Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Expired Film Day 2020 – I won a prize!

Back in mid-March I posted about my entry into this year’s Expired Film Day competition. I’d entered three images shot on a roll of Kodacolor Gold dated 1989. All three photographs had been made during my visit to Magpie Mine.

A couple of days ago I was alerted to the fact that one of my photos had won in one of the categories – the Lab Rat’s Choice award! I’m not sure that I’ll be able to use my prize as it’s a free dev & scan of a roll of film. In itself this is a nice prize, but as Old School Photo Lab (who kindly provided the prize) are based in New Hampshire, USA, and I’m in Yorkshire, UK, the cost of mailing a roll of film for development will likely outweigh the benefit of taking them up on their kind offer.

Whether I manage to claim a prize or not, I’m nevertheless flattered to have had my photo win in one of the categories.

By way of connecting todays photo to the words in the post, here’s a picture taken of the same location, on the same day as my winning entry. This one shot on a different camera and film though.


Yashica Mat 124G & Fomapan 100.

Taken on 16 March 2020

Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Musings on the pandemic and lockdown and celebrating VE day

This week I heard that my aunt’s father died from Covid-19 infection. He was resident in a care home where ten more people including a member of staff have died after contracting the virus. There are apparently over a dozen others in the same facility showing signs of infection. Because of lockdown restrictions, his family were unable to visit other than to look in from a window, and so he had no direct contact with his loved ones when he passed away. The funeral will have restriction on attendance, and there can be no church service. They are obviously heartbroken. What would already have been a very difficult experience is made all the more terrible by the conditions in which it has taken place.

He was a WWII veteran, having fought through Western Europe from D-Day until he was injured by enemy fire in Holland, wherupon he returned home to recover. Now he has died during the current pandemic.

As the lockdown in the UK has been in place for over six weeks, and as the incubation period of the infection is up to fourteen days, this means that he has become infected since the lockdown began. At some point, most likely unknowingly, someone has come into contact with a contaminated surface or an infected person and had brought the virus into the care home where it has spread amongst the residents and staff. This fact illustrates why social distancing and proper hygiene is so important if we are to get the situation under control. The high number of deaths due to Covid-19 in UK care-homes is a tragedy.

Earlier this week, government sources gave hints that there would likely be a lifting of some of the lockdown measures announced this weekend, and some hints were given as to what these might be. The mainstream press had a field day. Headlines were written in a way that all but implied that the lockdown would be coming to an end. This, along with the VE Day holiday seems to have resulted in a considerable number of people suddenly relaxing their commitment to the lockdown rules to hold street parties. While many of these street parties were clearly described as being held in such a way as to maintain social distancing rules, it has become quickly apparent that this fell through in many cases with people mingling together like the virus has gone away. I’ve seen footage online of people having group singalongs and even a whole street of residents performing the conga. While they did appear to be two metres apart, I’m not sure this constitutes a necessary activity, even if it was 75-years since the war ended.

My fear is that we will now see a spike in infections in the coming weeks, just as things were starting to get a little better. I can only hope that more WWII veterans (and indeed anyone else) does not become infected or killed by this virus as a consequence of people’s desire to get out and celebrate. It will be a terribly irony if further survivors of WWII lose their lives as a result of people celebrating the end of it.

I don’t really have a picture to illustrate the words in my post, so here’s another from my pre-pandemic outing to Magpie Mine.

Stay safe everyone.

Track, puddle and mine remains

Yashica Mat 124G & Fomapan 100.

Taken on 16 March 2020

Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Focusing fun

I went for a walk before work again this morning and shot a few more frames with the Bronica.

One of the things I always find a little tricky with medium format cameras is focusing – specifically those with focusing screens as opposed to rangefinders. I find it easy to get the focus looking good on the screen at initial glance, and for medium / long / infinity distances, especially at smaller apertures, that’s usually fine. But when it comes to close subjects, particularly if I’m shooting wide open, then it’s a different matter.

I find that I’m second guessing myself, twisting the focus ring back-and-forth by marginal amounts, never quite sute if a fraction of a degree one way or the other is the setting that will nail perfect focus on my subject. Flicking up the magnifyer, squinting at split prisms and sparkling polygons of ground glass until my eyes ache. I think it stems from a number of images where I was feeling confident of my focusing only to discover later that the negs were soft in the places it mattered.

