Getting Even Closer!

So, I’ve been experimenting with a Raynox 250, as I said in my previous post. This is essentially a lense that clips on to the front of a lense to get you even closer. When combined with a macro lense, you get even closer. This does have it’s problems though, in that even with steady hands there’s still some shake, requiring high shutter speeds and a bit of luck. A tripod would make life easier when it comes to shake, but also makes life more difficult if you want to freely explore an object.

If I was feeling brave, I could even throw in some extension tubes and get closer still, but there’s only so much you can do whilst retaining your sanity!

I will be keeping the Raynox close to hand as it’s useful, but will need more practice using. Here are a few images I’ve made using it, mostly clipped onto my Tamron 90mm.

The luminous colours of a Dianthus.
The petals of a daisy type flower.
A close up of the centre of the daisy like flower.
A close up of the entrance to a Trailing Petunia
This image was and experiment. It’s actually a curve of bubbles around a glass of coke. I lit it with an LED lamp, with a black background. The focus isn’t perfect, but I think that actually adds to the sparkle.
This little fella is only 1-2mm in size. Had to crop it quite aggressively. It’s quite amazing the detail you can get.
And to end on an orange Viola.

Why Film?

Firstly, it’s where I started. It was several years before I tried a digital camera and even then, I kept using film. But nowadays, digital is so easy to access. I’ve been guilty of trying to decide whether I shoot one of the other that day and going for the digital camera for ease of use. After all, I just download the photos and edit them in Exposure X4.5. Easy, right?

But here’s the thing. There’s magic in shooting film. I love opening the developing tank to see if I have got images. Not whether they’re any good… whether I’ve cocked up and not developed them properly (and I’ve been doing it long enough to not mess up). There’s a rush when I take the film off the reel and see negatives. After that, it’s all gravy!

OK, so once the magic of getting some negative is out of the way, what makes film so appealing? For one, it’s tactile. Holding your negatives and looking at them on a light table feels good. A print, made on good quality paper, has weight… has presence. There’s the process itself too and creativity.

It also leads to my love of lith printing, where I feel I can be creative. Where I can build and trust my instincts to get a certain type of print. I can’t do that with digital. I can edit an image, get it how I want it, but I don’t “feel it”.

Maybe all these reasons are superficial, maybe not. It all boils down to “because I like it”!

Fumbling In The Dark

There is a saying: Your first darkroom is for your enemy, the second for your friend and the third is for yourself. You learn many things from making your own dark room. Simple things, like what the ideal hight of a unit should be (for me, about waist height); where the safelights should go; how to blackout a room, which took several attempts to get right.

I had my first darkroom many years ago (not counting several attempts to use the bathroom), in a small shed attached to my mum’s house. I built all the units and even had a flap that allowed access to a chest freezer. There was a wet side, a dry side and plenty of shelf room. As I worked in it, I found what worked and what didn’t. It wasn’t quite for my enemy, but I wouldn’t have said it was for a friend either. It did however work, and I started to learn how to work in a darkroom.

After this, I went through many years without a darkroom. I could still develop film, with a Paterson tank, but print making was out of the question.

Life went on, as it does, and then I was eventually able to set up a new darkroom, in a shed again! I took what I’d learned from my first darkroom, thinking I had skipped a step. Since I first started working in it, I’ve had to adapt it and add things. It sort of works, so I’d say it’s now for a friend.

My (somewhat messy) darkroom.

Blacking it out was troublesome, as it’s a normal 8×6 shed. Lots of ways for light to get it! I bought a lot of (in-fact, far too much) blackout material from Firstcall-Photographic. I then got a hefty staple gun and attached it to the walls of the shed, overlapping it all. Thick black duct tape helps to cover light leaks too.

Ventilation was my most recent addition to the darkroom, and much needed. I took a bit of a punt, not fully knowing what I was doing. My first attempt was a failure. I bought a solar powered extractor fan and a tumble drier hose. The extractor fan only worked in strong, direct sunlight and the hose wasn’t even slightly light-tight.

Combi-flex tubing, with an in-line extractor fan.

So, I did a little research and ordered some combi-flex tubing, an in-line extractor fan and a couple of vent diffusers. This was much more successful. I did still make one mistake. I ordered 100mm width tubing and 100mm width fan etc. This meant that the tubing wouldn’t fit over the fan, as it was the same width. Doh! I cut a short line along the length of the tubing, allowing it to fit on the other parts, fixed it with jubilee clips and then covered everything with lashings of black duct tape. It works!

I still don’t have any running water, but that’s OK. I fill a large bottle of water in the bathroom, using a darkroom thermometer to get the temperature right, to mix chems. I also fill two large trays with water, so I can place a freshly fixed print straight in one of them. Then after a quick agitation, I move it to the second one to wait to be washed.

I’m sure I will make many changes as time goes on, but that’s my darkroom for now. As for the mess, I think it’s part of my creative process!