I Remember Why I Dream In Black And White


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

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

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

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

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?

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