Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Roche Abbey


I shot a couple of rolls of film over the past weekend and I’m writing about them in reverse order. On Saturday I shot (most of) a roll of Bergger Pancro 400 with my Pentax P30T – I’ll post something about that in the coming days – and on Sunday a roll of Fomapan 200 with the Yashica Mat 124 G. It’s that roll that I’ll talk about here.

I didn’t have any specific photography plans in mind for Sunday – my wife had gone out, and I was dependent on my eldest being around to look after his younger brothers if I was to venture anywhere. I was also in two minds as to whether to just laze around the house and watch TV – I’d recorded the documentary film, Finding Vivian Maier, and was planning on watching that at some point.

In the end I watched the film in the morning after my dad left following his usual Sunday visit, did a few chores, and then decided to go out upon seeing that the cloud cover had broken up and there was some decent light.

My destination was Roche Abbey, the ruins of a 12th century Cistercian monastery that lies in a pleasantly landscaped valley just to the east of Maltby. It’s about half-an-hour’s drive and I’ve visited the place once before in 2003 back when I had my first ever digital camera – a Fujifilm Finepix A204 compact, capable of a whopping 2 megapixel resolution! I mock it, but I still have the camera in a cupboard, and it still works ok, and I was very happy with the shots it took at the time. In fact, here’s one of the shots of the abbey I took with it back then:

Roche Abbey – taken in August 2003 with a Fujifilm Finepix A204 digital compact camera.

The weather on that day in 2003 was very pleasant, and I visited in the morning with the sun rising up behind the remaining standing structures of the abbey. This time, the weather was against me to some extent, and despite the location not being too far from home, the cloud cover had thickened by the time I arrived, covering the sky with a largely featureless grey blanket. Oh well, not what I’d have chosen, but not the end of the world.

The abbey is down a small, cobbled lane that descends into the valley, and which didn’t seem to do the car’s suspension a great deal of good, but at least there was parking space at the bottom. There also seemed to be some sort of organised foot-race / marathon taking place as there were numbered runners passing by frequently and, in the old, vaulted gatehouse to the abbey, there was a table set up for them to take drinks.

The entrance to the abbey grounds themselves are via the Abbey House. The abbey is managed by English Heritage and a fee is chargeable upon entrance through the house (which also doubles as a gift shop and small museum). I became a member of English Heritage a couple of months ago when I discovered upon arrival that my impromptu visit to Bolsover castle would cost me over £10 to get in, and so I decided to instead pay the £50 one-year membership fee and try my utmost to visit other EH sites and get my money’s worth throughout the next 12-months. This visit to Roche Abbey was the first trip to recoup some of the investment.

For visitors not willing to pay the entrance fee, the Abbey structure can be seen easily from a public footpath running alongside the property, albeit behind a metal fence. This doesn’t allow you to get in amongst the ruins though, and probably doesn’t give you the nicest vantage points.

Anyway, I shot the full roll of Fomapan 200 (bar the last frame) during my visit, including a shot of the Abbey House, three shots of the main towers, one of the sluice that runs through the grounds, and a number of shots of memorial benches and signposts. The last shot was of one of the runners approaching along a curved track as I was returning to the car, and then I finished the roll with a photo of a potted Rhododendron plant in our back garden. It wasn’t the most productive of rolls I’ve shot, with seven of the pictures being keepers (again, your definition of a keeper may differ from mine!), and the others being a little humdrum – the shot of the sluice doesn’t really work, as does one with three benches in the frame, and the shot of the runner isn’t great either. The Rhododendron is, well, a shot of a potted rhododendron, so make of that what you will, but I’ve not included any of these pictures here (although it’s possible that some of them will go on my Flickr stream at some point).

This was my first roll of Fomapan 200 (though I’ve shot the 100 variety in 135 format before) and I’m happy with the results. The negatives are very curly though, and I did notice a large number of scratches that I’ve had to try to remove in post-processing. I’ve not really encountered this sort of scratching on other rolls I’ve shot, so think it may be the film, rather than the camera or lab (Peak Imaging, who always produce great results). A search online revealed that I’m not the only person to suffer from this. None of the scratches were sufficient to detract too much from my amateur shots though.

So, without further ado, here are the ones I like the best…

#1. This is the Abbey House as seen after you’ve entered the grounds. You come out through the lovely old studded door you can see in the picture.

FILM - Abbey House, Roche Abbey

#2. The two remaining major abbey structures.

FILM - Roche Abbey

#3. The southern tower. I’d not intended to get the OOF foreground in shot, but it was a result of the parallax difference between the viewing and taking lens of the camera. I don’t mind the effect though as I think it gives the shot a nice sense of depth.

FILM - Roche Abbey

#4. Another shot of the southern tower, but this time with the focus on foreground stonework. I like how the sprinkling of daisies stand out in the black and white of these shots.

FILM - Roche Abbey

#5 & #6. A couple of the memorial benches under the trees to the west of the abbey ruins. I really like the second of these two, again because of the daisies giving interest to the foreground.

