These photos might give the impression that Bertie’s a sleepy, placid puppy.
What they actually demonstrate is that it’s only worth trying to get a decent picture when he’s sleepy. True to the working cocker spaniel breed, Bertie’s energy levels are off the scale. The good news is that now he’s had all his vaccinations, he can burn some of that energy off outside in the fields.
Nikon F100 / Ilford HP5 / Developed with Bellini Foto EcoFilm (Liquid Xtol)
Don’t worry Coco – you’re still top dog
Thoughts On Ilford HP5
I’ve probably shot most of the popular black & white films over my four decades of shooting film. In more recent years I’ve tried to whittle my choices down to a handful of films that give me consistent, predictable results. The downside of this is that I can’t always remember why I might have previously discarded certain film stocks. And so it is with Ilford HP5. Seeing Jim’s recent appraisal, I thought it was time to give it another go and refresh my memory.
You can only draw limited conclusions from one roll shot under one set of conditions. Grain is more controlled than Tri-X, with a flatter, less-contrasty look. That said, the highlights were blown on quite a few of the frames. I suspect this was down to over-development rather than poor metering. I’ve just started using Bellini Film EcoFilm Developer. It’s supposed to mimic XTOL and use the same times, but I had a similar issue with a roll of Tmax 100. I have one more roll of HP5 to shoot, and I’ll probably decrease the developing time by ten per cent. Let’s see how that goes.
It’s ten years since I first picked up my Olympus Trip 35 in a charity shop for next to nothing.
It was certainly a camera I’d heard of, thanks to a very popular 1970s TV ad campaign with British photographer David Bailey.
What I didn’t know is what an incredibly capable camera it is. That f/2.8 Zuiko lens has a great 40mm focal length and is super sharp and contrasty. And the battery-free auto-exposure system is a work of genius.
I’ve spent the last year whittling down the cameras I own to the ones that get regular use. I wanted to avoid having more than one type of camera in any category. But there was never any doubt that I’d keep the Olympus Trip 35. When you consider price, image quality, usability, and simple good looks, it’s the best camera ever invented in the point and shoot department.
I’ve picked out ten of my favourite Trip photos taken over the last ten years. Tellingly, I can remember taking every single one of them.
My Olympus Trip 35, shot with the Yashica Mat with rolleinar 2 close up lens / Ilford FP4 @ 400 / Developed D76 1+1 for 18 minutes
This was from the first roll of film I shot with my Trip. It may even have been my first photo. It’s certainly one of the pictures that got me hooked. I was walking through an alley in Windsor and came across these characters right in front of me. I was able to focus and click the shutter before they’d even noticed I was there.
One of the great things about the Trip’s zone focus system is that each setting has a very positive click on the lens barrel. Once you’re familiar with it, it’s possible to set the focus without even looking. Perfect for when you have to fire off quick street pictures.
I shot this with Fomapan 100. That’s unusual, as most of these photos are shot with Tmax 400 or Tri-X. I generally recommend using a 400 speed film for the Trip. That means smaller apertures and a wider depth of field, handy if you’re not so good at judging distances.
I darkened the deep blue sky by using an orange filter. The Trip takes obscure 43.5mm screw on filters, but these are rare, and if you find one it’ll cost you. Save some money by buying a 43.5 step-up ring and using a standard size filter. And because the filter covers the selenium cells, the metering stays spot on.
I sat opposite this thoughtful looking woman on the train and wanted to grab a quick candid. She was probably only about two feet from me, closer than the Trip’s three(ish) foot minimum focus. However, shooting her reflection in the train window managed to keep things sharp, with the added advantage of looking like I was shooting the scenery.
It’s said that you’re a true cockney if you’re born within earshot of Bow Bells. Those bells belong to the church of St Mary-le-Bow in the Cheapside district of the City of London. There’s been a church on this site all the way back to Saxon times, and it was last rebuilt after the 1666 Great Fire Of London.
It’s always quiet here at weekends. I was looking at the stained glass windows, and turning around was surprised to see Marge in the pulpit, apparently having a bit of a moment. Click.
When I came across this stand in Covent Garden I stood there hoping something would fill the empty frame. Almost immediately a large stomach came in to view. Shortly followed by a man.
I was walking through Trafalgar Square and saw a small protest in support of Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi. This was in 2010 just before she was released from prison. It’s the expressions on all the faces that I really love about this snap.
Another one taken in Trafalgar Square, this time on the plinth of Nelson’s colum. I rested the camera on the plinth and clicked the shutter. Et voilà – Attack Of The Giant Pigeons.
Another clever Trip feature is the inability to take a poorly exposed photo. If the meter doesn’t detect enough light, a red flag pops up in the viewfinder and the shutter release locks.
This photo was taken at a Voices Of Cuba gig in London. The red flag was probably right to tell me there wasn’t enough light across the whole scene. But I knew there was enough to light the musicians.
The Trip automatically chooses one of its two shutter speeds: 1/200s or 1/40s. But if you move the aperture from A to a specific aperture, the camera will default to 1/40s. It will also open up as wide as necessary, but not wider than the aperture you’ve chosen. Whether or not that means a good exposure depends on the circumstances. For example, set the aperture to f/5.6 in bright sunshine, and the camera will still stop down to something like f/22. At 1/40s, this may still result in overexposure. Set the aperture to f/11 for example, and the camera will not open wider than that, even if there’s not enough light.
