Tuesday, September 10, 2019

One Roll Review- Dubblefilm's Moonstruck

It's hard to keep up with what's going on in the altered film market, with so many new releases from at least four sources.  Altered films are standard color C-41 films produced by Kodak and Fuji that are then subjected to either a chemical process or modified with laser or other light to become something altogether different from the standard emulsion.  Companies such as Dubblefilm, Yodica, Revolog, and Kono!, have brought these to market to bring some fun, serendipity, and zaniness to film shooters.  Perhaps you are looking for something different to change up your shooting, and one of the altered films may be just the thing.  First of all, none of these companies actually manufacture film. They are treating ho-hum everyday color films such as Kodak Gold 200 with whatever process they are using to give you something different.  Color shifts, weird patterns, or bands of color may be the result. Maybe that unpredictability isn't your thing, but I can bet that it will appeal to people that are looking for something fun and different.

I have only tried Revolog's Tesla film prior to using the Dubblefilm. It was for a film-swap event with the Ann Arbor Crappy Camera Club, and I was really surprised and pleased with the results.  Redscale is a popular way to shoot color differently, but the film has not been altered, just re-spooled so that the light passes through the film base before reaching the emulsion. 

Dubblefilm is owned by Adam Scott, and the film is shipped from Europe.  Expect to pay far more than you would for a standard roll of C-41 color film.  Like I said, it's not for everyone.  Any of the altered films range from $10-$15/roll US. Considering that the film has been pre-treated, etc., I think that the price is reasonable.  I purchased my roll of "Moonstruck" at Camera Mall in Ann Arbor, and shot it in late May 2019.  Dubblefilms are available at the FPP store as well as Freestyle Photo.

I loaded the film into my Canon AE-1 Program, and shot it on the streets of Yspilanti and Ann Arbor MI.  I sent it out to The Darkroom for developing, and I scanned the negatives in just this morning. Overall, I really didn't know what to expect, since I hadn't looked at any other results online until today.

Dubblefilm's lineup has changed, and Moonstruck is no longer available.  Like any of these altered films, how you expose it, your choice of subject, and the light source may give different results compared to what others have achieved.  It uses standard C-41 processing, and you may want to scan it yourself to avoid machine scans that try to "normalize" the results.

Here is a sample of the images that I got from my scans.  I did do minor brightness/contrast adjustments, but no color adjustments.

Overall, I think the results are interesting, with red hues really popping.  The images do give me a different look than conventional color film, and since the production of the altered films involve repeatable processes, I can see where someone may want to order a batch of any particular film and be assured of getting similar results as they shoot it. Also, since these films are produced in small batches, you may not be able to get more of a certain type of effect if it is sold out.  So, my suggestion is to buy a few rolls if you like a certain effect. Almost all of the altered films have examples on Flickr. 

Are altered films just a fad or are they here to stay?  So long as there is a market for them, I suppose the sellers will keep making them.  But, as with any of these operations, they are just a few people (or only one) doing all the work to get something magical in your camera.  Expect that any particular film may not be available in a year from now.   I find that they are fun, and certainly can add something different to your photography.

Saturday, September 07, 2019


I have always  been fascinated with trees -- their form, the shadows that result from them, and the fantastic moods that they can create, along with whatever weather is impacting them. Of course, as we now head towards autumn later this month -- the autumnal equinox, many trees are starting to exhibit that change towards the fall colors that we so love to see.   I grew up in the Adirondacks of New York, and even as a child, I loved the big sugar maples along our driveway blazing forth with brilliant oranges and reds.  In the northeast, fall was a glorious time of year with crisp mornings and slightly warm afternoons, until heavy frosts took their toll and the leaves dropped like snowflakes.  When my wife and I moved to Michigan in 1981, fall color was a bit of a disappointment in the lower part of the state, as the predominant oak-hickory forest was more subtle in its colors.  One really needs to travel north in Michigan to see the wonderful climax of color that's found in aspen-birch-maple forests.  Now, we are living in the mountains of Western North Carolina, and this will be our first fall and winter in the South.  I know that we will get some good color here in late October, and I look forward to shooting it and traveling around the nearby Appalachians.

