Saturday, December 26, 2015

Fall Color

Okay, that title is a little misleading since I am only going to show black and white photos in this post. But I was out around the neighborhood shooting some colorful leaves the other day and the film I had loaded in my Pentax K1000 was my trusty Kodak Recordak Dacomatic. This film was intended for use in the Recordak Microfilmer.

I am old enough to have used microfilm and microfiche in college. It was just for copying text and half-tone images, so really it was just a high contrast medium, not intended for pictorial use at all. There was no need for it to be even panchromatic (sensitive to all visible wavelengths of light), so it was orthochromatic (sensitive to the blue/uv end of the spectrum). That means that red things tend to be dark, even black when photographed with this film. So I had this in mind when I went out for my walk. There aren't many colorful trees here in San Diego, but one that does turn a nice color is the liquidambar tree. The leaves turn a deep red color from November throughout the winter. If there isn't much wind or rain, many leaves stay on the tree. So I decided to try a few shots of these red leaves using my orthochromatic (red insensitive) film. I got pretty much what I thought I would... some very dark colored leaves with good detail. I developed the film in X-tol diluted around 1+3 for 11 minutes with agitation every 30 sec. The film was exposed at EI 100 which is a little fast for this, especially with red subjects, but I still got some decent images.


This last one is of a red Christmas Cactus with some water drops. The red subject with this film becomes pretty abstract, which I often like.


I hope you enjoyed this little trip down 'Orthochromatic Lane'. Expired microfilm is a fun change of pace for people who like black and white images, but are a little bored with the usual offerings of Tri-X and FP5. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

To correct or not to correct...

While driving home from a high school football game last Oct, we happened across North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area. There was a pull-out, so I thought I might get a few snaps of the place. I think it would be worth going back at a better time of day or maybe pre-dawn and just sit and see what the light does. Anyway, I had Some Ektachrome Slide Dupe film loaded in my Fed-3 and I just snapped a few shots off casually. I developed the film a couple of months later and was in a bit of a rush when I decided to scan the negatives. So I just put them on the scanner and let the auto settings do their magic. Well a couple of things happened. First, I hand wound the film into an old 35mm canister and as it turns out, the light seal was imperfect, so there were some light leaks on the film. Some shots had worse streaks than others and so this in turn caused the scanner to make different decisions about what was 'white' in each frame. So when I came back to view the photos, these shots of the dunes, while taken at the same time in the same place, were different colors. It looked like this.

Sand Tryptich

You can see that the center one doesn't have a light leak in it and it looks more 'true' to the color of sand (mid-day-ish). The other two got shifted with more red and blue. I thought this was sort of an 'interesting' outcome of some random inputs, but I wondered what the same triptych would look like with the color balance corrected so they all looked alike. So I went about rescanning them, using the RGB levels of the middle photo to adjust the other two manually. I do my scanning with the Epson Perfection V600 flatbed scanner and the Epson Scan software that comes with it. It is easy to use and produces results acceptable for sharing online which is about 95% of what I do with my photos. Here is the result of the adjusted photos (sorry about the dust, I didn't bother doing the dust spotting on the second scan).

I like this version, but not as much as I like the first one. That left me with a question though. Is it artistically honest to accept my scanner's decisions resulting in random changes to my images? Can I post those photos and tout their beauty when this was not my intention when I took them? I might just have to leave that one to the philosophers and accept the "happy accident" of light leaks and scanner color shifting. I like the results too much to delete them.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

LC-69 Process Film

What's that?? You've never heard of LC-69 film? Well apparently, not many other people have either. I certainly never had until I was given a very generous gift of a Pentax K1000 with a few lenses, filters, and not surprisingly, an old roll of film forgotten in the bottom of the bag. The canister said "Images Professional Color Print Film". Then it had three little boxes where you would put a check mark next to the speed at which you shot the film, 100, 200 or 400. then there was a mysterious marking, "Process LC-69". What sort of color print film was this? Well, straight to the Googlz I went and oddly, there was very little to be found about this beast. What I did find was not very informative as far as how to process it. So, I figured, what the heck... shoot it at iso 100 and process it in C-41 at room temp and see what you get. Worst case, I would have wasted some time on murky brown images. I did learn that this film was used by the mail order places like Seattle Film Works where you would mail them your film, pay for processing and they would send you replacement film for free. I also read somewhere that there was rem-jet on these films, but more about that later.

The Pentax had been stored for quite some time, but it was in a bag with silicone packs, so I figured it was probably servicable as far as shutter speeds go. Heck, the battery that powers the meter is still holding a charge! Anyway, I went down to the lovely Balboa park on a sunny December morning (yes, most December mornings are sunny here in San Diego) to meet some friends from work. We were going to do a photo walk for a couple of hours and I was heading the charge. Of course everyone else was shooting nice digital cameras, both SLRs and mirrorless. I shot up the LC-69 film and some Dacomatic copy film as well as a roll of Acros in my Bronica S2a. But you are here to read about the LC-69, right?

