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You know how it is – a full moon on the horizon looks huge, but it shrinks as it rises. It’s inconsistent too: it keeps changing shape and it moves around the sky. So how do you get those Hernandez shots with a perfect moon in the perfect place?

Cheat, obviously.

With Photoshop or Gimp it’s easy enough to combine a moon shot with a foreground, but you can do the same thing with film too.

I got the idea years ago; from someone else, obviously. I was reading something from a photographer whose name I am afraid I have forgotten. He was off on honeymoon and planned to shoot landscapes to cover some of his costs. To make them special he shot one roll of film with full moons to double expose them later. But let’s get to the method…

The idea is to mark and load a roll of film in such a way that you can line it up to shoot the frames again as double exposures.

The first thing to do is to mark the inside of your camera. Load a film, keep the back open and make sure the film is lying flat and tight and the camera is fully wound on. Mark the film with a pen to match the camera marking. Close the camera, wind on two frames and start work.

Back 1

Back 2

Next, you need a moon and a notebook. The idea is to take a full roll of shots, placing the moon in different parts of the frame and at different sizes and noting these plus the frame number.

How do you expose the moon? Easy – it’s in bright sunlight so you could Sunny 16 it on a clear night, although to be more accurate you need to give it an extra stop of exposure using the perfectly named Loony 11 rule. How do you find when the moon is full or crescent? An ephemeris.

Carefully rewind the film, keeping the tail out of the cassette. When you want to use it, reload and line it up with the marks again. Fetch your notebook and look at your notes. Use a polariser, filter or time of day to render the sky dark, or at least darker. Expose and shoot for the foreground.

With luck and a fair wind, you will get big moons in your skies.

Moonrise over her hairbrush

Playing with the focal length of the lenses you use for the moon pictures and for the overlay changes the relative sizes and can give you the big moons you wanted. It can also look totally false or you can mess it up completely, but that’s how we learn, right?

Moon Rhine

Have fun.


Favourite camera or lens

Pick your top three lenses. What’s your favourite camera? If you could only shoot one type of film, what would it be?

Those are difficult questions, not because I have so many to choose from but because I don’t think I have favourites. Well, with film I probably do. Not with lenses or cameras though.

But if I don’t have a favourite, does this mean I lack discrimination? I don’t know. I can tell my lenses apart and I can pick one lens out of several that are similar to get an effect I want. But I’m not sure that I favour one lens or camera over another.

I’m very lucky – like a lot of photographers I have several cameras and lenses. This means I can use either what takes my fancy or what gets the job done. But I don’t find myself always using the same camera or lens. I don’t automatically pick up a certain camera or lens, so I guess I really can’t have favourite. I’ll spend a period using one camera and then probably put it away and use something else for a while. Unless I’m after a specific result, in which case I’ll use the combination that delivers it. For example – I wanted a mild telephoto lens with a wide aperture on digital to shoot something indoors that I could not get close to. So I used a 50mm f1.7 on an APS-C camera. Neither lens nor camera became a favourite and I’m not sure I have used them together since.

Actually, I think that having a variety of kit means I don’t need to have a favourite. Part of the joy for me in having options is that I can play with them. I do have kit I like because it’s a bit special, and by that I mean that it’s fun to use or does something unusual or in some cases has sentimental value. This would be the place I should provide a list of the things I claim are not my favourites so that I can show-off my wonderful toys. Instead, I’ll just say that I’ve got some stuff I like for a mixture of practical and sentimental reasons. If you have read any previous posts, you will have seen the results from some of these or read my reasons for liking them. One that I haven’t written about is a Pentax 15mm lens. This thing is awesome but a bit specialised. I may write about it but it’s hardly something that you can pick up in a charity shop. As for the rest of the kit, the whole point of it is whether it can produce the result I want. In this context I think that favourite means ‘does what I want it to’. So I have definitely had kit that was the opposite of favourite. There was the Nikonos that I just couldn’t love; I’ve got a little Fuji splashproof camera that has bad shutter lag and takes so long to start that the moment has usually passed; I’ve got a couple of zoom lenses that add little to a camera than poor handling and greater weight. The only one of these I have done anything about is the Nikonos as it was the only one with a resale value (if you don’t love something, let it go). Basically, cameras and lenses have to be good enough and reliable enough to do the job – the rest is marketing.

For this you need a camera that can be operated with one hand.

So, of all the rest of my huge investment in kit, is any of them my favourite? No – I like using them. Would I replace them if one of them broke? Probably not. The various lenses have their own special thing and I’m keeping them because if I sold one of them and changed my mind, I probably couldn’t afford to buy them again. Would I take them to my desert island? Nope – I am unsentimental enough to want something sandproof instead.

But that’s just me. Do you have favourites? What makes them so?

The Golden Hammer

It’s actually a Goldammer Goldeck II, but it was advertised on fleabay as a Goldhammer and that is what it has become.

Goldammer was a German manufacturer that produced cameras from the 1920s through to the 1960s. The Goldeck II that I have dates from somewhere around 1958. It has a 75mm f2.9 lens made by Steiner, a German manufacturer of binoculars and camera lenses. The shutter is labelled as a Pronto and provides speeds of B and 1/25 to 1/200. On mine the aperture appears to have one drooping blade, so the central hole is not round. But knowing this, I will just open it up a bit to compensate. Anyway, it might do something interesting to the bokeh.

