RSS Feed
  1. B&W Developing Course

    April 23, 2018 by Daniel

    This past weekend I did something a little different, especially for such a sunny day. A lot of the process of learning about film photography this past couple of months has been about different process is, that it’s more impressionistic but also you can have as much control as you would with digital, it’s just different how that control is applied and the results are much more an idea of what you think they’ll be in your head than apparent right in front of you. It’s much more important I think to have a mental model of what is happening as you go along than with digital.

    So part of what I wanted to do was learn how to process my own film. Now once you start telling people you are shooting film many people have a fond story about when they used to do it years ago, or sending their films off or taking them to the chemists. People seem to have very vague memories now of what is involved though.
    As to the why I want to try it? For the same reason as learning about how beer is made I suppose?
    So I started looking for places to learn it, thinking they would be abundant, like the beer tours I suppose but to my surprise not many were offering workshops. I do think it’s something that may start to crop up more in future though as more people want to take control of their own photos, of the whole process and be hands on with it.

    After a bit of research I found Lightbox Darkroom about 60 miles away from me in The Wirral. The course looked like exactly what I wanted to learn about. So I paid up and excitedly jumped in my car.

    I arrived about an hour early… I’d allowed for weekday traffic but it was a Saturday… Oh well time for a quick wander and a coffee.

    The course was split into two. The morning for developing our film and the afternoon for printing contact sheets and a print of a selected frame.


    Some things surprise people about developing the film, what you can do in the light and dark for example. We practiced with some spare film how to get it onto a reel which when you do it for real you do in a lightproof bag. It’s a little like tying your shoelaces in the dark, against the clock (if the bag heats up too much the film can start to get a bit “sticky”). I’d brought along 35mm and 120 format, I started with the 35mm which I found pretty easy to get onto the reel and into the tank but later I had much more trouble with the 120.

    We went quickly through the chemicals needed and plugged in the details into a very slick Massive Dev Chart app which handles the timing for you.

    So, there’s three main chemicals, we went over quantities and which ones can be resued. Developer (I used MICROPHEN), Stop (ILFOSTOP) and Fixer (RAPID FIXER) and then open the tank and it goes into the sink with a running tap over it. After this a little bit of wetting agent (Fotonal Wetting Agent) and hang up the film to dry.
    The app is good at telling you when to agitate the tank, but you need to watch out for modifying the times according to the temperature of the chemicals.

    I think this part mostly likely is what I’ll start with doing at home. A complete darkroom set up is not necessary apart from access to water really.

    He had a nice cupboard set up for drying which looked quite handy for impatient people like me!


    The other guy on the course and I then went for lunch, it’d been about 3 hours up to this point (which had flown by!). It was a short walk to the beach so we sat and ate their discussing our respective photographic journeys.


    For the afternoon session we started off with cutting up our negatives into strips and then making a contact sheet for them. Quite satisfying really to get an image out so quickly. From that we learn to process of using the enlarger controls and developing the paper. This is where actual darkness (albeit with a safe light) is required!


    From there we chose a shot we wanted to get a print of and went through experimenting with the exposure and contrast, using test strips to gauge the result we wanted and dodging and burning. It was very easy to see how you can get very engrossed in this part and lose many hours!

    Overall I had a fantastic day and would recommend Martin to anyone who is interested in learning this kind of thing. He was a great teacher and had lots of experience, being a graphic designer by trade.

    Now I’m looking at Film scanners and development tanks… (I already know of an enlarger I can get hold of…)

  2. More Adventures in Film

    April 23, 2018 by Daniel

    I’ve gotten a bit behind in writing up about rolls of film, I sent off the biggest batch yet on April 4th of three rolls of 120 from the Diana and 1 roll of B&W 35mm from the Holga – the first roll through it.


    Overall I was really pleased with the results from the Holga, it seems much easier to get things right than with the Diana. From loading the film through to just things like focus. Aperture is a little more limited. But I like the look. It certainly helped I think to have an ‘event’ – a friends birthday – to takes pictures of.

    From the Diana things again a little mixed. I’m happy with a couple of the shots.


