Colour, Infrared and Black & White Film and Digitial Photography

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LomoChrome Purple, Warwick Castle

When Lomography announced their LomoChrome Purple film in early 2013 I was pretty excited – so excited in fact that I preordered 10 rolls (5×120, 5x35mm) even though it wasn’t due to ship for 6 months or so. Why? Well this film was an attempt to mimic the look of the now no longer produced Kodak Aerochome Colour Infrared film that I’d always wanted to try but had been scared off by the prices on ebay.

Does it look like Aerochome? Well, no. It seems to be styled on a particular Aerochome look, similar to Richard Mosse’s images from the battlefields of the Democratic Republic of Congo – in fact those images seemed to be the ones most used in early articles about what LomoChrome Purple might look like (and with good reason as they are fantastic).

Is it good value for money? No. At the time of writing this film is almost £10 a roll. I know the people at Lomo need a good thick layer of gold plating on their Rolls Royce’s but even for them that is quite a price.

Have I learnt anything from using this film? Green is infinitely more pleasing than purple.

I do quite like the film – I’d like it more if it were cheaper – but for me the purples are too dark and indistinct (certainly when shooting at the ISO400 rating). If anything, foliage looks less interesting with this film than normal colour film, which for me is something of an epic fail for a film pretending to be an infrared film.

Will I be buying more? Perhaps. I sold 5 of the 10 rolls that I originally purchased to people who wanted to try it but didn’t want to buy the 5 packs that were on offer at the time. I’ve not heard any of these people singing the films praises yet, but it is fun and it might be entertaining every now and again.

BelowA couple of images taken with LomoChrome Purple at Warwick Castle using an Olympus XA2.

LomoChrome Purple, Warwick Castle

LomoChrome Purple, Warwick Castle

Black Wars and Brown Howe, Langdale

I was surprised to see that it was already four years since I did the Crinkle Crags/Bowfell walk in the Lake District (The old blog post can be found here). I didn’t do a great deal of walking for about a year after that as I damaged my right knee – Crinkle Crags and Bowfell both feature quite difficult, rocky, terrain and the constant jarring was obviously too much for my unaccustomed knees, probably not helped by the heavy backpack.

I should just have packed the infrared converted camera this time and left the other at home, but there is always a nagging feeling that I’ll need both.

Mottled sunlight on Black Wars, Lake District, 590nm Infrared

Rocks at Brown Howe, Lake District, 590nm Infrared

I’ve returned to this valley so many times – camping at the Great Langdale National Trust campsite a couple of times as a teenager, taking the kids on the walk up to Stickle Ghyll every time we are in The Lake District. Driving down the ever narrowing roads from Ambleside, or dropping in via Hardknott and Wrynose, always feels so familiar and welcoming.

If you do stay at the Great Langdale campsite, remember not to stop in The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel Hikers’ Bar until 11pm, flush with the success of your walking endeavours and fortified with many of their various wonderous ales. If you do stay out late, remember to tip-toe back and conduct all post 11pm discussion via the medium of mime.

Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris

Montparnasse Cemetery hadn’t really been on our list of places to visit in Paris, but when we got to the Catacombs far too late on a Sunday (which I suspect is the busiest day) and overheard someone say that the queueing time was about 3hrs we decided to walk the short distance to Montparnasse Cemetery and leave the Catacombs visit for another year.

We had planned to (and did) visit Père Lachaise Cemetery on the Sunday afternoon and whilst Père Lachaise is perhaps more iconic and visually interesting, Montparnasse seemed to have more in the way of infrared photo material. That, however, could just have been because it was occasionally sunny when these pictures were taken but stormy by the time we made it to Père Lachaise, after an extended child grumblefest about what would be acceptable for lunch.

Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris, 590nm Infrared

Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris, 590nm InfraredMontparnasse Cemetery, Paris, 590nm Infrared

Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris, 590nm InfraredMontparnasse Cemetery, Paris, 590nm Infrared

Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris, 590nm Infrared

B-29 Superfortress, Bleaklow

B-29 Superfortress, Bleaklow, 590nm Infrared

B-29 Superfortress, Bleaklow, 590nm InfraredB-29 Superfortress, Bleaklow, 590nm Infrared

B-29 Superfortress, Bleaklow, 590nm InfraredB-29 Superfortress, Bleaklow, 590nm Infrared

B-29 Superfortress, Bleaklow, 590nm Infrared

My previous visit to this crash site had been part of a longer walk – up Ashton Clough, past the Hern Stones and on to Bleaklow Head, then back to the wreckage for dusk. We walked back in the dark and because of this (and my general ignorance) I hadn’t realised just how easy to reach this site was.

This time we parked on Snake Pass, where the Pennine Way crosses it, and walked north on the Pennine Way until we saw a rock on the ground that someone had kindly drawn a crude representation of an aircraft on, along with an arrow pointing west. With Bleaklow not being the sort of place to wander blindly I’d got a map, compass, GPS and a bloody good idea of where we were headed but this marker took the guess work out of when to leave the path. We headed down into the valley, across the many scars in the landscape cut into the soft peat by rainwater, then back up the other side towards Higher Shelf Stones, where we found the wreckage not far from the summit.

