Category Archives: Black & white

Successful Exhibition Piece

I was privileged to be asked to contribute a piece for the Tavistock Heritage Centre Exhibition celebrating the area’s industrial heritage and contribution to the historic development of the region’s economy .

I have always been attracted by the engine houses of the mining areas of Devon & Cornwall, having had a lifetime’s interest in rocks, minerals and chemistry. So the engine house of Wheal Betsy near Tavistock was a natural choice of subject for this piece.

I took many photos with my antique camera but struggled to get a good image on the X-ray film at the time. In the end I used digital images taken on my Fuji X-H1 and created a picture in Photoshop which I then printed out on a laser printer, using my technique for transferring the image onto Metal. It seemed fitting to represent an engine house through metals that it could have extracted – Zinc and copper. Zinc is a reactive metal like Aluminiumand displaces copper from solution, so image was etched in Copper Sulfate. The final image is a relief representation and is reflective so changes with the light and with viewpoint – hard to capture in one photograph. The Zinc etched quite differently to the aluminium – very smooth in the uniform areas and able to be polished to a high level shine. Quite unexpected but I like the effect very much.

The crooked chimney is an accurate rendition of the building!

I am happy to say the piece sold on the exhibition’s first full day.

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Adding a new camera to the collection

Two recent books have stirred my interest in exploring the variety of affordable vintage cameras that can still be used. The books are:
– Retro Cameras: The Collector’s Guide to Vintage Film Photography by John Wade.
  – Discovering Old Cameras, 1839-1939 by Robert White

This then led to exploring some of the discussion forums dedicated to vintage cameras – some just dedicated to a single manufacturer.

One helpful website was Emulsive on here is a comparison of three foldable cameras – one of which I have now bought – the German made – Agfa Record III.

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For under £100 on Ebay this came with its leather case, a flashgun, yellow filter and lens hood.
Listed as “all appears to be working, but not tested with film”. When it arrived, the focus ring was seized, but with some patience a lot of force and the nearest dribble of WD40 it has freed up nicely.

This is a landscape format camera – taking a negative that is 9x6cm. This can be done with a 120 roll film – yielding 8 frames. However, I have a lot of pieces of X-ray film which I have now cut to 9x6cm. So my first test involved putting a single piece of film in the camera and closing the back.

Using the App “Light Meter” on my phone I measured for exposure using 100ISO for the blue x-ray film and took a few sample shots of the garden. As can be seen from the example below (photo of negative projected by enlarger and inverted to become positive, focus and exposure are good, but there is a flash of brightness – probably from a pinhole in the bellows. I put an LED light inside the bellows in a dark room and soon found 3 small holes. These will be dealt with – using flexible adhesive mixed with black pigment. – that’ll be in the next blog……

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Other sites to explore

Matt’s Classic Cameras

Photojottings

 

 

Refurbishing Antique Bellows Cameras

The Blog writing has been on the back burner whilst I spent time refurbishing my two 1900s, mahogany and brass bellows camera.

The Boots camera is a single-rack camera and less useful so I decided to refurbish this one keeping it as original as possible. The Hora camera is slightly more modern by 10 -20 years and has a double rack and pinion adjustment making it much more useable since focussing can be accomplished without changing the distance between the lens and the object. This Hora camera then was to be refurbished to make it as useable as possible.

Each camera was stripped down, as far as possible, to its component parts. IMG_3023  The wood was cleaned with “Soft Finish” remover to gently lift off grime leaving the patina intact. The wood was finished with liquid wax. All sliding surfaces had a light dressing of graphite powder to ease movement.

The brass was in a badly corroded state in many places.

The worst was treated to a light sanding with 600 wet&dry then polished with a cream cleaner. After completing the first camera my fingers hurt so I purchased a battery powered Dremel to do the buffing. However this new Dremel was dreadfully underpowered and stalled with the lightest pressure at the slow and medium speeds. After finishing the cleaning using the high speed only I returned the Dremel to Amazon who refunded me fully.

