365 Portrait Challenge - Week #3

Week three started with an amazing meeting of my buddy John on the road bridge and my photo of him is one of my favorites so far; thanks for getting involved John!


Portraits #15- #21

Raymond "Rami" working on the flood prevention at Dundee waterfront.   #365photochallenge   #365portraits    #15of365    #olympusomdem1    #olympus45mm    #microfourthirds

Raymond "Rami" working on the flood prevention at Dundee waterfront. 
#365photochallenge
#365portraits 
#15of365 
#olympusomdem1 
#olympus45mm 
#microfourthirds

Fraser from  @frasersfruitandveg   Best fruit, vegetables and beer in the West (of Dundee)!  #365photochallenge   #365portraits    #18of365    #olympusomdem1    #olympus45mm    #microfourthirds

Fraser from @frasersfruitandveg 
Best fruit, vegetables and beer in the West (of Dundee)! #365photochallenge
#365portraits 
#18of365 
#olympusomdem1 
#olympus45mm 
#microfourthirds

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My 365 portrait challenge continues. Week 3 complete! 
Pink Sky At Night
#365photochallenge
#365portraits 
#21of365 
#nikondf 
#nikon50mm
#magmod

 

Three weeks down and I'm starting to feel this project stretching out ahead of me. Daunting.

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Want to feature in my project? I would love to hear from you, please fill in this contact form.

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365 Portrait Challenge - Week #2

Into week two of my challenge and I made the big step of asking total strangers if I can take their picture.

 I also risked life and limb getting up close with a herd of Highland cows!


Portraits #8- #14

Starting week two of my 365 portrait challenge flashing a Highland cow. Stretching my own self imposed rules here but I'm building a backlog of people to shoot.  Riverside Highland Cow   #365photochallenge   #365portraits    #8of365    #nikondf   #nikon50mm

Starting week two of my 365 portrait challenge flashing a Highland cow. Stretching my own self imposed rules here but I'm building a backlog of people to shoot.

Riverside Highland Cow

#365photochallenge
#365portraits 
#8of365 
#nikondf
#nikon50mm

 

Two weeks down and I'm getting into my stride :)

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Want to feature in my project? I would love to hear from you, please fill in this contact form.

365 Portrait Challenge - Week #1

The Idea

My self imposed challenge is to shoot 365 portraits during 2018.

My aim is to shoot one each day and try to find new subjects as often as possible (Kate, Luke, Lana and Molly can only handle so much!) 

If you, your family or your pets would like to featured then please get in touch!


Portraits #1 - #7

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Where it began; Molly the beagle

#365portraits 
#1of365 
#nikondf
#nikon50mm

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Rain Does Not Stop Play

#365portraits 
#2of365 
#nikondf
#nikon50mm

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Big thanks to Benjamin Podger from @visocchis_cafe for posing for my 365 portrait project. Awesome ice cream too! 
#365photochallenge
#365portraits 
#6of365 
#nikondf
#nikon50mm

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Beautiful evening at the West Sands with @davidromilly
and @holleyandtheivy, thanks for breaking out the blue steel for me.

One week down, 51 to go!

#365photochallenge
#365portraits 
#7of365 
#nikondf
#nikon50mm

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It's Hip To Be A Square (Format Shooter)

The Rolleiflex

Long before Instagram started the square format craze, before phones were smart and way before I was born, there was another square format fashion sweeping the world; the Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex (TLR). 

First released in 1929, the Rolleiflex was loved by professional photographers for it's image quality and coveted by celebrities for it's stylish appearance. With the winning combination of high quality optics, beautiful build quality and the ability to produce stunning 6cm x 6cm negatives, it was a huge hit; production went on in one form or another until 2014!

Not a Rolleiflex.

Little Brother - The Rolleicord

Sadly, as I'm neither a professional nor a celebrity, I have to make do with the Rolleiflex's little brother, the Rolleicord. Please don't pity me too much, despite being the consumer grade camera, these boxy old things were made to very similar specifications. 

Rolleicord, 120 film and some useful accessories.

The main differences being a slower taking lens and a film advance knob, rather than the an advance lever on the 'flex. It still has the great glass and build quality in common with it's more revered big brother, but without the big ticket price tag.

My particular model is a Rolleicord VB, one of the last models built in the 1970's and it's just the most beautiful looking camera; they don't make 'em like this any more!