FILM - Memoriam bench

FILM - A seat amongst the daisies

#7. A warning sign stood amongst a morass of nettles highlighting the sluice that flows just behind them.

FILM - Caution

35mm · Film photography · Photography

Oddshots #1

Occasionally, I might have a single image to post, maybe something unusual or special, or just an oddment that’s slipped out of a set. Rather than saying nothing about them, I thought they might make for good “quickie” posts.

The shot here is one that was taken a few weeks ago, but which I’ve only just uploaded to Flickr (mainly because I’ve been spending a lot of time with the Yashica Mat). It was taken with a Pentax P30T and Rikenon 50mm f/2 lens combo on Agfa Vista Plus 200 – a film that can usually be bought for £1 a roll [24 exp] in the UK’s Poundland discount store chain. Poundland Agfa (as it seems to be known amongst some ‘togs) may be cheap, but I quite like the results it produces – a little grainy and edging towards the magenta, it can produce particularly nice results in sunny conditions, I  think.

Because it’s so cheap, it makes a good ‘test’ film for new cameras that you don’t want to risk with something more expensive. In this case, it was the first outing for the P30T, a camera I’d bought purely because I had the Pentax K-mount Rikenon 50mm lying around without a body to affix it to. The lens came with a Ricoh KR-10 that I’d bought at a flea market, but the focusing screen was mis-aligned and beyond my current powers to fix. I still have the KR-10, but it seems to have slipped into further disrepair, with the shutter now failing to fire even with fresh batteries. Ah well, at least the lens seems ok.

I took the camera for a walk around town and shot all 24 frames of the Agfa, and was very happy with the results. The P30T (which I use in aperture priority mode), is compact, light, and fits well in my hands, and the images were all nicely sharp and well exposed.

The shot below is of the Soundhouse, a building owned by the University of Sheffield’s Department of Music. It’s an unusual building with a look of a piece of studded furniture. After a bit of tweaking, I decided to convert the shot to black and white as I preferred the look. Apart from a couple of scratches I’ve noticed on the image since uploading it (I might go back and fix those, so don’t worry if you can’t see them!), I like the shot. The building’s unusual shape and its black textured exterior make it stand out nicely in the frame. The composition is maybe a little tight at the bottom though. Oh well.

FILM - Living in a box


Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Twelve frames an hour

I’m still loving the Yashica Mat 124 G and, as I had a brief window of time before attending an appointment I’d taken the day off work for on Wednesday, I decided to go out. I only had around 90 minutes to spare, so didn’t venture far, but there’s a variety of footpaths and tracks in the area that would offer some opportunities for photographs, plus the weather was nice and bright which might make for some contrasty shadows even though the sun was riding fairly high by this time of the morning.

I decided to waste no time by walking to the area I planned on visiting and instead drove the car the mile or so to where I planned to start my walk. I parked up in a small lay-by close to the railway crossing – my first intended subject being the signal-box that stands beside the crossing. As I got there I though my luck was in as the alarm began to ring and the barriers descended indicating a train would shortly pass. I got my shot set up to feature the signal box at the right of the frame and the yet-to-arrive train on the left. Focus was nailed; composition was set; All I needed was the train to arrive. I waited. And waited. I noticed some curious looks from a lady in a car waiting at the crossing as she looked at the bloke staring into the top of the old-fashioned-looking camera. I waited some more and then, suddenly… the barriers raised. Bah! No train. It had not been my intention to shoot a passing train, but it would’ve been a nice addition to the picture had it arrived. Still, at least I got my shot (well, two of them actually) of the signal box.

FILM - Beighton Station

FILM - Beighton Station-2

I then walked up the small road that runs parallel to the railway tracks. This leads to a scrapyard, although it’s not really a scrapyard in the traditional sense of it being a load of old junked cars anymore. It used to be, and I remember hunting for and finding a replacement wing-mirror for my first car at the very same place about twenty-five years previously, but these days it’s more of a recycled metals place and I don’t think there are any junked cars there any more. A pity, as they would make for interesting photo opportunities. Still, I took my next shot on the lane – there was a distant electricity pylon rising between a couple of trees where the road curved up ahead, and that made for frame #3.

FILM - The road to the scrapyard

I’d intended the next shot to be of a footbridge spanning the railway lines, but there were a bunch of parked cars and vans next to the bridge that I felt spoiled the shot, so I instead turned my attention to the rows of waste-metal skips that are lined up outside the yard. I presume that these are dropped off from recycling depots and then returned later but, whatever the case, there a quite a number of them. I noticed three of the same design all in a row with some nice bright light on them, so that was shot #4.

FILM - Skips

Shot #5 was of another footbridge, this one spanning a second set of railway lines (the two set join a little farther up the valley) and I attempted to get a shallow depth of field shot focussed on the foot of the steps. Alas, even with a roll of Ilford FP4+ in the camera, the light was too bright to drop below f/8 at the camera’s maximum shutter speed of 1/500 sec. The shot’s still quite nice (in an industrial style) though.