As the pictures show the bellows of the newer, Hora camera have had a lot of bookbinding tape applied to cover light leaks.

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I bought, from a supplier in China, replacement bellows and glued them in place with flexible adhesive. Whilst the new bellows are fully light tight they are less stiff that the original and sag quite a bit. To address this I have attached a brass ring to the middle section of the bellows and use a tensioning wire to hold the bellows up. This is a period feature on some other cameras of this type.

The Boots camera had its glass screen cleaned with 1200 grit wet&dry carborundum paper. I still haven’t removed all the marks, but the glass is much clearer in use. It does still need new bellows but I want to locate a leather type to look more original than the Chinese polyester version.

Both cameras have now been completed.

because of the cleaning and lubricating graphite, are much easier to use. and I have taken some very pleasing images with them since the refurbishments, an example of which is below. More images to follow in my next blog.

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North Somerset Artsweek 2019

It has been a very busy April/May – preparing 75 pieces for North Somerset Artsweek #nsaw2019 – but so worth it!

We have had a great response from visitors to the Clevedon Theatre Shop venue, in terms of numbers, purchases and (more importantly) conversations. Just today and tomorrow to go then time for a rest.

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The artists, Eric, Laura and myself.

NSAW2019_Venue36 (2 of 2)My work on show – B&W photos taken with the antique camera and large prints taken with the new Fujis. Also one of the wood-sculptures – Starling murmuration (sold).

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A successful first lino-cut in a short taster-workshop.

Antique camera at Hartland Quay

It has been a busy few weeks preparing for North Somerset ArtsWeek in May. I am exhibiting at The Theatre Shop, Clevedon BS21 6HX.
#NSAW19 @NSomersetArts northsomersetarts.org 
More of this later…..

Meanwhile I wanted to spend some time enjoying the drama that is the North Devon Coastline. No better place than Hartland Quay – and so it proved.

A two night stay at The Hartland Quay Hotel (recommended) gave me the time to view the cliffs and sea in a variety of light and weather conditions.

A mix of paper negatives and x-ray film was used. The X-ray film exposure times have been tricky to work out – I am still experimenting. Anything from 1/125s (using the Thompson Pickard shutter) and 2 seconds have yielded images, but the longer times do seem over-exposed on  processing. I have some more work to do on the images and will post later.

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Yorkshire Trip & a Half-Plate Camera

Taking the opportunity to stay a few days at Skipton this week, I packed the VW Camper with my “new” 1900s Hora bellows camera and basic dark-room gear and headed into the countryside – enjoying the challenges of photographing in the snow.

VW Camper Darkroom (1 of 2) vw-camper-darkroom-2-of-2.jpg

With such bright – but high contrast scenes it was always going to be a challenge to get any kind of image on the paper negative. Even with the paper at ISO 6,  F45 still only have me a 2 to 4 second shutter speed. So I used the Thornton Pickard shutter with the “time” setting and held it open with an air bulb for a count of up to 4 seconds.IMG_4530 IMG_1603

Photographing waterfalls was a similarly challenging exercise – again a high contrast subject. This time the light level was lower allowing for a longer, and hence proportionally more accurate timing of the, exposure.

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Here was a good place to compare the two lens types I now have. A wide angle 5inch ? F6.4-22 Apem Asymmetrical and a standard 8 inch F8-45 Beck Symmetrical.IMG_1559  IMG_8844

I am very happy with the images from both of these lenses though the wide angle image was over-exposed – only working with a 2 second exposure at f22. I had pre-flashed the paper negatives before setting out on this trip and am happy to report a much improved dynamic range as a result.

I think the images are really atmospheric – they draw you in to explore, to see and discern detail. The hyper-reality, hyper-clarity of many modern digital images leaves no mystery – you see the image and quickly forget it. But an image that you have to work with a bit lingers more in the memory and invites you to fill in the hidden/un-revealed detail. You finish the story of the image – so you have an investment in the image – start to form a relationship with the image- the subject – the photographer.