I Remember Why I Dream In Black And White

Author Archive


Cairo, November 2011 by Tim Baker

Cairo, November 2011 by Tim Baker

Posted my full set of Egypt photos over at Flickr – here are some of the best ones, I went during the 2nd revolutionary protests last November – so I had a very different experience than most tourists – I took photos in Tahrir Square and of the graffiti, the ancient and the modern. I always try to get a sense of a place – and a view you’d not get from a brochure or tour book…although i took some of those shots too, I mean with one of the greatest wonders of the world how can you resist?

Pyramid, Nov 2011 by Tim Baker

Cairo, November 2011 by Tim Baker

Cairo, November 2011 by Tim Baker

Tahrir Square, Nov 2011

Cairo, November 2011 by Tim Baker

Mosque, Nov 2011

Tahrir Square, Nov 2011

Old house, Cairo Nov 2011

Abu Simpel, Nov 2011

Bird at Abu Simpel, 2011

Ancient pepsi can, Aswan 2011

Rameseum, Nov 2011

Motorcycle workshop, Cairo 2011

Habbu's town, 2011

Arabic sign language, 2011

Donkey at cross roads, Luxor

Street food, Luxor


Cairo motorcyclist

Virtual Light Studio

A friend posted this, a virtual light studio. A really useful tool to try out and learn some of those lighting layouts, although obviously nothing replaces real studio time.

I put in my usual lighting rig as I used for the shots of Kirk and others, and got some quite nice results:

Virtual light studio setup

Although I tended to quite often in my earlier portraits use a softbox of at a 45 degree angle to the side and a reflector on the other, I found it more controllable and reliable to use two lights of differing power, sometimes with a snoot (although I never really got good results with one of those, or barn doors…practice I guess). The fun (ie hard part) of lighting is to accent the modelling of the face without getting shadows under the nose or eyes – unless you are going for that moody/Halloween look. As I was taught sculpture and drawing and learnt about light and modelling through that, I think I approach it in sculptural terms, light and shadow, chiaroscuro.

What I find in a lot of commercial shoots is they pour a lot of light at the subject, mostly directly on, equally balanced power. It tends to lead to a flat high-key look, which can in the right hands look quite cool (always fond of that ring-flash look, or the use of silver or gold reflectors, overused but can be really striking!) but most often than not looks boring. It’s good for catalogue or some fashion/supermarket magazine photography, but the lighting of a portrait subject should say as much about the subject – or at least show off their features – as the choice of pose or lens or location. Those ‘flat’ studio shots to me look as if the person is treating the subject as a still life, static and on some kind of conveyor belt. Also truly good high-key photography is hard, since throwing a lot of light at a subject is actually rarely flattering unless you bounce the light, and as I’ve found that’s quite hard to control. Unless major studios have a lot of dwarves with last-o-lites scattered around the set out of shot. I wouldn’t be surprised…;-)

It’s why I was taught to only use one light and reflectors at first, it’s a really good training in economy in lighting, You can get perfectly good shots with a single tungsten light, or a strobe flash, and a white board or wall. Harder to control the reflection, especially the angle of reflected light since it scatters as it bounces but certainly it teaches you how much you can change mood by swinging the light around by a few degrees, and how much light can be bounced back onto subject (or not if you want very moody/introspective shots) and how that changes the feel of the portrait. As with all things, experimentation is the key.

Quirang, 2001

2001 Isle of Skye On Top of the Quirang by Tim Baker

2001 Isle of Skye On Top of the Quirang by Tim Baker

While the world was going mad in September 2001, I was walking in the Isle of Skye taking pictures, mostly monochrome…seemed the safest place to be. This is shot of a rather disturbingly shot up PASSING sign on the top of the remote Quirang – well not so remote as it doesn’t have a road, but after 5pm there was no traffic, and I decided to walk across it in late afternoon which yes, meant walking at night by the time I got over the top….where there was only sheep (including spookily dead ones – that shot I used for KLF Dead Sheep show is from this walk) and remains of ancient huts for company.

I lost my Smith & Wesson cap up there, too – wearing it ironically, was doing a sort of Unabomber/Crazy Gunman Chic thing which really wouldn’t translate in the US and I wince thinking about that now (was trying to prove a point at work, freak them out, punk in a way…) a gust of wind took it off my head and I couldn’t find it even though I saw it go. Just vanished….the feeling of place on the top was, odd. Very strange vibes and felt very remote – I mean after 11 years I can still see and feel that place, where people used to live a long time ago.

This is scanned on my new 120 glass holder* for the Nikon Coolscan 8000 – one of the problems with the holders that are supplied is they don’t always keep the negative completely flat – not usually a problem but with curved or bent negatives that’s a real problem as those bits that curve drop out of focus.

I doubt any of you have noticed this, but it bugged the hell out of me that such an expensive scanner couldn’t do edge to edge sharpness – which it can now, even with 35mm. The glass holder just has special glass in it that sandwiches the negative flat…less scary than ‘wet mounting’ which is what it sounds, it’s applying a special alcohol based solution with a glass holder which keeps the negative flat in the same way that a piece of paper ‘sticks’ to the floor when wet. A lot of professionals use wet mounting, but the idea of putting liquids on my negatives and in my scanner, well, I don’t really like that.

* What’s the holder? Well negatives are held by a large plastic flat cartridge, which keeps the negatives from 35mm upto 120 size in place as the motor moves it around from negative to negative – probably different to scanners people have used, the idea the negative moves rather than the scanner head, rather than the other way round – but in professional scanners that’s usually what happens (drum scanners I think also rotate the negative in a drum around the ‘slit’ where the scanner is). It also means you can batch scan negatives, Upto 3/4 120 negatives, 12 35mm and 6 slides.