Temple de la Sibylle, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Temple de la Sibylle, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Infrared

Temple de la Sibylle Reflection, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

A sweltering hot, cloudless day – the perfect time to drag the kids to see the Temple de la Sibylle in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, a public park situated in northeast of Paris. The threatened revolt was quelled with fancy continental flavoured Calippo, sitting in the shade by the lake.


Wells-next-the-Sea, Sand Dunes and Pine Trees

Wells-next-the-Sea, Sand Dunes, 590nm InfraredWells-next-the-Sea, Sand Dunes, 590nm Infrared

Wells-next-the-Sea, Beach Huts

As part of an ongoing “thing” (I can’t use the word “project”, it makes me shudder) I’m attempting to take my 590nm IR converted camera everywhere that I would normally take a camera. Last year I tried to take a film camera everywhere instead of my main camera, this year I always pack the infrared camera before anything else.

When I chose the 590nm conversion I wasn’t really prepared for how the images would look – they are a lot brighter and lacking in contrast compared to the previous filter I was using (650nm) and they often don’t make for good black & white conversions so, initially reluctantly, I’ve been keeping them in colour but processing them in such a way that gives me a palette of colours that I’m more comfortable with.

This set of images was from a weekend trip to Wells-next-the-Sea – an almost yearly event since the kids were tiny. The sun and rain took it in turns, allowing us to both get sunburnt and cram into a tiny beach tent to avoid a heavy rain shower.

Wells really is the perfect English seaside town – at low tide the beach stretches for miles and there are sand dunes, which everybody knows are de rigueur for a good beach. It has proper English seaside things like chip shops and amusement arcades but on Staithe St it also has what must be the perfect variety of shops (there are no record shops, but then it’s not 1980s anymore).

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King Lear’s Lake, Winter (Infrared)

I always feel a bit guilty whenever I take pictures of these statues – it’s hardly the most original thing to photograph locally but it’s within cycling distance at lunchtime and when I’ve got a new camera to play with I have to admit that originality isn’t high on the agenda (not that it is the rest of the time either).

The camera in question wasn’t strictly a new camera, but a 590nm infrared conversion of an old camera, carried out by Protech Photographic.

The 590nm filter is mainly used to create “false colour” images – red and blue channels are swapped in Photoshop which results in the red/pink tone of the sky becoming blue, leaving the rest of the image looking somewhat surreal.

Whatever these statues are made from reflects a lot of IR light, leaving them bright white rather than the mucky grey/cream/yellow colour that they appear in normal light. I think they look a lot more striking like this, especially surrounded by the mid-blue of the rest of the image.

An infrared image of the statues on King Lear's Lake, Watermead Park

An infrared image of the statues on King Lear's Lake, Watermead Park

Two false colour 590nm infrared images of the statues on King Lear’s Lake at Watermead Park, Birstall.

Middle Peak Quarry

Middle Peak Quarry is located in the parish of Wirksworth in Derbyshire. The site is still owned by Tarmac but doesn’t seem to have been operating since the early 1990s (according to the briefest of internet searches).

An Infrared image of sunlight on the cliff face of Middle Peak Quarry

A patch of sun breaks through the clouds and illuminates the quarry face and the trees perched at the quarry edge. (Image from a 650nm IR converted camera, converted to black and white).

Middle Peak Quarry in shadow

The lagoon area of the quarry showing the size of some of the trees that are now established (in the bottom right of the image). The mirror became detached in my Canon 5D a few minutes after this was taken – a dusty quarry isn’t the best place to be dealing with such things.

People swimming in the water here has been a problem in the past and a large fence is in place to stop all but the hardiest of mountain goats from getting down to the waters edge. The water has since been dyed black to make it less inviting.

Sunlight catching the leaves of young trees in Middle Peak Quarry

Sunlight catching the leaves of saplings.

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Fomapan 100 Classic 5×4 film

Allotment, Fomapan 100, 5x4 film

Cossington South Lakes, Fomapan 100, 5x4 filmFlooded Field, Fomapan 100, 5x4 film

Cossington South Lakes, Fomapan 100, 5x4 film

Fomapan 100 was the first film I purchased to use with the Graflex Pacemaker Speed Graphic. I chose it for one reason – cost – it worked out at about 50p a sheet, which was roughly half the cost of the next cheapest film I could find (which happened to be Rollei IR400).

Prior to that I’d tried using paper negatives to get a feel for using the camera (and because I’d been given a lot of old photographic paper) but the results were a little unpredictable. Some of the paper was quite old and it was difficult to find the precise ISO to base meter readings on. Photographic paper is normally around ISO 3 – 6 but it slowly loses its sensitivity to light after its expiration date, with the speed of this degradation depending on how it has been kept.

