Thursday, December 29, 2011


Yesterday evening, as the light was fading (3.30 pm), I was walking the dog around a field I hadn't visited since the summer. From a distance of over 100 yards I could see vivid splashes of colour in the hedge, and I knew I'd missed an opportunity for a photograph. The colour was the remaining seeds and leaves of the Spindle.

The Spindle's name comes from the fact that its wood, which is very hard, was used to make the spindles of spinning wheels. It's a rare tree and hard to find, as most of the time it grows inconspicuously in hedges. With the coming of autumn however, the fruit and leaves go berserk, setting the hedge on fire with colour. Sadly for me, I was two weeks too late to take a photo of this Spindle at its most colourful, the birds had eaten most of the fruit. But I've already made a note in my 2012 diary to visit it next year. My first resolution of 2012.

Fruit of the Spindle - Photograph by Tim Irving
Fruit of the Spindle - Tim Irving

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays

I wish you all more play, more fun and more laughter for the holidays. Next year will be wonderful, much better than this year. I'll be back in a few days.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's Very Cold Here

Paris on Film - Photograph by Tim Irving
Paris on Film - Tim Irving
The temperature has been freezing here for the past week. Really freezing, with ice on the pavements. So cold in fact I find it difficult to motivate myself to leave the house, so I'm catching up on little tasks I should have completed months ago. Hence the photo above which I'd never seen until this week. It's one of hundreds of negatives and slides I never got around to scanning. Incidentally, the camera I used to take this photo is for sale in my shop.

Tomorrow however, I must go out. London in fact, to see the 2011 Taylor Wessing Portrait prize at the National Portrait Gallery

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rolleiflex Advertising

British Rolleiflex adverts from June 1967. Average annual earnings in Britain for that year was £828. Which makes the nice Rolleiflex Wide Angle just slightly more than 25% of the annual average salary.

Vintage Rollieflex advert. Tim Irving

Vintage Rollieflex advert. Tim Irving

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An elusive look

Rolleiflex New Standard - Photograph by Tim Irving
Rolleiflex New Standard - Tim Irving
Have you noticed that the price and popularity of Rolleiflex twin lens reflex cameras is as buoyant as ever, and quite rightly so. From my earliest memories of peering onto camera shop windows, Rolleiflex have always been expensive cameras. Of course they are beautifully made precision instruments that will usually out live their owners. I've seen some examples that have been used almost constantly for over thirty years by press photographers. The paint chipped by knocks, leather shrunk by sweat and the lens clouded by constant cleaning with the end of a polyester neck tie. Despite the abuse they still wind and fire.

I've used an old standard (that's it above, in my hand and on my tee shirt), for over twenty years and wouldn't be without it. This particular Rolleiflex is nothing special, it's very basic, but the photographs from it do have a unique look, one that I love and I believe that's the reason why these and a few other camera and lens combinations are still sought after, it's a certain look. At exhibitions and in print, this qualitydraws me in and I find it very appealing.

The look is most striking with medium format cameras. Certain lenses on 35mm cameras can be unique, but in my experience I've found a larger negative in itself has a distinct quality, that's the reason Rolleiflex, Hasselblad and even the toy medium formats, Holga and Diana have a loyal following.

You can try and emulate a photographic look with software, in fact that's a current trend with phone camera apps, to create a lo-fi look. But if you compare the digital effort with the original, side by side, you'll generally find you can spot the fake.

This mysterious look I'm talking about is personal, not everyone will appreciate it. It's very subtle and is best judged in the form of a print, but I can still spot it on a screen. In my case I only became aware of the look after many years, it's one of the advantages of using a wide variety of cameras.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Professor Irving Speaks - An introduction to film cameras

I've been playing with this animation software for a few weeks. Because I'm a shy sort of person this could be a wonderful way for me to blog. The inspiration for this little film came last week when I was trying to buy a roll of 120 film. I visited a store that was part of a national chain of camera shops. Of the eight customer advisers, only one had heard of medium format.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hen House

Hen House - Photograph by Tim Irving
Hen House - Tim Irving
It has been incredibly misty around the east of England for the past few days, with the usual consequences, cancelled flights, long delays on the roads etc. The light during a misty morning is absolutely beautiful and transforms the mundane into something special, so I'm scouting for likely subjects during the day and returning to photograph them the next morning. On Friday I returned to my favourite hens in their misty, moody surroundings.

