November in London means preparing for the next six months of gloom and darkness, waking up and commuting home in pitch dark. And though the winter days can often be blessed with bright, low light, it’s a season of cold and monotones.
The difference between the endless evenings of summer and this gathering gloom are even more noticeable in London’s parks and open spaces, or in the seaside towns a short train ride away.
I read a tip from a photographer recently who said spring and summer were all about shooting, and the darker months for processing. Why waste all that light to be hunched over a computer?
I try to take a camera with me everywhere I go, including the commute to work, but especially for those summer evenings that last for hours. For much of the summer my camera bag either had my Lomo LC-Wide or one of my old SLRs in it, including my trusty old Zenit E.
I moved to Greenwich in South East London in 2013; a decade earlier I bought the Zenit there at a local market. It cost £4, and worked perfectly. It still does.
Using old cameras like the Zenit is about making the most of the apparent limitations. Older lenses, like those made in the 1960s and 70s, had less effective coatings; this means more likelihood of flare, soft spots and other aberrations. But this can be a creative tool rather than a drawback.
Pairing these with expired films, especially old slide film cross-processed in negative chemicals, adds to the effects. All of these shots were taken on the Zenit and Agfa Precisa CT100 or Kodak Elite Chrome 100, cross-processed and scanned onto CD in the minilab; the lab scanners always do a much better job of capturing the colour shifts and contrasts that make cross-processed shots so eye-catching.
The shots from Whitstable, an hour from London on the Kent coast, were taken on August Bank Holiday weekend, the sun burning through the sea haze. In the winter, this place will feel cold and desolate, hemmed in by grey sea and skies. But the xpro brings out the warmth of that that summer sun.
And that evening light, like in the shot above, becomes almost unreal in xpro pictures; richer and more saturated. A walk round the block, or the trudge home after a day at work, become opportunities to turn twilight into something surreal and special. Roll on next spring.