Saturday, December 28, 2013


This post will have nothing to do with Mike Meyers, other than to show the youngsters what enters my mind when I hear the word "Sprockets!"

What I really want to talk about is the practice of putting 35mm film into a camera of a larger format so that the film is exposed from edge to edge, and then scanning or printing that film from edge to edge so as to show the sprocket holes perforating the image.

Almost every camera has a 'mask'. This is a square or rectangular frame that sits in front of the film and blocks light from reaching some parts. In a standard 35mm camera, the mask is 36mm wide by 24mm high. That is what gives you that nice 2:3 aspect ratio. So when you take 35mm film and put it in a camera that has a larger mask, the top and bottom parts of the film are not blocked and so the image extends out to the edges.

In my case, I used a Kodak Brownie Fiesta camera. This was designed in the 50's to use 127 roll film and its mask is about 4x4cm square. That is more than enough to expose the entire 35mm height of 35mm film. The final image will then be 35mm high and 40mm wide, almost square. So I measured the length of a standard 127 roll of film and cut a piece of string that long. Then I taped it down to the counter in my darkroom (bathroom). Boom, boom, out go the lights and out comes my 100ft roll of Kodak Ektachrome Slide Duplicating Film. I roll out a piece the right length, measuring it against the string on the counter which I can feel in the dark. Now is the tricky part. I have to tape the film to the middle of the backing paper and I have to do it so that the edges of the film are parallel to the edges of the backing paper... in the dark. It took a few tries, but eventually, it 'felt' like I had it all pretty close. There were creases in the backing paper where the film started, so I was able to get it easily to the right place longitudinally. So I roll up the paper and film on a 127 spool and emerge into the light and load it into the camera.

Now the Brownie line of cameras are very simple. They have fixed focus plastic meniscus lenses, a single shutter speed and usually just one or two apertures to choose from. I think they were made with 50 - 100 speed film in mind. So even though this film is probably closer to iso 25, I figured the latitude of the C-41 process would compensate and I would get images, even if the quality was sub-optimal. It's all about experimentation, right? Nobody makes anything awesome by doing what everyone else does. Ok, that's not exactly true, but it sounded sort of inspirational in my head. Anyway, here are a couple more "Sprockets!" images from my Brownie. Enjoy.


Park Bench

Friday, December 27, 2013

Summer in December

Here in San Diego, we don't get a lot of variety in the weather department. Some people say we have "perfect" weather, but I would beg to differ. I grew up in E. Washington where we had four very distinct seasons. Even within a season, the weather would vary and you could have warm winter days or cool, rainy summer days. I have heard it said that San Diego has two seasons... warm Summer and hot Summer. We are now in the midst of warm Summer where the daytime temps are in the 70's and the sun is shining. I took the week off of work for Christmas and so I have had time during the day to go out and walk around the neighborhood, seeing things that normally happen when I am at work. One of these things is that the landscapers are hard at work keeping things tidy and growing. I took these two photos near where one guy was working. He probably thought I was crazy, taking photos of such mundane things. Why would anyone want a picture of this stuff? I guess that is where 'taste' comes in. I like photos of the ordinary, every day stuff that surrounds us. Also, having an idea of what the final image will look like helps. I knew that the film I had loaded in my 1967 Nikkormat FTn was expired 30 years ago, so there would be grain. I also knew that I was going to cross-process the film so there would be color and contrast shifts. I also knew that the film was tungsten balanced, so shooting in daylight would throw the color balance toward the 'cool' spectrum. All of these things were in mind when I composed these shots. So I had a feeling that this 'mundane' subject would be helped out by all of the stuff going on with the film itself. I could have also done other things in PhotoShop after scanning the negatives, but I chose not to do that. These are pretty much straight off the scanner with a little dust spotting. I think they are interesting, especially the shot of the rakes. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2 Cameras, 2 Films, 1 Subject

I didn't really take these two photos with a blog post in mind, but I ended up scanning the films together and so the comparison was inevitable.

