After a break of a couple of years I decided to get back into analogue photography last autumn.

I was going on a trip to Belarus and wanted some instant photos to stick into my journal so picked up a second-hand Fuji instant camera and a couple of packs of instant film. I liked the results but not the price of the film. So, I went back online and got a Canon Ixus APS camera and some old film. The photos were amazing so I sold on the Fuji and kept the Canon.

I gave away my Praktika TL1000 a few years ago but had a hankering to go back to the pre-digital SLR age. A Pentax SFXn came my way for a few pounds so I stocked up with batteries and old Fomapan B & W film. I have since added a no brand plastic camera and several throwaway cameras to the analogue armoury. Each camera and each film is unique so I get some interesting results.

The downside of the analogue resurgence is the cost of developing film. It is a trek to find the developing shop which can do my APS and the B & W has to be sent away. The solution is the Caffenol Developing Process.

As is the way of things, all three sets of digital scales in my cupboard are malfunctioning and the thermometer cracked when placed in water.  I consulted the web and found a process using spoons on Look up “recipes.”

Two stage developer

  • 240ml Water, 7 rounded Teaspoons of Instant Coffee (I used M&S)
  • 100ml Water, 4 Teaspoons of Washing Soda (I used DP washing soda)
  • 2 Teaspoons of Vitamin C (got the powder off the internet)

Equipment needed:

  • A dark room changing bag
  • A developing tank with spiral wheel
  • A pair of scissors
  • A can opener
  • A couple of spoons
  • A couple of jugs or bottles
  • A timer
  • Squeegee
  • A used film


First, put everything you need into the changing bag and close it up. Put your arms through the holes and spend some time fiddling about trying to get the cap off the film.. When you have done that get the film out. Snip off the shaped end bit which feeds into the camera spool. Attach newly shorn end into the niches on the reel. Spool entire film on. Snip off end bit attached to the cannister spool. All film should be nicely attached. If not, then the developing mix cannot really get to all parts and not all the film is developed. Place the reel onto the centre column and lock into developing tank with funnel lid firmly placed.

Put the Coffee mix into the developing tank, agitate once per second for the first minute. Leave it for another 2 minutes, agitate for 10 seconds every minute.

Pour out 100ml of Water and add the Washing Soda mix.

Agitate once per second for the first minute. Agitate for 10 seconds every minute for 9 minutes. Stand development for another 4 minutes.

Now wash out thoroughly several times. This gets rid of the coffee stuff.

When that is done you need to fix the image onto the film. You can use a salt solution or chemical fixer. Agitate several times and then pour out. Wash the film in water.

Unpack the film and get all the water off with a squeegee. Hang the film up to dry before scanning or printing.

Full information on the process is also to be found on:

I had a bash and the results were better than the first time…..

I failed to get the film onto the reel properly because I forgot to stick the scissors in the bag! And I could probably have done with timing the process better.

Here are my results:



In Search of Virginia Woolf

Inspired by “Legacy: Photographs by Vanessa Bell and Patti Smith” at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in February, and embarrassed by not getting to the end of any of Woolf’s books or even the wonderful biography by Hermione Lee, I persuaded a friend to come with me to Rodmell for a day out.


Rodmell was the get-away-cottage that Leonard and Virginia Woolf purchased in 1919 and to which they moved on a permanent basis during the war. It is where Virginia wrote, and reworked, many of her famous novels. It is also, of course, where she died.

Having seen Patti Smith’s photographs I was keen to see the bed Virginia slept in and her walking stick. Delightfully, I got to see both. In those days, of course, people sleeping alone would have slept in a single bed but it was still a surprise looking at the room with 21st century eyes. The bookcases are all original though  most of the original books owned by Virginia were sold long before the house became a museum/shrine. All that remains are the collected works of Shakespeare which Virginia had covered herself shortly before her death. 

Virginias bed

I think that it is still possible to get a sense of the woman and writer even after so many decades and changes to the house. The handpainted fireplace, for instance, gives a wonderful sense of the artistic life which surrounded VW. Her sister, Vanessa, was an important artist of the early 20th century.

The bedroom has terrific views from two large windows of the garden, the church and the countryside. It must have been inspiring to work there. It was a tranquil place and the Woolf’s spent a great deal of time in arranging it. It was here in the garden that they entertained their many visitors.


Within view of the house is the writing hut where VW repaired to do her daily stint of writing. VW had a view of the garden but not so much of it as to provide a great distraction from her work. 


The house itself is a collection of cottages knocked together to form one large building. The house, when bought by the Woolf’s, consisted of an entrance, a sitting room, a dining room and a tiny kitchen downstairs. By all accounts it was a mean kitchen and the Woolf’s had a newer extension built to accommodate some modern accessories. The upstairs had one large and two small bedrooms. The toilet was outside. I assume that after VM’s death, Leonard made some improvements. 


