The other day, we decided to go for a day trip to the beach. In Worcester where I live, the closest beaches are on the Bristol Channel in Somerset – so that’s exactly where we went.
Despite this relative close proximity, we’ve never been to Brean sands. We’ve been to Burnham-on-Sea, a bigger town just down the channel, and I’ve been to Weston-Super-Mare just up around the other side of Brean Down when I was a kid, but never Brean Sands itself. We’ve talked about it a lot of times, but with it being 90 miles away, it mostly seems just a little bit too far to spontaneously travel to when the the primary goal is really just to take the dogs for a walk.
Unfortunately, “dogs” plural, became “dog” singular just recently when we had to have our Whippet-cross-Lab Piglet put down. In hindsight, we realised she had been getting more and more ill since early summer, but it was only when she had an unusual autoimmune issue 6 or so weeks ago that she went downhill very quickly. It was, as I’m sure you can imagine, very sad and distressing process to go through.
Having gone through something so traumatic as a family, we decided to do something nice together. And now, with only having one dog to shut in the boot of of the car for a 180 mile round trip, we decided a day out to the beach would blow the cobwebs out a bit. It was, of course, a little sad only having Murphy with us. Though, on the bright side, he was a lot better behaved than he used to be when he had Piglet to give him the confidence he needed to chase other people’s dogs. He’s also getting on a bit himself, so for the most part he just trotted around near us.
Being a winter’s day, the beach was pretty much deserted. There was a few people around, but thankfully – especially with all the covid stuff going on – it was quiet enough that we felt we had the space we needed to enjoy ourselves as a family by ourselves. We were also really lucky in that we had a bit of hazy sunshine, and despite the time of year it was actually quite mild.
Amusingly, the girls – especially Norah – couldn’t quite get their heads around going to the beach and it not being warm and Sunny. The day before, and on the journey down, we had lots of questions about going for a paddle in the sea. I laid it out in very simple terms a fair few times that the aim was simply to go for a walk on the beach, maybe write our names in the sand, and if they were lucky (and good), get a hot chocolate from somewhere to warm them up afterwards.
This obviously went in one ear and straight out the other, as despite finding some sticks for some name writing, they ignored my advice not to go too close to the water and had their shoes, socks and trousers soaked through within minutes. In fact, Connie managed to fall over backwards as a wave surrounded her soaking the bum of her trousers and most of her coat.
Fortunately, she saw the funny side (as did we). And, as I’ve said, it was quite mild. So after trekking back up the beach to dump her wet coat in the car, we carried on down the beach. And since they were already wet, I worried myself a little less about their proximity to the water.
From where we parked the car on the sand, we then took a very slow walk all the way down to the cliffs of Brean Down. I’ve talked before about how much I enjoy taking photos on the Beach. I usually shoot colour, but in the winter black & white feels more appropriate somehow. Shooting around the few people there were on the beach, I managed to get a few of the sorts of shots of the coastline I like taking.
And a couple of some seaside accommodation
Once we got to the cliffs the girls clambered around on the rocks for a bit. I remember doing this as a kid and being told to be careful more often than I felt it necessary to be told – of course I was being careful, and I never hurt myself. But, remembering this didn’t stop me nagging the girls to be careful as they scaled the craggy boulders. Though, me being me, once they had stopped moving I took the opportunity to get a couple of snaps of them.
Having somehow lost over an hour on the walk to the cliffs, we made the trip back a little quicker (I carried Norah for about half of it). This next shot was the last I took – I now have it set as the home screen on my phone.
The Camera & Film
The camera of choice was my Leica M4-P with newly acquired KameraKraft grip and a Skyllaney rehoused pre-war uncoated Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar – both lens and grip will be the subject of articles another day, so I won’t go on too much about them now, other than to say how happy I am with them!
The film was a roll of Kosmo Foto Mono 100. At this stage, I feel like I should also apologise to Steve from Kosmo Foto. He sent me a roll to shoot a couple of years ago and I never got round to it. A few months ago, I finally loaded it into one of my Pentaxes, and then something (Norah) happened and most of it ended up outside of the camera and on the floor of the living room. That wasn’t to be end end of it though – I mentioned this to Steve and he suggested he should send me one of his fancy gift boxes. I obviously snapped his hand off!