"A woodland in full color is awesome as a forest fire, in magnitude at least, but a single tree is like a dancing tongue of flame to warm the heart." -- Hal Borland

However, trees are more than just color. Think of the myriad of forms and the different times of the year that a deciduous tree can look so different, and the arrangement of branches makes a species identifiable in the field.  When I was a forestry student, we had to identify at least 75 species of trees and shrubs by their leaves, fruit, buds, bark, etc., and of course also know their Latin names.  That course was a lot of fun, and also quite challenging.  I have never regretted any of those hands-on field classes in botany and zoology. All have been a part of my world since, and while I may not always know what a plant or an insect is, I know how to find out.   My point is, that you have two eyes, yet many people don't know how to look.  As a photographer, you should be seeing more than just the forest -- you also need to pick out the trees.  Seeing and understanding what you are seeing makes for a better image.  Deciphering the scene before you press the shutter button can result in a more  meaningful image.  I'm not saying I do that all the time, but when I do, I know that I am more in control of the final result on film or the sensor.

Sometimes, the shapes of the trees just resonate with me, and it's just using my intuition and imagination that propels me through the creative process.  I immerse myself in the little world of that place and time, and sometimes, I come away with some great images.  But it's not all about the image -- being in the woods -- in the moment -- with nature, is a refreshing connection with the earth.  I always felt some connection, and it's taken me years to appreciate just how essential that connection is to well-being and to creativity.

"To really feel a forest canopy one must use different senses, and often the most useful one is the sense of imagination." -- Joan Maloof 

Lately, I have been more captivated with trees and their shapes, and here in North Carolina, the trees in the mountains can exhibit some fantastic shapes.  I hope to get a portfolio together in the next year or two and see where that obsession goes.

"I often lay on that bench looking up into the tree, past the trunk and up into the branches. It was particularly fine at night with the stars above the tree." -- Georgia O'Keeffe

Here is a small selection of my images that showcase trees.  I hope that you enjoy them.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Minolta AF-C compact P&S

I did not know about this camera until several months ago, when I was working on cataloging cameras from an estate.  I ended up with it, and due to the move to North Carolina, I had put any reviews on hold. Finally, I have been able to develop the roll that I shot with it early in the summer, and here goes my review.

The Minolta AF-C -- an automatic P&S, looks a bit like an Olympus XA and a Lomo LCA.  In truth, it's more like a Nikon 35AF, as there are no real controls of the exposure.  It's a compact 35mm camera with a detachable flash that is very similar in operation to the flashes on Olympus XA series of cameras. In use, it reminds me a bit of a Lomo LCA with the lens cover sliding up and down to cover the lens.  The only thing you can adjust is the ISO setting and the use of the flash unit.  The camera uses active infra-red for the autofocus, and the exposure is completely automatic. 

Considering the many compact P&S cameras that were produced in the early 1980s by the likes of Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Ricoh, and others, this camera stands out from all of them with its distinctive styling and compact form factor (only slightly larger than an Olympus XA).  The 35mm f/2.8 lens is a 6 element Minolta lens with good contrast and sharp optics.  It focuses from just under a meter to infinity.

The shutter is made by Seikosha, and has a range of 1/8 sec to 1/430 sec.  There is no bulb or time exposure.  The film speed is set manually, and goes from an ISO 25 to 400.  The exposure is automated, and operates from EV 6 to EV 17, or 1/8 sec. at f/2.8, TO 1/430 sec at f/17.

A thumb wheel advances the film, making the camera more compact and there is no auto-rewind, but a manual rewind crank, as with the XA series and Lomo LCA. 

My version had a Quartz Data Back, which I have not tried using as yet.  I'm not a fan of dates on negatives.  The databack makes the camera less svelte and more blocky. 

The camera is powered by 4 LR-44 cells, or 2 1/3 N cells.  They fit much better than the Lomo LCA arrangement of 4 stacked cells. 

To operate the camera, you push the front cover down, which uncovers the lens and viewfinder.  Advancing the film cocks the shutter, and if you have enough light you get a green LED in the viewfinder when you press the shutter button halfway -- which also sets the autofocus. If there is low light, you'll get a red LED if a flash is needed.  The flash screws onto the left side of the camera.  It requires 2 AA cells to operate. The self timer is on the front of the camera, and a red light flashes in front when in use.

Using the Minolta AF-C was easy, of course, and the lens cover design makes it a pretty rugged little camera. I shot a test roll on Ilford HP-5+ black and white film, and developed it in D-76. 

