December, 2011 browsing by month


What a difference a year makes

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

As I write this we’re minutes from the end of 2011 and as this is the last blog post of the year  I thought it appropriate to show something from the 1st day of this year. When the year began I was a 100% digital photographer. I hadn’t used film for around 7 years and had no intention of doing so but by the time March had come around I had been seeing more and more work from other photographers that I admired and the quality of their images had a look and feel all of their own, they had soul and the thing they all had in common was film. I’d spend hours working on my digital files with Photoshop and filters, trying to get the ‘film look’ but no matter how close I got, the images lacked a soul, that organic look and feel that you only get with film. In the end it dawned on me, if I wanted the film look then why not just shoot on film?

I learnt photography by using film in the mid 80’s so using it wasn’t anything new or scary and fortunately I had kept all of my old cameras. Going back to using film is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and it’s given me a new love for photography and the craft of creating images that I never had in the 8 years I’ve been using digital. It was like coming home after being away for a very long time.

I’d like to thank everyone that’s visited this blog during the year, all of the people that have been kind enough to stop and be photographed and to all of the photographers out there that have inspired me to get back to the root of photography and to fall in love with film, again. I’m excited about 2012, there are still tons of films in my backlog that haven’t been scanned yet so apologies if you’re waiting to see your portrait. I’m working on it 🙂

1st January 2011 (Nikon D700, digital).

Last portrait of 2011 (Mamiya RZ67, film).

Hot air balloon flight over Oxford

Friday, December 30th, 2011

A work colleague of mine kindly gave me a free flight in a hot air balloon because she had a couple spare vouchers and was only given 45 mins notice before take-off and her family who were originally meant to go couldn’t reach Oxford in time. We went on the flight with another co-worker of ours and took off from playing fields near the Botley Road. The wind was expected to pick up quite fast and there was only a small window for us to get airborne before it would be too windy to take off. At one point the wind caught the balloon while it was on its side being filled with air and a few of us almost got dragged across the playing field. It was very exciting as we all helped prepare the balloon.

Fortunately we managed to get into the air just in time before it was too windy to do so and to say the flight was thrilling would be an understatement. Never mind a gentle relaxing slow trip, we were moving at quite a clip and covered so much ground that our pilot told us we’d travelled about three times the usual distance. The view was spectacular and everything looked crystal clear, almost like watching a tv documentary in HD. The wind continued to pick up speed during our flight so we had to come down in quite a hurry and landed with helluva bump in someones field. All’s well that ends well and despite me suffering a little whiplash everyone climbed out of the basket in one piece. It was a fantastic experience and something I hope to do again someday when my daughter is old enough and tall enough to look out over the top of the basket!

[Tech info:] Mamiya C330f with 80mm lens. Film used was Kodak Portra 400 and Fuji Reala. Processed and scanned by me.

Assembling the hot air balloon

Some assembly required

Unpacking the hot air balloon

Unpacking the balloon

Filling the balloon with air

Filling the balloon with air

Filling the balloon with air

Inside the balloon

View through the inside of the hot air balloon to the top

View through the inside of the balloon to the top

Preparing for take-off

Preparing for take-off. I was the last one in.

Hot air burners

Hot air burners

Oxford University Press below us

Oxford University Press below us

The dreaming spires of Oxford

The dreaming spires of Oxford

Little village from the air

We passed over small villages and lots of fields

A road through a forest

I liked the shapes in the landscape below us. This is shortly before we landed.

Lunch hour session: Oxford

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

The weather recently has not been very nice for photography. It’s either been very dark and gloomy with no interesting light or it’s been raining. Here are some images that I managed to get during a brief spell if nicer weather. I think these were all made during the same lunch hour.

[Tech info:] Mamiya RZ67, 110mm lens with Kodak Tri-X film, processed in Ilford DDX for 8mins at 20C.

Shoes for sale in a shop window

Shoe shop, Turl Street.

studying in a coffee shop

One of the very few times I've not asked permission before photographing someone. The Missing Bean, Turl Street.

Happy students sitting on a bench

These two students were so friendly and cheerful about being photographed that it gave me a spring in my step as I headed back to my office. Broad Street.


These two guys seem to be regulars on this blog. They're usually on their lunch break as I head back to my office and my route takes me right past them. They're part of the demolition crew working on the parade of shops along Walton Street.


This shot was made directly after the one above but this time I asked these guys to step out of the direct sun.