I decided that I would follow a procedure outlined by Reinhold of fame whereby regular C-41 chemicals are used at room temperature instead of the usual 102F. I figured that would be more gentle on the emulsion if this happened to be a sensitive film. So the temperature in my house was about 70F and Reinhold's calculations said that I would need 17 minutes in the developer. That seemed like a long time, but I'm all about the trust. So 17 minutes with 4 inversions every 30 seconds passed. I did a strip test on the leader in the Blix and it looked like it cleared in about 3 minutes, so the usual 6.5 minutes in the Blix was going to work. It didn't look to me like there was any rem-jet on the leader after the blix test, but I did a 1 minute soak and agitate in some Borax at the end of the Blix cycle. Nothing really came off, so I think that part was erroneous.

The scans look like regular expired cross processed slide film. Nothing surprising or extra special about the LC-69 film. Sorry, that's anti-climactic, I know. But here are some nice pictures for you to look at.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Three films, One flower

This isn't really a very scientific comparison since most of the variables involved were not controlled. In fact none of the variables except for the subject were controlled. So take it for what it's worth... a simple visual comparison of the same subject on three different expired color films.

First is one of my favorite color films (see more here). It is 35mm Ektachrome Slide Dupe film cross-processed in C-41 as CN. I think it expired in the 90's and I shoot it at iso 25 and develop normally in Unicolor C-41 chems.


Next up is some expired 35mm Ektachrome 64D. This film was not stored well so there is some fogging and grain, but still not a bad looking film. I shoot this around iso 12 and cross-process in the same Unicolor C-41.


Finally, we have some 4x5 Vericolor II sheet film, also expired in the 90's. This shot seems particularly low contrast and there is a strange banding that I haven't seen with this film before, but I still like the look.


I hope you enjoyed this informal look at these different films. I (obviously) like shooting expired color film. Fresh CN film is also very nice, but there are no surprises really. You get pretty much what you see through the viewfinder. I like surprises, so I will keep shooting this old stuff as long as I can find it for reasonable prices. Long live FILM!!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

There's Expired Film, and Then There's...

When I see a bargain on 'the bay', there is a fleeting moment when my brain says, "That's too good to be true, and if it were really a bargain someone else would have snatched it up before you." Often that is enough to discourage me from making impulsive purchases. However, when it comes to cheap film, I am a complete sucker. So when I came across a 10-pack of 120 film for around $3/roll shipped, my urges got the better of me. Now this film was a little odd, but not unheard of. It was the Russian brand Svema and it was the FN64 black and white negative emulsion. It had expired in 1996 which is less than 10 years ago, so I figured between the relative newness and the slow iso, it would be good to go, maybe even at box speed. So I ordered the 10 rolls and hoped for the best. When it came in the mail (from Ukraine) I thought the cold war style packaging was quaint. The rolls were individually boxed with Cyrillic letters on them. The rolls inside were wrapped in a foil-lined paper, not sealed in plastic like most other 120 films are. I unwrapped one to find a bright red backing paper that seemed a little bit thicker than most backing papers I have encountered, but you never know until you try, right? So I put the roll into my Bronica S2a and started shooting. My concern grew on about the fourth shot. I wound the film, the shutter cocked and then the film kept winding. It wasn't like a free spin as if the film had broken, but a sort of squishy wind that gradually got stiffer. I finished the roll with this sort of strange 'feel' to the winder. Normally when I reach 12 on the counter, I get the free wind as the film is all on the take-up spool and no longer turning the sprockets in the winding mechanism. This time that didn't happen. It just got harder and harder to wind. So I opened it up, figuring it had something to do with the thickness of the backing paper. Maybe I was going to have to respool all of this onto regular 'Western-style' backing papers. But no, when I opened the back, the film sort of sprung out at me like one of those trick snakes in a can novelties. It was not wound around the take up spool at all. Instead it was crammed all around it accordion style. What I discovered was that the tape that normally holds the film to the backing paper on the leading edge had lost all of its stickiness and so it did not lead the film onto the spool. One roll down. One lesson learned. The next roll I took into a darkened room and unrolled it until I could feel the leading edge of the film and the old tape. Out with the old and in with a new piece of nice sticky tape. I rolled it back up and put it in the camera. This time it wound like a charm. I shot the roll at iso 50 because that is what I read someone else did on the interwebz. Here is where we learn the lesson about film storage conditions and what effect they have on film over time. Here is an example from that roll.


Sometimes you can overcome background/base fog simply by bumping the exposure a stop or two. So for the next roll, I decided to go for it and shoot it two stops slower than box speed at iso 16. This might have been a little better, but not significantly so.


