00, Epson v500 and a bit of Lightroom cropping and dust removal.
January’s payday saw a few extra pounds (and I mean a few) in my bank account. I decided to celebrate by buying a Yashica 124, a camera I’ve always wanted but never quite got around to. To help fund it, I decided to sell a couple of other cameras and my Lubitel was one of them.
It’s a 1993 Universal model that has sat unloved on the shelf for a while. I took it down to dust off ready to sell and realised that there was a film in it. So I headed out to burn it up…
I was reminded what fun it is to shoot with a TLR, and how seeing the world through a ground glass at waist level really does make one think about framing and composition. Unfortunately, what I didn’t think about was the setting the frame counter correctly.
The Lubi Universal has a window in the back of the camera and a disc that rotates to select either 12 shots at 6×6 or 16 at 6×4.5 (you need to change a plastic frame as you load the film too). At some point in the year that the film had been in the camera, I’d managed to rotate that disc and so shot most of the roll at the wrong setting, meaning that the pictures overlap.
I’ve cropped them where it got too distracting, but overall, the Lubitel gave some good results. Lomography want £400 or more for a lens that gives swirly bokeh – the Lubitel does it for a whole lot less.
I’d had so much fun finishing the roll that I decided to treat it to another – this time, my favourite Fuji Neopan.
A mile or so away from home we have a preserved steam railway and a station full of characters happy to be photographed. It’s always felt a little too obvious to shoot, but for the first time in the eight years of living here, I did just that. I’d still not spotted that frame counter issue though, so this film had the same overlapping problem.
For a 25 quid camera, the Lubitel gives some great results and I’ll miss it, but I guess the Yashica will be even better.
February.Yashica-Mat 124G, Neopan Acros 100.
My first trip to Newcastle. The remarkable Ouseburn Valley is crossed by three bridges. The middle one, known as the Byker Metro Bridge carries two-way Metro trains high above the valley and it’s city-farm. It looks like a 60’s space-age monorail with a smooth, graceful curve high in the sky, rendered in concrete. The sun was beginning to set and was illuminating the curve of the concrete perfectly. At first sight, the space below the bridges looks like somewhere that you wouldn’t want to dwell, particularly when carrying camera equipment. Having spent a little time there however, soothed by the bleating, mooing and quacking from the farm, I realised that it was in fact a peaceful and well-used urban space, appreciated by not only ‘concrete fetishists’ like me.
Lomography Spinner 360, Kentmere 400.
I went for a walk with Emily in Leicestershire’s Beacon Hill country park. At 814ft, it isn’t high, but its position in the East-Midlands of England means that it is higher than everything around it and so offers some excellent views. It’s also home to many friendly farm animals including exotic long-horn and highland cattle, sheep and alpacas. There are usually plenty of horses and dogs around too. Emily happily sits in the carrier on my back doing her best impressions of each animal she sees. Being only 1 year old (and 100% cute), all of her animal noises are actually identical – a peculiar, throaty growl and some animated panting.
I took along my Lomography Spinner 360. Like most things from Lomography, it’s plasticky and ludicrously priced (particularly in the UK. Their pricing means that $1 = €1 = £1 rather than a more commonly accepted $1.4 = €1.3 = £1). The difference with the spinner though is that it produces some truly unique images (although maybe not those here). To use it, one holds it at arms length, pulls a drawstring to wind a spring, and then releases it, causing the camera to spin as film is pulled past an aperture.
The camera’s operation also means that, unless you hold it above your head, you’ll be in the picture, usually with your finger pointing at the camera (having just released the drawstring) and a daft look on your face; an effect that I demonstrate perfectly above.
Canon EOS5, Sigma 50mm 1.4 EX, Kodak Portra 400.
Sometimes I wonder if the additional effort and cost of film photography is worth it (come on, we all do at some point). But then, a scan will come back from the lab, or I’ll study a drying roll, and there’ll be a picture that restores my faith.
Of course, because of the subject I am entirely biased, but this is one of those pictures for me. The rest of the roll was nothing special, but that one picture made this roll (and a dozen before it) worthwhile.
Yashica-Mat 124G, Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100, Ilfotec HC.
May bank holiday saw the village host that most English of events, an open gardens. For those not familiar with the idea, people pay money to a good cause (in this case the Cossington church renovation project) and in return get to poke around in other peoples’ gardens. There’s a couple of bands on, classic cars on show, a tombola, barbecue etc.
