Rollei Blackbird Film

This is a mini test of  Rollei Blackbird film following a short post on this film back in October which seemed to get some interest.


Rollei Blackbird is a really unusual film and produces unique results. However if it’s underexposed it will be a disaster – there will be no shadow detail at all, so it’s always best to expose for the shadows and let the highlights sort themselves out.  What makes it special is it’s treatment of shadows – if correctly exposed and developed it cuts to a deep black at just the right point in the midtones giving a dark, moody image.


A side effect of exposing for the shadows is that the highlights often wash out. Not that good if it’s sky, but for other subjects the results can be interesting.


It’s a very fine grained, sharp film and can be rated at 25 or 100 ISO. Its even more contrasty at 25 ISO so 100 ISO is the most flexible rating. The development times are 10 minutes for 100 ISO or 6 minutes for 25 ISO in D76/ID11 stock at 20 degrees C with no prewash. It makes and a fine mess of the stock developer but I’ve reused the same stuff 5 or 6 times without any problems. If you need to tame the contrast a little, cut the development time by 10% and only agitate the tank every 1.5 minutes.

I’ve used in 35mm format, and the Big Dev Chart lists D76/ID11 and Rollei RHS High Speed development times only, so no Rodinal unfortunately – unless you’re feeling experimental! It should be loaded in subdued light which hasn’t been a problem even on bright days.


This beach at Plement Bay in Jersey has some deep shadows cast by the surrounding cliffs and rocks – good for contrasting with the sunlight on the sand and water, all enhanced by Blackbird.


Can’t have a post without some peeling paint!


Finally a repost of this shot from the first post back in October – it’s worth re-showing as for me it’s the definitive ‘Rollei Blackbird’ shot.


All pics shot on an Olympus OM1N or OM2N with 28mm, 50mm or 85mm lens scanned on a Plustek 7500.

So definitely a film worth trying – or even getting hooked on as I have! In the UK it’s about £4.50 per roll if bought as a twin pack so around the same price as PAN F or Tri X.

Thanks for looking and hope you like them.

Shooting Railings

You know you’ve been a book cover photographer for too long when you can’t walk past a set of old railings without wanting to take a few shots. The stark lines standing out against a moody sky or a clear background are an opportunity to create strong images.

So first – shot on film on an Olympus SLR and probably with the Zuiko 50mm F1.4, toned with a light orange filter in Photoshop. The out of focus background lifts the shot nicely.


Can’t remember anything about this one so it’s probably digital on the 60D but the symmetry is good.


This one is on a Fuju 810 converted to infra red. These gates are quite delicate and were once very ornate with vine leaves and fruit growing out from the now heavily distorted spiral shapes.


Onto something very modern and nowhere near as pretty Stark security on an industrial estate, layered and tweaked in DXO filmpack.


OK – it’s a picket fence not railings – but I thought I’d try and get away with it! High contrast suited this nicely with the detail receding into the distance. Canon 60D.


This one is definitely the 60D plus a Sweet 35 Lensbaby from a low angle using the flip screen. The bright halo around the bokeh highlights is typical of this lens at wide apertures.


Fuji F810 again with the curves of the railings complementing the curves of the celtic cross.


60D + Lensbaby glass lens. The hand like leaves in the top right were a nice – if lucky – break for this one! Lightly toned and layered.


As always these shots are taken for the book cover market, and all comments, critiques and questions are welcome.

Thanks for looking – hope you like them and they give you some creative ideas for your photography.

Shooting Vintage Clothing (with Emily) Part 2

On to part two and this time in colour! In brief – same background story as part one – vintage clothing from Mary’s shop.

Starting with a Lensbaby portrait of Emily in a white fake fur wrap. The soft blurriness of the lens seems to suit the hair and white wrap and I really can’t decide if it’s better in black and white or colour!

Drifting quickly back into classic ‘book cover’ territory here – people holding stuff like books, postcards etc.

Emily with the stone staircase as a background. Does this count as a portrait?

More book cover stuff – hands held whilst sitting down on the steps.

And one from the same series – the shoes resting by Emily’s side make this one for me.

Now a ‘prim and proper’ abstract – reminds me of ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ for some reason.

Finally Emily writing in a notebook in a 1930’s jacket and dress, though I’m bit miffed the notebook isn’t more obviously in focus.

As always these are taken for the book cover market, and all comments, critiques and questions are welcome.

All images have a signed model release, and Emily is happy for them to appear on the blog.

The other vintage clothing posts are here (with Emily part 1)here (with Amber) and here (with Mary) if you’d like to see the others.

If you’re interested in any more of Mary’s vintage clothing, the link to her Facebook page is here.

Hope you like them and they give you some creative ideas for your photography.