    Diana: Roll 6, Roll 7, Roll 8
    Holga: Roll 1

    Currently in the mix shooting wise: I shot B&W 2x35mm (1 Holga, 1 Zenit TTL) + B&W 1×120 for a developing course (more to come on that in a post), a colour 35mm Holga and a colour 35mm that was in a Centon DF-300 (copy of a Minolta X-300) that my Dad was given at an auction sale. There were about 4 pictures on the roll when I found it so I’ve shot the rest and we’ll see how they go! I’m fully expecting the film to be expired so who knows if it’s usable, but might be interesting. I quite like the camera and it came with 3 lenses which are very nice. It’s got a nice meter in it, which I am learning to appreciate given the Lomography cameras.

  3. Diana Roll 5 & Sprocket Rocket Roll 1

    March 29, 2018 by Daniel

    Roll 5 is a couple from George’s birthday party and a couple from the day of his actual 6th birthday. Again, not many have come back from this roll. I think it was ISO100 so I’m guessing they just haven’t come out at all? For indoors it seems the flash would be needed and only work quite closeup. You can see from the Sprocket Rocket shots below how the flash as not really helped the indoor party shots, creating a fuzzy haze that takes a fair bit of correction to see what’s going on properly.

    The sprocket rocket camera has such a wide-angle view that it makes you think quite differently what kind of thing you want to take pictures of. I’d seen some great examples of people but landscapes always seem to be something I like to pick up. At work there’s some great views and they are changing with the building work all of the time so I guess it’s nice to capture this moment in time. You can see lots of cranes at work but also the activity of the trains.

    First roll out of the sprocket, I quite liked using 35mm film and I may, ahem, have picked up a ‘normal’ 35mm camera (a Holga) – the film seems a lot more easily gotten hold of (not that 120 is that difficult with Amazon) but processing is half the price too.

    It’s still frustrating not getting back as many images as you think you’ve got but I guess that’s just the shift to analogue, what you have in your mind and just plain forgetting the settings are wrong sometimes. Certainly the setting of the bowling alley was no good with the 100ISO film.


  4. Roll 4 George’s Party

    March 26, 2018 by Daniel

    I wrote and discarded a post about George’s party already. Overall I had a lovely weekend. It had some difficult parts to it, but life is a rollercoaster. Photography wise, here’s the roll from the Diana camera. I’m very glad I asked for the flash to be brought up for it from that there London, the Diana needs lots of light it seems and a wintry Bolton suffers much more from low light than the many summery pics you see online from Diana cameras. I’ve got two other rolls that I was using from that week that are being developed and I took a bunch of digital shots too. But let’s talk about this one.

    Obviously focus is a bit of an issue. I’d basically tried to just keep it on the middle settings, but it seems to me that when you’re taking pictures of kids you usually want to get in quite close and then they’ll do something silly. Kids move very quickly too so you just kind of have to press the shutter without thinking too much about composition.

    I am enjoying the ‘imperfect’ nature of the pictures out of the camera. I’ve probably said it before but it’s good to get something more impressionistic. The one of my sister is probably the closest to a ‘normal’ picture I’ve gotten out of it and I guess that’s situational possibly too – sat in my living room talking.

    The other thing I like is how the pictures look old, despite being brand new. It could easily be a party in the 1980’s I think. Modern cameras do a lot of unseen work to get the best out of situations, the Diana leaves you no room to hide.


    Also there’s a double exposure in there of Florence. It was unintentional. I forgot to wind it on, but I like how it came out. There’s more (intentional this time) of those coming.


    I’m starting to think about techniques more. Lighting, etc not just getting the basic settings right (just hoping that I can get a usable image has been a learning experience!) It’s a lot easier to test stuff out with a phone camera and then see how it goes with the film.

    Coming soon also are some black & whites from the party and George’s actual birthday bowling trip and the wide angle sprocket rocket pictures. It fits way more on a roll, 17, so it took longer to finish.

  5. Roll 2 & 3

    March 15, 2018 by Daniel

    OK, two more rolls.

    Roll 2 didn’t go well. I have no idea why, I was incredibly disappointed with it. But I just got back roll 3 and I’m hooked again. I’m wondering whether this batch of colour 400 iso I have is bad or something (or I have figured out loading/unloading the film better now?)


    In the end only got 2 shots from roll 2, the colour one here being the only usable one. 11 came back from the Black & White Ilford film I got. I’ve got another roll but in a lower ISO so I’ve bought a flash because George’s party is coming up and I reckon it’d be needed for indoors.

    I’ve got one more roll of the colour film, I’m not holding high hopes for it but I’ll try it out anyways. Perhaps I’ll just go for a walk and take some landscapes with it.


