About me – a photo summary
Health problems took me off this blog some time ago and several attempts to start posting again did not last long. The same happened with my non-photo blog – grumpytyke – though I have been more successful though posts have been somewhat sporadic with some long gaps.
A forthcoming trip to Romania, a photographers’ paradise, especially for people or landscape shots, has decided me to try again, keeping a kind of diary on the 47 day trip on grumpytyke and trying to post a few times here using film. At the moment, late June, I’m debating which of my classic cameras to take. I’ll probably be posting a time or two about trying to decide.
Although I favour B&W I’m unlikely to be able to develop ‘conventional’ film until I return to UK so I’ll be trying to take a few rolls of C41 monochrome in one camera, colour in another.
The longer story
I decided to try to get back into film photography a few years ago now but it was only in mid-2012 that I made a concerted effort, about the same time as I began blogging as ‘grumpytyke’, which started as an attempt to get back into writing as a pastime rather than writing for my job. Soon after, I thought it might be an advantage to set up an additional blog just for the interest in classic cameras and film; and ‘grumpytykepix’ was the result.
Photo mementos of Romania: Exa (working – this one is quite rare), Lomo LC-A (!) – each picked up on a market vegetable stall in northern Romania for about £1 each – and the only remains of my Olympus kit used for most of my picture taking there – a battered OM system flash (still works – sort of)
Printing by gaslight
I was first introduced to photography by my grandmother in the mid to late ’40s. I don’t remember taking photographs myself then, nor developing films, but we produced contact prints on ‘gaslight paper’, as the name suggests exposed to the light of a gaslight (that fragile white ‘mantle’), by which her living room was lit. There was no electricity – the radio, which played such a part in developing my love of music, ran from a glass bottle we called an ‘accumulator’ (charged from time to time at a local shop), and a massive battery.
When I was 11 years old I passed the 11+ exam, so opening the way to a ‘grammar school’ (which I subsequently hated and, for the most part, performed and behaved very badly). My reward for passing the exam was a box camera, almost certainly a Kodak. Money was tight so I didn’t shoot many films and sadly few, if any for sure, prints from these endeavours survive. I was hoping to find a shot of me with this camera in my late mother’s effects but no such luck, though some of the pictures I found might well have been taken with it.
Exacta, Nikon, Minox, Olympus
Sometime in the late 1950s I acquired an Exacta from somewhere, and sometime along the way I had a Nikon F, but the camera which really caught my imagination was the Olympus OM1, which I bought in the 1970s – by which time I was a journalist (’62 to ’71 – Nikon?) then in PR (Olympus?), and built up the basis of a system. This remained my photo equipment until the 1990s (at some point I acquired an OM2 and I still have the now very battered Olympus flash) although I did venture into family film-making in a small way and had a Leicina.
In the late 1960s I got a Minox 35EL and, travelling a lot as a journalist at that time – including visiting the Zeiss factories in both East and West Germany, the Minox went everywhere with me. It produced superb pictures, especially colour slides. I still have it though it doesn’t work – hopefully I’ll fix it some day. When I come across it now it reminds me of being on my back at night on pavements (sidewalks) in New York, capturing the jewellery of the myriad glittering ‘skyscraper’ windows.
Normandy, French food and Mahler
I always preferred black and white photography but did shoot a lot of 35mm colour slides and made dual-projector synchronised ‘shows’; I even made one with nine synchronised projectors, for a 30ft wide screen, for a French client sometime in the mid 1970s (I’d migrated to PR from journalism by this time). The thing I remember most about this show was the music I used as backing – Mahler’s 1st Symphony (2nd movement?), which seemed to me to sum up the happy bustle of the river Seine between Le Havre and Rouen, which the show was partially about. I loved the 7 year period I had this client, with frequent jaunts to Rouen (and cafe au lait and brioche for breakfast in the Cafe de Post, trying to read the French newspapers) sometimes flying a party of journalists down the Seine in a light aircraft – and occasional expeditions to Honfleur.
