Strolling trough Paris with the Rolleiflex part III – talking about film photography (again)

Analog, street, Uncategorized

no I haven’t been to Paris recently, so these images are, well, from a while ago (late 2017), I have published a single image from this trip already, but here is a more complete set. All taken with the Rolleiflex 3.5 TLR, in dark and difficult light this time (interior, winter, …)

What is it that convinces me to shoot film from time to time? I talked about this before, but here’s one other reason, I started thinking about it listening to an vlog about Photokina, and how this is all about gear and how the big brands have missed the revolution on the mirrorless camera’s and now need extra marketing efforts (and lies) to get to pace with the competition etcetera, etcetera. … (Michael Zelbel from goodlightmag)

when shooting analog it makes me feel that I am not running into this treadmill of commercial marketing ‘have to sell’ rush that the mainstream photography world has become since it became a mass-product. Look at the average photography magazine on the book store shelf. Half of the pages will be about new gear that has reached the market, how the latest gear has reached new levels of ‘better’ since the last best camera. How it will improve your photography, become an extension of your eye, and even bring you the ultimate shooting experience. blah blah blah, I have been in marketing for a while myself … The other half will be divided in ‘how to’s’ on the use of the latest software updates to make that perfect camera shot even better, or how to use the latest lighting gear to enhance your vision and creativity. Duh. … If you are lucky, there is a small section in the magazine that will cover large exhibitions, and maybe some portfolio’s from photographers (a couple of pages from the 100+ total number of pages)

I am sure that the Rolleiflex came with its own sauce of marketing blahblah at the time it was launched, but that’s a long time ago and I’m not bothered with it. Even now, new film camera’s are still made, but have you ever seen an add for one? They don’t really push, they wait till you go looking for them and then you’ll find them.

I shoot this antique Rolleiflex camera, with black and white 120 film that exists for ages now, and no accessories. When I use it, I simply can not feel the need to rush to get my images on the web (FB, Insta, … ) because that is literally impossible, with the film needing to be developed. I don’t get stressed on having to recharge batteries, because it has no batteries. I do not have to decide which lens or focal length to use, because it comes with a fixed focal lens that is not removable. I even don’t have to decide to shoot horizontal or vertical, because the image format is square. I can allow myself to just observe my environment, look at what people do, try to capture moments, details, … that come to my attention. If I miss a shot because my gear isn’t up to date, well I missed it, maybe I will be lucky next time. …

long live simplicity (maybe I’m getting old 😉 )

The pictures, with a little word, so you can find out where I’ve been strolling.

107 cubic inches, this one has been published before on my blog. Waiting for service at the Harley-Davidson shop in Boulevard Beaumarchais.

the queue for the Irving Penn exhibit that ran in the Grand Palais in Paris

part of the exhibit on Irving Penn

preparing for a kite flight on the Esplanade des Invalides

taking a break from cooking – the chef at Café de Mars – Rue du gros Caillou

plagiarism at Fondation Louis Vuitton

smooth curves architecture by Frank Ghery (Fondation Louis Vuitton)

people enjoying the audio-installation at  Fondation Louis Vuitton

Me taking a self portrait at Fondation Louis Vuitton

time to prune the plants maybe? – artisan fleuriste at Rue Vieille-du-Temple


cheers, hope you come back here soon.

If you want to see more images taking with the Rolleiflex in Paris, look here

If you want to re-read a previous article about shooting on film, this is the place: shooting film




107 Cubic Inches

Analog, Personal Pictures, street

well yeah, next to beauties of the human race, I also tend to have a certain adoration for mechanical beauties. …

Early november I was strolling the Paris Boulevard Beaumarchais, to look for camera shops, both secondhand an new, to see if I could find some information on view camera’s and to look out if there was something else that interested me, when I came across the Harley dealership situated in this same boulevard. I’m not especially fond of this particular brand of motorbikes, but the boulevard seems to have almost as much motorcycle dealerships as it has camera stores. I happen to like both equally 🙂 . I am however quite charmed about the beautiful finish of the Milwaukee brand, with the chrome, the air cooling fins, the valve push rods and so on. This is mechanics and beauty, and it expresses both power and lifestyle.

I just snapped a small detail of just a random bike parked outside, probably a customer’s bike, before or after servicing. It is in that understanding not polished and it has some weather marks on the chrome, let’s say it’s alive.

I took this picture with my Rolleiflex TLR, probably older than the history of the ‘low rider’ Harley Davidson model. Square frame image format, which I like the best. Image shot on Kodak T-Max 400 film, developed in Ilfotec 29 developer.

For the noobs, 107 cubic inches is the cylinder displacement volume of this particular engine, or 1753 cc, in other words, this is a big engine for a motorbike. It has plenty of torque, and as we now from H-D, “more than enough” horsepower.

thank you for watching and reading, come again soon, I have other images from Paris that I would like to show you.



teddybear blues or … the story of self realisation

Analog, beauty, Behind the scenes Video, location, Tips and Tricks

I shot this series of images in February, it took me some time to scan and develop the negatives, but here they are at last. I hope you like the story, I loved making it.