I've mentioned in a pervious post that chickens are difficult creatures to photograph. They are nervous, skittish and quick. They also follow each other around which is very annoying, so an isolated hen is soon joined by others, thus ruining any careful composition. The biggest problem is getting down to their level, which in this weather would involve kneeling in wet grass.

I solved the problem in two simple ways (a pincer movement). I'm sure you can't wait to hear!
  1. I used a camera with a waist level viewfinder, which allowed me to view the hens at their level.
  2. I gained the hens confidence by flicking lentils into the field. 
I would normally have used 400 ASA film for such a dull day, but I couldn't buy any locally. So I used 100 ASA film, 1/30th at f/3.5.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Fuji X10

The Strand - Tim Irving
Walking around the shops yesterday, I was gob smacked to see the new Fuji X10 camera with a price of £499. I know it's nearly Christmas and the camera has just been launched, but £500 for a pocket digital camera with a sensor the size of a postage stamp! I must be losing touch with reality. If you already have one of these cameras, well good luck to you. It will be junk in a couple of years or sooner, because digital cameras nose dive in value after they are launched. I just looked up the Nikon V1, launched in October. This camera has fallen from £879 to £684 in four weeks.

I considered why anyone would buy this camera at this price and failed to come up with a good reason. The Fuji X10 wont improve anyone's photography. How can it, it's just a camera. This camera wont make the owner see more creatively. It wont help anyone to win more competitions. No, this camera (and a lot of others), at this price, doesn't make sense to me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


conkers. Photograph by Tim Irving
Yes conkers! The seeds of the Horse Chestnut tree.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Point of Testing Cameras

Canoes in Cambridge. Photograph by Tim Irving
Test, taken with a FED 3 and Industar 50mm lens - Tim Irving
With Christmas sales approaching, I've been testing and servicing cameras in preparation for a rush (crosses fingers). All the vintage cameras I sell are given a routine inspection. Most pass my tests, but the odd few require a light clean and lubrication of the shutters and focusing mechanisms, I like my cameras to be smooth operators. Viewfinders and mirrors are also cleaned when they are misty and dusty. On cameras from the 70's onwards, I usually replace the foam light seals around the door if they've turned sticky.

When I'm happy that the cameras are working correctly, and if I haven't already tested that model of camera, I go out and test them with film, usually three or four exposures using cassettes I load myself. Medium format cameras have the benefit of twelve test photos which means the film can be in the camera for a few days. Then I develop the film and scan negatives.

Unlike the tests you read in photo magazines or on photo web sites, which are incredibly comprehensive and detailed, running to several pages of data, my tests fulfil one simple purpose, that the camera can make a photograph. However, in conducting my test, I try very hard to make it a pleasing photograph.

The reason I'm telling you this is becasue of the emails I get asking me to take more photos taken with a camera. It's true! I received an email yesterday, the person said they were interested in a particular ($75) camera, but would like to see a few more photos taken with it. I haven't replied yet.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wedding Photography

wedding photography by Tim Irving
Waiting for the bride - Tim Irving
I have to admit I enjoyed the my stint as a wedding photographer recently. It was a great day and everyone had a good time in a beautiful location. I've mentioned before about the days of shooting a wedding, solely with film. Looking back it was difficult with very little room for errors. With the recent wedding I still used a very quiet film camera for some reportage photographs, like the one above. But for the majority of the wedding I used a professional digital camera that gave me the freedom to be creative with the compositions. It was great, I want more.

This leads me to announce that as from today, I'm open for business as a wedding photographer, again. Just dipping my toe in the water for now. I'd like to photograph a dozen or so wedding this year, with the intention of building a good wedding portfolio. I'm going to offer the service around Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Essex. For the first dozen weddings there's a special price of £350 for four hours coverage. There are more details on my web site.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A busy week

portrait of Tommy. Photograph by Tim Irving
Tommy - by Tim Irving

I've had a such a busy week, it's been a blur. I had a couple of trips into London, I tested a few cameras, plus some vintage film which I'll report on when it comes back from the lab. But the highlight must be a brief photo shoot on location. The subject was Tommy, above, and we managed to get a few extraordinary images in just over two hours. An excellent session, well done Tommy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Posing Portraits

