In my last article Dear Reader, I promised you some colour photography and in this article, you’re going to get it. The sun was still warming my back and it felt good to be alive again! I talked about missing out on the Jaune in the Grue Jaune, but not this time. Shorter article maybe but some great colour for you. When I bought the Fujifilm X100f one of the things that had was the Classic Chrome film simulation, which was supposed to emulate Kodachrome which of course died in 2009 and can no longer be processed. The X100f of course has other film simulations, which you can look up on the web, but that Classic Chrome look just got me. A slightly more subdued colour range with a certain warmness and something that you just can’t quite put your finger on, which reminded you of an age gone by in photography.
I mean the whole camera seems to have a certain vintage vibe to it despite all the technology hidden away inside. The little knobs and buttons everywhere just remind you of a film camera. How was I supposed to resist? As you can see in various articles and various photo galleries, I didn’t resist and I’m still OK with that! I even went on to acquire an XT2 with interchangeable lenses, which offer me more variety in the kinds of shots I can take, as well as keeping the same feel to my shots.
Everyone says to shoot in RAW. I can hear them even now saying, “Shoot in RAW you fool!” Well I do, but I also shoot jpegs to have those images already colour edited to fit that Chrome feeling. It’s consistent and I still have my RAW files to fall back on if needed. The Fuji Jpegs are amazing and it helps me to cut down on the amount of editing that I have to do. I’m basically lazy, so if I can avoid doing something and yet get a perfectly satisfactory result, then I’m going with the path of least resistance.
On this outing, I was using the 18mm (24mm equivalent) lens with the XT2. Again, I’ve talked before how I decided to go wider instead of longer, and if any of you are laughing at this point, get your minds out of the gutter! I’m talking photography!!
So without much further ado, let me present you with some colour photography taken on the XT2 in Nantes.
February, on the other hand, sees days getting longer and slightly brighter, but with January’s rain still lingering like a hard to treat MST that you just can’t get rid of. But the sun is starting to make an effort and poke its head through the clouds. Sometimes it even manages it! You can see daffodils growing and want to flower. The hedgerows are green, but only with evergreen plants. The blossoms have yet to come but won’t be long. First is the blackthorn, which ironically has white blossom. Nature seems to get its backside in gear during March. But even now we have milder weather…
The French government, in its infinite wisdom, with only the very slightest whiff of irony, has decreed that from the 2nd of February, face coverings no longer need to be worn outside. The French government, again, in its infinite wisdom, with only the very slightest whiff of irony, has also decreed that from the 16th of February we can stand at the bar to get drunk and no longer have to sit. We can also go to nightclubs. Although not my scene at all, I could go if I so wished. COVID isn’t over but it would appear that party time is starting once again. A little later than in number 10, but starting anyway. That there is an election in May and the fact that the governing party doesn’t want to look like party poopers has nothing to do with it. Boris didn’t let it impede his partying. Boris is also a self-righteous buffoon. Don’t be like Boris. I remember when Boris used to be a rather rotund Russian chap, fond of promoting vodka and heart surgery… Those days are long gone… But he certainly seems to have had more fun than Vladimir, which is not surprising when you’re not at all planning on invading Ukraine like you did in 2014… Keeping the peace? More like taking the peace!!
But let’s get back to France, Nantes, and photography, or rather me I, France, Nantes, and photography. Since the beginning of the year, we have been granted our Friday afternoons off by the company I work for. This allows me time to get off my rather large backside and go out and take some photographs. Sometimes, I have my daughter with me, and sometimes I’m just on my own. Like that, she doesn’t eat my cake! SO, I walk around in the sunshine and feel alive again. Don’t be jealous, this last week has been very rainy and depressing, but it should be fine tomorrow and next week looks OK.
I usually hang out in the centre of town but for the last couple of weekends, where it has been sunny, I walked along the river Loire in the infamous Hangar à Bananes which is lovely during the day, but not so much at 2am when the bars throw people out. I’m not saying that it’s a magnet for crime, but I would say that during the day and early evening, it’s lovely! Take from that what you will. Far be it from me to infer insecurity where the city council says there isn’t any and we’ll fight it with culture. You can lead a horse to culture, but you can’t make it drink unless it’s an Irish horse, which would make things easier. And you don’t have to get a seat for your horse now. It can drink at the bar without being judged. Wonderful isn’t it!
