Saturday 26 May 2012

Why I Love Using Film (26/05/2012)

I get a lot of funny looks when I change a roll of film, or tell people that my Nikon FM3A is a film camera. Most people associate the term "film" with the movies and cinema, and almost every time I say that I shoot film, I get a response along the lines of: "Oh what kind of films do you make?".

Nikon FM3A + Nikon E-Series 28mm Lens on Neopan 1600 @ ISO1600 Developed in Stock Microphen
To most people film photography is a relic of the past, or an extinct dinosaur. However to many people like me, it's a way of true self expression, the only tangible way of capturing the moment and keeping it carefully stored and archived for decades. Treasuring that moment and reliving it every time you hold the negative up to some light. Those negatives can be touched, held, and even smelled if you wanted to.

Nikon FM3A + Nikon E-Series 35mm Lens on Neopan 1600 @ ISO3200 Developed in Stock Microphen
Okay okay, those who know me, know that I'm not really an obsessed romantic and that's not really how I feel about film.
Yes, there is the side of me that connects with that romantic sentiment, but there is a logic behind me shooting on film.
The main reason is that on the street it allows me to concentrate more on what's around me, and not obsess about getting a good picture. I see something, I compose the shot, focus, shoot, and move one. I can't review the photo to check whether it's in focus, or displays camera shake. I can't see if my composition is spot on. I don't obsess with any of those things when I'm shooting film. And why should I?
You see, I shoot street photography because I enjoy it. For me it's not a competitive sport, or a way to earn a living (quite the contrary). It's just a passion, a simple pleasure, a way to zone out and forget about everything else. There's nothing else quite like that Zen like state.
When I shoot digital though on the other hand, I tend to find myself pixel peeping and making sure that my focus is right, that there's no motion blur, checking that the image is sharp, etc., etc.

Nikon FM3A + Nikon E-Series 35mm Lens on Neopan 1600 @ ISO3200 Developed in Stock Microphen
Even when it comes to my work flow of processing and editing, film is just so much of a pleasure. Yes, it's hard work, but ultimately like everything else which takes time and dedication it is the rewarding feeling of outcome which makes it worthwhile.
Once you develop you roll of film, wait for it to dry, cut it up to strips of 6 frames and scan them, they are done! That's it. Of course you can tweak the images slightly once they are scanned but there's only so much you can do with a grainy  black and white photo. It's already how I want it to look and there was little or no manipulation needed along the way.
Unlike digital, there's no converting your files to black and white, no trying to salvage under/overexposed photos only for them to look like a dogs dinner (if the exposure is wrong just ditch it), no worrying that there's too much noise in the shadows and the highlights are blown. The film does what your brain had wanted it to do automatically. It's magic!

As long as I can find rolls of high speed black & white film (unfortunately my favourite film, Neopan 1600 has been discontinued by Fujifilm) and B&W darkroom chemicals, I will continue shooting film for my street photography.

Nikon FM3A + Nikon E-Series 35mm Lens on Neopan 1600 @ ISO3200 Developed in Stock Microphen

Sunday 20 May 2012

Street Photography with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (20/05/2012)

Dear folks,

I don't usually do camera reviews, but seeing how there is a huge buzz around the new Olympus flagship Micro Four Thirds camera I thought I'd do a brief hands on review.

I've had this camera for the past two weeks now and to be honest, I've only shot with it twice. Not because it's not a great camera, or because it's not fun to use, but because I've been way to engrossed with shooting film.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 lens
Size and Handling
The first thing you notice about the E-M5 is that film SLR look and style. That being said, it is extremely small and does not really handle like a film SLR. I'm used to shooting with my Nikon FM3A, a typical film SLR and Panasonic GF3, a Micro Four Thirds camera on the smaller end of the size scale.
The E-M5 handles somewhere in between the two. I found I could alternate between the in your face style I adopt with the FM3A, shooting through the electronic view finder, or the stealthy style I use with the GF3, holding your arm out and shooting via the LCD screen.
There are a few annoyances that I have with the handling of the camera. The strap eyelets feel big and get in the way when holding the camera by the grip. It's definitely going to annoy you, especially if you're using a neck strap. I haven't tried the camera out with a wrist strap yet, and maybe this will help.
My second moan about the handling is with the EVF sensor. It's simply too slow to react to street shooting. I found myself raising the camera to my eye and waiting for the EVF to switch on, and by the time it did my subject had moved, or reacted to having a camera shoved in their face and turned around. This resulted in a few missed shots. You can get around this issue by switching the sensor off and having the EVF always on, but it's not ideal as it probably the battery life negatively.

