New gallery: Thurrock

Last Saturday’s weather  was fantastic – sunshine all day – so I picked up Gordon early and headed east to the Thames Estuary.

En route via the A13, we formed a rough plan of action: start at Tilbury then work west along the north side of the Thames to Grays and Rainham. Access to the shore itself is hindered in several places by private industrial sites with no public right of way. Nonetheless, when you can reach the riverside, there’s an interesting blend of footpaths, detritus and nature at the water’s edge.

Walking the Thames on an east-west axis, I often shoot things frontally. I like the stacking effect this creates with walls, buildings and the sky: factories loom up and wall graffiti are mounted on a facing plane. There’s often a pleasing simplicity and symmetry to these compositions.


The Tilbury river wall graffiti are a mixture of mod culture references and melancholy (and often enigmatic) statements, plus the usual less imaginative tagging. Such is the current paranoia of fossil fuel companies, our wanderings attracted the attention of security staff from Tilbury Power Station who thought it necessary to check that we were not a) environmentalists, or b) terrorists. They went away disappointed but probably relieved to briefly escape the CCTV monitors for some fresh air.

Technical notes: these pictures were shot on Fuji Velvia 100 and Provia 400, scanned on an Epson V700. Most were taken hand held using a Mamiya 6.

Click here to see the Thurrock photo gallery

Spring steps

Spring is finally here – time to get out and start shooting.

I started scanning my own film recently after buying an Epson V700. It’s something I used to do as part of a previous job but I’m a little out of practice. For a start, different films scan differently – obviously. More than anything else, performing colour correction well is proving tricky. I’ve mainly been working with Provia scans (which have come out heavy in purple and magenta) and adjusting things in Lightroom.

Anyway, enough technical talk. I drove down to Grain recently and the sun was in just the right place to shoot a derelict barn that had caught my eye previously. Here are some hand-held shots taken with the Mamiya 6.

New galleries

It’s been grey and cold for days.  What better time, then, to revisit the photo catalogue and do some housekeeping.

In the process, I found a few old pictures worthy of publication so I incorporated them into two new portfolio sets – ‘street’ and ‘architecture’ (interchangeable terms, of course) – of twenty images each.  These portfolios are not ‘best of’ sets, they are genre collections representing work over several years in a variety of locations.

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, 2006

It’s striking how, when you look back through your archive, you discover yourself consistently making the same type of photographs. I don’t think this is a bad thing at all, it just reflects how you see things and your own style.  After all, as that old music aphorism goes, ‘How do I get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice, man, practice‘.

Click here to visit the updated galleries page

1st Mamiya 6 images

I just got from my first rolls of Mamiya 6 shot photos back from the lab.

Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication

The results are mixed: the first roll was expired print film which came with the camera – and it was not up to much. The photos had odd colour shifts and came out much darker than expected. Never mind, my next films were one roll of Fuji Reala 400 then Provia 400 afterwards. These images are more encouraging and I was getting acquainted with the camera’s character. I made test shots using all three lenses, usually on a tripod. The lab scans are medium resolution so it’s difficult to judge image sharpness properly; I really need to look at the slides on a light box. There is a fair amount of grain too – due to the 400 ISO film – so my next rolls will be with 100 ISO Fuji E6 film in daylight. That should make an interesting comparison.

The bright shots of Ravensbourne College were shot on E6. The other pictures were shot in dull overcast conditions on C41: yes, they are colour but only just. Here are some representative samples.

Click here to see the Mamiya 6 gallery

First light

The Menin Gate, November 2010

Happy new year.

My photographic resolutions for 2011 are simple:

i) take better pictures

ii) get out more and mix things up (in terms of subject and location)

iii) develop projects

In gear-related news, I am fortunate enough to have recently acquired a Mamiya 6 rangefinder.

Mamiya 6 with 50mm, 75mm and 150mm lenses (Image courtesy of Anthony Cash)

I have shot some test rolls over Christmas which are heading to the lab this week so I’ll share some initial results soon. The M6 is a pleasantly simple camera to use and I am really looking forward to shooting it this year. Having a proper wide lens (the 50mm which is equivalent to 28mm in 35mm format) is particularly exciting as this is something I’ve been missing with the Yashicamat’s normal fixed lens.

Dear Santa

Cold winter nights give you plenty of time to mull things over.  For the photographer, the scarcity of daylight is a chance to consider his work: where, why, how and what for?
Shoreline at Grain, October 2010

As documented on this site and in my recent book, I’ve spent most of 2010 working in medium format.  I’ve enjoyed the change of pace and method, and I want to do more.  The time is right, I feel, to invest in better gear which will make achieving quality results – consistently – just a little easier.

Here are the two main options I’ve been thinking about:

1) Mamiya 6: medium format film rangefinder. Pros: compact body with great (and collapsible) lenses: 50mm, 75mm, 150mm. Cons: expense and hassle of shooting film (film, processing, scanning).

2) Nikon D700: full frame (35mm) digital.  Pros: Large choice of excellent glass, rugged body, digital convenience. Cons: the built-in redundancy and value loss of digital bodies.

I’m leaning towards the full Mamiya 6 set because I think it will really suit what and how I shoot.  The D700 is a quality camera but it is expensive and rather long in the tooth.  For the same money, you can  get a complete Mamiya set and it will hold its value better than the Nikon.

Dear Santa…

Even Santa's in square format nowadays. Image PV2422, © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

New book on the way

I’m currently preparing a book using Blurb: it’s called 120 2010: A Year in Medium Format and, as the title suggests, it’s about my first year shooting 120 film with the Yashicamat.

120 2010 will feature some of the best images I’ve made so far alongside reflections on my experience with the medium. It should be a great way to encapsulate what I’ve learned, where I’ve been and what’s coming next.

More soon.

5 resources for medium format photographers

When I started investigating medium format, before purchasing my Yashicamat, I spent hours searching the web for useful information on cameras, film and technique. Here are five websites I found particularly useful:

1. Holga Blog’s TLR cameras guide

2. survey of film types and brands

3. The pros and cons of medium format by Ken Rockwell

4. Peter William’s list and recommendations of Yashica TLR models

5. The Frugal Photographer: obscure film and darkroom equipment store

Suggestions are welcome so let me know if I’ve missed anything essential.

The photographic workbook of Douglas McCarthy