The Meadow

Autumn wears her golden gown,

Gentle showers fall from ashen skies,

The crystal droplets tumble down,

To hide the tears a maiden cries…

Through tangle wood and into meadow,

She washes soft feet in gentle stream,

The flowing waters are cool and shallow,

And gently soothes eVes fair queen.

She tiptoes softly through greenest grass,

As the high clouds part revealing blue.

To this meadow she comes to recall the past,

Of those summer days that she once knew…

Lost now though to savage time,

Her heart is torn by cherished memory,

Escape from this torment she cannot find

Her one wish, one desire – to sleep through the centuries…

Never waking to feel her deepest pain,

To sleep so safe, so soft and serene,

To never face this cruel world again,

To hide forever in the realm of dream,

Where she could live out a life in constant regression,

In those saccharine days of lost yesteryear.

This idea of escape has become her obsession,

An escape to world without pain, without fear…

But she knows this is fantasy and can never be more,

There’s no escape to a place where she cannot cry,

For those days a locked behind times great door,

So what can she do but let her loving heart die?

Not just her heart but her fair body too;

A release from this world to join her dead love…

And here in this meadow she resolves what to do,

a fate perhaps written in the stars far above…

Her body starts to tremble as her souls gripped with fear,

Fear of the unknown, of what lies beyond,

A world that would soon become crystal clear,

As she joins with the one of whom she’s most fond…

For these precious moments are to be our Queens last,

As she drinks the sweet nectar from the deadly black rose,

In moments her mortal frame will be cast,

For this was the fate our fair maiden chose…

In the deep Darkan Forest beyond the Great River,

In meadow now covered by crisp golden leaves,

Falls a single small snowflake and the promise of winter,

And here lies the body of fairest Queen eVe…


Busy Boy

Not posted for a while – I’ve been busy with holidays, working on Photoghost and have been cursed with a shitty internet connection. Have plenty of stuff to post about though – experimenting with a home made emulsion, lots of news about Photoghost, some old music/sound projects I dug up circa 2003 and a fair bit of writing.

Internet is fixed and I’m almost finished on the-mother-of-all spreadsheets so I’ll post soon. Promise.

Homemade Photographic Emulsion DNBP

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2-(2,4-dinitrobenzyl)pyridine. The name just trips off the tongue eh? But that’s the name of a chemical I’ve been playing with to make a photographic emulsion.
2-(2,4-dinitrobenzyl)pyridine (which I will now refer to as DNBP) is sensitive to the upper end of the visable spectrum (i.e. violet) as well as ultraviolet. When exposed to these wavelengths the compound turns from a very pale (almost white) yellow to a vivid blue and remains this way for several hours before reverting back to it’s original form. This means that one negative can be reused as many times as you like – all you need to do is capture the image formed digitally before it disappears.
I made my negative by mixing DNBP (I’ll post a method for making DNBP later) with acrylic gel medium then spreading it onto a piece of card around 6×9 cm. This was then loaded into my Moskva II medium format camera. Since it’s only sensitive to the blue and UV end of the spectrum and normal glass lets little UV through exposure times were quite lengthy – on a sunny day around 45 minutes. After some experimenting I’ve found that silhouettes work best (see the last image of the tree) I’m going to try setting up some still life shots with objects that have a distinctive outline. It’ll be a while before I post about it again though – at the moment I only have one Neg which means one shot per day and getting the exposure right can be tricky. I will give me time to write out the method for those of you who are interested in preparing DNBP though (knowledge of chemistry and kit essential)

DIY Photography Continued – The EH1 Prototype (Part 1)

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After my last post I decided that I’m going to build a large format camera and also hopefully cook up some plates to put inside it. With that in mind I thought it would be best to try building a small scale prototype. Mechanically this prototype will probably be drastically different from the final design but no doubt some of the ideas will make it through to the end. Also once the prototype is finished I’ll then make another more refined small scale version. I’ll call this the EH1 and the large format version the EH2.

This morning I went out and bough myself a pack of four mini canvas and a hack saw. I figured that the canvas frames would be perfect for the building the camera, focus screen and film magazine/dark slide.

I removed the canvas and hacked one of the frames up to build two smaller frames for running along the guide rail (the guide rail was a long piece of metal from inside a door handle.). These were then attached to the larger frames. Initially I used super glue but they were’t very secure so I added some tape as well. To be honest I rushed the building of the guide frames and these bits are a bit ugly and aren’t very exact but they get the job done. Besides it’s a prototype. Not going for perfection – just something functional and so far they seem to be working just fine.

