Friday, September 6, 2013

The destruction of Jim's Beemer

Ok, the BMW wasn't destroyed, but the image nearly was. i was cutting down some 8x10 sheets of Kodak CSG x-ray film for the Speed Graphic and I noticed that I had some sort of oddly sized pieces of film in the bag with the 8x10's. So I decided to go grab my homemade pinhole camera and cut one of these down to fit in it. It only takes one 'sheet' at a time, so I don't load it very often, but this was just sort of asking to happen. So I load it up and set it in my 'take to work' pile with my sunglasses and keys.

About mid-day the following day, I was looking out my window and discovered that Jim's beemer was in the parking lot, which was unusual since he normally works in a different building. It was parked in front of a sort of dirt embankment that I decided would provide an adequate place to set the camera since the exposures are generally too long to hand-hold. I went out and made a little shelf in the dirt upon which to set the camera. Then I took an f/16 meter reading with my Sekonic L-508 at iso 80 and consulted my exposure table to find the f/217 exposure time. Three seconds! That sounds long, but my shutter is a piece of gaffer's tape stuck over the pinhole (did I mention this camera was homemade?) and I wasn't sure I could take it off and put it back on in 3 sec without shaking the camera a lot and making a blurry pic. So I took another reading holding the light meter vertically and sort of in the shade of the car. Another consult of the exposure table and I got 12sec! Perfect! That is enough time so that the jiggling of the camera won't cause significant blur.

I went home that evening and decided to do the development in Adox Adonal at a dilution of 1+100. I mixed the chemicals and got everything together in the bathroom. I had read that you can monitor development of this film under a safe light and since I wasn't exactly sure of the development time, I decided to keep my red LED headlight turned on. That was the first bad decision. I turned out the room lights and took the film out of the camera. Placing it in the chemicals, I started the timer. I had set my 'safe light' up on a shelf pointed toward the ceiling so as not to risk fogging the film. But then for some reason I started to worry because I could not see an image appearing. I took the light down and shone it right down into the tray where the film was. There was a bit of an image starting to emerge, so I put the light back, but the damage was done. About 20sec later the film was almost completely black. I took it out of the developer and after a quick rinse under the tap, I put it into the fixer. Six minutes in the rapid fix and I figured it was done, but it was still just black. I turned on the lights and started the final wash with little or no hope of getting anything out of my labors. I held it up to the light and could see the faint but distinctive BMW grill. It was really dark, but my scanner is pretty good at pulling out contrast where there seems to be none.

So here it is. Low contrast, extreme grain, but not completely offensive or even unartistic. I think the combination of the grain and the distortion of the curved-plane pinhole image makes a sort of interesting image. The really fun thing about this camera is that I don't really have any idea at all what kind of image is going to come out of it. That may drive the 'control your process' photographers crazy, but I like to have fun with it.

Jims Beemer