Making time for it

There was a time I used to take pictures every day. Now I seem to have more days than pictures. Life somehow gets in the way.

I commute to work. At this time of year it’s dark both ways, so I only get to see daylight at weekends. But there’s stuff to do and the days are short. We do get out, but often it’s walking the dog and there are only so many pictures I want of our local woods.

So it feels like a dry spell, photographically.

Time was, I’d go around with a huge bag of lenses. Primes of course, as any fule no that zooms are not as sharp. These days I might wander about with a compact camera but a blessedly lighter bag. So as well as taking fewer pictures, I’m carrying less stuff to take pictures with.

Looking at other people’s pictures can be inspiring, but they have to be good. I must confess to being bored by a lot of what I see. I’ve given my opinion on landscapes before but I find myself looking at all sorts of pictures and thinking ‘so what?’ A picture should interest me, not look like a drive-by snapping.

So how to keep my mojo rising despite these riders on the storm?

Part of it is experimentation. There is no pressure on me to deliver any specific result so I can do what I like. On a recent walk I tried moving the camera on a slow shutter speed.

Streaky
Interesting – I might do more with this.

I’ve got a tilting adapter for my Kiev medium format lenses to fit them to my 35mm camera. It’s good fun shifting the plane of focus around. Surprisingly it works with portraits – you can make the sharp zone vertical, shoot the person at an angle and really throw the background out.

Cathedral
Works with buildings too.

Bored with my dark commute, I stuck the camera on the dashboard and fired it with a remote.

Christmas decs for commuters
Don’t try this at home.

I know there are things like photography clubs, but I kind of fell out of love with them. There are photowalks too, but I have other things to do at weekends. … And that’s the root of the problem: I have too many other things to do. I guess photography has remained an important part of my life, but not the most important. It used to be all-consuming, but I calmed down. I used to take a camera for a walk, and now I realise that I go for a walk and take a camera along. The difference is that the point of the walk now is the walk, not going somewhere steep just for the sake of a picture.

Dan
Dan realises that what goes up has to find a way down.

I think it’s just the time of year. By the time you read this I will have spent a week in Staithes, so I fully expect to have taken a picture or two and enjoyed doing so. And I’m taking a selection of awkward and difficult cameras. And then Spring will be here and I’ll get over myself and all will be well with the world again. So there.

litho effect

In the spirit of my 2020 resolutions, this was going to be called sunshine on lith, but I have dropped the pun and used a straight title.

So this is about the Photoshop settings to make lith prints. Or perhaps lithy.

A lith print is defined thus: “warm tones, hard shadows, enhanced grain and creamy highlights are signature characteristics of lith prints”. That’s from Ann Pallesen. Traditionally it would have been an actual print on Litho paper, which is very high contrast. The print was developed by inspection in dilute developer and then pulled and fixed as the image developed and before it turned to pure black and white. Definitely an art. There are enough variables that each print will be unique.

One of the joys I found when I went from a wet darkroom to digital was the ability to make small changes, see what they looked like and reverse or tweak them. And when I had settled on a result I liked, I could make as many finished copies as I wanted. So to make a lith print, what I would need to do is warm the tones with some colour, make the shadows dark, add grain and then a bit of blur on the highlights.

Method 1

Remove colour by desaturating with one or, better, two Hue Saturation adjustment layers. The reason and method for this is here.

Duplicate the background layer and call this new layer Clipped. Create a Levels adjust ment layer linked to it and drag down the white point to block-up the highlights.

Clipped

Add noise to the Clipped layer with a value of around 9%. The menu options are Filter, Noise, Add noise.

Noise

Temporarily make the Clipped layer invisible to work on the background.

Adjust the levels of the background, moving the black point to the right to lift and lighten the shadows.

Shadows

Sepia tint the picture. Add a fill layer at the top of the layer stack using Layer, New Fill Layer, Solid colour. Set the colours to R210 G165 B90. Set the blending mode to Colour.

Make the Clipped layer visible again and use an unsharp mask with values of around 100%, 6 radius and 0 threshold. To do this use the menu options Enhance, Unsharp mask.

GRAIN

Change the blending mode of the Clipped layer to Multiply.

If necessary, add a Brightness/ Contrast adjustment layer at the top of the stack to tweak the image.

Stack

Litho 1

Method 2

Add a Hue Saturation adjustment layer above the background with blending mode Overlay. Set the Hue between 10 and 25.

Create a new fill layer above the Hue Saturation one with RGB values all set to 128 (50% grey), blending mode Overlay.

Add noise to this fill layer with an amount of around 10%.

Add gaussian blur to the fill layer with a radius of around 0.4.

Duplicate the background layer, calling it Mask. Use Filter, Adjustment, Threshold to Select the shadows. Invert the layer with Ctrl i.