A big thank you to Rachel, for being a very patient model, on this cold and dull day. To Nathalie, for being my assistant, model hairdresser, camera-crew and guide. To Home Providentia, for giving me another opportunity to shoot at this unique location.

All images taken on Rolleiflex 3.5 camera with Kodak TMax100 and TMax400 film. Reproduced with a Canon 5Ds and Canon 100mm F2.8L IS macro, developed in Lightroom and Photoshop.


• teddybear blues or … the story of self realisation •


behind the scenes video of this shoot here: Shooting with the Rolleiflex

thank you for watching




Pauline on film – NSFW

beauty, Nude, Personal Pictures, photo gear

Ludwig Desmet-KISP_materie-3345

I told you before I would talk a bit more about the Rolleiflex I use for shooting on film.

The camera is a Twin Lens Reflex, built in the late 50’s, so the camera is about 60 years old.

The construction with the two lenses, of which the upper lens is for viewing only (viewing lens) and the lower lens is for taking the image (taking lens) has advantages and disadvantages. In comparison to the older camera’s that used flat film sheets, where one had to remove the matte focusing screen before putting in the film holder for taking the image, this camera allows to shoot multiple images without moving anything. There is a 45° tilted mirror behind the viewing lens, projecting a mirrored image on the horizontal focusing screen.

Of course viewfinder camera’s existed as well, but they had no visual reference of the focusing plane, or the sharpness of the subject when changing focus. A photographer using a viewfinder camera had to use the distance scale on the lens, and the not so trusty guesswork for camera to subject distance.

Both lenses of the this TLR move forward and backward while focussing, and so provide an identical image on the ground glass as the image to be expected on the film. Still, the smallest amount of inaccuracy of the lens focusing mechanism leads to bad focusing, and I believe this camera suffers at least some looseness in the forward-backward movement.

Dealing with this complex mechanism of focusing, meant also that these camera’s are mostly fixed focal length. Some camera’s came in different focal length versions, but camera’s with interchangeable lenses where very rare. (Except for the Mamiya C)

This camera comes with a 75 mm f3.5 lens, it also existed in a f2.8 version, usually much more expensive on the secondhand market. 75 mm on 6×6 film format has an equal viewing angle to a 38 mm lens on Full frame DSLR, or a 24 mm lens on a 1.6 crop camera, so a rather ‘wide-standard’ viewing angle.

The lens is certainly not paramount, and suffers heavily from flare, as can be seen in the images below (does somebody have a lens hood for this camera for me?). An aperture of 3.5 gives a good amount of image unsharpness on medium format. 2.8 would be nicer of course. The images lack a bit of contrast and sharpness.

Composing with the mirrored image on the focusing plane is a bit of a habit.

Shutter speed range is limited, from 2 seconds to 1/500th of a second, thus mostly limiting the wide open apertures in bright light. The mirror does not move, since it is not obstructing the film plane, so there are not vibrations from this side. Activating the shutter however demands some finger movement (unlike today’s DSLR’s where pushing the shutter entirely only takes some tenth of a millimeter) causing some hand stress and maybe movement unsharpness. Shutter speeds as long as 1/15th. of a second seem not possible to me without image shake. Maybe with some more experience.

The camera has a built in exposure meter, but it no longer works, so exposer should be metered with another camera, or with a hand held meter, I use the latter.

Film for this camera is widely available here in Belgium, both black and white and color film. Not sure about slides. Development is still available too, although it can take a while (1-2 weeks) before getting the negatives back. Scanning the negatives, as well as retouching them (from dust) is a tedious process.

The biggest advantages for me is that I spend more time composing, and checking out if everything is well in place before taking the image. It learns me to concentrate more on details, on exposure, on posing etc. … One roll of film equals 12 exposures, after that the fun is over. 😀 The fact that you see the image mirrored gives you a fresh view on your scene, revealing flaws in your image/composing remaining unnoticed as you set it up. (But I still have a lot to learn)

A second big advantage is that the images are square format. This gives me a more relaxed feeling when composing, and I believe that the images are more harmonious too. I kind of like this square format more and more. (This made me thinking about modifying a matte screen for my 5D mark II to indicate ‘square’ cropping).

changes I have had:

I had the original focusing screen replaced with a focusing screen with split prism and microprism focusing aids, and that adds to the accuracy of focussing with the camera.  I also had the shutter speeds checked out by the same specialist repair shop that also changed the focusing screen.

To be continued. Enjoy this small portrait series I made with Pauline lately – Rolleiflex 3.5E – Tmax 400 film.