Group portrait - Photograh by Tim Irving
Mono Portrait - Tim Irving
Portrait bookings are like London buses, you can wait for ages, then three will turn up at once! And so it seems the portrait season is here and I'm bashing out portraits this week. I've learned to be selective when it comes to portraits, I have to feel that I can direct the session. Also, and this is very un-professional and a little snobbish, I have to like the sitters. If I like the people I'm photographing, and they like me, we can approach the job as a team and the end result will be joyful. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Social Photography - Digital and Film

The Happy Couple wedding photograph by Tim Irving
The Happy Couple - Tim Irving
During the 1970's I used to photograph two or three weddings a week. Using 120 film, each wedding was limited to 36 photographs. There was no room for error and no Photoshop if things went wrong. Over a period of seven years I did so many weddings they became a blur. In fact the only weddings I remember are the ones that were bizarre. And of these my favourite was the solemn occasion in 1973, the year Bruce Lee the kung fu actor, died. I had the priviledge of being the photographer at a wedding where the young groom was not only a Bruce Lee fan, but was grieving for his hero. The hall where the reception was held was draped with kung fu posters, but more touching was the minutes silence to Bruce, after the toasts. I think it's fair to say I over-dosed on weddings.

But last Saturday they wheeled me out of (wedding), retirement. It was my first wedding in over 30 years and I was very nervous. I had the benefit of a digital camera which allowed me the luxury of checking the photographs as I went. I also had a Contax II 35mm camera and a roll of Ilford FP4 black and white film.
Family Portraits with the Contax II - Photography by Tim Irving
Family Portraits with the Contax II - Tim Irving
In the old (36 exposures), days you had to work fast. The bride, the groom and the guests would need to be shepherded to various areas and poses adjusted. You had to straighten ties, pin dresses, and, I used to carry white lead weights to keep the wedding dress from blowing in the wind. All of this was done with military precision, then it was off to the next wedding. The photographer, like the vicar, was part of the wedding, but just a brief part.

Using a digital camera everything is more relaxed for the photographer. I could carry on shooting until the last waltz if need be. I've never considered this before but the photographer could end up stealing the show. While directing events and taking the photographs, I became aware that I was in danger of becoming the central character. So with this in mind I concentrated on getting the essential photos, but resisted the urge to  do more. When the important photos were done using digital, I drifted into the crowd with the film camera.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Rollei 35 LED - The Smart Camera

The Rollei 35 series of cameras are very smart! Agent 86 would have approved.

I had great fun using a Rollei 35 LED at the seaside last week. It's fiddly and fun. Lots of things to pull and twist, settings to set and winders to wind. When everything has been adjusted, the green LED lights up in the big viewfinder and you're ready to go.
Rollei 35 LED - Photograph by Tim Irving
Rollei 35 LED
The quality of these cameras is very high. Finely machined alloy components that still feel tight after many years service. There's a satisfying heft as well, it's no featherweight. But it's the design that shines like a beacon. To make the smallest 35mm camera in the world (it still is), a camera the size of a cigarette packette, the designers started from scratch. Everything about these cameras is new, different and innovative. It works like a charm and I love it.

End of the Pier with a Rollei 35 LED - Photogaph by Tim Irving
End of the Pier with a Rollei 35 LED - Tim Irving

Friday, July 8, 2011

You Should Know This

African Kitchen - Tim Irving
In East Africa, right at this moment 9 million people are suffering from a drought that has lasted 3 years. It's the worst drought in 60 years, it's a disaster. 

I've visited this part of the world and can tell you that those suffering are in general, honest and hard working people. They include mothers, fathers, the old and the young. They have a sense of humour, like music, art, eating, drinking and gossiping. In fact they're like you and me, and our neighbours.

On a personal level I feel a terrible sadness for the people suffering. I have a feeling of impotence, in that I can't do something directly useful. I've done what I can do. I've given some money via a charity and hope it helps someone. Maybe you can do the same. Type famine into Google and take your pick of the charities.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Heavenly Hollywood Portraits

Louise Brooks (1929) by Eugene Robert Richee

Glamour of the Gods is an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London. It is Hollywood portraiture from the industry's 'Golden Age', the period 1920 to 1960. From Greta Garbo and Clark Gable to Audrey Hepburn, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. If I have to pick a favourite it's Louise Brooks above.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Tears of the Cow - Voigtlander Vitomatic IIa. Photograph by Tim Irving
Tears of a Cow - Tim Irving
I like cows, they're angular and big. I was taking photographs of this beauty for ten minutes before I noticed the tear in her eye.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Contax Camera - My Impression

