An Extended Tutorial For Those Disembodied Digital Souls Desiring Authenticity, Genuine Process and Life-Affirming Tactility in Their Photographic Journey

For all you lost, disheartened ‘photographers’ who’ve cut their teeth in the digital era and feel inauthentic because of the gaping void at the heart of your photographic knowledge and competence, to wit knowing nothing about the classic technical history of the film medium, I’m here to convince you that the process of film photography is fun. And doable. And you can do it. And I’m going to tell you how to do it, from beginning to end.

As you’ve long suspected but have been resistant to admit, unlike your digital photography, film photography is ‘authentic’, it’s real, it’s tangible. It keeps alive the physical connection between the light and the recording medium. Nothing is dematerialized and transcribed into digits that must be re-materialized by some arcane process you know nothing about. The trace of your subject physically remains – forever, right there on your negative. Translated to a gelatin silver print, the trace remains. This is mystical. It is often life-changing. Ask Roland Barthes. Roland Barthes may have been run over and killed by a laundry truck while walking to his lecture at the Sorbonne, but Roland Barthes’ mother lives ( see Camera Lucida). This is profound.

It’s time you become a ‘real’ photographer. This is simply a statement of fact, not an accusation or a boast by your betters. It’s time you acquire both the technical knowledge of film capture and the skills for its proper subsequent development. I’ll show you, in easy baby steps, how you too can become competent shooting, developing and printing light-sensitive photographic film, preferably for our purposes 35mm B&W film. I’ll explain to you how to print those negatives on silver gelatin paper and produce a stunning, tactile object you can matt, frame and hang in your summer home on the Cape.

Forget color. I’m not going to talk about color film photography. That’s not real photography. B&W film photography is real photography. Hard stop. Once you’ve mastered the B&W analogue process, you are now a photographer and not simply a button mashing monkey taking bokeh saturated photos of sad, inauthentic people. You now have joined the list of veritable photographic giants like Atget, Brassai, Walker Evans, HCB, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Josef Koudelka, Robert Frank, Antoine D’Agatha, Trent Parke, Dragan Novakovic and Tim Vanderweert.

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This is Where the Good Stuff Happens

To start your authentic photographic journey, you are going to need the following: 1) A black paint Leica M2, M3, M4 or functional equivalent, a Nikon SP or S3 (these are the last legitimate fully mechanical, unmetered 35mm cameras); 2) a roll of 35mm B&W film, preferably Kodak Tri-X or Ilford HP5 of 24 or 36 exposures, although you may also use a roll you’ve bulk rolled yourself (extra points); 3) a dark room as in a room you can make mostly dark; 4) a development tank to develop your film; 5) photo chemicals to develop your film; 6) a photographic enlarger; 7) photo paper to print your developed negatives; 8) photo chemicals to develop your latent prints; 8) photo trays large enough to contain the size paper you’ll be printing on; 9) a supply of water to wash negatives and prints; and 10) a means of drying both negatives and prints once developed.

You do not need a computer or an internet hookup. You need no books or instructional videos or charts of Silver Efex pre-sets. You don’t need to take a ‘Sold Out’ seminar in Innsbruck where you wear Leica logoed hats, fondle assorted digital Leicas and interface with false gurus who banally advise you “it’s all about the light” and assure you competence beyond your wildest imaginings if you simply buy all their books at steep discounts and, most importantly, “always wear a camera”. As a general rule, avoid anyone who advertises such digital seminars with photos of film wrapped around their head. These are men who are not to be trusted.

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You Too Can Make a Silver Gelatin Print Like This With a Simple Film Camera

Let’s get to it. Grab your fully mechanical M2 and an unexposed roll of B&W film. Take the film from its box and load it into your battery-less Leica. First, you’re going to need to figure out how to load your film onto your Leica’s removable take up spindle, reinsert the spindle into the M and forward to frame number 1. This is more difficult than you might think. Leitz, the German manufacturer who hand-made your mechanical M, has specifically made this difficult to remind you that good things require effort.

Start by extracting a few inches of film from the mouth of your film cassette, and insert the tapered film end into the spool so that the teeth hook the perforation. Now wind the shutter lever that cocks the shutter and rotates the spool’s teeth so the film starts to wrap around the spool itself. (Since the film has been rolled up in its cannister for some time – years maybe – it tends to remain curved and therefore to remain slightly raised by the teeth, which are often unable to hook it). Fiddle with it.

