What’s in the bag?
When I was a young art student, my photography lecturer handed me a Yashica Rangefinder, a roll of HP4 (it was 1974) and told me to go out and take some pictures. It was my first time with 35mm, up to that time I had made some pictures on my parent’s Coronet that took 120 roll film (I still have that) and my Kodak Instamatic that took 126 cartridges. I remember that I quite enjoyed the process of photographing but the bug truly bit when I got back to the darkroom and experienced the thrill of seeing the image slowly emerge in the developing tray.
As a commercial photographer and throughout my art practice I have worked with most film and digital formats. At one time I bought a 1930’s banquet camera that produced 20″x8″ negatives with the idea of making platinum prints. Commercially, back in the day, it was all about quality, portability and budget with compromises being made according to need. On studio room sets it was 10×8, buildings on 5×4, portraits on 120 (6×6, 6×7 or 6×9) and for fast moving action, 35mm. I’ve always enjoyed the freedom of working with a 35mm camera though.
Equally, I worked with lots of different 35mm systems, the key ones for me were Nikon, Leica and Olympus. Nikon and Leica were seen as the main pro camera manufacturers, Nikon particularly was easy to get hire lenses for. My favourite system, that I have gone back to time and time again though is Olympus OM.
In the early days OM1s, through the nineties, OM2s and into the early years of this century it was OM4Tis that I owned and used. When I started wearing varifocal spectacles I decided to go back to the OM2n bodies. The extra large viewfinder means my eye can be a spectacle lens thickness away and I can still see everything in the viewfinder.
That’s pretty much it now then.
I don’t always go out with all of that in my bag, it all depends upon what I’m going to do. My last article was about using one camera and one lens, I do that often and I’ll not have a bag with me at all. In the picture (which was made on my phone) I have my Billingham bag, I bought that in 1990, bit scruffy but it still works. In which I can fit two OM2n bodies, the lenses, filters and 10 rolls of film.
From left to right, the first body is fitted with my 85mm f2, the lens in the middle is a 24mm f2.8, the next body is fitted with a 35mm f2.8 and the lenses on the far right are my 35mm f2 and my 100mm f2.8. I like to use a yellow filter for most of my pictures, it costs me some speed but darkens a blue sky and gives me the contrast that is so present in my pictures. The orange and red filters are just more extreme versions. The 35mm f2 is a fabulous, fast lens, great for low light but it is older than the f2.8 and takes a larger filter thread, my filters are all 49mm. I rarely use the 100mm but it gives me a little more compression when I need it. Same, in reverse, for the 24mm. As I post pictures on here or on my Instagram feed you’ll see the majority are made with one or other of the 35mms or the 85mm.
As for film, I’m very fond of Kentmere 400 and when I can get away with less speed Kosmo Mono Foto 100.
More next week.