Kensal Green Cemetery


Camera: Pentax KM
Film: Kodak Tmax 100
Process: Kodak D76 1+1

Yes it’s another cemetery, and not only that, another one of London’s Magnificent Seven.

I’ve visited and written about Kensal Green Cemetery previously, about how its atmospheric, gothic nature made it an ideal filming location for a key scene in Vincent Price’s 1973 schlock-horror movie Theatre Of Blood. It’s the stirring of those childhood memories of Friday and Saturday nights, wrapped up in bed in the dark and watching camp horror films on a black and white portable, that makes Kensal Green my favourite of London’s grand old cemeteries.

Kensal Green is the oldest of London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries, established in 1832. Up until then, most of London’s dead had been buried in small parish churchyards, but overcrowding lead to contamination of the water supply and subsequent health epidemics. Of course, when I say ‘contamination’ I’m euphemistically referring to bits of dead bodies. Hmmmnn…there’s something in the water….

As mentioned in the last post, I don’t shoot a lot of medium speed 35mm film. And whereas I’d normally shoot something like this on medium format, my experience with Ferrania P30 prompted me to rummage round in the fridge and see what was there; a couple of rolls of Kodak Tmax 100, as it turned out.

To my shame I realised it’s been quite a while since I used my Pentax KM. I’d almost forgotten what a joy this all-mechanical, all-manual 1970s SLR is. When I do eventually get round to rationalising the number of cameras I have, this will definitely be one of the five or six I keep for regular use.

I’m not normally keen on using more than one lens; I like to keep things simple and a choice of lens is just another distracting decision that needs to be made. But as well as the wonderful 50mm SMC Pentax-M F/1.7, I took along the 28mm Pentax-M F/3.5 I picked for a few quid a couple of years back to see how that’d perform. Not great, as it happens. Even stopped down it doesn’t seem particularly sharp, and it also overexposed by up to a stop. It’ll have to go.


I Found A Roll Of FP4

There’s been an exposed roll of 35mm FP4 kicking around my desk drawers for a while now, and I’ve no idea where it came from. This is unusual for me. I’m normally keen to develop my films as quickly as possible, convinced that each roll contains a masterpiece crying out to be released into the wild. Consequently there tends to be a lot of disappointment in my life. Anyway, it’s a bit odd to have a roll of film with no clue as to when or where it was shot, or even what camera it was shot with. Probably the one thing I knew for sure was that there wasn’t going to be anything worthwhile on it, otherwise I never would have forgotten about it.

Seeing as the stakes were low (and because fundamentally I’m lazy), I thought I’d stand develop it. But not the reasonably controlled and consistent semi-stand developing I often use for medium format film. Nope, this was the full on sling-it-the-tank-and-leave-it-untouched-until-I-can-be-bothered-to-get-up-from-the-sofa-type. Which turned out to be round about two hours.

  • Mix 5ml of Rodinal with 495ml of water
  • Don’t bother worrying about the temperature
  • Add to tank and agitate for 30 seconds. Or a minute. Or whatever
  • Whack tank to get rid of air bubbles
  • Make a nice cup of Earl Grey tea, cut a decent-sliced slab of homemade cake, sit down to watch a movie. I don’t recommend Transformers
  • When you feel like it, empty the tank, rinse once with water, fix and wash in the normal way

Hanging up the roll to dry I saw that I’d taken around 12 frames, scattered randomly along the whole length of the film. Quite why I’d done this is still a mystery, and although it was clear that the first few shots were taken in Brookwood Cemetery, there was no clue as to when.

Camera: Pentax KM
Film: Ilford FP4
Process: Stand Developed in Rodinal 1+9

brookwood cemetery

However, the remaining frames revealed all. These were taken on a long bicycle ride along the Thames last summer with my Pentax KM. How can I be so sure? Because I also took my Mamiya 645 with me.

Walton Bridge. The first bridge built here was opened in 1750 and immortalised five years later in Canaletto’s painting. This is bridge number six.

St Mary’s Church, Sunbury Upon Thames. This was rebuilt in 1752, but the foundations date from the original structure, built some time in the middle ages. Because I like to be accurate to the nearest 1000 years.
I’ve no idea who this chap is or where he was shot..

A few years back I developed a roll of 35mm FP4 in Rodinal using standard processing. The results were grainier than I would have liked for a 100 ISO film, and I never repeated it. By comparison, these are far more pleasing. Perhaps it’s the weak dilution that reduces the grain? Or the lack of agitation? Probably a combination of the two.

One conclusion I’ve come to through personal experience is that traditional grain films like FP4 do very well using stand development, but tabular grain films like T-Max and Delta are best avoided. Everyone else probably realised this years ago. But then again I’ve only just found out they had stopped making VHS players after an embarrassing conversation at the electrical store that made me feel about 80 years old.