With practice you’ll eventually learn to press it with a finger against the teeth and get it rolling that way. Other folks opt for pre-tensioning, placing slight pressure on the rewind crank, taking care not to exert excessive force which would tear the perforation or release the film from the receiving spool. It either rolls on at this point or you start over…or you quit. (Giving up is always an acceptable option when it comes to the practice of film use. Always remember this. There is no shame in saying fuck it and giving up at any point in the process. You can always come back another day and try again. I cannot emphasize this enough).

Assuming you haven’t quit yet and the film has rolled onto the take-up spool in sufficient quantity to hold it there, refasten the back to the camera and take a few idle clicks to check the shutter reset and to advance the film into position for your super-exciting first film photo. The rewind handle should testify to success with its anti-clockwise rotation, your frame counter should read “0” or “1” or “2” or some random digit thereabouts. You have successfully loaded your M2 with real, light sensitive silver impregnated emulsive film. Feelings of great satisfaction and wholeness should now follow, as if a heretofore misplaced key had been inserted into the tumbler of your mundane life and unlocked something mystical. Sit with it for a minute, quietly. Passively note the perfectly balanced weight of your M2 now loaded with light affirming film. Admire your film camera’s iconic contours and simple yet timeless design. It’s meaning will not fail to speak to you if only you allow it, although what you feel now will remain ineffable. Your life has changed, irrevocably. You Sir, are no longer a button-mashing herd animal tethered to a pathetically designed plastic machine producing random digits on a silicone substrate, subsequently reconfigured via obscure Photoshop algorithms; you now hold in your hand a purpose built, tactilely perfect mechanical jewel whose raison d’etre is the miraculous stenciling of the real. You are now an authentic film photographer.

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Aperture and Shutter Speed

You now hold a genuine mechanical Leica properly loaded with a roll of iconic Kodak Tri-X ( or if you live in the UK Ilford HP5). You now must engage that combination to, in Susan Sontag’s famous phrase, “stencil off the real.” To do so you’re going to have to set your camera aperture and shutter speeds to give you a proper exposure given the extant lighting condition. Your iconic mechanical Leica doesn’t have a “P” mode or any other exposure mode for that matter. It is totally indifferent to you. It doesn’t give a shit about any desire you might possess to apply hard and fast rules. You are now in the realm of art, where rules have no intrinsic value. Your mechanical jewel-like Leica requires serendipity, not desiccated formulas applied via charts and graphs.

The possible settings on your Leica are threefold:  aperture, shutter speed and ASA film sensitivity (now known as ISO). Because your M2 doesn’t have a meter, forget about ASA. Doesn’t matter. You don’t need a meter; it’s ‘rule-based’ affectation at best. Just use your head when setting your aperture and shutter speed. If you must, use the ‘Sunny 16 Rule’ or a variation on that theme. Classic film sensitivity is the equivalent of today’s 25 or 50 ISO, or 100-125 ISO (the most common), or 400 ISO, with the possibility of “pushing” or “pulling”, i.e. extending or contracting the development time to give higher speed or reduced grain and better tonality depending on your intent. Save that for later, after you’ve figured the basics. If you must use a light meter, set it and assume it’s in the ballpark. A good rule of thumb: f16 and a shutter speed equal to your film ISO when outside in sunny weather; f8 when some clouds; f2 and 1/30th whenever inside. For more precision, use your experience of previous mistakes, for they will be abundant. Some hardcore filmies expose using hand-held light meters. This is unnecessary. Perfect exposure is a false god, a neurotic avoidance of the struggle to engage your unique vision.

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Fun With Development

Once you’ve shot your 36 exposures and hopefully have rewound the film and extracted it from your M2 ( another iffy proposition in and of itself), you must develop your film. Like most film era peasants, you can send it out to the drug store if you’re able to find one that still develops film, but then you’re just another thoughtless happy-snapper and not a serious film photographer. You must develop it yourself. This is where the fun begins, and the specifics of development assume existential dimensions, fueled by various half-assed theories religiously held by various film era partisans citing dog-eared pages of Stroebel and Compton’s Basic Photographic Materials and Processes (Focal Press: Boston, 1990)

Actual film development procedure is a combination of applied chemistry and witchcraft. Development takes place in light-tight tanks that contain a spiral reel you’re going roll your film onto. Loading this reel takes place in complete darkness, so you need either a darkroom or a changing bag. Completely in the dark you remove the exposed film from the roll ( usually with a can opener and then a scissors to cut the film leader back), you insert the leader into the upper and lower guides of the spiral reel and, by means of an alternating rotation and counter-rotation of the reel’s sides you roll the film onto the reel until the entire roll is taken up on the reel itself. Of course, you’re probably going to repeatedly fail to get the reel loaded because the film, freed from the constriction of its tight cannister, tends to unroll abruptly, slipping from your nervous fingers, and sad attempts to grab it in the dark risks causing small bends in the film sprocket area that will cause the affected section of film to hang up in the reel without allowing it to roll forward onto the reel. Fiddle with it.