The first was taken with a c. 1939 Agfa PD16 Clipper. I wrote about this camera recently, so click the link to find out more about it. The film is expired (1981) Tri-X, so I expected some grain. I took the photo indoors near a bright-ish window, but still it was under-exposed for sure (probably f/5.6 at about 1/40th). The processing was done in Adonal diluted 1+100 with semi stand agitation (10 sec init and 10sec at 35min) for 70 minutes. That should have brought the grain under control a little, but I think the other factors were overpowering. The grain is "pronounced" to say the least. The contrast is low, the DOF is not bad, but I am a little too close to the subject, so it is soft. These work to emphasize the grain. So what I ended up with was a photo that looks very old indeed. I think the treatment actually works with this subject, so I am happy to share it.

The next one was taken with my trusty old (c. 1967) Nikkormat FTn with the awesome Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens. This lens has great clarity and contrast and takes pretty sharp photos if I do my part and hit the focus correctly. Development was identical to the image above, but the film was slower. Initially it was some generic "Professional Film" rated at asa (iso) 125. Being that it expired in 1981, I rated it at iso 50 and hoped for the best. I will definitely be posting some more photos from this film since I have 100 ft of it. It turned out quite nice, I think. Everything I would expect from this camera/lens and good film. There may be a bit more grain than it would have had 30 years ago, but it is nowhere near as pronounced as with the Tri-X above that expired in the same year.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. If you were nice, maybe Santa will put some expired film in your stocking!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I had a few cameras given to me recently. One of them was a 1939 Agfa PD16 Clipper. This was made after Agfa (Germany) and Ansco (U.S.A.) merged and this was the first camera design produced by the new company Agfa - Ansco. You can find identical Clippers with both Agfa and Ansco badges on them. It has a simple Cooke Triplet lens, so the images are nice, but a bit soft. It is fixed focus from ~5 - 12ft. It has an aperture of around f/6.5 and a shutter speed of about 1/30th - 1/40th sec. So with modern films (especially b/w) with good exposure latitude, you can shoot anything from iso 50 in bright daylight to iso 400 (box speed) or greater indoors or in dim light. The camera has a little tab that pulls out to allow "bulb" exposures so that the shutter stays open as long as you hold down the shutter release button. There is no tripod socket, so it's probably best to find a sturdy surface on which to set the camera. The front 'standard' has a little foot to keep it level. This camera was designed for the 616 rollfilm format. This film was 70mm wide compared to 60mm of the 'modern' 120 format. So with a little fanangling, you can use 120 film. By 'fanangling' I mean 'get something to extend the 120 spools enough to fit the camera and turn with the film advance knob'. I have an associate with a 3-D printer, so he did me a favor and printed up a set of spool extenders that are designed for just this purpose. You will get images from edge to edge on the 120 film and the film may not be perfectly flat in the camera, so you might want to engineer a new 6x6 mask if these imperfections bug you. I'm fine with what I get, so no need for further 'improvements'. The images are about 5x6cm, which is a 'near square' format, but not as near as 6x7, so it makes it interesting.

Here is a poor photo of the spool extenders.


Here is an example of a photo I took with my Clipper. I used Kodak Tri-X expired in 1981 and stand developed in Caffenol-C-L.

At the Q-Bowl

I love using these old point & shoot cameras. It is super low-tech, so there's not a lot to think about aside from composition.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Slide Duplicating Film

"KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTACHROME Duplicating Film EDUPE is a low-contrast color reversal duplicating film designed for making high-quality duplicates from originals on KODAK EKTACHROME or KODACHROME Films. It features excellent color reproduction, extremely fine grain, and very high sharpness."