This film was obviously stored at 'room' temperature or worse. This caused oxidation of the emulsion which turns things all 'speckeled'. It's not the worst thing that could happen. If I know the photos are going to look like this, I can choose my subjects and lighting accordingly and set my expectations. So I'm not sure what exactly I will do with the remaining 7 rolls of this old film, but I'll bet one day I will find myself in the mood for something a little 'different' and I'll pull another one of these old Russian rolls out of the freezer.

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Beach, A Bucket, and a Brownie 2a

So I have this roll of 70mm Kodak Vericolor III which was originally a tungsten balanced film. It expired in 1989, so I shoot it at iso 50 instead of its “box speed” of 160 for daylight. However, since it is 70mm film, the only camera I have that will take it is a Kodak Brownie 2a Model B (1920-24). These cameras were made in the days of relatively low film speeds, so I figured I was safe. The white balance could be taken care of in post by applying an 85b warming filter to the images. So I snapped away, not worrying a whit about f-stops or shutter speeds. The 2a has 1 shutter speed (around 1/30th) and 3 apertures of approximately f/11, f/16 and f/22. Doing a quick 'sunny sixteen' calculation in my head, I set it at aperture #2 and happily set about taking some shots of people doing the beach thing, some scenery, etc.

Skip ahead a few weeks. I am ready to develop some color film. In fact Reinhold (some of you may know him from his caffenol blog) over on Filmwasters had suggested that C-41 development could be done at room temperatures by simply extending the development time. So I thought I would try this. There has been a heat wave recently where I live and so my house is a warm 85F during the day. I looked that temp up on Reinhold's graph and figured I would develop for 8 minutes instead of the 104F time of 3.5 minutes. Well, the negatives were a little thin. I suspect that my C-41 kit is nearing exhaustion since I have had it since Last summer and have developed MANY more rolls of film than the manufacturer recommends. This is a testimony to the Unicolor kit. It just goes and goes and dies off slowly, so instead of having a suddenly blank roll, I have a thin roll that I can still scan, and I know that I need to replace my chemistry.

So I scanned the negatives and saw some pretty massive light leaks that weren't "camera" leaks, but leaks where the edges of the backing paper got torn or folded and the film was exposed when I put it in and took it out of the camera, not to mention the 3 weeks in the refrigerator. Given all that, I will accept the leaks as "happy accidents" as well as the thin negs and the color shifts. This photo seems to be especially well received over on Filckr where it earned me my very first "Explored" photo. I hope you enjoy it too.


Monday, September 14, 2015

My First Salt Print

I like making prints. Having something to hold in my hand at the end of the day is just more satisfying than looking at the inverted image of my scanned negative. The image on the screen is enough to keep me going with the whole photography thing, don't get me wrong, but there is something special about holding that paper with the image I created on it. Alas, I don't have a darkroom or an enlarger. I don't currently have the space to set it up, so it just isn't an option. Enter "contact printing"! Taaa Daaaaa! Contact printing is where you put your negative (or in some cases positive) in contact with a piece of paper that has been coated with light sensitive chemicals. This creates an inverted image on the paper... a print. This is very different than making an 'enlargement' from a negative. That involves projecting light through the negative onto photographic paper. The paper is then developed, washed, fixed and washed again. With most contact printing processes, there is no development step. It is called POP or Print Out Paper, which means that the image emerges during exposure. There is a literal ton of information on these interwebz about how to do this, so I won't rehash the history or list all of the different variations and recipes. I will just go briefly over the process I used for this, my first foray into silver-based printing.

The salt solution is:

  • 20g sea salt
  • 20g sodium citrate
  • enough purified water to make 1L

I brushed this solution onto Strathmore Bostick 100 lb hot press watercolor paper and let it dry. I chose this paper because it was lightweight (recommended) and smooth, so it wouldn't require an additional step of sizing to keep the chemicals on the surface. You don't want thick spongy paper that will absorb the chemicals or your prints will look 'soft', or not quite as sharp as the negative image you are using.

Next, I made this solution:

  • 12g Silver Nitrate
  • enough purified water to make 50mL

And this solution:
  • 6g citric acid
  • enough purified water to make 50mL

I made these two in amber dropper bottles with clear labeling. Silver nitrate is not to be trifled with. It will cause blindness if you get it in your eye, so absolutely wear eye protection when handling powder or solutions!! It will stain anything it gets on so cover counters and wear an apron and some sort of latex or nitrile gloves if you don't want black dots on your skin and clothes.

When you are ready to make a print, go to a dimly lit room (I use a room with a window, but keep the curtains drawn) and combine 1:1 the silver and citric acid solutions. I just eyeball it with the glass droppers. There isn't going to be any noticeable difference if you are 10% off one way or the other. I then use a brush to apply a thin coating of the solution to the dry salted paper. At this point a replacement reaction occurs and NaCl combines with AgNO3 to make the inert product NaNO3 and the light sensitive product AgCl. Let the paper dry, or use a cool hair dryer to get it nice and dry. I had good luck adding another coat when using a brush. The first print I did only had a single coat and there were visible brush marks in the image area.