One thing I noted that in some of the frames there is a vertical light stripe about 3/4 across the frame.  That must be some sort of light leak, so I should go and check where new foam will be required. That's not unusual for a camera that's over 35 years old.  The camera has a tripod socket, so using it in low light on 400 ISO film is not a problem, though it is limited to 1/8 sec.

This camera was a freebie, which I really appreciate, as the ones on ebay  are going from $50 to $155 in working order.  It's not an Olympus XA, but certainly works very well as a fully automatic camera.  It's far better than an often-unreliable Lomo LCA, and it's more compact than the Nikon and Canon offerings from the same time.  I think the camera has a very cool appearance, and does not feel cheap or fragile. 

Here are some samples from the test roll, all shot in June, 2019.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

It's starting to feel like home.

One of the hardest things about moving to someplace that is entirely new is the disruption in my typical routines and activities.  Of course, I would rather be off with my camera somewhere, but there have been many things around the house that need to be done, as well as trips to visit stores for needed items, and I have seen way to much of a Lowe's lately.  In fact, if I don't have to go inside one for another month, I would be a happy man.  However, we are getting our home to fit our needs, and eventually, all that stuff will be behind us.  We are getting to know our neighbors, and in fact, our neighbor Rachel was pleased to see that I had a manual typewriter. So much so, that she dropped off the book Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks.  I have to say that people here are friendlier and more approachable than in Michigan.  The local food scene is wonderful, and there are lots of great local beers.  The weather has been wonderful, and the mountain skies are always interesting.  Do I miss Ann Arbor? No.  It's easy for us to get around and into town, and every day we find new things.  It's really good that we decided to move here, as it has given us a kick in the pants to not be in a rut, and I feel fortunate that we have been able to do this.
Reed Creek will be great for some future pinhole work

In the past week, I have been doing some photography in downtown Asheville and Weaverville, and found a lovely place to visit at the Univ. of North Carolina Botanical Gardens, about 10 minutes from our house.  Reed Creek runs through the gardens, and the terrain is quite interesting.  Getting out for some "me" time is important, as I need to explore the area, and think about the type of photography that I want to do. I'm away from all of my old photo friends in Ann Arbor, and it will take a while to have that same film user community here that I had back in Michigan.   Lance King, from Tennessee, contacted me a couple of weeks ago and told me about a cool place in Marshall, NC and gave me some contact information.  I contacted the owner of the Makers Circle, Susan Patrice, and yesterday I drove over to meet her and see what the place was all about.  It's only about a 25 minute drive from my house, and it's in the lush mountains NE of Marshall.

Susan Patrice with one of her modded cameras for doing
circular negatives.

Susan Patrice runs the Makers Circle, and it's an amazing place with an alt-process darkroom, regular darkroom, a big digital work space, and room to house people that want to do a residency there. She's extremely knowledgeable and is a fantastic working photographer.  Her work is immediately notable in that most of her images are circular. We spent almost 3 hours talking photography, and it was such a great visit for me.  I may end up using the darkroom there until mine gets set up. It is amazing  that there is such a great resource just a short drive from my house!  I learned a bit about local resources too, and my next visit will be to Ball Photo in Asheville, where they apparently have LOTS of film cameras and accessories. 

Today, we finally went to the North Asheville Tailgate Market, which is a farmer's market that sets up on Saturdays on the UNC Asheville campus. One word- fantastic - describes the market.   It really was a feast for all the senses.  It reminded me of the Farmer's Market that I went to in Portland, OR, though not as extensive.  We bought some produce, some bread and cheese, some things to plant, and I spent $3.50 to buy a huge bell pepper that Weston would have envied.  Now I need to set up some lighting and space to photograph it on 6x7.  Then, we'll eat it.

So, yes, this is starting to feel like home, and I am looking forward to many new adventures.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Still Unpacking

We arrived in Weaverville, NC on the evening of July 20.  Our moving semi-trailer arrived on the 22.  Since then, it has been getting things unboxed, put away, set-up, and all the things that you have to do after moving.  Yesterday, I spent the morning waiting to get a NC driver's license and plate for the car. The cool thing is that the driver's license is good for 8 years!  In any case, I have been way too busy with things other than photography, though I have shot a bit when I have had the chance.  Last week a particularly foggy morning gave me the idea to go into Weaverville and visit the Lake Louise park where I not only got some nice foggy photos, but also discovered there is a nice waterfall not far from the road.  As we get more settled in, I'll be able to do more photography, and I look forward to that.  We get our washer and dryer delivered Saturday, which will be a welcome event!  It will be many months...maybe a year before I have a darkroom constructed, but in the meantime, I can develop film in the bathroom in the basement. 

