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Archive for December, 2012

Old Film:: Grandmother’s Photographs

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

My grandmother, Elvie Ruth Bonner (1901-1986), came from old money but was cast out quite early and with at least two children married my dirt-poor grandfather William Lionel Clark sometime after the Great War. She was an avid photographer throughout her life and appears to have preferred medium format in evolving & disappearing types. Albums and negatives are her legacy.

Elvie Ruth Bonner

This photograph was taken at Risby’s Basin logging camp at Maydena, Tasmania in the period 1947-1951. I would hazard a guess and say the subject was one of my older aunts – possibly Pat.

Aunt Pat in a clear felled forested area

My grandmother shot a lot of her work among the itinerant workers, loggers and clear-felled logging coupes that paved the way for how the Tasmanian forestry operates to this day. Clear felling old growth forest is almost a Government tradition. It was a time of great hardship for the family and they helped fill a train with cut firewood each day to earn their keep. My father, Lionel Bruce, had left school at the end of grade 6 to contribute to the labour.

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Le Camera Plastique

Monday, December 24th, 2012

In a world where the masses carry high quality digital camera technology and there is an obsession with super crisp imagery it’s nice to shoot film using a simple camera obscura without distracting bells and whistles. All the better if the body is plastic and the lens is made of simple meniscus plastic.

Le Camera Plastique. An all-embracing term for lo-fi cameras like the Holga (designed in 1981) and its variants, the Diana and its more than fifty clones from the 70s, the newer revitalised Diana F+ and products sold by the lomo crowd and similar cheaply acquired photographic equipment that offer lens distortions, light leaks and film advance winders that sound like children’s toys. Often called toy cameras.

The go-to book on the subject is Plastic Cameras: Toying with creativity second edition by Michelle Bates but I’d also point you to read Pinhole Photography: From historic technique to digital application fourth edition by Eric Renner to fill out your understanding of simple photographic principles. And mostly because it’s also just a good book on photography in general.

We have three Holgas in the house (two 120N and a 120 PAN), but haven’t yet acquired any nice old Dianas or clones. However, as far as le camera plastique goes I think you’d have to agree the Polaroid Super Shooter Land Camera gifted to me by the ever-generous Film Photography Project meets the plastic camera definition. It doesn’t come more lo-fi than the Super Shooter and if you’ve ever had one in your hands you would understand exactly what I’m talking about – solid plastic body, plastic viewfinder, plastic lens & minimal (if any) real user controls. It takes Fujifilm pack film.

Some people will never like the abandonment that comes with shooting le camera plastique. But I’m one of the many who enjoy it immensely. For good examples you can look to Tim Hixson’s The Beach series or the beautiful Holga images of Michael Kenna.

If you’re really crazy about le camera plastique you can take these cheap cameras & mod them like the Holgaroid or turn them into pinholes. Le camera plastique is open to your own interpretation. That’s just another reason why it’s so much fun to get out there shooting lo-fi photography. Hell, make your own camera from scratch! There are no rules.

Ilford Pan F 50 Stand Dev & Pushed Three Stops

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Mistakes are the film photographer’s license to experiment and recently I found the perfect opportunity to try stand development in Rodinal. The problem: I shot a 120 roll of Ilford Pan F 50 in my Zenza Bronica ETRS medium format camera with the shutter speed set to 1/60. However, driving home I realised the camera battery had never left my pocket.

So, although I had metered light a full three stops below the default shutter speed of 1/500, that’s exactly what I had on my roll. Only 1/8 the light exposure on an ASA 50 film. Three stops is an awful lot less light on the film plane and I had the impression from earlier processing that Pan F 50 could be less than forgiving.

In regular film development the temperature and time that the negatives are immersed in developer is a lot more critical because the concentration of chemical around the film is relatively strong. I usually use Ilfotec DD-X at 1+9 solution for 8-10.5 minutes depending on the film in the developing tank. Sometimes I use Ilfotec DD-X at 1+4 for several minutes less.

But in stand development (note this was my first stand development) the solution is much weaker at 1+99. I used Rodinal at 18 Celcius for 2 hours with six rotations in the beginning followed by three rotations every half hour. The solution in stand developing has just enough chemical to develop the film.

From what I’ve read about stand development the lower the temperature, in some respects, the better. Higher temperatures are said to make for larger grain so my Tasmanian mid-Summer 18 Celcius in the tank could be a positive. Also, I’ve read that the developer is basically spent after 1 hour but my objective was to get the best out of the highlights so I took it to 2 hours and included the half hourly rotations. As there is only enough chemical to expose the film, it can’t be over-exposed in that time if I stick to 1+99 ratios of Rodinal.

Which leads to an interesting other point that I read about stand development – film type, over-exposed or under-exposed or correctly exposed, temperature and time all become less critical. Stand development just exposes until the developer, in this case 1+99 Rodinal, is spent. This means if you make a mistake, if you shot with the wrong ASA, if you have some Holga shots from a dark forest walk… stand development is your tool for recovery of a usable image.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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