Creating the images
My photographic motivation is pretty simple: I am interested in photographing what is important to me in terms of communication and self-exploration, and so colour, shape, shadow and time are more important to me than particular motifs. Over the years I have focussed (pun intended!) mostly on photographing landscapes and cityscapes. But I am discovering the joys of photographing people who want to be photographed – a tremendously enjoyable process. However, this is increasingly with the ambition of communicating something, not just creating pretty images.
I mostly use a mixture of digital imaging, transparency (slide) film, and black and white print film. I am not that interested in camera equipment for its own sake – and whilst I generally prefer the look and feel of film, I also like the convenience of digital… I am not a format fetishist!
I don’t have any offshore bank accounts that fund my photography, so everything I buy represents a major investment, or is a gift from a kind person who wants to offload equipment/support me. In any case, I try to live Bruce Percy’s line that your camera does not matter (others, such as Ken Rockwell, say the same thing). So the equipment I mostly use is listed here, rather than with each image in the galleries where it doesn’t belong (either enjoy the image or don’t, but forget about the machines used in making it).
In 2012 I bought a Chamonix 045N-01, and have three lenses:
– Schneider 90mm f8 lens (this is about 24mm in 35mm terms)
– Fujinon 180mm f5.6 lens (this is about ‘normal’ in 35mm terms, i.e. about 50mm)
– Rodenstock Apo-Ronar 300mm f9 (about 85mm in 35mm terms)
I usually take a selection of film in dark slides with me – Ilford FP4+, Fuji Provia 100F, Fuji Velvia 50…).
I also use an Ilford Obscura – a marvellous camera!
I use two medium format cameras (warm thanks to Antonio for giving/selling me these).
Rolleiflex 2.8C (from 1954)
Mamiya 645 Pro TL (first released 1997, now discontinued) with two lenses:
– 80mm f2.8
– 150mm f3.5
My 35mm SLR cameras are mostly Nikons. Incidentally, I register every Nikon purchase (and would recommend doing so to anyone buying new) in order to extend the warranty, though I’ve only needed to use a warranty once so far.
FM2 (see these notes about acquiring this camera)
F80 (kindly given to me after an appeal for a Nikon film SLR on Freegle)
D610 – a full frame DSLR
Unless noted, all my lenses are from Nikon. In general I don’t like buying ‘G’ lenses as they are missing the aperture ring that enables them to be used on old film cameras, so I would mostly opt for ‘D’ lenses unless there was a specific reason to get a ‘G’ lens.
Series E 28mm f2.8
105mm f2 AF DC
70-300mm f4.5-5.6 G
Lensbaby Composer (Nikon mount, of course); it’s about 50mm
Minolta 50mm f1.7, 35-105 f3.5, 16mm fisheye f2.8
My flashes are from Nikon.
SB28 (now quite old, but once a flagship product; only for my film cameras)
These are cameras I use intermittently, but shouldn’t be discounted as useful tools in the right circumstances.
FED-4 (a USSR-era camera, Ukraine 1964-1980, mostly for messing about with, but great fun, though it seems to now have developed light leaks)
Olympus mju-II zoom 80 (film)
Canon PowerShot A470 (digital)
I also use my mobile ‘phone at times… though I’ve never managed to get very excited about mobile ‘phones as cameras (hmm, and not even as telephones!); I currently have an iPhone.
I have a plastic pin-hole camera, but need to try this a few more times before I’m prepared to show any images from it!
I mostly use the following films, though others at times too. My ‘go to’ films are Velvia 50, Provia 100F and FP4+. I have tried films like Kodak Portra 160/400, but found it hard to use them well; I am currently trying out Fuji Pro 160NS… I’ll see what I make of that.
Fuji Velvia 50 – a ‘classic’ landscape film, with rich (distorted?!) colours and incredible detail. Not a great dynamic range, and easy to underexpose, but it is wonderful (I have used Velvia 100F and don’t like it much; I want to try the Velvia 100 too, though, which is meant to be much closer to the Velvia 50, just faster).
Fuji Provia 100F – I have been using this for large format, and it has lovely tones and a good dynamic range.
Fuji Provia 400X – I started using this for the Mamiya, and though I don’t use it often, it works well for eg seascapes and portraits. Sadly, I think it’s being discontinued, but I still have stock!
Ilford FP4+ – a very smooth black and white film.
Ilford HP5 – a grainier black and white film than FP4+ that is great in accentuating shadows and contrast detail.
(Up until 2007, I mostly used Fuji Sensia 100/200/400 – sadly, in August 2010, Fuji announced it was ceasing production of this film; I mourn the loss of it, but in a small way I contributed: I had switched to Provia and Velvia as it is better for the kind of landscapes I want to do…)
I have a studio light set that I sometimes use for portraits.
I use Nikon’s IR remote control (the cheap and functional Nikon ML-L3) for the D610 and F80 – great for reducing vibration (also worked for the D40). For the FM2 I have a traditional mechanical wire cable release.
Tripods: I have two tripods. My main one is a Gitzo Systematic 3541LS with long steel spikes and a Manfrotto 410 geared head – this combination is rock solid. For lightweight travel I use a Velbon Sherpa 600R. I used to think that tripods for day times slowed me down and got in the way, restricting my movement and sometimes just making me lazy, but I have changed my understanding of tripod use. Now I relish the slowing down: it helps me to be more aware of the space around me, and gives me mental space to think about the image I am wanting to produce.
I also use a Sekonic L-758 light meter. Despite the excellence of the meters in modern cameras (incl. the FM2, which doesn’t have the modern ‘matrix meter’ of the later Nikons but a 60/40 meter), this is still invaluable for both landscapes (e.g. spot metering to calculate dynamic range and filters needed) and portraits (for lighting setups), and completely indispensable for things like the Rolleiflex and the Lensbaby.
I use Lee filters – they are expensive, but unbelievably good; I sometimes also use selected Cokin filters (not quite so great, but ok for certain things). These systems are great since they work well on a variety of lenses: different lenses simply need different filter-rings. Apart from being so much cheaper than a full set of screw-in filters (even if just buying one size of screw-in filters – e.g. 77mm – and a matching step-up ring for different lenses), they also allows the graduated filters to be moved, which is obviously really important when photographing landscapes.