I’m pleased I did too! The roll was developed by Silverpan Film Lab in Xtol 1+1 at 24 degrees for 5:20 in his Jobo, and the results here are only very slightly tweaked in Lightroom from Duncan’s Flextight scans. Duncan suggested using the Flextight to scan rather than the Noritsu as I thinks he gets better results with black & white. He also tweaked the contrast down a bit – I told him when we first started working together that I like my scans to give me a bit of post-process wriggle room, so he just does this as a matter of course for me these days.
Despite his tweaks, the natural tonality of the film was still there I think. For the most part my job in Lightroom was just correcting the odd wonky horizon, some slight tweaks to exposure and a little boost to contrast. Apart from that, what you see is pretty much what I got back from the lab. I’m absolutely over the moon with the tonality of them too – they are just what I had in mind when I was taking the photos!
I’m also really happy with the amount of grain. I’d read a few reviews that talk about “comically high grain” which made me worry that I wouldn’t like the results, but actually – as someone who rarely shoots films that are any faster than 400 – I really like the look of the results. There is a little bit of grain, for sure, but Duncan’s dev & scan skills must have calmed it, as to me, it add’s little more than a slight texture. Perhaps I just like a bit of grain?! Either way, I shall definitely be shooting more Kosmo Foto Mono 100 – thanks Steve!!
I shall also being taking another trip to Brean Sands – The beach, fresh air, time with the family and a chance to shoot a whole roll of film in a camera I love… all nicely rounded off with some photos I am really happy with that Hannah loves too. Yeah, it was a good day – and just what we as a family needed!
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31 thoughts on “Brean Sands, A Leica M4-P and a Roll of Kosmo Foto Mono 100”
Very moody and warm set of photos!
Cheers matey 🙂
I have lately followed this site and wonder; Is this meant fore Leica? I do se Laika and very litel of something else. I wonder if we who fore some reason not welkom here ore are all the rest of the cameraowners not abel to whrite,
Sorry of my english – Il ive in Sweden
There’s been a couple of Leica posts recently, but not an overwhelming amount, so I’m really not sure what you mean…?
Some great views of the Sands and surrounding area. This is the first time I’ve seen beach area despite visiting there with my family 20 years ago. It may have been one of those chalets where we stayed. My only brief memory was the inside of the chalet, as the next thing I saw was the inside of an isolation room of ICU of Weston General. I suppose I had it easier than my poor missus, though, who had our two young boys to look after on her own (as well as dealing with our house-move on the Isle of Wight that was in progress at the time) At least they got to see the beach when Grandma arrived to help out. Hopefully one day we’ll return to the area to lay the ghost of that fateful holiday and enjoy a stroll on those beautiful sands ????
…. what happened? Can I ask that….?
We were away on one of those cheap £10 holidays that were being promoted by a certain questionable news publication at the time. It started with what seemed like a bit of man-flu, a sore throat and slightly icky belly a couple of days before we left the Island and ended up as full-blown septicaemia. We were lucky in that the camp first-aider was ex army and well experienced in spotting the symptoms. He called the ambulance straight away, no hesitation. Apparently he said if we’d left it another half an hour I’d have been cashing my chips. Accompanying the poisoned blood were pleurisy, rampant cellulitis and kidneys that briefly threw in the towel. My left hand looked like one of those latex gloves that had been inflated to look like a cow’s udder. Anyway, the upshot was I stayed a week in icu and a further fortnight out on the ward before they let me out again. To be fair, though, I had the relatively easy job of laying there and getting better, whereas my poor missus had our two boys (aged four and two) and the organising of the house move to deal with. She did a brilliant job, far better than I would have managed had roles been reversed. Luckily my Mother-in-came also to the rescue and helped out hugely with everything. That, and the much needed support of close friends, we pulled through. I was lucky and made a full recovery (though I was off work for the best part of six months). I have since read stories of folk who’ve, sadly, not fared so well with this illness. Anyway I’d to say that the nursing staff at Weston general were absolutely brilliant in looking after me while I was there. I salute them. Sorry for the long spiel..
