Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Old Lenses And Long Stories (Part Two)

Greetings folks! I trust you haven't scratched a worry-patch into your hair with waiting to see how I got on with the Canon 28mm f3.5 lens and pushing film.
Phew, that's alright then.
Well, yes, it might well have been a worry, however worryeth no more, for Saint Sheephouse is here to asuage your ills and make all well with the world, whilst the meadow of your life is filled with happy bunnies, beautiful flowers and an endless supply of your favourite film.
Oh yes, there's precious few that get to revel in the golden glow of Saint Sheephouse's bounteous gifts, however today is your lucky day, because I decided last week that if the Pope could canonize people then so could I - so I canonized myself and hence my new title.
I mean no offence by this (honestly, I don't) it's just I feel that maybe we should all be a bit more Saint-like in all things . . y'know, just try and live better and happier and be kinder, more thoughtful and respectful of other people . . it isn't difficult y'know.
Besides, just to prove to myself I did the right thing, Saint Sheephouse has rather a regal ring to it dontcha think? I like it, but I don't think I'll be signing anything with it just yet.
Anyway - the premise for this weeks post:

1950's 28mm, f3.5 Canon Rangefinder Lens
1960 Leica M2
Kodak Tri-X, pushed to EI 1280
Using Garry Winogrand as inspiration.

I'll confess to you now, the last thing didn't work
You see for all my good intentions, there are a few factors which come into play. Firstly, making photographs in a small city like Dundee is difficult. People are deeply aware of you photographing them and it looks a little odd. Allied to this, I simply don't have the balls and lightning reflexes and proper gut-instinct, that Garry must have possessed. I don't know how he did it, I really don't - he moved like greased-lightning, made people smile and took great photographs.
However, I'll chalk this up as a possible new learning experience, as it's always good to do new stuff, and I also discovered during a conversation with a bona-fide ex-police dog trainer last week . . . ta-da:
Oh yes, that old chestnut is off the cards now, because dogs can be re-trained apparently. The bloke was fascinating and it would be nice to think he could help me with my reticence and lack of confidence in approaching strangers (I am only reticent with a camera . . not in general conversation) - but as I say that is for the future. In the meantime and for the purposes of this Blog, I took pictures my way and of objects I enjoy photographing.
So where to start. Well, here's some detailed pics of the lens, so that if you are so inclined, you can make some executive decisions about it and then go and politely ask your partner if it would be alright . . .

This isn't just a wide angle lens . . it's an 'Ultra-Wide'

Suitably  'Space-Age'

Front View Of Aperture Blades

Rear View Of Aperture Blades

Slight Distortion Of Viewfinder

View Through The Oblong/Curvy Window

And there you are - beautiful isn't it - I especially like the fact that the rear view of the aperture blades seems to resemble a machine-made version of Hokusai's masterwork 'The Great Wave Off Kanagawa'.


See what I mean? I wonder if that was intentional, seeing as the original name of Canon's rangefinder lens line was Serenar (apparently named after the Sea Of Serenity on the Moon) . . if you think like that, mix in a bit of zen-like happenstance, then you can sort of see where the designer might have been coming from.
Its handling it is a little different to yer bog-standard, normal-sized, muckle-fisted lens; it is very very small, and quite difficult to use quickly, but I've found that because of the great engineering and with the aperture and focus being really smooth and really positive, its smallness is no detriment.

So here we go then, film loaded, adventure trousers fully-primed and ready for whatever the world might throw at us!

1/1000th, f8

Well, it was a bad start as this was only time in my life I've been tutted when photographing.
I thought to myself I know I'll snap these two and try and go a bit Winogrand . . as you can see I failed dismally and was tutted to boot - that really put  me off, so I thought fceck it . . I'll do things my way . . so I did.