But I'm getting ahead of myself. I happen to have a nice printing frame that my lovely, beautiful, kind, generous and supportive wife (are you reading this darling?) gave me as a gift. If you don't have one (the printing frame, not the amazing wife), a piece of glass or two will do. As long as you can sandwich the negative between the glass and the sensitized paper, you will be fine. I made sure that the silver emulsion on the negative was pressed against the silver coating on the paper. That will give you the sharpest possible image. Then I set the whole thing out in the blazing San Diego sun for about 6.5 minutes. My printing frame has a split back that allows me to check the progress as I go, so there really isn't much guessing and I got a well exposed print on my first try. That's the one of the hostas just above this paragraph.

The print looks sort of orange/brown right out of the frame. Take a quick look in that dim room, but don't dilly dally. Start rinsing the print either under gently running water or in a water bath, agitating and changing the water frequently. "What do you mean by 'frequently'", you ask. Well, it gets a bit fuzzy here. People who live where there is more water than you know what to do with, can just let the water run and run for 10 to 20 minutes. But I live in drought-ridden So. California where the water police are watching and just waiting to double your water charges if your usage increases over last year. So I am probably under-washing my prints and they will only last 50 years instead of the 400 years that the museum archivists like. Since my prints will never darken the walls of a museum, I don't care. So I rinse under running water for a minute or two and then let the print sit in an appropriately sized tub with a couple of inches of water in it for 5 minutes and change the water 3 or 4 times. I figure that has got to provide at least a 1:1000 dilution of the unexposed AgCl left on the paper. If that isn't enough, then I apologize to the future generations of people with bad taste who might have appreciated my prints, but can't because they are too dark.

Next I fixed the print using this solution:

  • 100g Sodium Thiosulfate
  • enough purified water to make 1L

I just pour enough in the washing tub to cover the print, maybe 1/2 inch deep and let it soak with some gentle agitation for about 5-6 minutes. Then rinse again with the same scheme as before. When that is done, hang it to dry and bingo... salt print deliciousness!


Friday, August 28, 2015

Expired Ektachrome Delight

I like using expired film. It is cheap and slow and grainy and contrasty and just suits my style of photography well. I use fresh film too sometimes. Really it just depends on what is on hand. I don't keep a second refrigerator dedicated to large stockpiles of film. I have enough to give me a selection to choose from. Most of what I have right now is expired 35mm film. I do have a 100 ft roll of expired 70mm Vericolor III that I use in my Brownie 2a. But back to the actual topic. A while back, I traded some film over on the Filmwasters Forum and I received 10 rolls of 36exp Ektachrome 64D that had expired in the 80's. The person who bought it tried it and didn't like the greenish background fog. Apparently, the film had not been stored properly and was showing signs of age. I decided to take some of it off of his hands with the intention of doing experimental redscale and pinhole kinds of things with it (which I have done).

After a few rolls like that, I thought "Why not just shoot a roll of this straight and cross process in C41?" Okay, so what iso do I shoot expired fogged film? The rule of thumb is to add a stop for every decade past expiration. That gives me 3 stops for the expiration and puts the film at iso 8. That's a little slow even for me, so I decided to try iso 12 and see what happened.

The first roll I loaded into my Chinon CP5 with a nice prime 50/1.9 lens. I was going to a football scrimmage to see my son play, so I thought I would take it along. The event was at a local junior college which I knew would be mostly abandoned, giving good opportunities for architecture or landscape types of shots. I shot the roll and developed it in Unicolor C41, my usual for CN film. I was really surprised at how well the colors turned out. It is definitely cross-processed and the added contrast and color shifts give it that sort of 'lomo' look. Here are a couple from that day.

This film does well in the bright San Diego sun, so when the football team announced that they were having a car show as a fundraiser, I thought it would be another great opportunity to see what this film could do, this time with brightly colored subjects. Again, the film did great, this time in my Nikkormat FTn with the venerable Nikkor 50/1.4. It seems that these shots had less base fog, but that could be attributed to a few different things, so I'll probably just call it 'anomalous' and move on. Here are a few from the car show. FTn-Ektachrome64T-031 FTn-Ektachrome64T-005 FTn-Ektachrome64T-025 FTn-Ektachrome64T-018 FTn-Ektachrome64T-001 That last one with the fog and the light leak is my favorite. I like the visceral quality of this old film, and I like making up stories about its tortured past.

So go find some old expired Ektachrome and see if it doesn't do a little magic in your camera.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


One or both of my readers (hi mom) may be familiar with the b/w film developer Caffenol. This is made with instant coffee, washing soda and vitamin C powder. It is environmentally friendly, cheap, high quality, easy and cheap. Alright, I am cheap and Rodinal might be a little cheaper than Caffenol, but there is just something very cool about mixing household ingredients and getting film developer out of it. So I occasionally mix up a batch when I have time. There are examples around here.

