Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Exploring the unexplorable

A few days ago, after I’d broken my ankle, I wondered if I might need to ration out the photos I upload given that I might not be able to go out and make more for a few weeks. As a result I uploaded some photos that I might have otherwise left on my hard drive. One of the photos was the one published here today.

For some bizarre reason, it’s managed to be selcted for Flickr’s Explore selection. I posted about my thoughts on which of my pictures are selected for Explore in this post a few weeks ago. My thoughts on this picture are much the same. I generally post a lot of photos to Flickr and yet it always seems to be the ones that are what I’d consider less sucessfull that seem to be picked to go into Explore. Perhaps it’s just mye eye? Maybe everyone else sees this as some sort of masterpiece of subject, light and composition? I suspect not though, and it’s just that the Flickr Explore algorithm is inscrutable.

Around the back

Holga 120N & Fomapan 100. Adox Adonal 1+100 18mins @ 20°.

Taken on 9 July 2022

Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

All Saint’s on the Holga

Another set of photo’s of All Saint’s Chapel at Steetley. These were all taken on the same visit when I shot some pictures with my Olympus 35 RC. If I had to choose, despite liking black and white photos , I think that in this case the colour images are the better set. That’s not to say I don’t like these, but I don’t think they hang together as cohesively. Some of the individual frames are also identical compositions to the 35 RC shots but, again, don’t really work as well I don’t think.

The Holga is a great camera and one which I usually really enjoy my results from, but I don’t think this set is amongst the better ones. I’m sure I will do better next time.

All Saint's (Holga edition)
All Saints
Crosses
Chapel entrance
Behind the chapel

Holga 120N & Fomapan 100. Adox Adonal 1+100 18mins @ 20°.

Taken on 9 July 2022

Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Out with the Holga part 1

On the day I tried out my first roll of the new Kodak Gold 120 variant, shot with my Yashicamat, I also took the Holga with me. I still had a couple of rolls of the “bad batch” Fomapan 100 (the one that liberally sprinkles little white specks on the resulting pictures), and it seems a good fit to shoot it with the Holga as, while I don’t want to use faulty film with the camera, it is great at covering up such defects due to its uniquely rendered images. I also have quite a stash of film at present and aim to try and get through some of it this year.

This was the first time I’d used the Holga in over a year – the last time was for some snowy shots back in January 2021 – and it’s easy to forget how much I like the pictures it produces. While this roll didn’t produce twelve bangers, I still got several I was happy with, and so I’ll post them here today and tomorrow.

I developed the roll in some of my remaining trial bottle of Adox Adonal (Rodinal in all but name) and used a 1+24 dilution which gave a pleasingly short 4 minute developing time. I’m pretty happy with the way they’ve turned out.

Corner plot
Communicate
Behind the pollarded trees

Holga 120N & Fomapan 100. Adox Adonal 1+25 4mins @ 20°.

Taken on 10 April 2022

Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Southerly transmission

A photo from the archive today, made a couple of years ago back when we were under the first covid lockdown here in the UK. I’m pretty sure I’ve not posted this image before – I searched for the camera, film, and the words “pylon” and “power lines” and nothing showed up, so finger’s crossed.

I was going to post another shot from the curly expired Tri-X, but it was another frame with the odd marks and, given the nature of the scene, I couldn’t photoshop them out to my satisfaction so decided against uploading it.

Southerly transmission

Bronica ETRSi, Zenzanon 75mm f/2.8 & Fomapan 100. Ilfotec DD-X 1+4 8 mins @ 20°.

Taken on 27 April 2020

Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Flyover – A lipca Rollop update and first time with Adonal

To the south-east of Sheffield, one of the main routes into and out of the city centre is the A57 road. For a long time, the route took it through a number of suburbs. As car ownership increased, so did conjestion, and eventually the route was altered to create a bypass. As the road gets closer to the edge of the city it needs to cross the Rother Valley. This requires it to span not only the River Rother itself, but also two railway lines and the marshy floodplain itself. To do this a viaduct was constructed.