It’s a wonder of technology, anyway…

And thanks to Jeb 50poundnote for helping me ship it here, the taxes and shipping cost MORE than the holder, and of course you can’t get it here, or if you can it’s actually more than even direct $ = £ conversion which is crazy. Or Cray-Cray as the song goes.

Anyway planning to scan all my 2001 Skye pics, as I think the prints really didn’t do them justice, and also my early 2000s shots of East London in protest of the Olympics.

Riverwalks and GPS tagging…

Rower, Thames 2012 by Tim Baker

Started the riverwalks (the longstanding project where I walk along the Thames and tributaries, been doing it since 1999) and cliffwalks again for this year…this was taken during the good weather of last week walking from Hampton Court to Walton Bridge there seems to be a lot of rowers on the river – Olympics practice? Or just I’m getting closer to Henley and the traditional home of rowing in the UK? I did Walton to Chertsey yesterday – Shepperton and Chertsey are a strange place, loads of riverside holiday homes with statues, English flags and clocktowers – little England indeed!

The idea of river walks is to photograph the Thames and it’s tributaries in sections creating a photographic essay or book…I’ve done from Chertsey down to Thames Barrier so far following the Thames Path with a little bits after there (Gravesend for instance). Part of the scanning is I want to scan the photos I took of those central sections and east London – which has partly undergone great changes since because of the Olympics and development – and put them online/store them and sort them. There are many more photos  I took 1999-2004 than in that set! I redid the Royal Docks area recently, so in some cases I can have a ‘layer’ of then and now, amazing how in some cases little changes, like Woolwich/Thames Barrier area, and how some areas have very much changed in the last 10 years.

Rather proud of the one above, especially as it was a grab shot and this is a detail of a bigger picture which you can see at the Flickr Riverwalks highlights set  which contains the ‘best of’ most of the walks so far since 2004/5. The idea of making a site or book is definitely still on the cards, still thinking about that. Certainly having location data will help with those.

Oh and these are the first DSLR images I’ve posted that should be properly geotagged, using Geotag Photos Pro app and syncing the camera clock to the GPS/app clock. It works pretty well, as you should see from the newer pictures at the end of the set they should all appear on the Map over at Flickr (or the EXIF should have that info too). Geotag Photos Pro costs a little money and also I prefer to be platform/server independent, I don’t like uploading my data to someone else’s server to convert to GPX – always thinking ‘but what if the server goes down/bust?’. But I tried free apps such Osmand which is a really good Android mapping app, or GPS Logger but the quality wasn’t as good, they weren’t as accurate or in the case of GPS Logger they logged nothing at all – rather frustrating. Geotag Photos Pro was simple and just worked, and was pretty accurate, only a few jumps courtesy of the US Military (they put errors into the GPS data, it can do down to <1m on the military version, but of course they don’t want to give that ability to the ‘enemy’ so put intentional errors into the consumer version so hence those 10m jumps, frustratingly.).

If you want to see the full set (ie. all photos) in a map type format, try my Picasa set – I tend to keep Flickr for ‘best’ photos and dump all sets and social stuff onto Picasa….but it’s better mapping is also useful.

We Done This, 2012 by Tim Baker

Dog, 2012 by Tim Baker

Walton Bridge by Tim Baker

More lost films: Tynemouth/Newcastle

Tynemouth Priory, 2003

Tynemouth Priory, 2003

I’ve not forgotten the whole lost films project, just that I think we’re pretty much there bar a few C41 films I’ve not posted, and maybe the slide films (I know I posted one of those early on). This one needed complete ID, I had NO idea of where it was – thought it was Warwick for a long time. Enter Google Image Search, which amazingly ID’d the lump of stones as Tynemouth Priory – I wasn’t expecting that. Then I managed to date it exactly because while we were there jousting was happening…a quick Google search brings up the local paper article about the event – which pegs it exactly to July 11th 2004 – because I remember we visited on the Sunday.

Jousting at Tynemouth Priory, July 2004

There’s a disused fort and a gun enplacement right by the Priory, and a graveyard. The weather was as stormy as it looked, a typical English summer’s day!

Tynemouth July 2004

Tynemouth Priory July 2004

I like this shot, seems to have a real Military Complex, Church and State, Army and Death thing going on. But they were that close to each other, with a jousting contest going on around the corner. It was rather odd, actually.

I loved the fact the older gravestones were literally melting cos of the weather erosion:

Gravestone, Tynemouth Priory July 2004

These were a complete pig (or something rather more stronger) to export and edit…somehow, and I think this is a Lightroom 4 bug, they would not export and kept creating an ‘unknown error’, and even when editing them I’d get ‘This photo cannot be edited due to an unknown error’. They are fine in Preview and LR 3.6 (and still fine, I went back to LR 3.6 and re-exported them as DNGs – did not fix it sadly) and I tried taking all metadata out, exporting as other formats, nothing.

So to keep all my settings I had to download Camera RAW 6.7 beta and export them one by one, partly because Photoshop CS5 wouldn’t open more than one PV2012 image without freezing/crashing, so I couldn’t batch them. Again, it’s fine with other RAW images, be they PV 2010 or previous, or TIFFs and NEFs etc. This all points to a serious problem with Process Version 2012 or a nasty metadata compatibility somewhere, but the common feature seems to be PV2012.

So -1 to Lightroom – I think there is a bug in Process Version 2012 that they’re not talking about, because I’ve had this happen to new scanned TIFFs that haven’t been touched by LR 3.6 (previously I thought it was some import failure)…thankfully in that case a removal and re-import seemed to fix it…. and converting back to PV 2010 seemed to fix the issue. Adobe’s forums are full of people having problems like this from the Beta version, as someone who didn’t install the beta but installed the ‘final’ version over a paid-for download I think there’s a more serious issue here.

Lightroom 4 does kick out these strange ‘Image cannot be edited due to an Unknown Error’ sometimes, usually on large TIFF scans, but I’ve not been doing that much photography so I dont know if that will have the same problem (this is now changing because with the light and BST I’m now doing my cliffwalks again). But usually switching to another file and or closing and restarting solves that temporarily, this was the first time it was regularly happening with the same batch of images, and wouldn’t let me export them at all.

