Tuesday, January 30, 2018

How to cook your film

I know that it is the end of what seems to be the longest month of the year...January. It seems like January has 40 days, doesn't it?   The calendar assures that it is only 31, but I swear there is an extra week hidden in there.  Perhaps it is because we are so damn busy in December with holidays, parties, birthdays, etc. that January seems so long.  In any case, it's also one of those months that I find myself catching up with things that got put on the back burner, like developing film.  I have been working through developing and scanning a lot of rolls of C-41 film that I shot in the second half of 2017.  One new thing that has made my work go so much easier has been one of those immersion heaters for Sous Vide cooking.  I had seen them being used for C-41 and E-6 processing as heaters for water baths to bring the chems up to the proper temperature, and keep it there.  So, I ordered one online from Amazon for $68.00. It's a Sous Vide Immersion Stick Pod by Primo Eats, and it's an amazing device. Although designed for slow-cooking food, it makes a perfect water heater with thermostat control and a rotor that circulates the water.  The temperature range is 5-100° C, so having the water bath at 38.5°C is not a problem.  In fact, I could set it for 20°C for b&w processing, too.  This has saved me a lot of water -- I had been using hot water from the tap to heat up the chemistry; and has saved me lots of time, as well.  I can set everything up in the water bath, turn on the stick pod, and go off and do other things until the chemistry is up to the right temp.  The device heats up the water quite quickly, but of course, the chemistry in the bottles also has to be heated by the water circulating around them.  Once it's at the proper temperature, you can be sure that it will stay there while it is in the water bath. This will give you more control over your processing, for sure.
Set the temp and let it heat up.

I label my tanks with numbers that correspond to how
many rolls I have processed in a batch of chemistry. I usually
stop at 20 rolls.

So far, so good.  The film has come out great, and I no longer worry about whether the temperature has changed. I also put the developing tank in the water bath in between rotations, just to make sure it is staying where it should be.

And here are a few shots from my Pentax K1000 and Lomo 400 color film, from last May-June.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

A Marquette Trip... Trip 35, that is.

You can tell that I really enjoy using my Olympus Trip 35, since I have blogged about it so many times.   The camera, for all its simplicity of use, never fails to produce images that I like.  It remains one of my favorite cameras, and is perfect for quick shots when you want very little between you and the subject.  So long as you have your zone focus set, the camera does the rest.  After shooting many rolls of film with it, I think ISO 200 film works out the best in most situations.   Eastman 5222 for b&w, and lately, Kodak Profoto 200 color film.

Last week I finally got down to working on my backlog of C-41 rolls.  Some of them dated from the middle of 2017.  My Unicolor C-41 kit from the Film Photography project store had been freshly prepared, and my new Sous Vide stick pod immersion heater (I will feature this in my next post) kept all the temps at precisely 102 degrees F, making development go much more smoothly with less use of water.  One of the rolls was from my trip to Marquette, MI in late June of 2017, shot with my Trip 35.  I had forgotten about taking that camera, and the delayed joy of seeing the images was a real treat.
Downtown Marquette is a great place to shop

Walking around with the Trip 35 on a hot sunny day in Marquette was a perfect combination.  The camera handled the situations well, of course aided by the great latitude of the film. The one thing about the Trip 35 is that it has two shutter speeds - 1/30th and 1/200th sec.  So long as you don't get too far out of the camera's "comfort zone" you will have great results. I see the Trip 35 as one of those cameras that become a trusted tool the more you use it.

Look carefully.  Marquette in the distance, and my daughter rock-hunting on the
beach in the foreground.

Marquette's classic Post Office

Alley Cat

I often find the backsides of buildings far more interesting.

Peeking through the alley

A lot of sandstone was used in building 

Art in a public space

Just a beauty of a day

Getzs is the place to shop if you want to blow your budget

More backsides

More backsides

unexpected giraffe

A visit here is a great way to relax and have a good brew.
The film was developed at home in my Unicolor C-41 kit, and the film scanned in my Epson V700 scanner.  Minor adjustments were made in the images. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Two of Lomography's wacky films!

You will never hear me say that the Lomography folks are boring.  While I am not a fanboy of the "shoot from the hip" and "light leaks and sprockets are cool  features" hype, I laud them for bringing interesting low-fi (and some not lo-fi) cameras to market, and their ability to find some oddball emulsions and convince us to buy them.   I suspect that they have been able to buy up stocks of some aged films  in large quantities, and have their brand flashed along the rebate area above the sprockets.  Often, we see an odd film brought to market and warned in advance that we'll see odd color shifts (such as the Lomochrome Turquoise), and the results are so amazingly odd that we almost weep when we find it's out of stock.  Sometimes I come across a roll or two of a film and find that it is discontinued, such as the X-Pro Color Sunset Strip. That doesn't give me much to experiment with, but I know that whatever the results, they probably won't be what I expected.  I know that it's a bit late to talk about a discontinued film, but just in case you find one of these films, you may want to grab it and shoot.

Lomochrome Turquoise XR 100-400

Not to be confused with Lomochrome Purple, which gives a bit of faux IR-look to the images, the Turquoise has amazing color shifts that totally blew me away.  I had one roll to play with, and shot it with my Minolta Maxxum 5 last April.  Some of the images were taken at the Ann Arbor Festifools parade, and the colors are definitely amazing, and odd.  The film is ISO 400 and fine-grained, and as advertised by Lomography "LomoChrome Turquoise lets you explore the color spectrum like you never have before. Warm colors become blue, blue becomes golden and green becomes emerald. Capable of producing picture-perfect photos totally naturally, Lomochrome Turquoise will bathe your photos in lustrous tones from a broader color spectrum."    I can't do better than that hype. It is a C-41 color negative film with oddball color shifts that I find quite endearing.
No longer Maize and Blue!