Bypass viaduct

The viaduct stands around a mile from where I live and the floodplain to the east of the river is accessible to walkers (and also a herd of cows that graze there). Both these shots were taken early one morning as I tested the makeshift repair I’d to the Lipca Rollop II TLR (more about that here and here). Spoiler alert – the repair was a bust and I still ended up with the same light leak on some frames (it’s feintly visible in the middle of the shot above). I’ve now moved the camera on to someone else who may hopefully be able to either repair the problem properly, or just live with the fault – it still makes very nice photographs if you work around the issue.

These photos were made on one of my remaining rolls of bad-batch Fomapan 100. As I was testing the camera I wasn’t too concerened about the spotting issues on the film and there are way too many of them for me to bother to attempt to remove in Lightroom or Photoshop. They’re only apparent when the images are viewed large in any case. I think I’m down to a couple of rolls of this batch of film now, so I’ll likely save them for other camera tests or maybe the Holga – that one will eat up defective film for breakfast! 🙂

This also marked my first foray into a different developer. I’ve used Ilfotec DD-X since I started home-developing B&W film when the Covid-19 lockdown began in the spring. DD-X is very nice (if a little expensive) and I will continue to use it. I dod want a cackup though, so I bought a small 100ml bottle of Adox Adonal (Rodinal in all but name). This roll was my first time using it. I think the results are pretty nice. I think I prefer the DD-X, but the Adonal still looks great, is much cheaper, and will be usefull should I attempt stand developing at some point. It should also last forever without going bad.

Under the flyover

Lipca Rollop II & Fomapan 100. Adox Adonal 1+50 9mins @ 21°.

Taken on 26 September 2020

Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Crash! Bang! Rollop! What a Picture! A review and test of the Lipca Rollop II TLR

Lipca Rollop II
The Lipca Rollop II. Portrait by Nikon F80, Sigma 105mm f/2.8 OS HSM, and Ilford HP5+ (@1600asa).

A year or two back I was given a box of old cameras, four in total. These included a Voigtlander Vito B. a couple of Soviet-era rangefinders, and a Lipca Rollop TLR.

I tested the Vito B with a roll of film not long after receiving it, but not a single shot was even close to being in focus, and I suspect someone had attempted to repair it at some point but then not correctly aligned the zone-focus lens when putting it back together. Both the rangefinders had aperture rings that were locked solid, so I passed those on to people who might hopefully be able to repair them and make use of the cameras.

The Lipca though, while a little dirty, looked ok – the only issue that stood out being some rotted light-seals in the film chamber – so I decided to hold onto it and give it a test. In the end it remained in a drawer for the best part of two years until, a couple of weeks ago, when I finally decided to try it out. But before I go into detail on that, here’s a little pen protrait of the camera…

According to Camera-Wiki.org, the Lipca company (short for Lippische Camerafabrik Richter & Fischer) was formed in Bartrup, West Germany, in 1947. The owners, Fritz and Charlotte Richter, and Karl Fischer had moved some of their equipment and employees from Tharandt, near Dresden, which was in the Soviet zone as they feared the factory would be expropriated. The new company was fully founded the following year.

The company was a small organisation with around 50 employees working in a close-knit family atmosphere. Their peak output was around 1000 cameras per month.

They produced a number of TLR models, starting with the Flexo in 1948. This was to be re-named the Flexora following a trademark dispute with Franke & Heidecke. There were three variants of the Flexora before a new camera, the Rollop, was introduced – this model using an injection molded aluminium body rather than the sheet metal of the earlier cameras. Three versions were produced between 1954 and 1962. The main difference between models was probably the film transport which started as a knob winder on the Rollop I. A crank winder was introduced on the Rollop II, and this crank was upgraded to also cock the shutter on the Rollop Automatic, the final variant. The Rollop Automatic also featured an Enna Lithagon taking lens, replacing the Enna Ennagon on the previous versions.