The house and remaining possessions provide a connection with the two writers but do not necessarily give much of an insight into how they lived and wrote. My friend thought she could feel something of VW’s spirit in the writing hut, though. I understand more of how VW wrote thanks a video I saw a few nights ago with Elaine Showalter, who talked about VW’s style of writing and how she put her novels together. The villagers I met who had known VW mentioned how she used to walk around mouthing lines from her books as she tried them out. I can imagine it was easier to get away with that in the countryside that in central London. 

I am not sure that I understand Virginia Woolf’s writing any better than I did (despite having written and read endless commentaries on her novels during my MA) but I have been inspired to pick up Hermione Lee’s biography again and find VW’s works on my Kindle. What can a writer learn from visiting this remote location? Possibly that what a woman writer needs is not just a room of her own but also sustaining relationships to help her realise her potentials. 

Adventures with


Fractured door

As I have reported in recent blog posts I have slowly been returning to my roots in photography having rediscovered analogue photography. This week’s interest has been on trying to make my photos pop out and has lead to some interesting online adventures.

While reminding myself of how to turn ordinary flat photos into eye-catching HDR photos I came across reference to I was messing about with the programme this morning trying to turn the image below into a really standout image but what I actually created was the image above.


A nice door

The fractured image at the top of the page is actually the main image with the number 46 from the original door. I improved the colour using “autocolour” and then tried to improve on that with “hue and saturation.” I was still not getting the results I was looking for so I explored the effects. I hit the “fracture” command and the result above is what I got. It is not the intended result but rather nice nonetheless.

I think I should go back to my old Photoshop version 6 to continue with this experiment.

Analogue film experiments

I am sad to say that my first experiment in film developing did not work at all. When I took the film out of my canister there was nothing on it so I did a Google search for an explanation. It appears that some light must have got into the film. I am undaunted and want to teach this stage to some students I am teaching so I have splashed out on some new equipment.

Despite film developing being something of a niche interest these days there is still plenty of competition for any products which turn up on eBay. Having been outbid a few times I eventually got my hands on:

  • a black changing bag (essential for making sure no light gets onto the undeveloped film)
  • a Paterson film tank
  • a squeegee for getting the water off the film
  • a bag of washing soda (from a small independent shop)
  • a packet of vitamin C powder
  • some coffee
  • an old fashioned bottle opener
  • a pair of scissors
  • a thermometer
  • washing up liquid
  • Clothes pin or binder clips
  • a packet of Adofix P
  • a couple of measuring jugs

I also got a Paterson darkroom light by accident which will come in handy should I ever print out the images.


The developing kit

The theory goes like this:

  1. First shoot a roll of b & w film.
  2. Get together the ingredients and equipment.
  3. Put the film, scissors, bottle opener, reel and developing tank into the changing bag.
  4. Get the film out of the cannister using the changing bag and an old style bottle opener.
  5. Still in the bag, snip the end of the film and wind onto the reel which comes with the developing tank.
  6. Now pop the film into the tank and snap on the lid. The film should be safe now.
  7. Make up six ounces of coffee at 20°C.
  8. Add half a teaspoon of vitamin C powder. Stir.
  9. In another cup mix six ounces of water with three and a half teaspoons of washing soda. Stir.
  10. Mix the coffee mix and the washing soda mix together and heat up to 20°c again.
  11. Mix up the fixer according to the packet instructions.
  12. Add the developer to the tank and put the lid on. It needs to sit in there for around nine minutes. Agitate for a minute to make sure that all the film is coated and then agitate three times every minute.
  13. Pour out the developer. Keep the film in the tank and wash it through three or four times.
  14. Pour in the fixer. It needs to in there for five minutes. Again agitate three times eac minute.
  15. Pour out the fixer. It can be reused a few times so store it in labelled container.
  16. Now wash the film again maybe three times. For the fourth wash add a spot of washing liquid to ensure the film dries spot free.
  17. Hang up and let to dry.
  18. The film can now be scanned or printed.

I am hoping to try this out when I get to the end of my current film.

Curiously Analogue, Part Two

Developing films at home

Film photography is back!

Kodak have even announced that they are going to restart producing some of their old films again and are looking at new films they could produce.This is good news for analogue photographers like myself.

When the Impossible Project began in 2008 by rescuing the last remaining Polaroid film factory and equipment it ensured that instant film photography would continue. Indeed, it has even gained a new life in the form of refurbished old Polaroid cameras, the Fuji Instax camera range and the Lomography instant camera range. There is still nothing like the excitement of watching a photograph develop before your eyes and the new interest in instant photography has made it possible for new generations to experience that excitement.

I have had an interest in film photography since I was a teenager and lived for many years in the company of an Olympus Trip and a Praktica TL1000. For a long time my film cameras lived side by side with a Nikon wide angle digital camera and a Sony DSLR. Eventually though finding films and then getting them developed in the UK proved to be too difficult. I sold on my analogue cameras and moved into purely digital photography.