If you've looking to purchase a TLR Japan Camera Hunter has a nice guide although all the prices are in Yen. In the UK a Rolleicord can usually be had for between £150 for a scabby but usable example to around £350 for a mint one. If you can't stretch to that there are a plethora of Japanese TLRs such as Yashicas, Mamiyas and Minoltas, which can be picked up cheaply and are interesting camera's in their own right.

My viewfinder is bigger than yours!


Shooting with the Rolleicord

The vintage appearance of the Rollei can be a massive advantage if street portraits are your thing; people want to speak to you and ask about the camera, they will usually happily pose for a photo with it after a quick chat. Not so great if you are trying to be inconspicuous, these boxy old things attract attention!

I'll admit that when I first bought the camera I was pretty intimidated and confused by the controls, the inverted image on the viewfinder and the lack of metering; even loading a film had me stumped for a while until I realised I needed to order a spare empty 120 film spool to wind the film onto!

If you've only ever used a modern camera be prepared, using the Rollei is a bit of a trip back in time, but once you've mastered it you might not ever want to shoot with anything else.

Southern Girl - Adox CMS 20 film.

Loading

As I said, loading had me stumped for the first minute, 120 film was new to me and the camera hadn't come with a spare 120 spool........once you have an empty spool in the camera, loading is pretty easy.

With the empty spool in the upper position, feed the film backing leader into the slot, make sure the film is centralised and wind on with the back open until the arrows on the film line up with the dots on the camera. At this point close the back and continue winding until you feel a stop, use your thumb on the roll of film to keep some tension in it as you wind. 

The frame counter on the right hand side should read "1" and you're now ready to shoot your 12 frames, use them wisely.

Glencoe Old Road - Kodak T Max 400.

Glencoe Old Road - Kodak T Max 400.

Metering

There is no meter on the Rolleicord, so I use the sunny 16 rule and overexpose / expose for the shadows / just guess if I'm shooting negative film; Hamish at 35mmc.com has a nice guide to abusing negative film's good nature.

If you're shooting slide film you'll need to be more accurate with your exposure settings; a handheld meter and knowledge of how to use it is a must....... although I'd be lying if I said I'm very good at using a handheld meter...... but then I don't shoot slide film!

Molly Rocks - Kodak TMax 400.

Exposure Controls

The controls are as basic as it gets when it comes to making pictures, no program mode, no auto mode, just full manual control.

The shutter speed and aperture are set by way of two small levers either side of the shutter. The shutter speed range is 1 second to 1/500th, it also has a bulb mode for using a remote release cable and X-sync for flash control. The aperture goes from F3.5 wide open to F22, note that shooting on medium format will yield shallower DOF than the same aperture on a 35mm camera.

Once set shutter and aperture settings are locked together, this allows you to vary either the depth of field or shutter speed setting without changing the exposure value, quite a useful feature. I usually set the exposure for the shadows and let the film latitude take care of the rest.

Glencoe falls - Kodak TMax 400

Focusing  and Composing

The biggest difficultly when composing with the Rollei is that the image on the ground glass is inverted left to right, this takes some getting used to and can be hilariously difficult for a unsuspecting user to get to grips with...... just ask a friend to take your picture for evidence of this! 

 

I find it best to roughly compose, then glance up at the subject when adjusting the framing and down again to confirm the composition is the best way to avoid getting tied in knots by this.

Focus is adjusted using a nice big knurled knob on the left hand side of the camera, focus from 3ft to infinity takes around 3/4 of a turn. The viewing lens is slightly faster (F3.2 vs F3.5) than the taking lens so you get a touch more DOF than the picture you see on the ground glass. 

Parallax due to the separation between the viewing lens and taking lens can be issue as you get close to your subject, if using a tripod I raise the centre column a couple of inches for composing and then drop it down for taking to eliminate this issue.  

The standard focusing screen is OK but a modern replacement screen can make a huge difference; mine has a split prism in the middle for critical focusing and bright ground glass, I'd recommend this if you have a Rollei and struggle to focus it.

Al and Ferg descending from Ben Vorlich - Kodak TMax 400.