I would say: keep your LR 3.6 and 4 catalogues separate for the moment if you can, and don’t uninstall previous versions. And hope Adobe ‘solve’ this in a update. Disappointing since I now prefer PV 2012 for editing, and I can see the quality change side-by-side (and below). It’s far better…IF you files don’t get ‘corrupted’ or an ‘unknown error’. 😦

Back to the photos: we visited Newcastle & Gateshead for a weekend in July 2004 so this all fits…on another film, one of the C41 Kodak C400CN films, we have shots of Newcastle…love the Tyne Bridge shots:

Newcastle July 2004

Newcastle July 2004

Newcastle July 2004

Newcastle July 2004

Newcastle July 2004

A few more scans…Kirk & Me 2003 Cross Process

2003 Kirk Cross Process by Tim Baker

2003 Kirk Cross Process by Tim Baker

(yes I know but Doctor Who copied me, this shot was made in 2003 and online WELL before the David Tennant shot :-P)

Here are some of my recent scans – in 2003 I reckon this was my first photo studio session with Flash, or one of them…I kind of snook in (with permission, although the teacher wasn’t too keen) to the studio after waiting WEEKS to ‘introduced’ like some odd genteel dating game. As soon as me and the studio were ‘introduced’ I ran off intp a torrid love affair and got married at Gretna Green, or something.

I think for my first session with Flash I did really well…although I think the first actual studio session was a black and white one I did with Kirk, or John…I suspect so, I remember inflicting the Tungsten Lamp of Death on them, very hot! Obviously you can’t use tungsten lamps with colour film because of colour casts (although I suspect I did some lamp work with this because of the cross process) and I can see the softbox in Kirk’s eyes!

Here it is then…cross processed Kodak EL-2 (Elite Chrome! OMG!) even with a few shots of yours truly:

Kirk and Tim, 2003

I seemed to be obsessed with eyes at this point…

The real challenge with cross process is colour…whether to leave the green ‘cast’ in – partly that gives cross-process it’s character but green skin tones aren’t really that nice to look at – and the fact that all the colours go crazy, so when you get an accurate skin tone, the others colours go completely haywire. Interesting however ‘normal’ you try to make a cross process shot, it always looks a little odd, especially in the shadows. I like that creeping oddness 😉 And the highlights blow, the contrast and grain ups, and colours tend to get luminescent if you turn up the saturation in a way that normal process doesn’t.

It’s for these reasons I spit on the ‘cross process’ presets on digital cameras…or Photoshop Infrared or Cross Process curves. They look OK, but nothing like the real thing (also see Hipstamatic etc.) – partly because both processes have elements of *randomness* – based around old expired and possibly faded slide film vs exhausted C41 chemistry, or halation and different frequencies of light zinging around the place and colliding with the grains or film, fogging and loose developing times (HIE at 1:1 D76 is between 7-11 minutes, take your pick!). It’s hard to get truly random from a computer – impossible in fact.

Lightroom 4 mini-review

Steve Medium Format (LR4 version) by Tim Baker

Just updated to Lightroom 4, and you can see the difference below as I redid one of my medium format images with the new ‘Process Version 2012’. Warning: on problem images it does tend to screw up your converted LR3 2010 pictures somewhat, coming out really light. It seems big changes in Contrast and the introduction of Highlights, Shadows and Whites sliders and changes with Clarity means if you have a photo using a lot of those (say a dark underexposed image, or with a lot of haze/flare) you might need to tweak it quite a lot – but my other more standard images hardly changed at all – the shot of Kirk for instance the auto-tone and the skin tones looked far more pleasing.

One good thing though is you’re given the option to view Before/After and can edit your image to match the previous Process Version, so it’s quite a quick process unless you have quite a ‘challenging’ image, in which case unless you feel there is something in the new Process Version you want, I’d leave old images be. What I found though is those old images looked rather odd in the old PV2010 in 4, they looked overexposed/light as if the brightness was turned up too high, so I’m not sure how good the claim is that your old images stay as they are…that’s the theory, but it seems a bit of a one-way upgrade so if you’ve got images you’re editing I’d recommend you finish and export them in LR3 before moving to LR4 and accept some of them will ‘shift’ and lighten.

The spotting is far faster – it tends to drag on the massive medium format scans in LR3, only slightly in LR4 as you click, then you can add another, speeding up the process no end. Also the gamut has been tweaked so highlights don’t blow so easily and it seems a softer curves at the higher end, leading to more pleasing skin in portrait shots.

Something strange when I first imported the catalog it took closing and reopening the program and some time before the previews showed (maybe they’re being ‘converted’ but there wasn’t an indicator for that, although it said it would), so if you get ‘no images found’ in Develop module try restarting the program, or opening up LR3, closing it down, then opening LR4, that seemed to do it.

I’ve also used the white balance temp/tint function on the mask brush – it’s great for when you have mixed lighting or the shift in colour due to being too close or too far away from the flash, noticed that bringing underexposed areas the colours tend to have a red bias (and too close a greenish tinge?) – this slider will help you balance the colours.

Check it out – here you can see the new PV 2012 image and to compare you can see the original JPG of the PV2010 version three posts below…it took more work to get ‘back’ to this state, but I do prefer it, the higher-range tones looks much more natural and less contrasty and highlights seem less likely to ‘blow’ – and better Clarity results although now needs to be more lightly applied :

Steve Medium Format (LR4 version) by Tim Baker

There also seemed to be far less obvious ‘noise’ (look at the black jacket, the white bits are on the image, less prominent in the LR4 version) and colour seemed less likely to go to vivid when you turned up the contrast – this was slightly annoying actually as I liked the more saturated look so I had to play with Vibrance and Saturation, but it’s good news if you have images like this which usually when you turn up the Exposure gain and contrast things used to get a little day-glo. Opposite seems to be true now, it seems to err on the other side of neutral.