Right. Time for the photo bit of the article. You’ve been very patient and now you will be rewarded! The photos are a mixture of the two weekends, and a mixture of colour and black and white photography. It would be a shame to miss out on seeing the Jaune in the Grue Jaune. And although you can get some beautiful images in the rain and even difficult light, it is so much more agreeable to not have to deal with it! The photos are taken on the Fuji X100f with its 35mm equivalent F2.0 lens, and the Fuji XT2 with its 16mm F2.8 lens. I’ll let you have a look at the photos now. Thanks for reading this far! I’ll leave the colour photos for another post. Let’s not get mixed up now… won’t be long. I’ll soon get it sorted.
Good afternoon Dear Reader. All is quiet on the Western Front, basically I’ve turned down Alexa’s volume from 5 to 3. My boss said the radio was little loud sometimes. I told him that it was because of my partial deafness. He then said something that I could quite catch; I didn’t have my glasses on.
Yesterday I celebrated my 50th birthday, and therefore, am no longer an old young person, but rather a young old person. To be perfectly honest with you, and why the heck not be honest with you, I didn’t even think I would get this far. It has been referred to as one of those milestone birthdays. Like 18, 21, 25, 30, and 40. But this one really feels advanced.
Let me just check. Weight around the mid section. Check. Deafness? Check. Glasses? Check. Hair? What hair is left is now grey. Beard, check. One of my redeeming features. Knees? Arthritis in the right one. Dog? Molly is fabulous. Slippers? Not really, I traded a pair of security boots for my son’s bright yellow Crocs. Really comfy. Children? Check, one adult officially, might be leaving home soon, and one 12 year old daughter going on 30! Becoming a snappy dresser with a little more elegance than before because I want to dress for myself, my wife, and don’t really care about what anybody else thinks. Get those yellow Crocs!! Maybe I’m finally an adult and have actually got the hang of all this adulting? Are there any more squares on the 50 year old bingo that I might have left out?
I check things that move out of my body from the front or the back. That started happening late in my forties so I don’t know if it’s I’m the right decade. Looking to see if I’m properly hydrated by the colour of my pee. Feeling very out of sorts if I haven’t pooped by 7am. Drinking a litre of water before I leave for work. I have a smart watch, which tells me how I sleep and how far I have walked every day. It also gives me my pulse and stress levels.
Doctors. Doctors seem to have become so much younger nowadays. My old GP retired a couple of years ago, and the replacements aren’t even thirty and it’s like going to see somebody who’s just out of school and not older than my son. At work I have noticed normal people leaving to go into retirement, and I have become one of the less young members of staff. Youngsters come and join the team, and I don’t even know their names.
I’m trying to think of the 50 year old stereotypes, and I can’t think of any. No longer young, but definitely not old yet. Professionally “they” seem to say well you’re not going any further. If you leave now, it’ll be hard to find work elsewhere as you are considered “passed it” whatever “it” may be. Do I just have wait here and wait for retirement? Will I be able to retire? Politics and all that… I really have no idea and it’s slightly frightening.
When you’re 20 you’re young and have energy to move mountains. It is the pssage from childhood into the real adult world and can be a rude awakening. I just moved to France. Asking for trouble I suppose. By the time I was 30, I had one child and by the time I was 40 I had my second child. I was starting to get the hang of this parenting business. During my forties I went through quite a lot of depression and wondering where the hell my life was going and probably was a little too self-centered and I would like to work on that during this next decade of my life. Maybe my fifties are there to prepare me to be a grandparent.
As this new part of my life begins, I will keep you up to date regularly and you my even get some photographs from tie to time. Until then, I’ll just have to look forward to getting home and having a nice cup of tea and a couple of biscuits…
Street portraits. He was smoking a huge cigar that I wanted to capture but the photo didn’t please as much as this one. I liked the lights from the barbershop behind him. Just pressed the shutter and it seems to have turned out ok.