Shooting Funfairs

I was never really interested in funfairs or carnivals until I read ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes‘ by Ray Bradbury – which made all the difference. Now they seemed a bit more dark, mysterious and intriguing rather than just a noisy place to eat burgers, chips and candy floss.

Anyway, on with the pics – a shot of  the artwork on a modern ride with split frame to show the grass underneath and not make it a ‘straight shot’ of the artwork. Rollei Blackbird film in an Olympus OM1.

Another bit of artwork from one of the ‘horror’ type rides, rendered nicely dark by Rollei Blackbird again.

More funfair artwork but less horror this time! This is an odd composition, and I’m not sure if I like it or not. Agfa APX100 film for this one.

This was an empty children’s ride – only a small child could get into these seats, they’re that small. I must have been in a ‘leave the bottom half of the frame empty’ mood judging by this and the first one. Good ‘copy space’ is always an excuse if you’re a book cover photographer! APX100 film again.

More Rollei Blackbird and a narrow depth of field of this empty ride. without the blue tone it doesn’t work s well for some reason.

A subject I’m always trying to get that ‘killer shot’ of horse carousels. They’re fickle subjects though – you think you’ve got the shot on the day but they’re never as good in Photoshop. There is something scary about those horse faces. APX100 again.

Finally – a digital one. Close up of some traditional funfair decoration – though not very mysterious!

For ‘film people’ interested in such things, the Rollei Blackbird shots were developed in ID11 stock, the APX100 in Rodinal 1+50.

As always these are taken for the book cover market, and all comments, critiques and questions are welcome.

More Shooting with a Lensbaby

There seems to be a bit of interest in the results you can get using a Lensbaby, so maybe a few more shots would be OK. The first post introducing how to use a Lensbaby is here.

BTW – I have no links with the Lensbaby company – I just like using them.

Plastic Lens plus some gentle layers

I remember starting with the Lensbaby Muse and getting a bit frustrated with it, as it’s got to be bent and held in position which is tricky if you’re using the LCD to focus (not enough fingers!). It’s tough on the hand tendons too in cold weather as the flexible plastic lens mount gets difficult to move. The Composer though was much better as it stays in place and is easy to focus on the LCD like a conventional lens.

So here are some shots to show results from the Sweet 35 as well as the 50mm glass and plastic lenses, and a variety of post-processing treatments to go with them (most of them need some post processing).

First then, high contrast monochrome. This could be done in camera or even better in Photoshop. The first is with the Sweet 35, the second the 50mm single glass lens. The glass lenses are quite sharp in places, and high contrast emphasises this.

Secondly, the lovely soft plastic lens. This can produce results which sometimes look as if they’re paintings (only almost!).

Plastic lens, blue filter and monochrome ‘in camera’. Olympus 620.

Plastic Lens and ‘in camera’ monochrome and blue filter. Olympus 620.

Plastic lens, wide aperture and a layer or two.

Plastic lens plus a very light layer.

Finally some vintage style processing – layered to look like old prints. A simple sepia tone doesn’t give the same  ‘depth’ as a layer. The first shot is using a glass lens, the other two are taken on the Sweet 35.

Glass Lens and a Canon 60D

Sweet 35 and a Canon 60D

Glass lens and an Olympus 620

As always these are taken for the book cover market, and all comments, critiques and questions are welcome.

Hope you like them and they give you some creative ideas for your photography.

Shooting Vintage Clothing (with Amber)

This is the second post about some photo shoots done using vintage clothing supplied by a shop run by my friend Mary. The first post is here if you like this one!

This set was taken of model Amber wearing a very glam embroidered satin number (I’ll ask Mary for a technical description), so we were going initially for a ‘grand entrance’ vintage type look. The fake fur stole adds to the luxury look.

These next 3 are typical ‘book cover’ type shots – people in vintage clothes holding things like books, keys etc. These props were all bought for this purpose from Ebay or junk shops, and we formed a sort of mini ‘production line’ with a pile of stuff going left to right whilst being photographed. Not very creative and a bit mechanical but it produces some results. All on the Canon 60D or an EPL3 with a lensbaby and all lightly layered and toned.

The next 3 are of Amber wearing a 1960’s number (please correct me if this is wrong Mary!) along with 2 unusual handbags chosen from Mary’s stock.

This next one was a bit hit and miss on the exposure (as Lensbaby shots often are) – the highlights of the white handbag were only rescued in RAW processing.

Finally one more with the Lensbaby – Amber holding some flowers.

As always these are taken for the book cover market, and all comments, critiques and questions are welcome.

All images have a signed model release, and Amber is happy for them to appear on the blog.

If you’re interested in any more of Mary’s vintage clothing, the link to her Facebook page is here.

Hope you like them and they give you some creative ideas for your photography.