The camera’s distinguishing feature is the telescopic lens mount. The lens is normally stowed close-in against the body, but this is not the position it shoots from. Give the lens a twist and it extends out on a chromed tube to lock in the shooting position. A nice touch is that the shutter is locked when the lens is in the closed position. Why the tube? Probably because it was cheaper and easier to make than a bellows and collapsing the lens makes it an easier package to carry around.

G closed
Lens stowed. The ribbed bar is the shutter release, which is locked by the fitting on the camera body.

The camera feels an odd mix of good and cheap. The lower ends of where the spools are held in the camera hinge out for loading. Nice feature. The camera body is metal and the top plate is a smooth pressing with a satin finish. The lens pulls out and locks on its tube. Fiddly but nice. The viewfinder is small. The strap lugs are bits of thin sheet metal. The sliding cover for the frame-counter window is thin and barely works. But for 99p and delivery, it beats a Holga.

The main win is the lens. Maximum aperture of f2.9 and it focuses down to 3.5 feet (imperial measurement despite being German). Stick a little rangefinder in the cold shoe and we have a working package.

Gold open

If you want your photography to slow you down, this is the boy for you. Extend and lock the lens; measure and set the exposure; measure and set the distance; cock the shutter; oh, where did my subject go? There is no interlock on the shutter, so you can do multiple exposures at will. And you will unless you get into the good habit of winding on after every shot. Another thing that beats a Holga is that it winds-on nice tight rolls of film – none of the light-leaking fat rolls you get with the plastic fantastic (or indeed with my Ensign). Perhaps unusually it pulls the film from right to left, so the wind-on knob is the one on the left. The knob on the right does rotate, but only to record the speed of the loaded film as a reminder.

The viewfinder is small, as I said. Due to the size of my nose it’s actually easier to shoot the camera as though it was in portrait orientation: on its side. When you take a shot you can see the shutter cocking lever spring back at the bottom edge of the viewfinder. At least you know you took one – the release is quite firm and takes more pressure than you might expect for a leaf shutter.

So I took my new precious out for a walk, and as you do with a strange new camera I loaded it with a strange new film – Ilford Ortho-plus.

Goldeck,  Ortho 80

So it really can be focused and it can throw a good background. The ortho film also darkens male skin tones for that rugged look.

Incidentally, this is what ortho film does relative to normal full-colour:

Ortho comparison

It is effectively blind to red and renders blues very pale. Tomatoes go black.

Ortho 80, Goldeck

As you can see, the Goldeck can be focused like a ‘real’ camera with the aid of a clip-on rangefinder. The lens opens wide enough to do soft backgrounds as well and allows the use of a slow film like Ortho 80.

Goldeck, Ortho 80

So colour me happy. I think I have found my Holga substitute.

A cheap digital light meter

I’ve been playing around trying to repair a lovely old Weston light meter (of which more anon). I also have a variety of other old light meters, all of which read slightly differently. I do have one meter that I bought new, but it’s getting to be as old as its owner. So which one is to be the reference standard against which I can test and adjust the rest?

The simple answer would be to buy a new meter. But that’s expensive and, well, easy.

Then I had a stroke of clever. Commercial illumination meters are much cheaper than photographic light meters, but they read in Lux. A quick search online found that there is a Lux to EV conversion (Lux is two to the power of EV times 2.5 – don’t panic: clever people have done the sums already). So I splashed out on a Chinese-made luxmeter for under a tenner delivered.

Amazingly, the intercontinental postal system is up and running again. What I got was a chunky gadget about the size of a TV remote.


The meter can read from 0.1 to 200,000 Lux, which is about -4 to 16 EV. That’s a useful range. My little book of notes tells me that -4 is ‘night away from city lights or subject lit by half-moon’ and 16 is ‘subject in bright daylight on sand or snow’. EV 15 is where the sunny 16 rule applies. So basically this meter could cover everything I am likely to encounter.

My next job then was to build a Lux to EV converter. Now Lux is a logarithmic or exponential scale. We should all be familiar with exponential curves by now but what it means is that while EV 1 is only 5 Lux, EV 13 is 10,240 Lux. The meter handles this fine by switching scales but I was going to need to build a little conversion table on a card. My ideal would be a circular table like you get on an old light meter so that you can dial-up the reading and the ISO and see all the exposure combinations. The straight table to convert Lux to EV at 100 ISO is easy, as is the table that gives the options at different ISO – see lower below. The circular calculator took longer. I had to work out how many layers of disk I needed and what was on each layer. One of the scales also had to progress around the disk in the opposite direction to the others.

Earlier versions

After a few attempts I got it right. I took a reading with the luxmeter and converted it to a shutter speed and aperture. I took a reading with my best meter, the Sekonic, at the same place and ISO. And they matched. Result! My Sonic meter is accurate, I have a tool to test the others with and I have a new digital light meter. Go me!


I will get hold of some plastic sheet and see if I can make a better version of my wheel calculator. In the meantime it’s actually easier to print a small card with the Lux to EV conversion on one side and some common starter values for each EV and ISO on the other.


The advantage of using a card is that you can also add a rangefinder to it.


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