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Getting it out there #2

I’ve noticed recently that Instagram is becoming more commonly referred to as a standard of social media (rather than just Facebook and Twitter). I’ve had an account for a couple years but rarely ever posted to it, or even looked around at what’s out there. I’d had a similar attitude to Pinterest (and I’m still not convinced I understand how you’re supposed to use it) but with this apparent growth in the public (well ok, my) visibility I’ve started to spend a bit of time engaging with Instagram.

One thing  I noticed with Flickr is that I have zero followers and I don’t follow anyone – unless you’re  a really big-wig I wonder if it’s possible to get noticed on Flickr – not that I’ve tried very hard. Nonetheless, going to twitter recently hasn’t raised my profile since initiating that but just 3 posts into Instagram (and some appropriate hash tags) and already I have 20-odd likes and a couple of new followers. Not exactly viral but a damn good start I’d say.


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How they compare

So why bother film? If you compare digital and 35mm of the same subject the most obvious thing to note is that the digital image: it is sharper, the colours are truer, it took less time to compose and take (as I took perhaps 5 or 6 shots to get it right), it was cheaper (i.e. free), and took far less time to process and tidy up in Photoshop.

Both images below were taken from the roof of the MNAC Museum in Barcelona.

Minolta 35mm


Sony SLT

A part from the difference in focal length (50mm top, 28mm below) there’s not much to call it, and on that basis you have to give the award to digital.

So again, why bother? Well I think it’s the surprises you get from the film shots that didn’t come out as you expected. Here are a couple of more extreme examples of celluloid oddities that you would ignore as failures on the preview window (though you’d never of pressed the shutter in the first place you saw that down the view finder):

Dark Tay


Leith Dock

To be fair, the latter was more to do with very battered, 30-year-old negatives but not something you’d try to fake in Photoshop.

As mentioned in a previous post, it’s the process that’s fun, and the final output just feels more crafted and hand done, more honest, even. I’m still trying to work it out really, but the point of all of this is just to have fun, and learn something along the way. To this final point I do wonder if my last outing with a camera (to Loch Ardinning) saw me using the digital a little more thoughtfully than normal. Maybe.

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For Comparison

So here are DSLR (actually SLT but let’s just stick with what we understand) versus 35mm (both via Photoshop):




It should be noted that the Minolta was on a tripod, the Sony hand held , a few inches above this. The Sony is focused on the leaves rather than the pineapple surface – not sure why I did that and regret it now. Also not the had a 24-200 zoom lens, set to 42mm f/5.6, the Minolta with a 50mm prime at f/1.7

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The results are in – Minolta’s mono developed

Excited today – I finished my first roll of black and white film from the Minolta (about 3 months to get through it all) – developed at Jessops – and came straight home and scanned all 36. 

So there were images, and most of them were in focus, had a reasonable looking exposure and some were even quite good (or rather, not bad). However there was an issue with the scanner in so far as it needs to be dusted ever few images or so (I’d just run the entire roll, uncut, through the machine). I also need to be more careful with the settings to get the levels right when scanning. So no harm done, I just need to re-scan the better shots. 

Pineapple and dust

As can be seen, perfectly good image but needs re-scanning after a bit of a clean up. Note that the above hasn’t been touched by Photoshop or anything else, so pretty happy to get this one straight out of the camera. (I have a similar shot I did with the DSLR at the same time, so will compare in a later post). 

Overall then, not unhappy at all, I just need to get used to working with different, new equipment. 

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Stepping backwards – one step at a time

My very first camera was given to me when I was about 6 years old, part of a collection of items that came in a box and called an Adventure Kit: it contained a pen knife (that was ok back then), a water bottle, compass, torch, whistle, bag worn round the waist, but most importantly, a real camera. My dad gave me a roll of black and white film to go with it and I still have the photos of some steam trains at some event somewhere . 

Fast forward to when I was 13 and I found my dad’s Praktica, put in some black and white film and went off try to try get arty. Two years later (not sure what happened to the East German SLR) I got my very own SLR, the finest the USSR (Google it young people) could produce from surplus brass tank parts, a Zenith EM

And so film continued, through the 1990s with various instantamatics until finally digital arrived. I’d spent so long during this time taking snaps and filming video (especially once the kids arrived) I’d forgotten that I used to take arty shots. The cost of film was always a limiting factor and took a while before it finally dawned on me in 2004 that the photos I took with my beloved Nikon Coolpix (a tale for different post) didn’t just have to be snaps. Keep in mind that the memory card didn’t hold that many pictures so I was still a bit cautious with the shutter.

Forward again to 2016, happily snapping away with my Sony a57, as arty as I like and beginning to become interested in black white images – the blinding flash moment (well nearly) – hey, I wonder if I could take photos on film and set up my own dark room in the shed? 

Some internet research later and the complexity and cost of printing photos was pushed back to a later date, if I’m still keen. Some more research later and developing quite doable, just a dark cupboard would suffice, but again, not quite yet. 

So bring out the Zenith? Well no. First of all, the lenses I have aren’t good, the camera itself is big and heavy, leaks light occasionally, hard to focus, exposure counter not working, and so on. However, I have Minolta fit lenses right on my Sony? So why not buy a Minolta SLR – eBay… £12 + pp (body only) and arrives a rather nice Minolta X-300

Great. Oh, but the Sony fit lenses don’t er.. fit. You see the SLR has C-fit, not E-fit…doh. eBay..£15… 50mm Minolta lens. Now we’re rolling!

A trip to Barcelona with some old, out of date Kodacolor Gold to try things out. This is where things became interesting because of the way I take digital images is quite different to film. Carrying both around I came to a spot where I wanted to take some shots. Sony out and click click click zoom click fiddle-with-settings click click click. Now, Minolta out… mmmm …mmm check aperture… mmm… line up…mmm not here, move closer… mmm adjust shutter speed…mmm… mmmmmm…. err…er… ah… no… mmm…. adjust aperture….errr……ok. Click? damn, need to wind film on first… mmm ….er ….mmm. ok. Click. And that’s it. Dunno if it worked. So the approach is quite different. On that trip I too about 750 digital images. I took 36 film images. Hit rate about the same (see Barcelona 2016 in Film gallery). [not really – Ed]

Getting home I got the film developed (£3 in Asda including contacts onto a CD) and tried to scan them using a rather old Epson scanner. Gives a nice scratched, old effect but Santa is bringing me a better scanner (Jumbl 22Mb) for Christmas. I have a £10 roll of black and white Ilford film getting used up just now (so even more picky about clicky) which I will finish this week, and then to Jessops to get developed (I don’t trust Asda to have clean developer and fix solutions in their machines). More costly however. 

So right now I’m at first base: take images and have professionals development the film. I’ll scan and photoshop the negatives, and then, one day perhaps I’ll print too. And that’s the journey. The question not yet answered is will I get anything from this film-based activity? Can I get images that will be any better than from digital, or at least different in a way that would be difficult (or phoney-looking) to reproduce in Photoshop? So far all I can say is that it’s been very interesting having to completely change my approach to how I take a photo. And that in itself may positively impact my digital images as I’ll spend just a little more time looking and thinking rather than just clicking in pursuit of the percentage shot.


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Evening indoors

It happens when at 11 at night you suddenly want to start taking photos. I can’t be bothered getting the tripod out so what do I do that’s not going to have camera shake, even with all the lights on. Aha! Photograph the lights. In black and white so I don’t have to worry about white balance (or do I? Mmmmm). The fruits of my labour in Monochrome II, but here’s an example: 


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