photographs, wall art, pictures, athex, athexphotographs, street photography Optima, film photography, vintage camera, Alan Thexton
Again a longer than expected break between posting to this blog. Having moved to the Mornington Peninsula life has changed. I will use the slower pace of coastal living as the reason for not posting. In fact that is in part true. The way I approach my photography has changed somewhat. I don’t do many specific photography trips or shooting outings as I used to. These days it is more a bit here and there as I move round doing other things. These shots are all from the same roll of film shot over the past couple of months at various locations on both sides of the Mornington Peninsula.
If you have read the previous blogs you will understand the limitations of the Optima camera. As previously every shot here is from a single roll of film and as usual I used FP4. Naturally being a coastal area much of the subject matter involves fishing and boating. I have also become fascinated by the scuba divers but have had little success in achieving the images I would like. This guy was as interested in the camera as I was of the divers and stopped for a chat.
It has been an interesting experience photographing in these locations rather than the busy city streets where I have spent much of my photographic time over past years. Also using film has been fun but I am not about to ditch the digital camera. I enjoy the immediacy of the digital process. This film project is a reminder of what that the great photographers of the past achieved. I grew up with film and printing in darkrooms it is difficult and requires many hours of practise. These images have been scanned with a cheap scanner and processed digitally. Sort of a half way place between the traditional wet process and the modern digital method, but enough to remind me of how many negatives I ruined in the past by dropping, scratching, or processing errors.
Not sure if this blog will continue. I know I will run through the occasional roll of film but might upgrade to an SLR.
It has been some time since I posted to this blog. That was not my intention. I hoped to be posting regularly, however life does not always go as we plan. Since the last post we have moved house. We sold up in suburban Melbourne and moved to the Mornington Peninsula. Which is not really that for from suburban Melbourne, but we are near the coast. So I decided to get out the Optima and head to the local nearby beach.
It took a little while to re-familiarise myself with the camera. As I wrote previously the camera is manual focus, but that is done by a distance dial. You cannot see to focus just guess the distance. Most of my reject shots were out of focus. I think if I used the camera more often I would get better at estimating the distance, but at this stage not so good, although I did get some correct. I also tried out some shots in difficult lighting, such as high contrast on buildings, and low light conditions on the foreshore.
All the shots here are from one 36 exposure roll of FP4. I developed the film in Adonal 1:50 for 13 minutes which gave good results. I am always surprised at how good the exposure is from the automatic exposure on this camera. I scanned the negatives on the cheapest scanner I could buy. I am sure their are much better ones that would give a better result but overall those shots that that were sharp I am quite pleased with. I imported the images into Lightroom 5 and did the final edits in Gimp. I have been working in digital so long that I now sometimes have difficulty adjusting to the look of film and find I tend to over process, and then have to go back later and start over.
The move to a new location has been a lot of fun thus far. It has freed my mind and allowed me to take a new look at what I photograph. We have been here for two months and I have only taken a few shots but have lots of ideas for new projects. And i will still jump on the train occasionally and head up to Melbourne for some street photography and meet up with some photographers.
I am not sure what I will photograph next with this camera. I am a little like the guy above - scratching my head. Perhaps I will explore the local area a little more. It is very busy with holiday makers at the moment, in a few weeks it will be a little quieter. Perhaps the quietness will bring new inspiration. I hope the time between this post and the next is not as long as from the last one.
I took the Optima 1a (built 1962) with me on a street walk on Saturday. Attempting street photography with this camera was always going to be a challenge. Street photography is always a challenge, but even more so with the limitations I imposed on myself.
I grew up with film and that is how I learnt my photography, and why I appreciate digital. Using film puts additional barriers between you viewing a subject and the finished result. The processing alone can present challenges. Although I am quite adept with the physical process there are decisions to be made about chemistry to be used, dilutions and processing times. And then there is the possibility of damaging the film – I know I have done so in the past.
I did most of my photography in my young days using an Olympus OM1 and a Mamyia C220 twin lens. Each had manual focus and manual exposure control and I learnt through experience how to use them both quite well, but that was 30 years ago and for 20 of those years I did virtually no photography at all. However I thought I could easily get back into the hang of using film. The Optima 1a is quite different though. It is automatic exposure. It also has manual focus, but not focus you can see, the distance needs to be pre-set, this is taking some getting used to.
Another factor to be considered when using this camera is the maximum ASA of 200. Most street photographers I know are using a minimum of 400ASA. With the automatic exposure control there is no indication of shutter speed, therefore there was no way of knowing if moving objects would have motion blur. I expected they would but did not know to what degree, but I found out.
Sometimes I look at photographs and ask - did the photographer mean to do that? We have probably all at some stage found elements in a picture we did not realise where there. Some images can be quite a surprise, like the one below. I would like to say I deliberately focused on the women in the background, but not so. I am pleased with the outcome though.
I bought 1 roll of FP4 24 exposure and set off. I decided to limit myself to 24. I have always said learning my photography with film has greatly influenced what I do digitally. Film is expensive so I was always careful to pick my subjects and not over shoot. This is exactly how I photograph with my digital camera. But what surprised me was how fast I flew through the 24 exposures. I think the change from digital to film and using the vintage camera freed me up physiologically, After all if I didn’t get any decent shots I could always blame the old camera!
The shots on this page are all from that 1 roll of FP4. I have learnt a lot and am now considering how next to challenge myself with this camera. If you have any suggestions for the next Optima 1a challenge I would love hear them. I have decided to stick to the 24 exposures for each challenge but may change films.
Recently my wife took a trip to rural Victoria to visit her sister. Whilst there they visited a local second hand store, and as luck would have it, noticed the arrival of a collection of old cameras, and thought I may be interested. After the exchange of a number of text messages where she tried to describe the cameras she decided to take a chance and make a purchase. I had asked her to look for something that took 35mm film and had some adjustments. She managed to find one and paid $20.
When she arrived home I was presented with a camera in a nice leather case. Opening the case revealed an Agfa Optima 1a, which I knew nothing about. An internet search revealed the 1a was built in 1962 (about the same year I first used a camera) and was an upgrade of the Optima 1 and now featured a hot shoe for the flash. On inspecting the camera it seemed to be in pretty good condition and the shutter worked. The uv filter had taken a knock or two but the lens appeared ok.
I decided I would buy a roll of film and go shooting. It had been quite a time since I had bought a roll of film and headed off to a local camera store and asked for a roll of FP4 24 exposure, for which I was charged $15, which I think is a ridiculous price, but I still bought it, loaded the camera and took off to the beach to try it out. There is a focus ring, but you cannot visually focus, just pre set the distance. There is also an aperture ring but no shutter adjustment, which I found confusing at first, and an inbuilt light meter that lights green when exposure is correct and red when not correct I worked out the basic operation by experiment and noticed there was also an auto setting. So off I went trying different combinations of focus and exposure and quickly ran through all 24 exposures.
That evening I pulled out the old tank and chemicals and processed the film. I was quite excited when I saw some well exposed film but also disappointed at the number of over exposed frames. I later found an instruction manual on the net that I downloaded and learnt that the camera only operates on manual exposure. The manual f stop adjustments are for flash use and my experimentation had lead to a number of poorly exposed frames - lesson learnt. However I had a lot of fun and manged to get some frames scanned.
The images above and below are the best from the day.
I am looking forward to getting out again with this camera, however I think I will look for a cheaper film supply. The maximum ASA is 200 which is a bit limiting but I am planning on doing some street shots next. I am also planning to do some time exposures at some stage and will post the images here. I think I am going to enjoy this new project.
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