Review of 2018

Film-wise that is.

It seems I shot the following films this year

  • Agfa Vista “Poundland” x3
  • CVS colour film
  • Lomography Purple x2
  • Ferrania P80
  • Konica VX400bw x2
  • Konica VX200
  • Truprint 110
  • Kodak Portra 160
  • Kodak BW400CN x2
  • Ilford XP2
  • Kodak Ektar 100

In the following cameras

  • Olympus MjuII
  • Canon Epoca
  • Ricoh R1
  • Olympus OM10
  • Canon 90UII
  • Halina Telemaster Flash
  • Diana+
  • Original Diana

I made a video of thoughts about those, and other things! Here’s the actual video…

…and if you can’t or don’t want to watch it, here’s what I said in it.


2018 turned out to be very challenging for me but as ever photography was there to support me whether I realized it or not.

It’s difficult to sum up what happened this year because it’s kind of personal and I am still figuring some of it out, but suffice to say on reflection it turned out to be all about change and getting a better understanding of who I am. Even if that was kind of hard.

During all this sometimes I had a camera, and sometimes I didn’t. Looking back on when I did have a camera, well, I was glad I did. But at the same time, knowing how intense some of this year was, it was probably appropriate that I didn’t photograph everything that happened.

I can’t emphasize enough for me…so it’s really emphasizing it to myself…in fact I’m having a little personal therapy moment here right now…how there really can be a therapeutic exchange when you take a photograph.

There’s a phrase I adopted which was “take care of the image and let the image take care of you”.

It’s very important for me if I’m struggling emotionally to try and document my feelings. I’m a guy so this is always a challenge; it’s not that men don’t talk about their feelings. It’s that they’re really, really difficult to figure out if you’re a guy, and I say this as somebody who quite honestly worked very hard on on examining my feelings. I’m still absolutely useless at knowing what the hell is going on most of the time.

But when I’m out there with my camera and pointing it at things, I don’t use the camera as some sort of forensic tool that records scenes impartially; instead I’ve worked hard on training myself to use the camera as an extra pair of eyes for my feelings.

So very often the pictures that I’m taking are tied in to how I’m feeling. Sometimes I’m trying to use the picture to communicate with somebody because I’m thinking about them when I’m taking photos. Sometimes I’m trying to capture a moment as being special for me, and sometimes I’m just trying to say to myself “whilst you’re in this moment let’s record something of it for the future to prove you were in it and to prove you got through it”.

So when you take a photo, you take a bit of time, literally recording a slice of time, that you can use in the future if you are struggling right now. The photo sits there waiting, and when you are ready it gives you back a way of thinking about the moment, and consequently yourself.

At the moment regarding sharing images with the world via social media I’m working through photographs from May this year, so I’m seven months behind as I type this. I’ve still got quite a lot of pictures from this year that I’ve yet to review and get online because I’m always at least six months behind. But that’s slow photography for you.

Thinking about the images I have posted so far, many of them are from travels to places and experiences whilst I was being challenged this year and on reflection I’m glad I took them. They show me a different side from when I might look back and think “what a disaster this year was”. It’s proof that I was out there and functioning and being okay.

So as a way of reviewing things I thought I would whizz through one or two photos from each of the rolls of film I took this year. You might see these in greater detail in other photo chat vlog videos, either ones that are online already or ones later to come next year. But if you really like the look of an image and want to know more, you can leave a YouTube comment and let me know.

So I think I shot 15 rolls of films this year, starting with a test roll of Poundland Agfa Vista in the new five-pound Mju II, which of course I already talked about in photo chat vlog season two episodes three and seven.

In truth I began that roll in December 2017 but I took the majority of the shots in January 2018, so it was really the first film that I took this year, the first camera that I took out and about with me and though I was testing that camera, it was very much pictures of my life at the time.

This photo was taken in a cafe in Oxford on the 29th January 2018, balancing the camera on the table using the self-timer with no flash. It’s a nice memory of a fun evening and it’s all discussed along with the rest of the roll in season 2 episode 7, so check that out if you want to know more.

After I shot the Mju II roll I dug out a Canon Epoca which is an interesting camera, it’s what’s called a bridge camera from the 1990s.

