The woman with the mobile phone must think I’m creepy. Or possibly daft. Perhaps both. She is sat on a bench in the sunshine, having a chat with a friend, and I am stalking around the arches of the building with a camera as old as I am.
Precisely, as old as I am, in fact. I was attracted by a Zeiss Ikon Contina on ‘a well-known internet auction site’ at a ridiculously low price. I found some details elsewhere online, and when I learned that it was only manufactured between 1963 and 1965, I was sold; it was pretty much exactly my age. It’s also small, light, easy to use, and has the looks of an antique Vespa or a 1950s espresso machine. In theory, it has a selenium meter and, although the needle appears to fluctuate, it does so in an apparently random fashion, unperturbed by prosaic things like changing the aperture. So, Sunny 16 and off we go.
The photos in this post were taken in Dundee on a bright summer’s afternoon. The strong light and clear air gave a delightful edge to the old stone buildings. It is a beautiful city, which has benefited in recent years from some superb redevelopment by the waterfront. The 45mm lens on the Contina seemed like an ideal Goldilocks focal length – not too long, not too wide. I’m reminded that Zeiss made some very lovely glass, back in the day.
I have recently moved exclusively to Caffenol for development. The idea of making a developer from common household ingredients appealed to my first principles approach to life, and the environmental attractions are obvious. I’ve found that the resulting negatives are pretty much indistinguishable from those processed in a standard one-shot developer.
It has certainly given a good range of tones to these images, which were shot on Fomapan 100 and developed in Caffenol-C-H (although with household salt rather than the potassium bromide) for 16 minutes. The Fomapan 100 Classic is an ‘old school’ film; it doesn’t sparkle, but it is very reliable, works well with the Caffenol, and is incredibly cheap, encouraging experimentation and a willingness to make a few mistakes along the way.
It’s a liberating experience to use an old camera with a simple iris diaphragm, focusing by guesswork and metering by rule of thumb. In a city of fading grandeur and bright new purpose like Dundee, I’m sure it felt completely at home.
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