Thursday, June 30, 2016

It's been a month!

Yes, it has been a month since my last post. June has been busy, as I have been away over 3  weekends. From the 10-12 of June Adrienne and I were in Bellaire, MI for the Michigan Entomological Society Meeting.  From the 16-19, I was at Photostock in Harbor Springs. And I returned Tuesday from the 23-28 trip to Amenia, NY for Adrienne's mom's 90th birthday.  Lots of miles on my Ford Escape, lots of film to process (starting today),  and lots of digital files to edit. One of the things I have greatly appreciated is being able to use my smartphone (Android) to update during a trip. The images and comments become sort of like placeholders to remind me where I was on these trips. They also inform family and friends where the heck I am at.  I do try and keep a written diary of the photo aspects of a trip, but Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are useful for documenting my travels.  Of course, the snaps I take for Instagram are not of the quality that my real cameras take, but they have their own low-fi charm.

Preparing my equipment for any particular trip is always an interesting dilemma. What cameras do I bring? How many bags? What film? Which digital system?  You are probably saying "This guy has too many cameras."  Truth is, I probably do, but i have pared down quite a bit.  My digital gear is in 3 categories:

  • Fuji X100S -- ideal for street shooting, gatherings, and travel.  Limited to only the 35mm-equivalent f/2 lens.   Image quality is fantastic. 
  • Nikon D200 or D3200 - full range of lenses, etc.  The 3200 is lighter, more compact, and has a better high ISO ability, but the D200 is more versatile, better overall camera, but fewer MPs.
  • Nikon 1J1 - Don't laugh -- this little camera is very capable, and my favorite lenses on it are the wide-angle (28mm equiv.) and my 25mm CCTV lens with the swirly bokeh.  It's a compact, non-threatening, and very creative tool.

Film cameras are a whole different environment.  35mm or medium format? Polaroid or Instax? Toy cameras? Rangefinders? Which SLR system?  and so it goes. June has found me on a Nikon SLR kick, and mostly I have been using the Nikon FG, F3HP, and FM2N.  The FG now sits in my all-purpose bag with the Yashica A TLR, Holga, and Vivitar ultra-wide P&S.  With a 50mm 1.8 and the 36-72mm zoom, for the FG,  it is a nice package.  I love the viewfinder in the F3HP.  As a glasses-wearer, it is perfect for me.  I also know that the F3 is pretty much the perfect camera, unless one is using flash a lot.  The Nikon FM2N is another great camera, and I should use it more than I do.  All manual, and I like the metering.  Solid.

I knew that I would not be doing much photography at the MES meeting, so I took only the Fuji X100S, Nikon D200 bag, and Nikon FG.  

For Photostock, I tried to limit my choices, and ended up taking the Mamiya C330 bag, Fuji X100S, Nikon F3HP bag, and the all-purpose bag, with a sack of Dianas and Holgas for good measure.

For the New York State Trip -- Nikon 1J1 bag, D3200 bag with external flash for the birthday celebration, all-purpose bag, and Nikon FM2N bag. Oh, and also the Leica M2.  The only thing I had forgotten was a Gorillapod for some low-angle shots. My carbon-fiber tripod with a ball head is ALWAYS in the back of the car, and it gets used a lot.  I brought a 19mm lens to use with the FM2N along with a deep yellow filter to shoot a roll of FPP color Infrachrome film.  I hope to have it developed soon.

I know one can go really minimalist for a trip, and I have done so in the past.  However, if I have the room, I may as well bring what I think I'll need.  A long trip has many photo opportunities, and I hate it when I am limited by the tools I can use for a shot.  Also, as you can see, I am not averse to shooting digital, and am not limited to only film.  It all depends on the situation and my desired result.  All these things are tools to be used to get whatever I am after.  It has been a busy and productive month, and  I hope to process all of my film over the next week or so.  In the meantime, here are a few shots from the digital cameras.

fence, Amenia, NY, June 27

Dingmans Falls, PA, June 23

Alley, Clare, MI June 10.

farm at Birchwood Inn, June 16

A.D. Coleman in foreground, Photostock, June 18.

Fishtown, Leland, MI June 19.

Alex, June 16, Photostock.

Letchworth State Park, NY, June 28.

Amenia Burial Ground, June 26.

Some of the images shown here will be part of photosets elsewhere, and some are parts of long-term projects.   I have some specific shows/print projects in mind for the Amenia Burial Ground and the old Murphy Crest farm in Amenia, NY.  Once I develop my film, I'll know here I stand in regards to other imagery.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Developing B&W Film. Just Do It.