Your reel loading troubles are just beginning. The film will offer tenacious resistance to spiraling onto the reel even in the best of circumstances. It also frequently happens that after an initial success and an advance of a few inches, the reel mechanism gets stuck; the two sides of the spiral no longer go forward or backward. No reason given. They just refuse. In reality, this usually happens when the reel you’re using hadn’t been perfectly dried after the last wash and residual humidity glues up the film emulsion to the groove of the spiral. The best you can do is wait while the reel dries completely.

Forcing things at this point usually causes further deformation of the film. Attempts to extract the film have little chance of success at this point, and even if you succeed, there’s going to be no place to temporarily store the film off reel, the roll being damaged during the operation of withdrawal. In any event, you can continue to fiddle about with things till you’re granted some sort of mystical reprieve – or you can toss the now-deformed roll of Tri-X that once held so much promise, turn on the lights, go home, sell your bulk loader and all the bulk film you’ve stored in your dedicated mini-fridge, trade your M2 for a Lenny Kravitz Correspondence digital M with genuine snakeskin covering and swear you will never shoot another roll of film again.

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The Film Development Process: A Matter of Chemistry…And a Good Bit of Luck

Maybe, just maybe, you get things right. Now what? Once you put the reel in the tank and close the tank lid you can turn the lights on. Now is the time to pick a developer and dilution, figure out how long a development time you’re going to need based on the type of film, the ISO at which it’s been shot and the current developer temp (if you must, see Stroebel and Compton, Chapter 8 ‘Black and White Photo Development’) or you can just use Diafine and forget all this – more on this later. You’re going to decide what amount of agitation to give the film (inverting the tank at variable intervals) in order to control contrast and grain. Some consult technical treatises like that cited above, others trust their instincts, still others consult notebooks of past successes and failures. Some products you’re going to use are powdered, which means you’re going to have to prepare them in advance and then allow them to cool. You’ll be mixing and diluting chemicals, measuring temperature with special thermometers, one eye on the timer that marks proposed development times. 

Anyone not working during film era will be completely flummoxed by the exhausting debates you’re going to encounter about combinations of developers and films and the seemingly infinite possibilities of varying development times, temperatures and methods of agitation to get the look you want (assuming you know what look you do want). Just ignore all that. Do yourself a favor and donate your heavily-annotated Stroebel and Compton to the Salvation Army Book Drive. Take it from me: develop everything in Diafine at anything approaching room temp: 3 Minutes in solution A, 3 minutes in solution B, rinse once, fix for 5 minutes, rinse twice, hang to dry. Forget about consistent temp, hypo-clearing and water turn over cycles. This is the best advice you will ever receive. Trust me.

If you are stubborn enough to ignore my Diafine advice and decide to develop your film in a 1:3 dilution of D-76 or some other developer, your development phase will last five to twenty minutes depending on personal choice, then a short water rinse followed by a fixer solution for 5 minutes to stop development and permanently ‘fix’ the negative image. Drain the fixer and rinse in a water bath. To do this, you’ll need to connect the tank to a water tap using a rubber tube equipped with special adapter that works fitfully at best. Or not. I simply leave the film in the tank, remove the tank lid and fill and dump water into and out of the tank five times. Others more anal wash their negatives in running water for twenty minutes or so and then open the tank, extract the wet film and examine the result : check for density, contrast, possible stains, and the inevitable presence of gunk despite the fact that your darkroom faucet is equipped with an expensive water filter.

To dry your film, first soak it in a dilute mixture of Photoflo for a few seconds (which will allow even drying) and then hang it with laundry pins.  Unfortunately, hanging your film exposes it to dust which will adhere to your negatives on the moist emulsion. You are also vulnerable to streaks caused by limestone in your filtered water. Invariably, your negatives are going to have some spots that you’re going to have to deal with at the printing phase. Think of this as part of the authenticity of the process itself, the serendipitous manifestation of entropy inherent in any physical process.