Ludwig Desmet-PaulineM-007

Ludwig Desmet-PaulineM-010

Ludwig Desmet-PaulineM-006

Ludwig Desmet-PaulineM-005

Ludwig Desmet-PaulineM-004

Ludwig Desmet-PaulineM-002

thank you for reading, see you soon,


Kimberly on film – analog vs. digital

beauty, Personal Pictures

I have shot some rolls of film now, during my beauty shoots, working with an antique 6×6 cm Rolleiflex with planar 3.5 lens on it. It takes 120 Roll film. Film is available in every better camera/development shop in Belgium, so that is no issue.

It has been revised for shutterspeeds, since the longer shutter speeds had some lag, and the shutter had tendency to stay open longer than the selected speed.

I also had a new focusing screen fitted to this camera, since the normal focusing screen provided only little accuracy in focusing. The new screen has  split prism, which is a great aid in focussing accurately.

Of course I still need to work a lot on swift handling and manipulating the camera, but for now, I’m pleased with what I’ve got.

I gave a lecture last week in my hometown, and people asked about the advantages of working on film, in this era of high end digital camera’s. I will try to do an honest pro and contra list, based on my very limited knowledge right now.

Con’s for film photography with this particular camera (Twin lens reflex Rolleiflex (from somewhere in the 50’s of the preceding century):

It is a very slow paced form of photography, you need to load film, advance to your first frame, measure light with an external light meter, set your exposure accordingly on the camera, manually wind to next frame, …

It is hard to focus, even with the split prism focussing screen, I get a lot of ‘half sharp’ images.

It takes a while to get used to the left-right mirrored image, and the camera movements that are reversed in your viewfinder.

It has limited sharpness, partly due to limited lens quality, and limited film grain resolution. I have the impression that my scans at 7000 x 7000 pixels are not nearly as sharp as my images taken digitally on a Canon 5D mark II

There is no possibility to verify your results instantly. We are so spoiled with our digital camera’s, which have an immediate visual representation of your last exposure, that it is very difficult getting used to not having any immediate feedback at all.

It takes an awful lot of work to scan your negatives (I’m not talking about developing the negatives, because I have them developed by a lab). I scan the entire roll at lower resolution (similar to the old contact sheet) and then decide on the better images to make a high res scan only from the best. Even then, I’m occupied longer with a roll of 12 negatives, than with the 200 digital images I took.

It is quite difficult to get a good gray tones distribution in your scan. (that is probably me missing experience) I have an epson 3170 Photo scanner, which is ok, without being to expensive or cumbersome on my desk top.

In my case (taking B&W film rolls only) it is not possible to use different colors in the process of converting to black and white. With a digital color image, you can decide for every color tone, how light/dark it should be represented in the B&W conversion. Since I use black and white film, I have no color tones to play with. Film also gives you less play in exposure settings. Over a stop of wrong exposure, and you’re done with it.

Pro’s for film photography

It is a very slow paced form of photography (sound similar to the first con, don’t it?) which means you will be much more attentive before pushing the button. Remember, you only have 12 exposures on one roll, better get it right first time. I believe I have been more aware of composition and exposure settings than ever before.

My camera has a square format, which means you no longer have to deal with the horizontal vs. vertical question. What a relief, really. This has been such a comfort I couldn’t have expected it myself. I wish I had the possibility to cover up my viewfinder on my 5D II to only show a square format. I suppose you have noticed that in my last shoots already. I’m getting addicted to square.

Film grain is much nicer to look at than digital grain. Digital grain structure is getting pattern like when too obvious, film grain is absolutely random.

Medium format film camera’s are available at affordable prices (vs. digital medium camera’s, which cost a leg). A used Hasselbladt will be about 1000-2000 euro’s, a new digital middle format camera will be 10x as much.

These camera’s need no batteries. They have mechanical shutters. All you need is your camera and some rolls of film.

Its nostalgia, like a small kid you just keep staring at  your negatives when they are ready. Touching the film strip only by the edges, gently wiping of the dust before scanning, …

The negatives give a physical backup, no hard drives needed. I keep some glass negatives that are over 100 years old, they have suffered neglecting, but would have been spotless if well preserved.

Anyway, I also love the look of the images. It is as if these lenses give a different form of bokeh than the new digital lenses. It is hard work, and not so rewarding compared to digital photography, but it keeps some magic that the digital images no longer have. Maybe it is an idea, but for now I will keep experimenting with it, till I get a clearer understanding of the differences, and maybe I’ll quit, or I’ll get the money once to buy a digital equivalent when I get rich.

Some scanned images from the shoot with Kimberly at The Mansion from some weeks ago. Kimberly had been a model in one of my lectures at her school, and she has been waiting for her 18th birthday to get a ‘real photoshoot’ with me. I hope you enjoy the images. Click for bigger.

Ludwigdesmet-KimberlyDW-003 Ludwigdesmet-KimberlyDW-004 Ludwigdesmet-KimberlyDW-006 Ludwigdesmet-KimberlyDW-007

Come back soon, for Kimberly at the mansion (the digital version). You’ll be able to decide for yourself then, which you like the best.

see  you soon,