For a lens I’m using a Nikon EL 75mm f4. It’s nice and small and fits really snugly inside the frame. Around the lens is some blue cardboard from the cover of a notebook (the circular hole cut perfectly by Lexii Kutarnia ;))

I haven’t figured how to make dark slide yet but I have (sort of) built a focusing screen using some plastic recovered from inside an old projector T.V. and it works a treat. Can focus from around 30cm to infinity. with a longer guide rail I could bring that closest focusing distance down further. At the moment I haven’t made the bellows to connect the front and the rear frames so I’ve been using weird some ribbed cardboard to cut down the light.

So that’s it for now. Still have a fair bit of work to do – namely bellows and a dark slide (or in other words the hard bits) Will post when they are done and then I’ll begin work on a more refined and proper version.

DIY Photography

paper neg

I’ve had the idea of building my own camera brewing for quite a while now. I’ve been collecting various bits and bobs whilst thinking “this could be useful for building a camera!” but in my head I don’t yet have a clear idea of what I want to make. There’s a lot of options – will it be a pinhole or uses lenses? Will it take film, plates or photopaper? What format will it shoot?

I’ve pretty much decided that it will take a lens(es) of some kind. I’m also leaning towards a bigger format – medium or large. Using lenses presents a dilemma though – focus. Unless I just set the lens to infinity and be done with it I’ll need a way of focusing the thing either by having a lens with a focusing mechanism or by building a bellows type system found on large format cameras. The bellows system has the most appeal because not only would it allow me to focus but would also give me the ability to tilt and shift. I’d also need a way of seeing if it’s in focus – probably using a focusing screen of some kind. Luckily I recovered a plastic screen from inside an old projector T.V. which is absolutely perfect for this. This will require me building dark slides to hold my negs in though and a means of attaching them to the camera.

Taking this idea one step further I’d also like to make my own emulsion and developer. I’ve got a few potential ideas for this. The first is a tried and tested silver based emulsion which seems easy enough to make. There’s also a few different developers that can be cooked up at home with relative ease such as H&W Control and ID-68.

The second idea is a little more ambitious and might not work at all. It involves a chemical called 2-(2,4-dinitrobenzyl)pyridine. This reacts and turns blue under UV light and in theory could be used to make ultraviolet photographs. The best part is that it requires no developer and can be reused. The colour change is stable for several hours before degrading back to it’s normal form. I could scan the images before they disappear then reload the plate back into the camera. That’s the theory anyway… There’s a few problems that crop up though – first I’d need to disperse the crystals in some kind of substrate. Gelatin or something equally unreactive would be the obvious choice. Secondly I don’t know if the crystals will be able to display a range of tones. The only way I’ll know is by trying it out. Thirdly the crystals mostly react to ultraviolet and most lenses only let a very small amount of that through. Normally quartz lenses are best for UV photography but they are both rare and expensive. I do know however that the crystal react to purple light so theoretically the near UV end of the spectrum which should be passed by the lens should be enough.

Assuming making my own emulsion doesn’t work I’ll fall back on the idea of using photographic paper. The sensitivity is extremely low though so exposure times will be lengthy especially if I make a large format camera which will require very small apertures for and image requiring a large depth of field. Hoh-hum, lots to think about…

Review – Samyang AE 14mm 2.8 – First Impressions

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Construction: 12 groups / 14 elements
Field of view: 114 deg. (88 deg. for APS-C)
Aperture: f/2.8
Min. focusing dist.: 0.28 m
Filter size: NO FILTERS FOR YOU!!! 😀
Dimensions (length x diameter): 92.0 mm × 86.0 mm
Weight: 550 grams

I recently came into the possession of the Samyang AE 14mm – the second iteration of Samyangs ultra wide effort. The original version of this lens was a quite frankly a genius move by Samyang – not only as a quality optic but as a piece of quality marketing by the then little known Korean optics company known best for their work on CCTV systems.
Whilst this wasn’t their first SLR lens what the 14mm did was get peoples attention – here was a full frame, fast aperture, ultra wide lens which was a far cheaper alternative to the high priced first party offerings. The 14mm showed that they were capable of some truly daring designs. If this had been a 50mm or some sort of standard zoom I doubt many would have taken notice. But going for a market previously dominated by high priced and complex Canon L’s and Nikkors was both bold and brilliant. This was certainly what drew my attention to Samyang and now I own three of their lenses and I’m very happy with the performance from each of them.

I must confess to being something of an ultra wide fan – back in the days when I was using my D200 I used the sigma 10-20 more than any other lens. When I made the jump to full frame the sigma became a lot more niche due to it’s smaller image circle and resulting vignette and fisheye effects.