And here you see the original scan – ugh indeed. That’s the magic of the tools in Lightroom and also a decent colour negative scanner (transparency might be a different story) you can get something out of a failed negative like this (what happened is I was trying to bounce light from behind, I now know I probably should have put a small flash in front, or put large reflectors closer – the balancing in this high key soft type shot, something that’s used a lot in fashion, is very hard.

Steve Medium Format unedited by Tim Baker

Not tried the other features in LR4 – import seems a LOT faster, though…but looking forward to reverse geoencoding using GPX Logger on my Android phone and using the new Map feature where you can sync a GPX file to a set of pictures so you can use any camera and don’t need an expensive device trailing a cable off your camera to tag the GPS location – yes that’s more accurate but it’s the hassle of having wires I don’t want…and this is free!

It’s new! It’s now! It’s flashcube!

I have one of these Instamatic cameras – in that box! No flashcubes, though. Maybe they were used by groovy people in square garb and music (just like the flashcubes I guess) ?

Oh did I mention the Flashcubes? Yes? Radical man, radical.

And what you were always missing wasn’t a jetpac and a hoverboard, not it was a gyrocopter and a super 8 camera:


Oh in a galaxy far far away a young Jedi takes pictures with a ‘Tele Instamatic’ 110 camera and amazingly unlike the real thing you can actually see what you take rather than odd-shaped blur you’d most likely get (gawd, 126 was remarkably sharp if scanned/printed properly but I doubt even my scanner could get much out of 110)…must be that ol’ Blade Runner technology.

No to see a proper old-skool advert and how I think modern Cillit Bang type advertisers could learn a thing or two, is Kodak’s infamous ‘Turn Around’ advert.

Not a dry eye in the house? So this style doesn’t work anymore, huh? Love the ‘…and thoughfulness’ at the end.

Watermarking and credit

I’ve decided to start watermarking my images – yes I hate watermarking as much as you, but because of sites like Pinterest we can’t have nice things.

Although the common opinion even of friends of mine that if you put it on the internet it’s fair game, in my country all of my images are automatically copyright to me and no, unlike the common opinion you can’t just take them as your own and I don’t need even need to state that they are copyright…but I do to remind people they can’t just copy or ‘borrow’ the pictures which kind of saddens me (I can also tell you some horror stories about people borrowing/stealing portfolios for interviews to claim as their own!).

Especially as someone who also does mashups, always with credit even though without consent, I realise you can’t stop people making stuff with your work – or would even want to, I would be chuffed if people do take my work and do something non-commercial with it, preferably with credit. I think the credit part is important, because if someone likes an image or something goes viral I’d like a little of that attention too – it might lead to work.

So if you want to do something or repost my work, just ask. I won’t bite and the answer will most likely be yes; unless I have to get further permission. Commercial usage would be a case by case basis, depending on the subject/permissions etc. but again please ask. Even if people use my work artistically without permission (say in collage, something I do also but I do transform the images as much as possible, and quite often use Creative Commons works under license – a few of my pictures are CC usually the political ones but most aren’t because I was never totally happy with the global legal standing of the licenses) I don’t mind, but again I’d love to know about it.

You can’t really stop the tide of the internet, or really stop someone who is determined to rip off your work, and I understand that and don’t want to fight the new technologies – as a blogger, artist and user of Tumblr too I know how much fun it is to find new imagery and spread love for the artists, or work with content you find online. I just wish there was a way of doing so that ‘tagged’ the images without clunky copyright watermarks, and kept the link wherever it went – because I want my images to be seen and I want many people to see them. I don’t want them to be lost or ‘orphaned’ without credit, and I hate spending hours trying to find out who the photographer was on some uncredited Tumblr image too. For now the watermark is the best way, if a little vulgar.

More medium format scans

Steve Medium Format, copyright Tim Baker

Steve Medium Format, copyright Tim Baker

These are tricky since I was trying to do a high key bounce on the background but not enough light bounced back, so these are dark and backlit. Scanner is really good about bringing some of that ‘lost’ detail back though, with help from the magic that is Lightroom.

Really looking forward to Lightroom 4 because of one feature – you can do white balancing via gradients/brushes which means fixing mixed lighting should be a lot easier!

Kirk medium format, Tim Baker

This has a more restrained palette – partly because I can’t get the skin tones right in these shots of Kirk, seems to either be too orange, too purple or too blue. Tempted to use colour targets when I start doing studio shots again – which will be very soon!

Both taken with a Bronica SQ (probably an A or AI).

Film 10 – Konica Infrared

Pergola infrared - 2003

Only a few shots on this one, but at least one real winner which is the one of the Pergola at Vale of Health, part of Hampstead Heath above. Was there taking some shots with Kirk which is how I can date it to 2003.

These were shot with Konica 750nm (750nm being the wavelength that the film is receptive to) infrared film – which strictly wasn’t compatible with the filter I had – that let in a much higher wavelength I think….but these shots proved it worked just the same, maybe not as dramatically as if I’d hada filter that went down to 750nm, but looks pretty ‘infrared’ to me:

Hampstead? Infrared

Pergola infrared - 2003

It also has a demonstration shot of the effect of infrared, which I might’ve taken for my City and Guilds Level 2 I was doing at the time…I did include some Infrared in my B&W book but not these, obviously. If you don’t know how infrared film works, you have to use a specially made IR purple/dark red filter to expose the red & infrared frequencies with it otherwise the film just works as normal.

