Some thoughts on Adox Silvermax

Recently, I have been trying out a black and white film called Adox Silvermax. It’s an ISO 100 film, although I have heard some people say that it is better rated at ISO 400. I have just left it at its box speed. The film has a higher silver content than most black and white films. This means that there is more tonal range within the images.

img061.jpg

I haven’t been able to print the film traditionally in the darkroom (the enlarger and what not is in my attic in (very) long-term storage). But, I have obviously scanned it. It scans very well, better than Kodak Tri-X to me as the film is inherently less contrasty and holds more details in the shadows. I am using a Epson V850 scanner at the moment with the standard Epson software. I have a Plustek 8200AI scanner with the dedicated Silverfast HDR suite as well, which produces much better ‘RAW’ scans as it has a great multiple exposure mode). But, I have loaned this out to a friend so that they can scan some of their film work (it’s much more portable than a flatbed!).

Whilst it’s a slow film, it’s quality is very good. I have been really impressed with the amount of information that the 35mm negatives contain. You can zoom in on the images and pick out a lot of detail.

The images here are from a recent trip to London during photo week, where I originally went with the aim of seeing Zhang Kechun‘s excellent large format work done along the Yangtze called ‘The Yellow River’. After visiting the exhibition, I just wandered around making photographs, eating and drinking a lot of coffee. I am hoping to go to London in October to see the exhibition of William Eggleston’s work, which no doubt will involve some street photography afterwards – probably in colour!

It’s a film that I really enjoyed using, so much so that I have ordered more of it. It doesn’t have the speed and flexibility of Tri-X or HP5+ but in good light conditions, it produces lovely toned and detailed images. Definitely, one for where the extra quality is needed over speed.

Advertisements

Clothes of Southampton

It’s been a busy weekend, but I have started to scan some of the films back from the processor for the 365 project. Keeping track of what I shot when is a bit of a ‘mare as the film numbers don’t match up with my notes. Still, I can work out what was taken when.

Here is one of the shots. Weird how everyone is pretty wearing the same dull colours in the shot – even the car!

img280.jpg

Salisbury Street life

One of the things that is nice about street photography is that you can just concentrate on capturing life as it happens. You don’t need a ‘higher motive’ like when shooting a project.

Hopefully, tomorrow the films will be ready for collection (and then scanning by me). I would like to get some shots of the 365 project up over the weekend. We’ll see…

img207-2

Leica and street photography

Now, like a number of people who decide to get into doing street photography the word ‘Leica’ at some point crosses your mind. Those expensive little cameras with the so-called ‘best lenses in the world’. Like a lot of people, I got caught up in the hype that if I was to do street photography then I needed a small, high quality, unobtrusive camera. Of course, the Leica on paper was pretty perfect for this. Enter my M7 about 6 years ago. I bought the M7 as it was more modern than the M6, pretty cheap used as Leica’s go due to their flaky electronics and if you are mad enough to buy one new, you can still get one (I later had a Leica MP – much more reliable, if a bit slower in practice). Some time after acquiring the camera (at a very good price) from Evilbay, I managed to attach a 35mm Voigtlander lens to it. Then, I loaded up with Kodak Tri-X (because I read it was a good film, my prior encounters with black and white were all with Ilford (which I have returned to using more nowadays as it scans better)).

Now, I must admit using a rangefinder to start with was a bit of a pain, I was missing loads of shots – if anything moved it was pretty much out of the question. I tried zone focusing, but have never been that good at it. Some people are much better at judging distances than me.

Over time, with a hell of a lot of persistence, I managed to get to grips with the camera. I found out that if I didn’t use it for a while I would get quite rusty with it, but as I used it more and more, I would get back into the groove with it.

A basic kit is expensive, but they are cameras for life (well, maybe apart from my M7 as the electronics go AWOL from time to time). Whilst they are quite limited in many ways, but do excel at street and candid reportage. They are rubbish in my view for landscape and anything that requires tight framing.

However, there is something about them which makes them just lovely to use. It’s not just that you are using a piece of photographic history, but there is the whole ‘feel’ of the thing. They feel very small and purposeful.

They also are quite committing cameras to use as you don’t look through a lens, like in a DSLR. This means that you have to pre-imagine what sort of image you want. This is great as it makes you more focused on what you are doing. You can certainly do grab shots with the camera, but for me at least, the psychological attitude to using it is very different to a DSLR (I like using both formats of cameras, but I prefer the rangefinder design for more committed work).

You definitely don’t need a Leica for street photography. Any camera that you can practically use will do. Joel Meyerowitz even shot street on a 10×8 large format camera. They are overpriced, limited in many ways, infuriatingly temperamental (in the case of the M7), and weirdly cultish. However, the one advantage is that you can sell them at not much loss of money if you play your cards right. I don’t think I will be able to say the same for my DSLR if I come to sell that in a few years time…

Untitled copy 2

London, 2015. Leica MP, Kodak Portra. I finally worked out why I like this shot so much – the line of red vehicles and the expression on the woman’s face in the foreground.