It’s a fully automatic camera like a compact, but with a great big zoom lens, like the kind of sized lens you’d get on an SLR. It’s all built into the camera body rather than looking like a conventional camera – in fact the Epoca looks more like a video camera.

I got mine about 10 years ago in a classic internet moment – I read about the camera whilst surfing the net, hopped over to eBay and found one right away. I hit buy it now and in a few days it was delivered and I was shooting with it. But I haven’t used it as much as I thought I would so evidently I decided to reinvigorate that camera earlier in the year and go out and take some pictures with it.

Now the interesting thing about this was I knew there was a film in it, but I thought it was a black and white film. It turns out it was color film, and it was some own brand film from a pharmacy chain in the USA called CVS. I bought some rolls of it on a trip to America a couple of years ago and I’m fairly confident that it’s Fuji c200 color film. But I only found that out when I finished the roll, so I’d been shooting it as if it was black and white.

Now, it turns out I actually didn’t take many pictures of note; the results of the roll were just disappointing. But one worth talking about is this one taken indoors at my local college. If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen that I’m currently studying ceramics and I sometimes share images of what I make on there.

This photo was taken in the ceramics studios and this is one of the shelves where we put our ceramics that we’ve made that are ready to go into the kiln. So this is an interior shot with no flash, just the ambient lighting using the self-timer with the camera propped on a shelf, just like the previous image. This may be why the verticals in the image are not rock solid aligned with the center, but that’s okay for me.

I think that shot and most of the roll was taken in February 2018.

In March I loaded up the “new” MjuII with another roll of Poundland film and went to the Photography show at the NEC in Birmingham with my mate Rob, where I snapped this photo of some models on the Fujifilm stand.

I don’t think they were too impressed that I wasn’t using a Fujifilm digital camera, but, well there you go. Again, this is a self-timer, stand it-on-a-shelf-and-hope-for-the-best shot. As a result I couldn’t optimally frame the shot and I subsequently missed out large parts of the guy’s props and headgear, but those model moments have lots of crowds and not a lot of space, so I think I did pretty well.

Unfortunately the MjuII turned out to be a bit unreliable and I may make a video about that next year, but whilst I was at the Photography Show I bought two rolls of Lomo Purple film. This is Lomography’s take on kodak Aerochrome, which was a film which rendered the world in strange colours, most notably rendering certain things like leaves in red and purple which isn’t obviously what you’d expect from colour film.

I shot the first of these in May in my Ricoh R1, a compact camera with a nice wide angle lens. This was another camera that I got about 10 years ago and which I haven’t used so much. It was originally designed to have a panorama feature that used blinds in the back of the camera to crop the film in conjunction with the wide angle lens. I disabled those and I decided to dig it out again to try it with a roll of the Lomo Purple.

So I went over to the family holiday home in Norfolk and hung out with my cousin in an interesting town called Heacham which is one of the only places on the east coast of the UK that faces West.

If you look at a map of the UK Heacham is on the south bank of the Wash, which means that when you stand looking at the sea you are facing West, so although you are on the East Coast, the Sun is setting over the sea. Now if you don’t live in the UK, and actually if you don’t live on the east coast of the UK it might be a bit complicated to understand, but it’s pretty groovy to witness this.

So here is the sunset, and think about it, we are on the east coast here. But with the sun going down the light is kind of dim and it doesn’t bring out the true character of the film; in this image it could almost be redscale film.

Again, I’ll probably do an episode dedicated to Lomo purple because it is pretty hardcore but if we look at one of the very first shots I took…

…which is this one of the sea and the sea defences out there in Heacham then you can see the film’s tendency towards purple and strange colours in general. The sky is rendered green, and the sand is reddish and it’s all very very groovy. It’s one of those things where you have to trust the process and let the character of the film do its thing; if you are not into experimenting then this film is not for you. If you haven’t seen Lomo Purple film before there’s lots about it on the internet – it’s worth reading up on and you can also check out my Flickr stream as I have just finished posting my favourite images from this roll on there.

On that same trip I also had with me my Olympus OM10 which I was shooting Ferrania P30 film in. It turns out this was the only genuine black and white film I took all year, which on reflection is a surprise as I thought I might shoot more actual black and white. I made a video of my film collection at the start of the year called “What’s in my fridge?” and I’m surprised having just watched that, that I only shot one of the genuine black and white films in my stash.

