Travelling with the Pentax 67II

Going on a trip with my Pentax 67II is definitely different from travelling with my Pentax 645NII. The Pentax 645NII I can use like a 35mm camera, it goes everywhere and I can shoot it handheld at amazing low shutter speeds. I have brought it on my last two trips to Japan as my only camera.
The Pentax 67II, on the other hand, is too heavy to carry in a rucksack during our hikes so I found myself spotting for locations and then returning to these locations afterwards by car to actually shoot. A completely different experience for me and I came home with a very different set of my normal photos, far fewer snapshots, more thinking about the shots in advance.

ADOX CHS 25 ART; stand developed: pre-soaked for 5 minutes followed by APH 09 developer in a 1:150 dilution, 1 gr borax; agitated for the 1st minute and then left to stand for 2 hours.

ADOX Color Implosion

A few weeks ago I picked up a few rolls of ADOX Color Implosion film and gave it a spin at the Medieval Festival at Vianden Castle last week.

ADOX Color ImplosionADOX Color ImplosionADOX Color ImplosionADOX Color Implosion

Getting back the negatives from the shop was a bit of a shock: instead of the normal orange colour cast from a colour negative, the negatives were dark red. I scanned them in raw mode and corrected the colour cast by hand, not trusting the software to get decent results when applying its standard filters it uses for normal colour negatives.

As promised the colours were all over the place and it has got lots of toxic grain! Like the web site states, it looks like a cheaply developed film incorrectly stored for 30 years and just found in an attic. No Instagram filter will come close to the results.

Blast furnace of Belval

July 4 marked the date that blast furnace B opened its doors in Beval in the very south of Luxembourg, a few hundred meters away from the French border. Having worked almost next door and endured the constant noise, tremors and dust of the construction for so many months, I was keen to get inside and change my view of the annoyance that is working next to a construction site to the pleasure that is working next door to a great photo location.

The other blast furnace from the ground.</p><br />
<p>ADOX CHS 100 ART at EI 100, stand developed in APH 09 dilution 1:150 for 2 hours  The smallest of the blast furnaces in Belval, shot from the other blast furnace.</p><br />
<p>Foma Fomapan 200 @ EI 200; developed in HC-110 dilution H for 7 minutes, agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds

I was not disappointed:The surroundings were transformed and the view over Belval was magnificent. For me the most fascinating part is the hall on the first floor where there is plenty of space and original parts of the furnace to imagine how working at a blast furnace must have been.

Foma Fomapan 400 @ EI 1600; developed in HC-110 dilution B for 13 minutes, agitation: 2 inversions every minute Foma Fomapan 400 @ EI 1600; developed in HC-110 dilution B for 13 minutes, agitation: 2 inversions every minute

Detail of the blast furnace in Belval.</p><br />
<p>Foma Fomapan 200 @ EI 200; developed in HC-110 dilution H for 7 minutes, agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds A look inside the blast furnace, the tuyeres or nozzles that blew in the oxygen rich air are visible.</p><br />
<p>Foma Fomapan 200 @ EI 200; developed in HC-110 dilution H for 7 minutes, agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds

But also the view from the 40 meter high platform is worth the climb with a view of the Halle des Soufflantes and the gas cleaning tanks and pipes surrounding the blast furnace.

Foma Fomapan 100 @ EI 100; developed in HC-110 dilution H for 10 minutes, agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds Foma Fomapan 100 @ EI 100; developed in HC-110 dilution H for 10 minutes, agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds

Belval is really recommended for a Photo Walk!


Maybe it is just me, but sometimes when I get to a location I feel inspired, visualize every shot and when I get home, I’m happy with most of my shots. Some other time, I get to the another location, or maybe even to the same location and the feeling isn’t there and when I go through the motions and take my shots, I have no idea what I’m shooting and  I’m certain to be disappointed by the mediocre results.

KODAK TMax 400 at EI 1600, developed in HC-110 dilution b for 7:30 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds.
I call it “inspiration” but maybe you call it differently, but that feeling, that connection you have at that moment with the place is so very powerful yet so elusive. Wish I could pull it out of the hat anytime I am about with my camera, but it isn’t as simple as that. To get into that zone, I need to concentrate and approach the subject already in my mind before getting there. This usually means that I need to be able to focus and have the time to quietly explore a location. If it doesn’t happen the first visit, it might happen on a subsequent visit.  Revisiting a location certainly helps.