E-M5 + Panasonic/Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4, ISO 250, 1/500sec
Performance and Image Quality
The performance is where this camera really shines.
It's image stabilisation is brilliant. I can often shoot at around 1/4sec to 1/6sec at up to a focal length of 50mm (100mm in 35mm eqv.). Although in street photography terms, there's no real advantage as most people don't shoot slower than 1/250sec. Having said that, it's great for street portraits as it gives you enough stabilisation to shoot at around 1/60s with a 25mm lens.
Another clear advantage of this camera over any other Micro Four Thirds camera is the image quality. It produces unbelievable clean and sharp RAW files at base ISO (ISO 200) all the way up to ISO 3200. I would personally use the camera all the way up to ISO 6400, but that's a personal taste as I don't mind a bit of noise in my street shots.
I'd go as far as saying that the E-M5 image quality is almost as good as my Canon 550D which has a much bigger sensor. In fact, I don't think I'd be using the 550D for anything other than fashion portraiture work or paid gigs anymore.
Another highlight is the super fast focus. Although if you shoot with a GF3, Panasonic GX1 or Oly EP3 you won't notice much of an improvement.

EM-5  + Panasonic/Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4, ISO 500, 1/500sec   
Other Features
Other stand out features of the E-M5 include the touch screen shutter, which can be very useful depending on your shooting style, the tilty screen for shooting from the hip or at awkward angles, and weather proofing for all you Londoners. It also has an extremely fast burst rate of around 9fps.
The Olympus menu system may leave a few people scratching their heads. For the first time, I found myself having to read the instruction manual for accessing simple things, such as switching off the focus beeps.
The only other negative I'd like to mention about the camera is the lack of on-board flash. Sure, you do get a clip on flash, which does work very well, but this is not at all a convenient solution and I can imagine will cause some headaches as you will inevitably lose the hot shoe and accessory port covers eventually.

E-M5 + Panasonic/Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4, ISO 800, 1/500sec
All in all, I have to say that it's a great camera and amongst my favourite cameras that I've ever used... and this is only after a couple of weeks.
Will it ever replace my beloved Nikon FM3A as my main street photography camera? No, not for a while. I'm determined to shoot film, as I feel it will ultimately make me a better photographer and help me evolve my style of street photography.

E-M5 + Panasonic/Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4, ISO 1250, 1/500sec

By the time you read this post I will be using this camera daily for my travels through Japan. I should get a better understanding of the camera by then and become more comfortable with using it.

I hope you found this review useful. As always I'm more than happy to answer any questions. Just leave a comment and I'll get back to you when I can. Enjoy the photos.

E-M5 + Panasonic/Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4, ISO 2500, 1/500sec 
E-M5 + Panasonic/Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4, ISO 1250, 1/160sec
E-M5 + Panasonic/Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4, ISO 1600, 1/250sec

Friday 18 May 2012

London on film - Neopan 1600 (18/05/2012)

I'll be travelling to Japan tomorrow for two weeks. I'll be travelling between Osaka, Tokyo and Miyajima so I'm sure to get a few great photo opportunities. 
I'll be taking my newly acquired Ricoh GR1v with 4 rolls of HP5 plus, and 2 rolls of Kodak Gold 200 (Yes I'm cheap, I can't afford Portra 400 at £6+ per roll!).
I'll also be taking my Olympus OM-D E-M5 for the convenience.

While I'm away I've scheduled two great blog posts to be published:

  • Street Photography with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (20/05/2012) - a short review of using Olympus's new offering for street photography.
  • Why I Love Using Film (26/05/2012) - A post on my reasons for shooting film in the age of digital and why film will never be "dead" for me.

Please be sure to check these two posts out and share them with your friends as I've put quite a lot of time in writing them.

For now you can enjoy some street shots of London on film, taken on the Nikon FM3A + the 28mm and 35mm E-Series lenses.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Neopan 1600 @ ISO 3200 (17/05/2012)

I've noticed that I've had either my cheap Nikon E series 28mm or 35mm lenses on my Nikon FM3A way more than the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2. It's mainly down to the fact that with the days getting longer, I don't need the ridiculously fast f/1.2 anymore. That, and the fact I'm pushing my film to ISO 3200. I also think that my shooting style has evolved so that I don't try to isolate one subject with shallow depth of field.