P30 is quite interesting because as part of their Kickstarter campaign for their colour reversal or slide film, Ferrania released this black and white film when they were getting their coating machinery up and running.

Unfortunately whilst shooting this roll I discovered that my om10 has got some sort of a light leak. Not a drastic one, but as you can see a couple of pictures were spoiled by light leaking in.

However, this image of two dogs taken on the beach at Heacham is an interesting image, and relatively unmolested by unwanted photons. There’s such a lot of detail there in the picture.

 

 

 

 

It’s a really, really crisp and clear very fine-grain film and there’s a nice balance of contrasts, with black blacks and white whites showing off all of the stones on this beach. I have two rolls left of this film – maybe I will get them shot in 2019 perhaps, along with all the other black and white films…

Whilst we’re in Norfolk here is an interesting shot of the holiday home, taken on expired Truprint 110 film. 110 film is a small, cartridge format film which was popular in the 1970’s and 80’s. The negatives are less than half the size of 35mm film and the cameras were mostly quite basic. I shot this one on a Halina Telemaster Flash camera that I got from a car boot sale years ago. The truprint film I was using was in the camera when I got it and I’ll be making a video about the whole roll as it’s an interesting story. For the time being look how grainy this image is – partly due I am sure to how old the film is.

So shortly after that trip I was sent some Konica VX400 black-and-white chromogenic film from the USA by my friend Denise, and when I’d finished the p30 I loaded up the OM10 with this and I took this picture whilst I was out and about on a trip to Liverpool in June one weekend.

As you might expect it’s definitely very similar to Ilford XP2 and looks lovely and sharp for vintage film that is past its sell by date. My trips to Liverpool were pretty hectic so it’s interesting to see such crisp images from there.

I got two rolls of this from Denise so this image is an example from the other film which I put in the Canon 90UII camera and took with me on a trip to Scotland to climb Ben Nevis. This image was taken at Glenfinnan which is a loch that me and my mates stopped at when we were out on our mountain trip. It’s a very nice rendering of what it was like being there. It was an overcast Sunday afternoon and it really looked exactly like that, calm and tranquil. What the film doesn’t capture is the chap who turned up on the shoreline and started playing the bagpipes, but…well that’s why pictures are great but actually travelling places to witness cool things is even better.

One of my most interesting films I took pictures with this year was another Konica film.

This is expired Konica VX 200 colour film and I got that from Nick and trick photography, a well-known UK camera store, again it’s in the Canon 90UII.

There was something funny about this film, it has a pinky tinge to it, which I think has to be something to do with it being expired. I can’t imagine this was actually how that film was meant to render things. It’s got a wonderfully vintage look to it and as you can see in this picture of Croydon in South London, well that was taken in the summer of this year but the peculiar quality of the film gives this Croydon landmark a very retro look, particularly I think with those red British Rail signs which haven’t changed in a long time.

This other picture from the same roll, taken in a cafe in Oxford has a similarly nostalgic feel to it – you can tell it’s getting late in the afternoon for example but the colours actually make me think of the late 70’s, and staying out late past my teatime. The power of nostalgia.

I talked in series 2 episode 10 about Diana day and I did shoot a roll of medium format Kodak Portra color film in my Diana camera in September this year – you can check out that video if you want to know more, but in the meantime here’s a reminder of that one, an image of St Botolph’s Church in Boston, Lincolnshire, otherwise known as Boston Stump.

This image is a good example of the camera looking out for me I think. I was feeling quite overwhelmed on Diana Day and I can hardly remember what was going on, other than I was back in my hometown and it was intense. But this photo is there as proof that I was out and about and doing the best that I could, and that having the camera and doing a photo project was a good way for me to spend time during such an intense period.

Shortly after I took that photo I went to Hamburg in Germany on holiday with my mate Colin, and I took two cameras and four types of film.

I took the Ricoh R1 with the second roll of Lomo purple film in it – here’s a shot taken in the Elbe tunnel which…is really purple looking. That was a self-timer, no flash, tripod shot due to the low light in the tunnel.

