Poetry in L minor

Photographic poetry by an unknown and not very talented poet.

The Leica-owners lament.

There is no glow
That glows so low
As the spirit of the Leica man

With a Summicron Deluxe
A  wannabe HCB redux
At the cost of fifteen thousand bucks

His idea of bokeh
Looks like tapioka
A photograhic karaoke

The Leica man does not make art
He reads MTF charts
And puts the f in front of the arts

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Bucket, bouquet, bokeh

“Hello, the Bouquet residence, the lady of the house speaking”.

If you want to spend €7500 on a Noctilux 50mm f0.95, well, what can I say?

The dog.

Being a simple man, I like normal lenses. On my old 4×5″ camera I’ve mostly used the 135mm Optar lens that came with the camera, and as far as I can tell, it’s a fine lens. The focal length is perfect for 4×5″. But a while ago, the shutter became unreliable, it tended to remain open when used at speeds slower than 1/100. I took it to the local camera repair guy, but he couldn’t fix the shutter.

I looked to eBay for a replacement, and ended up buying a dirt cheap Nikkor W 135mm in a Copal shutter. Oddly, the modern Nikkor lens cost much less than a fifty year old Optar. Strange indeed, but of course, the internet had an explanation. It turns out this lens is regarded as a dog by people in internet forums. That worried me, because I’m a cat person. And when these guys, guys who knows all there is to know about lenses, have given this lens their thumbs down, it has lost value. This Nikkor lens apparently suffers from poor resolution and sharpness, and everyone in the forum who has ever owned one or have read about someone who owned one in a previous forum post or has read a lens test where this lens failed miserably, were much happier with their Schneider Kreuznachs XXXL’s. I hadn’t received the lens yet, and feared the worst. A dog?! Shit. Dogshit. What was I going to do with this useless turd of a lens?

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This photo was shoot with the lens dog (or is it dog lens?), and then printed on Ilford warmtone paper.

When the lens finally arrived from Japan, I discovered that this lens could only be used for one thing: making photographs. For that it was pretty good. More than good enough for me, anyway, as I don’t scan my negatives and peep at pixels, I print them on photographic paper, and I rarely print on papers larger than 40×50 cm. For this purpose, a 135mm Nikkor W is brilliant. I worry far more about my photographic skills than this lens’s performance.

To sum it up: beware the dog and don’t visit forums where people discuss gear.

Serendipity

Too dark or too flat prints that would usually go straight into the waste basket, can sometimes be resurrected as 2nd pass lith prints. Maybe not as good prints, but sometimes as interesting prints; in other words an other form of rubbish that differs slightly from trash.

Unfortunately, bleaching and redeveloping a print can also bring old sins to the surface. A bad fixer or insufficient washing can leave stains or imperfections that are enhanced by the 2nd pass. But as we all know, sins can be sweet too.

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This was a minute long exposure at night, and the neg was printed on matt Agfa Classic fibrebased paper. It was a rubbish print, too dark and too low in contrast even at grade 5. Bleaching revealed a multitude of spots and streaks that, and redeveloping in lith developer (Moersch Easy Lith, good stuff) turned some of those streaks into black shooting stars. The building was demolished a few days after this photo was made.

New55

The kickstarter rewards has finally arrived. I’ve only shot one box of film yet, and the negatives have turned out alright. The positives aren’t much to celebrate, but I may be doing something wrong when i process the films. The instant prints look a bit like a washed out monochrome watercolor painting.

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New55 positive.

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New55  negative printed on Ilford mg warmtone paper.

The biggest advantage of this film is that it wont add to the pile of undeveloped films that has been sitting in a box in the darkroom for months and sometimes years.

 

The best camera ever

is the one I used to make this picture:

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Puddefjordsbroen in all it’s early morning glory.

I made this picture one early morning on my way to work, and I used a camera that is so small and light that can I always carry it with me, even when riding a bicycle. The photo is not much out of the ordinary, but I enjoy shooting film and printing in the darkroom, and this camera lets me make some decent negatives. It’s a 1970’s rangefinder with a normal lens. I’m not afraid to leave this camera in my car because it’s inexpensive, and it even works perfectly even though nearly 40 years old. If the negs are rubbish it’s my own fault, not the cameras. It’s a camera that I can always have with me, it doesn’t spend most of it’s time being CLA’d like the very expensive modern high end rangefinders do. It’s brilliant. What camera is it? That doesn’t really matter, as almost any camera made the last 50 years with a 35/45/50mm lens fits this description and will deliver stunning negatives.

This is shot on old Kodak Highspeed Infrared film and lith printed on Foma Nature paper using Moersch Easy Lith.