This is what WordPress calls a story, and it seems to be like posting on Instagram, but not posting on Instagram. Do you think, Dear Reader, that it is worth doing in here from time to time. Something like photo of the week? It certainly seems easier to this than write a 1500 or 2000 word article. Maybe just now and again eh….
Back in 2009 I had a camera that died on me. It might only be a camera to you but to me it was everything. It was my first camera. I was heartbroken. To those of you mocking me, just think back to your first car and to your first accident in that car. Alright, you may not be shedding a tear you unemotive bastard, but you might just have the smallest of inklings about my loss. It was my fist camera that had taught me the basics of photography, and since 1987 had been a relatively constant companion, and part of me. My son now has it on a shelf looking pretty damn cool on one of his shelves.
It was at that time that I had come back to film from digital. Why bother using filters that would emulate film photography when you could get the same thing straight out of camera without going through the rigmaroles of messing around in Photoshop to get that result? At that time, although digital gave me a lot, there was something missing. Like most of us I was looking for something authentic.
I went to the camera shop to see if anything could be done to repair my camera and bring it back to life. With hope I entered the shop that would become a familiar haunt, and had to face the brutal truth. My Praktica MTL3 was dead. It had passed on, this camera was no more. It had ceased to be. It had expired and gone to meet its maker. It was a stiff. Bereft of photographic life. It was resting in peace. It was pushing up daisies. Its metabolic processes were now history. It was off the twig. It had kicked the bucket. It had shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bloody choir invisible. IT WAS AN EX Praktica MTL 3! Any similarity to a Norwegian Blue parrot pining for the Fjords is a mere coincidence! So I asked him if I could buy the one in the display cabinet and he said of course I could and that yes it was a little expensive, it came with a 6 month guarantee, and here was a film for it, and no mention of Bolton or Ipswitch. Although not exactly the same it was a purchase that set me off on a series of events that lead me to “collecting” a certain quantity of cameras. It was either that or becoming a lumberjack.
Through YouTube, articles on the net, and my own research, I learnt about some of the iconic cameras that I never had, and at that stage, the hipsters hadn’t bought up everything on EBay and you could still get something very decent for un £50, which now of course might set you back between £150 to £200! So I was very fortunate to start collecting when I did.
On the famous YouTube, and its infamous photography videos that I still seem to watch on a regular basis, I went down the rabbit hole of specialising in film cameras. There was one guy, called Matt Day, who waxed lyrical about his Leica M6, and how much he loved using it to take images from his everyday life. I started thinking, could this be my next acquisition. And then I started looking at the prices that these things cost. Megabucks, which is something that I don’t have and even if I did, such a purchase would be grounds for divorce. It’s cheaper to keep her, as the classic Rhythm and Blues (before it became R’nB) so wisely reminded us.
Therefore, what is the difference between my new old Praktica MTL3 and a Leica M6 I hear you say. Well, both are German. One is a classic camera from a West German manufacturer, and was the gold standard of 35mm cameras from pre war times right up to the modern day, and was a rangefinder, the other one being a relatively cheap and yet very solid SLR from the old East Germany.
So both were made by the Boche, one further to the left that the other. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so a video must be worth two thousand words! Earlier I talked about a certain Matt Day, well here is a video of his from last year talking about the differences. I’ll let you watch it, and then we will be both on the same page! I can tell you’re impressed.
Soooooo, I wanted to learn about a rangefinder and see how they worked out in real life. But, as I said earlier it’s cheaper to keep her, so I was going to have to find another way of doing things. As many photographers on a budget but wanting to get some half decent materiel, I looked East, towards Mother Russia. Communism is messed up, but it did leave some rather solid cameras, and to the rangefinder aficionados, the names Zorky, and FED will be familiar. The Zorky looks very vintage, rather sexy and exclusive with its Cyrillic writing on the top of the body, but I was not comfortable about using a camera without a light meter. The Sunny 16 rule should be easy enough to follow, and with the latitude that black and white film photography gives you, you shouldn’t go too far wrong, but I was being stubborn, which is so out of character for me.