Cooking in the kitchen, dunking in the attic
And the food … , so good, so much! It’s the period in which I became an avid cook (though I had cooked from about 7 years old as a necessity), believing I could produce ‘haute cuisine’ – I think I might have got pretty close then and when I was not brewing up developers in the attic I was at the Aga in the kitchen simmering a giant cauldron of roasted bones to make stock.
At this time I had a pretty well equipped darkroom (for 35mm only) and did a lot of film developing and print making.
At some point I acquired a Mamiya Press with a couple of lenses. There were one or two other cameras, eg Zeiss Nettars and Ikontas, picked up on the way. But these were used relatively little as my darkroom wasn’t equipped for medium format.
I took the OM equipment with me to Romania in 1993 (I think only the OM1) and took my first photograph there on my first day in the country, 8 March 1993 (as a rampant feminist I can’t forget the date, especially as the Romanians really do celebrate it), at a Romanian Ukrainian border post at -22degC. Having been forbidden to take it with a sternly wagged finger (I knew neither Romanian nor Ukrainian then), I was escorted the 7km back to the nearest town, where I was to stay. Don’t get me wrong, the armed escorts were very friendly, but firm. They did not know I had taken the photograph anyway; I still have it but exactly where I do not know; I’ve been looking for it to do a post on ‘forbidden photography’ and when I find it – it may be in Romania – I will do that.
This is Laura, 7 years old when I met her in 1993. I took her paddling in the river Siret – the first time she had been out of her bed. Not abuse – the opposite, but from ignorance. One of the few of my Romanian photos I have access to at the moment. I used another of her in a report I did for a UK newspaper. See the crinkle cut still being used then by the local photo shop in Romania; they only did black and white processing. Could have been taken on the Olympus, Lomo or Exa. Almost certainly Romanian film – Azopan (100ASA). I still have an unopened packet – expired April 1998.
Over the coming years I used the OM to photograph the beautiful Romanian countryside and people, including many, many children, a lot of them the severely disabled ones I worked with as a volunteer. Almost all of these photographs – negatives, prints and some slides – are stored away somewhere with that first one but for the moment I don’t know where. Almost all of my photography before I went to Romania was disposed of by someone else while I was away.
Contax and Zeiss
- Contax AX with some of the lenses. I got this after I began to have difficulty focussing but wanted to continue to use my manual Zeiss lenses; but also for its unique engineering, moving the film plane to provide auto focus with the manual lenses. It’s great. Zeiss lenses on the left, Yashica (the 24mm is, I think better than the Zeiss and the macro is very good and much cheaper than the Zeiss) on the right. I also have some much longer and shorter C/Y fit lenses – Vivitar.
At some point the Olympus OM failed but as a result of some letters to Amateur Photographer about the wonder of Romania as a photographers’ heaven, some kind person sent me a Contax 167MT with a Zeiss lens. This eventually set me on a path of acquiring and using (Japanese) Contax SLR cameras and Zeiss lenses, along with their sister Yashicas. In the meantime I had bought the couple of cameras shown in the first picture on market stalls (among the vegetables!) in Romania.
I’ve bought a few more film cameras since I returned to the UK in 2004, for the most part purely mechanical ones which I prefer, but most of this time I’ve used digital cameras, especially for my work in marketing communications and PR, for which I often acted as an informal photojournalist, especially for newsletters and the like.
Oddly, as I’m someone who studied physics and worked in a research laboratory at the start of the semiconductor age, pioneering digital equipment, then later as a journalist I was a specialist writer on computers, instrumentation and control, digital cameras now bore me. They are convenient and quick, so I use them for work and for things like family gathering snapshots. But slowly and surely they are being replaced by something with film.
What is more, I now have two distinct photographic interests: first is the photography – taking photographs and admiring those from others (for which I’m very grateful to the internet age); second is a fascination with the mechanics and ingenious mechanical solutions in many classic cameras.