Laundrette: Abingdon Road, Oxford

Monday, December 26th, 2011

I’ve cycled past this laundrette on my way to and from work for over 14 years but this is the first time I’ve ever set foot inside. It’s something I wanted to photograph for a long time because it seems like the sort of place that will probably get knocked down and turned into a Tesco Metro any minute but either I never got around to it or there always seemed to be a car parked out front. The car hasn’t been there for a while so I finally made a point of braving the evening winter temperatures to make a trip to photograph it.

The washing machines aren’t as retro looking as I had hoped, they’ve probably been replaced in recent years but I do like the wood panels on the walls and ceiling which look very 70’s.

Tech info: Mamiya RZ67 with Kodak Tri-X film, processed in Ilford DDX for 8mins at 20C.

Laundrette interior

Laundrette interior

Washing machine operating instructions

Washing machine operating instructions. I like the hand written painted sign.

Laundrette exterior

Laundrette exterior. The traffic was bumper to bumper so I had to wave my arms to stop the traffic long enough for the 2 second exposure.

Lunch hour session: Oxford

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

All of these images are from the same roll of film inside my Mamiya RZ67 medium format camera. I only get 10 shots on a roll so I make every one count. Regular visitors to this blog may have noticed certain themes that I like to photograph quite often – one of them being old or interesting looking bicycles. Another theme I’ve recently decided to work on is builders. There’s a lot of building work going on near my office so I see quite a few builders around during my lunch hour walk into town. I think it’s important to record some images of the people working on the buildings that are going up around us. They may not be all that interesting to look at now but years from now they will be.

[Tech info:] Mamiya RZ67 camera, 110mm lens with Kodak Portra 400 film. Processed and scanned by me.

Man with interesting moustache

I photographed this man on May Morning but I was using digital back then. I'm pleased to have photographed him on film this time.

The owner of Scriptum, a really nice stationary shop on Turl Street.


This builder was painting the wood panels that surround the Bodleain on Broad Street.

Demolition crew

These two builders are part of the demolition crew working on Walton Street. I tend to pass them every day on my way back to my office. They're very pleasant to chat to and probably think I'm a bit mad as I stop to photograph them with my old film cameras. You can see the extra dynamic range in film compared to the shots I made on Fuji instant pack film at the same time as these.


Builder, Walton Street.


Builder enjoying a cuppa, Walton Street.

Philips bicycle

Phillips bicycle, Beaumont Street.



Double crossbars bike

While I was visiting Antwerp earlier in the year I saw lots of bicycles there with double crossbars but this was the first time I'd seen one in Oxford.

Little Clarendon Street, Oxford

Current progress on the building project that is on Little Clarendon Street. Former site of the Oxford Barbers, an image of which you can see further back on this blog.

Equipment: Aero Ektar

Monday, December 12th, 2011

The Aero Ektar lens was made by Kodak for the US Military to use for aerial photography during WWII. It’s a huge chunk of glass that has a fast aperture of f2.5 which for a large format lens is incredibly fast and the result is a shallow depth of field of around an inch with a very distinctive bokeh. The lens doesn’t have a shutter so it needs to be used on a camera with its own shutter. For this reason its perfectly suited for use with the Speed Graphic 5×4 camera that has a built in shutter at the back. I think my Speed Graphic is from the 1950’s so combined with this Aero Ektar lens this is a vintage camera setup that is still going strong.

Speed Graphic with Aero Ektar lens

Speed Graphic with Aero Ektar lens

This image was made with the setup above. It's a heavy rig that is a little slow to use so hand holding it is not really an option. Fortunately for me this student was promoting a play so he wasn't going anywhere fast and was kind enough to stand still for this portrait.

Lunch hour session: Oxford

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

The weather hasn’t been particularly great for photography recently. These shots are from a couple of weeks ago. A lot of the University students have packed up and are away for the Christmas holidays so the streets I usually photograph on in town are noticeably quieter. This might mean less photography for me but in some ways that’s not a bad thing because I still have a huge backlog of film to scan from earlier in the summer. If you’re one of the people that I photographed and you’ve been visiting this blog to see your picture I apologise for the delay. There have been some unfortunate accidents that happened where I lost some images (either by the film running out in my camera without me realising it or a mistake I made in the darkroom where I ended up with two completely blank rolls of film) but fortunately that only happened on a few occasions.

It would be nice to see some comments so please feel free to leave one. I’d especially like to hear from people that feature in my pictures. Thanks.

[Tech info:] Mamiya C330f with Kodak Portra 400 film.

Man with a flat cap

Marco, Broad street. A really pleasant guy that I enjoyed speaking about photography with.

I really liked this students' outfit and ended up chasing after her. I'm amazed at how well this has turned out considering the lack of light, I could hardly focus it was so dark.