Whoa, that sounds like a lucky escape! I have heard it’s a bit of a killer – there are always signs in hospitals about looking out for the warning signs! Scary stuff! Congrats on not buying the farm…!
Btw I’ve a possible idea for an article (nowt to do with the above). Am I ok to submit one when I’ve sorted it? Thanks in advance.
I went to Brean Sands for our family summer holiday about 12/13 years ago, with our old towing caravan. It was mightily hot!Luckily, our camp site was right by the beach behind the sea wall, so we caught the cool sea breeze at night. I remember the beach was nice and sandy, but one end was used as a car park and there would be horrible tar and oil stains left in the evening. Sadly I can’t find any photos of those times (must be buried somewhere) but I have great images stuck in my head. For example, watching both The Cheeky Girls AND The Wurzels at the same outdoor concert. Also, discover ing the best scrumpy in the world at a local cider farm (near Weston I think). Anywa y, that Kosmo Foto Mono has held up well in your photos Hamish and thanks for the reminder of a hot week in Somerset. Cheers, Rock.
Cheers fella! cheeky girls and the wurzels eh – surely the height of naughties entertainment ????
I really like these photos! And the humorous stories of the girls in the water too. Thanks for the details about the film, developing, scanning and LR touchup as well. Do you use zone focusing or critical focusing? Happy Holidays to you and your family.
Zone for the longer shots – it was just f/11 I think. The closer shots I used the RF though.
And thanks, and to you
Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family! I hope Santa was good to everyone!
I’m saddened to hear about your poor dog.
A pet’s passing is always hard.
It looks like the whole family has a great time getting wet. The lens rendered a look reminiscent of the late 1950’s.
Thanks Dan, yeah it was hard, and it blindsided me a bit to be honest… but there we are…
The optics in the lens are actually from the 30s, would you believe?!
Good gear really doesn’t go bad.
BTW, I was a bit curious about the geographic area you were stomping about. Looked it up. Nice area, lots to explore and discover. Happy New Year!
For sure – I think we will go back there for some more exploring another time!
Thank you Hamish, I really enjoyed the read and the photos are lovely! This reminded me that before a trip to the beach with kids to always pack a change of clothes! Also these shots are tempting me to try 35mm again as I have been exclusively shooting 120.
Thanks Jon! There’s a lot to be said for 35mm I think – it seems less “trendy” these days with people seeking that “MF look”, which is lovely of course, but the right roll of 35mm for the right occasion, and it MF just isn’t needed I think
Sorry read about your family’s loss of a furry companion. Those losses are tough.
Brean Sands looks like a great place to photograph. Shooting in black and white was an inspired touch. One can feel the the drop in temperature.
Do you use an off camera meter shooting with the M4-P or use sunny 16? Cosmo Foot Mono seem a bit too contrasty for me. Perhaps it was the lens?
Thanks for the post.
The opposite I would say – the film is contrasty, the lens is not so much. It is uncoated, but as a sonnar is more contrasty than other uncoated lenses of the era.
What’s up Hamish. I dig these silhouette shots. I didn’t know you were a parent. Best years of your life.
Cheers Aloy, happy new year fella! It sounds like we might be involved in the same currently-secret product launch, so I am sure we will have reason to catch up soon enough 😉
Excellent images Hamish! I’m from Florida and have developed a rather intense dislike for postcard-type “beach photos” in lurid oversaturated color. These are different and very appealing. Well done.
Thanks very much!
Sorry about your pup, just went through that a week ago..
Lovely pics, technically and also as keepsakes of your family.
Really impressed by that lens – looks better than the modern Zeiss ZM 50 Sonnar (of which I have a copy).
Someone’s going to ask, so might as well be me.. How did you meter the scenes?
Hi Huss, I’m testing a Doomo Meter D, so was using that, my iPhone and a Voigtlander VCii for comparisons. But I only got the meters out twice I think. I took a reflected reading off the sand in the end I think, facing away from the sun – though saying that, I was faffing a bit as the meters didn’t match. More on that another day…
Sorry to hear about Piglet kind sir 🙁
The photos and scans look ace. I hope the family had a great day.
Cheers mate 🙂