I used a cheap Lee 87 Gel filter I modded onto a piece of perspex cos IR glass filters are really expensive. All I did was cut two pieces of thin perspex into the same sized squares – I got the thin sort you could actually cut with scissors – then I sandwiched the gel in between them and stuck it together with tape – you don’t really need to worry about it being perfectly optical because a) IR is fairly random and foggy anyway and b) it’s really close to the lens so any imperfections probably won’t be seen. There’s a DIY tip for you wanting cheap filters 😉

Firstly without filter:

Infrared - without filter

And with the filter:

With infrared Lee 87 filter

I’m not sure if all of these shots are using the filter – unless you have a lot of not-backlit greenery or sky it’s not always obvious. I suspect in the Pergola shots I didn’t, although they still have a slightly unearthly quality all the same. But judging on the lack of odd skin tones in this (skin tones in infrared make you look like an alien grey, translucent with strange eyes) shot of Kirk I’m sceptical I did use the IR filter for these shots:

Kirk at the Pergola, 2003

Film 9 – Thames Barrier Park / Ironbridge / Trafalgar Square

`Thames Barrier Park, 2003

`Thames Barrier Park, 2003

OK back to that photo archaelogy – it was nice to scan some *clean* negatives for once, where I had to do very little spotting, rather than the blizzard which was the early photos (thankfully Digital ICE works for the 126, I shudder to think how much crud is on those – they even survived a house fire!).

Here’s shots from September 2003 from Thames Barrier Park (a modern architectural park a bit like Parc Citroen in Paris, opposite the Thames Barrier funnily enough) and a trip to my old stomping ground of Coalbrookdale & Ironbridge. Leaner pickings from this film, there are quite a few random shots of windows (!?), boring shots of the Ironbridge and railings. These shots work, though. Shot on Ilford FP4, Nikon F90.

Thames Barrier Park, 2003

Thames Barrier Park, 2003

Coalbrookdale, 2003

As you can see, I LOVE my shadows and diagonals, and especially if 03/04 is anything to go by it’s all I seemed to photograph. Well nearly all, I discovered this lone grab shot from Trafalgar Square, guessing September 2003 had one of those classic late Indian Summers which seem the norm now:

Trafalgar Square, 2003

Also aware that there is some barrel distortion in these off my old FX Nikon 28-105mm f3.5-4.5 AFD lens, but oddly can’t install the third party lens profiles I found for my lens (LCP files) in Lightroom, they never come up in the menu? Maybe they are for JPGs only, or won’t use those profiles on TIFFs. Annoying – I tried manually fiddling with them and gave up as I was doing more damage than good!

Oh that’s where that comes from!

Me at age 9 or 10, Boulougne Ferry
Me at age 9 or 10, Boulougne Ferry

Your humble photographer, aged 9 on the ferry to Boulogne

Even further back into time, these are the first pictures I ever took – well not the one above, obv. My adapter from FilmScanUSA for 126/Instamatic film arrived a few days ago and been having fun scanning my old 126 films. As I said in the blurb I started taking pictures when I was given a camera I think about the age of 8. That plastic GALT camera leaked light, and was a strange sized film (127? Checked the film and it’s larger than 35mm but not as big as 120 as I thought). So I found a 1960s Kodak Instamatic camera for 25p at a jumble sale and off I went.

Miles jumping off a swing (detail)

Miles jumping off a swing (detail)

I was 9 or 10, I knew not yet who this Lartigue bloke was but I was trying to capture my friend jumping off a swing.


It’s hard to describe the sense of discovery since I assumed most of the the 126 pictures were low-res and pretty cack and it turns out from the shots I’m finding on the first ever films I was a complete natural. Framing, composition, movement, the decisive moment (no idea who that Bresson bloke was either at that stage)….it’s all there. All my previous assumptions about taking a long time to get good are total bollocks – although I did spend far too much time trying to shoot tiny pictures of fighter planes which on a little fixed focus Instamatic with Sunny 16 and Cloudy settings (woo!) wasn’t really going to fly. I can now see the genesis of the whole movement style I have already in place. WTF?

I’ve not seen this or most of the 126 negs properly since taking them, not sure I even have a good print of this…part of the problem was the fact that the prints were terrible, so I assumed *I* was terrible. The scans reveal otherwise – all I am doing is restoring the fading, some cropping and sharpening, contrast etc. Nothing more, and most need almost no tweaking. It’s like a view into a past world…

Girls on the Boulougne Ferry, 1982/3

Girls on the Boulougne Ferry, 1982/3

Steam Engine Girl, Guildford Steam Fair (?) 83?

Steam Engine Girl, Guildford Steam Fair (?) 83?

And the colours on the Kodak Instamatic film are just jaw-droppingly beautiful. You can keep Instagram, this is the real shit. Sadly 126 is not being made anymore although amazingly survived til 2007 as Eastern Europe still used it! It’s the height of 35mm film so you can still easily process it – prints are not usually possible cos of the different square frame size.

You can see the full gallery here, I will add to it as I scan more.

As regards the Nikon 126 adapter – hmm it does the job but it’s very flimsy and plastic, thus a bit overpriced as not metal as suggested by the pics – already managed to break one and a half of the struts! /not happy. Also, with all of the scanner holders I have bending of the film is an issue especially with this holder, you can get a Newton glass version but given the build quality – or lack of it – I think I’ll invest in a glass holder for 120 then do a DIY card mask as per this blog.

Everybody starts somewhere: my first black and white film

Kirk, 1992 Godalming College
Kirk, 1992 Godalming College

Kirk, 1992 Godalming College

Just to show you that you don’t just pick up a camera and become good – nor is it the camera that’s doing it (both big misconceptions, the amount of times I’ve shown people pictures and they’ve damned me with faint praise by saying ‘You must have a good camera!’ – grr. It’s not the camera but the person holding it, within limits as I’ll explain) here is scans from the first film I shot in black and white, and the first film I developed. And seemingly the first film I covered in talcum powder then ran a chisel over by the quality of the negs, if you zoom in it’s like snow…but I hadn’t a clue then how to handle neagtives, and also I think underdeveloped them and there were several accidents, and I suspect contamination during drying or developing since they looked pretty crappy back then too.