As a result, I’m not a person who will do well in a Photo Walk with a group of people all looking at each other, concentrating more on the cameras and lenses people have brought than on the opportunities in front of them, and, worst of all, hurrying from one location to another.

Neutral density & exposure

There are probably online calculators or Apps for this, but when I’m in the field I prefer just to have a couple of printed pages where I can see the exposure to use at a glance. See here for the PDF and a far more complete version of the table below.

A typical set of Neutral Density filters consists of an ND2, ND4 and an ND8 filter which can be combined and, if combined, the resulting ND number is the multiplication of the ND numbers of the filters used. For example: Combining the ND2, ND4 and ND8 filter will result in an ND64 filter: 2x4x8=64.

Use your exposure meter (TTL or external) to get the base exposure time and then apply the filter(s) to the lens. Find the base exposure in the first column in the table below to get the exposure time to use for the ND number of the filter(s) on the lens and then apply the correction for the Reciprocity Failure of the film that you are using, if applicable. Typically this information is provided by the manufacturer of the film and usually available for download in PDF form from their site, but also see here for more details. The easiest is when the Reciprocity Failure correction is expressed in added stops so you can just use the table to skip to the correct line.

Exposure ND2 ND4 ND8 ND16 ND32
1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2
1/50 1/25 1/12 1/6 1/3 2/3
1/40 1/20 1/10 1/5 2/5 4/5
1/30 1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1
1/25 1/12 1/6 1/3 2/3 1 1/3
1/20 1/10 1/5 2/5 4/5 1 3/5
1/15 1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2
1/12 1/6 1/3 2/3 1 1/3 2 2/3
1/10 1/5 2/5 4/5 1 3/5 3 1/5
1/8 1/4 1/2 1 2 4
1/6 1/3 2/3 1 1/3 2 2/3 5 1/3
1/5 2/5 4/5 1 3/5 3 1/5 6 2/5
1/4 1/2 1 2 4 8
1/3 2/3 1 1/3 2 2/3 5 1/3 10 2/3
2/5 4/5 1 3/5 3 1/5 6 2/5 12 4/5
1/2 1 2 4 8 16
2/3 1 1/3 2 2/3 5 1/3 10 2/3 21 1/3
0.8 1 3/5 3 1/5 6 2/5 12 4/5 25 3/5
1 2 4 8 16 32
1 1/3 2 2/3 5 1/3 10 2/3 21 1/3 42 2/3
1 3/5 3 1/5 6 2/5 12 4/5 25 3/5 51 1/5
2 4 8 16 32 64
2 2/3 5 1/3 10 2/3 21 1/3 42 2/3 85 1/3
3 1/5 6 2/5 12 4/5 25 3/5 51 1/5 102 2/5
4 8 16 32 64 128

I realize that if the table gives you an exposure time of 6826 and 2/3 of a second, the 2/3 of a second isn’t really going to make a difference but Excel insisted :-)

Your friend the spot meter

Haven’t we all shot landscapes where the blue sky turned out colourless or without detail, or the portrait with a bright background that just turned the face into a dark blur?
The reason is that most people prefer the imprecise outcome of the multi-segment metering mode, the one usually marked in safe green on the camera body, but the one that really should be marked in danger red.
If you understand how the TTL light meter in your camera works, you’ll learn to anticipate what shots will have a problematic exposure, really most of them, and it’ll save you some frustration next time you run into a difficult shot.

Kodak TRI-X at EI 400, developed in HC-110 dilution H for 11 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every minute seconds.

Especially when shooting film, but even if you are using a DSLR and have the ability to chimp and check the outcome of the shot on the on-camera screen, the exposure of the photo above will be difficult to realize in multi-segment or centre-weighted metering modes if you point the camera at the ceiling window and release the shutter: The bright ceiling window will be normally exposed and the underexposed stairs on the side will have lost all details in deep shadows and a wonderful opportunity is lost.
The camera’s TTL light meter usually gets blamed and when money is no issue an external light meter is acquired, yet the solution is simple if your camera supports spot metering and the locking of an exposure reading (usually a button marked AE-L.) And as far as I know, most modern DSLRs and film cameras support these powerful yet underused tools these days.

