Saturday 5 March 2011

New Website

You may be pleased to know that I have gotten over the shock of my recent processing disaster at my local photo lab! The experience has, however, prompted me to make the decision to purchase a home developing kit for use with black & white films. I have never actually tried this myself, but I have researched the subject a lot and know a number of people with first-hand experience of doing so, and apparently it is not an overly difficult process once you have practised it a few times. I am more of a fan of black & white images anyway, and have been considering purchasing a developing kit for some time. I have now decided to take the plunge, and upon receipt of my next pay-cheque, I shall be doing just that. I am sure there will be a few disasters to be had, initially, but then at least I only have myself to blame and can take far more time and care over my negatives than a lab would (an inexpensive one, anyway).

So today, with the weather yet again overcast and the shooting conditions less than preferable, I decided to set about getting to work on my personal photography website. It's a very basic design, with a couple of galleries (black & white and colour), a biography and links to my blog and Flickr accounts, etc. I have not uploaded it to the domain yet, but will obviously let you know when I do. It's looking quite good and will possibly be beneficial to have my own ".com" site. We shall see.

Having recently discovered the quality of prints that can be obtained through using my inkjet printer (as mentioned in a previous post), I purchased some Ilford Galerie Smooth Glossy paper, and have this evening run a few test prints on it. The results are stunning. Far superior to the cheaper photo paper I purchased last week. It is quite astonishing how advanced these printers actually are. If you do not own one, and are a keen photographer and would be interested in making your own digital prints, I really would suggest buying a dedicated inkjet photo printer. My particular model is a Canon ip1800 and can be picked up for around £40. Cartridges are not cheap (this, I must admit) but at around 40p a sheet for high-grade photo paper such as the Ilford paper mentioned above, the cost of creating an 8x10" print really is not much different to an inexpensive, consumer-level photo lab. Also there is the added satisfaction of creating the image yourself. If you haven't already, then give it a go. It's a very rewarding process.

Thanks for reading.

Tom Parkes
London, UK 

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Slight Disappointment...

So this afternoon (having finished work early) I decided to go for a quick shoot to try out my new Olympus Zuiko 135mm f/3.5 lens for the first time. I have just returned from the photo lab and started scanning the negatives (I shot a whole roll of film). The lens itself seems to produce some fantastic results, but the negatives have not been cleaned properly and have a line of specks right through the middle of the film, which are showing up as large white specks on the scanned images. I shall be returning tomorrow to see if they can be cleaned again. I suppose this is one of the perils of shooting film as opposed to digital, but this is the first time this particular lab have failed to do a fantastic job. At least the lens seems to be free of any issues...I'll try again tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Tom Parkes
London, UK

Sunday 27 February 2011

Update & Apology

So, it would seem that it has been two weeks since my last post. I had started this blog with the intention of posting new content on a daily basis, and after a week of doing just that (almost) it seems I have drifted away from this somewhat. I have been very busy with a number of projects and my work commitments have meant I have had little time to focus on writing on here. Today, however, I will give you a brief update on what has been occurring.

Firstly, I have just purchased a new lens: an Olympus Zuiko 135mm f/3.5 in absolutely pristine condition. I had been looking at these for some time, and upon deciding to have a quick check of the very same popular online auction website that the majority of my other photographic equipment has come from, I spotted one that was at a very competitive price, the photographs suggested it was in great condition and the seller was very reputable. All of these factors led to the instant decision to purchase it there and then. My fairly hectic schedule (and the bleak English winter) means I have yet to use it, but looking through it and upon further inspection there seem to be no dust spots or signs of any fungus whatsoever. This wonderful little lens adds to my existing collection (Zuiko 28mm f/2.8 and Zuiko 50mm f/1.8) very nicely, allowing another dimension to my photography. Once I have used it, I shall assess the results and post them on here for you to see.

Another discovery I have made is that the 'cheap document printer' I purchased for £40 from Staples office supplies store around two years ago, turns out to be quite a capable little inkjet photo printer (much to my elation)! I was aware it had the capability to print photographs, but the thought to try it for myself had actually never occurred to me - the printing of colour documents in the past had turned out quite poor results. I conducted a search (simply out of interest) last night into cheap, decent photographic printers for home use, and upon reading a few reviews discovered that mine (the Canon Pixma ip1800) is actually quite a highly rated piece of budget equipment. This morning - eager to see for myself - I purchased some 6x4" glossy photo paper and new colour ink cartridge and tried a few test prints. I have not played with the printer settings yet, and will do so when I get a chance this week, but the results were actually very promising. In all honesty, there is very little difference in quality between these and the prints I have received from a number of cheaper commercial photo labs. Granted, the prints I produce are going to be a little more costly (and certainly more time consuming) than if I were to have a lab do them for me, but again the process of doing things myself comes into play and I very much enjoyed it. I will post a more detailed product description at some point in the future and possibly display some scans of prints that I have produced as examples. For £40, though, you really can't go wrong. It's very basic and does a fine job if you don't require huge quantities of prints.

