Sunday, 6 November 2011


Photography, as we all know has gone digital – and for its utter convenience it’s difficult to  see a reason to go back to the good old days of film.
Except I’ve never been totally happy with black and white photography on digital, I’ve never quite found a technique to get the depth of contrast one sees in 1930’s photographs with their high silver prints. For example, this UK National Portrait Gallery picture from the 1930's of Jasmine Bligh, one of the first BBC television announcers.

So I’m starting a little experiment to see if you can get some thing similar by choosing your source media carefully – amazingly, you can still get a range of black and white films of various characteristics from a range of online retailers, and ebay is your friend here for sourcing them.
There are also still people who develop films, admittedly for around $25 a time –. not cheap, but I’ve thought up a little project that should make the whole exercise fun and cost effective.
I have a digital negative scanner. I also once, admittedly nearly forty years ago, was an enthusiastic amateur photographer, taking my own pictures and developing my own films. While I still have my own enlarger, I no longer have a developer tank, change bags, film loaders etc I could process my own. So if I could source the things required, for example a film developing tank, a change bag in lieu of a darkroom, the chemicals, and so on for less than $200 I'd still be ahead. And I do still have my film cameras.
So my project is this – source a tank and a change bag from ebay, and I should be right  to process my own films. The chemicals might be a bit of a problem in Canberra, but there are still shops that sell them in Sydney and Melbourne, meaning I could if necessary take the train to Sydney to pick some up – carrying a range of strange chemically smelling  liquids and powders through security at an airport is probably not really going to be feasible.
Then once in business work my way through a range of films to find one that gives me effects I’m after.
First thing was to check my film cameras. One of the first problems was that my Vivitar SLR had died – probably only a battery, but the TTL meter was never totally reliable when I used it, and while I still have an Olympus Trip in working order, it’s not the best for composing shots. Probably meant that a new camera was required for the project – but of course no one makes film cameras any more …
However, if you look on ebay for old film cameras it’s clear that there’s a trade in old hi-end camera bodies and lenses among afficinados but that wasn’t what I looking for – I need something good but basic.
Well, I was outbid on an old Pracktica, but I managed to snag a Seagull ( a Chinese clone of an old Minolta model) for around $30 including shipping – and assuming that it’s OK I should be in business.

So in anticipation I've ordered my first batch of film - Lucky SHD ASA 100 from China - popular with the lomography crowd ...

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