Sunday, June 11, 2017

70 + 35

I finished off two rolls of color film. Nothing exciting there. One of them was 35mm. Still nothing. The other was 70mm (616 format). That's a little more interesting, since I don't have a developing tank with a spool that holds 70mm film. Standard Patterson spools will take 35mm, 127 (46mm) and 120 (60mm). So I improvise... I take apart a standard spool.

The bottom half is the 'outer' piece that has a bigger hole through the middle. That slides on the center post.

The upper part slips down on top and I use a rubber band around the column as a 'stop' that holds it at the right place for 70mm. Loading the film is a little fiddly to get started. Doing a good job estimating the height is important. It will be about a millimeter shorter than the backing paper, so use that as a guide. If you have to adjust it in the dark, it's not that hard. This has to be done with the two halves on the center post, of course.

Then I slide the 35mm spool on top of that (after loading the film). One liter of chemistry will cover these two films in this configuration. I didn't check that before I started, but noticed when doing the stabilizer step that they were covered (whew!)

The camera I used for the 616 film was an old Agfa PD16 Clipper. I love the simplicity of this point and shoot viewfinder. Fixed focus, fixed aperture, fixed shutter speed. Literally, point and shoot. The film is Vericolor III (expired 1989). In good sunny conditions, this pair works pretty well together.


The camera I used for the 35mm roll was a Kodak 35RF I got in a trade.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Gone Microfiche-ing

Using expired film can be a bit of a challenge. There is usually some loss in speed, so the apparent iso (or the effective EI, if you like) is lower and it is up to you as the film adventurer to determine by how much. The rule of thumb says one stop for each decade past its expiration date. So assuming you know the expiration date and didn't just come across a random roll of film, you can use that as a starting point. Keep in mind though that 'fast' films (to me that means iso 100 and higher) will lose speed 'faster' than slow films. So if you have a roll of Ektar 25 that expired in 1997, that's 20 years (two stops lost), but since it was slow film to begin with, it probably didn't lose a full two stops. Maybe 1½ or 1 stop would be a better starting point. "So what's your point here Jimbo?", you may be asking. First, I don't really like "Jimbo", people called me "Jim" in college, but generally, it's just "James" and has been since Mr. Salyers' 4th grade class. Secondly, I'm getting there!

Periodically, I search for Kodak Dacomatic Recordak film to buy. I have some in the fridge and I really like it. So I just keep an eye out for a spool. I never find any. But then one day the search popped a result on the big auction site. It was "Recordak", but didn't say "Dacomatic". Additionally, it was 500 ft of 105 mm stock! Well, that seemed odd, so I did some more digging on the specific emulsion number (4462) and it turned out to be a completely different film (seems obvious now). This one was used for microfiche production. So it was copy film like the Dacomatic, but a different type. The price was right, so I went and bought it, hoping against hope that I could get pictures from it. It originally (expired 12/1979) was rated at iso 2.1! So, figuring that this stuff is really not very sensitive to light to begin with, I figured it probably hasn't lost that much speed even in almost 40 years, but I'll give it a stop anyway. That puts it right about iso 1. Okay, so I have an exposure starting point. How am I going to develop this stuff? It was designed with an automated proprietary development scheme in mind, so all I could find in the VERY sparse documentation was "Microfilm DEVELOPER and Replenisher". That's it. So I figured I would hit up the old stand by, Rodinal 1:100 and do a strip test to see if it would even change color. In fact it did! In about 15 seconds, it was fully developed!! So much for 60 minutes of stand development. Well, I cut a few sheets and took some of what I am certain were the best photos of my entire life and dunked them in what I had on hand, which was some homemade Parodinal 1:100 for 4 minutes. That is what I use for x-ray film and it works just fine. This microfilm however, was completely dark. Hmm... Maybe I over-exposed it? I tried again, taking more absolutely stunning photos at higher and higher speeds. Again, completely dark. So over-exposure was not the problem. It must be over-development. I cut the time in half. Still totally dark. I mean just a dark sheet of film... No image whatsoever. The strip test I did showed that the film cleared completely in the fixer, so it wasn't that the fixer was bad or the film was totally fogged.

