14th and 15th October 2023
A weekend event celebrating all things film in Nottingham
On Friday October 13th (lucky for film photographers), I travelled to Nottingham to spend a weekend in the world of analogue photography at the Analogue Spotlight event. This two-day volunteer weekend event, filled with workshops, photo walks, and talks, was perfect for anyone passionate about film photography. Held at the charming Nonsuch Theatre in Nottingham, this event promised to be an interesting and enjoyable experience for me and fellow film enthusiasts.
Getting to Nottingham from London was a breeze, and I was lucky enough to find an Airbnb right in the heart of the city centre, surrounded by cafes, eateries and just 10 minutes’ walk from the event venue.
Nottingham, with its compact and navigable layout, provided the perfect backdrop for film photography. Before the event started, I went for a walk with a new Ebay purchase, a Nikon L35 AF2 and a roll of HP5 film, I set out to test if the camera actually worked and also to capture a few shots of the city.
I was actually born in Nottingham (my parents were both students at Nottingham University) but we left when I was a toddler and this was my first time back, so I wanted to get a few shots to show my Mum, who also hasn’t been back to Nottingham since.
Analogue Spotlight: The Journey and Accommodation
Testing out the Nikon L35 AF2
I'd heard that the Nikon L35 AF was an 'iconic' and sought after point and shoot camera so I was delighted to snap up an (untested) Nikon L35 AF2 in an auction on Ebay. I figured out Nottingham would be a great place to test it out! I walked around with my camera, just taking a variety of pictures, from close-ups to portraits and street scenes.
Ilford HP5 is my go to film for testing out new cameras...
Analogue Spotlight: Talks by Photographers for Photographers
The (Dark) Art of Darkroom Sheds...
My time at Analogue Spotlight was nothing short of inspiring. I arrived to be presented with a tote ‘goodie’ bag, had a quick look inside the vendor room, before moving to the main theatre room for the talks. The first talk I attended was by Neil Hibbs, who delved into the art of building a personal darkroom, using a humble garden shed as a basis, and comparing budget and ‘luxury’ methods. I’d love to have a personal darkroom, sadly my garden is smaller than a shed, but I’ll definitely be exploring this further should I ever find myself with ample garden space.
Exploring and Comparing Ilford Films
Then Michelle Parr, also from Ilford Photo and Harman Labs, spoke about the different types of black and white film they offer, confirming for me why I love HP5 (this is my standard go-to film for testing new cameras, because of it’s exposure latitude, and showing up lighter tones, as well as the fact that it’s very affordable) and Delta 400 (my usual) and I was left really excited to try out XP2 (I hadn’t realised that you could switch ISO while using this film, which could definitely be useful for outdoor/indoor events), as well as Ilford Ortho Plus and Ilford Pan F Plus at some point, perhaps for long exposures.
Creativity... and Super 8 Films
In the next talk, Daniel Wheeler from Make It Easy Lab Founder and Creative Practitioner, talked about how he founded Make it Easy, as well as his experience of applying successfully for an creative development grant from the Arts Council, something I really want to do this/next year, so if you have any tips please let me know!
After that I was torn between going on the first photowalk but I decided to listen to Alex Glynn, Director of Straight 8, talk about and show examples of three minute films for competition purposes made with 8mm cameras. This is probably my only criticism for the weekend was that I had to choose between a talk and the Make it Easy photowalk. The only other talk I attended that weekend was by the Only Films representatives, Mandy Left & Alex Bridge, talking about setting up their film photography group and their founding members, some of whom I then met (and inadvertently photographed) on the Lens Fayre photowalk.
LENS FAYRE NoTTINGHAM Photowalk
On Sunday I decided to focus on doing workshops rather than the talks and the Sunday photo walk. The photo walk was wonderful and I was lucky enough to be given some free film from Analogue Wonderland. In this case I was randomly given a roll of Kodak Ultramax 200, which I used with the Nikon L35 AF2 as I’d just finished the HP5 roll. Check out my pictures in this section for what these turned out like; for this roll I decided to take pictures of the photographers on the walk with their cameras.
Sunday: getting out to see and use film cameras
I felt a bit anxious during the workshop as it was planned to take only an hour, which felt so short it was likely to induce me to make mistakes at every turn. But I needn’t have worried, they overran to ensure we managed to all develop our rolls, and Paul helped us with the tricky bits (for me it was actually getting my 120 film off the plastic thingy it comes on and I managed to cut off half my first photo.
The results exceeded my wildest expectations. The negatives revealed a range of tones, that left me in awe of the process. Had I really managed to take these photos? For me the collection of shots was nothing short of fabulous—I then got these scanned by Analogue Wonderland, check out a few of them in my slideshow below. I wish I'd taken up developing my own negatives before; it felt so great to see the magic happen...
I’d decided at the last minute to do the Silverpan black and white darkroom workshop with one of the experts from Silverpan and Paul from Analogue Wonderland. I really didn't want to use the film from my Nikon L35 AF2, as I normally use Analogue Wonderland for developing my test rolls with any new cameras, and I didn’t trust my developing skills one bit.
So literally 10 minutes before the workshop I used up a roll of Delta 400 outside Nonsuch Theatre to take portraits of some of the people who were attending the weekend, with my Mamiya 6, to take square format photos. I wanted images that I would be delighted to have but not devastated if they didn't come out at all, and it felt right to continue with the theme of photographing photographers with their analogue cameras.
I couldn’t fault the event, considering the price and that it was organised and run by dedicated volunteers. The attendees, organisers, and fellow enthusiasts created an atmosphere of camaraderie and shared passion that I hope to encounter again next year, and perhaps to discover and photograph a new city.
I hope I stay connected with those I met during the walks and I’d love to start up a local Meet-up Group in Tunbridge Wells to meet fellow photographers.
I’ll definitely be exploring Arts Council grants further and hope to develop creatively using film and digital photography. And maybe I’ll acquire a Pentax 6x7 at some point! I definitely felt it inspired me and I can see me exploring new avenues and learning after this weekend.
Analogue Spotlight was a great event to enjoy and learn about film photography and meet the vibrant community that surrounds it. Here's to the next Spotlight event next year.
The Analogue Spotlight Experience
Will you be there next year?