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Printing

To print your negatives you need an enlarger, an easel to position your printing paper, printing paper, and trays to hold developer, water bath and fixer and a room darkened by a red safety light i.e. you don’t need to print in total darkness. The developer you’ll use to develop prints is going to be different than that used to develop negatives. Why, I don’t know. You can often darken the bathroom and use the toilet as your easel stand, but a real darkroom is the necessary privilege of doing it right, because it will be a relatively large, air-conditioned room, totally light-tight and equipped with temperature-controlled running water. Lighting during printing will be provided by special yellow-green or red lamps , depending on the type of paper used.

Before starting printing proper, you will make contact proofs with a “proofing press”, a glass with six guides in which the film cut into strips of six frames is inserted, hinged on a plane which was in turn is covered with a thin layer of synthetic sponge. In the darkroom, a sheet of letter-sized sensitive paper is placed face up on the surface with the sponge. The glass is then closed over the paper and kept pressed against the paper sheet and the sponge, the sheet then exposed to the light of the enlarger for a few seconds. The exposed sheet is then removed from the proofer and developed normally in the three developing-stop-fixing basins, washed, dried and then stapled to the archival quality celluloid sleeve that contains the corresponding negatives. You now have a first draft of your entire roll of film from which you can use to choose negatives to print.

Once you’ve achieved a history of successful film development, you will possess shelves of priceless sleeved negatives attached to booked contact sheets that will impressively and conspicuously line the shelves of you darkroom library. On these negatives and contact sheets reside those physical traces you’ve stenciled from the real over the course of your life. Think of the contents of your contact sheets to be alive in some metaphysical sense, as Barthes argued convincingly in his seminal work. Consider this a major part of your photographic legacy, and be sure to leave instructions on their preservation and use once you are gone. No detail should be spared for fear of having a clueless heir throw these mystical traces of life in the trash unaware of their priceless value.

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Making the Contact Sheet-Figuring Out What to Print

Your contact sheets serve a practical purpose. You create contact sheets so you can figure out the appropriate negatives to print fully. You do this by examining the sheet with a “loupe”, a magnifying glass cup you place against the contact sheet to view the small positives. The proofs should also give you an initial indication of the contrast grade of paper you should be using. Exposure cards exist in five or six shades which help determine the appropriate contrast grade paper to use for a given negative. You have to interpolate data relating to the finish (matt, semi-matt, glossy) to the brand (with all the types of weight, black rendering and appearance that each manufacturer had in the catalog) and to the gradation. Again, if you must, consult Stroebel et al.

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We Print

Once you’ve gotten over the disappointment of your numerous exposure and framing errors, you pick a decent negative and insert it into the enlarger tray that fits into the enlarger head. You then raise/lower the head so that it projects the image onto your paper easel in the size and margins desired. Put in a strip of paper into the easel for a test exposure strip, focus the enlarger onto the easel and make a test strip.

Once your test exposure has been established, actual printing begins . Focus your enlarger lens onto the easel for a properly sharp print (minus the printing paper obviously) set your enlarger lens aperture to a middling aperture where the len’s native optical quality will be at its best and depth of field will be sufficient to compensate for any curl or lack of flatness as the paper sits in the easel (I usually opt for f5.6 or f8 if there’s a slight curl to the paper as it sits in the easel) and determine how long you’re going to expose the print based on the results of the test exposures. Turn off the enlarger and place your photo paper in the easel. If your photo sheet is large (16×20 inches and more), taking it from the box is a solemn, existentially weighted affair, given its size and intrinsic value as sensitive material you’re going to use to keep alive the trace born of the light that physically impregnated your film. With adequate humility you will place this on the paper easel, a metal plane with four kinds of rulers which, overlapping the sheet of sensitive paper, protect it from light by creating the margins, establishing the cut and theoretically keeping the paper flat.

Of course, it’s never that easy. Left to itself, your sheet will take on a concave or convex shape according to whim and this will nullify your painstaking attempts to focus properly; likewise, rarely will the exposure be uniform across the sheet. It will often be necessary to dodge and burn some parts of the light for proper exposure. Hands are used to cover the parts dodged/burned. Some use sticks and cardboard cut outs in various shapes.

