On the street with an Olympus 35RC

This Olympus camera from the 1970s has a near perfect form factor for me. Its the film camera I can take anywhere and depend on. However the first copy I picked up (review) came with lens that had seen better days. After running a few rolls through the camera it was a model that worked well, but there was a nagging feeling that the scratched lens was a liability, there was a noticeable loss impact on contrast on some images. Buy cheap, buy twice is a saying with truth . So I kept on the lookout for one in better nick and when one came up on an auction that looked in great condition and came with the original lens hood (I havent seen may of these around) at a reasonable price I had no hesitation. Upon its arrival I was surprised it was supplied with a new battery and after installing it even more surprised to find the aperture priority mode for automatic exposure worked. Result!

Street photography, moreso than landscape photography, has a far steeper learning curve in my opinion. With the latter its still easy to appreciate a reasonably well composed shot of a nice place, even if it lacks much in the way of individuality. There can be challenge in getting to the location, especially in the right light, which conversely probably makes this much more difficult to master. On the other hand street photography is typically right in front of us, every day. There are an infinite amount of interesting things to capture but normally they pass by your eye as a mundane background to your busy life. The skill of a great street photographer is to capture that moment that would otherwise have disappeared unappreciated into the annals of history but upon your viewing you get a new insight into society that you would have otherwise not appreciated.

Despite my appreciation of street photographers work, it is not a genre of photography I have tried much myself. Photographing people has never been something I particularly enjoyed, posed or not. However what has piqued my interest is some of the photo books of Ernst Haas, Fred Herzog and Saul Lieter I own and their capture of the vibrant colours of advertising billboards of their era. Advertising is an interesting historical artifact, trying to sell us who we should be at that particular moment. Photography typically ages well, becoming more poignant with time as the world changes. Advertising provides a perfect subject for nostalgia. And so it was with this in mind that the above two pictures caught my eye. The auto exposure of the 35RC appears to have to overexposed the cheap Kodak Colorplus 200 film that I was using to test it. I brought the exposure down a bit from scanning and I may next time try rating down half a stop.

One of my biggest challenges with street photography is actually getting close up. You need to fill the frame for impact, and this camera has a fixed 42mm lens, so no option to try something longer. A full frame of something mundane can draw the eye to more subtle details, although in this instance its the colour palette that I liked.

Finally a snapshot near Oxford Circus tube station. I follow a few active street photographers that use this are as one of their key locations. For me, I was neither patient enough or aiming for anything particular enough for this image to be any better. But it will be interesting in a decade to see what the interesting things about this image will be in hindsight of the change that is sure to come.

Marthas Vineyard Ektachromes

Here are a few slides from the first roll of Ektachrome I've shot. Its expensive, £15 a roll + processing, so was quite an indulgence for mainly family snapshots with my Nikon F4. The colours are nice and punchy when exposed well and for the most part the matrix meter in the F4 did a good job of getting the exposure right. I picked up 3 more rolls in the US as its slightly cheaper over there and hope to try and get some carefully taken shots soon.

Oak Bluffs on Tri-X

Oak Bluffs is a town that was planned for tourism, originally incorporated as "Cottage City" in reference to the mid-late 19th century cottages that adorn the town. I took my Nikon FE out with the second roll of Tri-X loaded since purchasing it. This film stock is becoming a favourite of mine over TMax 400, the grain is more lively and produces that great documentary feel that it is famous for. TMax is cleaner to me, which is no bad thing, but the grittier look of Tri-X is a rendering that I am currently enjoying alot. All of these were scanning with the Nikon LS-4000 at 4000dpi. Whilst I am constantly worried this old scanner will break down on me, the scans it produces has brought me back in wanting to use 35mm more as the quality is so much better than scanning 35mm on my Epson v500 flatbed.

A foggy morning promised a good opportunity to get out into town early, but alas I was a bit too slow and it cleared shortly after the above capture. Later I was drawn to the piers and rocky jetties for some long exposures with my recently ordered 52mm BW ND10x. In a rookie move I had bought an ND8 and in a moment of elusive knowledge I got it in my head this was a 8 stop filter. Of course its only a 3 stop blocker and so an order to B&H was required. On the upside I now have a full filter set in 52mm - perfect for my Nikons and their Ai lenses, and a 77mm set that I will continue to use primarily on my Bronica.