FILM - Footbridge

At the other side of the bridge, the path forks. Straight ahead takes you to the country park, to the left the path crosses the Rother via a narrow passage on the stone railway bridge. At the edge of the bridge I noticed a fence overgrown with brambles and nettles and decided to make it #6. The #7 was a wide aperture shot of the near-side of the path across the bridge and #8 was the same path from the opposite side. A bit of stray vegetation got into the shot here and spoils this one a little, although I’d be lying if I were to claim it would’ve been great otherwise.

FILM - The brambly fence

FILM - ...That way

FILM - This way

Shot #9 was of a cluster of directional signs poking from the undergrowth at the far side of the bridge. One of the signs looks to have had an encounter with fire at some point in its existence! Shots #10 & #11 were of the chain link fence the adjoins the right side of the path in my direction of travel – the other side is bordered by a more significant aluminium fence that separates the track from the set of railway lines.

FILM - Signs

FILM - Chainlink

FILM - Holding things up

At the end of the path I walked up the small rise that leads to the viaduct carrying the A57 across the valley (including the river and both sets of railway lines), but took the road back down into the village before getting to the pedestrian-free zone, looping me back to my start point.

I had one final frame remaining of the twelve and decided that a wooden gate in a field close to where I’d parked the car would make a decent final shot. I think the gate was shot at f/8.

FILM - The gate to where the dogs used to play

Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Another couple of outings with the Yashica Mat

After being pretty pleased with the first set of results from my Yashica Mat 124 G, I was eager to get out and shoot some more. Given I had an extra roll of HP5 lying around, what was there to wait for?

So, a couple of days after getting the first roll back, I went out again with another twelve potential masterpieces waiting to be found. I’m not sure there are any masterpieces amongst the shots I got  (well, I’m fairly confident there aren’t), but I was happy with the majority of them nontheless.

The first five shots were taken on an evening expedition after work on the 25th. After a bit of virtual-sightseeing on Google Streetview, I’d found a photogenic-looking tree on a country lane not too far from home, so I hopped in the car and drove to the location (not far from Harthill), The weather had consisted of sunshine and showers throughout the afternoon, and the situation had persisted into the early evening, so there were plenty of big clouds in the sky to add some interest to the shots, but with the downside that I would have to hide in the car should they decide to open up on my position (no surprises here, but they did).

The location was quite nice, and the showers had left a nice sheen of water on the lane running beside the tree. The fields on either side were full of oilseed rape in full bloom and were vivid with yellow flowers. Good job I had that black and white film in the camera, eh? I managed to get three shots before the rain came, and then waited in the car for a final shot after the shower had passed. The first shot was totally out of focus for no reason I could ascertain, but as the rest were fine, it’s probably attributable to camera shake or some other dumb user error.

I decided to drive on for the last shot of the evening, another lane just outside the pleasant little village of Thorpe Salvin. I’d seen the lane before, but not taken any shots, and while I quite like the result from this trip, the road was quite dry and I feel it might’ve benefited from a bit of water like the first location. There was also a pair of purple Calvin Klein underpants affixed to a barbed wire fence next to where I parked the car, but thankfully these were not in the way of my shot so I kept a safe distance from them. No idea what their particular story was!

A day later I decided to use the remaining 7 shots and took a drive past Eckington to the cluster of small hamlets in the hills beyond. I didn’t have any particular idea of what I was going to shoot, but felt that some opportunities might present themselves as I drove around.

The first shot was of a Give Way marker at a crossroads. Not the most obvious of subjects, but I’d seen a couple of examples of similar shots on The Online Darkroom blog that I liked the look of, and so decided to get my own take. I don’t think mine matches the quality of those taken by Bruce Robinson that it seeks to emulate, but it’s quite nice anyway and I was happy with the result.

The next shot was of a random piece of farm machinery I spotted in a field near Apperknowle (another shot that necessitated waiting out a rain shower in the car). Because of the TLR’s viewfinder and the proximity of a fence and foliage to my shooting position, I ended up cropping the shot to get rid of some distracting foreground objects that didn’t add anything to the shot. I’m not sure it’s great without them, but it has a pleasant vintage feel that I think can be a hallmark of medium format images.

The remaining shots were all taken at the same location in West Handley, where a traditional K6 red phone box stands beside the road. Behind the box was another rapeseed field, which made for a picture of the crop stems, and an anti-fracking notice on a telephone pole made for another.

Overall, I’m pleased with this second set from the camera. It’s still a learning experience, but one that’s a pleasure to undertake. Anyway, enough wittering, here are the shots:

The first two are of the tree near Harthill.

FILM - The tree near the zig-zag

FILM - Zig-zag tree part deux

The next is the lane near Thorpe Salvin (and the underpants!).

FILM - Country Lane

Here’s the Give Way road marking shot:

FILM - On the road

And the farm machinery (not sure what it is exactly though – possibly some sort of generator / pump?):

FILM - In a field with horses

And finally, the shots from West Handley:

FILM - Oh Frack!

FILM - Growing crops

FILM - Light, comfort, communication

FILM - Callbox