    Still, i’ll eke these ones out over on Instagram. Roll 3 was taken over a visit back to my parents last weekend. We went to the Space Centre and Sudbury Hall. There’s more detailed notes about them on my flickr feed.

  6. Roll 1

    March 8, 2018 by Daniel

    I got the roll back.

    I’m eking them out over on Instagram, but here’s the 9 together that I got back (of, I thought, 12 shots) on the 120 roll of film. I got sent the link to download these a couple of days ago and then yesterday received the prints I ordered. I think they may have tweaked the scans a little bit for me, the prints were really dark and so I think I’ve learnt that I need waaay more light, or to go and buy the Flash unit for my Diana camera.

    I really don’t know what happened with the rainbow effect. How that came to be! It does make them look atmospheric and you know what I don’t think I mind that much that the sibjects are that bit harder to make out. Makes it much more impressionistic.

    The one that came out best quality wise is the bottom right, outside the crematorium after the remembrance service for Mamgu. It was a cold day but the sun came out and was quite bright.

    I have no idea what happened to the shot I took of my friend James on his own outside Town Hall, or the one with Hannah & Nick and their friends Jamie & Mark in the Ohh Deer shop.

    I just got an email that the processing company has received my second roll. So a little bit more waiting to see that one. Lot’s more George & Florence shots on that but again I worry they will be too dark, lessons learned from roll 1 not sunk in yet as I hadn’t seen those images yet.


    I’ve been reading up on what my next digital camera might be. I’d like something I can share lenses with though.

  7. Starting Lomography

    February 28, 2018 by Daniel

    I’ve been trying out taking pictures on Film again. It’s not something I’ve done since I was using my mums old camera when I was a child I think (something similar to this Kodak one I think!) .

    Kodak - Ektra 200 camera

    Kodak – Ektra 200 camera

    As a tech kind of person I’ve just always used digital it seemed native to me.
    So why go back to film? To analogue? We’ve clearly rejected it for most uses and on the whole that’s the right thing I think.
    And hey, I’ve not got the roll back yet so who knows if it was worth it, but I think that’s kind of the appeal of it.

    diana camera

    Diana F+

    You click the shutter and you’ve no idea how the image is going to come out, no doubt that comes with experience but really you won’t know until it’s been developed.
    The whole thing of learning to be patient is perhaps the point of it. The camera I bought has a viewfinder, but it’s not like a SLR or a cameraphone that I’m used to where what you see is what the lens sees too. It just has fixed focus, I’m not sure if the apeture I’ve selected for most of the shots is correct. I had to make a choice about what ISO to put in. These are all decisions on digital that you can change your mind about in a second, or take it with the wrong setting and just take another after correcting it!
    So my hope from it is merely that it produces some interesting images that I wouldn’t get from digital, happy accidents (to start with anyways). To teach me patience and imagination of what the image will be when it comes back to me.

    The camera I bought takes 120 film, which I’ve never used before. I sent off a roll this morning for developing which is pretty exciting! I may decide in future to get the 35mm back for my Diana camera, which is a little more flexible then if I do end up getting other 35mm cameras.

    I do intend to eventually buy a new digital camera (I’d like to try a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera, it’d be cool to try some of the lomography lenses on it too). But for now, this feels like a good avenue for experimentation.

  8. A Tale of Two Beer Festivals (in one city)

    January 26, 2018 by Daniel

    I hadn’t been to a Beer festival in years until this month when I’ve been to two in the space of a week. So it’s only right to compare and contrast them right?

    Two very different festivals with I think different audiences, reach and feel but one thing in common – a passion for providing a variety of interesting beer.

    Both venues are inextricably linked to the city’s railway history, both quite apt and suited to each site I think. The Grub hosted  Winter Beer Fest (#wbf18 was the requisite hashtag) was at ‘Fairfield Social Club’ – a new space that’s been carved out in the redevelopment of the disused Mayfield railway station (services ended for passengers in 1960, goods in 1986). The CAMRA hosted Manchester Beer and Cider Festival (#mbcf18, 650+ beers…) was held at Manchester Central, which has had better fortunes since closing to passengers getting refurbished in 1982 and being in almost constant use for a variety of events ever since. So the two venues belie the natures of each festivals I think. One is much more established than the other, has a following – the other is close to the roots of the nascent regeneration of the beer culture in the city – not to say these two are adversarial, not at all – many Breweries were present at each and each organisation definitely affects the other on the issues they want to be tackled by the industry, inclusiveness was something definitely being taken note of at the CAMRA festival. Some of the producers at the Grub festival restarting Cask production for the CAMRA festival.