Lomography Color X-Pro Sunset Strip 100

 Also now discontinued, this is indeed a strange film that is in reality, an E-6 (color slide) film that has no orange mask. Hence the x-pro designation.    I shot the roll with my Minolta Hi-Matic G camera, and developed in home C-41 chemistry.  The film looks very blue, and is also extremely curly, making scans difficult.  I don't know if it is the age of the film, but it is grainy and my best shots were taken with plenty of sunlight. In gray skies the colors are very muted.  The scanner had a bit of a hard time with the color for some of the frames that were taken under cloudy conditions, so I expect that the film has better results when there is plenty of light and good contrast. As the Lomo site advertises, "This emulsion is truly for the bravest of Lomographers."
You can see how odd the film looks after developing

Outside of Zingerman's candy store

See the  wrist strap on the lower right. I need to remove it.

At the Reuse center

Chelsea's famous clock tower

there used to be a bookstore here

Jiffy Mix

reds really are pronounced

not so great in the shadows

A strange film, for sure

So, yes, I enjoy playing with the oddball films from Lomography.  They add an element of surprise and are plain fun.  Try one, such as the Lomochrome Purple (while it is still available) and see what you think.  Definitely a departure from what the digital shooters are doing!  I advise getting a couple of rolls of any of the offbeat films. Test one to have a better idea of its characteristics under different conditions, and then use the other rolls when you know you have the best chance of getting the maximum effectiveness from the film.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Book Review: Vivian Maier – A Photographer's Life and Afterlife, by Pamela Bannos

Giving Vivian Maier A Voice

Vivian Maier – A Photographer's Life and Afterlife, by Pamela Bannos. 2017, The University of Chicago Press, 362 pp. $35.00, hardcover.

For the past eight years or so, many of us have been fascinated with the story and found photographs of Vivian Maier. Part of the fascination has been the stories about Maier – a secretive nanny with an odd French accent; her Rolleiflex around her neck, seemingly everywhere; her trove of images that had never been seen by the public; and her photographic travels in Chicago and New York. The other part of this has been the images themselves. No one can deny that that she made some fantastic photographs that certainly are as good as any other photographer that was known for street photography at that time. Her output was prolific, and of course, since we only know of her after her death, we will never know exactly why she chose to not share her work. Until this latest book by Pamela Bannos, the Vivian Maier story was being told and promoted by those that had much to benefit from the massive find of a lifetime. I don't fault John Maloof for promoting his version of Vivian Maier's story, nor the authors of other books, which I will list at the end. One thing all of them have in common, is that they tell an incomplete story, and the narratives are largely devoid of in-depth research -- partly because of the fact that it was in the self-interest of the owners of Maier's photographs to publish and promote her images. In the rush to capitalize on the popularity of the Vivian Maier story and the photographs, Maloof and others determined the narrative, sometimes obscuring or ignoring information that would have provided us with a more complex version of Vivian Maier. She had to be more than a nanny, and she was not a photography savant.  Don't get me wrong, I love seeing her images in print -- but until Bannos' book, we did not have the sort of arduous and exhaustive scholarly work that was needed to more fully inform us about the actual photographer.

My first inclination to think we were not getting the full story, was when it was reported that she was using a box camera and then went suddenly to a Rolleiflex TLR. Those 6x9 cm images were not of box-camera quality, and were quite possibly done with a 120 roll-film folding camera, which would have allowed for a variety of exposure settings and focusing. That “box-camera” narrative was carried on throughout the Maloof version of events. Pamela Bannos (a professor of photography at Northwestern University) also realized that this was incongruent with what she was seeing, and her meticulous research on Vivian Maier's life and ancestry has provided us with a fascinating read that has the parallel juxtaposition in the text of the arcs of her life and of her “afterlife” – the scattering of her belongings and how they came to our view. She also addresses the issues of copyright and ethics of the factions involved with her estate.

Vivian Maier was far more than a nanny - she was a world-wise traveler, a keen observer, a daring and self-confident photographer, and yet, she chose not to exhibit her wonderful photographs. Bannos' research provides us with a more complete account of Maier's life, and in a way, gives her a voice that was not present in the previous attempts by other authors. In this book, we actually see a timeline of Vivian's whereabouts, and on how she photographed a scene – not with one shot, but with an obvious planned approach with an image sequence that gives us an idea of how she worked. Yes, Vivian Maier was an unconventional person. Had she been famous in life, she would be shoulder to shoulder with all of the other “unconventional” women of her time. There is no doubt of her photographic artistry. We are left with a legacy of work that others have promoted, curated, printed, and sold without Vivian's oversight or background stories. I think Pamela Bannos has given balance to the Vivian Maier phenomenon, and her book is a must-read if you are at all interested in the Vivian Maier story.

Other books on Vivian Maier (in chronological order):
Maloof, John. 2011. Vivian Maier, Street Photographer. Power House Books, Brooklyn, NY.
Cahan, Richard and Michael Williams. 2012. Vivian Maier. Out of the Shadows. CityFiles Press, Chicago, IL.
Maloof, John. 2013. Vivian Maier: Self-Portrait. PowerHouse Books, Brooklyn, NY.
Cahan, Richard and Michael Williams. 2014. Eye to Eye. Photographs by Vivian Maier. CityFiles Press, Chicago, IL.
Maloof, John. 2014. Vivian Maier: A Photographer Found. Harper Design, New York.

(Generally, the images from the Maloof collection are in his books, and the Jeffery Goldstein Collection is featured in books by Cahan and Williams.  )