I got into photography as a music recording engineer and with that, a lot of the practices migrated with me. I started photography taking film photographs as slowly and methodically as possible, shooting medium format with a tripod, mirror lockup, and cable release even in bright daylight.
Slowly, I started to shoot handheld more and more, relishing the freedom that makes it possible to capture intimate moments and fleeting light. I also started taking pictures around my neighbourhood at night after work, tired of lying in bed awake feeling like I’d done little creative work in a day. The 1-5 minute time exposure time meant that I had to take the tripod with me and, while I enjoy this way of working, I was curious to explore another way.
A few months ago, a friend told me he was selling his Rollei 35S with a broken meter. It’s rudimentary* nature, coupled with an excellent Rollei HFT 40mm f/2.8 lens really piqued my interest so he let me try it out.
*Rudimentary in that it cuts to the core of what a film camera is and no more: it just has an aperture dial, a shutter speed dial, and a focus knob and scale. No bells and whistles.
Until my zone focus guessing improved, I realised I should start off shooting mostly f/8-16. Wide awake at midnight, I realised that the only way to get f/8 handheld at even 1/15th of a second I would have to rate my roll of ILFORD HP5 PLUS at EI 6400 and see what happened. I brought my light meter, metered 2-3 stops above incident readings of lights and let the shadows fall where they may. So I walked around, went to the 24/7 grocery store and finished off the roll the next morning.
I developed it all in HC110 dilution E (for better shadow detail than weaker dilutions) and agitating every 4 minutes (to help keep the highlights in check). I loved the process – the quietness and invisibility of the Rollei makes it possible to take photos where any other camera would raise heads and to slip back into my coat pocket ready to find the next picture.
Needless to say, I bought the Rollei and I’m excited to keep experimenting.
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