I was just about to give up and call it a total loss, but I thought I would just try a different developer for grins. Rodinal variants have always developed anything I threw at them, including a roll of Ansco Plenachrome expired in 1949. But desperate times, you know. I had some X-tol powder laying about and that is a phenidone based developer, so I figured one last try. And this time, I would take a high contrast shot with lots of bright San Diego sky AND I would develop under red safelight by inspection. Did I mention that this film is orthochromatic? No? Well, now I have.



I got an image! That was in X-tol 1:3 for 10 minutes. Now to see if I could get something with a few more grays in there. So I took a shot in the shade. I gave it a little more exposure because I had the bellows extended a bit, but I forgot about the reciprocity failure that was mentioned in the tech doc. The negative was very thin, but still there was a photo and it had much more scale to it. It is still quite fine grained and in 4x5 sheets that means some super fine detail can be had.

Retro Eveready Photo Cells

Now I've got about 490 feet left of this to see what I can do with this flavor of copy film. I'm looking forward to making some photos with this oddball microfilm.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Return of the Slide Dupe

Almost a year ago, I posted "The Last of the Dupe" as I shot, developed and scanned the last roll of my beloved Ektachrome Slide Duplicating Film. What is so lovable? I suppose it is really subjective, but I just like the way the grain and colors combine. Note: I always cross-process this film in Unicolor C-41 and scan. I do the normal things for scanning film like make sure my stupid scanner (Epson V600) isn't cutting off half of the histogram. But I don't do anything really in the "color correction" realm. So recently, I was looking around the interwebz for some more. I do this periodically, but not usually with any success. Either it is just a single roll, or it is so over-priced, I won't buy it, or both. So when I came across two 100' rolls of Ektachrome, I stopped for a closer look. The were unopened, expired in '80 and '81. One roll was regular Ektachrome 64D and the other was SLIDE DUPE!! I got very excited until I saw the price. $120 plus s/h put this expired film at ~$0.66/foot. That is about 3x what I usually set my limit at for expired film especially with no guarantee, returns, etc. So I put a watch on it to see if it would sell, just out of curiosity and I also wanted to keep track of it if it didn't sell. The film didn't sell and was subsequently relisted as an auction starting at $0.99. Now that's a starting point I can get on board with! I would usually wait until the end and try to snipe the auction, but I really didn't think this was going to stay reasonably priced. So I threw a bid on it for $30 ($0.15/foot). Who knows how, but I won the auction with a winning bid of $10.50! Including s/h the film came out to be $0.12/foot!! If the film was any good, I got a really great bargain. If the film was trashed, I was out $23, which I could live with.

So here are the results of the first few shots. Taken with my trusty Pentax K1000 equipped with the SMC 50/1.7 lens. I set the meter at iso 32 and then I took one shot on center, the next shot was one stop slower (iso 16) and the next shot was one stop faster (iso 64). The roll was developed at regular temps and times for Unicolor C-41.


I did not adjust any levels or anything to make one shot look better than the others. I just set the histogram limits for black and white. At first glance, the iso 16 shots look best. But if you look at the last shot of the rose bud, you will see that the highlights blew. That is the only one taken in full sun, midday. So maybe 16 would be a good number if you are shooting this in diffuse or dim light (golden hour), but I think the iso 32 and 64 shots are more usable as far as the highlights and shadows go.

Here are the 32 and 64 shots from the middle set. I have adjusted these individually in order to compare on level ground.