It’s not too bad with a tripod, where I usually have the gift of time to get things spot on, but on situations like today where I was shooting handheld and at wide apertures, it’s trickier (my fault for loading 100asa film I guess). Even a slight momentary sway of my body is easily enough to spoil a shot.

Will today’s shots suffer from bad focusing? I guess I’ll have to wait until I finish the roll and develop them, but I’m certainly looking forward to the days where I’ll be able to leave the house purely for photography, carry a tripod if required, and not have to bolt the attempt to make photographs onto an exercise outing.

Today’s photographs come from Magpie Mine again. If you’ve followed my blog over the fast few months, you may find the first of the three familiar – some of the compositions are very close to those I shot on the same day with my Zeiss Mess-Ikonta and a roll of 30-year expired Kodacolor Gold.

Two trees a chimney and a gate

History on a hill

Magpie Mine

Yashica Mat 124G & Fomapan 100.

Taken on 16 March 2020

Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Getting it wrong

I got up early this morning for a pre-work walk. The weather has turned nice again, although at the time I went out it was quite chilly and at points on my route there was frost on the ground in shaded areas. I decided to take the Bronica ETRSi with me in case there was something worth photographing as the camera has a part-used roll of Fomapan 100 loaded and I though I might grab a few more frames as I walked.

I took a few shots – one of the local signal box, one of some wildflowers beside a tree, and then some dew-coated cobwebs in the vegetation next to the river. After taking this last shot I checked the frame counter to see how many shots remained and was surprised to see that it still said 5, the same number that had been displayed when I set out on my walk.

Puzzlement, and concern that there was some problem or fault causing this quickly turned to realisation as to the true cause of the issue.

A couple of days ago I’d used the camera to make a still-life of some ornamental fruit that we have in a display bowl in the kitchen. As the light was dim in the kitchen, and as the film is quite slow at 100asa, I’d mounted the camera on a tripod, inserted a shutter-release cable, and then locked up the mirror before taking the shot. Or so I thought. What I’d actually done is switched off the camera’s multiple-exposure protection. The switches for this and mirror lock-up look practically identical and sit next to each other on the side of the camera body, and I’d obviously forgotten which was which.

So, as a result of my mistake, I now have a frame that has (I think) four shots exposed upon it. Maybe it will reveal some sort of wonderful happy accident, but I’m not going to get my hopes up.

After rectifying the situation I managed to grab a couple of extra shots on the remainder of my walk, although I suspect the better ones are on the ruined frame.

Today’s photo is from my trip to Magpie Mine in March. It has little to do with the content of today’s post, but was shot on a roll of the same film.

Near Magpie Mine

Yashica Mat 124G & Fomapan 100.

Taken on 16 March 2020

35mm · Film photography · Photography

The size of a tree

I took these two photographs on my way back to the car after visiting Magpie Mine back in March. The light in the village here was lovely and I finished the roll of Delta 400 that was in my (somewhat tempremental – it sometimes decides that it’s won’t fire, until suddenly springing back into life a few minutes later) Sure Shot Supreme making photographs of some of the scenes.

I didn’t really pay heed at the time, but on seeing the scan of this first image it really brought home to me just how big trees can grow in comparison with their surroundings. This one towers above the house it stands beside and I wonder which of the two came first?

Giving trees a sense of scale

It’s not really a tall tree in the scheme of things either, there are much larger ones to be found – including true titans such as the giant sequoia’s that grow in the western US. I think that this one is a sycamore (judging by the texture of the bark at least), but it’s very possible that I’m wrong. There was a time when I was younger that, in true boy-scout fashion, I could readily identify a whole range of trees from their shapes, leaves, fruit, bark etc., but it’s a skill that has faded over time. I still know the obvious ones – oaks, chestnuts, maples – and I would recognise sycamores from their leaves and seeds – but I’m not sure I’d know an ash from a birch these days without looking it up. I have a book of British flora and fauna, so maybe I’ll see if I can refresh my knowledge.

Scenes that catch your eye

Canon Sure Shot Supreme & Ilford Delta 400.