Shooting

The shutter is cocked with a lever under the lens, this needs to be done after you wind on and before you shoot......you will forget and miss some good moments at first, I know I did. My Rollei has a soft release shutter button which I find really tactile in use, I'm led to believe the standard shutter release is a bit awkward but YMMV.

Double exposure prevention is via a small lever on the left hand side of the front plate, when the red dot shows you can make double exposures by cocking the shutter again without winding on, double exposures are always fun.

If you're going to shoot slower than 1/30th then a tripod and remote release is recommended, a standard threaded remote cable screws into the socket after the shutter button has been removed.

If it's really windy, I compose and focus then close the viewfinder cover to reduce the amount of surface in the wind.

Shooting with the Rolleicord is always fun, but very deliberate and slow. I find this is an advantage rather than a limitation and I have a great hit rate shooting this way.

Al and Ferg ready to climb - Kodak Tmax400

St Andrews Coast - Adox CMS 20

So, now you know how to use the Rolleicord as well as I do. 


 Berlin 

I made the brave (stupid?) descision to take my Rollei on a friend's stag do in Berlin, seeing as the camera was made in Germany I thought it was appropriate.

 I shot 5 rolls of Ektar 100, all metered using sunny 16 and erring on the side of over exposure, all shot whilst either drunk, hungover or both.

Berlin Subway - Kodak Ektar 100.

Coming in to land at Berlin - Kodak Ektar 100.

Blair enjoying boat life - Kodak Ektar 100.

Berlin Wall - Kodak Ektar 100.

How Long Is Now - Kodak Ektar 100


Dumfries and Galloway

A family holiday to a less visited part of Scotland was a great chance to get out the Rollei and take some snaps. All metered using sunny 16 and shot handheld. 

Beach Combers - Kodak Ektar 100

Anchored - Kodak Ektar 100

Reflective - Kodak Ektar 100

King Fisher and Explorer - Kodak Ektar 100


Aberdeen and Dunottar

Aberdeen has some great coastline and in February some pretty bleak weather to go with it. These were all shot from a tripod as it was windy as hell and very gloomy, all shot at F8 and 1/4th or 1/8th of a second shutter speed.

Aberdeen Beach - Kodak Ektar 100

Windswept - Kodak Ektar 100

Incoming - Kodak Ektar 100

Rocks and waves - Kodak Ektar 100

Viewpoint - Kodak Extar 100

Dunottar Layers - Kodak Ektar 100

Dunottar - Kodak Ektar 100


Conclusion

After the initial unfamiliarity and difficulty of using a manual TLR, shooting with my Rolleicord has quickly been cemented as my favourite way to shoot film. Once I got the hang of the controls I was hooked.

There is something deeply satisfying about the ability of this beat up old box, the response people have to it and the images it can produce. 

If you have the chance to pick one up, I'd recommend the Rolleicord VB iun a heartbeat, but mine is not for sale!

Buddies - Fuji Pro 400H


Do you shoot with a Rolleicord or another TLR? I'd love to hear your thoughts on shooting with an old school TLR camera and see your work.

Leave your thoughts and links in the comments below.

Unity Photo Competition - And The Winner Is......

Thanks to everyone for their patience waiting on this result, it's been a really hard decision; all the entries were great, I'd love to give you all a prize but unfortunately, I've only got one Ihagee Exa to give away this time!

I hope the new owner enjoys the camera, takes some great pictures and shares their experience with us.

I've spent some time with a needle and thread repairing the ever-ready case that comes with the camera and if I don't say so myself it's looking rather lovely; now sitting packaged up with a roll of Tri-X 400, it's ready to head to her new owner!

I started this competition as I had this beautiful camera sitting gathering dust and I wanted to see it being used as it should be, play it forward as they say.

I also wanted to inspire people to think along the theme of 'unity' and submit their best shot on the theme and you did, with a little help on the promotion front from Hamish at 35mmc. I was frankly overwhelmed with the quality and number of entries, thank you all for getting involved, we're all united in the pursuit of photographic satisfaction at least!

Again thanks to all that got involved with the competition, I loved all you work and comments! 

So, without further ado, the results:


Third Place - Edgar So

I love this image for the colours, the detail and the candid scene it depicts, a great shot. Fantastic work Edgar!

Fishers Talk
This shot took in Viet Nam, the fisher work is show their freedom and unity.