Once pulled from the easel the exposed sheet is gently placed face down under the surface of the developer, gently shaken with tong and turned several times. There, in the reddish semi-darkness you will witness the developing image . This moment is charged with emotion. Wait until it looks as if the print is properly exposed and remove it from the developer tray. But before turning on the light and being able to contemplate the work, the sheet has to be immersed in two other baths: stopping and fixing. This is but a matter of a few minutes. Once the print has been taken from the fixer and started washing you can turn on your lights. Wash the print in a slowly flowing water tray for 30 minutes or so and you’re done.

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The Fateful Moment

Turning on the light usually brings disappointment. The print never looks like it did when it was illuminated by the darkroom safety lights. Never. Here is the first real judgment of all your hard work.  The results are rarely satisfactory. A decent print, in fact, is usually obtained only after innumerable attempts, during which you will curse life. Persevere and you will eventually get it. My Master Printing Mentor – a pretty famous guy – said it took him about 10 years to figure it all out.

Meanwhile dust lurks everywhere, doing its best ruin your efforts. No matter how you cleaned the negative before placing it into the enlarger carrier, white specks of dust will invariably appear on you museum grade print, as will scratches contained on the film created during its development. The only remedy for this consists in a spotting operation on the print itself after the print is dry . Spotting is a pain in the ass. The real difficulty is diluting the black spotting liquid to match the gradation of gray on which to intervene, not to mention the different types of paper with different shades of black. The bottom line is this: avoid spotting whenever possible. Do so by being 1) fastidious about developing your negatives as gently as possible without excessive handling; 2) dry your negatives with Photoflo and don’t allow them to hang once dried; 3) use a static brush on any negative you enlarge; and 4) always use clean hands when touching negatives to place in the enlarger carrier. In the end, it doesn’t matter, really. Unlike what digital partisans will argue, entropy is real.

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Someone, Somewhere, is Happy to Give This to You Free of Charge

All of this has a payoff. It used to be that front to back film photography cost a lot of money: the Leica with “bokeh king” Summicron (and possible Leica Meter) with matching leather case, bulk film loaders and cassettes, various 100 ft rolls of bulk film stored in a dedicated freezer, expensive enlargers with purpose built optics, darkromm exposure meters, analog timers for perfect development, trays, squeegies, film development cannisters and reels, bags of unmixed developer and fixer, ascetic acid stop bath, Photoflo, opaque glass jugs to store mixed chemicals, adjustable easels, rotary print dryers, water filtration systems, Univac electronic anti-static machines with exotic camel hair brush, etc. Literally thousands of dollars in 1970’s era currency.

Now, believe it or not, all of it can be done, from start to finish, for little to no outlay of funds. Everything you need above – with the exception of the Leica – is at this moment being given away for free by hundreds of beaten down former film photographers, clueless executors of estates of dead photographers (“Here Jimmy, take this box of photography junk, maybe you can figure out how to use it”), defunct photographic trade schools forcibly closed by the government for student loan fraud, unfunded film departments of MFA Photographic Arts programs at State U., and chastised 20 somethings who, in a quest for authenticity, have naively bought all of it brand new from Adorama, used it once and now store it in their basement. Just consult your local bankruptcy listings, Craigslist or Facebook Analog Photography groups for specifics. The 60 year old Leica that hasn’t been serviced since 1973, that’s going to cost you. Big Time.

20 thoughts on “An Extended Tutorial For Those Disembodied Digital Souls Desiring Authenticity, Genuine Process and Life-Affirming Tactility in Their Photographic Journey

  1. Rob Campbell

    The surprising thing is, before digital, as there was no alternative, none of this felt difficult. Today, though not a personal threat because of growing up and working during the film era, the attitude is quite different: though I much prefer proper WSG prints to anything else, there’s no way I’d go to all the bother again. There is no incentive, no outlet.

    That said, it’s even more surprising that there are those masochists today who refuse to stop at the scenario you have described, but cut even more deeply into themselves by pursuing ever more arcane methods of arriving at, well, bluntly, even worse results. Ask the writer/photographer Sally Mann for her rationale… For my part, I suspect it to be a construct of the art circus. There: I have coloured myself cynic!

    My own attempt to resurrect a darkroom here in Spain ended up much as you describe: I donated the entire, newly-bought facility excluding, of course, the room, to a local school. Whew! All of it vanished: a Durst 6×7, two Schneider Componons, a timer, a 20×16 print masking frame, voltage stabiliser and Patterson Tanks, both single and treble. Cause? Mainly, it proved impossible to filter the water supply well enough. Unfortunately, it also led me to installing a very expensive air-con unit that was seldom utilised after that. In ‘81, those units were very much more expensive than they are today. Lesson learned.