It is easy to see that the shot at iso 64 has more grain and is a little cooler in tone. That is good to keep in mind in case that is a look I want. I might try another short roll like this and shoot at 64 and 125 and then push the development one stop. That might bring the warmth back to the colors and help with the grain a bit. If I decide to do that, I'll link it here. Until then I am just going to enjoy shooting my favorite film again.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Russian Fog

I took a drive up to Oceanside, CA this morning. With me I had my Speed Graphic and my Isolette III. I haven't shot the Isolette in a while which is tragic because I really like the camera. However, I had loaded it with my least favorite film ever, Svema FN64. I shouldn't say that it is my least favorite film because there are films I have shot that gave no image whatsoever and those top the list for sure. Also, there are examples of FN64 that have produced perfectly acceptable results. I had bought a batch of 10 rolls on the auction site and for whatever reason, these rolls are fogged badly, in a weird way. I think I mostly wanted to just get it out of the freezer, but I feel bad about trashing film, even if it doesn't make images I like. Well, I guess I could sell it to the next unsuspecting bargain hunter, but I don't like foisting (that's right, I said "foisting") my problems on other people. So every once in a while I pull a roll out and shoot it, just in case something good might happen. I had shot that film before at iso 16 and there was one or two shots that were worth scanning and sharing, so I figured I'd try that same iso again. Once I get below 16, handheld gets harder to do and this was going to be my carry around camera for a week, so I didn't want to have to have a tripod everywhere. Maybe next time, I'll try 5 or 3.

Anyway, here are some results.

Isolette-FN64-010 Isolette-FN64-001

Note that you lose the last frame to the old tape. Seriously.


The gear and film.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Strange New Development

I am unafraid of getting chemicals on my hands (figuratively) and mixing up concoctions. I have spent my share of time in the lab and have even blown a couple of things up, so mixing up photochemistry is not a problem. Additionally, I am comfortable with a certain amount of uncertainty in my photographic outcomes. I don't shoot weddings anymore, so no world is going to end if I totally screw up what I am doing. So when I recently became aware that X-tol and Rodinal could be mixed and that the results might encapsulate the best of both of those developers, I was on it. I had some X-tol powder that I weigh into 1L portions and I had some Parodinal, so I figured I would shoot some 4x5 Kodak CSG and some Arista Ortho Litho and see what came out of it. Normally, I would develop CSG shot at iso 80 in parodinal diluted 1:100 for 4.5 minutes, so I used that as a starting point and at the last minute decided to cut it in half. I shot the Arista at iso 3, but I haven't worked much with this film, so I don't have a standard development for it. My standard dilution for X-tol is 1+3. So 250 mL of X-tol, 5 mL of parodinal and top off to 1L. Nothing exploded, so I figured I was good to go. I chose 5 minutes with 4 inversions every minute. The temp was probably around 68F. Stop was with tap water, changed 4 times. Fix was 2 minutes in Ilford Rapid Fix. Both of these films have extremely thin emulsion layers and actually fix in about 15 seconds.

The Ortho Litho turned out with VERY high contrast as might be expected. Here are a couple of the shots.


The CSG was much more tame and the negs looked 'normal' as far as exposure and density goes. I think the grain might be a bit smoother with this X-tol based developer. Hard to say without some sort of side by side with the same exposure of the same subject, but my gut says it is smoother. I know, not very scientific, but this is my hobby not my job. I don't have to be quantitative if I don't want to.

SpeedGraphic-KodakCSG-pan01 SpeedGraphic-KodakCSG-pan02

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Like I Need Another Alt Process

I have a project in mind. That usually means I will be spending more than I have of two different things... time and money. I have toyed with the idea for a while of getting into wet plate photography. It is all the rage apparently. I love the look. I love the 'one of a kind' aspect. I don't like the 'wetness'. Having to pour, sensitize, focus, compose, expose, develop and fix all within 10 minutes is too much of a push for my little brain. I need time. I need to think and rethink. I need to decide whether or not I even want to take that photo. These things become more difficult with the constraints of wet plate photography. So I will continue to enjoy the marvelous efforts of others working in that medium. So what do I do if I like the product but not the process? Well, I do what Richard L. Maddox did in 1871 and I use a similar process that uses DRY plates instead of wet. The dry plate process still uses plates of metal and glass coated with silver halides suspended in, let's call it 'goo' which is then allowed to dry in the dark and then exposed like regular film (sort of). This takes the rush of getting to the fixing step before the plate dries out of 'the picture'! (insert sad trombone sound here)