After spending some time thinking about how I was going to process sheet film I picked up a Paterson 3 reel tank along with a MOD54 insert. This method uses 1L of fluid to process up to 6 sheets at a time so it’s perhaps not the cheapest in terms of processing costs but it seemed to offer the lowest set up costs.

I didn’t find the MOD54 the easiest thing to use for a couple of reasons:-
1/ It took me some time to get used to loading the film. I practiced in daylight with some test sheets, I practiced with my eyes closed, but still when it came to doing it for real in the change bag it was a shambles. I’m a lot more comfortable loading it now but it has taken me some time to get used to it.
2/ Uneven development. I noticed something that other people had reported, denser negatives (resulting in brighter areas) around where the fins held the film in place. This was more noticeable in areas of continuous tone, like skies/snow.

The difficulty I had loading this film on to the MOD54 for developing led me to discover what is probably the biggest issue with Fomapan 100 – the emulsion does appear to be quite fragile. I had scratches on quite a few of the first sheets I used which looked like they were made by the fins of the MOD54. Additionally I spent so long loading the MOD54 that it become slightly humid inside the change bag and I had a couple of instances of sheets of film touching and patches of emulsion coming off.

Out of the first fifteen or so sheets I probably had one that I’d consider ok so I decided a different approach was in order and processed the next couple of batches by hand using dev and fix in takeaway containers inside my change bag. The bottom three of the images above were processed using this method, with Rodinal 1:40 for 7 mins 30 seconds.

By now I was starting to think that large format wasn’t worth the extra stress. I didn’t want to process sheets by hand and I needed to overcome the scratching and uneven processing issues I was having using the MOD54

I shot four more sheets and loaded them – loading four sheets (two each side) was a lot easier than loading the full quota of six. I’d run out of Rodinal by this point and only had Ilfotech HC which, according the data sheet for the film is not a recommended developer. The Massive Dev Chart had no time for the Fomanpan 100/HC combination so I used the Fomapan 100/HC-110 dilution F time which was 12 mins when rating the film @ ISO100.

Some extra research about the uneven development revealed that my agitation technique had been causing the development issues and possibly some of the scratching. There seemed to be more advice/videos available since I had purchased the MOD54, including this video showing the agitation technique recommended by the inventor. This had to be worth a go so I opted for slow inversion of the tank followed by a twist, doing this for first minute of development and then again for 10s at the start of each minute. This next batch came out absolutely fine and I was starting to think that maybe this film is alright after all. The top image above was shot @ ISO100 and developed in Ilfotech HC 1+47 for 12 minutes @ 20C. [See author’s note about dilution at the end of this post]

I decided to experiment with the remaining sheets to see how well Fomaoan 100 coped with being pushed, first one, then two stops, mainly because I wanted to explore using the Graflex without a tripod. The development times for these were as follows:-

Fomapan 100 shot at EI200, 18 minutes in Ilfotech HC 1+47 @ 20C
Fomapan 100 shot at EI400, 24 minutes in Ilfotech HC 1+47 @ 20C

[See author’s note about dilution at the end of this post]

These times were based on these general guidelines for push processing and also this excellent resource page for Kodak HC-110 (Ok, so I know Ilfoech HC and HC-110 are different developers but they do seem to be very similar)

Both sets of tests came out really well – there was a slight increase in contrast but I couldn’t discern a great deal of difference in the grain.

Foma’s own product text states that Fomapan 100 Classic “gives good results even when over-exposed by 1 stop (asa 50/18) or under-exposed by 2 (asa 400/27), without any great impact on processing, that is without having to change the developing time or the bath temperature” but I’ve yet to test these claims.

I’ve used all 50 sheets now but I’ll be getting some more – if you’re wanting to shoot large format and trying to minimize costs, two things that don’t often go together, then I can recommend Fomapan 100. Maybe it needs treating with extra care as it lacks the some of the durability of modern emulsions but it’s more than capable of producing quality results.

Author’s note:
Coming back to this post later I noticed a discrepancy between dilutions. I mention dilution F (which is 1:79) and then for no reason I switch to 1+47 (which is dilution E) but still use the 12 minute development time suggested for F. Checking back through my notes I do seem to have abandoned dilution F and gone to E and over-developed by 1 stop. Maybe this explains the very strong negatives ;)

Intake Quarry

Intake Quarry, Middleton

Intake Quarry, Middleton

I spend far too much time being distracted by various film cameras, trying to learn new development techniques or printing in the darkroom to really concentrate on any one thing at the moment. I realised that I’m actually missing out on opportunities that I should be making the most of when I take more than two cameras out with me – if the digital isn’t close to hand, so that it can be in and out of my Messenger bag quickly between rain showers, then I just leave it in my backpack and miss out on the best light.

I should have made more images on the day that I took these at Intake Quarry near Middleton, but the images that I missed later in the day when I was happy just to experience the changes in light and weather reminded me that I need to be a bit more disciplined about my bag packing and slim down my camera choices.

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