Then, a few years ago, I came across a Lomography Sampler at the Science Museum and had a great time taking multishot images. I passed on the Lomo about the same time as I acquired a box of old 35mm film cameras from a charity shop. I created a mini museum in my flat to film photography but had to sell them all when I moved into a houseshare. It was a sad moment.

Now, life has settled down a little bit and I have more time (and money) to indulge in photography. A few months ago I purchased an old Fuji Instax 10 0n eBay and had a great time taking instant photos. The quality was none too brilliant as the camera was very basic but I had fun for a while. I sold it on a few weeks ago with the intention of buying a newer model but then …

I rediscovered 35mm film at the Photographer’s Gallery in London. Boom! I went online and acquired a Canon Ixus (which takes weird compact films) and a Pentax SLR. Old style 35mm film is not particularly expensive thanks to the Lomography company from Vienna and Foma in the Czech Republic. The cost of development is pretty hard on the pocket though. I took a film from my Ixus to be developed and got a bill for £11.99. That hurt and I realised that if I was to continue experimenting with analogue film I would need to learn how to develop my own films.

This is where I am now at.

There is a lot of interest on old style photography and film developing at the moment so I was outbid on eBay quite a few times before securing a Paterson developing tank. The tank is now sitting on the dining table ready to be used. The tanks is what films are developed in. It consists of a black plastic tank, two reels onto which you wind the film, a stirrer, a funnel and a lid to prevent the liquids seeping out. The hard bit about the developing process seems to be winding the film onto a spool in the dark.

The plan is to have a go at home developing using common household products such as instant coffee, vitamin C powder, washing soda, white vinegar and salt water. The process is called Caffenol and there is a wonderful YouTube video on it: Caffenol Photo Processing. This is also a good film on the process: HD Caffenol Processing. A group in Leicester had a go a year ago: Leicester Photography Walk with happy results.

I can’t wait to get going.





Photoshop Sketch Action

A new addition to my Photoshop armoury, is the Uniqum Sketch Painting Multi Action. This action creates a sketch and painting effect over which ever parts of your photo you highlight and makes some interesting pictures. The cost is $6 and is available from  as a download zip file.

Inside the zip file are the actions and the brushes. It is necessary to install both in the preset files in Photoshop before you begin.

Once loaded up you need to select a picture to work on. The action works best at over 3000 px and 300 dph. Once selected, create a locked background. Then, add a layer which you call “profaction.” With this layer active, select a large soft brush and brush over the areas of the photo you want to show up as a sketch. You can do this with any colour brush.

That done, you need to make sure the correct brushes are loaded. To do, right click on the canvas or press B to bring up brushes. At the top right of the brushes panel, click on the arrow and then select “replace brushes” with the Uniqum brushes you put into the preset file. Close and activate the background layer. Now you start the action for your version of Photoshop and let it go.

Once, I got started I found the action worked well. My advice is to take the time to do something else like make a cup of coffee or sort out your laundry as watching the action is pretty boring.

Here’s what I have made on practice runs:


Dancing House, Prague


Old workshops, Cieszyn, Poland

With my new actions, and renewed interest in Lomography, my interest in photography has been rekindled.I am going to try it out on some more photographs.



Rediscovering Patti Smith

I was a teenager in the 1970s. It was the era of Bruce Springsteen singing Because the Night, Patti Smith’s Horses and Easter, Joan Baez in Hanoi, Annie Leibovitz, Susan Sontag, Fran Lebowitz, The Ecologist and CND. We studied Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes during the A level course. I read Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar, her poetry collection Ariel  and  Patti Smith’s poetry book Babel. I was a thinker, writer, philosopher and would-be photographer. Then, I went to university where it was all about history and religion.

The music, the poetry, the novel, the photography all stayed with me and followed me across Europe. They are part of who I am. Part of how I see the world. Part of the way I think.

Last year, I read an article about Patti Smith and a review of her book M Train. I pre-ordered it on Amazon and was excited when it came. I have so far only read the first chapter waiting, I think, for the moment when she will speak to me. As I am going through a retro phase, I purchased a personal CD player an d updated my CD collection. I now have CD versions of the albums I listed to as a teenager. And more. Patti Smith still speaks to me near 40 years down the line.

For me, though, Patti Smith is as much about her Polaroid photos as about music,writing and poetry. Patti Smith is an observer, a collector of memories and an archivist. She has photographed Sylvia Plath’s grave, architecture, an empty beach or an abandoned street, an empty café, shoes, flowers, chairs and cutlery. Whenever, I see her photos I am inspired. Whenever I hear her music, I am inspired. Patti Smith is food for the soul.

This is an archived page of some of her photographs in The Guardian. This is a link to her Guardian interview. This is Patti Smith on Land Photographs. Patti Smith on Open Culture.