Taken on 16 March 2020

35mm · Film photography · Photography

Developing, scanning and remembering a trip in the countryside

I’ve remained mostly housebound today, with the exception of a quick trip to the local shops for some food and other essentials – and as my wife was with me, that was in the car rather than walking it there as I usually do these days. I was amused to see that the car parked beside ours had been converted into an “RV”. I’ve seen plenty of vans that have been converted, but this was a family estate car that had a cooker, cupboard and fridge, along with electrical sockets fitted in the rear. It looked like a fairly professional job had been done, but I can only image the amount of back-twisting maneouvering that would be required to carry out tasks in a space maybe three feet wide by three feet high!

I spent the rest of the day doing some other film-related tasks.

Firstly, developing a roll of Delta 400 that I finished shooting about a week ago. The process went smoothly and the negatives look good (although I haven’t scanned them yet). Some of them do look like they have noticeable dust on them though, which hasn’t happened before, so I might have issues when I do get around to scanning them.

I also scanned a roll of Fomapan 100 that I shot during my trip to Magpie Mine a little while before the country entered lockdown. The shots on that roll look quite nice, and I will post some here later in the week. The camera I used for the roll, my Yashica Mat 124G, has developed some haze on the taking lens and is currently away for a service, but the shots on this roll aren’t, for the most part, showing any signs that they’ve been affected.

Today’s photo was taken on the same day as visiting the mine as I walked back to where I’d parked my car.

A place in the country

Canon Sure Shot Supreme & Ilford Delta 400.

Taken on 16 March 2020

Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Expired Film Day 2020 – Magpie Mine

The weekend just gone was Expired Film Day 2020 – actually three days, as shooting was allowed on the 13-15 March – four days for me as I didn’t shoot most of my roll until the 16th, possibly voiding my ability to be nominated for a prize. Oh well, I wasn’t expecting to win, and didn’t take part for that reason anyway. 🙂

I shortlisted three rolls as potential candidates this year:

  • Kodak Ektachrome 100 – expired 2008
  • Kodacolor Gold 200 – expired 1989
  • TriFCA35 – expired 1975

After a bit of research, I decided against using the TriFCA35 – it’s apparently a C22 process film, but it’s likely my local lab would have only processed it as B&W. The feedback by others on the film wasn’t particularly encouraging either, with some saying that, even when fresh, it wasn’t especially great, so I decided to not chance it – as cool as it would be to get images back from a 45 year old roll, I wanted to make sure I did get some images given the limited opportunities I had to take photographs during the timeframe, so decided on the Kodacolor Gold 200 instead.

Given its age, I decided that overexposing the Kodacolor by a stop for each decade of expiry would be a good plan, meaning that I’d be metering for 25asa. Not a problem if I used a tripod and shutter release though.

My original intention was to go out on the 13th and get some shots during a day’s leave I’d taken, but I had an appointment in the morning (when, as you might have guessed, the light was great). By the time I was able to go out, the sky was developing a layer of cloud cover that probably wouldn’t be condusive for good results from expired colour film (or even fresh colour film, for that matter). Nonetheless, I didn’t want to waste the opportunity, so went out anyway, rushing to try and catch the last of the light.

Rushing. That’s rarely a good idea with photography is it? And this case was no exception. I had planned to go to Lady Canning’s Plantation at the edge of the Peak District and take some woodland and rock formation photos but, given the thickening cloud, instead went to Ford, a small hamlet much closer to home. This was a wise decision as, upon setting up for my first shot, I discovered that I’d grabbed the wrong quick-release plate in my haste to leave the house, and the one I had was too big to fit the Arca-Swiss head on the tripod I’d brought. I managed to take a couple of shots anyway, with the too-large plate fitted precariously, but then decided that the day wouldn’t be improved by my camera falling onto the floor, so gave it up and went back home (in a somewhat less than positive mood).

The following day was a pre-planned trip to Wakefield, where I took plenty of photos, but none on the expired film – which would have been far too slow to be of any use in the place I visited. Then Sunday was a washout due to the weather. Monday, despite being outside the stated shooting days for Expired Film Day, was also a day I had taken as leave, and was blessed with good weather to boot, so I (carefully this time!) packed my stuff, and headed out into the Peak District to Magpie Mine. I’ve seen pictures of this location before, but this was my first visit, and it’s a very nice place to visit – especially on a nice day without too many other visitors to get in the way of your photographs.