I am aware people pay loads of money for apps to create this out of focus / halation / grunge effect and here I am spending ages in Lightroom spotting the galaxy!

Anyway here is my shots from Godalming College, circa early 1992. Above is the first proper shot of Kirk, and probably the first portrait shot I was proud of. All of these are shot on Ilford FP4 ‘Safety Film’ (!!!) I think bulk loaded at the college. Camera – well hence the limits I was talking about, I was using a rather strange second hand Russian or German 35mm camera, I forget the make but those who like Holgas or toy cameras probably would love it. It had a square aperture, and the lens seemed to be falling off…it was almost impossible to focus or work out how to focus it, I obviously worked it out towards the end of the film as I do have some in focus shots, but it seemed rather shallow depth of field – and also using 125 ISO film in those dark classrooms was also not easy.

Needless to say I didn’t use the camera again, but quickly got a cheap Praktica SLR rather than borrowing my Dad’s old trusty yet heavy Zenit and the rest is history.

Language Block, 1992

Language Block, 1992

Mr Stevens class, 1992

Mr Stevens class, 1992

In the art room, 1992

In the art room, 1992

In the art room, 1992

In the art room, 1992

What was your first b&w, or indeed first film like?

Black and white film thoughts

El Escorial by Tim Baker

Wrote this on another blog of mine but it bears repeating here – It’s obvious I have a very different style with film and black and white…I remember skulking around looking for textures and shadows, and of course colour means nothing, it’s all about the contrast – what usually looks to you as being contrast is quite often different intense colours and looks completely limp in black and white.

I miss that considered approach…just flicking ‘black and white’ switch isn’t really it (why I’ve never used the ‘Black and White’ function in Lightroom til now) because the visual thinking is different. The approach is different. The headspace is different. You need to be in the right mindset, and it usually shows if you do it after the fact.

Also there seems to be loads of diagonals, but hey, I’m an ex-art student. That’s what they get taught 😉

And many pictures of plane trees for some reason…

El Escorial by Tim Baker

Film 8 – El Escorial and a mystery

El Escorial by Tim Baker

El Escorial by Tim Baker

As part of another film I’ve not indentified John had mentioned we went to El Escorial – and it turns out with a little help from Google Image Search this is what this film is from – took me a long time to identify this film, I thought it might be from Barcelona or Rome, but it turns out to be the Basilica and the palace of El Escorial!

El Escorial by Tim Baker

El Escorial by Tim Baker

El Escorial by Tim Baker

El Escorial by Tim Baker

El Escorial by Tim Baker

El Escorial by Tim Baker

There is a still a mystery with this film though, and the other – it also contains images from Berwick, well near Berwick, a tudor house/fortress (!) that was along the border we visited there…I have the digital pics so confirmed that…I remembered the day immediately when I saw the scan, and that I went to to the top and took pictures but Johnn stayed at the bottom, and the house had been much raided over the centuries and I think was English Heritage (?) but no idea where this is:

Northumberland by Tim baker

Ditto this image, which I’m guessing is also in the area or somewhere near Lindisfarne, because I have a colour version of this taken on the previous film (7):

Northumberland Tree by Tim Baker

All images taken on Ilford Delta with Nikon F90.

Film 7 – Lindisfarne colour

CNV00137 Lindisfarne by Tim Baker

OK obviously I took more than Infrared at Lindisfarne (there is one plain black and white which will have to wait since I’m out of canned air) and also some colour…this is the fading I mentioned earlier in a previous post. Looking at other Kodak 160NC (NC stands for Neutral Colour) photos I’ve taken it probably wasn’t the best choice for landscapes as it does tend to come out looking rather limp, and it was usually used for portraits anyway but it was all I had. Even then there’s something odd going on with the colour in these pictures? Not sure if that’s the film, the odd lighting or more likely the 8 years in my fridge…

CNV00123 Lindisfarne by Tim Baker

 CNV00137 Lindisfarne by Tim Baker

It’s more like these were taken in 1964 not 2004…very strange. It was a rather overcast white sky day, and obviously a lot of the paintwork has faded – but doesn’t explain the blue/green grass? And the odd looking blues…

CNV00133  Lindisfarne by Tim Baker

CNV00124 Lindisfarne by Tim Baker

CNV00126 Lindisfarne by Tim Baker

CNV00130 Lindisfarne by Tim Baker

Maybe a rescan will fix these – obviously unlike the other scans these were done at process time, and rather than tweak the fairly low-res JPGs it’s probably better to rescan the ones I like. Neutral Colour does create pastel shades, but in none of the other that I processed at the time and printed do have greens that faded. Or weird pink gravestones?:

CNV00151 by Tim Baker

CNV00151 by Tim Baker

CNV00152 Park bench by Tim Baker

CNV00143 Lindisfarne by Tim Baker


John, May 2001 on Kodachrome
John, May 2001 on Kodachrome

John, May 2001 on Kodachrome

As I’ve heard that Kodachrome was a nightmare to scan (and pre the hassles of the black and white) I thought I’d run some of my old K-chrome slides through it.

The result was wonderful, and you can see why people loved Kodachrome so – shame I didn’t shoot as much as I thought on it. These slides are from 2001, from London and Scotland.

Kodachrome, Paddington May 2001

Kodachrome, Paddington May 2001

Kodachrome, Isle of Skye 2001

Kodachrome, Isle of Skye 2001

Kodachrome, Isle of Skye Sept 2001

Kodachrome, Isle of Skye Sept 2001

Kodachrome, John Sept 2001

Kodachrome, John Sept 2001

Film 6 – Lindisfarne infrared

Lindisfarne Infrared August 2004 by Tim Baker

Lindisfarne Infrared August 2004 by Tim Baker

One of the mystery films was Kodak HIE infrared – I was really surprised there was something left on the film after all those years, and even more surprised by the subject, I’d completely forgotten I’d taken film pictures on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne – which we visited when staying in Berwick for a weekend in August 2004.

