Red Grooves

Red Grooves2

Red Grooves House sits high upon the windswept fell side of Newbiggin Common just west of the vast man made scar of Coldberry Gutter. The history of this house seems vague, and it is unclear wether it was built as a mineshop (bascially over night accomadation for the miners) or a farm, but it looks like it was occupied until the late 1950s early 60s. For its day the house was well-appointed with a barn, a stables, a large farmhouse kitchen with a coal-fired range and living room with an open fire. But for all this it sits in complete isolation surrounded by sheep cropped meadows and the remains of the lead mine which shares its name. For decades the building must have been battered from all sides by whatever the weather wished to throw at it, and with no road or track way to connect its inhabitants to the outside world it’s not surprising that living here proved too much to sustain. Now the ceilings have fallen and its windows are just empty sockets looking out across the dale to the distant brooding hights of Mickle fell.

Red Grooves1

Both photographs were taken with an old Ensign 820 folding camera that I’ve customised by fitting a 65mm Schneider Angulon f6,8 lens to create a very useful wide-angle 6x9cm camera. The film was Fomapan 400 which I developed in Pyrocat HD, mixed at a ratio of 1+1+100  for 16 minutes semi-stand with 60 seconds continuous agitation at the beginning, and then once every 3 minutes after that. This was the first time I’d used this method with a Pyro developer and I was really impressed with the tonal range and sharpness of the negatives it produced. With the print I decided to use some of my newly acquired expired Agfa Portriga Rapid Grade 3 paper. This paper was famed for the way it could be Lith printed and I couldn’t wait to experiment with some Fotospeed LD20 Lith developer, and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

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A Camera Reborn….well almost

Well in my last post I said I was getting ready for a trip to Ilkley Moor, but it turned out I had once again lost complete track of time and I was a week a head of myself! So with a free day to play with I decided to nip up to the dales and test out a new camera.

A few months ago Richard a good friend of mine, asked me if I wanted to borrow a vintage folding camera which could take 6x11cm negatives.  It turned out to be  a lovely old 1930’s Voigtlander Inos II but the only problem was it was designed to take 116 film which is no longer made. Luckily though Richard has converted a number of similar cameras to take 120 film and assured me it was a pretty straight forward bit of DIY.  So with lots of helpful advice from Rich and a bit of internet research here’s what I did…

Camera Mod 020

My first problem was figuring out the best way to adapt the camera so it would take the smaller 120 film which is used in all modern medium format cameras and is readily available. The easiest way is to make some inserts which fill in the gaps between the camera sprockets and the spool of film so it’s held in place inside the camera. This is great because it means you don’t have to permenantly alter the camera.

2 spools

Inside the camera on one side there are two spring loaded pins which hold the role of unexposed film, on the other side there is a pin on the bottom and spade ended sprocket on the top, this is meant to fit into a slot in the end of the  film spool so you can advance film after every exposure. As you can see the width of the original 116 film spool (the bottom one) is not that much wider than the new 120, so I didn’t have much room to work with. After a little look online I found the easiest method is to take some plastic rawl plugs, cut them to size and push them into the ends of the spool.

Inserts1

This worked great but to make inserts for the wind on sprockets was a little more tricky. I tried a few different ways but none of them really seemed to work for me, so in the end I just did the same thing with the rawl plugs but this time I cut a slot in the rawl plug for the spade ended sprocket to fit into.

Inserts2

 

I then taped some thin strips of black card along the top and bottom of the film gate (the opening inside the camera where the film is exposed) to hold the narrower 120 film in place and stop it from curling up while I’m trying to take a picture.

film mask

 

Once that was done I found an old film I could use as a test role, a couple of runs through and everything seemed to be working ok. This camera like most folding cameras doesn’t have a film counter, instead you look through a small red glass inspection window in the back of the camera to read  the frame numbers which are printed onto the backing paper. But since I was now using a different film the numbers printed on the back of the film no longer matched the camera so the test role helped me get a rough idea how much film to wind on for each frame.  All I needed to do now was to put a new role of film through it, take some pictures and see what turned out!!

