February, 2012

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Sport: Judo, Oxford

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Last weekend I visited the University  sports centre on Iffley Road during the Oxford v Cambridge Varsity sports competition. My intention wasn’t to make action shots of sport it was to find people to make portraits of. Not being a particularly sporty person myself, I found it very interesting to be among so many people that were. As I write this the Varsity competition is not over yet, it’s spread across different weekends with some other events to follow in the summer. I did quite a lot of photography during my visit and I’ll post the images in batches as I make my way through the scanning.

My thanks go to Simon Griffin from the sports centre for being so accommodating and  supportive of my photography and also to everyone that made time to stand in front of my camera.

[Tech info:] Mamiya RZ67 and 110mm lens loaded with Kodak Tri-X film, processed in Kodak HC110 (dilution b, 1:31) for 7mins 30secs.

These guys were not part of the Varisty competition but as I walked past the room they were practicing in and saw the diffused light I knew I'd be able to make some great images. Fortunately these guys were very friendly and didn't mind me interrupting their practice session.

two judo fighters

These two guys are also photographers which made it easier for me to get my shots. At first they were a little surprised when I barged in on their practice session and announced that I wanted to photograph them but after they saw the size of the camera around my neck they knew I was serious.

These was the last shot on my roll and shot outside quite a while after the first couple above. Imagine having a face off with this guy.

Lunch hour session: Oxford

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Here are two portraits I made on the end of the roll of the Cabaret portraits in the previous post. Both on the  same day during my lunch break.

[Tech info:] Mamiya RZ67 with 110mm/f2.8 lens, on Kodak Tri-X 400 film rated @ ISO1600, processed in Kodak HC110 (1:31) for 17mins.

a big issue seller

Kevin, a Big Issue seller I pass almost every day on my way back to work. I'll be giving him a print of this.

Catte Street looking towards The Bridge of Sighs

Backstage: Cabaret, Oxford part 2

Monday, February 20th, 2012

These are the portraits I made of the cast and crew of Cabaret back stage at the O’Reilly Theatre, Keble College. Curtain up was probably around 20mins away so I was very rushed and also very cramped for space. These were done in a corridor at the bottom of the rear stair well, the bright lights facing the camera are lights on the wall. I thought they might look good as a background but they’ve turned out being brighter than I would have liked. I left my spot meter at home so I was unable to make very accurate exposure calculations. Overall I think these turned out well with all things considered. Thank you to everyone below that made time to be photographed.

I’m interested in doing more backstage photography on film so if you’re involved in a project or performance please get in touch.

[Tech info:] Mamiya RZ67 with 110mm lens loaded with Kodak Tri-X film rated at ISO1600. Processed in Kodak HC110 (dilution B, 1:31) for 17mins at 20c.

Cast member

I did a rough retouching job in Photoshop to erase the bright lights in the background of this image and I think it works better without them.

Cast member

Choreographer (right) and assistant choreographer

Cast member


Lunch hour session: Oxford

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

It feels like ages since I did any street portraits so getting back into it this week has given me a real buzz. The weather in January was really bad so I didn’t get many opportunities to do much street photography. The shots here are all from the same roll of film shot during the past two days which makes them the fastest turned around images (from my camera to this blog) so far. The film I used is one of my favourites (Fuji Acros 100) but for this roll I decided to test out a developer that I haven’t used with this film before (Kodak HC110). I was a bit nervous because I had shots that I was very excited about and didn’t want to lose but nothing ventured nothing gained as they say. I’m pleased to say that it all worked out well and I’m very happy with this film/developer combo.

[Tech info:] Mamiya M645 and 80mm/f1.9 lens loaded with Fuji Acros 100 film. Processed in Kodak HC110 dilution B for 5mins at 20c.

I love the outfits this couple are wearing (I think they're a couple) and I hope I get to photograph them again.

I photographed this smartly dressed gentleman last summer on Cornmarket Street and when I saw him walking towards me on Turl Street I had to photograph him again.
security guard

One of the security guards where I work.

There's something very classic about the way this gentleman is dressed with his wax cotton coat and scarf. As he came walking towards me I had the feeling that he wouldn't want to be photographed but I was happy to be wrong.