Piggly Wiggly Contax IIa with 85mm f/2

I recently read a test report of the latest Bentley motor car. I don't know why, I'll never have one. I think it's a man thing, it's about precision engineering, polished metal, fine leather, masculine design, and wanting something you can't afford. However the test focused on the cars amazing technology and how it will eventually trickle down to affordable cars in about twenty years time. One of the miracles of the Bentley is the interior lights. Apparently, the lights cover the entire interior roof and resemble the solar system. Millions of microscopic points of light that glow in teh night to welcome the driver.

A few cameras have been years ahead when released, leaving other manufacturers to catch up. A prime example is the Zeiss Contax. When the Contax II was launched in 1936, it was twenty years ahead of its rivals.

At this very moment, sitting on my desk is a Contax IIa. A pre-war version made around 1937. Over seventy years old but it's still a very modern camera in operation and design.

Contax IIa. Photograph by Tim Irving
Contax IIa with 50mm Sonnar
I've been using this Contax for several weeks and shot several rolls of film with it. I can tell you that it's still a very modern camera, in fact it's easier to use and far more reliable than some cameras made today.

Like the Bentley, it's a totally luxurious gadget precision made and covered in morocco black leather. Everything about this camera is easy. Focusing is the most accurate I have used on a rangefinder, film loading is simple and the lenses are glorious. Even by todays standard the 50mm Sonnar is as good as it gets.

My impression of the Zeiss Contax is that it's the finest 35mm rangefinder of its time. Even today it's more than good enough for most photographes needs. I love it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Old Smoothie - A Great Rangefinder Camera

Voigtalnder Vitomatic IIa - Photograph by Tim Irving
Voigtlander Vitomatic IIa - Tim Irving
For the past couple of weeks my camera of choice has been a Voigtlander Vitomatic IIa, from the early 1960's. I've said it here before but I'll reiterate it for you now, I do like a good standard lens on a camera.The Voigtlander lens plus the ergonomics of the camera are lovely, I'm smitten.

This camera comes with everything I need. A beautiful viewfinder with coupled rangefinder, a fifty one year old light meter that works perfectly, and a Color Skopar lens.

The build quality of this camera is second to none. Every control is smooth and precise, it's a joy. Although not sold as a professional model, this camera  was aimed at the affluent tourist, very classy with a rich feel to it, definately a luxury camera.

Of course it's the glass that I'm interested in and the Skopar is up there with the best. As always, there's a sample below, I'll the the photograph speak for itself.
beach hut in sand dunes. Photograph by Tim Irving
Voigtlander Vitomatic IIa, Kodak Ektar 100 - Tim Irving

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Painting the Seaside

Southwold view. photograph by Tim Irving
Seaside View - Tim Irving
I spent today at the seaside, painting and taking photographs. I have loved every seaside resort I've ever visited. I wonder if I moved to the coast, any coast, if I would be happier, or if the novelty might wear off.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Agfa Isoly

Photo by Melissa Mohd Nor
Another customer pops up with some great images. I hope this trend continues, I love seeing photographs taken with my ex cameras. This photograph was taken by Melissa Mohd Nor with an Agafa Isoly, like the one below. I love the photograph above, I wish I'd taken it. Melissa contributes to Cool Girls Shoot Film blog. An excellent blog devoted to analogue photography, I recommend it.

Agfa Isoly. Photograph by Tim Irving
Agfa Isoly

Bunting Bicycle

Bunting on Bicycle. Photograph by Tim Irving
Bike Decoration - Tim Irving

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Balda Baldina and a Happy Customer

Balda Baldina camera. Photograph by Tim Irving
Balda Baldina - Tim Irving
I usually lose track of cameras once I've shipped them. I often wonder if they're being used to take photos or used as a nice piece of interior design, either way I'm happy.

I sent the camera above to Australia a few weeks ago. It's a 1954 Baldina. I like this cameras a lot. It has a coupled rangefinder and a very fine Baldinar collapsible lens. It's beautifully crafted from chrome plated brass and boasts many unique design features. The buyer has very good taste.