Due to the poor weather conditions of late, I have not been shooting very much and am really looking forward to the chance to get out and take some photographs - particularly using the new lens I recently acquired.

Apologies for the possible lack of useful photographic information in this post, but I felt I ought to keep you up to date with what has been occurring, and the reason for my lack of recent posts. I shall try my best to stay on top of this blog and keep the posts coming more regularly.

Thanks again for reading.

Tom Parkes
London, UK

Sunday 13 February 2011


Today I shall simply display one of my photographs, as I do not wish to overload you with photographic equipment reviews!

The following picture was taking during a shoot in London, UK. I was wandering around Exhibition Road and the South Kensington area, looking for interesting subjects. I was carrying my Olympus OM-1n with Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 lens, loaded with a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 film. This was actually the first shoot I had been on using this particular film, and I was very much intrigued to see the results it produced in varying light conditions.

I took a number of photographs in daylight, some inside, and this particular shot was taken in the pedestrian subway which runs underneath Exhibition Road, between South Kensington Tube Station and the various museum entrances that are located there. There are very few light sources in this subway, with only a handful of small windows at street level and some dim overhead lighting. I was keen to see how this light would affect the Kodak Ektar 100 film, so I decided to try this shot. I stopped and waited for a moment, until a suitable gap appeared between myself and my subjects. It is often very busy in this particular tunnel, due to the popularity of the location with tourists in the city. I found an opportune moment and quickly framed the shot. The aperture had to be wide open at f/1.8 and I believe the shutter speed (if my memory serves me) was 1/60s.

The Ektar 100 produces incredibly vibrant colours in bright conditions, and in these low light conditions actually produced some quite pleasant subtle, pastel tones. This particular shot is one of my favourites from that shoot, and so that is why I have decided to share it with you today.

I shall go over the different films I choose to use in future posts, along with how they perform in different conditions and the situations in which I would decide to use them. But for now, here is the image described above:

For a look at more of my photographs, along with larger, higher-resolution images, please visit my Flickr Photostream.

Many thanks again for reading.

Tom Parkes
London, UK

Friday 11 February 2011

Olympus Trip 35

Welcome to the latest instalment in my 35mm photographic blog. Today, I shall be bringing to your attention another of my 35mm cameras: the Olympus Trip 35.

It may be that you are starting to think I am somewhat obsessed with Olympus photographic equipment. The Trip 35 was actually the first piece of Olympus kit I bought and, therefore, it could be argued that this camera is to blame for my ever-expanding collection.

The Olympus Trip 35 is a compact, point-and-shoot 35mm camera that was introduced in 1967 and discontinued in 1984. The length of time this camera was in production (17 years) is testament to its fantastic capabilities and inherent simplicity to use. Its intended purpose was as a high quality, simple-to-use camera, designed specifically for use on trips (hence the name). It was hugely popular with families and, in fact, my mother used an Olympus Trip 35 to take the majority of our family photos (many of which were taken overseas) when myself and my brother were young children. This specific camera was fully operational for a good number of years, until it was the victim of an accident involving a very large wave in the Canary Islands. These cameras are hugely durable and feel very solid, but I do not advise submerging them in salt-water, as the results can be catastrophic.

With simplicity in mind, the designers of the Olympus Trip 35 really did not over-complicate matters. Through the use of a solar-powered light meter (the 'bubbly' ring surrounding the lens), the camera always automatically selects from one of two available shutter speeds: 1/200s or 1/40s. (1/40s may sound slow, but coupled with a 40mm focal-length lens, this is ideal for hand-held photography; provided you have a steady hand.) If you are shooting in relatively light conditions (outdoors during the daytime and most well-lit indoor situations), you will find that the Trip 35 works fantastically on the Automatic setting (found on the aperture ring behind the lens). If the shutter decides not to fire (due to insufficient light), a red flag pops up in the viewfinder alerting you to this. If this is the case, switching over to f/2.8 on the aperture selection ring overrides the automatic setting and the camera will always fire whatever the light conditions. (I will go over shooting with the Olympus Trip 35 in low light conditions in greater detail in a future post.) The only other things the user needs to do are set the ISO/ASA for the film in use (a ring on the front of the lens allows this to be changed between 25-400) and select an estimated focal distance for the subject being photographed. The focal ring is found on the lens and can be shifted between 1m, 1.5m, 3m and infinity. A handy 'mini' viewfinder window allows the user to see the aperture and focal settings they have selected on the rings on the lens, at the same time as composing their shot using the frame inside the viewfinder.

