Combining two recent trends, namely de-cluttering and a revival of mid-century technology, I rediscovered a beloved family camera, the Yashica Mat and some expired and now discontinued Kodak Plus X 120 film. Using the mantra “Does the item still “ spark joy”?”, I loaded the film unsure if skills lying dormant for the last 20 years would return.
One challenge was seeing colour in black and white again, particularly difficult with the greens and blues of landscapes and grey stone. I chose local subjects such as pastoral scenes, re-purposed factories, iconic Shakespearean theatre, all the while trying to be frugal and not waste shots with film that was not replaceable.
Fast forward, a 70-year-old photographer with a camera and meter about the same age meets the 21st-century technology with negative scanning and opportunities to adjust negatives digitally. I had recently sold my enlarger and darkroom equipment having realized that for me, printing was not the fun part. Improving the scanned negatives was very satisfying.
The 5 Frames presented here are as-is without cropping except for the grave marker which is cropped to remove the name. Another potential challenge was reading light. Happily, my exposures calculated by the Sunny 16 rule and instinct were quite accurate once verified with another family heirloom, the Weston meter.
I always enjoyed the square format of 120 and the reverse image when composing was familiar to me. Development was an old standby recipe of Kodak D 76 1:1 followed by ILFORD stop and rapid fixer. The negatives were satisfactory if a bit flat.
In a word, I was hooked. Without abandoning digital photography for its admirable convenience, I have been pursuing the black and white for over a year since these photos were taken.
I am still aiming for more vigour in the tonal range and a streamlined processing method. After some experimentation, the following combination gives me some graininess but results that please me: family portraits and pictorial subjects with Tri-X for shutter speeds and flexibility developed in Blazinal (formerly Rodinal) in various dilutions including a recent try at stand development.
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This series is being produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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