Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fresh or expired?

I use lots of different films. Mostly because I am cheap and will take just about anything I find at a bargain. So my photography doesn't really have a consistent "look". That bothers me sometimes and then not at other times. Today it isn't bothering me. I just got done scanning four rolls of film and so I am a little excited about what I got. Scanning film is on one hand really tedious, but on the other hand it's like being a kid again on Christmas morning. The first time I see the negatives in inverted color, I get that sort of 'awe' feeling inside. It is surprise and delight and relief all in one.

I had 3 rolls of 35mm film and one of 120. The 35mm was all Kodak Ektachrome Slide Duplicating Film that had expired back in 1981. The 120 was fresh Kodak Portra 160. I had developed them all in Unicolor C-41 chemistry which is 'right' for the Portra, but 'cross' for the Ektachrome. Read more of my Adventures in Cross Processing here. So why am I making yet another post about this technique with the same old film?? Well the point here is to compare fresh negative film with expired slide film using photos of the same subject(s). This isn't strictly scientific since the photos weren't taken at the same time of day or under any other strictly controlled conditions. If you want that level of technical correctness, you will have to look elsewhere. I do science for a living, so I'm in this for the fun of it. But it is worth a look just to compare.

First the photos on the fresh Portra 160. I used my Yashica Mat 124G to take these. This poor camera is barely clinging to life, but still takes pretty good photos.

Nice, huh? The colors are natural, the grain is quite fine. I could easily blow these up to 24x24 inches and hang them on my wall if I chose to. In short, it is everything we have come to expect from this exceptional film emulsion.

Next, the photos from my Chinon CP-5. This was the first time I had used this camera, and I am pretty pleased with the quality of the glass and the exposures all seem correct.

This film creates a (to my eye) VERY different look. The colors are shifted (even when 'corrected' by the scanner) and saturated a little bit. The grain is noticeable, but not obtrusive. I think it lends a bit of a painterly or 'pictorialist' quality to the photos. It is short of the 'hipster/lomography' look that I think has been a bit over-done (just my opinion).

The bottom line is that I like both sets of photos, but I slightly favor the Ektachrome. It's very subjective and my opinion is likely to flip flop over time. Whichever you like better, I hope you enjoy them and have fun shooting some expired slide film on your own sometime.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Toning Cyanotypes

I've discussed this topic before, but this morning I was doing some experimenting and thought I would share some insights.

First, I started off with a 4x5 Tri-X negative from my Speed Graphic. I scanned it and inverted it to a positive. Then I made a few adjustments and removed any dust spots. That image looks like this.

Nice, huh? I thought so. I needed some prints of this, but rather than sending the negative to a custom darkroom (expensive) or having it digitally printed on a nice ink printer (not the quality/look I want), I thought I would make some cyanotype contact prints right here at home. Of course, I could print using the original negative, but I can only print one at a time and the exposure times are quite long, even in bright sun (around 20min or so). So I decided to re-invert the scan and print it on regular printer paper, then make waxed paper negatives of the image duplicated. Like this.

Then I coated some Canson Aquarelle 140# Cold Press watercolor paper with the traditional 2-part cyanotype formula. UV light penetrates the waxed paper much better than it does the plastic film base of photographic film, so the exposures worked out to be about 4 min. Unfortunately, I over-estimated the time needed and started with 12min, then tried 10min and 8min before I settled on the 4min exposure. So now I had six prints that were quite over-exposed. I could just toss them, but that goes against my frugal nature. I decided I would see if bleaching and toning would recover some contrast. Bleaching is done with dilute washing soda (sodium carbonate). On my first attempt, I had the solution WAY too strong (~1/2Tbs in 2c water) and it completely bleached the print almost immediately. In this picture you can see the over-exposed, unbleached print next to the one I just bleached.

At that point, I diluted the washing soda about 100x and that was much more manageable. Next is the toning step. For this, I use wine tannin. I put about 1/2tsp in 2c water. Some people put these solutions in trays and dip the prints, but I like to just brush them on. It gives me a little more control, I think. So here is a picture of the same two prints. The second one was 'gently' bleached and then the tannin was applied to both.

The lower one isn't really coming back, so that is probably just a loss. This is how we learn. :) I continued on with this method of bleach for a minute or so, followed by a rinse followed by toning until it 'looked right' and I must say that the over-exposed prints actually look pretty good with improved contrast and a little interesting color. It's almost like a split-tone which is a look I like. Here are a couple of the 'correctly exposed' prints after toning.

This is tons of fun and really cheap. I plan to send these off to friends as postcards which is even more fun. I hope this is informative. Put a link to your toned cyanotype in the comments. I'd love to see them!

I decided to make a print out of the 'other side' of the postcard, so I did a quick something in Photoshop, printed it, waxed it and cyanotyped it. I think it looks pretty good and completes the package in an artistically coherent way.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Balboa Park

I took a break from camera repair one weekend to take my oldest son to the High School Student Shakespeare Festival here in San Diego at Balboa Park. Of course most of my time was spent watching young people perform scenes and monologues, but there was a bit of down time in between things and then waiting for winners to be announced. So I took the opportunity to use the Yashica Electro 35 GSN I had loaded up with Expired (2011) Neopan SS. There are probably more opportunities for 'street' photography there in the park than you could shake a rangefinder at, but I'm not much for photographing people. I know, I know... I'm working on it, but very slowly. So while avoiding the crowds, I took a few shots of some of the amazing architecture we have in this 100 year old park.

This is 'the Prado'

This is the Botanical Building and reflecting pool. I have some thoughts on the composition of this photo that I might share in another post.

A detail of this Botanical Building dome.

Here is another common sight at Balboa Park. Many artists comer here and paint, photograph, draw, dance, make music, perform, etc. So aside from the 17 museums, 9 performing arts venues, 19 gardens, and so much more, there are sidewalk artists everywhere to just enjoy.

I hope that if you are ever in Southern California that you will stop by Balboa Park and see why San Diegans love it so much.

Tech Notes:

  • Film was exposed at EI 100 on a bright sunny day
  • Development was done in Caffenol-CL, standing for 70min
  • Epson V600 scanner
  • Dust spotting in PS CS5.5