One of the great pieces of photographic wisdom is to always have a camera with you everywhere you go. That’s easier than ever now most people use the camera on their smartphone to take pics, but something that film shooters need to remember, every time they walk out the door.
I tried to take a camera with me everywhere I went in 2013– even on the commute to work – to try and capture those one-off moments. It’s something I hope to keep to in the next year.
In February, I made a quick trip down to Brighton to catch the mighty Calexico at soundcheck. They’re a band I’ve shot several times for my soundcheck project, and on this day they were playing in the beautiful Brighton Corn Exchange, a Grade I listed venue with a high arched dome and huge windows behind the stage. Aswell as shooting the soundcheck, I snapped a few rolls of colour film on a Pentax ES II while the band were playing; the shot below, of drummer John Convertino, is one of my favourite pics of the year.
I wasn’t able to shoot a great deal of music stuff this year, but did manage to shoot another of my regular subjects, the ever-excellent, Josh Rouse, at a free gig in a Camden bar to promote his new album. The Pentax is the camera famed music photographer Pennie Smith has used since the 1970s, so its nice to emulate her fantastic work with the same camera and film she used to take her iconic pictures of The Clash in the 1970s – even if I only have a fraction of her talent. This shot of Josh’s guitar is my favourite of the night, even though you can’t tell who it is playing.
Brighton is one of my favourite places in Britain to shoot – rain or shine there’s always something to take a pic of. I fully planned to spend a few weekends down here during the summer but never quite made it, but a morning tramping the windswept streets after the Calexico gig did result in the odd gem, such as this black cat giving me the stares through a basement flat window.
I work for the BBC, and one of my jobs this year was to interview a former Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird pilot at Duxford’s Air Museum near Cambridge for BBC.com’s science and tech site, BBC Future; inbetween filming I was able to shoot the Blackbird from up close before the crowds came into the hangar. The world’s fastest aircraft, grounded for over a decade, and unlikely to fly ever again, reduced to a museum exhibit as the Cold War slips further into history.
My first trip outside the UK was a quick jaunt over to Dublin in July, just as the Irish capital simmered in its hottest summer for a decade. The shot at the top of the post was taken on a gorgeous cloudless day on the pier at Dun Laoghaire, the town my grandfather was born in over a century ago.
I got back into shooting cross-processed slide a lot this year, having been lucky enough to find several stashes of the best xpro films – Agfa Precisa CT100 and Kodak elite Chrome 100 – on eBay. My LOMO LC-Wide is a camera designed to make the most of such films, thanks to its lens’s moody vignetting and bold contrast. But I also shot as much as I could on a Zenit 3M, a 60s-era simple SLR that cost me £20 at a camera fair last year; the combination of its old-school Helios lens and the boosted contrast found with cross-processed slide makes for really eye-popping shots.
I’m a regular snooper on eBay, looking for cheap film cameras I can shoot with. One of my best purchases this year was a Chinon 35EE, a 70s-era compact rangefinder bought for less than a tenner. It’s one of a range of very similar cameras made by the likes of Olympus and Vivitar during the decade.Though I only managed to put a couple of rolls through it this year I’m looking forward to using it more in 2014 for street shooting, as it’s small, silent and the lens is a cracker.
Another camera I expect to using more in the coming months is a Praktica MTL 50; it’s a beast of an SLR from the former East Germany, almost identical to the first manual film camera I bought back in 2000 to learn photography.
In November, I took my fourth trip to Istanbul. It’s become my favourite city to photograph, not only because of its historical richness but because of its sheer size – there are 18 million people living in this sprawling metropolis straddling the divide between Europe and Asia. My Istanbul trips are a good excuse to dig out cameras from my collection and put some films through them; and while my Pentaxs, LOMOs and Chinon Memotrons remain my staple travel cameras, it’s also nice to mix it up. It was good to use my old Zenit E again, which I bought for £4 from a market in Greenwich. It’s reminded me just how little you can spend on a decent film camera now that most photographers have made the switch from film to digital.
Istanbul’s November weather can be perfect for street photography, if the weather behaves itself. The bright sunny days were perfect for shooting xpro slide on the LC-Wide and expired Ektachrome slide on the Asian shore. It only whetted my appetite for another visit in 2014.
It’s the end of the second year blogging about my film photography – I’ve really enjoyed writing about my adventures with film, and appreciated everyone who’s read these posts and given their feedback. Happy shooting in 2014.