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Re-exploring Film: Introduction

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I will aim to keep it up to date and as informative as I can with my personal experiences exploring photography, from equipment and techniques to photoshoots and more. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or simply to let me know if there is anything you would like to read more about.


When I took up photography in the noughties, film was still very relevant and a popular way of creating photographs. I shot in film alone right up towards the end of the noughties before eventually switching to digital. Over a decade on and I’m thankful to be working a full time job as a photographer and to have had my pictures published in numerous publications; work which is/was captured with digital SLRs. However, I missed the hands-on approach and sense of achievement that film gives you.


A few years ago I decided to dust the cobwebs off my first 35mm SLR and have shot both digital and film since; much in the same way that you might have your daily commuter car as well as a classic you enjoy on the weekend. My films of choice have been largely influenced by two types that I most enjoyed using at college:


Kodak Ektachrome (Colour Reversal)

Colour Reversal film is simply colour film that develops a positive image rather than the usual negative. As a positive film, they would often be mounted on to slides so they could be used in a projector. Colour Reversal films were very popular from the 60’s but nearly completely died out in more recent years. In 2018 Kodak brought back their Ektachrome film. Bright colours and high contrasts are typical characteristics of these films, which along with their positive image and physical uniqueness is what appeals to me.


Ilford HP5 Plus (Black and White)

Black and white film is where photography began and is still considered to be ‘true photography’ by some. Black and white film and print processing is easy to do if you have access to a darkroom, and extremely rewarding when you get good results. Ilford make a huge range of films and chemicals but HP5 is my go to film as it has a lovely grain, contrast and is useable in most lighting conditions.


While living in London, there were a number of darkrooms that could be hired by the hour, half day or day. In September 2020, my wife and I relocated to Somerset where darkrooms are very few and far between. Luckily what I lacked in darkroom access I had gained in extra space in our new home, so I soon set about sourcing the equipment I would need to set up my own work space.


Over that last six months or so, I have sourced some weird and wonderful equipment which I hope to share in this blog. Two of my best finds are the machines below, each for printing or viewing the previously mentioned films:


Leitz Focomat V35

The Leitz (now known as Leica) Focomat V35 is a 35mm darkroom enlarger which is capable of producing prints up to 20” x 16”. An enlarger works by projecting the negative film on to light sensitive photographic paper. The V35 is quite unusual in its design and has a counter balanced arm for height adjustment, which also adjusts the focal length of its lens to maintain the same focus. This particular one I managed to source came complete with a Leica Focometer 2 timer for managing the time that the paper is exposed, multigrade module for black and white printing and a colour module for colour printing - not that I plan on using it for colour printing.


Leitz Pradovit RA 150

The Leitz Pradovit RA 150 is a type of projector for slides or colour reversal films. They were often used as a cheaper way to view photographs than the traditional prints which could get expensive over a period of time. I hadn’t initially set out to purchase one of these but while searching the secondhand market for equipment I have ended up with two (which probably isn’t a bad thing having seen how expensive replacement bulbs are!). Projectors aren’t essential, but they are cheap. I felt it would be good to be able to not only use them for viewing my own slides in future, but to take a better look at my Grandads that he shot in the 60’s.

We'll take a closer look at these types of film, the machines and how they work in Part One and Part Two.

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