Shooting Gothic

As a kid I probably watched too many Hammer ‘horror’ films. These were made in Britain in the 1950s to the 1970s and were very tame, even comical by today’s standards – so tame they were often shown on Sunday afternoons. I don’t remember being scared at all, but the graphic style kept me watching.

Shot in a park one winter morning – I didn’t even see the figure by the gate when taking it.

At least that’s one explanation for my liking of a visual style which could loosely be described as Gothic (in the sense  ‘Of or relating to a style of fiction that emphasizes the grotesque, mysterious, and desolate‘). It fits well into commercial work for fiction book covers, and if you’re not careful becomes something of an occupational hazard.

Can’t resist a shot of a gothic door arch.

Lensbaby – plastic lens and lots of vague blurriness as a result.

The best part of doing shots like this is that you can let rip with all sorts of vignettes, brushes, layers and wierd post processing and not be too worried about subtlety – it’s supposed to look like that!

Speaks for itself really. The birds were added afterwards in Photoshop using a brush – the one and only time I’ve done this – honest!

Locations can be anywhere where there’s what my nieces would call ‘old stuff’.  Monuments, churches, parks, the old parts of towns and older buildings.

Basement door with possibly too many layers…

As for kit, don’t worry too much as these shots will be heavily processed. If you have one, try the Lensbaby with a wide aperture (no surprise there) or failing that a fast lens shooting as wide open as you can – if needs be use a neutral density filter. The more vague, blurry tones the better as they seem to work well with Photoshop layers. Don’t be afraid of messing about with your DSLR’s ‘in camera’ processing either – this may be the only time you’ll use it productively.

The blur down each side of this is caused by the ‘Miniature Effect’ in camera raw processing on the 60D not being used as designed.

If you like the ‘look’, give it a try and experiment with as many different post processing techniques as you can. There are articles about Photoshop layers, brushes etc all over the web if you want to play.

Above all have fun, and don’t take it too seriously!

Sorry – it’s another door!

As always (broken record) these are taken for the book covers market and all comments, critiques are very welcome. Hope you like them.

There’s a slightly older article here in the same style here Shooting Gargoyles if you’d like to see more.

Shooting Vintage Clothing (with Mary)

A friend runs a vintage clothing shop in Dorchester (Dorset UK), and I suggested to her that we should do a few shoots of the clothes for her publicity purposes and for Arcangel Images (my agency).

Mary agreed, so here are some of the shots which resulted – all with Mary modelling. I’d hoped to use film on the first set of shots, but the light was so poor I ended up at ISO 2000 on the 60D, and didn’t have film above ISO 100 in the bag.

We’d asked Mary to find a black cape and some red shoes for these shots – this isn’t easy as Mary has hundreds if not thousands of pieces of clothing in stock.

They were planned as a blurry, slow shutter speed set of  ‘running’ shots, but as always, the planned shots weren’t the best ones of the session. This one conveys movement even without a very slow shutter speed, and the dark upper frame and lighter lower frame seem to work. Lensbaby, out of focus (but it doesn’t seem to matter) on an Olympus ELP3.

Just a bit of movement blur here – enough to avoid a ‘static’ look.

Back to the 60D and more or less what I’d hoped for. As it turns out the cape and red of the shoes overwhelm the slight movement anyway. The swirl of red on Mary’s leg is the lining of the cape – sheer luck!

A parting shot (no pun intended) from this short session – Mary’s hand on the end of the staircase. Taken as an afterthought, I think this one is the best of them all. EPL3 + lensbaby. I’d like to thank Mary for her patience, having run up and down these stairs too many times….

This second batch are few from a larger set taken on a different day in winter. We were all a bit too cold to be taking pictures to be honest so I was glad to get just a few.

Shoes and Skirt

Taken with the 60D and the flip out screen at ground level, vignette and washed out colour in Photoshop.

Gloves and Dress

An embroidered dress and kid gloves – given a cold blue tint and vignette to go with my memory of a cold day.

I’ll post a few more from shoots of Mary’s clothes in a subsequent post as we’ve done a few this year.

As always these are taken for the book cover market, and all comments, critiques and questions are welcome.

All images have a signed model release, and Mary is happy for them to appear on the blog.

If you’re interested in any more of Mary’s vintage clothing, the link to her Facebook page is here.

Hope you like them and they give you some creative ideas for your photography.

Shooting In Abandoned Buildings

Having done several semi-techie posts about lenses and DSLRs it’s back to photographic subjects which is what this should be all about.

There’s something irresistible about photographing abandoned places. Old factories, redundant military sites and old houses are hard to find but are worth photographing if you do.

