Mark van der Wal
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My first camera was a Nikkormat FT3 with a 50mm f2 Nikkor lens I received as my sixteenth birthday gift. Fortunately I had access to my father's darkroom and it was great to experiment with developing and printing black and white images. The Nikkormat was later replaced with a Nikon FE and then after a photographic hiatus a Nikon F90x was added. Then the digital age came and I opted to build a darkroom! With the looming demise of the wet process, a fairly decent darkroom was accumulated. Next medium format beckoned and I managed to get a used Hasselblad 500 cm however the 6x6 format didn't suit me then. With secondhand film camera prices tumbling, a Mamiya RZ 6x7 came up and this was to be my preferred camera for some time. Agfa Rodinal was freely available and is a great developer however a fellow photographer and friend Glen Green introduced me to Pyro PMK and it has become my preferred developer. The Agfa films produced great results at affordable prices and I even managed to stockpile some Agfa Apx25 however that too dried up and Efke 25 was a reasonable substitute. With Agfa's disappearance the Kodak Tmax films became my films of choice however Fuji Acros has also seen regular use.

The silver print quality was very rewarding however with limited time the digital route seemed obvious. A Panasonic DMC-LC5 compact digital followed by a Nikon D70s were my first digital cameras but these never gave the results of film obviously however the convenience was so alluring. I managed to obtain a new Fuji GSW690 as production ended and this still produces impressively sharp images on a huge 6x9 neg even though it looks and sounds like a plastic toy. The next major turn in my photography came with the arrival of a Nikon Coolscan 9000 which was an improvement over the Canon Flatbed scanner I first tried. Photoshop skills had to be quickly learnt as well as the art of film scanning and then an Epson R2400 helped produce prints which could be viewed favourably beside a silver print. Eventually a good deal on an Epson 3800 came up and the A2 size as well as the ink economy made it a great choice.

At this stage the hybrid system of developing b&w film, scanning, cleaning and tweaking the images, then finally printing digitally works well. The great dynamic range of B&W film with the fine resolution from medium format lenses is an alternative to an expensive high megapixel DSLR. Bartering and swapping cameras with photographic friend Lawrance Brennon resulted in the acquisition of a Mamiya 7 and this is currently my most used camera. The portability and the incredibly sharp lenses make for a remarkable camera which also opened up new facets of photography like street photography. Unfortunately it is not suited to full face portraiture however it's superb for environmental portraiture. Whereas before it felt wrong not to photograph without a tripod the quiet Mamiya 7 has been most liberating in this regard. A Nikon D7000 currently keeps me active in the digital arena. With the great technological developments the digital superiority is obvious but at the moment the Mamiya 7 loaded with maybe Fuji Acros or Kodak Tmax 400 still provides a satisfying albeit convoluted photographic experience.

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Mark van der Wal
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