 

The best camera ever

is the one you use to make photographs. It’s a rather obvious thing to say, but having suffered from G.A.S. (and recovered) I know it’s not really that obvious. The internet forums and blogs has made G.A.S. an world wide infectious disease that has spread  like a zombie plague. Now legions of zombie gear heads chase “better” cameras and lenses instead of concentrating on making better photographs. But strangely enough, it looks like the female half of the population is largely immune to the virus. G.A.S. is a male thing. Of course, my favourite photographers are female. They are Sally Mann and Sarah Moon, by the way.

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Self portrait as a zombie killer. 8×10″ ambrotype.

I’ll definitely side with the women against the zombie gear heads. Whether they aim their Canons with bazooka lenses at me from 300 meters away, or sneak up on me armed with stealthy Leica Ms with the red dots taped over and try to shoot me in a sidewalk cafe, I’ll be ready. I’ll be the last man standing, aiming carefully before I squeeze of each shoot. Yippikayee.

Polaroid 55 organ transplant

A year ago purchased a box of the legendary Polaroid type 55 postive/negative film from a dealer on eBay. I had seen photos made with this film, and ever since I bought a Graflex 4×5 some years ago I’ve wanted to try this mythical and near-extinct film. I use 665 film whenever I can get my hands on it, but sometimes bigger is better. But bigger is also pricier. I’ve searched eBay occasionally to see if there was a pack of T-55 that was reasonably priced, and in the end I bought a pack from a guy in Rome.

My dad posed for the first shot, and it came out okay. The chemicals didn’t quite cover the entire film area, and it was underexposed (I forgot to compensate for the bellows extension factor and my meter was set to 100 asa), but there was an image there.

The next four or five shots didn’t work at all. Either the chemical pods didn’t burst because they were completely dried out, or they burst but what little chemicals were left didn’t develop the film at all. So I threw the rest of the P55 sheets into a box in my cellar thinking that I could at least use the negative material and develop the film like a regular sheet of film. That works fine, but without the instant gratification the thrill is gone. Cue BB King.

A while back one of my last precious packs of Polaroid 665 got jammed in the camera. Two sheet of film and receiver sheet came out at once, chemicals spread all over the camera back, it was a mess. I removed the film in the darkroom and trid to sort out the film pack before inserting it into the camera again, but the same thing kept happening. And the same happened with the next pack of 665, and incidentally, both filmpacks were from the same batch and had identical expiration dates. But since there was no hope of rescuing this pack of T-665, I thought: what if I can transplant these functioning chemical pods into the T-55’s?

Removing the chemical pods is easy; they peel of quite easily. I then marked the pods so that I could place them in the same direction on the T-55 films, I don’t know if they’ll burst regardsless of which side is hit by the rollers first, but better safe than sorry. I put double side tape on the pods, and put out the lights in the darkroom. The T-55 negative is quite a tight fit in the envelope with the receiver sheet, and after fumbling aroud in the darkness for a while, I gave up trying to remove the old pod and keep track of it’s placement, and just placed the transplant pods on top of the old one. Time to test the films.DSCF4398

Well, it worked, sort of. The chemical spread isn’t perfect but good enough, considering that the 665’s are smaller than the 55’s pods. But the negative prints nicely, while the positive is over-exposed. That’s normal. I made two exposures during the weekend and printed them on Ilford fibrebased warmtone paper.

Polaroid 55 negative developed with transplanted pod from 665. Shot with Graflex Super Graphic and swung Ektar 203mm lens, printed on Ilford fibrebased warmtone paper.

Another Polaroid 55 negative developed with transplanted pod from 665. Shot with Graflex Super Graphic and Nikkor 135mm lens, printed on Ilford fibrebased warmtone paper. The tree was turned into art by Stuart Frost.

So now that I know that the transplant works, I have five more sheets of 55-film to shot before i run out of 665 donor pods. By then, hopefully New55 will have shipped their new pos/neg films to their kickstarter supporters.

Leica M-A with one roll of Tri-x, or Olympus 35RC with 1200 roll of HP5?

Just recently, as I was looking at a camera dealers website, I noticed Leica latest film camera, the M-A. It could be mine for 4.170 euros. Included in the box is also one box of Kodak Tri-X black and white film. I have never owned a Leica, and I probably never will, but seeing a camera with a price tag like this makes me wonder what difference using a Leica M-A would make for me and the photos I make. I also wondered why on earth Leica includes one roll of Tri-X when you buy the camera. Why not throw in a brick of ten rolls?

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The Olympus 35RC, a sexy little thing.

