Monochrome Fun In Great Yarmouth With the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim [Ilford HP5 Plus 400]

Images shot on Ilford HP5 Plus 400 in the Reto Ultra Wide & Slim

The Reto Ultra Wide & Slim is not a technically advanced camera, to say the least. But it is a very fun one to shoot. The first film I put through mine was some Kentmere Pan 100, which I shot around the market town of Southwell.

A later trip to the seaside town of Great Yarmouth gave me the opportunity to shoot another couple of rolls with it too.

The first of these was some Kodak Gold 200, which yielded the images you can see here, while the second was some Ilford HP5 Plus 400 – the results of which you’re about to see if you continue reading this post.

Just like in Southwell, shooting these two rolls in Yarmouth in the Reto UWS was a lot of fun. Partly because of this particular camera, which is a very simple contraption with an unusually wide lens, but thanks also to the fact that I find shooting most film cameras enjoyable really.

So, as ever with this things, read on to see how this monochrome roll went.

Along the prom until you reach the Pleasure Beach

I don’t often post first-of-the-roll shots like that one you’ve just seen in these kind of blog posts. I prefer to keep them all in one place. That place being that article I just linked to that explains what they are and why they happen.

In this case though, that shot up there was better than the other one I took just after. The timing and positioning of the three silhouettes was just… better.

These beachside archways were pretty photogenic overall and a good example of what I look for when shooting black and white. Shapes and lines. Shadows and light. Symmetry and… something else beginning with an L.

It’s a different experience to shooting colour. Thinking about different elements when considering what they need to turn out well. But it’s every bit as much fun.

What doesn’t look so much fun though, thanks to the photographs I took, is walking down this promenade at Great Yarmouth.

Them being monochrome probably contributes to the feeling here, but I seem to have made the place look kind of dead through my compositions also.

A vandalised picture on a bare breezeblock wall. A long, deserted pavement stretching away from an empty bench. Two dark figures ambling along behind the back of the Pleasure Beach. More graffiti. A flatbed truck and cherry picker. A steel mesh fence. A skeletal log flume.

To be fair, I was in Great Yarmouth out of season. March, it was. When some things still haven’t opened from their winter hibernation and there aren’t so many people about either.

Don’t let me give you the wrong impression here, though. Great Yarmouth is a cool place to visit and I had a good amount of fun – that word again – while I was there.

great yarmouth pleasure beach

Away from the Pleasure Beach and onto the actual beach

Speaking of things that were closed when I was in Yarmouth: the Britannia Pier, as seen in this post here. One of two piers in the town, it was a shame I couldn’t get on and have a walk along it.

I did get it in a couple of photographs from down on the beach though – because they can’t close a whole beach. One featuring a detectorist at work and another with a shack with some bums on it.

The other pier – the restored Wellington Pier – was open though, so I did take a stroll along that one.

A shot along the beach from on there really tested the dynamic range of this Ilford HP5 Plus, with the shadows in the foreground and the bright sand and sky beyond, but it seemed to cope pretty well with it.

great yarmouth wellington pier

Getting off the beach and onto the empty streets

After getting my fill of beach photographs and sand in my trainers, I headed to the nearby streets of Great Yarmouth to continue shooting this roll of monochrome film.

One of the first places I came to was the ghost of something that I’m sure used to be a lot of fun to visit but isn’t so much anymore: Great Yarmouth’s sadly decrepit Winter Gardens.

Unlike many other things in town, this isn’t an attraction that was just closed for the low season. More that it was closed in 2008 and has been closed ever since.

This imposing steel and glass structure was first built in Torquay – which is a long way from Yarmouth – in 1878 before being bought for £1, dismantled, transported by barge, and reconstructed here in 1903.

As these photographs show, it had stints as a ballroom, a skating rink, an amusement arcade, a Bavarian beer garden, and a soft play area before safety fears saw it shuttered.

