I last shot rain photos I was happy with about 10 years ago (Amsterdam), perhaps coincidentally this was when I first returned to shooting film (on a Nikon F100).
Since moving to Göteborg (or Gothenburg as it’s known in English) last year I once again wanted to attempt a rain photo-walk, so I started to think on which camera I would use.
Despite being a vibrantly colourful and cheery place in the summer I wanted to focus on its streets, traffic and people with some gloomy black and white film. Like Amsterdam this city has lots of trams and bikes, but the streets here are much wider. Last year I moved away from London, so the difference there is like night and day thanks to having only 1/10th population!
While I was thinking about the rain shoot I considered the Nikon FM3A and a Voigtlander 58mm lens. I had just bought it so was itching to use it, but there were a couple of problems with that. Neither the camera or the lens are water proof and they’re both pretty expensive to risk exposing to water.
My main issue was that it required a two handed operation and that didn’t work with an umbrella. Then I remembered that I’d recently bought a rangefinder in a second hand store (on my last trip to the UK). I hadn’t even taken it out of the worn leather case it came in yet. At 1/100th the cost of the Nikon setup this Konica C35 Auto was a lot easier to justify risking.
Waterproof? Who cares! I just needed to make sure it was working first. The battery was dead so no way to test it in the shop. I knew the light seals were a mess, but I didn’t realise quite how bad until I started to clean them out.
Being the lazy scumbag that I am, I gave up after an hour or so, making it just clean enough so as not to infect the film. I took the battery out, which was the original mercury one. It was leaking (yay!), so I cleaned the inside of the battery compartment as best as I could. Luckily it hadn’t been leaking too long and so it hadn’t corroded the connections.
The right batteries for the C35 – the PX675 – aren’t made any more, but luckily one of the two from the Nikon FM3A fitted in there and made the meter needle move, so I called that a super lucky/lazy win and moved on. I had new single ones for the FM3A anyway. I’d just bought a bunch of black-and-white film from a shop in Stockholm, so I picked a mid-speed Rollei RPX so as not to tax the Konica’s limited exposure range and threw the camera in my work bag.
It took about three days until we had a heavy downpour. It was on my way home from work and the camera was still in the bag, so I let the bus go and walked from there. It’s normally about a 45-minute walk home, but I think I spent over two hours getting half way while taking pictures.
My umbrella was not huge so I was getting wet, but I was having so much fun I barely noticed. about two shots in I had already developed a skill for holding the camera against my chest to allow me to wind the film advance lever and still hold the umbrella normally. I pointed the lens in towards me when I wasn’t taking shots, so as to keep stray water droplets off the filter.
Luckily it came with a filter when I bought it so didn’t have to find the slightly awkward size one. It didn’t have a lens cap, but that was one less thing for me to worry about here. Focusing was mostly guesswork. I didn’t use the rangefinder much, although I could focus while looking through the viewfinder by using my little finger… in a pinch.
I didn’t quite finish the roll that day, but was excited to see the results so the next day I took a couple shots of nothing and took the film to the shop on the way home work.
Black-and-white film takes over a week to get developed here if you time it wrong, so it was a bit of a painful wait (I must start developing myself!). When I did finally pick it up I got outside of the shop and immediately took the negs out and started to look at them against the sky. To my amazement the image quality looked fine. Pretty consistent exposure and no obvious signs of light leaking. Not bad for a £10 camera!
I rushed home ad started scanning, initially I tried putting the negs directly on the glass, but that gave very poor quality results, so I reverted to using the film holders. Luckily it allowed enough space around the image to see the whole film border. I then discovered the little ‘V’ shape notches on the film gate, which I love because it reminds me of the Hasselblad (so I left them in here).
I was super happy with this experience overall. I was lucky with the £10 camera (although both the film and the developing each cost almost as much). It could have easily had way more issues than this, even if some light leaking could have been “cool”.
I can’t wait to try this again, but next time I will use a slightly faster film. I feel like I am misrepresenting this city a little bit with these images, so I will try to balance that with some colour shots before it drifts into the 6 month winter period soon…
* You can see more of Ed’s pictures on his blog, https://www.edwardnoble.com/