I moved on to looking at the FED 5, especially since I had found one for only 15€ imported directly from the Ukraine, which at the time was not at war or hadn’t been annexed either by Mother Russia. Oh you naughty boy Vladimir!!
Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first. The FED 5 was produced in the Ukrainian city of Kharkov from 1977 until 1990. It is a 35mm format rangefinder camera, with interchangeable lenses with a Leica M39 screw thread, (mine has a 35mm f2.8 lens, which is great for street photography). It has a focal plane shutter, shutter speeds of 1 second to 1/500th of a second, bulb mode, and the flash sync speed is 1/30th of a second. What more could you ask for. The film loading is similar to the Leica where you remove the base of the camera, load your film etc. and then put that base back on. Because you know that it’s about the bass, ‘bout that bass no treble…
To do the metering you have to put your faith in the selenium cell light meter, on the top right of the front of the camera. This will give you a reading on an EV meter on top of the camera next to the “calculation wheel”. One dial is for the speed of you your film. Now don’t go looking for Din, ISO, or ASA, but look for GOCT, or GOST. 90 GOST is 100ASA, 180 being 200ASA etc. For 400ASA I just turn the little dot to the S in GOCT. It’s one of those Soviet things that is just a quirk of this camera. This will give me a reading on the outer dial with my shutter speeds and F Stops combinations to nail that exposure!
As with other Soviet-era rangefinders, the shutter-speed selector rotates when the shutter is released, and this should not be changed “until after” the shutter has been cocked. If you change the shutter speed before you cock the shutter first, the setting pin can be broken when you advance the film and cock the shutter! Don’t even bother trying. I never have, and it still works today!
Focussing is easy which is always something that catches my eye, no zone focussing, and it’s slightly different to the SLR. As you saw in the video, there is a ghost image in the middle of the viewfinder and as soon as that ghost image disappears, it means that you have focussed successfully.
Anyway, I paid my 15 Euros and a Ukrainian camera arrived two weeks later in an original box which is still in a display cabinet in my hallway. The leather case still smells of leather! So I tried the damn thing out. Worked out how to load the film which as completely foreign to me but still doable and not too demanding even for me. It is supposed to be the street photography camera par excellence for a few reasons. Firstly it looks pretty sexy around my neck and the leather is top notch without necessarily having a leather fetish, but each to his own! You can use zone focussing with the lens as you can see at such and such an F-stop, the part of your photo which will be in focus is shown on the lens. There is no mirror that slaps up, and the camera is relatively silent, and can be used to close to your subject and get that trendy and yet timeless street portrait. Shooting from the hip.
I can hear you saying, well thank you Ian for all this information. Really great, and almost useful. But pray tell, is it any good? What’s it like to shoot with? Is it worth me looking into? Can I buy you a Leica M6 for your birthday?
Well Dear Reader, let me address your interrogations. Firstly is it any good? It is definitely slightly sexy and certainly looks the part! I wasn’t used to the focussing of a rangefinder but found the focussing to be spot on. I’ll let you have a look at the photos and let you judge! What’s it like to shoot with? Once you get used to the way a Soviet camera functions it’s actually pretty neat! What I do like is being able to get my exposition without having to look through the viewfinder. You know that you’re going to be spot on, and indeed I was. That’s half the battle won, which is what we’re all about. It works mate, it works! You need to be able to get that sot that you want and I think that’s pretty simple to do. Is it worth me looking into? All depends on what you’re looking for. If you can get one for a relatively cheap price then get one just to try out; you can always sell on. I certainly have no regrets and it’s still in my collection which just goes to show you! Can I buy you a Leica M6 for your birthday? Who am I to refuse such generosity?
The photos in this article were taken in Montaigu, Vendée in 2016 and feature my daughter. The film is Illford XP, which is a black and white film that is developed with colour film chemicals and processes. C41 for those in the know. It’s always strange seeing photos from nearly 6 years ago and I remember that outing with my daughter as if it were yesterday. It was one of the ways I used to cope with my depression. I might not know what day it was but I remember taking each photo. We all cope in our own individual ways I suppose…