When the demand for TLR cameras fell into decline in the early 60s, Lipca tried to gain a foothold on the emerging 35mm market by selling re-branded cameras from King, and Franka. Lipca also manufactured other equipment such as binoculars,slide-viewers, and they carried out some production work in conjunction with Plaubel. After a move to a new site in Bad Nauheim in 1961, all camera production ceased in 1962, and the Lipca name was dissolved in 1972.

The model I have is the Rollop II, a twin lens reflex camera with a 75mm f/3.5 Enna Ennagon taking lens (replicated in the viewing lens). Both lenses have a filter thread. Shutter speeds range from 1sec to 1/300sec with a bulb setting for long exposures. Apertures cover f/3.5 through to f/22. Shutter speed is selected by rotating a toothed wheel mounted around the taking lens, aligning the required speed with a red arrow at the 12 o’clock position on the lens barrel. Aperture is chosen with a lever that rotates around the lower right section of the lens barrel, this needs to be pulled out slightly to change the setting as it latches into the teeth on the shutter speed dial. This latching mechanism means the camera has a simple but effective shutter-priority function. For instance, if the shutter speed is set to 1/125sec and the aperture to f/8, then rotating the shutter speed to 1/300sec will simultaneously change the aperture to f/5.6. Changing shutter speed to 1/60sec would change the aperture to f/11 and so on. The aperture can still be manually set if required.

The shutter cocking mechanism is a lever on the upper-right of the lens barrel, and the shutter lever resides on the lower-right. There is a threaded cable release point just above the shutter lever.

Also on the front of the camera is a sync socket. M and X synchronisation settings are available from a small switch on the upper left of the lens barrel.

The film is advanced by a crank mechanism on the right of the camera. This operates in a forward / return action, rather than full rotation. The handle of the crank is hinged and can be latched to prevent accidental advancement of the film.

The camera viewfinder is a standard ground-glass affair, but with a horizontal split-prism in the centre. A magnifying lens hinges out from the front of the viewfinder housing for fine focusing, and the housing also features a sports-finder.

The left side of the camera houses the focus knob with distance scale, the film reel release knobs, and a small screw that holds the film compartment closed. When partially unscrewed, this is pushed in to pop open the back of the camera. There is also a cold-shoe on this side of the camera.

There are a couple of latches for a camera strap on either side of the body, and the base of the camera has a tripod mounting socket and four small metal feet.

The first thing I did with my Rollop II was to give it a clean. The bodywork is in pretty nice condition, the leatherette is all intact and there are no significant marks anywhere, but it was a little scruffy. A soft cloth and some rubbing alcohol removed most of the surface dust and dirt without trouble. I removed the focus screen housing to give it a better clean and to allow the mirror and inside of the viewing lens to be cleaned with a dust blower and (for the lens) some lens cleaner. Both lenses were cleaned on the outside, and I then cleaned the inside of the taking lens while the camera was in bulb mode.

While the light seals looked in a bit of a state, I decided to leave them alone for the time being (they are partially covered by the film tension plate, and I could see no easy way to remove it to allow access) and just see how the camera would fare with a test roll of film – some Fomapan 100.

In operation, the camera was straightforward to use and gave no unexpected surprises. My only issue being that the focus screen didn’t have a lot of contrast and it was quite difficult to see depending on the light. Using the magnifyer helped though. I found the shutter release to be easy to use and think that this lever-type release is perhaps better for keeping the camera steady than the push-button release on something like a Yashica Mat 124.

I went for a walk around a local nature reserve and shot the full roll. I noticed with some surprise that the camera would still fire even after winding on from the twelth frame, so took another shot for good luck, not really expecting anything from it. I would be surprised…

Testing a Lipka Rollop II
Testing a Lipka Rollop II-2
Testing a Lipka Rollop II-5
Testing a Lipka Rollop II-6

I developed the roll of film in my usual Ilfotec DD-X and was pleased to see a negatives appear. One instant plus was that my extra shot had given me a thirteenth frame! It was right at the very end of the roll, and I ended up having to crop it afterwards because of marks caused when drying the film, but still – a bonus! This pleasant surprise was, sadly, marred a little by the unfortunate fact that around half the frames had very noticeable light leaks.

