At sixes and sevens

A New Year’s Day walk with a ridiculously big film camera.

Kodak Portra 400 120 film that had been kept in the worst place possible for two and a half years… in the kitchen cupboard above the cooker. Oops. Varying temperatures ahoy! I think it survived rather marvellously.



Film developing and medium resolution scans by the fabulous Ag Photographic. Posted off on a Saturday evening and returned to me on the Wednesday.

It’s the first time in many years that I’ve ordered prints along with the developing and scans. They look gorgeous and it was such a joy to see new photos for the first time in that more tangible way again.

It’s all about the chemistry

I have a few friends who are very passionate about photography and like to play with it as much as I do. I think getting together with like minded people is one of the best ways of learning and I always find that we can inspire each other to try things in a slightly different way than we might normally think to alone. I’m very lucky to have a good friend who likes using film as much as I do and we spent some time recently shooting loads of film and developing loads of film.

Developing film is so exciting. Unlike developing my pinhole negatives which can be done under a red light because I use photographic paper (and therefore can be watched closely as images appear in the developer), film has to do its work alone in the dark. Well, of course, you do also have to help it along and make your hands work alone in the dark too…! Seeing the strips of film as they hang to dry is just a wonderful thing and often really surprising. Particularly so with the 6×7 negatives which are so large they make for beautiful objects of themselves. Portraits and landscapes alike just look a dream with this wonderful beast of a camera.

Home scans aren’t always perfect, due to some types of film lying rather flatter in the negative holders for the scanner than others, but I’m extremely pleased with how these have turned out nonetheless. I’m very new to developing film myself and I got a slight light leak in one roll during the process but hey ho, that’s how you learn not to make the same mistakes again of course. Some have a particularly gorgeous tone due to scanning them in colour rather than monochrome. Here are some of my favourites from the 6×7.


I also had a little cross processing fun with some 35mm. I had some C41 black and white film which really requires different processing to a standard black and white film, but I developed it as a regular black and white film anyway just to see what would happen. Some of them were totally bonkers, but I rather like them.

Time it was and what a time it was, it was…

I spent an evening rediscovering some old digital scans of negatives I think I might have lost. They are photographs from a road trip I took with my best friend in 2008 across the Pacific northwest (America and briefly Canada). I was a little concerned I had lost the digital files too when the CD wouldn’t work via my laptop but then I popped it into another computer and they pinged into life. I hadn’t seen these photos in years. It was a real delight. The scans are a really nice quality too. Here are some of my favourites. The whole kaboodle are over on flickr.

Caveat emptor: part the second

My 35mm KM next to The Beast just for some scale.

My 35mm KM next to The Beast just for some scale.

After having confirmation that I would be sent a TTL viewfinder to go with my new massive 6×7 film camera, I impatiently waited for it to arrive. I kept nervously tracking its progress via the shipping company and got a bit excited as I saw it had made its way into the country. And then something strange happened.

I checked in one morning and saw that the status was now set as “delivered” but I had not received it. I could view the signature of the recipient online and of course, it wasn’t mine. I could see that it had been delivered to someone in Cornwall. Quite a way away from my little flat in SE London.

I emailed the seller again and asked if they had given me the wrong tracking number for the parcel. They simply replied that the parcel had been delivered. Well yes, that wasn’t under dispute… I then got in touch with the delivery company. Asking how I could find out why my parcel had been delivered to someone else. They told me that the person who had signed for the item was the same person that the item was addressed to. The recipient had also paid import duty on the item for the delivery. I became convinced that I had simply been given the wrong tracking number by the ebay seller.

I was quite surprised when Parcel Force didn’t just leave it at that. They called me to say they would investigate what had happened and enquire with the person who had received the delivery. I asked the seller again to check the delivery information and they told me to wait for them to investigate as well. So I sat back and waited to see what would happen next.

I went away for the weekend and tried not to think about the little mystery of the TTL for the time being, partially resigning myself to the idea that I had jinxed the whole thing by writing a blog post about it prematurely.

But then I came back from my weekend and found a letter on my doorstep. It was from the man who had received my TTL. He explained that the seller had simply got us both muddled up. He buys a lot of camera equipment on ebay and so he just paid for the import duty out of force of habit, although he couldn’t remember buying a TTL viewfinder. He assumed he must have bought it after a few too many glasses of wine until the point at which Parcel Force got hold of him to ask if he’d received something he hadn’t been expecting.

We exchanged a few emails and he turned out to be a kind and friendly chap who even gave me some pointers about the TTL. We had both recently purchased Pentax 6x7s and oddly enough he also recently acquired a Pentax K-3 – the new digital camera I’m now using too. I paid him back for the import tax and the ebay seller paid him back for posting the TTL on to me.