Tunnel Window

Some of them are distinctly eerie and potentially dangerous, so don’t go alone and be careful. I wouldn’t suggest trespassing as it’s not really worth the hassle – however asking permission often works, and there are quite a few places which are just conserved monuments. One of the best loctions is the Channel Islands in the UK, which is packed with bunkers and fortifications open to the public.

So, all shots with the Canon 60D and either a 15-85mm lens or the Lensbaby Composer (it should be obvious which one!).

 The first 3 here were taken in some conserved military tunnels. If we do this location again I’ll remember a torch! The light around the tunnel junction in no 3 was just about right. No special processing other than the ‘clear’ profile in Canon’s raw converter in shot #1.

This next set was taken in a remote, abandoned nissen hut (a standard WW2 military building in the UK) which was slowly crumbling away, and quite an evocative place.

This was taken with the Lensbaby and plastic lens giving an odd, almost romantic look to such a bleak subject.

Another of my ‘I don’t know why I like this’ pictures – a decayed light switch.

This is the Lensbaby with a glass lens. The sharpness of the window in the door and the patch of light at the lower right seem to make this one work for me.

This was quite eerie – a set of keys on a nail which must have been undisturbed for decades.

Just a broken window abstract with the lensbaby again and the colours played around with in Photoshop.

Finally a shot down through the doors of the hut, with some nice greens and browns and some layering to add to the aged effect.

As always, these shots were taken with the book covers market in mind.

Hope you like them and that they give you some ideas for your own photography – any comments, critiques or questions welcome as always.

Shooting Gargoyles

This is an odd title for a post I’ll admit. Let me explain.

Funfair Gargoyle + Lensbaby

In need of a photographic theme to run alongside general stock photography, a friend suggested that church gargoyles would be a good subject. As Dorset is packed full of medieval churches, it went into the ‘work in progress’ pile to be added to every time I drove past some likely looking subject.

Continue reading

Shooting in Autumn Fog

Some days, photography is hard work. On others, the light and weather are truly magical and images present themselves so frequently you can hardly keep up.

One day last year I was lucky to have a free day when really heavy fog covered Dorset and Wiltshire. Photographs of foggy scenes sometimes seem a bit disappointing – there’s never as much fog in the shot as you saw (or at least percieved there to be) and the results aren’t quite what you wanted. However this day was very foggy, lit by some weak sunshine which made all the difference as it filtered through the gloom and gave an eerie diffuse light.

Heading (slowly) up onto the downland with a Canon 60D and the 15-85mm standard zoom, opportunities were everywhere. These are some of the best ones divided into two post processing categories. All shot in raw (as always) and converted with Canon software.

Continue reading

An Hour with a Venetian Mask

Some subjects are just mesmerizing – and Venetian Masks are one of them.

I found one which we bought on honeymoon (several years ago), and ‘put it to one side’ for a wet Sunday afternoon.

Venetian 1

The agency I shoot for always like stuff on the ‘dark side’ of things (they do a lot of crime novel covers), so I tried a few different angles, being especially attracted to light coming in from behind the mask through the eyes. Maybe it was near Halloween….

Continue reading

Lensbaby Zoneplate vs Pinhole

One Lensbaby lens I haven’t used much is the pinhole, so I thought I’d give it another try for this short post (inspired by

This comes with the Zoneplate on the same attachment, but at f177 the pinhole is probably the ultimate ‘slow’ lens.

Zoneplate Doing it’s Stuff

Since it’s sunny today in Dorset I thought I’d do a comparison of the two. All shots on a Canon 60D, shot in raw with centre weighted metering, and for the comparison, converted to JPEG, auto levels and colour then resized.

Continue reading

Buying Props for Stock Photos

Second hand/charity shops are a great place to pick up unusual props for stock photography (Ebay isn’t too bad either). Being unable to resist such odd or unusual things, here’s a short post about some shots made from such unlikely pieces of junk. Just don’t spend too much – as with all stock photography, it might never sell.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found this – a dried scorpion in a case. I think the charity shop were quite glad to get rid of it.

Continue reading

A Rainy Day Out with the Olympus OM1n

This post is about gaining inspiration on a wet, dark day. Sometimes simplicity is in itself inspirational, so leave the digital monster and zoom lens at home (it’s raining and it’s probably best not to get it wet) and just take out the most basic equipment and try to get some good shots.

In this case a 30 year old OM1n and a 50mm f1.8 lens, plus 2 rolls of film – Agfaphoto APX100 which is a great all purpose B/W film. As it turned out I only needed the 1 roll.  All  shots developed in Rodinal.

For those not familiar with old Olympus cameras, an OM1n is a small, all mechanical manual camera with just the basic controls –  shutter speed, aperture and focus. There’s the built in luxury of a needle exposure meter too powered by a battery, but if the power fails you can carry on shooting anyway, guessing the exposure.

Wet Day Shot 1

Continue reading