I was delighted when Aleks (the buyer), from Australia sent me a few photos taken with the Baldina. I think the one below is stunning. Look at the light on the hair and arm. It benefits from aerial perspective, cool blue receding background with warm foreground colours. Thank you Aleks for sending it to me, I'll sleep soundly knowing the Baldina is in expert hands.
Photo by Aleksandar Trofin

Friday, May 6, 2011

British Holidays

Cambridge Walk. Photograph by Tim Irving
Bank Holiday Walk - Tim Irving
I've been walking for miles this past week, hence the lack of blog posts. I promised myself that I would write ten paragraphs a week, but the May holidays have tripped me up. If we take this paragraph into account, I owe you nine paragraphs to be completed by next week. I promise.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Old Rolleiflex

Garden gate with bluebells. Photograph by Tim Irving
Garden Gate - Tim Irving
I've been playing with an old Rolleiflex this past week. It's one of those cameras that look bigger than it actually is, so gets left behind in favour of something that looks smaller than it really is. Does that make sense?

The one I'm using is a Standard Rolleiflex made in 1933 and it never ceases to amaze me how good it is to use. Despite it being nearly eight years old it's a very modern camera that's simple to use. I apologise for the Bluebells,  cliched and hackneyed as they are I still enjoy the site of them.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Daisy Chain

Dog and Daisies. Photograph by Tim Irving
Dog and Daisies - Tim Irving
I was having a conversation about favourite things, when daisies entered my mind. On reflection, daisies are very important to me, and do you know what? I didn't have a photograph of a single daisy in my portfolio. These are truly memorable little flowers, discreet, trodden under foot and plucked out of the ground without a second thought. A bunch of daisies is probably the first gift a child gives its mother. These are flowers of joy.

Where Fairies Live. Photograph by Tim Irving
Where Fairies Live - Tim Irving

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Darling Buds of April

Hawthorn Buds - Photograph by Tim Irving
Hawthorn Buds - Tim Irving
Hawthorn Buds with Sky. Photograph by Tim Irving
Hawthorn Buds with Sky- Tim Irving
April is a great month! Spring has gained it's momentum, next stop summer. It's a wonderful time for art and photography. The whole countryside is changing dramatically, all that was needed was a smile from the sun to warm the earth, then everything bursts into colour. It's a time of small dramas like the hawthorn buds above. Depending where you are, you can see these buds throughout the month. But this phase, the tiny flecks of white, is very brief. Within a day they have turned into blossom and you've missed the magic.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Art of Painting Chewing Gum

Chewing Gum Art on The Streets By Ben Wilson. Photograph by Tim Irving
The art is here! Photo btyTim Irving
Since I was a child,  I wake up every Sunday morning wondering how to avoid boredom. Last Sunday was no exception, but something new changed Sunday into an interesting day. I discovered a great new pastime. It's very useful for artists as it makes you look and observe very carefully. This pastime has a lot going for it. It gets you out of the house onto the streets. It's cheap. It provides good exercise and the end results are very rewarding. There is one downside to the pastime, and  that is, it's hard on the knees. If you havn't guessed, I've become a chewing gum art connoisseur, a paint snob of the streets.

The idea of adding beauty to something ugly and anti-social appeals to me greatly. I found the art on this page around Crouch End and Muswell Hill in London, but it's dotted all around North East London. It's been created by Ben Wilson, you can see him at work here. I like small pieces of art, they engage me. There's a whole range of techniques involved in the paintings, they're like miniature art demonstrations, some of the detail in the art is amazing. It's good to see some craft on the streets.
Chewing Gum Art on The Streets By Ben Wilson. Photograph by Tim Irving
Chewing Gum Art on The Streets By Ben Wilson. Photo by Tim Irving

Chewing Gum Art on The Streets By Ben Wilson. Photograph by Tim Irving
Gemma By Ben Wilson. Photo by Tim Irving

Chewing Gum Art on The Streets By Ben Wilson. Photograph by Tim Irving
Chewing Gum Art on The Streets By Ben Wilson. Photo by Tim Irving

Chewing Gum Art on The Streets By Ben Wilson. Photograph by Tim Irving
Chewing Gum Art on The Streets By Ben Wilson. Photo by Tim Irving

Chewing Gum Art on The Streets By Ben Wilson. Photograph by Tim Irving
Chewing Gum Art on The Streets By Ben Wilson. Photo by Tim Irving


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