For my first foray into this process, I thought I would just start in the shallow end of the pool and get a dry plate tintype kit. These are sold by Rockland Colloid and come with 8 blackened aluminum plates (4x5), AG-Plus emulsion (light sensitive, open only in the dark), developer (top secret formula) and fixer (standard hardening fixer). Here are a few things I wish I had read before I wasted 4 plates.

  • The emulsion is solid, so you have to heat it in a hot water bath to liquify it. That is outlined in the instructions included with the kit. What they don't tell you is that it will instantly solidify when you pour it onto a room temperature plate. That seems intuitive, but it caught me and I ended up with a big mess. So my solution was to get a regular old heating pad, like you use for sore muscles. Take the cover off and put some paper towels or newspaper on it. Now put your plates on that and let them warm up while the emulsion warms up in the water bath.
  • Even warm, the emulsion is about the consistency of Elmer's Glue. It isn't going to flow nice and easy over your plate even if everything is warm. My first attempt, I tried spreading it around as evenly as I could with my finger. That didn't work well at all. Mostly, the emulsion was too thin and the image turned out to be too faint. Also, it was not at all evenly spread. I later settled on using a small rod to pull the emulsion across the plate. It was still imperfect, but much better and easier to control. I think with a little practice, this could work quite well.
  • The spectral (light color) sensitivity of the emulsion does not lean toward blue. It IS blue (and uv). I tried exposing this under bright studio fluorescent lights and it just wasn't enough. Full sun or some other strong ultraviolet light source will be necessary. Under full sun, the iso comes in around 0.5. That means 1 second exposure at f/8. Now is a good time to mention that the developer starts to die when you open it. It takes about 2 weeks for it to really die, but your iso is going to suffer more and more as the developer ages. Development is done by inspection under red light, so you can extend it, but if development happens slowly, you will get greenish blue swirls (see my examples below).

Okay, enough blah blah. The bottom line(s) are:

  1. Coat mechanically with everything warmed up
  2. Expose in full sun.
  3. Use fresh chems.
Here are the two images I ended up with following the above advice. They aren't perfect, but they are a step in the right direction.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Where'd the Numbers Go!?

I just loaded a roll of Kodak Ektar 120 into my 1939 Voigtländer Bessa 6x9. I started winding, looking for the 1 to appear in the ruby window. I wound and wound, but the 1 never appeared, neither did the 2! I was certain that I had wound far enough, but no numbers! I must have done something wrong with the loading or the turning of that little winder thing. It seems simple and I've done it many times before, but hey I wouldn't put it past myself to screw it up somehow. So I went into the dark bathroom and wound the film back onto the supply spool and tried again. Guess what. The same thing happened. I know it is the definition of insanity to keep doing the same thing and expect different results, so I didn't try it a third time. I went where every puzzled photographer goes... the Googlez! It seems that some others have had their Ektar 6x9 numbers go missing as well. Kodak must have recently changed the position of these numbers, because I know that I have shot this film in this very camera in the last few years and not had this problem. Anyway, I pulled out an empty Ektar backing paper and compared the position of the numbers to the position of the window and sure enough, they don't line up. The numbers are too close to the edge of the paper.

Now that I had the problem clearly identified I needed a solution. Moving the window to accommodate the numbers wasn't really an option, so I had to move the numbers. One option for moving the numbers was to just spool the film onto a different backing paper that has numbers in the right place, like Acros. I decided that was sub-optimal since I might get confused later and develop it in the wrong chemicals. So I took that old Ektar paper and wrote on a new set of numbers in the correct position. Then I rolled the film onto the new paper. Voilà!! There are my numbers in the ruby window!

I hope someone finds this useful. I know I did. :P