Then there’s this view of hamburg docks from the St Pauli Landungsbrucke. Again, it’s got the purple stuff going on, you’ve got green sky, and purple leaves and since the Ricoh R1 has that very wide angle lens thing going on it does all this vignetting around the edges, so it’s quite nice to put quite a cool “trick” film in it.

I think I’ll definitely be doing a video just on the Lomo Purple/Ricoh R1 combination.

Now, also on that trip I took the Canon Epoca and I took two chromogenic black and white films, a roll of Kodak BW400CN and a roll of ilford xp2.

So this shot of these cyclists is the BW400CN, a nice action shot taken on a Sunday afternoon when the city centre was closed down for a cycle race. I’m not that into sports so I don’t take many photos like this but you really couldn’t avoid the race that day and there were some interesting opportunities to be had because of it.

Meanwhile here this graffiti saying “1973” was taken on Ilford XP2 a few days later in St Pauli.

I think looking at these, basically the same type of film in the same camera I’m gonna be a little bit bold and say that I think that although they are very similar, the Kodak is just a bit more contrasty than the Ilford XP2.

So I also took some Kodak Ektar 100 colour film which I put in the Canon epoca towards the end of the holiday, and I had a great time shooting that both on the holiday and finishing it off when I got back to the UK.

Here’s a shot taken on the ferry in Hamburg, as you can see the saturation of the Ektar film is really juicy and the character of the image is very different to the two black and white films even though it is the same camera.

What I did notice though sadly is a smudge in lots of these pictures taken with the Epoca – you can see it here in the sky and it’s apparent with all the types of film I have tried. It’s always in the same place and it makes this dark patch, like a smudge. I don’t know how it got there – I guess there is something somewhere in the lens but it’s not on the surface and the Epoca can’t be taken apart easily to investigate it. As always, there are lessons to be learned with old cameras.

So, finally this year I wanted to try black-and-white film in the Ricoh r1 and so I loaded it with some BW400CN, and I had high hopes for it.

Sure enough the pictures look great, but it’s clear that on this roll the R1 has a light leak. I noticed this when I was taking the film out – I noticed that on the back of the camera there’s a window for identifying what film you have in the camera and it’s got foam around it. Black foam to keep the light out…and some of the foam had perished and was stuck to the film can when I opened the back of the camera, which means that that seal is breaking down and it isn’t effective anymore and it lets light in.

You can see this really clearly on this photograph of Botley in Oxford which was also got some dust marks on it. This picture is taken of what was Elms parade Shopping Center which has been completely destroyed, and it’s quite emotional for me because I lived near here for years and years and years and now it’s just gone.

It’s gonna be replaced obviously with a brand-new shiny shopping center but these things are often quite emotive – in fact if you watch the Diana day video you can hear me ramble on about a similar demolition situation in my old hometown.

Moreover, it’s a shame about the light leak.

This image was less problematic so the whole roll wasn’t a total write off. Moreover the camera and the light leak can be fixed with tape, or it could be fixed with fashioning some sort of seal for it.

But since it’s the last total roll I shot this year it’s an interesting thing that throughout the whole year I only used the Olympus MjuII, the Canon Epoca, the Ricoh r1, the Olympus OM 10 and the Canon 90UII cameras. Yes, I did shoot with the Diana and the 110 camera but they were special projects.

But as someone who owns a lot of cameras I realise I didn’t explore that many of them. I stuck with the same cameras throughout the year, although I have right now as I’m talking got a roll of film in my Canon EOS camera but it is half way through and it’s not going to get finished in the year 2018.

Notably though I didn’t buy any new cameras. I think I acquired at least one as a gift from a friend which I have yet to try, but I don’t recall going to anything like a charity shop or a thrift store or even a proper camera shop and buying any new cameras.

So…that’s all I think I have to say for the time being for this review of 2018. I’m looking forward to next year and honestly I hope for more of the same that I had this year…that is not to say I hope for the turbulent experiences I’ve had necessarily, but I do hope for personal growth and change.

Those are great things to get out of life, particularly if like me you’re getting over the hill somewhat and the number of years ahead of you is not going to be as many as the number of years behind you.

When you think about things in those terms it’s all about better understanding yourself and the things around you, and in all those times I hope to carry a camera and to burn some of those moments on to film.

If there’s an interesting story behind them I’ll be sharing them here of course.

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