I only ‘returned to film’ last summer. The last time I really enjoyed photography before then was in the late ‘90s; mostly with medium format TLRs. My film photography rebirth has been a complete revelation to me and I now know what will keep me active and inspired when I eventually retire – something that has been weighing on my mind for some time.
Since my return, I have gravitated back to medium format, indulging a couple of long-held desires for particular brands and modes. What I lacked though was a ‘take anywhere camera’, and that’s where this beautiful old Leica comes in. My timing has been perfect as this little gem arrived in my hands just before the start of the coronavirus lockdown. It has come out with me wherever I’ve gone on my ‘lockdown exercises’ over the last couple of months; whether walking or cycling. This is not a gear review – others are much better qualified for those and I haven’t shot enough other cameras to give a reasonable balanced view. What I will say though is that I am very happy with the results so far. That said, the real joy for me is in the operation – it feels so beautiful in my hand and is just a constant delight to use.
As my Instagram will attest, I have a fairly eclectic approach, enjoying street, landscape, macro and more. In particular, I have found that I love photographing the buildings of my adopted home town, Sheffield. I am a firm believer that, wherever you live, there is ample subject material for any photographer, and I much prefer seeing people’s unique environs than yet another image of the Taj Mahal or the Brooklyn Bridge. During the lockdown, I have been determined to carry on taking pictures and this roll is fairly typical of my output recently – woods, parks and streets!
This interest in architecture has led me to seek out a wider angle of view. The Leica has given me that opportunity and this little Voigtlander 21mm is a great addition to my older glass. Some people might regard it as sacrilege to pair a 1950s body with a modern lens but I like using it and enjoy the results!
When shooting B&W, I usually use HP5 or Tri-X; both iso 400, but I decided it was time for some Ilford FP4 Plus for a change. Only trouble was I immediately forgot! I have never experimented with pushing or pulling film so it was a complete accident when I eventually did. I shot the roll on a couple of ‘consecutive social distancing’ walks around my neighbourhood, entirely using sunny-16 metering. I don’t yet develop my own film (another plan for retirement) but the lab that I use (filmdev.co.uk) was very happy to process, compensating for my schoolboy mistake.
I really wasn’t expecting much, but what I got back the following week was full of contrast and strong tones. The lens is sharp and really does capture everything I could want in the frame, and has definitely given me another string to my bow. It’s quite hard sharing a whole roll; experiments and mistakes included, but I hope that the results show people what a surprisingly attractive city Sheffield is, and that these old cameras really should be used and not just put on display.
Finally, and not for the first time, they prove to me the importance of serendipity in film photography, and the unexpected pleasures the odd mistake can bring…
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