Every boy has got a little dream and mine had been to own and shoot with a Leica rangefinder camera. This Christmas Santa and his great little helper brought me a Leica IIIf “red dial” made between 1952 and 1953. The camera came with the original Leica Elmar 3.5/50 made between 1921 and 1965. The camera is a real cutie. It’s smaller and lighter compared to the M series. Releasing the shutter is a dream. You press it and just a soft gentle sound is heard. Honestly, the IIIf has the quietest shutter sound I’ve ever listened to.
Ken Rockwell has a nice write up here with lots of details and he says: “The IIIf looks so crazy and ancient that no one will give you a hard time photographing with it. Superstitious people who confuse DSLRs with weapons are not afraid of the IIIf.”
All the dials and knobs work perfectly fine even though the camera is 60 years old. The shutter speed is set in top of the camera and the aperture in front of the lens. The film transport runs smooth and exact with leaving less than 2mm between the frames. The viewfinder is nice and bright but isn’t used to focus. The little magnifier left of the viewfinder is for focusing by means of overlaying the two images. Switching between both finders seems easy enough. So, I put a Kodak TMAX 100 in and took it out shooting.
TMAX 100 isn’t my favorite film and I never know what to develop it in. However, I do like its small grain in a 35mm film. I developed it in Rodinal to get a smooth but visible grain, good sharpness as well as some contrast.
I went to the horse farm just across my place and shot an entire film. I chose an open aperture and speeds between 1/25 and 1/50 to push the camera, the lens and me a bit. It wasn’t easy to focus on the moving horses. The wide open aperture didn’t help either. However, the images came out alright.
After the first shots the sun came out and I tried some shots right into it. Focusing wasn’t a problem and I more or less guessed the exposure. Lens flare is quite nice even shooting directly into the sun.
The camera handles nice and it’s fun to use. The process of setting exposure, focusing and framing on the subject takes some time and the camera won’t take pictures of high speed action. But this way of taking photographs slows me down and makes me think about the image. Maybe I couldn’t catch every image I saw that day. Yet, I’m happy with what I got on film. The process of thinking about the final result before and right while taking the image is the real thrill of film photography. Here are the last images of an afternoon walk.
Here is the complete album of images taken during the Caffenol workshop weekend in Salzburg. I shot 3 films with my Praktica MTL5b. Unfortunately the camera had some issues with film transport. I guess I got to try and check what’s wrong with it
Anyway i had a fun weekend, met nice people and shot some cool frames. I know it’s a bit nerdy to test three films. I haven’t really found my favorite combinations yet. You might think I have a structured approach. Believe me, I don’t … I use whatever film is in the fridge and whatever I feel like.
Here again the links to the organizers: Dirk Essl and Marco Spalluto with lots of images and info about developing film in coffee. Many thanks to Lisa from the Leica Galerie Salzburg as well. They do have an Elliott Erwitt exhibition which is worthwhile a visit until the 12th of October.
About the results: I like the Fomapan 400 for the smooth grain. I guess it only works for motives that have not much fine and sharp detail and open up into some blur. Contrast isn’t really high but pleasant in my opinion. I know people who say it’s a bit flat but maybe our eyes are trained to see digital photos. The Kodak TMAX 100 is quite the opposite: strong in contrast, no visible grain and still enough sharpness in the details. However, lots of the tonality in the middle of the gray scale is lost. The Delta 400 is somewhere in between: nice grain, good sharpness and good contrast.
Ilford Delta 400:
Kodak TMAX 100:
So, last weekend I went to a workshop how to develop photographic film in coffee in Salzburg. On Saturday we walked around in the city center to have some material to practice our darkroom skills. We saw that the Ropac Gallery just opened an exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe curated by the French actress Isabelle Huppert. We walked in and at least I was shocked of how dressed up everybody was or better how dressed down I felt.
I was standing in the middle of the entrance hall and Isabelle Huppert and the owner of the gallery walked down the stairs and came to stop right in front of me. A whole bunch of press photographers were suddenly around me, hundreds of flash' went off and I was standing there with a 30 year old Praktica MTL5b loaded with a Kodak TMAX 100 film and couldn't do much. Anyway, I felt pretty stupid but I tried. Guessing the foucs, using 1/30 and aperture wide open I pointed the camera towards the actress and shot: "glong", wind the film and another "glong".
Later when we developed the film I realized that something was wrong with the camera and the film was only transported half a frame. Here is the result. In the left half the focus is more on Thaddaeus Ropac but gives Isabelle a nice glow (all un-indented) and she autopraphed some images of her on the right side.
Some words about the exhibition. Isabelle Huppert chose a little bit more than 100 images. Of course she selected some of the well known themes of flowers and human bodies. However, the exhibition also includes some less known images like earlier work with polaroids and even some landscapes. My personal favorites are the portraits. They speak very much a Mapplethorpe language of tender truth. The exhibition mixes them all. This might be confusing but standing in front of a wall with several pictures, they make sense, the virtually vibrate from the wall. There were too many people and too much hectic around to enjoy the images but the exhibition is open until the end of October and I can go again.
My images are all taken with a Praktica MTL 5b on Kodak TMAX 100 and developed in caffenol with the Delta recipe here.
Some useful links:
Dirk Essl's Caffenol blog: http://www.caffenol.org
Marco Spalluto's blog: http://www.spalluto.de
Reinhold's Caffenol blog: http://caffenol.blogspot.de/