A Black and White Ramble in Mansfield [Ilford FP4 Plus 125]

ramble in mansfield

Images shot on Ilford FP4 Plus 125 in the Lomo LC-A

The sun was out and I wanted to shoot some film. I didn’t really care what film, or with which camera, or even where to shoot it. All I knew was I didn’t want to waste the good light on that day.

For the latter two of those considerations, I went with easy options. The Lomo LC-A, which is easy to just point at stuff and shoot – there should be a term for that kind of camera – and another trip into my small home town of Mansfield.

For the film, I went with one I had very little experience with. Ilford FP4 Plus 125. The remit was much the same as plenty of other times I’ve been out shooting though. To care more about well-lit scenes than interesting ones.

It turned out Ilford FP4 is a good film for doing this, with its high contrast and low grain. I like a lot of the results I got here. The compositions were sometimes a little lacking, but that’s on me.

The camera and film both did very well, I think. Read on and see if you agree.

I really can’t keep doing this

It feels like a lot of the film photo essays I’ve written on here recently have included some research about the places I’ve been shooting at, to give you some context and information about what and where you’re looking at.

A derelict pier in Weston-super-Mare, some lovely old buildings in Great Yarmouth, a ruined abbey in South Yorkshire, and a lot of stuff the first time I shot a roll of film around Mansfield.

I’ve since shot more and more in my town and it’s getting harder and harder to come up with anything worth explaining about the places in the pictures. Hence that subheading up there.

I can’t keep telling you about Mansfield because there isn’t much more to say about it. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop with my photography, though. Just that I’m going to have to come up with different things to speak about around it.

That’s why this post is a black and white ramble in Mansfield. Because I was rambling about on that day, and I’m going to ramble my way through this post too. Hitting you with that double meaning.

One theme that will remain constant however is praise for the Lomo LC-A and the Ilford FP4 Plus 125 film. Both played their part in giving me some shots I like. Here’s some from in and around the marketplace.

Is the party over?

There’s no doubt Twitter can be a godawful place to spend your time if you’re not careful about how you curate what you see on there. But if you do just follow people with similar interests to yourself – like film photography, for example – it can be pretty good.

I’ve found that muting certain words and phrases and turning off retweets from other people helps keep my feed clean too – because of course a lot of the crap on there is being retweeted rather than posted as original thoughts.

The film photography community was always decent on there. Less so now as more and more people leave the platform, but there was always far better interaction and getting-to-know-people than I ever found on Instagram.

I remember being aware of it even before I was shooting film myself, back when I was still just using vintage lenses on a mirrorless camera. It may even have been seeing that community that helped push me to try analogue photography for myself, which has in turn led us to where we are today with all these reviews and this ongoing project.

Back then, Emulsive was very active on the platform. I don’t know why he hasn’t been as much in recent years and it’s none of my business anyway, but hey… whatever his reason for wanting or having to step back, I’m fully behind it.

All this Twitter talk is getting to something he used to run on there. Something that I missed out on by being late to the party. The @FP4Party.

It used to be that people would shoot some Ilford FP4 Plus in the first week of April and post their results in the third one. There’s an archive of the previous years’ fun and games on the Emulsive site too.

The last FP4 party was in 2021. Will it return? I don’t know. Was this final tweet on the account, of the lights going out, to signify the end of it for good rather than the end of it for 2021? Again, I simply do not know.

Still, here’s some more of my shots from Mansfield from that ramble with Lomo LC-A.

The light really was great that day and I like how the Lomo LC-A’s lens and Ilford FP4 film rendered that shopping trolley shot in particular.

If you’re struggling, find something to look up to

That sounds like some trite life advice but hear me out.

First, it’s probably good life advice. If you’re lacking energy or drive or ambition in anything, it’s good to have someone or something you can look to for inspiration and motivation.

That doesn’t mean going on the aforementioned Instagram and wishing to have the vacuous perceived life of someone who is only posting their highlights that you’re comparing your full 24 hours a day against.

I mean more like if you want to make better photographs, pick up a book. If you want to get in shape, see what you can take from what David Goggins puts out.

Whatever it is you want to improve, there’ll be something or someone out there you can look to.

Second, going back to the idea of if you’re struggling then find something to look up to, if you’re walking around a not-very-photogenic town like Mansfield and are running out of things to shoot at ground level, try raising your eyes a bit.

Be it a brutalist car park, an art deco theatre or anything in between, there’ll probably be some interesting architecture you can capture with your camera.

Shout-out to the Ilford FP4 again for not blowing out my skies here and the perhaps underrated sharpness of the Lomo LC-A’s lens too.

Try not to look down on anyone

Okay so I really am just coming up with subheadings to fit the photographs now. But if that’s leading to positive themes in this piece then that’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing.

Here are a couple of shots I’ve paired together for no other reason than because they’re looking down flights of stairs. And from opposite ends of the old bus station too as it happens.

Think what you like about these photographs. I quite like the first one. The lines and shadows and whatnot. It’s the kind of thing I like to shoot, but I know it’s not for everyone.

That’s fine. There’s a lot of photography I see that isn’t for me either. A lot of work that seems to be some popular style or other that people chase that I don’t. But let’s not be negative about things.

If folk are out there creating stuff, even if it could be accused of being highly generic, that’s still to be applauded because it’s better than not creating anything at all.

Looking down on people and their photography for any reason isn’t good for them, but it’s equally bad for those doing the looking down. The cynicism is a virus and will seep into other aspects of their lives and personalities too, and begin to affect how other people think of them also.

Don’t be that person. Don’t look down on people’s photography. Don’t look down on people in general. Why even would you when you could be lifting them up in either or both of those cases instead?