    One festival might be for their regulars, the other seen as getting the word out? The CAMRA festivals seems certainly to have brought many Brewers to ‘tour’ Manchester with many bars having tap takeovers from those present at the festival (tiny rebel @ unit 101 / hawkshead @ the knott and over at the font for Track to barely scratch the surface), whilst they are up north I guess.

    There’s probably another post of writing about how the railways are supporting beer in Manchester, it seems that the numerous arches the city has are doing their bit to ‘incubate’ the burgeoning sector. Network Rail must be doing pretty well out of the beer business these days.


  9. Runaway Beer Tour

    January 19, 2018 by Daniel

    In an effort to rediscover my city I was browsing around twitter when I discovered something exactly like what I wanted to do, a tour led by a brewer of first a brewery and then a few venues around the area. The beer was paid for in the ticket (and included a donation to a local homelessness charity).

    We started off at The Runaway brewery. I’d bought the last ticket so was a little anxious about going on my own and not knowing anybody. As is often the case the brewery is under one of the railway arches (we have quite a few of those in Manchester) and a little tricky to find, the entrance tucked away in a Network Rail yard. It’s January and Manchester and so of course it was dark, windy and wet but I was welcomed in a offered a choice of beer straightaway.

    Once everybody had arrived Mark introduced himself and the plan for the evening. He went through 3 of the beers they make at Runaway, a Winter Saison, an American Brown Ale and a Dry Irish Stout. He talked about the 4 basic ingredients that go into beer and how the endless combinations result. He passed around different kinds of barley and some hops so we could get a feel and a smell of them and we all tried the beers.

    Then we went of to Mackie Mayor, a new venue that’s a refurbished Grade II Listed 1858 market on Ancoats street, it was busy inside, lots of outlets and we gathered around Jack In The Box and handed a Pale Ale each. We were here to hear about the selling side of beer and how beer is kept in bars. Jack In The Box is run by Blackjack Beers and we were told in detail about Keg and Cask keeping. Mark had a little trick up his sleeve, he doesn’t normally do Cask but had brought one of Pale Ale to Jack In The Box for our second drink there so we were able to compare the difference between the same batch of beer in a Keg and then in Cask – it was really illuminating the difference. Opinion was split right down the middle as to what the group preferred. Mark spoke about the difficulties in quality control and consistency with Cask and how much can go wrong that they the brewer ultimately get held responsible for (despite often not being at fault).


    We then went round the corner to Beermoth, a bottle shop on Tib street that is quite a treasure trove. We went down into the cellar for a tasting session where 4 International beers of different styles were being set out for us., a Belgian saison, a US Sour/Wild Ale, a US Sour Brown Ale and a Dutch Imperial Stout. Sours are quite a new thing to me and also for a few in the group and kind of stole the show a bit I think. We had a great discussion about wild versus clean breweries and about breweries using barrel aging and the results that experimentation like that can have.

    Some had planned ahead and brought a rucksack for purchases from the shop, I will definitely have to return to stock up myself.

    Then our final venue was The Smithfield Tavern, next door to Mackie Mayor and again run by Blackjack. We had one more beer, this time from Buxton Brewery and were left as a cohesive group reminiscing about music memories in Manchester.

    It was a great night out and I learnt (and drank) a lot. I’ve come away with some great places to keep in mind and return to.

  10. (Re)Starting out on the Manchester Drinking Scene

    January 5, 2018 by Daniel

    (originally published on


    New Years resolutions. It’s something you get asked when seeing friends around the ‘festive lull’ – what are your resolutions then? I usually answer along the lines of “Oh I don’t really do them” or “I haven’t had time to think about all that yet”. Of course, I intend to go to the gym more, eat better, all that good healthy stuff. But something I’ve found myself wandering into is the fact that on the doorstep of where I work in central Manchester there’s a burgeoning scene that’s sprung up and had completely passed me by. For one reason or another something I just had complete ignorance of it until now but something is happening in Manchester. It’s become an amazing city not just for the things it’s always been great at, music, culture, nightlife – it’s a fantastic place to discover beer.


