Thursday, May 31, 2007

On the Huron

afternoon reflections on the river

The Huron River art Island Park, Ann Arbor.

I guess I may as well end May with a post extolling the virtues of a hazy afternoon and a box camera. Taken with a Kodak Brownie Bullseye, 100 ISO Arista .edu film, souped in Diafine.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Playing With Polachrome

OK, yes, it's another post about me playing with an expired film again. This is more than expired -- it's no longer produced. My friend Geoff Foster gave me a cassette and the processor cartridge of Polacolor 35mm film. It is a 35mm transparency film that was produced by Polaroid up until maybe 5 or 6 years ago. Before the days of Powerpoint, it was great to have a film that could be quickly processed to make slides for presentations, etc. Polaroid produced several high-contrast films for that purpose (I have shot a roll of Polablue film) for graphs and text, but Polacolor was intended for full-color rendition of a subject. At an ISO of 40 -- not a fast film and kind of grainy. As you'll see it has its own look.

According to the Land List:
* Film speed: ASA 40
* Color
* Sold in 12 and 36 exposure rolls.

NOTES: Polachrome is the technological successor to the Polavision instant movie system introduced in the late 1970's. [See the notes regarding Polavision Type 608 film for some details about how this film works.] By the way, one significant difference between Polachrome and Polavision film is the way the 'negative' is handled. [All Polaroid instant positive films involve a photographic negative somewhere, even if you don't normally see it.] With Polachrome, the negative is part of that black coating you can see on the film during loading. This black coating gets stripped away at the end of the development process, leaving just the positive transparency. The black coating (assuming it strips off the way it's supposed to) ends up back in the processing cartridge, which is then discarded. The old Polavision film, however, had both film and processing materials within the same self-contained package, so there was no way to 'discard' the negative after development. Therefore, Polavision film was designed so that the negative layer would simply remain on the film, but turn transparent after a short period of time. Apparently, this process wasn't quite perfect, and resulted in somewhat reduced contrast compared with the newer Polachrome film.


I tried the film out today -- put the roll into my Minolta X-700 to give that camera some use for a change. I didn't know if the film had lost any sensitivity, but I shot it at and ISO of 40 just the same. This evening, I ran the film through the Polaroid Autoprocessor -- a box with cranks that winds the film along with its processing cartridge, and after about 2 minutes, the film was ready to take out and examine.

Unfortunately, the black backing (the negative) did not come off in the processor, so I ended up soaking the film in fixer for 5 minutes and then washing in water, and ran the film between my rubber-gloved fingers to pull the stuff away. It worked, but the emulsion is pretty soft, and I ended up scratching the transparency film. In any case, it was interesting to play with the film and the fact that I got anything at all was a complete surprise!

Here are some results:

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Series Filters, Part 2. (soft-focus)

A few weeks ago I wrote about the beauty of using series filters with cameras. To refresh your memory, series filters are filters of discrete size ranges that fit inside special adapters that can be found to fit a variety of cameras and filter thread sizes. For example, Series VII filters are a good size for most 35mm cameras. Shown above is a special diopter from Tiffen (Vari-close-up lens) that is focusable and fits on the front of my Nikon Series E lens with a series VII to 52mm adapter. This particular close-up lens has a focusing helical that also provides adjustable magnification. With the 50 mm 1.8 lens wide open, I can get dreamy, soft images with glowing out-of focus highlights. If I stop down to 5.6 and smaller, I get more typical-looking macro shots that are not at all dreamy, as the lens aberrations in the Tiffin filter become a non-issue at smaller apertures. I also think it has something to do with the way the light hits the sensor on my D70.

Some samples at f 1.8:

Allium's Glow Red and Green

Forget Me Not

You don't need the same exact Tiffen lens that I used. You can use any single-element diopter and get a similar effect. In fact, there are a number of series filters for diffusion -- they were big for doing portrait work, and depending on which filter one uses, differing amounts of image softenss will result. You can even combine several diffusion filters for extreme effects. Or, combine a diffusion filter with a diopter. You can do that with series filter holders, since many will accomodate different thicknesses of filters. Then, all you need is a series VII to whatever filter ring size that you need for your lens. I suggest finding a Series VII to 52mm or 55mm for starters, and using step-up or step-down rings as needed. It doesn't even have to be sitting on an SLR or DSLR -- how about trying this technique out with a Holga or Diana? Of course, the instant feedback of the DSLR is wonderful, and you can explore all sorts of filter permutations and apply what you learn to film cameras. Give it a try.