In a strange coincidence for me, it was named as one of the UK’s most endangered buildings in 2017. I mention this because the last blog post I wrote features a structure that went on the same list in 2015 – Weston-super-Mare’s Birnbeck Pier.

Despite being empty for so long, the Winter Gardens have survived partly by it being too expensive to pull them down. Thankfully now though, plans are in motion to restore and reopen them as a public space once more.

And that’s a lot of words for something I only took two photographs of.

great yarmouth winter gardens

Away from the Winter Gardens, I got a few more shots with no people in them.

A reminder painted on the floor of what we all went through in the first couple of years of this decade, and an underpass below the aforementioned Britannia Pier.

There’s also a reminder that the viewfinder on this cheap Reto point and shoot camera isn’t the most accurate you’ll ever use. I definitely aimed for that flowerbed to be central in the frame and closer to the bottom of it too.

What I’m learning is that with cameras like this it’s often better to not try to get technically good compositions, because they often won’t give you what you hoped for.

Instead, getting close to a main subject and not worrying so much about how much or how little of the background is in the shot can leave you happier with the image you end up with.

The furry faces at the top of this post, the telescope shot from just earlier, and the doughnut one at the very bottom are good examples of this.

A tiny morsel of Great Yarmouth street photography

When I was living in Shanghai, the only photography I would ever really do was street photography. First with vintage lenses on a digital camera, like I used for this 365 project I did, and later on film once I discovered how much fun that was too.

I’ve since widened my scope by shooting at places like ruined abbeys or country parks, for two examples, which give me a more diverse range of example photographs to discuss when doing my film reviews, if nothing else.

Also, it’s just enjoyable – dare I say fun yet again – to go to places like that and take my time to relax in the surroundings and think about my shots instead of always being in the bustle of a town or city.

However, I do still like to go back to my roots as often as I can. Like when I did here in Nottingham. And also with the final three shots from this roll of Ilford HP5 Plus in Great Yarmouth.

I would have liked to have done more but this was only a 24-exposure roll and by this point I’d almost run out of them.

My Shanghai street photography was often shot using the fishing technique. That is, rather than looking for a certain person to shoot and have them be the main focus, composing a nice frame and waiting for someone to enter it.

Have the photograph be about the whole scene rather than just one person looking a certain way or doing a certain thing.

The first shot below isn’t really that, although it is as much about the shapes and lines as it is the people, but the following two are. And I can tell you the doughnut one especially was a fun photograph to make.

Wrapping up from this fun time in Great Yarmouth

That’s it. That’s pretty much all I’ve got to say about these shots from Great Yarmouth. So I suppose I’ll wrap this up with a few words on the film and camera I used to take them with.

First up, the Ilford HP5 Plus 400 delivered again. From what I can gather, it’s a lot of people’s favourite film. I can see why. I’ve always got from it a nice amount of contrast, mid-tones and grain – like it doesn’t push anything too far in either direction.

It may not be flashy, but it’s a film you can rely on to give you consistently sound results, and that counts for a lot.

Of course the very simple – and very fun – Reto Ultra Wide & Slim has no manual controls whatsoever. It has a fixed aperture of f11 and a fixed shutter speed of 1/125 seconds. The only variable you have is what ISO film to put in it.

It was pretty sunny that day in Great Yarmouth, with plenty of shadows on the ground. The kind of conditions where I ordinarily wouldn’t go with an ISO 400 film, truth be told.

So it’s another feather in the Ilford HP5’s cap how its exposure latitude handled this situation and gave me the well-balanced images that it did.

And finally, yes, this is another blog post from a British seaside town. So I’m going to mention the ongoing project of those.

I like shooting film at these kind of places and the number of articles in this collection will continue to grow as I continue to do more of it.

Take a look. Take inspiration. Take whatever you can. And then go take some fun photographs of your own, too. 🙂

If you enjoyed that piece on having fun shooting Ilford HP5 Plus 400 in the Reto UWS in Great Yarmouth, why not have a look at some of these other film photo essays too:

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

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