Second Place - Arko Højholt

So close, yet so far.  This image appealed to me due to the strong composition and layers, a great second place! Great stuff Arko! 

This Summer I spent a few weeks in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. The landscape there is as flat as they come; apart from the occasional dike keeping the few rivers and streams in place, there’s really nothing sticking up anywhere, not even cute little hills like the ones you see in Denmark, just a few kilometers north. It’s the perfect area for the lazy cyclist and the weak-ankled runner — and it’s absolutely perfect for worry-free sheep husbandry: one can keep an eye on the herd from afar, there’s a range of different marshland grasses that the sheep dig madly, and there’s a complete absence of, say, wolves. Which is why you see thousands of sheep grazing there. 

I spent many hours just walking around with my daughter, not just on the roads but also in the animal’s pastures (avoiding droppings like a couple of Super Marios), and I of course also had a camera on me on the walks and took quite a few pictures of these woolly beast. Most of the pictures came out rather boring, but I did get this one that I’m quite happy with.

 We were walking on a pasture that ran over a dike, which gave the scene a rare bit of vertical play, and happened to walk past this little flock of nine animals that froze completely when we got near. I only got to shoot a single frame; the next second the flock had sprinted off, all headed in the same direction at the same speed, rubbing their frightened little sheep shoulders as they moved as one fluid body down the dike. I couldn’t help wondering about this behaviour, this flock mechanism that visually reminded my so much of how a large number of birds can be seen moving about in the sky. How does it work, how is it communicated? 

A few days later I happened to meet the owner of this particular herd (and countless others) and asked him about it. He explained to me that sheep have an extremely strong flock instinct and that a sheep actually can become extremely depressed if separated from the others. But what was really interesting, in my opinion, is the fact that sheep also have a strong instinct to follow a leader — but that flocks in fact don’t have leaders as such. In a scenario like the one my daughter and I witnessed on the dike, the “leader” may just be the first one to react, to move. So, we’re not talking about a strong hierarchical arrangement, of elected sheep kings or queens, no, we’re talking pure “non-spoken” mutual understanding on a very primal level. And this, I think, is a beautiful example of symbiotic nature, of, yes, true unity. A flock that, however large it may be, behaves like one single animal.


Winner - Hendrik-Jan Hop

The instant I saw this image I knew it was the winner, it nails the theme of Unity as well as being a beautiful image.

Great work Hendrick and you will soon be the proud owner of my beautiful Ihagee Exa, I look forward to seeing what you can produce with it and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have! When you grow tired of it please play it forward to another willing owner.

This is a photo of my daughter having a bath with her friend. They grew up together and didn't see any colour difference. In these times where people sometimes oppose each other a bit too much, I think it is a nice image and a good show of unity between people/kids. 

Btw, I love your initiative!

I'd love to hear all your thoughts on the result and stay tuned as I hope Hendrick might share some of the images he creates with this beautiful camera!


Read more about the competition from the links below and I thanks again to everyone for being involved in the competition

See the first post here.

See the shortlist here.

 

Look Up - Perseid Meteor Shower

The Perseid Meteor shower is one of the most reliable and spectacular annual astrological events that can see in the northern hemisphere, excitingly, I found out last night we can see it right on our door stop here in Fife! It peaks every year around this time ( July 17 to Aug. 24 this year) as the earth passes through the trail of dust left behind the Comet Swift-Tuttle, one of the largest objects to regularly pass close to planet earth.

The peak of the meteor activity was forecast around the 11th of August but with clear skies and an early moonset on the 8th, it seemed like a good opportunity to spot a few meteors. I needed dark skies with a view North East to see the constellation Perseus and didn't want to drive for hours so decided to try Tentsmuir forest. I was also scared to go out on my own into the woods, so called my friend Adam to use as zombie bait ;)

Adam testing out the DD Hammocks for comfort..... getting into a hammock isn't as easy as you might imagine as Adam will attest!

Parking at the East end of Tayport and walking 10 minutes to the edge of the woods, we found a good spot for our hammock, with a good view of the sky and not too much light pollution. Even though the sun set around 9 PM it wouldn't be until after 11 before the stars were really visible.

To pass a bit of time before it got properly dark we pitched my DD Hammocks camping hammock, a great way to watch the sky in comfort and really easy to put up, just make sure your knots are going to be easy to untie after they have tightened up on themselves (note to self!)