The reason to set a specific aperture is when you’re using a flash, but it also means you can partly override the auto-exposure. In this case, I moved the aperture off of A to f/2.8, as the red flag was raised and the shutter locked. So this photo was shot at f2.8 (probably) with a shutter speed of 1/40s. Success
A testimony to the Trip’s fiendishly clever design and success is the fact that it was produced continuously from 1967-1984 with virtually no changes. It’s hard to imagine a smartphone or a car being sold unchanged for 17 years.
This was one of the many times I’ve been crammed into a tube train as it’s stopped between stations for no apparent reason. Like the Trip, the London Underground sometimes seems like it’s remained technologically unchanged since its inauguration in 1863
I was strolling through Greenwich on a summer evening, having just been to The Royal Observatory. The Camera Obscura there completely blew me away. I was intrigued by these three couples each in their own seperate worlds. But looking at the guy on the left, it looks like I lingered just a bit too long.
One final point on the red flag. I’ve seen many people suggest that if you find a Trip, you can test if its meter is still working by seeing if the red flag pops up and the shutter locks in low light. But having come across several Trips over the years, I can say that this mechanism is one of the weaker parts. This feature can be broken but the meter still be fully working. The real way to test is to turn the camera around and look into the lens. Press the shutter halfway down and see if the aperture responds appropriately in different lighting conditions.
Oh, and this is a good time to mention that pressing the shutter halfway locks the exposure. This means you can potentially have some control over exposure by locking the meter on something other than your subject.
After much anticipation, Bertie the working cocker spaniel left his siblings and went to live with Jane at 8 weeks old. His new family now consists of two dogs, four chickens, one cat, and two children. I got to meet Bertie on his second day with the family and had a very happy weekend.
Over the years, Cocker Spaniels have been bred into two different types of cockers – the ‘working’ cocker and the ‘show’ cocker. Although their temperaments are very similar – both are very gentle and soft-hearted – the working cocker is a natural and eager field dog and is almost tireless. Coco is also a working cocker and it’s impossible to wear her out. These are not dogs for inactive people with little free time. It’s going to be interesting to see if Bertie will grow up to have the same amount of stamina as Coco.
Even though Bertie’s tiny at the moment, he seems to be a robust little dog. He’s curious, gentle, and self-contained. I think he’s going to have a very happy life with his new family. That’s a wonderful gift you can give to any animal.
It’s not always easy bringing a new puppy into a household that already has a dog. Coco has had to put Bertie in his place a few times. But Bertie’s a resilient little chap and bounces right back. And I think Coco is starting to realise that Bertie’s not here to steal all her food. Although clearly the same can’t be said about her bed.
Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan, the largest city on the Caspian Sea, topped and tailed by Russia and Iran. The name Baku is derived from the original Persian name, Bād-kube. This broadly translates to the rather catchy ‘Place Where Wind Is Strong And Pounding’. Which is fortunate, as when I was there it was consistently above 35℃. The breeze definitely kept things bearable. In the winter it can get quite severe.
Baku was part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991. Russian is still spoken by a proportion of the population, and there’s definitely a slight soviet flavour. But the city also has both a European and a middle-eastern feel. If Paris and Dubai had an illicit fling, and the love child was shipped off to a Russian Uncle, then that’s Baku.
Baku / Fujifilm X100T
In spite of what the title says, I actually spent five days in Baku. But most of the daylight hours were spent working at the airport, and consequently I had just a single afternoon to look around. Ideally, I would’ve liked to take my Nikon F100, but I knew there’d be few chances to use it. And I didn’t want to put my film through at least two x-ray scans without even having used any. Instead, I took my compact and perfectly formed Fujifilm X100T.
The X100T was given to me as compensation a reward for 10 years service with the company. I don’t normally get on with digital cameras, especially compacts. I don’t even like using my smartphone for pictures. I assume they chose it based on its vintage styling. But Fuji’s camera has many of the things you normally don’t get in a compact. A viewfinder, for one thing. And ‘real’ controls; an aperture ring and a shutter speed dial. Best of all for me, it shoots natively in black and white, and crucially, the photos rarely need any editing. I shoot it much the same way I would any film camera and don’t need to spend hours editing in front of a computer. Just like film, all the choices are made before and not after I press the shutter. Oh, and it also features a fixed 35mm (35m equivalent) lens, the same focal length I use on my Nikon F100. I feel right at home.
I see that some sources refer to it as the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, but my visa just said the Republic of Azerbaijan. Democratic in a country’s name is always a bit of a warning sign. Yep, I’m looking at you Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Anyway, I’m not going to make any comment on the state of Azerbaijan’s democracy. But it’s worth mentioning the 2013 election, where the incumbent Government won with 72% of the votes. The one problem? The results were accidentally released via a mobile app the day before voting started. In the words of one of our greatest philosophers: “Doh!”
Go and visit Baku. It’s warm (in the summer), the food’s great, the people are lovely, the city is safe, and the atmosphere is relaxed. And even though the driving’s vaguely disconcerting, it still only scores about 5/10 on the Cairo Brown Trousers scale.