The weather was pretty decent  and I had a couple of ideas for some locations in Teesdale were I could try out the camera.

Camera test

Everything seemed to be working fine but when I got home and processed the film I found things hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped.

 

 

Beach Trees

 

 

First I got a lot of fog. I checked the camera bellows with a torch (something I really should’ve done before hand) and I found a number of small holes where the material had frayed at the edge, that was a bit of a disappointment, but I didn’t think that was the only cause of the light leak. Being made over 80 years ago the film this camera was designed to take was much slower than the film we use today, it was also quite often Orthochromatic and not red light sensitive. The pictures I took in the woods out of direct sunlight had a lot less fog and the results were pretty good so I think the red film window on the back of the camera may have been allowing too much light in for the faster modern film. The only other little issue was that one side of the neg was uneven, but I have no idea why, it may be something to do with the film lifting at one side. Having said all that the negatives are still almost 6x10cm!!

tractor tyre

Well back to the drawing board! I did a bit of repair work to the bellows and double checked with the torch to make sure I’d sealed the holes, I then simply covered over the film window with some electrical tape. While I was tinkering I had a second look at the inserts for the film advancing spool and decided to make something a bit more substantial.

Film spool mod1

 

I took a couple of spare spools and cut the ends off and sanded them down to the correct size so that when I super glued them to either end of another spool the final width would be exactly the same as the original 116 one. You can also see in this picture my failed attempt to narrow the original 116 film spool using foam so it would take 120, but I was much happier with my final attempt and fingers crossed it should be a lot more stable.

Film spool mod2

 

 

So all there’s left to do now is give it another go!!

Cheers

Graham

 

 

 

 

My 10X8 camera!!

For ages now I have wanted a 10×8 camera, the larger neg size would be great for alternative processes such a Salt Prints and Van Dyke prints and also for my new love wet plate collodion, but here in the UK they seem to be few and far between or at least way beyond my small budget. So inspired by fellow photographic blogger Cary Norton I decided to build one myself on a shoe string using some very basic materials. 10x8 camera 047

I already had a lens which would just cover 10×8 so a quick shop on fleabay for some sheets of A2 5mm foam core board and I was away. I had a good idea what I wanted to build but thought it would be best to get something down on paper first.

10x8 camera 048

Basically the camera is made out of three intersliding boxes, the first box forms the main body, the second holds the lens and is designed to slide back and forth to focus the picture and the third is there to make the camera light tight. To stick the foam core board together I simply used my partner’s (Helen) hot glue gun and some book binding tape.

10x8 camera 052

Here’s a picture before the lens panel is glues on and slid together. Though I started with everything planned out pretty soon I was having to make it up as I went along but I was pretty happy with the construction.

10x8 camera 056

I made a simple back based on universal dark slides.

10x8 camera 057

My camera was almost finished, but I was worried I had made the body of the camera a little too deep for the 215mm lens and I wasn’t sure I would be able to focus to infinity, so I recessed the lens panel by about 5mm, bit of a bodge but it seems to have done the trick!

10x8 camera 065

A few hours work with some valve grinding paste and an old piece of glass from an unused picture frame and I had a focusing screen. I was so keen to try the camera out I couldn’t wait till I fitted the tripod mount so I balanced it on a pile of books and took a quick exposure through the living room window of the garden.

10x8 camera 095

To test the camera and put it through its paces I decided to use Ilford Multigrade RC paper to make negatives rather than waste expensive film. I exposed the first picture at ISO 6 for 5 secs at F16, the developed the paper in Fotospeed Varigrade print developer mixed 1:9 for 1min. The results were a little over exposed but for first go I was really pleased. It was pretty sharp the lens had good coverage and there was no light leaks!!

Porch 1

Next job is to make the tripod mount and take the camera out on its first real field test. So there will be more to follow!!

Cheers

Graham