This camera really could not be more simple to operate. Loading the film is a breeze and the counter works perfectly. The shutter release always feels very 'sure' and solid, and the fantastically clear optics of the fixed 40mm Olympus Zuiko f/2.8 lens enable even the most amateur of photographers to capture stunning results. The solar-powered selenium light meter and fully-mechanical operation, mean that this camera does not require any batteries; it just keeps on shooting. My particular model cost just £15 on a popular online auction site and is in full-working order (despite being manufactured in 1981). Earlier models in pristine cosmetic condition will fetch a lot more than this, and there are also websites that specialise in customising these cameras with colourful, leather surrounds (these too sell for a little more). There are tons of these little cameras available and if you do not own one, and are even only slightly interested in trying 35mm film photography for the first time, I sincerely urge to you purchase one. The results can be fantastic.

I hope you have found this article of some use, and that it may have inspired you, too, to pick up an old camera and give it a try.

The following image was taken using this camera, in the parking structure at Heathrow Airport, London in December 2010. Due to low-light conditions, the automatic aperture selection setting was overridden and adjusted to f/2.8. The camera chose a shutter speed of 1/40s. The film is Fuji Superia 200, and the camera was hand-held.

Thanks for reading.

Tom Parkes
London, UK

Thursday 10 February 2011

Olympus OM-1n | c1979

This post gives details of my primary 35mm camera, an Olympus SLR introduced in 1979. The Olympus OM-1n was deemed to be a slight upgrade on the original OM-1 (introduced in 1972), with motor-drive functionality and somewhat enhanced flash capabilities.

Olympus claimed that this camera was one of the lightest and most compact semi-professional SLR bodies available on the market at the time. This camera is still tiny by comparison to modern, digital SLRs, and feels a lot more solid and seemingly reliable than a number of entry-level digital SLRs on the market today.

Fully manual, with only one battery-operated feature (the TTL light meter), this camera has forced me to learn a great deal about the basics of exposure settings and the ever-relevant issue of depth-of-field (more on this in a later post). The ISO/ASA dial (on top of the camera) ranges from 25 to 1600, covering a multitude of different films and photographic situations. The shutter speed ring (found on the front of the camera, behind the lens mount) can be set to the regular intervals from 1/1000s to 1s, along with a bulb setting for use with flashguns and for very long exposures. The aperture ring (which is located on the front of the OM-mount lenses) can be set to varying positions, dependent on the lens in use. For the standard 50mm f/1.8 kit lens, however, the aperture ranges between f/1.8 to f/16.

Overall, the layout of the controls on this camera are fantastic, and combined with its small size and light weight, make for a perfectly ergonomically designed body.

The solid, metal chassis and lens mount make for a very sturdy-feeling camera. The film-advance lever always feels very positive, as does the shutter speed selection ring and shutter release button. If you are starting out in 35mm photography and would like to learn more about manual exposure settings, this camera is highly recommended. It's fantastically simple to use and coupled with its effective light meter, you really cannot go wrong. It has taught me a great deal about the basics of SLR photography, all of which can be applied to modern, digital photography as well.

These cameras should be available from around £50 - £80 on a popular online auction website, either as a body only or with the standard Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 kit lens. I will give more detail about the Olympus OM-mount lenses that I own in future posts.

I hope you have found this post informative. Keep checking back for more detailed descriptions of the equipment I use, and also for example images taken using this particular camera.

Thanks for reading.

Tom Parkes
London, UK

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Self Portrait

This image is a self-portrait, taken in the mirrored surface of a bank in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA (January 2011).

I took this photograph using my Olympus OM-1, with Zuiko 28mm f/2.8 lens and Ilford XP2 Super 400 film. This is my most commonly used combination of equipment, and I shall give more information on each piece of kit used in future posts, along with the other pieces of equipment I own.

Tom Parkes
London, UK