365 Challenge - the first couple of weeks

Somehow the past two weeks have zoomed by and I appear to be in the thick of my 365 Challenge.

As I said in my last journal entry, my 365 Challenge has two rules: it’s all to be in monochrome and there has to be someone in shot that is important to the composition.

I’ll be honest: I’m finding it a bit trickier than I thought. Some days more than others.
This is for a couple of reasons….

Firstly, my rule of getting someone in shot. That in itself isn’t an issue, but getting someone in there which is important to the composition and isn’t just incidental makes things hard at times. There have been a couple of days when I’ve become very aware of not many people around, although a wander round town at lunchtime always seems to give a couple of photo opportunities. Added to that, weekends have been tricky - working in town means weekdays aren’t such a problem. But there’s less people on the weekends near where I live.

Secondly, sometimes finding the time to get some shots is harder than I thought. I usually shoot quite a lot but some days I don’t get anything. Now I’ve set myself a challenge I have to get something! But I don’t want it to be anything - I want good shots (even though I’m well aware that not every day of the year is going to bring something fantastic). And this past week has been hectic at work so I’ve often not had the time to get out with my camera.

However, I am finding that it is changing my approach to my photography already. I’m finding that I’m shooting with more sense of purpose and also noticing possibilities for a shot more than before. I’ve taken to hanging around in a spot for something to happen to make a shot work (see the puddle shot below) or scouting out a location (the guy on the rooftop - I walked round that building several times for a good angle), as well as my usual opportunistic shots.

The Flickr link to the 365 Challenge is here

These are some faves from the last couple of weeks….

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Kodak Tri-X.... finally braved it!

Kodak Tri-X.
What do we know about it as a film?

Well, it’s been used by some of the most famous photographers to create important, fantastic, iconic images across all genres of photography. If you’ve seen a black and white photo over the past 60 years (or more) that has stopped you in your tracks, chances are it may well have been shot on this film.

It was originally released in 1940 in sheet format, with 35mm and 120 formats being released in 1954. Like other things that have stood the test of time of that era (like a Fender Strat or a Gibson Les Paul), some tweaks have been made since then. But fundamentally it is still the same. They got it pretty much right first time out.

Some of the photographers that have used this film are my benchmarks: Don McCullin, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Pennie Smith, Garry Winogrand, Vivian Maier, Anton Corbijn….. and many more. Apparently Sebastien Salgado wouldn’t even switch to digital until he was 100% sure he could emulate Tri-X.

It’s the kind of black and white photography I love. It’s not overly grainy, but still has a bit of bite and grit to it. It has life to it. But it also has a lot of history to it because of all those fantastic photographers. In the same way as picking up a fantastic guitar has, you know that you can’t hide behind any excuses. There’s no “oh, this film is a bit too grainy/doesn’t expose properly in the midtones/hard to scan” etc etc blah blah blah.

No. This film has been proven to be bloody awesome.
Which is why I think I’ve not tried it until now. I’ve been a bit scared of it.

So, I put a roll of it in my OM10. Rated it at 200, took a deep breath, and went out to play.

I’m not sure if I got my best ever shots whilst trying it out (more down to the usual things - light not being perfect, missing a particular moment etc) but WOAH!!!!!! this film is soooooo good!!!

I’ve said before how I love Ilford Pan 400. And I do. Really, it’s an ace film.
But Tri-X really is on another planet to anything I’ve shot with before.

Once I’d scanned the negs and popped them in Lightroom, it was an absolute breeze working with the shots. So much flexibility in the tones. I could crunch the blacks down but still keep loads of detail if I wanted (look at the blacks below! Yum Yum Yum!!!). There was massive amounts of detail in the highlights I could pull back down. The grain was nice and tight; just enough to give the shots a bit of life without being intrusive.

The missus even stopped what she was doing to say how good the shots looked (this is a rare thing - she likes my photos but rarely stops what she’s doing to actually come and look over my shoulder as I work).

This film just has life to it. It has something which you just cannot put your finger on.
It’s not cheap. So I’m not going to shoot a lot of it. But it’s going to be my go-to film for special stuff. (Honestly. I’m not going to order shedloads. Really!!)

Is picking up a 60s Strat going to turn me into Hendrix on Voodoo Chile?
Is picking up a 50s Les Paul going to help me make the sounds Clapton did with John Mayall?
No. Not a chance.
I’m not expecting this film to give me McCullin’s eye. There’s way more to it than just the film.
But shooting with this is a pretty damn good starting point to getting a gorgeous image.
Seriously hooked on this….

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Zorki 4

As an addition to the Jupiter 8 lens I bought last month, I thought it only right that I also had a nice rangefinder which it would have originally been paired with.

So I got myself a Zorki 4.

The Zorki 4 came out of the Krasnogorsk factory near Moscow and was the first Zorki to be sold in large quantities to the west, which is probably why there are quite a few examples around. And which also keeps the used price low!

Built between 1956 and 1973, my model is from 1960. I could have got one for the same price from '58, but they upgraded them slightly in '60 and added some extra shutter speeds in. The Zorki 4 was basically an update of the Zorki 3, which itself was a copy of the Leica III. And it's a very nice thing. Feels like a decent solid camera to have in your hand.

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I'd not used a rangefinder before. So the focussing took a bit of getting used to. And the photos I got back show that I need more practice! But the shutter is lovely and quiet - I can see why so many street photographers in the past liked these. I've also been a bit wrong footed with the focussing distance of the Jupiter 8. Unlike a lot of modern lenses which allow me to focus up relatively closely, the closest I can get with this is 1m, so I'm having to rethink some shots. Added to which, there is also the parallax of looking through the rangefinder/viewfinder window to what is actually captured on film.

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I loaded the Zorki up with a roll of Foma 200 film as I had a few kicking around. I think as a film it works quite nicely with this vintage of camera and lens. Although not my best shots ever, there's a certain way this camera, lens and film combination is capturing the light which I really like (the shot of the bottles above being a good example... if you'll forgive the slightly dodgy focus!). It reminds me of the look some European cinema was getting in the 1940s/50s; in particular Luchino Visconti. It's grainy with a real nice three dimensional feel to the shadows.

It looks old. it isn't about the precision, but capturing the tonality beautifully.
I've loaded it up with some more Foma 200, so with a bit more practice I'm hoping to start capturing some really nice images with the Zorki.

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It would also have been rude not to have bought yet another of my favourite straps for the Zorki. So I went shopping at www.1901fotografi.co.uk. Check out their straps. They're lovely.

Fomapan 200

Recently I've been playing with some Fomapan 200 film in my OM10. I've previously tried Foma 100 before in 120 format and read some good reports about the 200 speed variety, so thought it might be good to try out as it's a pretty cheap film.

As with pretty much all my photography on film nowadays, I tend to rate the film so I overexpose. Having read that Foma 200 had a couple of stops of latitude, I rated it as 100. And I'm liking what I'm getting (although some reports say rating it at 160 is even better).

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It's got a nice bit of grain to it, which is something I quite like in black and white film. And it has what I'd consider quite an old look; slightly vintage. It doesn't have the precision that some newer films have, it sort of has the feel of street photography or documentary photography from the 1950s/60s, of which I'm a bit of a fan.

Tonally, it was really nice to play with afterwards. I could get some nice deep blacks whilst keeping a nice range of greys up to white to give the kind of contrast I like. I think I'm a bit of a fan of this lovely Czech film!

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