I picked up my TTL from the Post Office today. I fitted it onto the camera and now all I need is to feed it some film and The Beast is ready to test drive. I probably won’t exhale fully until I see the first pictures… Very excited to see what this monster can do.

That handle is very necessary and that strap needs to be a lot fatter and preferably padded.

That handle is going to be very necessary and that strap probably needs to be a lot fatter and preferably padded in order to not snap my neck like a Twiglet.

Caveat emptor

The past few weeks I’ve been taking a crash course in how to scare yourself rotten over in ebay land.

I have not really crossed paths with ebay much other than selling a sofa a couple of years’ back.

A few weeks’ ago I decided to make an investment of sorts. In a camera. Not just any old camera but a big, shiny, beast that is “built like a tank”. I have had my heart set on a Pentax 6×7 since Christmas, when I borrowed a 645 from a friend and saw the results. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted it. I became a bit obsessed and very quickly I didn’t just want it, I needed it. There was little rhyme and reason to it. Sure, I rationalised to myself that it was a solid investment. That this would make me happy and make gorgeous photographs that upped my game and I wanted to reward myself for 20 years of hard labour in shooting 35mm film. But really… I just wanted it. I mean, it is an insanely beautiful creation. Google it: you’ll see.

Now here’s a strange thing to confess. Considering my love and passion for photography, it’s bonkers, but I have never bought a camera, or any lenses myself. [Other than my pinhole camera, Button, which I built myself.] All of my cameras and lenses have been gifts. So, let’s recap: I don’t really know ebay, and I’ve never bought a camera… all the ingredients ripe for a let down! 😀

So, I won an auction on the second one that I took part in. I bid on an item from Japan. It looked immaculate. It was a Pentax 6×7 that had a mirror lock up function, a TTL viewfinder, and looked absolutely beautiful in the pictures. I calculated my import duty and decided I had enough from my late Grannie’s inheritance left (Thank you, Chloe!) to purchase this beauty if I won it. And win it I did. I was ecstatic. I paid around £500 all in. I figured this was a paltry amount for the beauty and joy that this item would give me. It arrived and I was HAPPY. It looked like a DREAM.

But then…

The item arrived and looked gorgeous, but I looked at the manual online and realised two things. 1) There was no mirror lock up function and 2) there was no TTL viewfinder. Just a basic viewfinder with no light meter.

My quandary was this: I had a beautiful piece of equipment, but without a light meter I couldn’t use it, and without a mirror lock up I probably would not have bought it in the first place. But this is a crafty exchange. I had paid import tax. And this does not come cheaply. I paid £105+ on import tax. This would not be returned to me should I send the camera back.

I am a nervous person. I am shy. And I was out of my depth. I had received a stunning item, but one that did not meet the description. If I sent it back I would have nothing at a cost of more than one hundred pounds plus postage back to Japan. Excuse my French but FUCK. Not worth sending it back, considering I spent all of my money on it, and considering it was not usable until I had a light meter.


I sent an email. I initially told the seller I was incredibly disappointed. The item was not as described and I had spent more money than I would have on an item I didn’t want because I couldn’t use it as it was sold to me. I’d need to buy a light meter. A costly endeavour. I gave them three options:

1. I return the item at ALL costs to myself repaid.

2. They send me a TTL viewfinder plus some money refunded

3. They refund me money for the false advertising – I suggested £200.

They replied that I should send the item back. At a cost of over £105 to myself? I looked again at my goods. So pretty. 😦

I said I was not happy to return it, and if I did, that they would have to consider that they would be the ones out of pocket as it would cost them import tax on return. They surprised me and suddenly offered me a TTL I had suggested as part refund. Now, I still felt undersold. There was still of course no mirror lock up. But hey, I had a beautiful viewfinder with the camera that they had NOT asked me to send back. If I then want to purchase a hand held light meter I am in business(!), or, I could sell the viewfinder I have for a return. DONE.

I am now awaiting my TTL viewfinder… I have received pictures and it looks amazing. When it arrives I may be the happiest lady alive.

Knowing what I know now, I know not to be celebrating just yet. But I think, just maybe, I have entered the world of the living. Investment and risk is something I have never explored before. And the next time I do, I’ll do my research a little better beforehand, and not go crazy on a whim. Great experience though.

As “they” say, you can’t take “it” (money) with you. I know they are right. I will check back in when I receive my TTL viewfinder. If I don’t, I’ve learnt a big lesson.

Happy ebaying one and all. Please use my lesson wisely and *always* ask a seller to confirm what is included if you are spending all that you have on an item. Especially so if you suspect they do not speak English as a first language but they are advertising in English.

I’m sure I’ll love my 6×7. Check in for further adventures…