Will I still use my 50mm f/1.2? Hell yes... for night street work without flash, times I need slightly more reach, or portrait work. But for now it'll have to sit tight in my bag while the 28mm and 35mm get all the limelight.

All of these were shot on the Nikon FM3A and 35mm f/2.5:

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Neopan 1600 @ ISO 3200 (16/05/2012)

Last weekend was an interesting one for me. I did a fashion shoot, shot some street, and developed and scanned 4 rolls of film. Talk about productive!

I did have a bit of trouble with my developing on Saturday night though. I was tired, and sleepy, but decided to develop some pushed Neopan 1600 which was exposed at ISO 3200.
So I got two films and the tank in the changing bag and started getting the film out on to the reels. Boy, did I find it difficult. The film kept jamming, not winding on to the reel and crumpling up.
So eventually I decided to take a break. I couldn't understand why I was having issues! It worked with no problems the past few times...
After watching a video of someone getting film on to the reels on youtube, I realised that I wasn't trimming enough off the start of the roll, and that it was the bent section which goes into the take up spool on my camera that was causing my film to jam in the reel.
After I trimmed more of the film off past the leader, I bent the tip over and tried again. This obviously worked as I managed to get the film on the reel the first time without a jam.
I finally finished developing the two rolls by around 2am and got them scanned in by 3am.

Sunday morning I processed another 2 rolls, this time shot at ISO 1600. I had no trouble this time and got the film on the reel on the first attempt.

Problem solved then and I guess these are things you learn as you gain more experience.

Wow, I think that was my longest post so far!

Check out the pics... Shot with The Nikon FM3A and the 35mm f/2.5 Nikon E series Lens on a rainy London day:

Monday 14 May 2012

London Street Daily (14/05/2012)

I've noticed that despite the increased amount of time I'm spending on my photography and updating the blog the number of hits I'm getting are going down! What gives? Could it be that people prefer a bit of colour? Could it be that my photography is getting shit? Well whatever it is, here's something different. Let's see how it goes down.

The 1st photo was shot on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and 12-50mm Oly kit lens. The second and third were shot on the Panasonic GF3 + 14mm lens. The last shot was also taken with the Olympus camera but the Panasonic/Leica Summilux 25mm.

If you like my photos, spread the word... show a little bit of love.


Friday 11 May 2012

Neopan 1600 @ 3200 Continued (11/05/2012)

Few... finally it's Friday. that was long for a four day week!

A few that were left over and hadn't posted....

You'll have a fresh couple of rolls to drool at on Sunday!

All shot were taken using my Nikon FM3A + 28mm E series lens:

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Neopan 1600 @ 3200 Continued (09/05/2012)

Wow... Midweek already.

Here are some more of the shots from the couple of rolls of Neopan 1600 @ which I shot and processed 3200.

All shot were taken using my Nikon FM3A + 28mm E series lens:

Monday 7 May 2012

Neopan 1600 @ 3200 (07/05/2012)

Hi peeps.
I hope everyone enjoyed the long weekend here in the UK.
I've had a very productive weekend, given the weather has been terrible. I shot four rolls of Neopan 1600 @ ISO 3200. I also processed two of these rolls using Ilford Microphen.
This was the second time I've developed film and the first time I've developed pushed film. However I'm please to say that it worked great.

More shots to come...

All shot were taken using my trusty Nikon FM3A + 28mm E series lens:

Saturday 5 May 2012

The Daily Commute (05/05/2012)

After a long week the long weekend is finally here. Unfortunately us Londoners have to endure a weekend of bad weather and more importantly another 4 years of Boris "Bungles" Johnson who was re-elected as London mayor.

Here are some shots to put a smile on your face.

The first shot was taken on the brand new Olympus OM-D E-M5 + Panasonic/Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4.

The last two where taken on the Panasonic GF3 + 14mm f/2.5:

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Self processed Neopan 1600 (02/05/2012)

More 'pan for you... Funny I just bought another 20 rolls of this stuff, adding to the 14 or so I have left.

These are the remainder of the roll I developed last weekend. Shot on Fujifilm Neopan 1600 @ ISO1600 on my Nikon FM3A. Developed in Ilford Microphen stock solution at 3:30. Scanned using a Plustek OpticFilm 8100: