First hurdle to medium format photography overcome – just!

Getting there at last, perhaps. I’ve just developed my second film (a 120 Ilford HP5 Plus) for at least two decades and, though far from good, it does have some useable pictures. It’s drying as I write this and I hope to be able to scan and use something here this evening.

Now, I am serious about going back to analogue. My Canon 5D is on Ebay this week, and so is its 28-135mm IS zoom. I’ve put the Contax/Yashica to EOS adapters on the bay too, so there’ll be no going back. What is more, I decided to make a serious start by going for the least ‘helpful’ camera in my collection, the Mamiya Press Super 23, with the K-type film back producing 6 x 9 negs (it will also produce 6×6 and 6×4.5).

I did put a film through last week and apart from showing how much I had forgotten I discovered that the light seals in the Mamiya film backs were as leaky as a rusty bucket, if you’ll pardon the clumsy simile. No surprise really: they have not been used since before I left for Romania in 1993. So I spent an evening renewing them in four backs. I’d have preferred to have used cotton yarn but I couldn’t find any suitable so I’ve done it with the more conventional foam; I think they will last longer than I do nevertheless.

I never got around to making a more interesting avatar for this blog so thought that would be a good start, a Mamiya ‘self-portrait’, showing off with its gigantic 250mm, Ā f/5 Sekor. Believe you me, I won’t be doing any long treks with this monster, but the weather is really lousy so confining myself to the house was OK.

While I was at it I thought I’d make sure one of the Super 23’s special features, the extending bellows back, was OK, so I swapped the 250mm for the basic collapsible 100mm and used the full back extension to make a closeup of some pebbles and shells collected in Cornwall in August; then I closed up the back, mounted the 100mm on the full set of extension tubes to make a macro (about 1:1) of a sea-shell. I didn’t get the exposure compensation for the extensions quite right from what I see on the wet negs.

To use up the final frame I mounted a 65mm and made a shot out of the window, despite the lack of any interesting light, just very dull, flat grey. I needn’t have bothered, for some reason the film back decided to advance far more than a single 9×6 frame so much of the final frame was lost.

I’ve a long way to go but it’s a big hurdle overcome. Following some other photography blogs is inspiring and, for the type of pictures I hope to make with the Mamiya, two Scandinavian ladies set a high bar to aim for. Can you guess who they are?

If there’s not a disaster when I go now to cut and scan the film, there’ll be a picture among the text I’ve just written. Here’s hoping.

I can see I didn’t get the focus spot on; I did have a problem seeing the screen. I’ll have to find my loupe – I have one somewhere, but where …

That’s it for today. It’s getting late and it’s work tomorrow – a 6.30am start. So maybe I clipped the hurdle a bit, but just about over!

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