5 Frames - A Tele Rolleiflex 135mm f/4 In New York Central Park

Whenever I have a chance to visit New York, I take the time to walk around for a bit. Each time I try to take a different camera (feel free to expect more posts involving the city that never sleeps). The first time I visited the big apple, I was overjoyed to find that it is all that movies, TV, documentaries, stereotypes, etc., told me it would be. That in itself was unexpected. Never before did I go anywhere and though “Yeah… this is totally like in those Hollywood blockbusters!”.

There is a lot to shoot (with a camera, of course) around Manhatten (which is where I spent my time during my visits): Architecture, people, advertisement, the High Line, the Hudson River, and of course Central Park. The NYC Horse Carriage Rides are usually one of the first sights at Central Park that I point my camera at. From paths through the park, you have a nice perspective of the various skyscrapers that line the border. A selection of lakes, topical buildings, large grass fields (e.g. for sports activities) and paths snaking through a few small hills, attract all kinds of people. A decent way to find relief from tedious “street” photography between all those tall buildings and the hectic crowds (especially around broadway). And with a bit of luck, you can find some people in costumes LARPing away.

This time I took the Tele Rolleiflex 135mm f/4 with me. For those who do not know the camera: It is a Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) camera with a focal length of 135mm and a maximum aperture opening of f/4. On a TLR, you frame the picture through one lens, while the negative is exposed through another lens. My Tele Rolleiflex includes a light meter (which seems to be optional) with an additional “low light” toggle. This allows to switch sensitivity, extending the range in which the light meter may be used.

Operation of the camera is easy if you know what you need to do: The tricky part here is the crank that is used to wind the shutter and advance the film to the next picture. If you load film and do not follow the procedure exactly as described in the manual, the crank will not lock when the film has been advanced to the first frame. In essence, you wind, and wind, and wind, and wind… and finish winding the whole film onto the takeup-spool, without every snapping a picture. Given that I do not take this camera out as often as I should, I tend to forget about the correct procedure and ruin at least one roll of film. (It is difficult to rescue the roll by rolling it back onto the source-spool.)

If you manage to do everything right, though, taking pictures with this TLR camera is just plain awesome. The camera hanging at waist-height seems to make you nearly invisible to the people passing by. Looking down into the image of the waist-lever viewfinder, framing, focusing, snapping, winding, probably smiling, you look like you are enveloped in your little world, oblivious to what is going on around you. To others, you are mostly harmless.

Footnote: The film used (I think) is a Fuji NPS 160.

5 Frames - A Texas Leica In Sydney

About a year after moving to the south of Germany, I had the opportunity to travel to Sydney (Australia) for business reasons. With a stay of 2 weeks, this was an excellent excuse to give my first (before, I only had the Mamiya RB67 that I borrowed from my dad) medium format camera a run for its money: The Texas Leica!

“Texas Leica” is the nickname given to all Fuji GW690, because their looks and operation reminded people of a Leica rangefinder. Just a lot larger. Like everything else in Texas. Mine is the third-generation model (i.e. Fuji GW690III), which looks a bit plasticky, but feels and operates wonderfully. Only the built-in lens hood is a bit annoying, as it tends to tilt and get stuck when stowed away in my luggage.

Exploring Sydney was quite delightful. I adored the bay area, which is always busy with the regular ferry traffic (which is part of public transportation and may be used with the same Oyster card that is used for bus and train), sailboats, riverboats and some historic sailing ships. Sitting on a bench near the water was great for calming the mind and for relaxing a bit.

The city centre reminded me of a cross between New York and San Francisco: Narrow streets between skyscrapers and a lot of road construction. On one afternoon, I joined a couple of colleagues on a walk to Luna Park, crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The view from the bridge was nice, but it already started to get dark when we got there. Luna Park turned out to be mostly empty with only a few people here and there. A mostly empty entertainment park, but with everything lit up and running, turns out to be a bit creepy.

I love animals and tend to take a trip to the zoo when I am somewhere new and when I have time to do so. Sydney does have Taronga Zoo, which is worth a visit. It houses some local wildlife, and some from around the world, but the main attraction to me was the gorgeous view over the bay area.

Sydney was fun, my “little” Fuji was fun, and I met some interesting people there. If I ever have the opportunity to travel there again, I won’t hesitate to take it.

5 Frames - In Color

Who would have thought? Life is colourful!

