Martin Foot

On Holiday With the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II

I recently bought a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II. This is a large, bulky 6x7 film camera built for studio photography from 1995. Due to its size and weight the camera isn’t the most portable, but I took it with me on holiday to Belgium along with a heavy tripod. The camera is modular camera and as such pretty much every part of it can be swapped out and replaced depending on the situation and personal preference. I took with me a spare 120 film back, a Sekor Z 180mm f4.5 W-N and a Sekor Z 65mm f4 W. I brought several rolls of Portra 400, Ektar 100, and Tri-X 400. The camera is too heavy in my opinion to carry round on a shoulder bag for any period of time, so I carried it in a Lowepro Orion Trekker II. This backpack has a compartment with removable foam pads that normally holds a DSLR, two or three lenses, and any small accessories. With the separators removed the RZ67 perfectly occupies the entire space with the 65mm lens attached (with the 180 attached it does not fit).

The changeable back is something I’ve never experienced before. I’ve used plenty of 35mm film cameras and a couple of medium format TLRs but I’ve never been able to change film to suit the situation without having to rewind a roll and write how many exposures I’d taken with a sharpie on the canister. With the Mamiya you can simply swap to a different film as the light changes, and this is incredibly useful. You can even swap from colour to black and white film as you desire.

One thing I noticed using the RZ67 is that due to being target towards professionals it has a huge amount of safety features - it’s very difficult to accidentally make an exposure or to accidentally expose the film to light while changing backs. This is especially important when you only get 10 shots on a roll of 6x7.

Visiting Brussels

The Eurostar train from London arrives at Brussels Midi station. I was heading to Ghent to stay with some friends but I had most of a day to spare so I had time to look around. The station has plenty of lockers so I could keep my bags there for the day for a few euros. Sightseeing with luggage would not be fun.

Brussels is a mix of old and new. I took the exit out of the station that headed away from the city accidentally and ended up walking a long loop around some of the poorer parts of the city back North to the center. There’s a large contrast between the well maintained streets lined with terraced houses and the rundown poorer areas with bits falling off of the buildings and beaten up old cars lining the roads. Required tools

Brussels has a rich history, with the square called Grand Place with it’s gothic style middle ages town hall being a popular attraction. Required tools

Other than Grand Place and the Orangerie du Parc d’Egmon, Brussels seemed almost void of people. I saw very few people walking around all day - that is, until I rounded the corner and arrived at the Manneken Pis. There were people everywhere, all coming to visit the water fountain with a statue of a small naked boy peeing. I learned afterwards that there was a lot of history around that little boy. The Wikipedia page describes how it has been repeatedly stolen, destroyed, reclaimed, and rebuilt over the ages. The meaning of the statue is shrouded in legend, but there is a large amount of national pride surrounding it. They even dress it up in appropriate clothes for different special occasions. Required tools

Visiting Ghent

Getting to Ghent was really easy. There’s a really good train line between Brussels and Ghent, and the same line goes to Bruges as well, making my trip for the next day really easy.

The center of Ghent is really beautiful. There’s a lot of old buildings and several wide open cobbled squares lined with bistros. A river passes through the centre and there are several ornate bridges crossing it. Required tools

There are several companies offering boat trips to tourists who provide some background and history for those who want it. It’s an enjoyable experience and a fun way to learn more about the city. It’s not expensive so I’d recommend people give it a go. Make sure to visit STAM afterwards for a well-collated history. Required tools

Ghent has a castle with a museum inside, with possibly the most interesting part - if you don’t mind the macabre - being a museum of torture. There’s also a good view of the city from the top. Required tools

I’d recommend bringing a tripod - it’s also beautiful at night. Required tools

One of the best things about Ghent was the public transport system. The city is very pedestrian friendly and the trams are excellent. It’s cheap to travel around and if you board another tram within an hour of the previous one you don’t pay anything. It’s both a fun and a convenient way of getting round the city, and a much better experience than the London Underground!