It's been sort of interesting seeing some people in social media look for easy ways to develop film. Some people seem to think that there should be a shortcut for immediate results.  Others think that only a darkroom will enable them to develop film, and then there are some that want to develop the film in the canister, etc.  While I understand that there are inquiring minds out there, and there is always a guy saying something about "inventing a better way," I want to tell you this: THE NEGATIVE IS YOUR STARTING POINT.  DON'T FUCK IT UP!
Hanging to dry.

While my comment above may seem a bit harsh, let me explain.  You will learn nothing about development if your first inclination is to short-cut a process that you know little about.  I get it, we all like things to be easy. But things get easier the more you do them and become more familiar with the routine.  Think about the first time you drove a car. So many things to watch for!  After a short while, you get comfortable with it.  After a long while, you hardly have to think about what you are doing, but you still have to pay attention.  It's no different with developing film.  You can't get to your destination without putting in the time.  You can't expect it to be any different with photography.  The negative is your base piece of information. Film costs money. Why would you want to potentially ruin an image that you took the time to compose and shoot. Does your photography mean that little to you?  Believe me, many have tried quick methods, "time-savers" for developing film, and those methods have been found to be a waste.  If they were not, they would have been widely adopted. But they were not.   Some of the reasons we see people wanting shortcuts are probably as follows:
(1) coming entirely from a digital background to film
(2) not being mentored by a film user, nor taking any class in traditional photography
(3) not reading any books about darkroom practice
(4) impatience and/or ignorance because of the above

So, you have some b&w film.  It's easy to develop if you keep things simple.  To start, use only one developer. Use only one type of film.  Then, when you think you have a handle on things, you can begin to explore other developer/film combinations.  Some people get so into trying many films and developers that they never really achieve a consistent result to know what actually works well. So, keep it simple and become proficient with one film and developer so that you know what a good negative looks like.  I have lost track of how many rolls I have developed, -- it's certainly in the thousands.  Even then, I do not get complacent.

You need:
daylight developing tank with adjustable reels (Paterson style tank)
dial thermometer
plastic jugs for developer and fixer. You can use water as a stop bath.
plastic measuring cups or graduated cylinders for mixing
sink with running water
film changing bag or a completely dark space to load the film into the reels to be placed into the developing tank.

Some of these items are available at the Film Photography Project Store.

About chemicals -- Most b&w photochemistry is relatively benign, and except for used fixer, it is safe to dump down the drain.  Unless you are doing industrial volumes, that is.  I don't think that applies to any of us.  While I may say Kodak D-76, it's actually available more cheaply from Freestyle as Legacy Pro L-76 developer, which is what I have been using as of late.

You can download an app for your smartphone that will time your development process from the folks at the Massive Development Chart.  That will also save you time looking up development times online.

When I started developing my own film in 2000 after a hiatus of 26 years, I had just the basic equipment and supplies.  I didn't have a darkroom then, and used a changing bag.  I practiced a lot with a junk roll of film to get adept at loading it in the changing bag.  I used plastic reels then, and still do. They just work better for me --  thousands of rolls later, I still use them.

My recommendation for a film/developer combo --
Ilford HP-5+ and Kodak D76 mixed 1 part water to 1 part stock solution for 11 minutes developing time at 20 degrees C.    This makes the developer a one-shot use, and is quite economical.  That makes total time for development, fixing, washing at about 25 minutes.

There are numerous videos on  YouTube to show how to develop film.  Most are useful if you have not done it before. The Ilford pdf on b&w developing is also very useful.  I highly recommend The Basic Darkroom Book by Tom Grimm, but there are many other books available.

Once you have your negatives dry, you can scan them and do whatever post-processing you wish. Or, you can print them in a darkroom, which is a whole chapter by itself.  Store your negatives in strips in the PrintFile Archival preservers. I use the sheets that hold 7 strips of 35mm, 5 across.  You may like the ones that hold 6 strips of 6 across.  I use the 120 sheets too.  Store them in 3 ring binders.  label them so that you know what, when, where, why, and how.  Keep a notebook and record your developing.

Does this sound like a lot of work?  It really is not.  But if you are unable to develop at home, you can send it out to The Darkroom and they will do it.   However, you are missing out at one of the things that makes film photography special. Take the time to do it yourself, and you will see and appreciate the magic.

