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A 1943 Ikonta 6 x 9 cm camera goes to the Western Isles..........Part 2

Normally when travelling to the Western Isles it is a convoluted and generally a 2 day travel. I was lucky on this occasion that the need to have people somewhere else meant a 1 hour drive and a 2 hour flight was all it took. Arriving, the weather was nice, calm and bright with cumulus clouds scudding across the landscape and visibility in excess of 30 km. Perfect for the next 3 days !

< View from the aeroplane en-route while my hopes were still high.

The next 3 days were spent at work pretty much dawn to dusk with little opportunity to make images. I even managed to miss on Friday evening a showing of a photography related series of short films at "the screen machine" which was parked in the car park of the hotel I was staying at.


Another Mechanical Failure

I had of course unpacked my camera gear upon arrival and discovered a further mechanical failure of the camera. While cleaning and preparing for film I discovered the cable release was no longer able to trip the shutter. Believe me I tried everything to get this going but to no avail. So my camera which I had got into the position of working for exposures of 1/8th and longer via a cable release timed exposure on Bulb mode now had failed.

This now meant: I had to open the lens on bulb mode - hold it open manually - hold or blutac a filter over the front of the lens (to improve contrast of the negative) - swipe a black card which was covering the lens when I opened it , to allow the correct exposure - then release the shutter button - I would also need to double check the lens was closed before removing the black card that covered the lens.

It was getting a bit difficult now.

I loaded the camera with FP4+ (probably my all time favourite film) and after dinner on Friday night tuned my wireless to listen to the Photography Forecast, hoping it would fill me with joy and expectation for the weekend.....

Saturday came and I was surprised at breakfast that there was blue sky visible, but checking various weather apps soon appraised me of its impending dissapperance. I managed 1 shot with a digital camera before departing North to a woodland that I felt gave the best chance of using the prevailing conditions.

A shot of the Church of Scotland, across the road from the hotel

in Daliburgh , South Uist, and quite literally the last

time I saw the colour blue for a week

On top of worsening conditions I was also feeling extremely tired by the time the weekend came and this coupled with the deteriorating camera functions led to the three rolls I shot during the weekend lacking inspiration and creativity. I will show some of them here but from here the quality drops a bit. Sorry !


Saturday - I managed 1 roll and only 2 images at the woodland I visited. These 2 images will probably feature in a blog on how not to compose in woodland lol. Surprisingly though on this roll there is some evidence that there was better weather for a period but my mojo had all but dissipated by now.

A roll of FP4+ exposed on the Saturday. Featuring the woods , and the walk out to the roundhouses in the afternoon. All of these exposures were made with the "black card shutter" and the bottom right hand one is a successful 1/8th of a second using this method. They are all pretty well exposed and developed in Ilford DDX

"Communications Tower"

Frame 4 from the roll and the first one where I noted the "squeaking noise" when winding the film on .....close inspection reveals numerous "scratches" in the emulsion ....consistent with the direction of travel of the film.

"Telegraph Pole #2"

I am actually quite pleased with this! made with a self timed 1/8th of a second and yielded a good negative. I used a Yellow filter/blutac/black card method. Sharpness is surprisingly good and the grain from FP4+ is pleasant!


Sunday - 2 rolls today starting with Ilford PanF+ rated at ISO25 and destined for perceptol development. I wanted to see a fine grain film through the camera and develop it to give even less grain and good sharpness. Again the images are not too inspirational but the quality of the negatives was good ........apart from the scratches ........

The second roll, shot on Sunday morning and all made on a 5 mile walk from the hotel , North and back again. It was windy and the cloud cover pretty much became a white overcast. Some contrast enhancements have however managed to pull some detail from the skies ....where there was any.


Walking up the road I was drawn to this shot and only noticed the spelling mistake afterwards when processing.

1 Sec at F16 , Yellow filter. The top is cut off on the negative as framing is a little tricky with the lack of a viewfinder and there is a dirty great long scratch the length of the negative (squeak squeak)

"Roadside Grass, Distant Communications Tower and Scratches"

After I hade made this shot, I turned around and 3 feet behind me was a hooded figure leaning on a staff with a sheep's head at its top. Needless to say I jumped back in alarm as I had no idea he was there. This caused him in turn to leap back.......and a short dance ensued. I did spend an enjoyable 10 minutes chatting to him as he had a camera just like mine in his attic ......and possibly another few rolls of film will be bought before you know it.......F11 , Orange Filter 1/4 sec.

"View from the Bus Stop (if you look behind you) and Distant Comms Tower"

F8 @ 1/8 sec with a Yellow Filter.

"Bus Stop with a view"

The final shot on this roll and a chance and brief shaft of sunlight. I don't know who's chair it is but it looks like a pretty nice place to wait for a bus. Checking my records this goes down as the second best light I have ever experienced at a bus stop/station/terminus.(so important to keep detailed notes !)

F11 @ 1/4 sec with a Yellow filter.


Sunday - the third roll and this time HP5+ to enable handholding.

Well , not really very much to write home about here. All of these 6 were handheld and using the faster "working" shutter speeds of 1/50 and faster. All are over-exposed and this "contact sheet" has been "pulled" to make the images appear. It would seem that my working part of the shutter ..... is too slow.

"Prevailing Wind, Benbecula."

Bubbles and foam being blown down a small loch on a Sunday afternoon. The last image I made for the trip. F8 @ 1/100 (or thereabouts).


To summarise.

This was the first time I had used a medium format camera for getting on for 15 years. Once I went up to 4x5 inch film I didn't really look back. It was a good experiment and to be honest getting the images I have gotten out of what is in all reality a barely working 78 year camera is quite a result. I was lucky I think that the lens was so clean and clear and thus was able to make sharp images on film, albeit with a lot of intervention to make the exposures the right length. I also enjoyed the process of 120 film , including having now developed my first 6 rolls of it (I had moved to sheet film before I started to develop myself at home).

Medium format is a happy medium (pun intended) between 35mm and large format in both negative size and convenience and is for me a useful addition and one which I will now enjoy again. There is also an abundance of emulsions available to try out that are not available in large format.

I am away to the Western Isles again about a month.....will be shooting medium format again ....... but this time with an MPP Microcord II 6 x 6 cm .......early indications suggest it is in full working order..............and............. you know that feeling you get when you feel like you have been using a camera all your life.....?


As always thank you for reading and I hope you have enjoyed and been entertained !

Thank You to Dave and Jennie for finding the camera, Dave Whenham for the help in getting the lens on the right way round, James for clicking that shutter so many times, The Borrodale Hotel for offering duck every night I was there, Analougue Wonderland for having a helicopter on standby to bring me a roll of film if I needed it and everyone that supports encourages and offers their friendship.


105 views2 comments


Nov 01, 2021

Thank you and I am very glad you liked it. It certainly was a struggle !.......


Nov 01, 2021

A really interesting account of your struggles with an aged camera.

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