I started my journey into analog photography by developing rolls of black and white negatives of various types of Ilford products, but that did not satisfy my urges for long. The pictures in this post are from rolls of Fuji NPS 160 that passed through a Mamiya RB67. They are the first rolls of colour film I developed myself. They are the first rolls of colour film I snapped pictures on, too. I did consider sending them out to a laboratory for development and scanning, but seeing the prices of laboratories with a reputation for high-quality scans, I decided screwing that up myself would be more fun.

I adore Fuji NPS 160 and its specific way of rendering colours. This is the way film looks like, after all, isn’t it? Could I have messed up during development or scanning? Impossible!

As those were my first try, I was meticulously lackadaisical in getting to the correct temperatures for the chemicals. And scanning the negatives? Settings for VueScan were chosen by the high standard of “looks kinda right”.

The neat thing about this approach is: There is no need for post-processing. I have no clue what the image would look like if everything had gone “the right way”. I do not have a clue how to use photo editing software to make the image look like it is supposed to (though I have tried for a couple of years now). So I can leave the image (mostly) the way it came out of VueScan. I just have to decide that I am happy with it.

Have you ever just decided to be happy with something? Works wonders with ones frustration!

Ok, seriously: Most of my self-developed colour images did not come out of the scanner as I would have expected them to come out. Looking at pictures from the same film stock on other websites, I often wonder what I am doing wrong. Did I mess something up during development? Did I use the wrong options during scanning? Is this a specific property of the film stock I used and how it reacts to different light conditions? Is it a light leak in the camera, or did I bend the film during processing? This is bugging me a lot.

My development process has become significantly better in the past couple of years. For black and white I think I have nailed it down to the dot above the T (aside from me cocking it up, because I missed some important step). I did get better at developing colour film, too. Still, I fight with the colours more often than not. And at some point I give up, admit defeat and accept the results as they are.

I just sit down, take a deep breath and decide I am happy with those wonderful, weirdly coloured fruits of my labour.

5 Frames - The Early Days

What better way to start this journey, than with my inspiration and my first wobbly steps into this world. No, not my birth, but the birth of my love for analog photography. It all started after moving to the south of Germany for employment reasons. One fine day I sat in the temporary office space that was our new home and joked about doing large format photography (I was thinking about digital sensors the size of a sheet of A4 paper) to a colleague sitting across from my desk. That lead him to introduce me to the wonders of a Linhoff 4”x5” large format camera and the process of turning light into a negative through the liberal use of chemicals.

I was hooked.

Fast forward to my first steps: I borrowed my dad’s Mamiya RB67, ordered a couple rolls of 120 film and the necessary chemicals and basic equipment for film processing online, and off I went. Taking pictures with the RB67 is a joy (I love the harumph when pressing the shutter) that turns into a literal pain in the neck reasonably quick. That camera is anything but light, which is probably the reason why it earned its place in photo studios instead of on the side of, e.g. landscape or street photographers. My mental image of an RB67 for street photography is of a respectful distance of everyone around you while searching for the right frame, and people jumping for cover when you hit the shutter button. 

Now taking pictures is a joy and a chore. What about the result? Well, as it turns out, and as expected, there is a lot of room for error. And I was about to start using it. The first rolls of film that went through my clumsy development attempts were showing promise. Given that I started with black and white, which sounds easy, I gained some confidence in my ability to get the results that one expects. It all seemed to be quite easy. The next rolls proved me wrong: Instead of decent, contrasty negatives (with a bit of dust), I got faded, blotchy, scratched crap (still with a bit of dust).

I loved it.

With analog photography, the process only starts with taking the picture. A lot of the fun there is in the making of the picture. It is a lot of effort and time, but with those downsides (that may be circumvented by having someone else do the processing work) comes a different way of appreciating photography. A way, that for me now got a new step: This presence in the World Wide Web.

I am a big fan of 35mmc.com and especially the “5 Frames With…” series. In this serial, photographers share their experiences with different cameras, film stock and other aspects of their hobby. And a set of 5 frames related to their post.

I considered for a long time if I should get a website. Previous attempts with blogs and such usually were doomed by my laziness and a subsequent loss of interest. So what is different this time? As mentioned above: This is a new step. If you look at my process of filling a couple rolls of film, developing, scanning and occasionally editing, “creating a blog post” does not seem to be much additional effort at all.

And with my interest in formats from 35mm over medium format up to large format, I think I will have a lot to talk about.

So without further ado: Welcome to “MK Analog”!

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