If you can't find a series VII or VI filter holder, drop me an email, as I have many boxes full, and can set you up pretty cheaply. I do have a few of the Tiffen vari-close-up lenses for sale at $35 each. When they are gone, they are gone!

J&C Is Gone

For the past few years, there was a unique online store where one could buy all kinds of black and white films -- 120, 35mm, and various custom sizes of sheet film. J&C Photo was a responsive seller, and offered a variety of emulsions (especially from European manufacturers as as Efke, Maco, Foma, etc.) at really good prices. Alas, on May 12, they posted that despite their best effort to relocate their business in Nevada, things have fallen apart and they will no longer be an entity.

It's entirely possible that the problems in getting supplies from Europe have added to their their troubles, as well as the shrinking film market. I still think that a boutique store of this type could make it, but I don't know what kinds of problems they were having that led to their closing up. I really liked their custom film sizes, and am now kicking myself for not buying a bunch of 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 sheet film. I do have a box of 2 x 3" sheet film from them, so I can at least put it to use in my baby graphic.

Thanks, J&C -- I have missed ordering from you. Freestyle is now the only place that caters especially to film users, so I suggest that you support them.

Winding road

Photo taken of the road just S of Northport, WI (Door Peninsula) - Kowa Six, J&C 200 Classic Pan film.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Look Up!

That's Mr. Bunyan to you

A couple of months ago I acquired a Polaroid Spectra camera, and I finally purchased some film for it. The Spectra seems to be a well-designed camera, certainly superior to the 600 series Polaroids that I have been using. Film is expensive, though. I paid $26 for a twin-pack at my local CVS. ouch. But, based on this photo ( I did have a couple that came out blank!) it's a pretty decent 'roid. I hope to experiment with it some more.

Photo above taken on US-2 West of Manistique, MI.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Day on the Door

in the woods
Originally uploaded by mfophotos.

Yesterday, Marjorie and I went all the way to the tip of the Door Peninsula (or at least as far as one can go without assistance from a car ferry). We took the scenic route (as if there are any others here) and had a good trip, getting back to Algoma about sunset. I think my personal favorite was Cave Point County Park on the E side of the peninsula:


Really nice limestone cliffs overlooking Lake Michigan. We really don't have rocky cliffs along the Michigan side of lake Michigan -- it's all sand. Of course, this Niagara Escarpment phenomenon is pretty damn cool, with Silurian limestone everywhere. We also visited the Ridges Sanctuary near Bailey's Harbor -- too early for dragonflies, but they'll be out soon. It was interesting seeing so many places not open yet as the tourist season isn't really underway here until after Memorial day. We finally found a coffee shop that had just opened for the season near Gill's Rock. Might have been the best cup of coffee I have had in a while.

Although the sky was mostly overcast, it was a great day, and we saw quite a bit along the coast. Heck, we didn't even make it into any antique shops -- and there look to be some really nice ones here. Next time.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Door Peninsula 5 am

algoma sunrise
Originally uploaded by mfophotos.

Last night Marjorie and I checked into the Algoma Beach Motel on the outskirts of Algoma, Wisconsin. Our plan is to do some photography in Door County today, and then head home to Ann Arbor tomorrow. I was in Sturgeon Bay and Bailey's Harbor for a few days in 2000, when I attended the Hine's Emerald Dragonfly conference at the Ridges Sanctuary. Since then, I have grown as a photographer, as 2000 was when I started taking it seriously. It will be an interesting day, I'm sure!

This morning I woke at 6 am on my watch to see the sunrise out the window. I grabbed my camera, realized that I left the tripod in the car, and just went sans support onto the blacony overlooking the lake, and shot a bunch of frames, supporting the camera as steadily as possible. Marjorie joined me, too. Then realizing it was a little after 5 am local time, we both went back to sleep.