Recently, there was a discussion of the active ingredient. It turns out NOT to be caffeine, but caffeic acid. So that begs the question (for me): What else has caffeic acid in it that might be readily available? The answer: The bark of Eucalyptus globulus (according to Wikipedia). This is an Australian native tree that happens to be a common invasive species in So. Cal. where I live. In fact, there are big ones just outside my front door. So it is very simple for me to step outside and collect some bark off the ground, and that's just what I did. I didn't weigh it or anything, this was more of a 'proof of concept' experiment than an optimization. So the best I could say about the quantity used would be 'a couple of handfuls'. I took it inside and broke it into little pieces, then I put those into my coffee grinder. Legal Disclaimer: Do not use anything you plan to later use for food prep when preparing photographic chemistry. I ground it up pretty fine and put it into a pint mason jar. Then I poured boiling water in and let it steep for about 30 minutes. I then poured the liquid through a coffee filter and discarded the used bark. I have absolutely no idea how much caffeic acid is in this tea (if any). I subsequently did some Google Scholar research and found a paper where the researchers could not detect caffeic acid in the bark of Eucalyptus globulus. That was discouraging, but I had come this far, so I decided to at least do a drop test on a piece of film.

To do a drop test, just get an old piece of film, expose it to the light and put a drop of your developer on it. If it turns black, your developer is active, if not, then it isn't. I had a little over 500mL of eucalyptus tea, so I followed the recipe for Caffenol C-L, adding 16g of Washing Soda and 10g of Vit. C. I didn't add any KBr. Then I topped off to 1L with distilled H2O. The film that needed to be developed was Kadak Recordak Dacomatic. This is copy film with a very thin emulsion layer and no anti-halation layer, so probably would be my best bet if the developer ended up being weak. So I cut the leader from one of my rolls and put a drop of the developer (heretofore known as Eucalyptol) on the emulsion. One minute later... nothing. Give it a little shake. Then it happened. The emulsion started to turn. First just a faint brown, then darker and darker. It was working! I swirled the drop of developer onto a different area of the film and there it sat. Maybe there was a little development, but not much. So there it was. A one-shot developer.

Now to decide on a developing time. I figured I would do a stand development, but I didn't want the bromide drag that comes with it on 35mm film. So I decided 1 hour semi-stand with inversions at 20, and 40 minutes. That way, if the dev was weak, at least I might get thin but scanable negs.

Here are some of the results:

N2020-Dacomatic-004 N2020-Dacomatic-003 N2020-Dacomatic-021 N2020-Dacomatic-018 N2020-Dacomatic-014

Okay, HCB I am not, but you get the idea. The tonal scale is compressed (more contrast), though part of that is attributable to the fact that I was shooting mostly in full sun, mid-day at the freakin' beach. You won't find many more contrasty scenes than that. Also the film itself is intended for copying documents, so contrast is sort of its thing. Normally, I develop this film in Adonal (Rodinal) 1:100 for 70min with inversion initially and at 30 min. That gives a pronounced grain that I find appealing. It's not for everyone, especially those who enjoy the digital aesthetic, but I like the grain. With this developer, I am going to call the grain "chunky style", but still not so obtrusive as to be distracting. Additionally, while I was doing some light dust spotting in Photoshop, I did notice some very very small pinholes in the emulsion. These appear as tiny black dots on the scan. My intuition tells me that there could be something in the eucalyptus extract that is being hard on the thin emulsion layer of this film. I am doubtful that I would see it with a regular pictorial photographic film (stay tuned).

Over all, I think this is a good alternative to caffenol for those of us who want to see just how far down we can drive the cost of developing a roll of film in a home-made developer. Here's the math. I used about $0.10 worth of washing soda, about $0.76 worth of vit. C powder, and maybe a nickel's worth of distilled water. So that's around $0.90 in ingredients, not counting the film which was practically free (I think I paid about $0.03/ft). To compare, the same amount of Adonal 1:100 would cost about $0.14. So this isn't really a money saving proposition, especially if you consider the time spent collecting, grinding, steeping and weighing. It is more about the adventure of making something that works. It is closely related to the "maker" movement you see in places like the Maker Faire and Make magazine. It lets us explore our creativity while still engaging our left-brained nature.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Adventures in Positive Paper

I may have mis-titled this post since the adventure was not really anything to do with the medium. I will just make a couple of technical notes. The paper was exposed in my Graflex Speed Graphic with the Graflex Optar 135mm f/4.7 lens. It was exposed using an EI (exposure index = iso) of 3. The light was indirect sun from a window, so not very bright and somewhat diffuse. Exposure time was ~ 60s at f/4.7. Tray development was done in Rodinal 1:50 by inspection under red light. I think it was around 10 minutes with fixation in Ilford Rapid Fix (1:4). The 'tray' I used was narrower than the paper, so I had to curl it into a 'U' shape and that may have had an effect on development as agitation was uneven.