Looking up through the trees.

Exit stage right.

Can you find the meteor?

As the sunset eventually faded our choice of viewpoint was confirmed as a winner, with Perseus clearly visible along with the milky way rising in the East it couldn't have been much better. The tiny specks of dust burning up in the earths atmosphere put on a fantastic show, at times 10-15 meteors a minute!

It's a truly special and humbling experience to stand under a million star sky and feel you existence dwarfed into insignificance by the sheer scale of it all. To have a clear view of the meteor shower at the same time is the icing on the cake but the stars alone are worth the effort.

  Shooting above the trees and a touch of milky way.

These shots were all around 20 seconds exposure to keep the stars as points and limited ISO and aperture to stop the light pollution from blowing out the details. With a wider lens or a star tracker far longer exposures would be possible and more meteors visible.

  Five meteors in this frame. 

Shooting over the Fife.

There are multiple dark skies parks / areas in Scotland where the sky is almost totally free of light pollution but even as close by as Tentsmuir woods you can see some pretty awe inspiring stuff.

Amazing views despite a little light pollution.

All you need is clear skies, warm clothes and a friend to use as zombie bait, now get outside and go find some darkness, it's illuminating!

Look up!

Update 12/08/2016

After seeing just how much of the night sky was visable on Monday,  I ventured out again on Thursday night hoping to catch the peak of the activity, scheduled for that night.

A couple of frustrating hours of looking up at clouds eventually gave way to clear skies and the Milky Way again visible in the South East. My glamorous location was this time round was the lay-by between Newport and Tayport.

Deep field telescope.

Deep field telescope.

Meteor trail heading East. 

Meteor trail heading East. 

Milky way rising.

Milky way rising.

Sky Lines 

Sky Lines 

Skateboarding

I've been skateboarding since I was about 14 and I'm still rolling at 32.

Skateboarding has influenced every aspect of my life.

I made friends skateboarding, heard new music, visited weird places and learned to see things differently.

I practised for hours and fell more times than I can count.

I was constantly covered in cuts and bruises.

I skateboarded everywhere.

I even met my wife, Kate, at the skate park and we've been together ever since!

I don't plan on stopping skating until my old bones can't handle the pain but when I do eventually hang up my Vans, I have another obsession to keep me occupied: photography.

Skateboarding is fun

My love for photography stems from skateboarding: magazines, videos and websites filled with images of amazing skaters were the fuel that kept me pushing my skateboard and pushing myself to improve. 

Jack has pop!

Jack has pop!

I tried to take pictures to emulate what I saw in the magazines and generally failed, I had no idea about photographic technique or equipment. I just wanted a fish eye lens.

A fish eye lens was the holy grail of skateboarding photography (as far I was concerned), it allowed the photographer to get close and low; making tricks look more dramatic and exaggerating the size of objects.

When I eventually got a fish eye lens and my photos were still mediocre, as it happens learning about photography takes just about as long as learning to skateboard. Thankfully it doesn't involve as many sprained ankles, smashed up shins or grazed elbows!

Now it doesn't matter if I'm shooting with an old Rolleicord or my Olympus OM-D E-M1, I can get the shot's I want. No fish eye required!

Skate and create!

Long Exposure Photography

Grab your camera, your tripod, a jacket and if you're feeling saucy, a neutral density (ND) filter and remote release; let's make some long exposures!

Train crossing the Tay at night.

Long exposures don't tend to result in a 'realistic' photograph unless you are shooting at night, but instead allow you to play with motion, time and light interesting ways; clouds blur, lights and stars turn to trails, people disappear and water appears smooth as your exposure time ticks from fractions of a second to seconds and minutes.

Strathpuffer 24hr mountain bike racers light up the forest in the middle of the night.

To make this type of shot work you are going to need to prevent the camera from moving for as long as the shutter is open; any small movement will ruin the sharpness of the shot. A nice stable tripod is ideal but if you don't have one you can sit your camera on a flat wall or on a bunched up jacket, you can even brace the camera against a wall or post for a few seconds with the right technique.

Now you have a stable location for your camera on the tripod you need to trigger it without causing unintended movement. Ideally you should use a remote release to trigger the shutter, if you don't have one then use the camera's built in timer to trigger the shot, even the movement from pressing the shutter button is enough to shake the camera. If your camera is an SLR lock the mirror, if it has noise reduction switch it on and if it has built in image stabilisation switch it off.