Bill Bresler, shot on HP-5+.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

DIY E-6 Developing

Lately, I have been developing my own color transparency film (E-6) as well as C-41 color negative film.  Doing color transparency (positive) film is pretty straightforward with the easy to obtain Unicolor E-6 kit, which can be purchased from the Film Photography Project Store as well as Freestyle and other vendors.  I have the 16 oz kit, which does a minimum of 6 rolls of 35mm film.  The process is simple -- mix up the chemicals as directed, and you end up with three bottles -- First Developer, Color Developer, and Blix.  There is a pre-wash and a rinse cycle between each step, followed by a last wash.  Temperatures can be a bit lower than the C-41 kit, with adjustments made in the length of development times.  However, the First Developer step is the critical one for the timing, and you will need to increase the length of time for each additional roll you develop, as the chemicals are re-used.  The kits instructs you on this point, but it's easy to forget if you set things aside for a while and forget about the previous rolls.  Put a piece of tape on the First developer bottle (and yes, you DID label them, right?), and put a tick mark for each roll you develop. The Color developer and the Blix apparently do not need the same compensation.


  1. Use a hot water bath and monitor your temps.  Try and keep them within a degree or two of your target.  Immerse the developing tank in the bath to keep the temperature stable.  I just use the hot water from the tap and keep adding hot water until the temp is about where I want it.
  2. Keep another container of water that is near the developer temp for the rinse cycle and you will need enough for 7 tank-fulls of water for each rinse step.  
  3. Do keep the caps on the bottles during the process and keep them in the order you'll be using them. Only open the cap to pour back the contents from the developing tank.  You don't want to accidentally knock over a bottle and lose the contents!
  4. I use amber glass bottle made for chemicals. Avoid using bottles made for food or drink.  
Once you get your first roll done and see the color positives on the roll, you will be hooked.  At $31 for a quart kit, you'll get over a dozen rolls of 35mm film processed.  At the going rates for mail-order labs, you'll save yourself over $100.

What about mounting the transparencies?  
The only reason to mount them is if you are projecting them.  I have thousands of mounted slides in my files, and I only occasionally have projected them.  It does make it easy to handle individual frames, and the slides are easy to file and label.  However, most of my recent E-6 film is stored in the typical plastic 35mm pages that we put negative strips into.  After I scan them, it's still easy to hold the page over the light box and examine the sheet.

My last roll was definitely color shifted to the blue side, and I think it is because it was roll #6, and I had not compensated for the used developer in the First Developer step.  It should have gotten at least another minute.

last roll, Retrochrome 160 - note the blue shift, which is actually pretty cool.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

More From Berkeley

I am still developing some film that I shot in Berkeley, CA almost a month ago.  This latest roll of Ilford HP-5+ was finished up a couple of weeks ago in Arbor.  I may have stated it before, but HP-5 has become my favorite 400-speed film.  This roll, developed in the last of my remaining Kodak HC-110, came out with beautiful gray mid-tones.  The Berkeley shots were taken between 7:30 and 8:30 am, and it was great getting out of the hotel and walking around with a camera before things started getting busy.

Here are a few for your enjoyment.

Friday, April 08, 2016

To the Looking Glass.

 Last Sunday, I flew to Oakland, California with some colleagues from work to attend a workshop at UC-Berkeley.  It's been about 30 years since I was last in California, and that too, was a work trip.  I have a friend on Flickr (Therese Brown) that used to live in El Cerrito, just N of Berkeley, and she gave me a "Film Is Not Dead" T-shirt from Looking Glass Photo (LGP) about a decade ago.  In advance of the trip, I promised myself that I would visit LGP and wear the T-shirt if I had the time during my 3 days in Berkeley.  The store used to be much closer to campus, but now is about a 3 mile walk.  So, on Tuesday afternoon, I had an opportunity to do just that.  The nice thing about going anywhere today, is that one can look on Google maps and see just about anything.  A place that is new to me, is much more familiar after looking at street view, etc., to plan a route.  I walked through some interesting neighborhoods and really enjoyed seeing green and flowers, and considering how mucked up our spring weather has been in Michigan this year, visiting California could not have come at a better time!

Lots of Film...

I did bring a couple of film cameras - my Minolta XG-M and Olympus Trip 35, along with my digital Fuji X-100S.   I'll have some photos up after I process the film.

Arriving at the store at 1035 Ashby Avenue, I was a bit sweaty from the long walk in the warm, sunny afternoon. I was immediately impressed at how many people were working there, and the store's size was much larger than I anticipated.  A real, full-service store with photo paper, chemicals, FILM, darkroom accessories, and all of the other digital and types of equipment one might need. It looked like they have a darkroom, too.    A couple of women that work there were immediately making comments about my old LGP t-shirt, as it has not been available for some time.  I didn't mind being a photo geek at all.  I bought some film, a Looking Glass Photo coffee mug, and a tripod mount for a cellphone.   It was fun stepping into a store that had everything that a photographer may need, and especially catered to the analog community.  If you need a Holga, they had plenty of them in stock, too.  There are also used film cameras and lenses for sale, along with all of the cool digi gadgets you might like to see.
Kodak Ektar and Portra films