    One good result, though: realising how difficult it had suddenly become to focus a negative, I had my eyes tested and discovered I needed reading glasses.

    Reply
  2. Hank

    My M4 is chrome…so I’ve missed being a “Totally Authentic Photographer” by “this much”. (Old Don Adams reference…sorry, I’m old).

    Reply
  3. Brian Sweeney

    I started developing my own film when I was 12. Kodak Instamatic shooting Verichrome Pan.
    Had a dedicated Darkroom when I was 16, Panatomic-X in Microdol shot with a Nikon F Photomic Bullseye.
    Started Digital in 1982. Back then, you wrote all your own software to view an image. Device-Driver level up, dedicated mini computer and image processors. Digital is very, very real to me. And paid all the bills for the last 44 years.

    I still write my own Software to process images from the M Monochrom. Also wrote my own code for the M9. In Fortran-77 of course.
    In Fortran, there is no TRY, there is only DO.

    Reply
    1. Leicaphila Post author

      I too started developing and printing when I was 12. I was in 7th grade and in charge of the Greater Atlanta Christian School darkroom. I was very important. I built my own darkroom at home when I was 14, so I’ve got you beat there. As for the rest, you are not normal, Brian.

      Reply
  4. Lee Rust

    Thanks for sharing your lifetime of experience in such a compact form. Any young, aspiring B&W film photographer could first take a look at your published work, read this tutorial and then follow your advice and example. It would save them a lot of time and provide a powerful incentive.

    Reply
  5. eric de mopntigny

    I noticed a hint of sarcasm when I read black paint……
    Like others here I had my first darkroom when I was around 14.
    I still do wet printing, It’s my therapy and all about the process.
    My darkroom now stand in the walk-in (I have a Wonderfull wife) and I process my paper in my cibachrome or unicolor drum in the kitchen (did I say I have a Wonderfull wife).
    I tried digital but it’s just not for me. Maybe a m10 mono with a good printer but I do enough computer time for work.
    regards

    Reply
  6. Dogman

    Well, it this didn’t scare off the wannabes nothing will.

    Yeah, done dat. No more. Too old, too fat, too lazy. Plus, no one cares anymore.

    Reply
  7. Stephen Jenner

    Whilst I agree that film is the required essential for real photography, I do all of the above with my donated Rolleiflex 3.5 t, though I do still hanker for the “f” version with the wheels as opposed to the somewhat sticky levers on the “t”.

    I like to look at the ground glass, rather than through some poxy viewfinder…

    …and yes, I have owned and used proper Leicas, and ‘Blads (too heavy). I have found that the Rolleis’ are beautiful tools and works of art, and what is more, they have never sullied their reputation by going digital.

    What is more, you can use a Rollei anywhere from ground level to arms extended overhead, in order to see over crowds.

    Sometime back, I spent an ocean of money on a new Leica Q2, and it is a shelf queen that is worth south of nothing to me as a camera, with little or no feeling that one has actually made something. I could probably flog it for a couple of thousand quid, but I haven’t got around to that yet.

    There are a couple of cameras that I am very curious about, namely the Intrepid and Chroma jobbies, and as a Brit, I have the satisfaction that I can go and visit the workshops where they are handcrafted, and enjoy a day at the beach with a bag of chips (not effin’ french fries) into the bargain, both of these can be used handheld, with the black version of the Intrepid being no heavier or awkward to carry than a Leica, which though initially called miniature, is no such thing, unless you have the sleeves of a wizard. However, with a tripod they are capable of producing stunning snaps.

    Call me a victim of the blogosphere if you like, but there is nothing like branching out and having a fondle. I love photography, but I also love cameras.

    To add another dimension, stick “El Zim’s “Planet Waves” on your player of choice and wallow in its beautiful sound and sentiment.

    Reply
    1. Leicaphila Post author

      They ARE “French Fries” Stephen, except when we’re pissed at the French for refusing to help us carpet-bomb mostly innocent Arabs, and then we call them “Freedom Fries.”

      As for Plant Waves, I think that may be one of the few Dylan Albums I’ve never heard straight through. I’m embarrassed to admit that. You clearly are a better man than me.

      Reply
  8. Stephen Jenner

    Sorry Tim, but I disagree.