Lindisfarne infrared - Crab by Tim Baker

Infrared is a strange beast – not only easy to fog with a lot of cameras using infrared to check where you are in the film, and handling meaning it has to be developed in complete darkness and loaded in such (although I never did the latter, probably why some of the early shots are fogged) – but also HIE was a very old style emulsion, something closer to early film than the modern films of today, grainy and lacking an anti-halation layer. I forgot the physics but to put it basically halation is caused by the bouncing around of light after it hits the silver particles – you might think light is all nice and orderered and direct, but not at all. It likes to bounce around like it’s on the bumper cars at the fair, including light that has missed hitting any silver returning backwards through the film. This causes the glow effect.

Lindisfarne infrared by Tim Baker

Lindisfarne infrared by Tim Baker

Also strange about the film is that greenery turns white, and sky turns black giving it an eerie feel, this was bright sunshine but it doesn’t look like it.

Lindisfarne infrared by Tim Baker

Lindisfarne infrared by Tim Baker

These shots have been a total headache to scan – not just the grain and the contrast issues (trying to get anything from the grass other tham white is fun) but also I fell foul of the Nikon Scan software issue with black and white negatives – it clips the highlights on some negatives. Slide and colour neg doesn’t have this problem, and annoyingly they fixed it on the next scanner, the Coolscan 9000 but not mine. I’d love to have the 9000 with it’s Digital ICE Pro working on negatives other than colour slide & colour process films, but it is more than double what I paid for this second hand! So I switched to using new software Vuescan eventually – I preferred the contrast from the Nikon Scan though (you can see one of the NS in the infrared of the ferns above), much sharper and easier to tweak, but you at least kept detail such as on the white crab, which on the Nikon Scan was almost totally blocked out white.

Lindisfarne infrared by Tim Baker

On Flickr is the full Lindisfarne set.

First medium format scan – Steve

Steve Medium Format portrait, 2009

And here is the medium format scan I was doing in the last post tarted up slightly in Lightroom. It’s a 6×6 Bronica shot of Steve from 2009. Fuji colour neg film (RDPW? I wish there was a list of the codes on negatives cos sadly Fuji never uses the proper names!), crossprocessed.

Compare this with the frankly not very good prints from 2009 printed at West End Cameras. No idea where the blue/green tint comes from, or more damningly the foggy under detailed prints (can you say ‘halation’?). I liked the colour cast at the time but it’s not on the negs even at the ‘natural’ unadjusted settings or on my old crappy Plustek flatbed (RIP) even! There is a greenish tinge, you can see that from the purpleness of the negs, but it’s a lot more magenta/red biased than that lurid yellow/green?

It does seem no place can print cross-process correctly, best I’ve got is contact prints and some hand printing I’ve done (yes I used to do colour printing, complete faff in total darkness and an expensive hobby) so I know this scan is the closest I’ve gotten to what seems to be on the negatives!

I didn’t use the ‘super CCD’ on this and there’s no banding, and no colour noise and plenty of detail even in the dark areas. I think that banding issue purely a contrasty positive/transparency problem.

Film 5 / Nikon Coolscan 8000ED

My scanner finally arrived today (no thanks to the usual crapness of UPS) and just been playing with it. It’s a medium format scanner, so it not only can do 35mm but also 120 and other sizes (even 16mm film strips with the right film holder!). It’s pretty good, although I knew that the software doesn’t work that well on Snow Leopard/64 bit systems – it is upto 10 years old after all – so I’m currently using my old 10.4 Minimac as a dedicated scanning computer. Currently it’s going through it’s first 120 shot, a portrait I took in 2009. It’s a massive beast but I love that it seems that it’s been hardly used, the 35mm and slide film holders were still in their plastic unused – it looks like it’s only had fairly light medium format usage.

I have scanned a whole two strips of 35mm slides (one of the nice things is you can just leave it scanning 12 pictures while you do something else!), I chucked some of the harder slides at it first to put it though it’s paces – these are from Berwick, August 2004 and yes are one of the ‘lost films’.

Berwick 2004 by Tim Baker

Pretty good, although this is using the Digital ICE (the infra red noise technology that takes out dust and scratches and marks on the surface of the film) and 14 bit this isn’t using the multisampling or Super Fine CCD modes…that’s noticeable as there is banding in the darker parts of these shots which apparently that fixes:

Berwick 2004 - John by Tim Baker

Berwick 2004 by Tim Baker

I’ve run these through Lightroom 3, something I trust more than Photoshop CS5 nowadays (and far faster) – apart from needing some colour noise reduction, sharpening and the banding issue they’re great. I think switching multisampling and Super Fine CCD will fix those – at the expense of a lot more time!


So I’ve got all these fancy new films…where to put them? And how?

Storage is a real time and money consuming process with all media but especially with old-fashioned prints and negatives now it’s all shifting to digital. I store my photographs in binders, usually Kenro but also Jacobs/Jessops and any folder big enough to store the wider negative pages (remember this – unless you are storing just slides/A4 pages the photo negative pages tend to be wider than nearly all A4 binders)  – I inherited quite a few presentation folders with slide pages from my Dad’s old work. Mostly though the issue in the past has been cost, which is why I had a backlog of 10 years of films and prints to store mouldering away in plastic bags!

You can do it cheaper though – the Kenro folders cost you 10 quid if you get them from Jacobs, and the paper 35mm negative pages likewise, but if you shop around on eBay or Process Supplies, Speedgraphic or even Silverprint you can get cheaper (although I’ve found the non-Kenro binders tend to be not as good in the ring department). I tend to go for paper negative pages, partly because they are better long term if not as durable as the clear polyprop or acetate ones (one of the problems of plastic is it keeps the moisture in, then again moisture and paper is a big no-no too but I guess you can ‘rewash’ the negs – but I think the diffuse nature of the paper helps stop fading).

