I’d been tempted to try out a Russian Leica copy for some time and finally took the plunge when a Zorki 4K came up on Facebook. It came complete with a non-functioning rangefinder and a very sticky shutter, but a couple of squirts of electrical switch cleaner later and all functions appeared to be working ok.
I ran an out-of-date roll of ILFORD Pan F through it to check for light leaks with some pleasing results despite being stuck with f/2 during a gloomy February. So armed with a working camera, Jupiter 8 lens, a bright weekend weather forecast and a fresh roll of HP5 PLUS, I was ready.
Many Brits will have noticed that our town centres are struggling at the moment and Ipswich is no exception. There’s a sadness in our high streets that evokes an earlier era of street photography. So I set out with what I knew would be a grainy film to capture some of the images that I see every day on the way to work.
I’m not used to using a fully manual camera without a meter, normally relying on aperture priority for exposure control. The Zorki doesn’t make it easy to adjust the shutter speed as the control is fiddly to set and the aperture control doesn’t have indents. But what appeared at first to be constraints became liberating.
I set the shutter speed to 1/125 and used a light meter app on my phone to take readings of the kind of scenes I wanted to photograph. This showed there was only about a 3-stop difference between the lighter and darker scenes so I started to snap away and simply adjusted the aperture based on my perception of the brightness of the scene to control exposure. After covering a reasonable distance I returned home to develop the film in Rodinal.
I’m thrilled with the results as the grain works with the contrast to capture the stark views of Ipswich streets in early 2020. However, the real benefit of this approach was that it allowed me to get the right exposure on scenes that would have fooled a meter (particularly shooting over water into the sun). It also helped me to spend more time looking at the scene rather than worrying about perfect exposure.
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