On the steps of the Clarendon Building. The first time I passed this guy he was eating some lunch so I decided not to interrupt him. By the time I'd done a circuit of my usual haunts he had finished. Funnily enough someone else had asked to photograph him the other day.

builders taking a break

These builders are working on the Walton Street site at the corner of Little Clarendon Street. When i approached them they didn't want to be photographed but after I explained my street photography project they were happy to. I think there's something about using a film camera that shows people you're serious about photography in a way that digital cameras don't.

photographer holding a leica camera

I think this camera is a Leica. All of the logo's have been covered in black tape. It reminds me of what I did with my first Nikon SLR to prevent it from attracting attention.

Experiments: Ilford P4 Surveillance film – roll 2

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Here are some shots from the second roll of Ilford P4 Surveillance that I’ve tried out so far. I think that all of the rolls that I have left from this batch will be damaged like this. The film seems quite old and may have been poorly stored but I quite like the aged look so I don’t mind too much. These shots are very different from my usual style but I very much enjoyed a more ‘shooting from the hip’ snap shot approach here.

[Tech info:] Nikon FM2, 50mm/f1.4 lens, Ilford P4 Surveillance film processed in Kodak HC-110 dilution B (1:31), 9mins at 20C.

a man eating a sandwich

A bite to eat.

Outside The Randolph.

Rim light.

Standing still, St. Giles.

A sign of Spring? Wellington Square. I pass this tree every day but this was the first time I noticed these hanging around.

Oddbins off licence, closed after 40 years on the High Street.

Walton Street building project.

Two people map reading in Oxford

Map reading.

High Street shops.

A nice old shop front on Turl Street.

I like the shape of this bike frame and the seat looks nice and comfy.

Clothing shop, Little Clarendon Street. A nice shop front.


Experiments: Ilford P4 surveillance film

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Recently I bought a job lot of film from someone on a well known auction site and among the different brands of film was some that I have never heard of, Ilford P4 surveillance. A little research pointed to it being used in traffic cameras and for surveillance (doh!) work. The film I received had been individually loaded into cassettes from a bulk roll, the empty box of which was included for me to read more information. I don’t know if the film I received was from the empty box because the expiry date on the box was 2010 but after processing the first two test rolls I noticed that one of the layers of film above the emulsion had come away in patches which is why these scans look uneven. There are also scratches across the film which points to grit in the felt trap of the cassette. I did rattle these shots off as a test so I don’t mind too much and I’m thrilled with the look of this film so it’s okay.

The thing that amazes me the most is the dynamic range this film is able to capture. I deliberately used it in situations where I know other films would struggle which is strongly backlit shots. The contrast is flatter than ‘normal’ black & white films and for an ISO400 film the grain is quite pronounced but I do like it. I’ve got lots more of this film to use for testing so more images will follow. These shots were made with my very first SLR camera that I bought in 1987 and although I probably haven’t used it in maybe 15 years the battery for the light meter still has power in it and I enjoyed using this camera more now than I ever did. Apart from the light meter the camera is completely mechanical and that’s partly why I love it so much. It will function without a battery and is totally manual – which roughly translated means you need to know what you’re doing because there’s no ‘P for Professional mode’ to help you.

[Tech info:] Nikon FM2 with 50mm/f1.4 lens loaded with Ilford P4 surveillance film. Processed in Kodak HC110 developer (dilution B 1:31) for 10mins at 20C.

old style bicycle with brooks saddle

Nice bike. I love the dated look of this shot.

brooks leather saddle

Brooks saddle.

cyclists in oxford

Broad street cyclists.

pedestrians walking on the road

Turl street.

the eagle and child pub in oxford

This pub was a favourite of JRR Tolkien and his pals.

a man rim lit by the sun

This image is a great example of the incredible dynamic range of this film. This man is walking directly towards a bright setting sun. The contrast in the scene was so high that all I could see was a silhouette but on film you can clearly see his rucksack and there's still plenty of detail in the sky too.

a long shadow behind a man walking towards the sun

Long shadow.

Another great example of a backlit subject by the setting sun. All I saw was a silhouette through my viewfinder.


Back stage: Cabaret, Oxford

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to have permission to do some back stage photography of a theatre performance of Cabaret at the O’Reilly Theatre, Oxford which was being put on by Oxford University students. It was the opening night so obviously tension was high. I was trying to be as low key as possible while everyone checked and double checked things and last minute rehearsals took place. I found the lighting in the theatre a bit too low for any decent photography so I I ended up setting up at the bottom of a rear stair well which not only seemed to be the place with the most amount of light but I was also out of the way of the crew that were dashing back and forth.