Is the Nikon FE the best SLR?

Sure, its a sensational headline, pulled right out of the clickbait SEO guidebook. But a few months ago in a dazed splurge on that well known auction site I ended up with a FE arriving at my door some 3 days later. Whilst the acknowledgement that I've become somewhat of a Nikon collector these days will likely come in a later post, I thought I'd write something on the FE. During the initial 3 rolls its consumed on my behalf it has quickly endeared itself to me.

So why such a bold statement? The relatively compact size, vast lens compatibility and aperture priority mode make it a winner for me. The first two points are ones that had already made the FM a favourite already. The body weighs in at 0.59kg (thats 22% less than a F3HP or 30% less than an F2). And you can use any lens Nikon has made with an aperture ring since 1958 (the folding Ai tab permits pre-AI lenses to be mounted and metering is then requires using the DOF preview lever to stop down the lens). I used to think the FM, being fully mechanical, was more impressive. If I ran out of batteries I could carry on capturing images. This has happened to me before with my F3 but luckily I was in the US where replacement batteries are easily available from common stores like CVS. In a different country perhaps this would have ended my quest to capture photons. The FE requiring a battery with charge to fire the shutter ends up not so big of a deal, and in my humble opinion worth it for the benefit of aperture priority mode. Yes, I could live without it, but I sure get good use out of it. The other big winner for me over the FM would be the needle display for the meter output in the viewfinder. The FM has a simple LED showing +/o/- which doesn't help to show you how many stops you are off from the current reading. This is probably my biggest gripe with the FM, aside from the fact that mine has a contact issue on the Ai ring that screws out the meter reading sometimes.

There you have it. Maybe the Nikon FE is the best SLR one can buy. Even if it isn't, its hard to dispute that at around £80 for a decent example, this is one of the best value ways you can shoot Nikon glass on 35mm film.

What happens when you don't develop Cinestill 800T promptly?

Its a luxury to have enough cameras that a roll of film can languish for a year and a half without being finished. I'd wanted to try out some Cinestill 800T and had grand ideas of low light shots in and around London so I promptly loaded it in my relatively new (to me) Nikon F4 and went out and got a few shots one evening after work. However the longer nights soon came and I never prioritised getting out to really try out some shots with this film. So it sat there for a year and a half before I picked up a Hoya 81B filter so that I could use in natural light, get the roll finished and enable me to use the F4 once again with some Portra or Ektar. The manufacturers website for the film couldn't be clearer: "The new boxed CineStill film has a 2 year shelf life, and should be stored in the fridge and shot within 6 months of purchase to achieve optimal results"

But instead of wasting the roll I figured I'd get it processed anyway and see what came back. As you can see, weird stuff happens. I'm not sure what that red line is as I'm pretty sure my F4 doesn't have a light leak. The roll was professionally processed by my normal lab and the weird bubbling in the emulsion is only present on the first section of the film which was mostly, although not exclusively, exposed around 1.5 years before it was developed. To my surprise though the latter section of the film actually came out ok and with some pretty decent colours (using Negative Lab Pro to convert a positive scan with a Nikon LS-4000).

Colours of Banality

The magic of photographers like Eggleston, Herzog and Haas is to capture scenes that we would casually pass by without any other thought than apparent normality but to their eye they see some form of intrigue or beauty. Most often it is the colour that makes the scene remarkable, perhaps a vibrancy in the various tones that evade you in reality. Its a form of photography I am fond of observing, and whilst I don't believe I've got quite the eye as these masters, they certainly do inspire me to press the shutter at scenes I would have previously not even noticed.

Photographs of products and advertisements age well. As do cars and people's fashion. The changing styles will look more intriguing as time passes through a decade or more. But its the first picture of the painted wall behind the dilapidated basketball hoop that I like the most here. Captured on my Olympus 35RC with cheap Kodak Colorplus film on a bright sunny London afternoon the orange and teal really stand out to me. Decaying paint is also another subject I'm drawn to, and American fire hydrants make for good subjects for this. Finally a sunny day with a rusty BBQ and some condiments finish the set. Aside from the top image the rest were captured with my trust Nikon FM and Portra 400.