The location is one of the best surviving examples of a 19th century lead mine in the UK, and features the remains of various chimneys, engine houses, winding gear, and mine shafts (all covered by grilles, so you can’t fall down – although phones, wallets, light meters and the like might be easy prey!). It’s apparently possible to stand on the grille atop the main shaft and see water over 500 feet below (the shaft is flooded a further 150 feet below the surface of the water).

Given the lovely light, there were all manner of compositions to be found and I shot all ten remaining frames on the roll of expired Kodacolor, as well as ten frames of Fomapan 400 that I had in my YashicaMat 124G. I even shot a few frames of 35mm using the Sureshot that Ihad in my coat pocket.

The following images are the ones I’ve chosen to submit to this year’s Expired Film Day, and are, I think, the most pleasing images from the roll – although there were a few close runners up too.

For a thirty-one year expired roll of consumer-grade colour film, I’m pretty happy with the results. There are obvious signs of degradation, and the colours are a bit off-whack, but it’s given me some pleasing images nonetheless I think.

Expired Film Day 2020 #1

Expired Film Day 2020 #2

Expired Film Day 2020 #3

Zeiss Mess-Ikonta 524/16 & Kodacolor Gold 200 (expired in Feb 1989).

Taken on 16 March 2020

Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Cascades at Hell Bank Plantation

One of the ways I like to find potential locations for photography is by browsing Ordnance Survey maps. Usually I look for public footpaths and rights of way and plan a walk in the hope that there might be something interesting to photograph along the route – usually there is. I’ve loved to look at Ordnance Survey maps ever since I first came across them as a child – specifically the 1:25,000 scale Landranger maps. They’re a treasure trove of detail with their beautiful design and iconography, and just skimming across them will turn up evocative little identifiers for things like trig points, towers, tumuli, wells and all manner of other intriguing things. And so it was on this occasion, where my browsing alighted upon the intriguingly named Hell Bank Plantation which also had a little marking stating “Waterfalls“.

So last Saturday, after my walk along the River Derwent at Calver, I decided to head home via a route that would take me to Hell Bank Plantation so I could see what it was like as a location.

After a wrong turn that would have gotten me where I needed to go – if I was on foot(!) – I finally took the right route and managed to get a parking space at the top of the plantation (where a decent number of other vehicles were already parked). The entrance into the plantation was via a stile a few yards from where I’d parked and the trail led down into the pine woodland. After a short distance the main footpath had a fork with the narrower branch heading down towards where I assumed the stream and waterfalls would be.

FILM - Gnarly

The path led me across the stream and then took a left turn so that it descended into the valley with the stream on my left, now at the bottom of a steep-sided gorge. I could see a number of cascades of water down there – nothing spectacular (although I guess it will be much more exciting after some heavy rain) but attractive nontheless. After walking down the valley a couple of hundred yards, it became apparent that there was no easy way to get to the stream from this path down here so I back-tracked. Back near the top I found a place where, with care, I might get down to the water. So, using my tripod as a walking pole, I eased myself down the steep bank to the bottom.

FILM - Hell Bank cascade

Near the bottom was the remains of a stone bridge about ten feet wide, broken in the middle and covered in moss. Thankfully, it also looked like there might be an easier way back up the opposite bank when I finished with my photography. I made my way upstream a little to get in position for some photos – while the stream wasn’t a torrent, there were still some pools that were plenty deep enough to submerge my walking boots fully, so careful progress was required. When I found a good spot I took an incident meter reading and also a couple of spot readings of shadows and highlights to see what they would show (the average wasn’t too far off the incident reading, so I went with that). As I wanted to try and get everything in focus, I metered for f/22 which gave an exposure of around 2 seconds.

FILM - In a narrow gorge

After taking a number of shots I retreated to the broken bridge and, as I’d hoped, was able to climb the eastern bank with relative ease and from there walked back uphill to the car and the journey home.

FILM - Cascade

The processed negatives were a little on the thin side, although not unduly so, and I’ve ended up with contrasty images that I like – at least where the stream and cascades of water are concerned. Some of the other shots (including the bridge) are somewhat busy and I think, if I return to the location, it deserves colour to properly seperate the vegetation, rocks, water and wood textures in the pictures.

There is also another waterfall further down the valley according to Ordnance Survey. 🙂

Bronica ETRSi, Zenzanon 75mm f/2.8 & Kodak Tmax 400.

Taken on 25 January 2020