Or... you can do what I did and buy 100' of the stuff that expired in Feb. of 1981 and load it up on some 35mm spools and throw it in a camera. Then, since you are in the mood to break the rules anyway, process it in your kitchen in C-41 chemistry instead of the 'required' E6 transparency chemistry (cross-process). Go ahead. Don't be afraid. You have a hundred freakin' feet of this stuff! ok, you don't have to do all of that rebellious stuff, but I did. Unfortunately, I didn't quite get the exposures right. I shot the film at iso 50. Everything was quite over exposed in the Nikkormat FTn and because of a malfunctioning aperture, everything was under exposed in the Olympus Pen EES-2. So next time I will shoot it at iso 100 and see what happens. But I still got a few frames that were salvagable. The film base is a deep orange, so mucho color correction had to be done. In the end, I ended up with contrasty, saturated photos, pretty much what you expect when toying with x-pro. You can see the pronounced grain which I think is because of the age of the film even though the person I bought it from said it had always been in cold storage. But let's face it, 32 years is pretty old when you are a roll of film.

Here is the shot from the Nikkormat FTn. I have a Nikkor 50mm 1:1.4 lens that has good contrast to begin with, so with the 'push' and the x-pro, contrast is, well, high.

Open Seed Pods

I made a diptych with a couple of the half frames from the Pen. These images show even more grain and I think some additional noise from the scanner.Lamp Dyptich

Still, for all of the strikes these images had against them to begin with (expired, wrong equipment, wrong chemistry), I think they are not horrible. I think I will roll up some more and keep on going with it.

Friday, December 6, 2013

New Life for a Polaroid Land

CamerasI was given a Polaroid Model 800 Land Camera recently (upper left). It is in very good shape for a camera that was manufactured c. 1957-62. The lens is clean and clear, the bellows are intact and all of the dials and buttons work just like they did 40+ years ago. The only thing that becomes an obstacle to using this camera is that the film is no longer manufactured for it. This particular camera used Polaroid Roll Film which consisted of a 'positive' roll and a 'negative' roll. The camera exposed the negative and then the positive was sandwiched to it and the developer was rolled out between them as they were pulled out of the camera. A minute later you could peel them apart and lacquer your print. Simple, right? Well, even if it was simple, it wasn't profitable for very long. Additionally, if you could find some of this film on say, an auction site, the developer would have long since dried out, rendering it useless for all but a dreary reminder of a wondrous time in photographic history when it only took a minute to get a print.

So what to do with this old beauty? I don't own any shelf queens. All of my cameras are functional and are used. This one should be no exception. I was fiddling around with it, looking at the rollers and how the whole system worked together. It originally made a 3x4 inch image and so that is the size of the mask the the pressure plate sits against. However, there is a larger detent around the mask that just happens to be very close to 4x5 inches! I quickly grabbed a spare sheet of 4x5 film and set it in the back of the camera. A nearly perfect fit!! This could become a nice single shot large format camera. It is smaller than the Speed Graphic (though still plenty big), but a single shot isn't really worth lugging it around town. It could be a nice portrait or still life camera. But first, I should give it a quick test just to see if the focus and shutter are even in the ballpark. I loaded up a sheet of 4x5 Kodak CSG x-ray film in the dark, closed up the back and hoped that the film wouldn't shift. The pressure plate seems a little weak, but it's hard to say what is happening inside once the back is closed. I took it out to the patio where there was a pumpkin sitting on the table with some other sundries. The camera shutter/aperture are linked. You set a dial to the correct EV and the exposure is taken care of by the camera. You don't get any real control over DOF. Focus is with a coupled range finder. Instead of 'snap' or 'click', the shutter goes 'poinnngggg', like you just over-wound your grandfather clock. I took the film out and put it into a 4x5 holder since I don't have any bags that I trust to be light tight, and stored it in the fridge until I had 5 more shots to use with my MOD54 developing rig. A couple of weeks later, I am ready and with fingers crossed, I develop per my usual process with this film:
Here is the final product. Not an exciting photo, but a successful test of the camera. I am excited to try this out in some different lighting situations. The 3x4 format is pleasing to my eye, so I will probably use it more than I think. I am trying to devise a way to get a few shots loaded with layers of film and opaque paper since there are essentially two compartments inside the camera. More on that later.PolaPumpkin