1/1000th, f5.6

This is more like it - definitely my sort of photo - incredibly this eyesore has greeted rail and road visitors to Dundee's Centre since Christmas 2013.
I've made lots of photos of this hoarding before and it has had a number of fantastic and vandalisable posters on it . . but this I think sums things up. Yes we have upmty-tump millions being spent on the V&A being built and the whole waterfront getting done up, however at the end of the day, you can't stop the vandals! 
Oh, and in the Canon viewfinder the edge of the hoarding was hard up against it's left edge optically, so I got a surprise bonus bush and a mental to-do note about approaching the finder in a Gumpian manner . ..
"Life With The New Canon Is Like A Box Of Choclits . . You Don' Know Watcha Gonna Git . . "

1/500th, f16

I've made it a semi-mission of mine to take pictures of Phone Boxes before they disappear altogether. Can people even remember back 10 years when they were everywhere? I like them- they're interesting and often vandalised. This one was in the University of Dundee Campus, and it contains no phone, just lots and lots and lots of poetry! It is hard to make out from the scan - as I said, a print would transform it, however I haven't had the time to make any.

1/500th, f5.6

Again, Dundee Uni Campus to the rescue. I initially thought this was a man acting all enigmatic, however I soon discovered it was a cardboard cut-out! Hard to make out from the scan, but again a print would sort it.
No idea who he is though . . .

1/250th, f11

Gumpian slip - that is my camera bag in the lower part of the frame. I just like this and I don't know why.

1/1000th, f8

That 'La-La Crew' have been super-busy of late. I really like this as it has the tonality I have been looking for for a while. It reminds me of Wynn Bullock and Paul Caponigro and Walker Evans later work.

1/60th, f8

This delightful looking piece of concrete is an abandoned building on the Uni Campus. I've made tons of photos of it and have never got tired of photographing it either. . however now, it will no longer be a grounds for inspiration as it is being boarded up after a particularly spray-heavy attack. That's progress!
I'd love to get inside for a few hours.

1/30th, f16

I have photographed these doors many times and I think this is almost the definitive photo of them - I'll be sad to see them boarded up. The tonality on this is outstanding to my eyes - there was a massive tonal range and the lens and film combo has done its best to capture it in a hard-edged way that I rather like.

1/30th, f4

Them doors again - the creativity of the spraying is quite something - I think a lot of these guys would be decent artists if they didn't limit themselves

1/30th, f5.6

Another Sheephouse Shpeshull. Just the sort of shot I enjoy making. The white stuff is polystyrene beads . . they used to be outside the doors but somehow made their way in over a long period of time.

1/30th, f4

Yeah . . me too. 
More details from my favourite corner.

1/30th, f4

It's refreshing to find a lovely unmodernised close in a tenement building and this is one of them. At one time, back in the days when secure entry systems only existed on posh flats, this was par-for-the-course in Dundee. Honest, when I first came here in 1980 it was truly the arse end of nowhere - everyone wore flared trousers (or seemed to); very real violence existed because of its teenage gang culture (gun-free of course, more a solid battering from about 20 pairs of boots); there were derelict buildings all over the shop and it's staunch working-class history was writ large everywhere. It was tough, and I felt like a right old softie.
It's greatly improved these days with a hard-edged charm, and soon to be mucho-improved with the addition of the V&A (hopefully).

1/15th, f4

It's hard to imagine anyone leaving a pram anywhere these days isn't it, yet here one was and nice little line of baby-things drying in the back closie, so I quickly nipped in, snapped my snap and nipped out again with a smile on my face.

1/500th, f8

This is weird isn't it, not least for the fact that the two guys on the 'Whizzzz' poster were looking my way. This is the sort of shot I love taking because it is unclear as to what is going on. The Canon has done a sterling job in cramming as much 'stuff' onto the frame as possible . . well done little chap!

1/500th, f8

The combo of underexposure and over-development has achieved a nice photojournalistic effect.

1/1000th, f8

Same as above - This is a little homage to Walker Evans - I have tried to photograph this setting in this way for as long as I can remember, but I have finally achieved it with the 28mm . . now I can rest!

