Photographic news bulletin

I’ve got a few photographic things to write about, so I thought I’d do a mini news bulletin.

New camera: 1920s Ensign Cameo

Ensign Cameo
Ensign Cameo

For my birthday, my parents-in-law got me an Ensign Cameo view camera. It’s a real beauty with black leather and silver chrome trim, still shiny and bright. I’ve not been able to date it accurately other than to say it was certainly released no earlier than 1927, probably no later than 1931, and by 1933 it had definitely been discontinued, as this specific model no longer appeared in their catalogue. (It’s the 6×9 version with a 100mm Ensar Anastigmat f/4.5 lens and Trichro shutter).

It takes sheet film in 6×9cm format, rather than the more recent roll film (although I think a “modern” roll film back could probably be fitted to this camera too). The camera came with four sheet film holders, each of which contained film! I developed the films in the darkroom  just in case they had been exposed – but they had not.

This is an extremely interesting camera so no doubt I’ll write about it in more detail soon. Please note, this picture is not mine. I’ll photograph mine when I’ve had a chance to set up the lighting properly. I’ve got a few cameras I need to photograph.

Photography tuition

I recently decided to take up tuition to help with my darkroom skills. I contacted a local tutor, Chris Waller, and met with him to discuss what I wanted to work on. I showed him some of my negatives and prints and he gave me some tips to get started. The biggest lesson in improving my negatives is that the box speed of the film is measured under dull grey lighting, like a cloudy day in England. On a sunny day, the film should be used at a slower speed, otherwise the contrast won’t be right. The only way to know the exact speed (the “exposure index“) is to perform tests under different lighting conditions. I agreed with Chris to perform some tests and shoot some more negatives, paying careful attention to the speed and contrast – and to meet him again in the future to discuss print-making.

Short break in Minehead

Hannah and I went to Dunster for a short break to celebrate my birthday, also calling in at MineheadLynton & Lynmouth. It’s a beautiful part of the country, so I took four cameras and a rucksack of lenses. I decided on three 35mm SLRs (each loaded with a different film speed) and my Horseman view camera, as I wanted to take a picture of St George’s priory church in Dunster for my Somerset Towers project.

When we got to the church, I found that the churchyard was so small that it wasn’t possible to back up far enough to photograph the church with the Horseman – even using a wide angle lens. I also tried with a 35mm SLR with a 17mm lens (that’s ultra wide) and it still wasn’t enough. The picture in the Wikipedia article shows this, too. Later I found an ideal vantage point in the grounds of Dunster Castle, so all was well and I got a decent picture.

One of the SLRs (a Canon T90) was loaded with Ilford FP4+ which is nominally rated at ISO 125, and I decided to experiment and shoot it at ISO 80 as the weather was overcast. The film is currently hanging up to dry and looks good, although you can’t tell for sure until it is fully dry. It looks more contrasty and “meaty” which is reassuring, after Chris thought most of my previous negatives were a bit thin.

Another of the SLRs (a Canon AE-1 Program) was loaded with Ilford HP5+ which is nominally rated at ISO 400. I decided to shoot it at ISO 320 but it wasn’t until I got home I discovered that the overly enthusiastic autowinder had torn the sprocket holes in the film and the film had not advanced through the camera beyond the first frame. All the pictures taken on that camera were lost, but least I managed to untangle the film in the darkroom so in the future I’ll be able to use 34 of the 36 exposures.

Photos for sale

Yes, I already blogged about this, but I’m taking every opportunity to shamelessly plug the fact that I have set up on online shop where you can buy prints of some of my photographs. I made my first sale within hours of opening, so I’m extremely pleased. Make my day, buy some artwork for your home! 😀

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