The problem I found was convincing the actors to spare a few seconds to be photographed. Understandably they had more important things on their minds so I didn’t get as much photography done as I had hoped. After a slow start luck was on my side. Just over an hour before the start it seemed like the entire cast had disappeared to grab a bite to eat and get into costume, all of them apart from Alice, the lead actress who was busy practicing on stage. I asked if she could spare a little time for photography and thankfully she was more than happy to. What struck me was how calm and composed she was considering it was the opening the night and we were so close to curtain up. It was so easy (and a lot of fun) to photograph Alice that I ended up finishing a roll of film in a matter of minutes. A little later I did get some shots of a few of the other cast members but I haven’t processed that film yet.

And now the bad news… As you can see the quality of these images is far from great, that’s because the film I used is a very high speed film for low-light photography and one of the things you should never do with high speed film is pass it through an x-ray scanner (the kinds you find at airports). It just so happens that a good friend of mine brought be back a few rolls of this film a few weeks ago from New York (it’s a lot more expensive if you buy it here) and I didn’t think to warn him about getting the film hand inspected at the airport. Lesson learnt – always test new film batches before using them on a live shoot.

So, apologies for the low quality images, no one is more disappointed than I am but sometimes these things happen. I do still very much like the images especially because of the location they were made in. The roll of film I used for the other shots was a different type so it won’t suffer from any x-ray damage. I just need to develop it properly without any problems.

Back stage photography is something I’m interested in doing more of so if you know of any productions in Oxford that would be interesting to photograph please let me know.

[Tech info:] Mamiya RZ67 with 110mm/f2.8 lens loaded with Ilford Delta 3200 (rated at ISO1600) processed in Ilford DD-X for 9mins, 20c.

Alice, the lead actress in Cabaret.

Shot 2 on the stairs.

Lunch hour session: Oxford

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

The images in this blog post are from an entire roll of medium format film all shot during the same lunch hour which is a first for me. Total time from start to finish was approximately 30mins. I’ve posted the images here in the same order that they were shot on the roll. It was a freezing cold day but in the sun it was somewhat bearable. The film I used here is slide/transparency film which is meant to be processed with E6 chemicals. I don’t have any at the moment so as an experiment I processed this in C41 chemicals which are meant for colour negative film. The result is meant to be crazy whacky colours but it’s also a bit unpredictable as you can see here. More testing is needed.

When I processed this roll of film I thought the chemicals had gone off because the colour of the developer looked darker than usual and I had mixed them 6 weeks ago. Not wanting to lose all of the shots on the roll I took a gamble and added on 30 seconds to the processing time. It looks like I needn’t have done that and the film got a bit over cooked. Fortunately the images weren’t lost but the contrast seems to have gone through the roof.

[Tech info:] Mamiya C330f with 80mm lens loaded with Kodak Ektachrome 100G film.

metal gas cover

G.A.S. (aka Gear Acquisition Syndrome, a little in joke)

This is one way to hold your camera steady.

construction work on Bodelian Library, Oxford

Work continues on the Bodleian Library building, Broad Street.

oxford university students

University students, Radcliffe Square.

tourists, oxford

Tourists, Divinity Schools quad.

students having lunch

Students keeping warm in the sun.

students taking a break

Coffee and a muffin.

Georgina and friend. I first met Georgina during a rehearsal for POSH at the Oxford Union. It was sheer chance that we bumped into each other this time so I had to do a street portrait.

My impromptu street portrait had put Georgina and her friend off course and they ended up looping around the Divinity Schools and bumping into me again. This time I decided to try a different spot with better light.

red crane, bodleian library

Bodleian Library crane.

photographer using a praktica camera

Another film photographer that I passed on my way back to my office.


Still life: paper negative vs Polaroid

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Sometimes the most photogenic still life objects are closer than you think. This red pepper had been sitting on our kitchen worktop for a few days before I noticed how perfect it would be for a photograph. I wanted to compare the difference between the multigrade paper negatives I’ve been producing recently and some Polaroid instant pack film. The Polaroid expired in 2004 and although it’s meant to have an ISO of 100 I’ve found that it’s actually now ISO 50. The paper negative is Ilford multigrade glossy rc paper with a grade 2 filter on the camera lens.

[Tech info:] Wista 5×4 with 150mm lens.

red pepper on paper negative

Paper negative

Expired Polaroid 664