1/1000th, f8

World's worst selfie!
Och well, some you win . . this is underexposed and not developed enough, so I have had to pump the lightness of the negative a bit so it looks pretty shite doesn't it. I should properly print this with some selective bleaching - that would work. I like the vignetting on the sky - reminds me of David Bailey's 60's stuff . . but poorly executed . . .

And there you go - the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed from all of these that there's vignetting on just about every one, however moving to f11, f16 and beyond it vanishes, so if you are trying to use this lens in a wide-open super-fast 'street' manner, bear that in mind. For myself, I like the vignetting - it will mean I no longer have to 'set' a print into its field by adding extra exposure to the side parts of every print - fan-bloody-tastic!
And now a word on processing:
OK - film (Kodak TXP 400 . . Och . . Tri-X then) was rated at EI 1280. It was developed in a small tank, in Kodak HC 110, Dilution B at 21° Centigrade. 
I gave the film a 3 minute water-bath prior to developing and started with gentle constant agitation for 30 secs, and then gave 2 very gentle inversions every 30 seconds up until 12 mins. At 12 minutes I gave it 4 gentle inversions and then left the whole thing standing still until 16 minutes. 
Stop, fix and wash were all bog standard.
You would think that 16 mins in HC 110 Dilution B would result in extreme overdevelopment but it doesn't - I think I got it about right actually.

Right so lets abandon the scans and do some stuff that film was invented for, namely making prints.
I had a good session with this lot, though didn't make as many as I wanted, however these will suffice.
They're all printed on Ilford Galerie, Grade 2.
Developer is Wolfgang Moersch's Eco, which is a very slow worker with most papers, but we're hitting the three and a half minute mark on Galerie; it is a lovely developer though and lasts for ages, so it is worth the effort.
They were fixed in 2 baths of Amfix, untoned and washed in my old Paterson Archival Washer.
Air drying gives Galerie the most incredible gloss, which unfortunately you can't see.
I'd be happy to exhibit any of these, not that that will ever happen, but one can dream.

Bike Shed. Dundee University, 2014

Self Portrait. Abandoned Building, Dundee University, 2014

Abandoned Building, Dundee University, 2014

Whizzzz. BT Phone Box, Dundee Waterfront, 2014

800 DPI Sectional Enlargement. Ilford Galerie Grade 2.
You can see from the above enlargement that the Canon is none too tardy with regard to detail - bear in mind this is Tri-X pushed to EI 1280 and developed in HC 110 - grain isn't half as bad as you would expect, and the texture of the backboard has been rendered nicely. Result!

And that's it. Hope you've enjoyed this half as much as I have in making it.
My hat is firmly tipped to those Japanese designers of the 1950's who got the backs of Leitz up so much that it set them about designing one of the world's all-time great lenses . . the Summicron - and if anyone out there wants to lend me one (a Summicron that is) I'll happily set up a shoot-out.
Until next time, look after yourselves, take care and keep taking the tablets.


  1. Great stuff as usual Phil and well worth waiting for. You should aim for an exhibition of your reflections and abandoned buildings. What about approaching the uni and seeing if you can hang them in the ground floor of the Tower Building?

    The "fucking crazy" quote is another Lana Del Rey lyric, btw. I was wondering if the Lala Crew is maybe the Lana Crew?

  2. Thanks Bruce - appreciated as always!
    As for an exhibition . . .
    Gawd - it's a thought isn't it. Is anyone interested? You see this is the thorny problem I have faced all through my life . . I never have the confidence to stick my head above the parapet and shout 'Oi! Over here!!'
    The reflections photographs would work well in the entrance of the Architecture building though . . och, I dunno . . maybe I should . . but then again . .

    So you've 'outed' the LaLaLana Crew eh? Dangerous stuff . . . actually I believe that they are a proper studying artist, making merry with the buildings.

  3. Why not start off in a small way then with a wee exhibition in the Tartan Cafe? I bet if you approached them they'd find some wall space, especially if it wasn't costing them anything.

  4. Hadn't thought about the Tartan . .I suppose I should go in there and buy something first though . . .