Tiree beach, sheltered from the wind down in the rocks.

Your next issue to contend with is focusing, if it's a dark scene you may struggle to focus due to lack of contrast and if you're using a strong ND filter you might not be able to use the camera's autofocus; there are a few techniques to get around these issues. Whatever technique you use, once you have the focus you want for the image you should switch your camera to manual focus and watch you don't knock it as you handle the camera.

If you are trying to take pictures of the stars or moon you will want to focus to infinity, do do this you either need to focus on a distant light or manually focus and take a test shot to see that the stars are in sharp focus. 

If it's dark you might need to focus manually but if there is still some daylight and you are using a ND filter you can focus without the filter, switch to manual focus and then drop / screw in your filter into position. 

A powerful torch in another useful aid to focusing, you can light up a section a building to aid focus and also use it for light painting during your exposure as seen in the image of Airlie Monument below.

This photo of Airlie Monument was actually 180 30 second long exposures layered together in a special bit of software to create the star trails, a similar effect could be achieved by taking one long exposure but the sensor noise would become more prominent.

 

How long you want to make your exposure comes down to what you are trying to achieve and the limitations of your camera, but whatever you do you will find new creative ways of taking pictures and see things in a different way. 

Now get out there and report back with your long exposures!

Why Shoot Film?

'Why shoot with old film cameras, when modern digital cameras are so capable?' I hear you ask.

Well I guess I shoot film because it's different, it's fun and it's challenging. It makes me slow down, think about what I want from a photo and how I'm going to achieve it, before I press the shutter release.

I don't know if the word authentic really means anything (except I'm a hipster) but I do think the colours and tones seem more 'real' on film than if I create the same effect in post processing with digital negatives. I also enjoy the delayed gratification of not seeing the shots immediately, it is a rare thing in the age of instant everything so I guess perversely, I like the fact it's a bit awkward.

Anticipation of the prints is another major reason I love film; the excitement of a pack of prints coming through the letter box is truly something special even if the initial excitement sometimes turns to disappointment when I find out I missed the focus, exposure setting or left the lens cap on (yes this has happened!)

To be totally honest, the hit rate on my first few rolls of film (shot on a £12 Ebay Minolta 35mm SLR) was pretty poor! I'd been spoilt by high ISO capability, instant focusing and image stabilisation; I didn't actually know how to take a photo, despite my eBay Minolta being a pretty advanced SLR in it's day.

All this means that when I do get a 'hit' it is all the sweeter and I'd say my hit rate has gone up considerably since those first rolls of film.

Greg at the bar

Real black and white film is another reason to shoot film, knowing you're shooting B+W rather than converting shots with blown highlights in post makes you think differently about light and texture. I shoot a lot of C41 B+W white film but love a bit of Kodak Tri-X when I can find it, which is another thing about film photography, at times film feels like ancient treasure, it almost seems a shame to open it sometimes; especially if it is out of production.

Then there is medium format, 6cm x 6cm negatives full of detail, paper thin DOF, and an awesome glow to the shots. These can be scanned to very high resolution and have a beautiful quality that is hard to describe. I've only recently acquired a medium format TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) camera and it's a fussy bit of kit to use but the results can be beautiful.

St Andrews harbour

I think often people look better on film, it hides blemishes and is just a bit more forgiving than digital can be, especially with the shallow depth of field that a fast prime lens can give on 35mm camera. Some of my favourite portraits I've taken have been on film and they are hard to recreate on my digital camera.

Then there is the colours, every film has a different look, Poundland Agfa Vista is super saturated greens and reds and and I love this for summer time shots. Then there is Portra 160 and 400, both give great skin tones and pastel colours, great for evening light. Fuji Pro 400H does amazing greens and has a cooler look, good for landscapes.

I already knew I was a becoming a film geek but writing all this down is proof to myself that I really have become obsessed with film. I should have realised this when the top shelf of the fridge was converted from food storage to a film storage area; pass the Portra!

If you want to get into the world of film photography, then check out my friends at Photoghost in Aberdeen for all your development, scanning and prints.
If you are already a film lover then head over to shootfilmco and check out their range of stickers and badges to show the world film is alive!