I can assure you that you get much better and much more predictable results by selecting the spot meter mode of your camera: Find an area in the shot that you reckon is a good approximation of neutral gray, meter this area and lock the exposure and bingo, you’ll have a great exposure. If you cannot find an area that is neutral gray, meter off a gray card and if you don’t have a gray card, meter off the inside of your hand.

Next time that you take a portrait and you’re not sure how the background is going to influence the shot: Walk up to the subject, meter directly off the face making sure you don’t cast a shadow, lock the exposure reading, walk back to compose the shot and shoot. Bingo, another well exposed shot! 
It is as simple as that: meter, lock exposure, shoot!

Shoulder mount

This is not an RPG launcher, it is the shoulder mount with camera and lens mounted that my father used for his photography. My father made the shoulder mount from a piece of beech wood to be able to support his camera during the wildlife photography he enjoyed. He got this gear together around 1959 or 1960.


The cable release was integrated with the pistol grip of the mount for ease of use and the combination with the Pentacon-F camera and the Tamron 400mm f/6.9 lens he used was well balanced and easy to use.

IMGP5965IMGP5985For years he would disappear all Saturday afternoon after work and get back to disappear again into the darkroom. At the time, the fastest film around was ISO 400 film. Imagine using a manual camera with an external light meter, manually focussing on the ground glass and a 400mm lens at f/6.9. No surprise that he used to push the film as fast as he could and solely rely on his experience to guess the exposure and correct for any underexposure during development.
Yet the results are not overly grainy and well exposed, see here for an example.


While back home, my father gave me his Pentacon-F, the camera with which I used to shoot my first photos before I bought my PENTAX-ME.


Made in Dresden, Germany, by VEB Zeiss-Ikon between 1956-1961, it is a completely manual camera with exposure times between 1/1000 and 1 second, and a bulb setting. The lens is a 50mm f/3.5 Meyer-Optik Primotar E.

IMGP5975 IMGP5980 IMGP5990

I’ll clean it a bit and then shoot a film to see if it hasn’t developed any light-leaks or other problems. It will be good to go back to shooting completely manually.

Eightfold Path: Right Mindfulness

In my series about the Eightfold Path and Photography, Right Mindfulness, being part of the Concentration division of the Eightfold Path, refers to remaining focussed at all time.

Fuji Neopan Acros 100 at EI 100, developed in HC-110 dilution E for 7 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds.

But Right Mindfulness, to me, is to be always aware of photography, how the things around you would translate into a photo, translate into a better photo than the one you took of the same subject last time. It isn’t about being jealous of the locations I never get to travel to, it is about what I can make of the locations I can visit.

On the drive into work I have lovely views and I drive past quite a few gnarly old pollards, it is a pleasurable commute. I have stopped along the way, taken time and shot some decent photos. As I drive there everyday, I do visualize taking shots of the ever changing landscape, visualizing different angles and exposure settings, but that isn’t all, I think I am still missing the point: like Michael Kenna, I must focus on simplifying the composition, removing clutter until I get to the truth of the subject.

Eightfold Path: Right Effort

In my series about the Eightfold Path and Photography, Right Effort, being part of the Concentration division of the Eightfold Path, refers to the constant effort of abandoning ill habits that we have picked up or are tempted by and to the strive of developing new and better habits.

Foma Fomapan 100 at EI 100, developed in APH 09 dilution 1:167 for 2 hours

But then we all know that the ill habits we’re talking about are typically contradictions of each other: For instance: on the one hand we should not hesitate and miss the crucial shot, on the other hand patience is a great virtue for a photographer to have. In my experience, constantly taking shots to avoid missing the crucial one is a guaranteed way to come back with nothing at all, so that isn’t an option for me (any more.) Every photo shoot that isn’t in the controlled environment of a studio is going to be different and unique, and experience will no doubt help, but will only take us this far and not further. To me, Right Effort is the realization of this and without relying on shortcuts which will lead to repetition of previous work, we constantly need to improve ourselves to grow.

Travel, techniques and background information