Okay, the main thing I wanted to talk about was this. I don't take many people pictures. Look around my Flickr feed and you will see lots of plants and random objects and some landscape. Street photography is pretty much absent from my repertoire, and portraits are uncommon if not rare. Let's just get this out of the way. I am an introvert. I don't naturally connect with people, especially people I don't know well. So going up to people and asking them if I can take their photo is an experience on a level with unanesthetized fingernail extraction. I tried to work this out by starting a "100 Strangers" project. I think I made it to #3. Even though the people I photographed were friendly and good-natured, the negative reinforcement outweighed the positive.

That's probably more than you care to know about my inner psychology, so what does all of that have to do with anything? Only this... My youngest son (not so young any more) is the model for a good portion of the portraits I take. He is always willing to sit down and have his photo taken. It might even qualify as "quality time" since he is just curious enough to ask a question or two about what I'm doing and I am willing to take the time out of what I'm doing to explain it. Maybe some day he will want to start taking photographs himself.

So what was I trying to do with these two photos? I wanted to try some 'non-conventional' portraits that were more implicit than explicit. I wanted to do something to add another layer of abstraction. A photo is inherently abstract since it reduces a 3D object to 2D. Using b/w media is another layer of abstraction since most of us see in color. Removing any accompanying environment or context is a type of abstraction. Then I figured that since I was using a long exposure and not in any way 'stabilizing' my subject, there would be some motion blur. I decided to enhance this by using the on-camera shutter release and then intentionally shaking the camera ever so slightly. The first shot was a close up of Artyom's face. This is even more abstract because it isn't immediately obvious what the subject is. Most of us certainly never see another person from quite this close of a perspective. I would characterize this as "expressionistic". It uses a very abstract representation of the subject to say something about them or maybe just to create a beautiful pattern. Artyom is a 'touchy-feely' kind of person. He likes to get up close to people he likes. This photo illustrates that characteristic without explicitly showing him hugging someone. It is an 'expression' of that trait the way I see and feel it in my heart and mind.

Artyom abstract

The next shot is a little farther back, so that the subject is more recognizable. The high contrast of the photo depicts him in a certain way, but it does depict him. Anyone who knows him would recognize him in this photo. Artyom is very athletic and strong. This photo is very structural. It shows a stark outline of his shoulder, neck and collar bone. His gaze penetrates out of the photo at the viewer. So this image is what I would call "impressionist". It is an image of Artyom overlaid with the impression of his strength. The purpose of the image is not to identify him, but to identify with him. Please take a moment to comment if you like anything about these photos. I appreciate your feedback.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Vericolor III Expired

If you read the post on DIY 120 Film, then this will be old news. Skip to the pictures.

A couple of weeks ago, I found a deal on a 100ft roll of 70mm film. The film expired in 1989 and the seller didn't know how it had been stored, so was selling it at a deep discount. I bought it, knowing the risk. If it had been stored in a San Diego car trunk, chances were that it would be so badly fogged that it wouldn't be usable. However, if it had been stored refrigerated or in a freezer, it could very well make some nice images. As with most 'aged' film, the grain would be pronounced and the speed would decrease about one stop per decade. Vericolor III had a nominal speed of 160, so I decided to shoot it almost 2 stops slower at iso 50. I cut off 1 cm from the edge using the film slitter I made (see link above) and loaded it into my Bronica S2a. I shot the roll and developed it with an old-ish Unicolor C-41 kit at normal times and temps. The uncorrected scans have a bluish cast, but that is pretty easily corrected with the Epson Scan software. It actually does a pretty good job with the 'automatic' corrections it does. So here are a few shots off of that roll. It isn't high art, just some test shots to see how the color and grain fared over the last 26 years.

Hibiscus roses vise lacrosse pads

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Zenza Bronica S2a

There isn't a lot (or maybe anything) worth saying about this camera that hasn't already been said. You can Google-up it's history, versions, lenses, accessories, user manuals, etc. So why does the internet need one more article about the Zenza Bronica S2a? Well, there are a couple of reasons. Firstly, I (as do most people who blog or write for any media) like to hear myself talk (or type as the case may be). Seriously, I look at my stats and realize that only a handful of people worldwide will every stop and read this. So I write for my own amusement. Secondly, when I am researching something like which medium format camera to buy, I search and read voraciously and I really appreciate people sharing their thoughts and experiences regarding the item I am looking at. Pictures of the item are nice, but I want to hear about how you love the glass or how you hate the WLF. These are the things that drive my decisions... people's passions about the item in question.

With that in mind, I will tell my story...

