Brushes, Paints and Oils

A word about brushes

I lack the necessary self discipline to pay enough attention to exact framing when using an eye level camera. Perhaps the eye level part means that subconsciously I’m viewing the scene as I normally do, taking in more than the narrow angle of view that the lens will record; perhaps it’s the inability to see all the frame edges without moving the camera. Some camera actually don’t let you see the frame edges without physically changing your eye position. Certainly, the Olympus E3 digital camera didn’t let me see all four edges without moving my position, making it practically impossible to do so without using a tripod. My OM4 on the other hand has no such problem.

For those reasons, I prefer to either use a camera with a waist level viewfinder (Mamiya RZ67, Mamiya C330f, Bronica ETRS) or a view camera. View cameras are usually large format, and are basically a front standard with a lens attached by bellows (to make a light tight box) to a rear standard which has a ground glass for focusing and viewing (hence the name view camera) which can be swapped for a film holder to make the exposure.

I have view cameras in all three common sizes, 5×4, 5×7 and 10×8. The numbers refer to the size of the negative in inches; rather larger than the 1×1.5 inches of 35mm. This also results in higher technical quality (better gradation, more detail) as well as requiring longer focal length lenses. This in turn means reduced depth of field. The photograph of Loch Insch Watersports illustrates this. Although I stopped down to f/16, the background is not in focus (this was deliberate, by the way).

Film choice

For reasons I give elsewhere, I really prefer black and white to colour for expressive work. Having started using 35mm, and unlike many photographers hating visible grain (I don’t see grain when looking at a scene, so why should I want to record it? – Don’t answer, I know that there are reasons why it might be a good idea), I naturally gravitated to using slow films. In 35mm I used to use Ilford Pan F in preference to anything else. In roll film, I use FP4 Plus as well, and in large format where Pan F isn’t available, FP4 Plus is my normal film


I process my own films using Rodinal as my developer of choice. Many years ago when I started developing my own films, I standardised on Unitol for no better reason than that Amateur Photographer magazine used that developer for processing the negatives from their lens tests. I found the simplicity of a one shot developer better than worrying about how much film had been processed, and extending developing times to suit. Alas, Unitol was discontinued, and I needed a replacement. My requirements were a liquid one shot developer with known formula, so that if discontinued I could make my own. Rodinal fits the bill. It isn’t fine grain, and I would hesitate to use it for 35mm, but with roll film and above, there is no problem.

I use an acetic acid stop bath, simply because lemons go moldy and pickled onions don’t – or putting it another way, odourless stop baths are based on citric acid, and I have seen mold form on my Nova print processor, whose tanks can be left filled between printing sessions. I’ve never seen acetic acid stop baths do this. I admit I don’t like the smell of vinegar, but I put up with it.

Large format film, like smaller formats, can be developed in daylight using a daylight developing tank. Once loaded in complete darkness, processing can continue in daylight. Special sheet film developing tanks are made, and there are also inserts to enable to use of tanks suitable for roll film as well.

Camera choice

Although I prefer to use 5×7 or 10×8, I fully realise that there are times and subjects for which these are not the most appropriate tool – a camera is just a tool to record my vision after all. Depending on the circumstances, I may use a roll film camera (I have all the normal roll film formats available, from the smallest 6×4.6cm up to 6×9). I don’t use 35mm any more; should the need arise, I use a Sony a7rii digital camera.