Maria. This was shot in colour but I prefer this black & white version. Again, it was very dark and cold on this day but film renders everything so nicely.

Tourists eating lunch

Tourists eating lunch on the Martyr's memorial.


Some of the demolition crew that are working on the shops along Walton Street. This is the corner of Walton Street and Little Clarendon Street. Notice one of the guys is hiding.

Speed Graphic on the streets of Oxford

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

These shots are all from my first attempt at using my Speed Graphic hand held. I think my Speed Graphic is from the 1950’s, it’s a 5×4 large format camera that was used by press photographers and made famous by New York photographer Weegee. As a first attempt I’m pleased to see that there are images on the film especially as I was rushing to make these shots on a really windy cold day. The focus is quite a way off and that’s because I didn’t have the lens parallel with the film – something I only noticed when putting the camera away. Lesson learnt for next time. I’ve scanned the whole negatives so you can see the entire frame.

[Tech info:] Speed Graphic with Ilford HP5+, processed in Ilford DDX for 9mins at 20c.

Art students

Art students visiting from London. The girl with the scarf in the front was very excited to see my camera.

This gentleman was my first shot of the three here and he was very patient while I got set up. Thank you.

It's such a shame that the focus is out on this shot. This gentleman looks quite French in this shot but he seemed very English to me.



Instant film

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Recently I’ve been having fun using Fuji instant peel apart film. Years ago these were called Polaroids, named after the company that made invented and made the instant films but today Fuji is the only company left making it. I do still tend to refer to these as Polaroids but not without feeling guilty for lack of credit to Fuji for carrying the torch. I heard someone refer to these as Fujiroids which I thought was very appropriate.

Here are a few Fujiroids of shots that I’ve also made on film but I won’t get to process those rolls until the weekend. I love the ability to have a print in your hand within a couple of minutes of pressing the shutter. It’s nothing short of magic.

[Tech info:] Mamiya RZ67 camera with Fuji FP100-c pack film. The image of the C330f camera was made with a Speed Graphic large format 5×4 camera.

Interior of a laundrette

Laundrette. I've cycled past this laundrette on my way to and from work for nearly 14 years but this is the first time I've ever set foot inside.

Mamiya C330f medium format camera

Mamiya C330f, one of my favourite cameras for street photography.

A builder holding a cup of tea

Tea time. There's some construction work going on down the street from my office. A couple of the builders have allowed me to photograph them, most of the others are camera shy.

Out of the shadows. This shot shows the limitation of this instant film. The contrast range only seems to be around 3 stops. Here I metered for the shadow under the helmet because I didn't want to lose his eyes but in doing so I had to sacrifice the highlights in his face and jacket.


London day trip: Nov/2011 part 3

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

This is the third instalment of images from my last day trip to London. My walk along the Thames led me to Tate Modern where I saw the a short film that was projected on a huge screen inside the turbine hall. It was shot on film which was very appropriate for me as that’s my medium of choice. From the Tate I walked over the Millennium bridge to see the Occupy protesters. By this time it was getting late into the afternoon and the light level was falling rapidly so I didn’t manage to get very many shots. I did see three other photographers there that were using film and managed to photograph each of them.

[Tech info:] Mamiya C330f camera with New Kodak Portra 400 film. Processed and scanned by me.

Rolley golfers. These golf carts are a cross between a regular golfing trolley and a Segway. I saw these guys coming along with a small video crew following them. When I asked what they were doing they said they were making a viral video. They seemed intrigued by my old skool camera and were kind enough to let me photograph them.

golfer with a flat cap


golfer wearing a flat cap



one leaf on decking

One leaf.

FILM art installation inside Tate Modern

FILM art installation inside Tate Modern. I made a guess at the exposure for this and the slant of the camera is because I was resting it on a padded bench. I loved how the little girl was fascinated by the projection and her shadow that was cast on the screen. I'm sure she was unaware that lots of people were staring at her from the darkness.

A lady holding a Rolleiflex camera

Rolleiflex user at Occupy protest, St. Paul's Cathedral.

A man using a Leica film camera

Leica user. I had a great conversation about photography with this photographer.

A man using a Mamiya M645 film camera

Mamiya M645 user. I have one of these cameras but this one was really battered up. It had a lot of character to it and is a good example of how well built these cameras are.

Breakdancing crew

Breakdancing crew.

Bride and groom

Wedding couple. This shot has turned out amazingly well considering how low the light level was. New Kodak Portra 400 is incredible film. I got this shot as the official wedding photographer was setting up some of his equipment.