I already have a rangefinder camera which for most practical purposes is similar to the M-A., It’s the Olympus 35RC, a rangefinder camera made in Japan in the seventies. The Leica M-A and Olympus 35RC have more or less the same features; rangefinder focusing and all manual operation. Both cameras are built from metal, not plastic, and they’re both pretty small. I have only seen pictures of Leicas, but given the price tag I assume the Leica is much better built than the Olympus, which is also a well built camera. The Olympus still works fine even after forty years of use, however it would benefit from a cleaning; the camera is dirty and rangefinder patch is a bit dim. Other than that, it’s like new. To be fair, there are other dfferences between the cameras. The Olympus has a built-in light meter and automatic shutter priority exposure, but it also has a full manual override, which is what I normally use. The Leica has no built in meter, so one has to carry a hand held meter, or guess at the exposure, which works fine under normal conditions. But I wouldn’t say the Olympus out-specs the Leica, because the Leica has interchangeable lenses, while the Olympus has a fixed 42mm f2.8 Zuiko. But for me, one normal lens is all I need and want, so for the Leica M-A I’d add the Summarit 50mm f2,5, which is roughly the equivalent to the Olympus’ Zuiko 42mm f2.8. The Summarit is one of Leica cheapest lenses and cost only 1.440 euros. Add that to the 4.170 euros that the M-A body (including one roll of film) costs, and you’ll be ready to shot for only 5.610 euros. On the other hand, the same amount of euros will buy you a mint Olympus 35RC and 1200 rolls of Ilford HP5 black and white film.

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Waiting for the ferry. Olympus 35RC, Ilford HP5 film stand developed in Caffenol L-C, printed on Ilford fibrebased warmtone paper.

Why is the Leica so expensive, and the Olympus so cheap? Well, according to the Leica website, the Leica M-A is “pure mechanical excellence” so “dramatically reduced to the essentials that it opens up entirely new creative horizons for photographers”. I don’t mean to be overly critical, but the Olympus 35RC is also an example of mechanical excellence (after forty years it is still working fine), but apparently Olympus’ engieneers weren’t able to reduce the camera completely to it’s bare essentials, something the built-in light meter is a testimony to. I guess building a camera without a light meter would add around 5000 euros to the price of the Olympus 35RC. And quite wisely, Olympus must have realized that no-one would would pay 5000 euros for a simple japanese-made Olympus camera unless Olympus spent millons of euro on branding first. But still, for the all the Olympus’ gadgets, I don’t find that there is anything about this camera that comes in the way of my creativity or pleasure in making photos. Even so, I’m really curious about what would happen if I sold all my other photographic gear, my guitars and amplifiers and my car and used the money to buy a Leica M-A. Perhaps I’d become a real photographer? Or just an amateur photographer with a very expensive camera?

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Straight into the sun. Shot with the Olympus 35RC early in the morning on my way to work. Film was Ilford HP5 developed in Caffenol L-C, printed on Ilford fibrebased warmtone paper.

A film camera is basically just a light tight box that holds the film and the lens. In theory it should leave it up to the photographer to make good or bad photos. The camera doesn’t really matter. So why on earth do anyone buy a camera that costs 5.610 euros and that doesn’t do anything that almost any other camera will do just as good? They’re not only buying the camera, they’re buying into a brand. In this case, two brands at once since you get a roll of the legendary film Kodak Tri-x included when you buy the camera. Amateur photographers are crazy about equipment and the glamour of expensive brands. In this age of extreme materialism it simply isn’t enough to have a great camera that makes great pictures (after all, all cameras and lenses do that, if the photographer knows what he’s doing), the camera must have something else, an aura, something intangible connected to it, something that adds emotional value beyond the cameras functional value. That’s the brand, and it’s mainly bullshit.

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The 35RC in the cold. Ilford FP4 film developed in Caffenol L-C, printed on Ilford fibrebased warmtone paper.

As camera makers, Leica has a long and glorious history, and many of the worlds most famous photographs have been shot with a Leica. Many famous documentary photographers used a Leica and Tri-X film, and Leica now seeks to capitalize on that heritage by including one roll of Tri-X with the Leica M-A.  But Kodak went bankrupt a few years ago, and the film making division was sold to a pension fund. Since then films like Plus-X have been discontinued and the price of the few available sizes of sheet film have risen sharply. The pension funds business policy is all about getting the largest return on it’s invested money, they’re not interested in film photography in itself. Therefore I buy Ilford film on principle because it seems to me that Ilford, or Harman Technology, is firmly devoted to it’s customers. Ilford hasn’t discontinued any film or photographic papers, and is now owned by it’s managers. Actually, new types of papers have been added and every june Ilford takes orders for sheet film in unusual or ultra large sizes with no minimum order.

So for me the choice between a Leica M-A with one roll of Kodak Tri-x and an Olympus 35RC with 1200 rolls of HP5 is simple.