Visiting Bruges

When I arrived in Bruges it was grey and raining. Unfortunately, the story did not change for the whole day. Bruges is very touristy and the damp weather did not deter the crowd. Umbrellas were out in force and the horse and carriage rides for tourists were operating throughout the day. The main square is pretty and is lined with restaurants. The medieval Belfry building contains a bell that chimes regularly throughout the day, and at night there was a bell concert with multiple different bells. The square was lit up and with the rain and the bells together it was quite a magical experience. Despite being touristy I really enjoyed Bruges. A day is definitely enough time to see the main sites, but not enough to experience all the restaurants and cafes.

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Here’s another shot of the Belfry on Tri-X. You can see the horse and cart with some tourists inside and get an idea of the architecture of the buildings and the style of the streets.

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There is an interesting water feature / statue near the bus station. It’s in the middle of a huge cobbled square and seemed rather lonely on its own in the rain.

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I walked past some people doing an ALS ice bucket challenge. Required tools

Too many things to carry! Required tools

Inside the Basilica of the Holy Blood. It is ornately decorated and I’d recommend everybody to go and see it. Required tools

Both Bruges and Ghent are very easy to get to from Brussels Midi. The trains run regularly and are not expensive. If you’re planning on visiting Belgium/Flanders then these two cities should be on your list. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to visit Antwerp, but I’ll be sure to come back to Ghent when I do!

The RZ67 survived the rain and being carried around for several days, but it’s definitely not the easiest way to take photos on holiday. It’s also a very slow camera to shoot with, but I was on my own and could take all the time I needed. I’m impressed with the quality of the negatives - my only real experience with medium format before was from a plastic-lensed Holga and a Yashica 635. The lenses are on a whole different level. I’ll definitely be taking it with me on new adventures in the future.

Easy Double Exposures

I’ve always loved multiple exposure silhouettes, but haven’t yet found a time when friends are available and it’s sunny to take any silhouette photos. This got me wondering - is it possible to make these photos at home?

I trawled through Flickr and Google image search for some silhouettes and background images. I turned off all the lights in the room, put the background image on my screen in full screen mode, then took a photo. After that I swapped to the silhouette image and took a photo of that without winding on the film. As it turns out, the experiment was successful. It’s really easy to take multiple exposure photos using your screen - even if it’s not the purest way of doing it!

All shots were on a Nikon FM2N Series E 50mm for 1/15th of a second at f/2. I used black and white film (Kodak Plus-X) simply because I could develop it quickly at home to reduce the cycle time. It was developed in Rodinal R09 for about 8 minutes. Levels adjustment in Lightroom.

For the image below I used the silhouette here:

New York Smoker

Beach Smoker

Forest Smoker

New York Photographer

The Great Gorilla Run 2014

The 21st of October 2014 saw the Great Gorilla Run in central London. Set over an 8km route, contestants dress up as gorillas to raise money for charity.

I took my Nikon FM2N loaded with Rollei RPX 400 film and went with some friends to watch the event. It was fun to see all the modifications to the costumes that people made. The images below show the event as I saw it. They were developed in Rodinal R09 for 8 minutes at 20 degrees celcius.

Contestants congregate at Mincing Lane for the staging ground. Here a fairy, a cheerleader, and a Hawaiian gorilla wait for the start: Waiting at the staging ground

Everybody starts to make their way towards the starting line: Moving to the start

This chap was in high spirits: Gorilla man

The MC prepares the runners for the race: At the start line

And they’re off: Starting the race 1 Starting the race 2 Starting the race 3 Starting the race 4

Seeing double: Twins

Double-costuming. A gorilla inside a banana: A man dressed as a gorilla dressed as a banana

Posing for the camera on London Bridge: Posing for the camera

Even a storm trooper gorilla turned up. This one brought his family: Storm trooper gorilla

For people who were unaware that a race was happening, having a hundred gorillas run past must be a surreal experience. Family with gorilla running past

At the half way mark, spirits were still high. Running in the suits must be incredibly uncomfortable! Half way there

Bill Oddie and Uri Geller hand out medals to all of the contestants at the finish line: Bill Oddie and Uri Geller giving out medals