120 film loading

This video is the best illustration I could find of loading 120 film into an old style camera.  In this video the camera is a plastic Holga camera that is popular with film camera enthusiasts.  Loading the film is very similar to the action taken when loading the same type of film into the Ilford Sporti – the subject of my next post.  Hope it revives some memories for those who recall older cameras and serves as an eye opener to anyone younger as to what was involved in using a camera all those years ago.  People still use 120 film in many types of cameras and then experiment with developing their film and printing their own pictures in the old fashioned way, in a darkroom with little baths of chemicals.

Searching for the video above I accidentally discovered this video by a young photographer, Hessel Folkertsma, in which he answers his critics who are baffled why anyone in this modern age, particularly someone young, would want to take photographs on old style film.  When I was 10-11 years old my school science teacher taught us the full film to print process, so I have done all that this photographer describes.  I also took photographs with 35mm film cameras for over 20 years.  I no longer feel the need to do so and I don’t want to be burdened by such physical processes like developing and printing photographs.  I love the digital era – but I also love the fact that this young guy wants to process film the way he does.  He makes some very good points in putting forward his case for being allowed to make his art the way he wants to.  I wish him and any others who enjoy the process every success!

My first photographs

Some time in 1969, when I was only a little over 7 years old, my Dad allowed me to borrow the family camera for the day. I took it with me on a school trip to London Zoo.  These pictures below are the only surviving photos from my first solo use of a camera.

Emperor Penguins (1968)

Emperor Penguins at London Zoo in 1969 – they look so colourful!

Penguins (1968)a

I believe this is another photo from that visit to London Zoo, this time of the African Penguins.

Both photos were taken with an Ilford Sporti camera on Kodak 120 roll film, that only allowed 12 pictures to be taken per roll.  The original photos had the usual white border, but after scanning them I removed the border by cropping the picture.  I also sharpened the picture and reduced the back-light a little, using the free software Photoscape.  Not exactly enhanced, just cleaned up a little for the modern digital age.

Unfortunately, I have no idea what happened to any other photos of other animals I took that day.  I seem to remember seeing giraffes, elephants, camels, chimps, kangaroos and a whole range of birds.  Maybe they didn’t come out for some reason, or perhaps I just liked the penguins more than the other animals!

My view of zoos has changed much over the years.  Whilst I am in no way an animal rights campaigner, I am now opposed to  housing wild animals in restricted environments far from their natural homes.

I am persuaded that there may be some limited and specific good reasons for keeping some endangered species safe from harm.  So long as the aim is to breed a small group to establish a wild population again.  Otherwise I cannot now support the keeping of animals in zoos or even wildlife parks, although I am sure many people do find some educational value and enjoyment visiting those sorts of places.  To me they seem more like animal prisons or detention camps, with a commercial reason for continuing, so I cannot go there any more.

To show Emperor Penguins in their natural environment and to illustrate how much more can be learned by intrepid camera men observing them in the wild I posted two two videos from YouTube in the previous post.  They are only short but I hope they are enjoyable to see.

My next post will be an article about the camera I used and how cameras, film and photography for the amateur has changed for everyone in the last 40 years.

Richmond Park – learning to take photos

On a beautiful sunny day, late in the summer of 1969, we took a family trip to Richmond Park.  By that time we had moved twice since 1968 and lived in a small flat in West Hampstead.  It wasn’t too far to travel to Richmond, but I have no memory of the journey, or if we went by bus, train or both.

Richmond-Park-005

Richmond Park, so close to the tower blocks, yet full of rural beauty.  Photo nathan-harrison.com

My new little sister, Suzy, was about 18 few months old, so it was probably a bit of a hassle for our Mum & Dad, needing to take all the things a young child needs during the day.  We also took a large blanket to lay on the grass and a picnic lunch – there weren’t any McDonalds or Burger King take-away outlets until the mid 1970s – so it was sandwiches and a flash of tea, and Ribeana or something similar for me.  It turned into a very memorable day out, partly  because we have photos of the day that reinforce the memories, but for me I will always remember it as the day I learned to take photographs.

Richmond Park, the largest walled park in the UK, is one of the 8 Royal Parks of London, with its origins dating back to 1625, when the King, Charles I, brought the Royal Court to Richmond palace when plague was spreading through London.  The park grew out of an area set aside for hunting deer.  Charles I upset locals by enclosing the area with a wall, that is still standing today.  Public right of way was allowed and that has continued for most of its history, but was established by Act of Parliament in 1872.  It has been a popular recreational area for many years, a place to escape the city and enjoy a picnic, walking and cycling, with cycle ways around the park.  During the 2012 Olympics in London the road race cycle courses passed through the park.

It is remains home to over 600 deer, both Red Deer and Fallow Deer.  The deer are free to roam large parts of park and due to the high number of daily visitors they are fairly tame, although they still need to be treated with care and caution, and people are discouraged from feeding them or getting too close.  Sometime during that summer afternoon, back in 1969, when the sun was high in the sky, my Dad did a quick scout out of the area around where we had settled, leaving Mum, me and little Suzy laying on the blanket in the sun.  He came back all excited, saying that he had discovered we were fairly close to the lake at the centre of the park, where the deer came to cool down and drink.

He quickly rummaged in a bag for his trusty camera, an Ilford Sporti he had bought in 1959 and invited me to come with him and see the deer.  We walked a short distance through some fairly long grass and small bushes and trees, before we approached the lake.  Dad encouraged me to be quiet and we followed the edge of the lake for  a few more yards as he found some bushes to help hide us from the deer.  Not much happened for a while and I was soon bored of looking at the sun glinting off the water and became restless, wanting to run around and explore.  But Dad kept me calm for a little longer and we were suddenly rewarded with the approach of a group of around 20 Red Deer.

As they waded into the water Dad pointed out that we were downwind from them, so if we were quiet and moved slowly they wouldn’t be disturbed by our presence.  Then he took the first photograph of the group of deer.  Looking at the photos now I can’t be certain of the order in which they were taken but I know that the second two pictures I had a hand in taking.  Dad showed me how to use the viewfinder to aim the camera and how to press the shutter release button carefully so as not to shake the camera.  With that simple lesson I was introduced to the world of photography and have remained fascinated with it ever since.

The following three pictures are the photos from that encounter with the Red Deer of Richmond Park, on a summers day in 1969.  I scanned the originals some years ago and used the free software Photoscape to sharpen and very lightly enhance the tone.  Two of them also had small marks on the cloud and sky which I was able to remove with some careful restoration, again using Photoscape.  For more information on how to scan and restore old photos see my earlier ‘how to guides‘.

Deer - Richmond 1968 - 3

Deer - Richmond (1968) - 2a

Deer - Richmond (1968) - 1b

Whilst my encounter with the deer that day went very calmly and without incident, this was largely due to my Dad’s experience with the deer of Richmond Park.  Mum and Dad used to visit the park regularly and even photographed the odd deer close up, as can be seen in the black and white photo below, from around 1960.

File0034

Not everyone has such a calm relaxing experience, especially if they take a disobedient dog with them.  I am of course referring to Fenton and his outraged owner who together became a huge internet sensation in late 2011.

I have shared two videos in the previous post, to keep the videos separate from this post.  The first one is a clip of the news reports about the web viral status that the second clip received.  The second clip is the full uncensored version by the original uploader.