My mother-in-law is in the country and as a keen gardener and inquisitive foreigner, enjoys nothing better. I’d resisted such events in the past, but on this occasion, thought there might be a photo project in it that I could use here on 52 rolls.
So I bought my ticket, loaded a roll (#39 of the year) of Neopan into the Yashica and set off. Once again, I’d purposely chosen a project that would mean that I’d have to approach people and ask for their picture. It’s not something that I’m comfortable with, but in these relatively safe conditions, I fancied my chances.
No-one refused. In fact, of the 20 gardens that were open, I got 17 of the gardeners. 2 houses had no-one at home, despite a couple of visits, and the final house was so big that I had no idea which door I should knock on to find the owner.
I gave no instruction of how people were to pose, other than asking them to have ‘the garden’ behind them. As usual with such a project, what is often more interesting than the pictures themselves, is how people prepare to be photographed, how they stand, and how they interact with their spouse (or their car) and the conversations that you have with people having taken the trouble to talk to them in the first place.
June.Yashica-Mat 124G, Kodak Portra 400.
A trip to China with work, but having almost no tie to get out and shoot, I got through less than a roll. Changzhou is crisscrossed by these ‘canals’. The banks are filled with tiny plots of vegetables, grown by the people who live in the tower blocks and so have no gardens. There are also people fishing the murky waters.
Canon EOS5, Fujicolor C200.
As usual, I love how the C200 looks. It really is the best value film around and provides a film ‘look’ that no amount of Hipstagram filters can recreate. These are the scans straight from the lab too with no manipulation at all.
August.Leica M6, 35mm Summicron ASPH, Kodak Portra 400.
On my trip to Poland in August I visited Warsaw again and so a couple of days before I went, spent a bit of time researching and adding pins to a Google map. When travelling to a new city, I like to explore the local street-art and use that as a way to understand the layout. I found plenty of information to help – murals really are big (in more ways than one) in Poland with cities giving approval for some of the work.
My previous couple of visits to the capital had been with family and so I’d not had time to explore the type of areas that I usually find myself in. I’d seen the Royal Palace, the old square and the main shopping street, but this time I would get out into some of the areas that surround the centre, places that tourists will rarely see.
Praga for example still retains many of its beautiful, old warehouses, factories and tenements. They survived mush of the Nazi destruction that happened across the Vistula following the Uprising. Many didn’t go completely unscathed however, and still have the scars of bullet-holes or missing bits from larger weapons. The buildings must have been very grand in their time, with art-nouveau facades and decorative doorways that are now missing plaster and covered in thick, black grime.
September.Leica M6, 35mm Summicron ASPH, Kodak Portra 400.
Dinner at ASK.
October.Yashica-Mat 124G, Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100, Ilfotec HC.
I’m back to my all-time favourite film, Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100. Over the years I’ve had some tremendous results from the various forms of Neopan as it seems to handle whatever I throw at it, from portraits to night-time motorways. And on this roll, it delivered on both…
My friend Iain and I often shoot motorways, fly-overs, concrete and other motoring infrastructure. At any given moment, Iain will have an interesting project (or five) underway and he is currently exploring bridges that transition the county boundary. Together we’ve photographed many of the local ‘carscapes’, exploring the effect of our desire to sacrifice huge areas of precious countryside to the satisfaction of the motorist. Our trip in October was to photograph the latest bridge across the M1 motorway that will eventually connect the new Lubbesthorpe development (120,000 new houses by 2030!) and the city.
The bridge is not yet in use but the road it carries is already lit by LED streetlights, casting a beautiful white light on the concrete abutments and freshly graded escarpments.
Leica M6, 35mm Summicron ASPH, Ilford FP4+, Ilfotec HC.
A flying visit to Bristol last weekend. It was a first time for both of us, but we came away hoping to return soon. This snap is from the first film I shot on my wander around and constitute my third roll in the #FP4Party. In case you missed it, it’s a 4 month long chance to try Ilford’s FP4+, shooting it on the second week of each month and sharing the results during the third. See everyone else’s contributions here.
December.Yashica-Mat 124G, Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100, Ilfotec HC.
More cold, dark winter weather here in the UK to start December, with freezing fog an added bonus. Out of necessity, most of my photography at this time of year is at night, but as long as I have some Neopan, I’m OK with that…
If you’re interested in my posts on 52 Rolls, you can find them here.
Thanks to everyone that has visited through the year and took the trouble to comment. Compliments of the season etc…