I got my tax refund. I wonder how many camera purchase stories start that way. I'll be a LOT! I have a Yashica Mat 124 G that I really loved, but it fell off of a shelf onto a concrete floor and now leaks. I try to plug the leaks with gaffer's tape, but between the aesthetic of a taped up camera and having to constantly check to make sure the leaks are still plugged, I just don't use it much anymore. Shame really. I could have bought another 124G, but I started thinking about the SLR family of medium format cameras. A Hassleblad was well out of my budget, so I started looking at the 'upright' types like the Pentax 67 and the Pentacon Six. One of the appeals of this type of camera is that it has a familiar feel for 35mm SLR shooters. You hold it up to your eye and actuate the shutter with your right forefinger. So I looked at those for a while, considering what kinds of lenses I could afford for each and stay on budget. I am not wealthy by American standards, so my camera budget is modest. While looking around studying these two and the Kiev offerings, I came across a review that I had read before, but not really considered, and had actually forgotten. Even if you are not interested in this camera, the review and photos are worth reading. Zenza Bronica MADNESS! over on moominstuff. There is also a very good thread over on Filmwasters. These two reads are largely what sent me down the WLF/Hassy Clone path. I found the looks of the S2a to be very charming. The chrome accents were straight out of a 1950's cafe or soda fountain.


The descriptions of the sound of the shutter on this camera are a bit hyperbolic, but based in fact. It is loud, like a Japanese shinai coming down on your bogu men. It will turn heads, so if stealth and discretion is the name of your photographic game, save up and get the Hassleblad, or something else with a leaf shutter. I like it, personally. the great "THA-WHACK" of the shutter lets people around you know that you are shooting vintage. About 1 in 2 dozen or so people will comment positively and maybe half of the time they want to talk more about it. I like talking about old cameras, especially with young people (I'm 47, so sort of in the middle presently). They often have a curiosity, but also often don't quite "get it". I was at the Japanese Garden in Los Angeles recently and a mom and her ~ 12 yr old daughter wanted to look at the big camera around my neck. I gave them a brief tour of the features and took the film back off to show them the size of the negative. The girl's eyes lit up when I wound it and fired the shutter. Big smiles all around. Love that.


The camera itself is a bit of an engineering marvel. The idea behind it was to improve upon the Hassleblad. In some ways they succeeded. Partnering with Nikon to make the lenses and do the QC on the cameras was a stroke of genius. The camera itself will surprise you with some of the features. The fact that the focusing helicoid is separate from the lens and the body is very cool and kept the price of the lenses down. The body "knows" whether the shutter is cocked and also knows whether the film is wound. That means you can wind the film and cock the shutter, then change the back to one that hasn't been wound and the camera won't fire until you wind the film. Awesome! Inversely, if you have not wound the film or cocked the shutter and then switch to a back on which the film has been wound, you can turn the crank to cock the shutter without winding the film and losing a frame. Spectacular! The shutter won't fire with the dark slide in and the back won't come off without the dark slide in. The dark slide won't come out of the back when it is not mounted on the camera. Like I said, a marvel.


I would recommend a good strap for this camera. It is not light by any stretch of the imagination and a thin leather one will make you want to swing it around and pitch it like those olympic hammer thrower guys. I highly recommend the Op-Tech Pro line. They make them with the correct attachments for the Bronica lugs. There are two versions so make some careful measurements and order the right one.

I should say in conclusion, that I really like this camera. The weight helps me to hold it steady when using the WLF (waist level finder). The ergonomics are good for my hand size and the size and sound help me meet other people who are interested in old cameras. On the down side, the view finder could use some help. It is not very easy to focus with, even with the nifty pop up magnifier. There are brighter fresnel lenses that will fit, so I may get one of those and see if it helps. There is also a well-known problem with degradation of the foam under the ground glass. This is easily fixed, so it is only worth mentioning for those who want to buy a 50 year old camera in perfect working order and never have it serviced. Over all, the benefits outweigh the liabilities by a mile. I am going to really enjoy shooting with this camera for a long time. Let me know if you have experiences good or bad. I like to talk to others about old cameras. ;)

Sound Stage portra-s2a-023

Monday, April 20, 2015

DIY 120 Film

I am in the habit of saving the spools and backing papers from the 120 film I use. I keep thinking, "At some point these will be useful somehow." You know, typical pack rat mentality. I have long wanted to reuse them for their intended purpose and reload 120 film from bulk rolls. Sadly, it seems that I might be the only one. The film manufacturers just don't make bulk rolls of 6 cm film stock. So recently, while poking around the analog photography corners of the big auction sites, I found a bulk roll of 70 mm Vericolor III. It was cheap because the current owner didn't know how it had been stored. It was unopened IOB and marked expired in 5/89. Twenty-five years is not too old for film kept refrigerated, but kept in a So. Cal. closet, 25 years can be pretty damaging. Ah well, it was cheap (about 35¢/ft = <$1/roll). So I am set for rolling 616/116 rolls (though I need to get my hands on some backing papers), but I'm ~1cm too wide for 120. What I need is commonly called a film slitter. These are common among the sub-mini shooters who need to cut 35mm film lengthwise to fit their tiny format cameras. However, they are not so common for the medium formats. Being me, I figured "How hard can it be?" and drew a couple of little sketches to see what I thought might be feasible. For me though, the design work really starts happening when I sit down with a cutting mat, some foam core and an exacto knife.