    Now I remember not so long ago you would walk into a bar and scowl. As an ‘ale’ drinker, often there was very little on offer. You’d have your John Smiths and be happy. In Manchester whether this is symbolic or not I’m not sure, but the Boddingtons brewery was sold off to one of the beer giants, flattened and now serves as parking largely for the Manchester Arena and shoppers.

    So what sparked this discovery of beer for me in Manchester? Well I generally began to notice that there was a flourishing number of options on at not just the ‘ale’ pubs I frequented but even places I used to go as a Student that would not then have been considered ‘craft’ friendly – your former Scream bars for example, they no longer had on just the lagers everywhere does but options from many breweries that were unfamiliar to me and in styles I actually enjoyed, IPAs, Porters and Mild. And then there was an event last summer some friends told me about held at a disused former train station, Mayfield that had amazing street food on offer along with some great temporary bars from all these brewers I’d never heard of before – the place was absolutely packed. Hundreds of people all cramming in for this event that was secreted away in a previously desolate space.

    Over Christmas visiting family I went along to a brewery friends had been raving about (Charnwood Brewery – who have just announced a micropub of their own to open this year). The brewer spoke knowledgeably about what was going on on my very own doorstep and I realised, here was something I had an interest in and it was passing me straight by. It clicked, I wanted to go educate myself.


    The Northern quarter in Manchester has long been held as the cool place to go, be seen, catch up. It’s attracted so many new ideas and independent restaurants and pubs and along with it there’s been the establishment of suppliers to these places which are filtering through to the rest of the city too.

    The so called ‘Beer quarter’ or Piccadilly Beer Mile was something on the doorstep of my workplace I decided to go and try out. I’d spoken about how I was definitely not going to do Dry January and a friend linked me to #Tryanuary. So I set about it, trying to catch-up to all the developments that had passed me right by.  Here’s a quote from their website: “Tryanuary was created to encourage beer fans to support independent breweries, pubs, bars and other retailers during what can be a challenging month for the industry.” Sounds like a good way for me to learn about what’s happening on my doorstep, with many places around the country putting on special events for the month.

    I started off at the end of my first working day of the year by walking over to Cloudwater’s Barrel Store. It was a little early for most, so it was empty when I arrived. But the space was fantastic, I checked my ? pint in on and studied the beautiful designs on the cans I bought to take home. Listening to the music and watching them pack up Beers that were going out to be delivered.

    Their Barrel Store is open Wed/Thu from 4pm and Fri/Sat/Sun afternoons.


    I’m discovering that all of these breweries pretty much specialise in short runs of beer. The scene changes often and quickly, so you need to keep close tabs on them via their tweets and facebook updates. The taps aren’t always just ‘open’ but you can find their beers varyingly across the city and beyond. You just need to know how to look for them. Often they are based around the numerous railway arches that are dotted through the city, they are often in the more industrial parts of the city and may be tricky to find the entrance to or not be in a particularly inviting area. They open up in Event spaces and despite the large number of companies in a small area seem to be much more in favour of collaborating with each other, sharing knowledge and enjoy making beer together, releasing brews much like musicians might feature on each others albums.

    There’s much going on in the development of this more artisanal approach to beer making. BrewDog and others are pushing to more clearly define what ‘Craft Beer’ actually means. Certainly in Manchester it’s becoming a way to get people into the bars in stark contrast to bygone years where homebrewing might have been slightly looked down on and people would want to only rely on their old favourites. These new (to me anyways!) brewers try to espouse their views, ideas and morals along with their own tastes in what a beer should be and if they can make the world a slightly better place along the way then that makes all the effort even more worthwhile.


    So that’s my start to #Tryanuary.

    I plan to go visit Track next, their Tap is open Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons and is just a couple of doors down from Cloudwater.

    I’ve bought a solo ticket to the Runaway to Beermoth tasting evening later this month which are two places on my list to try with the added bonus of being led around by someone who knows exactly what they are talking about.

    I’ve also discovered a number of small shops to support that seem to stock some amazing beers that you just wouldn’t find in your local supermarket. From the aforementioned Beermoth NQ shop to Bunbury’s which Bolton CAMRA also named their pub of the year.


    The Manchester Beer festival is on at the end of the month at Manchester Central and many will be looking forward to the announcement of Indy Man Beer Con 2018 usually held in the beautifully restored Victoria Baths, for which the tickets sell out in a manner not unlike the mad dash for Glastonbury tickets.