    What you get in Brighton (or nearby Hastings) are CHIPS, (also available at any local chippy with varying quality). These establishments are now usually owned by second or third generation Turks or Greeks.

    Notwithstanding, if a country can have such a thing as a “national dish”, this is ours, many folk also buy a piece of battered fish. usually cod or haddock, fried in the same fat.

    Back in the day, they were made by the locals, as opposed to immigrants. Although some folk say that it was Jewish victims of the Russian pogroms, that brought them to Britain in the first place.

    Before the idiotic failed politicians at the European Union interfered, they were served in yesterday’s wrapped newspaper. Nobody ever died of newspaperprintitis.

    On a large scale, they do use a machine, (eg. a chippy, school or hospital canteen etc.), which is a stainless steel box, the cook throws in a peeled potato and pulls a lever down, the multi-sized and shaped pieces of potato emerge and drop into the bowl that one craftily places beneath said machine.

    That is, if they don’t use a freezer!

    They look like they have been made from chopped potatoes, which indeed they are, sliced in two directions with a sharp knife, they vary in size and shape as opposed to mashed potato extruded from a mincer with perfectly square holes. In a word… sculpture.

    A favourite of school-kids whilst walking home, is to get a bag of the crispy bits that float on the top of a chippy’s fryer, who is usually only too happy to oblige, gratis.

    When making them at home, one peels a couple of spuds, then slices them into chips. They are then double fried, once to cook the potato, then after removal for draining and cooling they are plunged back into the now super heated fat, to brown and crisp.

    Following is a picture of a bowl of chips, made by Jamie Oliver, the TV cook with the ill-fitting tongue.

    https://img.jamieoliver.com/jamieoliver/recipe-database/oldImages/large/1292_1_1440773599.jpg?tr=w-800,h-1066

    They are anything from soft to slightly crisp on the outside, whilst the inside is (if done well) a flavoursome nugget of perfectly cooked real potato.

    In order to make them at home, you peel a potato, and slice them with a sharp knife, the sharper the better, since a blunt knife tends to make sudden movements resulting in fresh blood, and a possibility of a piece of cooked human flesh as a somewhat dubious garnish.

    For the actual garnish you scatter a generous pinch of salt and then shower with some malted vinegar.

    In the olden days, football (soccer) managers lived in tied houses, simply because they moved around at the whim of football club directors. When I was a teenager, my dad, who was a director of Charlton Athletic acquired said tied house for a knockdown price, because the new manager one Theodore Cornelius Foley was already wealthy and had his own massive house that was within easy commuting distance of both the training ground and the actual stadium.

    Theo, following his time coaching in America, returned to London as the coach for Arsenal, statistically the most successful football club in Britain. They began in the second division in a town called Woolwich (pronounced (/ˈwʊlɪtʃ, -ɪdʒ/)) or Woolij) were promoted to the first division (now known as the Premier League) in 1918, where they have remained, usually in the top half, ever since.

    One Christmas, I was given a new bike, I rode it to my Nanny and Grandad’s house in Plumstead, which is next to Woolwich. I parked it in their little concrete front yard, and less then five minutes later, some oic stole it and rode off as fast as he could pedal.

    NB: Both my Nanny and Grandad spent their careers working at the Arsenal, which is where bullets, bombs and guns were made.

    Naturally, we went off to see if we could find it, and a few streets away, a bloke signalled to us and asked if we had lost something. I tearfully said my new bike had been stolen, and he smiled and motioned me into his back garden.

    This garden was very unusual, in that it ran steeply upwards in the form of concrete steps, as my eyes lit up on seeing my new bike parked on those steps, he told us that before the house was built, the garden had been part of the original Arsenal terracing. Arsenal moved to North London to a place called Highbury but have since moved to a ground sponsored by the United Arab Emirates. This ground is called “The Emirates”.

    ————————————————————————————————————————————————————

    In Britain, if you want French fries, you have to consult a bloke called Ronald McDonald, and plenty of folk know no better. I have to say, that I sometimes consult with Ronald myself, they are NOT chips, but they are very good.

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    Here’s Bob:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfMOfOcJjmk

    Reply
    1. Leicaphila Post author

      Stephen: I’m not going to argue this issue with you. As in all cultural things, there is no correct answer (except the fact that McDonalds fries are NOT good; I’m not even sure they contain potatoes but rather are made from a “potato-like” substance with added synthetic nutritional ingredients to allow unlimited shelf life (I’m sure you’ve heard the story, probably apocryphal, of the guy who dropped a fry behind his radiator and found it there when moving out some years later, still perfectly edible).

