Wednesday, 15 June 2011


Which of these shots best pictures the path that you are on in life right now?




Meandering Footsteps


This Way

Woodland Path

Dewy Fog

This Way


A Slice of Middle Earth

Deep Summer

Long Light

Tarka Trail

Brent Tor

Down There


Stairway to ...

40-40 Vision

One Leading Nowhere Just For Show

Waldridge Fell Path

Friday, 12 November 2010

Autumn Pictures

(c) 2010 Seymour Jacklin

There is a lazy wind today - that's the sort of wind that doesn't bother to go around you, it just goes straight through you. But as it tears the leaves off the trees, time is running out to enjoy autumnal photography and perhaps there is time to shoot a couple more rolls before the Winter clamps down and brings another range of possibilities.

Autumn Path

It is always windy up along this ridge, so the trees and the grass grow with a lean. This was taken with a brilliant little rangefinder called the "GEr" by Fujica. It has a wide, 38mm lense which is great for landscapes and very forgiving when focusing on closer objects. I used a slower shutter speed of about 1/60s so the moving trees are slightly blurred.

Autumn Overdone

This rather oddly coloured photograph comes from a set taken on expired film that was so badly (or well) disintegrated that it caught more orange than anything else. There are some more shots from the same film in my post: Expired Film Unpredictable Art. This tree can be found in the walled garden at Wallington House in Northumbria.


The long, low light of Autumn days is perfect for textures like this because the shadows bring out the relief.

Rushing to the Day's End

Just about now, the sky can get really interesting as dawn and dusk last for much longer, there is plenty of opportunity for shots like this. It makes sense to meter off the clouds or the landscape underneath in order to get the exposure correct.

Make the best of the last days of Autumn and get out there before it gets dark (at 4pm).

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Durham Skies

Of all the places I have lived, and that includes Africa, I have never seen skies like we get here in County Durham. It must be a combination of the broadness of the landscape and the atmospheric conditions between the Pennines and the sea that keeps the clouds interesting.

Here are some examples from my "Sky" set on Flickr:

Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale

Clouds that look like animals abound, some are pretty obvious like the one above; others are more abstract:

Shrimp Cloud

I think it looks like a shrimp, anyway.

Which Way is Up?
Which Way is Up?

This picture is the right way up but I had to think about it as it is not immediately obvious. I think they are alto cumulus with "virga" or evaporating tails underneath. The clue to the orientation lies in the higher cirrus clouds at the top of the picture.


Expecting to see "The Second Coming" any moment now. This was taken in my back garden with a Fujica Ger rangefinder.


This is on expired film but the colours are pretty realistic believe it or not.

True Sky
True Sky

Iso 800 Fujifilm allowed me to get the extraordinary colours of this snowy sky in low light. It was a very strange light, everything bathed in purple. A couple of minutes later this entire scene was overrun by a thick blizzard.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

50ml Black and White Challenge

It was a challenge in Black and White Photography Magazine that recently inspired me to spend a couple of months shooting exclusively in Black and White and only using a 50ml lens.

Happy Couple
The challenge appealed to me because (as I have said before) I am very fond of 50ml and wanted to get a better feel for B+W photography. Reflecting on this, I realised that I have strong feelings about “art” in general and one of the things I look for in all art is to see a masterful and virtuosic application of a constrained form. For a poet this means working with verses, rhymes, syllabic rhythms. For a photographer this means working within the limitations of the medium: black and white, fixed focal length, film speed or any other limiting factors.

Off Duty Nets
I appreciate this is not the way everyone views it but for me the excitement comes from seeing what can be done with less rather than more. I think this is why I instinctively prefer fixed focal lengths and using 35mm film. It is not about having masses of equipment in order to capitalise on every opportunity and control all the variables, it is about the challenge of exploring different subjects with a basic setup.

So the first roll of my 50ml black and white adventure came back today and I am looking forward to continuing to play around within the boundaries that I have set for myself for a couple more months.

Lazy Dartmouth Morning
The examples in this post were shot on expired Kodak T400CN in a Mamiya ZE-2. This is the first time I have used Kodak B+W C41 process film and ... well ... I don’t feel that the black is quite as good as the Ilford XP2 series (it is certainly grainier) but overall, I am chuffed with the outcome.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Expired Film: Unpredictable Art

(c) 2010 Seymour Jacklin

The greatest expense of analogue photography is not equipment or film but developing costs. I estimate that with what I have spent on developing in the last year I could have bought a top-of-the-range DSLR - but I’m not complaining. I still wouldn’t have it any other way.

One of the ways I try to keep costs down is by buying expired film on Ebay. My reasons for doing this are not only financial (there is really no need to pay more than a dollar for a roll of film) but also artistic. Using expired film adds yet another element of excitement and surprise to photography.

Woodland TendrilsFilm will keep extremely well if properly looked after. Black and white film is more reliable than colour film as it ages but I have seen excellent results from properly kept film that is even six or  seven years out of date. However, particularly when buying from e-bay, you can never be completely certain how much degradation there may be on an expired roll and this can sometimes yield unexpected results. Typically there is some loss of certain colours, depending on the emulsion or more grain. 