Here is a list of the materials I ended up using:

  • Black Foam Core
  • Self-adhesive Flocking Material
  • Single-edged Razor Blade
  • Steel Ruler
  • School Glue
  • Thick Tape (Gorilla Tape)

The following is just my experience. I am not suggesting that you do this. Razors are sharp and you can get cut if you are not careful. Please don't sue me if you cut yourself or ruin a bunch of film. I am not liable for anything bad that happens as a result of anyone following these steps.

First, I made the film channel. I did this by cutting and gluing a foam core 'sandwich' with two narrow pieces on either end to create the gap and a 70mm wide channel through the middle. If I made another, I might make this with thinner material in the middle, but as it is, the thickness makes a good amount of material to hold the razor blade. I lined the channel with the camera flocking material. In my mind, it seems like this will help prevent scratches as the film passes through. In practice, it might just hold dust and stuff that will make the scratches worse. We'll see.

Next, I measured off 61mm and cut a slit in which to insert the razor. I could make other slits for different formats like 127, but maybe on the next one. I figured inserting it at an angle would increase the cutting efficiency and give more surface area for the razor to 'grip'. I don't want to glue this in as I would like to be able to change the razor if it gets dull. There was still a good amount of the razor exposed, so I used the Gorilla Tape to cover the sharp edge. Obviously, having an exposed razor in the dark is a bad idea.

Finally, I figured it would be good to have another channel to feed the backing paper through since it needs to line up with the film while I roll it onto the spool. I cut another piece of foam core to the width of the slitter and instead of using foam core pieces to make the channel, I just rolled up some Gorilla Tape and used that. This makes a narrower chamber and the paper slide through nice and straight. Here is a shot of it ready to go into the dark room. The film will be feeding through the top channel, emulsion side up. I put a crease in the backing paper where the film should start. In the dark, I just line up the end of the film with that crease and start rolling. There is another crease at the other end where the film gets taped down.

In the dark, I got the film out of the can and put the spool back into the cardboard box it came in so that the emulsion was up as I pulled the film out. I then started feeding the film into the top channel of the slitter. It wouldn't start cutting. After a few false starts, I decided I had to cut some off and try in the light. So I cut about 10" and put the spool back in the can, and put the can back in the box. In the light, I had no better luck. I thought the razor would just cut through that film like a hot knife through Justin Bieber's face, but it would not start. So I cut a little notch 1cm from the edge and tried again. Success!! It pulled through trimming a perfect 1cm strip from the edge of the film. So that's the trick. I have to start a cut 1cm from the edge in the dark. I cut a little strip of thin cardboard from a cereal box 1cm x ~6cm. This would be my guide. In the dark, I held the guide even with the long edge of the film and made a cut with a pair of scissors. Then I fed the film into the slitter and pulled the edge through so that it was even with the crease in the paper. Then I would pull a few inches through and roll it up, pull, roll, pull roll. All the time I was feeling for the final crease. That is where I would cut the film. I figured if I want to do another 120, then I would cut the film on the near side of the slitter, leaving the 'start' for next time. If I want to do a 116 next, I would cut the film on the far side, leaving the full 70mm width with no starting cut.

I loaded this 120 roll up into my Bronica S2a (article on that camera to come) and went out to test it and see if it at least fed through the camera normally. Twelve shots came off without a hitch. I suppose I could roll 220, but I would have to devise a way to measure the length in the dark. Not impossible, but probably not worth it since I don't really like 220. I will post some of the pictures if the film turns out to be any good. Feel free to post any questions or comments about this slitter or one that you have made. I am eager to improve the design.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

From Russia With Love

I might be in love. No, I’m not getting a mail-order bride. I am talking about the Jupiter-8 lens that was given to me recently. This is a copy of the venerable Zeiss Sonnar design. This design was patented in the 30’s and is still being produced by most major lens makers today! My copy was probably made in the 60’s, so the coatings are somewhat primitive, leaving it susceptible to flares. It is just something to be conscious of, not really a problem and sometimes flares can be used intentionally to add to a composition. This photo has a very subtle flare in the upper left corner, but I wouldn’t say it adds or detracts from the image (which is kind of boring to begin with). The lens was mounted on a Fed-3 which is also a copy of another German design, the Leica. This camera is built like a tank and just works every time I push the button.

I know the backlit dandelion has been done to death, but I thought I would do a little twist on it by shooting an unopened flower as the main subject and the ‘puffball’ as an out of focus element. The lens was wide open at f/2 and I may have missed focus by a centimeter or so. The film is expired Kodak Ektachrome Slide Duplicating film cross processed in Unicolor C-41 chems. The scan was done on an Epson V600 and dust spotting in PS. No other adjustments were applied.