Also it might not be ‘archival’ (whatever than means, really…had archival super-duper media go bad on me and cheap stuff survive in the digital domain, so I’m doubtful of such claims other than ‘acid free’) but I tend to use the normal cheap A4 file pockets you can get at any stationers for 10×8 contact print and larger print storage from when I was regularly printing in the darkroom. It may not be as butch or acid free as the proper 8×10 pockets but they’re hell of a lot cheaper – and in my work I tend to want to preserve the negs and see the prints as handy yet expendable previews.

One avenue I’ve not explored yet is the Multi-Master binder system. Invented for stamp and coin collectors, they avoid the expensive Photography tag, and thus seem cheaper too – there are slide and 120/ 2 x35mm negative pages in that system, and some of the postcard sizes on eBay might fit your prints although they tend to be smaller. In fact there seems to be a suspiciously MM-like postcard folder called ‘Guardian’ which seems cost effective via Prinz. Postcard collectors also don’t want their postcards to fade so tend to be ‘acid free’, but judging by the prices obviously don’t have the ‘made of money’ tag that photographers seem to get lumped into. Be aware that some of the pages are 11 hole and some are 4 or 3 hole, so check which will fit your binder (or if in doubt get the 11 hole which should fit everything). If I wasn’t such an impatient sort I’d order via eBay or online as it’s far cheaper – especially for larger amounts.

And you should always order far more than you think you need…I’m on the 5th or 6th binder since I started and I thought 2 or 3 would do it…it all takes up much more space than you realise!

Also: what can you do about 120 prints? (the 15cm square / 6inch square ones?) Anyone have any suggestions? What I’m planning to do is adapt the Kenro 6 x 4in pages with a little scissor work so I can get those prints in, because the pockets are opposite each other I could slide a larger print across them. Sadly of course normal 7 x 5inch pockets are too small…

As you might have guessed the title of this blog is partly prophetic – ‘Ragged Trouser’ indeed – I don’t like spending money on things in photography that are expensive for the sake of it – you can do it cheaply, be it developing or printing photos at home or ordering your flash triggers and electronics from China or eBay or buying second hand in bundles. Photography is one of those evil sports where the latest thing is pushed at you as a must have, when actually you don’t need a new camera or special shiny gold plated doobry wotsit*. With a little talent and mostly just knowing your camera well you can create great pictures on anything – look at pinhole for that, or all the great Holga/Swan/Lomo/plastic camera obsessives! And certainly you don’t need ‘special’ thermometers, binders or gear when usually it’s just the same stuff rebadged. It might be slightly ‘nicer’ but most often in the case of the plastic storage pockets it is the same stuff!

* It’s why I don’t read the Photographic press cos it’s far too depressing…

Film 4: Barcelona

CNV00037 Barcelona by Tim Baker

CNV00006 Barcelona by Tim Baker

Film 4 is another C41 black and white film, and I’m pretty sure this is Barcelona which we visited Xmas 2004.

CNV00010 Barcelona by Tim Baker

CNV00015 Barcelona by Tim Baker

CNV00014 Barcelona by Tim Baker

I love the selective focus on this shot of a park tree:

CNV00016 Barcelona by Tim Baker

This is the shot that gives it away as Barcelona – my style of shooting can be very abstract and thus difficult to indentify, but I remember taking this shot and where it is, it’s the roof of one of the Gaudi houses in Barcelona, I think Casa Batlló.

CNV00037 Barcelona by Tim Baker

Something very mysterious about this shot. maybe it’s the shadows and the impending motorcycle…this type – ie. speeding motorcycle – is not just a Daniel Johnston track it’s also one of the recurring memes in my photographs, I tend to capture them just so.

CNV00034 Barcelona by Tim Baker

I must say I still LOVE Koday T400 CN tonality, the smooth soft ungrainyness might be an anathema to purists but it just *works* under certain conditions, especially with stonework and very contrasty angular images of a European sort! I’ve noticed my similar shots on Delta 100, FP4 or Neopan tend to have that sharp grain that B&W-philes love, but also tend towards the stark heavy contrast which there is no going back from…at least with Chromogenic films you have room to breathe with some detail remaining in the shadows.

As before, taken with the Nikon F90 and the 3.5-4.5 28-105mm – I still have both.

Film 2 and 3: Madrid again

CNV00160 libreria perez galdos in Madrid, Tim Baker

Had to google it, but this is Libreria Perez Galdos, a very old bookshop in Madrid:

CNV00160 libreria perez galdos in Madrid, Tim Baker

Keeping up the Libreria link, here’s my partner John in his bull tshirt – this didn’t identify totally Film 3, but the bag he’s holding probably full of maps is from Madrid, so can be pretty sure this is also Madrid.

CNV00081 John in Madrid, by Tim Baker

CNV00083 Madrid by Tim Baker

This again is Fuji Superia – 200 this time. Of all the C41 films this has held up the best, only slightly strange green/blue cast sometimes, not sure if that’s the film (Fuji films do have a green/blue bias) or some fading in the reds? Check out this Spanish flag picture…not sure yet if it’s the processor/scanner (again a Fuji process lab so should match well) but the fact the yellows look a little odd probably suggests some magenta fading?

CNV00113 Madrid by Tim Baker

But all in all, a good advert from Fuji, I doubt they’d expect their films to be left in a tupperware box for 8 years after exposure, but the Superia 200 has held up really well, strangely better than the 100, although that could be exposure on my end. Kodak’s Royal Supra 200 film did less well as we shall see, which given it’s bargain-basement cheery nature not that surprising, but the real shock was the professional Kodak 160NC didn’t really survive that well either.

These were all taken with a Nikon F80 with a 28-105mm 3.5-4.5D lens.