Shadow mask

Move the Mask layer up the stack above the fill layer. Group the mask layer with the fill layer (Layer, Group with Previous). Add some gaussian blur to the mask layer to smooth the tones.

Add a layer at the top of the stack to sepia tint the picture. use Layer, New Fill Layer, Solid colour. Set the colours to R210 G165 B90. Set the blending mode to Colour.

Stack 2

Litho 2

This second method might be closer to the litho effect, as the shadows are darker. Anyway – over to you. Have a play and see what you can do.

The Fujicarex II

After saying how much I needed a one-handed camera, I got one. Meet an odd hybrid from 1963: the Fujicarex II.

This is a strange hybrid of SLR and rangefinder that weighs as much as the combined pair and is reputed to have more mirror-slap than a Pentax 67. Think of it as a Single Lens Reflex Rangefinder.

Imagine a design team that started with the desire to combine what they thought were the best features of existing cameras. Through the lens focusing – check. Leaf shutter for easy flash sync – check. Light meter visible in the viewfinder – check. And then it all went wrong. Use your right thumb to control exposure and to focus the lens – check. Add mechanical linkages and drives so that the camera is really heavy – check. Put the film rewind out on the end of the camera, a bit like a Leica – check. Fix the lens to the body so that you can only change focal length by swapping the front group – check. Put a split-image focusing aid in the viewfinder so it still works a bit like a rangefinder camera – check. Build a really complicated shutter mechanism that has to close and open a leaf shutter and a swinging mirror at the same time – check. Weighs nearly a kilo – check.

Fuji 1

The 1960s were the time of the fixed-lens rangefinder or viewfinder camera, typically with a 45mm f2.8 lens. So this Fuji seems to have been an odd progression path, offering the photographer a camera that looked and worked a lot like their trusted scale-focus friend, but had a fast lens and some of the features of an SLR. With the odd selling point of being able to use it one-handed. If you were right handed. At least it left you one hand free to support its weight. Think of it as a mirror-image Exakta.

So, snarking aside, what’s it like to use? Odd.

The metering is displayed in the viewfinder. You set the film speed on the lens and select the shutter speed. The aperture and speed move together to maintain the exposure value, or you can turn the dial on the back of the camera to alter the aperture alone until the meter needle falls into the correct zone. It has a good ISO range of 10 to 1600.

Fuji 3
The red dots align to release the front of the lens. And yes, it could do with a clean.

The aperture in use is visible through a little window on the top of the lens. The distance of focus is visible in feet on one side of the camera and in meters on the other. There is no way of setting the hyperfocal distance – you would need to carry the manual to refer to the depth of field scale. There is a lever on the bottom of the lens that stops-down the aperture so you can judge depth of field.

The meter on this one is dead, but if working it would display in the viewfinder. Besides the over and under markings. there are separate markings for 160 and 32 ISO film, as these settings are not shown on the lens. The manual has instructions on how to meter for ISO 32, 64 and 160.

Fuji 4
The exposure and focus wheels are visible, as is the mirror-come-darkslide, that gets out of the way when the leaf shutter does its job.

The focusing screen is unusual, with a horizontal section that acts as a rangefinder wedge.

Split

The flash shoe is cold, as the trigger contacts are in the leaf shutter lens. Even my 1948-ish Mercury managed to have a hot shoe (and a second cold one).

In use it’s quite slow, as the focusing thumbwheel is harder to use than twisting the lens. You also risk changing the aperture instead of focusing. Basically you are taking this camera away from your eye a lot to check the settings. Fine for posed snapshots but I wouldn’t use this for sports. Not unless I could prefocus. There’s a lot happens when you press the shutter too, so the noise is quite distinctive.

I’m also a bit nervous about using it. There is a lot going on inside the camera and I managed to lock it up by using the self-timer – the clockwork is very stiff and it took some encouragement to run it through and give me the camera back. Speaking of shutters, this doesn’t look like it has a separate leaf shutter and aperture in the lens. Watching it work it looks like the aperture stops down and returns, so there is some clever timing going-on between the lens and the mirror.

Its first outing was a trip to the local woods. The shutter noise is quite loud and the focusing screen is dark. I found myself using the odd central rangefinder section to focus. I also kept moving the exposure dial instead of the focus one, which meant taking the camera away from my eye to tilt it and check the aperture setting.

Fujicarex II

Overall it feels like a complex solution to a problem I’m not sure I had. But the film frames were well exposed and evenly spaced, the lens seems sharp enough and the bokeh is smooth.

Would you want one? Probably only to see how weird it is.

Extra

Just before going to press I learned that Fuji used the same focussing thumbwheel on other camera models.

It’s still an odd idea.