I longed for Nikon’s legendary 14-24 but never got round to getting it – other things seemed more pressing and the high price of the Nikkor meant that I just kept putting it off. When I first heard about the Samyang I was understandably intrigued but it wasn’t until recently than I actually got round to getting hold of one. The version I have is actually the newer AE version of the lens – it allows for communication between the camera body and the lens. This allows you to control the aperture via the body, ensures accurate metering (even when using flash) and records all the relevant EXIF data along with the photograph.

The first thing you notice about this lens is its bulbous front element. It’s comically huge – sticking out from a relatively thin barrel. A built in petal hood surrounds it to protect it from stray light and resulting flares. This unfortunately means that you can’t attach filters directly to the lens but I hear Samyang intend to release a filter holder later in the year. You can always try a DIY solution although you’ll need very large filters for this lens due to it’s very wide angle of view.

The barrel itself is largely dominated by the focusing ring (like all Samyang lenses this one is manual focus only). Like the 35mm and 85mm offerings from Samyang the 14mm has a really nicely dampened focus. Out of the three lenses I think the 14mm feels the best – a little bit slacker than the 85mm but with slightly more resistance than the 35mm. To me it feels like focusing a mars bar – thick but smooth – a real pleasure. Behind the focusing ring sits the aperture ring making this lens compatible with old manual film cameras as well. The aperture range is 2.8 to 22 with the ring moving in 1/2 stops.

So how does it perform? Well I don’t really go for pixel peeping and long, protracted analysis of MTF’s. Those kind of discussions are available elsewhere. My review of this product will be ongoing and I’ll no doubt add posts going into more detail about specific characteristics of this lens. For now let me say that I have a new favourite lens. The performance is far greater than I was expecting. Centre sharpness is ridiculous – I was blown away by the amount of fine detail recorded here. The edge of the frame isn’t quite as good but that’s to be expected. It is however well above average for a lens of this type. It seems to perform higher than the legendary 14-24 I longed for for so long (this is backed up by other tests and reviews I’ve seen online) Simply put Samyang have produced a fantastically sharp lens that easily competes with the high priced first party offering

The new coatings and redesigned hood found on this version of the lens seem to be doing their job well – I’ve been purposely trying to get the lens to flare but so far I’ve only seen tiny hints of it (unlike my old sigma 10-20 “flared like a bitch”) This is apparently a huge step up from the original version of the lens.

As for distortion… well this is an odd one. Lines are rendered very straight (noticeably better than the 10-20) however the lens does exhibit a complex moustache type distortion. Most of the time it’s easy to overlook however whilst photographing down by the beach I really noticed it in shots of the sea as the water curved up and down in a very unnatural manner. Samyang have however provided a lens correction profiles (currently in Nikon and Canon flavours) for use with photoshop which will deal with this distortion quickly and effectively with just a few clicks. I’ll add the links to these profiles down below.

Ultra Wide Macro?

For a bit of fun I decided to try some macro. As well as being a lover of ultra wide I’m also a bit of a macro whore and was interested to see the crazy perspective such a wide angle lens could give at close range.  I also enjoy pushing bits of kit to do things they weren’t designed for just to see what happens. Unfortunately due to it’s short focal length extension tubes won’t work with the 14mm – they are too long and end up shifting the focusing distance behind the front element. Instead I tried free lensing – this involves holding the lens away from the body and is normally used to provide cheap and cheerful tilt-shift effects however it’ll also provide macro as well. by holding the lens a very short distance from the body (being careful to block as much light as possible from creeping through the gap) I was able to focus on objects literally touching the front element. The results were unusual but very pleasant  – the increased bokeh, aberrations and distortions combined with the unusual perspective gave the images a dream like quality. I’m looking forward to experimenting with this some more.

So that’s my first impressions. I’ll write a follow up once I’ve had more time to play with it. For now I’ll just conclude by saying that this is a bargain – excellent optical quality, great build quality and and more than excellent price. Samyang have produced a real gem with this one and if you don’t mind a manual focus only lens then I can’t recommend it enough.

Lens correction profile download (Nikon)

Lens correction profile download (Canon)

It Was Lemon Jelly!

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Mystery solved – it wasn’t an aquarium, weird helmet, glass filled with rocks or crystals… no, it was in actually fact lemon jelly in a wine glass. Ta-daa! Lighting was done with a small (and crappy) desk lamp and a blue strip light. Closer up shots of the jelly were done with a nikon 50mm 1.8 and some extension tubes.