A year ago, the idea of moving out of Michigan to NC was still somewhat abstract.  The reality is that I am now here, and I am embracing the the change.  Sometimes it takes a major event to change your life, and it can be a positive or a negative thing.  I am fortunate that this is a positive change, but it doesn't mean that it is easy.  Eventually, all my stuff will be where it should be, and I'll be doing some good work with the cameras.   

I do love these mountains in NC, and the people we have met have been very welcoming and very nice.  We look forward to many new adventures!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

T-minus 7...

A week from today, we will be at our new home in Weaverville, NC.  The movers arrive on Thursday.  We'll drive down on Saturday.   Getting all of my stuff boxed up has been a process for sure, but photographically, it's all done.  I am looking forward to NOT boxing things up and unboxing them.  It will be a while until I have an opportunity to set up my space and darkroom at the new place, but that's okay.  There will be plenty to do in the first few months settling in, but I'll still be doing a lot of photography.

In the process of boxing up my photography library, I did cull more books out, but still ended up with 29 boxes (10x15x12 inches) to have the movers load.  Since I plan on never moving again, I am happy with that.  Packing up the many photographs has been fairly easy.  Most of my unframed work is in clam-shell boxes, and the framed work is well-boxed. I sure have a lot of binders filled with negatives, and after we arrive, I plan on going through the last 10 years worth and doing some printing as well as posting online.  I boxed up much of the RC and fiber-based printing paper that was in my darkroom -- it will get used down the road, and I am sure some of it will be given away when I am in NC.  My film fridge will get emptied the day before we move, and the film put into a cooler that I'll transport.  Most of my cameras are already in locked  plastic totes that will be handled by the movers.  I'll be driving down with a couple of camera bags, as well. 

Overall, things have gone smoothly. We have a buyer for our Ann Arbor home, and we close on the NC home on July 17.  The next post you see will probably be from our new abode.

Shoot film!

Monday, July 01, 2019

Looking Back and Moving On

In two days, it will a year since my best friend, Marc Akemann, left this earth.  I still think of him, and he's still a part of my life.  I have been helping Coleen with Marc's photographic estate, and since I am moving soon, I won't be able to be as helpful as I would have liked to be, but I think my buddy Bill will be able to pick up where I left off.  Lately, I have had some time to scan in a bunch of film that Marc shot but never developed.  The Darkroom developed the C-41 and E-6 film, and I am slowly working on the B&W.  Now that all of my darkroom stuff is packed away, further work will have to wait until after we move. 

One roll of film was shot in 2013, and the roll appears to have shots from two of our trips on it.  I think the following photos were taken at a motel in Mackinaw City or Munising. I think it's the latter, because we both are dressed for cooler weather, and one trip was in June (not cold), and the other, late October.  Any how, Marc had set up his Nikon FA to do self-timer shots of the two of us.  The actual sequence is a bit bizarre, considering that Marc is no longer with us. 

I know that it looks like I am talking to a ghostly Marc, but it's because he was not situated when the shutter fired.  Nonetheless, I think Marc would have agreed that he looks non-corporeal. 

We will be moving to Weaverville, NC on July 20, assuming all goes as planned with the closing on the new house.  We also had great news this evening, as it looks like our house has an offer that will be acceptable to us.  So, I have been busy boxing things up during the past week.  The darkroom is empty, all cleaned up, and is clean enough to wash a baby in.  I still have many books to box up, and oh yeah, the rest of the house needs to be packed.  Our movers arrive on  7/18, and should be done on the 19th.  It's nice to not have to pack in a rush, and get things done in an orderly manner. 

Many Nikon lenses packed up. 

These are just the negatives/slides from 2016-2019
The darkroom, back in early March.

The now empty darkroom

Taken a few weeks ago. Most of the shelves on the sides are now empty.

I am looking forward to moving.  Our new house is only 10 minutes from Asheville, and a mile from Weaverville.  After all this packing/moving/unpacking is over, it will be time for a well-deserved vacation!    We'll miss our friends, of course, as well as some things about Ann Arbor.  It will take a while getting used to our new state, and while I'll miss the beauty of the Michigan lake shores, I'll find new vistas and lots of nature in North Carolina to fill up my viewfinder.