Corrupted by digital – for a while
I have been ‘corrupted’ by digital, though fortunately I did always retain the care for each exposure necessary with film so usually would make no more than 20-30 exposures in a session even though I had a multi Gbyte card in the camera. I do, of course, have to digitize my images to post them on my blogs but I’d really prefer to be doing things in a dark room. I’m really trying to create a pre-envisaged image in the camera, so the unpredictable results enthused about by many lomographers doesn’t appeal to me and manipulation and re-creation in Photoshop or the like doesn’t thrill me either, though I use it of course. In landscape and nature photography particularly I try to capture the real colours, so I have always disliked, in general, the over-saturation of Velvia (which has now been carried over into so many digital shots), especially its distortion of the Yorkshire landscape and particularly when that is by renowned celebrity photographers.
It’s much more difficult to return to what was second nature to me over 30 years ago than I thought it would be.
Came across your blog on tha Contax AX- very helpful, thanks. You mention that you can use a short matchstick on an AE lens to emulate an MM. What did you actually do?
I do have a Olympus PEN LITE E-PL3 and I just found in the garbage a YASHICA 230-AF with two lenses Kyocera AF 70-210 mm and AF 35-70 mm Macro.
I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS
There is any adapter or converter in order to use those lenses on my Olympus?
Is possible to re-chip the Kyocera AF 70-210 in order to transfer the images to digital.
Hey Roger! It’s been A YEAR since I received the Fed 3 you sent me!! Once upon a time I tried it but I ruined the film, so the frustration lasted for some time. Now my second film is out and I can’t get what I am doing wrong!
I am about to write a post about this matter, so I will be happy to have your opinion!
p.s. I see you haven’t posted for a while..what’s up?
Hey, where did you disappeared to?
Roger I just received the FED!!! Thank you sooo much, it’s a gorgeous camera! I have been reading all morning about it. I must say it’s quite different from all the cameras I have used so far and I’m thrilled. Thank you once again!I’m taking it for a walk in rainy Vienna but I guess it’ll take some time until I have the photos. Take care, cheers!
Sorry it’s taken me so long to pick up on this. I’m this morning trying to go through the grumpytykepix emails and the reader back to when I last looked in late August. And I’ve got quite a few films to scan (the activity I dislike most) which might make a post or two. Glad you like the Fed 2; I’m sure you’ll have fun with it but I’m sure it’ll take a bit of getting used to. When the winter comes (we’ve had a wonderful summer in the UK so I have been reluctant to do ‘inside’ things) I might give my Fed a bit of a CLA then restrict myself to it to get used to its ‘quirks’ again.
To tell you the truth I love scanning, I love the moment of surprise when you have just seen the preview and then of course the real immages:) I guess it will take me some time until I get the first results of the FED (I’m so curious also because I loeaded it with a home made red scale, which I’m trying for a first time), so till then I’m posting still some summer photos. But I’d love to say once again that Fed 2 is such an elegant camera – I have already shown it to my ex Lomo colleagues and very good friends:))
Anyways, I’m glad you had a nice summer and we’re all looking forward to the autumn and winter photos! Thank you once again! Cheers!
That’s really a strange coincidence Derek – just yesterday I took the Exa out because it had a part-shot unknown film in it from at least two years ago; I didn’t know what it was so guessed 200ASA and hoped for the best. When I opened the camera t was a very old XP2 and most of the shots were rubbish but I might be able to do a post with a couple of them, just to say something about the camera. I like your avatar; snap!
Weirdly I missed this reply! Well I am glad that Exa is alive and well. This time i read the whole story on the computer vs the phone, what a journey! “It’s much more difficult to return to what was second nature to me over 30 years ago than I thought it would be.” I think you’re doing just fine, if it’s so easy why do it? I feel the same as you though, old cameras are wonders, I especially appreciates them since I work on my cameras, most of them need love after so many years. Often I find myself challenged by the “old” technology and takes a while to decode them.
I admire you working on them; I hope to have a go at some of this when I get my little ‘work room’ sorted out. Fortunately, and surprisingly, the Exa works fine. But I have another ‘engineering marvel’ in superb condition except the speeds are a bit slow – the ‘barn door’ Vitessa. I was amazed to see one, same spec as mine, sell on Ebay here in the UK yesterday for £255!
Uh oh, you shoot an Exa too? That’s one of my favorite camera! Cheers.