The most extraordinary results I ever got back are seen in the examples illustrating this post. The roll was a 2003 branded roll of ISO200 “Dixons” film. Every single frame came back with these filligree like branching patterns that looked more organic than purely chemical. My best guess is that some moisture had entered the casing and a rare mould had spread its tendrils over the emulsion. One commenter on Flickr likened it to lens mold in appearance.

Has anyone seen this before or can anyone offer an alternative explanation? I wish I could replicate it at will but that’s one of the joys of shooting on old film - every shot is such a combination of variables, from exposure settings right down to the molecular level of the film surface, making it even more unrepeatable.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Things to Check when Buying a Second Hand Camera

Thrift stores, car boot sales, auctions, junk shops and flea markets are often good places to pick up vintage gear.

In my experience the seller usually has no idea about what is on the table and this either means the asking price is way over value (because the thing looks really old and collectible) or way under (because no-one uses these film cameras any more, it’s all digital now).

If you are after a working camera, then sadly the only true test of a second hand model is to run a film through and have it developed. However, there are a few things that you can check before you shell out that will reduce your chances of picking up a dud.

Firstly, look for fungus. Check the lenses inside and out. Dust is okay but fungus and moisture damage is a deal-breaker. If the lens looks like it has dampness inside it or a hint of grey/green growth, no matter how gorgeous the camera is, walk away - unless you are just after the body.

Are there any bits or buttons missing? typically, the delay switch lever may not be there (usually on the front of the camera to the right of the lens) although remember some models don’t have one at all. Also the rewind crank, and other rings and knobs on the top can be missing.

Get the back open and check inside. Most 35mm models since the 1970s open by pulling up the rewind knob, older models might have screws to loosen or a catch system. If you can’t get it open that’s a deal-breaker, too.

Look inside. The shutter curtains or leaves should be shut and not rusted open, torn or leaking any light at all.

Keeping the back open, cock the shutter (usually by winding on) and fire it off a few times. Does that sound snappy? Watch through the shutter and you should see out through the lens for a split second when you fire it off. Try different shutter speeds and use a slow speed or “bulb” (B) setting to get a good look through the lens from the inside of the camera. Slide the aperture ring round (if there is one) and make sure you can see the aperture closing and opening inside the lens.

With the back still open, check for light-tightness. Give attention to the seals round the door. This can be a black foam that gets worn away, but it is easy enough to replace. Some old cameras won’t have a sealing material but the door should still fit snugly enough when closed to exclude light.

For an SLR, take the lens off the body and have a quick look at the mirror. Is there fungus or damage there? A little bit of wear to the mirror is acceptable and optically negligible but reject if you can see an obvious problem. Fire the shutter again and watch the mirror. Make sure the cushions around it are not shot. Again a bit of wear is tolerable but if the cushions are breaking down you might need some repair.

For a rangefinder make sure that the bright spot is visible when you look through the viewfinder. Focus on a nearby object that you can estimate the distance to and then check the distance on the focus ring to make sure it tallies with your estimate.

A little bit of cloudiness in your viewfinder is not the end of the world but make sure it is usable.

Is there a built in light-meter? If this is the selenium type, then swing it towards and away from the light and make sure it registers a change. Battery powered ones are more tricky unless there are usable batteries in there, you might just have to take a chance on this.

Finally, if there are batteries, open the battery compartment and check for signs of corrosion. The connections could be completely wasted and this is a bad sign as the corrosion can go much deeper and this is sadly often the only thing wrong with a perfectly decent old camera.

All of the above sounds a bit complicated but practice on an old camera if you need to - they should only take a few moments. If you are reasonably satisfied with these checks, then start haggling! You are probably already more of an expert on the item than the person behind the table and if you can point out that the the light seal is a bit ragged, you might be able to knock the price down.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Shooting at 50mm

By far the most popular fixed focal length for lenses is 50mm. This focal length is closest to the natural human field of vision and just about suitable for portrait, medium distance and landscape pictures. There are a number of flickr groups dedicated to pictures at 50mm and they show off the wonderful versatility of these primes.

Check out:

I have a  personal preference for fixed, rather than zoom, lenses. And, among those, 50mm is my favourite, too.
Finish The Roll
  • At 50mm you need to get a little bit up-close and personal with the subjects. They lend themselves really well to portraits and closer work and when I am shooting at 50mm I always feel as if I am more involved in the picture.
  • I prefer a fixed lens to a zoom because a zoom always adds a few seconds to framing a shot, picking the right focal length and trying to think simultaneously about the depth of field available (longer focal lengths have a shorter depth of field - the zone of what is in focus is shorter). I like to shoot on-the-fly with a minimum of fuss and use what time I have to think about exposure and focus more than anything else.
  • When a photographer uses the same fixed lens for a period of time the feel of the lens and what it is capable of becomes instinctive and the camera begins to function more as an extension of oneself. Because of its approximation to the human field of vision, 50mm is very intuitive.
  • Because I use it more than any other, I have confidence that with 50mm I can make a decent job of most subjects. I think that people choose zoom lenses because they worry about not having enough options and missing an opportunity; but I would encourage anyone to stick to 50mm for a good period of time and get used to it - overcoming the challenges could bring out the best in you.
Stick that lense on now and keep it on for a month, be disciplined, explore the possibilities, look at what other people are doing with it, and in time, perhaps, you will start to feel like using your zoom or frequently switching lenses is cheating.