      I will say this: one of the transcendent experiences of my life was a meal of “Fish and Chips” from a modest take-away in Plymouth, although I did not look to see if the chip chef possessed an “ill-fitting tongue.” Call it what you want. It was fantastic.

      Reply
  9. Rob Campbell

    You have my sympathy: football is a real pain in the ass, however you colour and brand it. We were fortunate in not ever living close to any football stadiums! Though in the leafy suburbs, close to a wonderful park where I exercised our Alsabrador twice a day (great convenience advantage, having a home studio and darkroom!), we were, nevertheless, cursed to have those moronic, sashed marchers in bowler hats wander right past the driveway entrance once a year, banging their silly drums and making nuisances of themselves in an area where nobody had the slightest connection with their religious bigotry, neither one way nor the other. Thank God that’s in the past!

    Ah, chips: the very best chips are the product of the right potatoes and the right frying medium at the right temperature. (The potato type is also key when you try to make gnocchi – get that wrong, and you get a sticky mess on the workbench that’s of use to neither man nor beast.)

    Now, back to the chips: my wife knew the name of the type of potato when we lived in Scotland, but here in Spain, it was only the good graces – and advice – of the farmer selling them in the market that got them for us: he knew what fried the best. Interestingly, they used a lot of Scottish seed potatoes in Mallorca. I wonder if losing the EEC membership has stopped all that? I know the Scottish shellfish trawler men are livid. Oh well, you makes your bed…

    The best oil, of the many varieties available here, turns out to be olive oil. Two-and-a-half bottles of it were set aside for that purpose, and they would fill the frying pot to the right level to cope with the laden wire basket. The potatoes were cut to the size we wanted, dried off in a dishtowel, and then placed into the basket. A single chip would be dipped into the very hot oil, and depending on how it reacted, the basket would follow.

    As with making a print, the decision was visual: the basket was removed once the chips bubbled and floated freely and had turned that delightful golden shade I loved. The basket would be held and shaken to get rid of any surplus oil; better, not greasy, chips were never enjoyed. Sadly, as a single person, it no longer makes sense to make chips: the oils still goes off at the same rate, and we never kept it for more than a few production cycles. Some use melted animal fat; why would you want to start with that? How rurally Brit!

    Reply
  10. Steve Renwick

    I think you may have forgotten one of the most important parts. When you do this, you never ever have to pay any attention to questions and statements like, “Did you download the most recent driver?” “Oh, that only works with MacOS 10.14.” “Well you just need to reinstall the libraries from the original.” Et many relentless ceteras. Nope, you can sniffily turn your back on all that exactly like my cat does when she doesn’t like a brand of tuna. And a great peace will descend on you.

    Reply
  11. George

    Yes yes yes you have a great point. You are absolutely correct.

    Sigh.

    But:

    There’s something about film. It’s such a pain in the ass, but if we didn’t love its imperfections, why would we be trying so hard to emulate it with simulations? What I’ve noticed is the highlights: Film doesn’t clip. Sure it gets blown out, but it doesn’t hit that cement wall of clipping. It’s more like hitting a heavily padded safety stop. I love how film (yes including Tri-X) blooms off into textured white instead of electronically switching off all detail. Luckily, you retain most of this in a scan, so you don’t even have to have a wet print-capable darkroom.

    Also, it should be pointed out that decades from now, when the iCloud passwords are lost and the hard drives cease to spin, all you need is light to present a film photo. I have boxes of my grandfathers negatives. The scans and resulting prints made great Christmas presents to my aunts and uncles a few years back. My son will have most of his childhood easily re-scanned or reprinted long after I’m gone. The Seagate drives with my digital photos might not spin up tomorrow.

    Anyway, it’s tricky. After a weekend of processing, scanning, and maybe darkroom printing, all I want to do is shoot digital for the rest of my life. Until I see the film images vs the digital.

    Reply
    1. Leicaphila Post author

      You’ve got great points too, George.

      “Anyway, it’s tricky. After a weekend of processing, scanning, and maybe darkroom printing, all I want to do is shoot digital for the rest of my life. Until I see the film images vs the digital.”

      Agreed. Film may be a PITA, but when you nail it its totally worth it.

      Reply

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