Testing a Lipka Rollop II - 13 shots on a roll!
The lucky 13th shot. I had to crop it a little, and I’m not sure what has caused the circular mark at top-centre but, hey, beggars can’t be choosers!

While some of the light leaks looked normal given the state of the light seals, many of the affected frames had an odd arc of brightness across the centre of the frame, as can be seen in the three photos below.

Testing a Lipka Rollop II - General light leaks
Testing a Lipka Rollop II - Front standard light leak
Testing a Lipka Rollop II - Front standard light leak

Based on these findings I decided to do what I could to replace the seals. With some degree of fiddlyness, I was able to replace the ones the were partially obscured by the film plate, along with the rest of the more accessible foam.

A few days later I took the camera out again, hopeful that my replacement seals would resolve the problems.

This time, when loading the film, instead of winding the crank four times as stated in the manual, I just wound it on three times hoping I would again be able to squeeze an extra frame from the roll.

Testing a Lipca Rollop II
Testing a Lipca Rollop II-2
Testing a Lipca Rollop II-3
Testing a Lipca Rollop II-4

I again shot all (thirteen!) frames on a single outing, albeit the final bonus frame being a shot of a mug on the kitchen counter taken when I got home.

Bonus frame
The second bonus 13th frame. Maybe not the best shot ever, but again – bonus!

This time, most of the frames were free from light leaks – all except one, again showing the odd arc-shaped mark.

There was also one completely blank frame where I think I accidentally wound the film on without firing the shutter!

I decided to look at the camera more closely, and wondered if the light might be coming from the lens, rather than the film compartment. I shone a bright light at the front of the camera and opened the film compartment. This revealed a feint glow coming from the edge of the taking lens. Further investigation also revealed that the front standard had a very small gap when focused closely (so that it was racked out as far as it would go). This explained why the leak only appeared on certain frames – those where the camera was focussed at or closer to infinity where unaffected as the lens standard was racked back to the body of the camera, closing the gap. Only the shots where I had focussed on closer subjects had the problem.

I don’t have the necessary technical ability to repair this properly, at least not without risking more significant problems or breaking it completely and, as the camera was a freebie (and I already have a working TLR in the form of my Yashica Mat 124G) I don’t really want to pay the price of a professional repair. I think I will give it another test though – I have an idea to attach a skirt of black felt around the racking mechanism using some tape which ought to block the light getting in where it’s not wanted. Maybe not elegant, but hopefully it will work. I guess I’ll find out before too long! 🙂

Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Woodland road (and dealing with some spotty Fomapan 100)

A photograph of a woodland road today, taken on one of the rolls of Fomapan 100 that I’ve been having problems with. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts (such as this one) I’ve been having issues with white speckles of debris when using this film. I ruled out my development process and chemicals – both worked fine when developing other film stocks. I also tried omitting a chemical stop-bath, replacing it with water, and also adding a pre-wash of the film before developing. Nothing seemed to work and the speckles still stubbornly appeared when I developed each roll of Fomapan 100.

Then, a month or so back, I came across a post on the Photrio forum which seemed to detail someone having the same problem. It turned out that other people suffering the same difficulties all had film form the same production batch. One person in a linked post had contacted Foma themselves and been advised that the cause was a harder than usual anti-halation layer on that run of film and that a specific development process might help. I tried the process myself, but still ended up with the smae spots on the negatives, albeit possibly slightly less pronounced than before.

I decided to contact Foma myself and they replied with some similar instructions, although this time I noticed an additional stage that involved a wash of the developed film in an ethanol / water mixture before the final wetting agent stage. I’ve not tried this process as yet and, I suspect, probably won’t – mostly because ethanol seems quite hard to come by, at least at a price that isn’t prohibitively high. It would likely be cheaper to buy some fresh, unproblematic film, than attempt the ethanol rinse process.