When portrait is better than landscape

I don’t often shoot landscape photography, and I never really do portraits either. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. I’m talking about orientation.

And not in a sexual way. I mean landscape or portrait orientation.

The vast majority of photographs I take and publish on this site are in the former, but sometimes I see a scene that calls for the latter. The two shots below are a good demonstration of a time when this happened.

We again have shadows and lines on an urban staircase, but this time we’re looking up it. And because the interest in the scene – if indeed there is any – is taller than it is wide, portrait was the way to go.

It’s also a nice example, although not the best one ever, of how portrait orientation can help you get a little more depth in your shot. For two reasons here, I think.

First is that the landscape image just doesn’t allow the full length of the steps to come towards you. You’re missing that, and especially that shadow that extends to the bottom of the portrait one.

Second is more of a subconscious thing, in that your eyes when looking at a portrait image tend to go up and down it, whereas they go more from side to side when viewing a landscape-oriented shot.

Think about if you’re looking at an outdoor scene in real life. The former action will have you seeing stuff from close up to far away and everything in between, whereas the latter will more likely have you seeing things at a more equal distance to you.

This works when looking at photographs too. So portrait orientation isn’t just for when your scene or object is taller than it is wide. It can be used to convey depth too.

I’m not sure how I feel about this next shot

Most of the time when I’m out shooting film in a town or city, my main focus is on the light – that is, its direction, what it’s illuminating, and the shadows it’s casting too.

It was that thinking that led me to the next shot you see below. The boarded-up buildings and their windows, and that row of bollards also. I remember lining up the shot and, as I often do, waiting for someone to walk into it.

When I got the roll developed and saw the results though, I sort of wished I hadn’t done that last part. My intentions of course were to just have a little more visual interest in the frame and yes, the lady’s dark clothes do fit the scene. But in hindsight I just feel a little uneasy about shooting her walking away from such a distance.

A bit of a creeper, which I was never trying to be.

It’s not the kind of thing I do and it’s not the kind of street photography I like. If I’m doing it, I’ve always preferred getting up close and even getting some eye contact than shooting like this. The majority of the #leesixtyfive project was testament to that.

It’s perhaps worth noting too, for future reference, that not every scene even needs a person in it. If I cover that lady with my finger and imagine this one as just an empty street and the story that tells, it looks like it might have just been a better photograph that way anyway.

What I do like though, to praise the film once more, is the contrast and cleanliness the Ilford FP4 Plus gave me in this shot. Especially on those aforementioned buildings in the background.

Also below are four more shots – a crap one featuring Sports Direct, Church Street, a missed-focus one through a shop window, and a weirdly-lit, blown-out one of the same Leaning Man statue I’ve shot countless times before.

A spot of self-reflection in the country

That was 26 shots from this roll of Ilford FP4 in Mansfield, which meant I still had another ten or so to get through somewhere else.

This somewhere else ended up being a walk – or another ramble, if you like – up and down some country lanes in and around my village, which was both a worthwhile endeavour and an unfortunate waste.

Worthwhile because I took an hour away from everything and got out into nature, enjoyed it, and came back feeling better than before I went. An unfortunate waste though because 80% of the shots I took were utter junk.

Reasons for this varied. Some were too overexposed to even rescue in Lightroom, others were slightly out of focus, while others still were just completely out of focus.

I can reflect on why I only came back with two decent shots later. And if it even matters. Which it doesn’t, actually. I can say that right now. As for the subtitular self-reflection in the country here, that was just a mirror selfie. Nothing deep.

Apart from that depth-of-field I guess.

Wrapping up this Ilford FP4 Plus 125 ramble

To be honest I think we’ve rambled enough already so I’ll keep this brief.

I suppose there are three things that go into a set of photographs like the ones here. They are:

  • the camera you use
  • the film you use
  • the things you shoot with the first two

So let’s summarise some thoughts on all of the above.

The Lomo LC-A continues to impress me. Before I bought it, I had the impression the shots would be lo-fi, highly-vignetted, and just good for some throwaway fun. And I suppose they kind of are compared to what I get from my Pentax MX SLR, for example.

But they’ve been consistently better than I’d expected to be getting, and the ones here continue that.

I hadn’t shot much Ilford FP4 Plus 125 before, and this is indeed the first post on this site to feature some images taken on it. I can’t say anything other than I’m impressed with what it gave me. Great contrast, low grain, and sharp details when my focus was good.

Worth noting too perhaps that due to the limitations of the Lomo LC-A, it was shot at ISO 100. I didn’t mention this to the lab, so they would have developed it as normal.

So if you have a camera that doesn’t have an ISO 125 setting either, don’t worry about it. Just shoot this stuff at ISO 100. You’ll be fine. Film is versatile and exposure latitude is real.

Finally, the setting for the majority of these shots. I’ve said before that Mansfield isn’t the most interesting or photogenic of places, but I still keep managing to shoot rolls of film there.

Really it’s a trick of the light. By that I mean the trick is to go when the light is good.

Because the thing with photography is, good light can make most places worth going for a ramble. 🙂

If that ramble centred around a roll of Ilford FP4 Plus 125 piqued your interest for more essays illustrated with film photography, why not have a look at some of these:

And if you think others will find this post worth a read, help them find it by giving it a share 😀

written by
Hi, I'm Lee - creator of My Favourite Lens and the one whose work you're seeing whenever you read a post on here.
I shoot as much film as I can in as many different cameras as I can, and I enjoy playing with vintage lenses on digital cameras also.

Everything I do and what I learn along the way gets shared on here, to inform and inspire you to get out and shoot as much - and as well - as you can too.

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