I’m grateful for Foma’s response though, plus they sent me a few rolls of film as a goodwill gesture – two rolls of Fomapan 400, plus a roll of Retropan 320. I’ve never shot Retropan 320 before, so I’m quite looking forward to giving that one a go.

Should anyone else be suffering a similar issue when developing Fomapan 100, the instructions provided to me by Foma are as follows:

In case of your already exposed & processed negatives we recommend to you the following procedure to remove the residues of remaining anti-halo layer:

1) Prepare working solution in minimum with 40% of ethanol (optimally 70%).
2) Put carefully the films into spiral´s developing tank or a spiral with the film into similar transparent container with enough ethanol solution, with emulsion layer inside of the cylinder tank/container.
3) Keep the negatives in this solution approximately 45 minutes and make moderate movement each 4-5 minutes.
4) Wash sheets of the negatives in running water from tap for 2-3 minutes.
5) Make standard drying including wetting agent (FOTONAL).

If you may decide to use also other films from the same emulsion number, we advise you to follow this procedure of processing:

1) Exposed films put inside of the spiral´s developing tank.
2) Pour distilled water or water without minerals into this developing tank and keep the films in this solution for 20-30 minutes. Occasional inversion is convenient. This solution, ca. 600 ml, is possible to use in maximum for 2 rolls.
3) Immediately after pouring the water out you can fill the tank by developing working solution keeping standard conditions of developing, best using more alkaline developer, e.g. FOMADON R09.
4) After developing we recommend to stop process just by water bath, best running filtered water, in minimum for the time of 30 seconds in water´s temperature 12-18° C. Using acidic stop bath like FOMACITRO and others is not convenient in this case, because there are needed alkaline baths to help with dissolving the hardened anti-halo layer.
5) Standard fixing.
6) Wash the strips of the negatives in running water for 20-30 minutes (according to higher or lower temperature).
7) Use ethanol solution and other steps (1-5) as described in previous paragraph.

Forest road
There’s a set of power-lines tucked away in here if you look for them…

Bronica ETRSi, Zenzanon 75mm f/2.8 & Fomapan 100. Ilfotec DD-X 1+4 8mins @ 20°

Taken on 23 August 2020

Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Horse chestnut tree

Back when I was a boy, horse chestnut trees such as the one pictured here, would have been bracing themselves for the soon-to-arrive annual attack of schoolboys desperate to harvest their fruit of conkers. Here in the UK (and maybe elsewhere, I don’t know), conkers was THE sport of the school playground come autumn-time.

For those unfamiliar with the activity, a conker is a hard, nut-like seed produced by the horse chestnut tree. They fall from the branches around October time. Or, as used to be the case, they would be knocked violently from the branches by thrown sticks and stones or pulled from branches climbed by brave individuals. Each conker would be safely cocooned in a heavy, spiky outer shell that, when ripe, would split to reveal the brown, polished, wood-like ovoid within. If you were lucky you would find a previously undiscovered tree that had dropped it’s fruit on the floor. Such rarity! Such treasures!

The game is played by making a hole through the centre of the conker and threading it with a length of thread – often a shoelace – and securing it at the bottom with a knot. Two opponents would then face off and take in turns to swing their conker with force, bracing the thread tautly across the top of the back of their hand, with the intent of shattering their opponents conker.

Dedicated proponents of the sport would engage a variety of techniques to harden their “team” of conkers to maximum hardness. Baking them in an oven, or pickling them in vinegar were both methods reputed to give a conker a shell that would challenge a diamond on the moh scale. Champion conkers would be given names and attain legendary status in the schoolyard.

These days the horse chestnut is in reprieve, the sport of conkers largely consigned to history by the youngsters of today. Part of this was down to a series of bans issued by schools fearful of children with conker fractured knuckles or missing front teeth, although nowadays it’s probably mostly because of videogames and the internet. Isn’t everything?

Horse chestnut
No longer in high demand

Bronica ETRSi, Zenzanon 75mm f/2.8 & Fomapan 100. Ilfotec DD-X 1+4 8mins @ 20°

Taken on 23 August 2020