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.  

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Pentax UC-1. If you see one, buy it.

I thought I'd seen all of the compact 35mm cameras made, until I picked up this Pentax UC-1.  I didn't know Pentax  made a camera so small, with such elegance and such a sharp wide-angle lens.  I suppose UC-1 means "Ultra Compact 1." but I could be wrong.  Maybe it means "Utterly Cute" or maybe it stands for "Use Continuously."  I was eager to put a test roll of film through this little beauty, also known as the Espio Mini outside of North America. 

The UC-1 is a clam-shell front camera, much like the Olympus Stylus Epic.  It's really a surprise to me that Pentax produced the UC-1, as it is so different than the typical Pentax P&S cameras that I have seen.  While it compares well with the Olympus Stylus Epic, it's really an even better camera in my opinion.

Strong Points of the UC-1

  1. Compact size and ergonomics - at only 4.2 x 2.3 x 1.4 inches,  and 6 ounces, this camera is truly ultra-compact.  It fits easily in the hand and the controls are easy to see and engage.
  2. Wide-ish lens - the 32 mm f/3.5 lens is deadly sharp.  Certainly wider than a 35 - 38mm seen on many compacts.
  3. ISO Range - DX coded 35 mm cassettes from 25- 3200.  Non-DX cassettes are assigned an ISO of 25.
  4. Focus Range - 1 foot to infinity!
  5. Panoramic Mask Function - not for everyone, but nice in a wide-angle camera.
  6. Power - 1 CR123A 3v cell. 
  7. Shutter Speeds - Programmed AE electric shutter with speed approx. l/400sec. -2 sec, Bulb: l/2 sec.- 5 min., Electromagnetic release  The Infrared remote is an option, but with it you can easily shoot in B mode on a tripod for long exposures.  Up to 5 minutes means you could easily use this camera for night skies.  
  8. Flash Control - Built-in auto flash with red-eye reduction mode, Automatic flash emission in low luminance or a backlight situation, Flash-ON:Daylight-Synchro/Slow-Shutter-Speed Synchro (up to 2 sec.), Flash-OFF:Flash override, Bulb Synchro: l/2 sec.- 5 min.
  9. Auto film loading, winding, and rewinding at end of roll.

Lots of control and information

Weak Points

  1. The LCD on mine is only partly operational.
  2. The chrome finish is attractive, but it does wear off.  
  3. Not a common model, which means prices on eBay are quite high -- over $100 for working cameras, higher for mint, and don't forget to search under Espio Mini! That's a debatable weak point if you are a seller.


Back in December I loaded a roll of Fuji Superia 200 in the camera  and went downtown to shoot the roll.  I forgot about the roll, and it sat with others until a batch went to The Darkroom for developing. 

I have to say that I am impressed with the results.  This is certainly a camera that could be easily carried in a pocket and taken out in a moment's notice to shoot with.  Right now, the camera is packed away for my move to NC, but I will certainly be using it more in the future.  The sharp lens, excellent exposure control, compactness and ergonomics make this camera a real treasure. If UC-1, buy it!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Strange Films from Film Washi - Film F and Film S

shot with Washi S
A few months ago I received two rolls of film to test for the Film Photography Project-- Film Washi's "newest" films - Washi F and Washi S.   Now, you already know that I am someone that likes to play with oddball film stocks, and these two films certainly fit that description.  First, let me acquaint you with them from the information furnished by Film Washi.

Film Washi touts itself as the world's smallest film company.  Based in France, Film Washi first came to our attention with the hand-coated Washi films that were produced on thin Washi paper.  From the Film Washi site:   "Founded in 2013 by Lomig Perrotin in a closet of his Parisian flat, Film Washi grew up while staying a one-man-business. The company’s facilities are now located in Saint-Nazaire, on the western coast of France.

The company’s ethos is based on values of innovation, simplicity and ecology. The adopted processes link it to the Maker and DIY movements: recycling takes an important part in the making of films, and many production tools (including 120 rollers, 135-cartridge loader, or IR glasses) have been made out of recycled parts.

With more than 25.000 films sold since it was created, Film Washi stays a relatively minor player on the analog photography market. It does not try to compete against major film makers, but to complement them instead, offering photographers a different, novel approach to analog photography."

Back to the films...

Both of these film stocks are emulsions originally produced for a far different purpose than conventional pictorial photography. Film Washi describes them as:
shot with Washi S

F- Film F is a special fluorographic x-ray film used for mass lung disease diagnoses. Being coated without anti-halation layer, this unique film offers a high diffusion effect and beautiful grain.  The suggested ISO for this film is 100, and it is an orthochromatic film that is insensitive to red.

S - Film S is used for motion picture sound recording which needs ultra high definition guaranteed by an anti-halation layer between the film base and the emulsion layer.  The film has almost no grain with high contrast, and while it is panchromatic, it is not completely red sensitive, topping out at 620 nm.  The recommended ISO is 50, and because of light piping, you should load the film in dim light and advance a few frames before shooting with it.

Now, for my reviews...

Film S

I shot Film S on May 1, using my Nikon N2000 with a 28mm Nikkor lens. It was an overcast day in Ann Arbor with diffuse lighting.  Many of my photos featured architectural subjects with lots of detail. I figured that if the film was fine-grained and high contrast, I would probably be giving it a good test.  The film was developed by The Darkroom so that they could test their developer with this oddball film.  The film was developed in clip tests, with times set as 6.5 minutes, 7 minutes, and 8.5 minutes.  On the light table, I would say that the longer development time yielded the best overall results.   The Darkroom used Ilfotec DD at 1:4 dilution for their developing.  The Ilfotec DD RS is equivalent to Kodak's T-max RS developer.

I have to say that I am absolutely thrilled with the sharp, contrasty and nearly grainless images from the Film S.  It reminds me of Kodak's Technical pan film, but without having to use a special developer. The architecture subjects were perfect for this film.  The ISO of 50 isn't all that slow, and the shots were all done hand-held.  The film's strengths really showed in the images that are crisp and highly detailed, with really good tonal separation.

Film F

On May 3, I shot the Film F in Chelsea, Michigan, also with the N2000 camera but with with the Lensbaby Velvet 56 lens.  The sky was  bright overcast.  The film was also developed by The Darkroom as before, with times of 7.5 minutes, 8.5 minutes, and 10 minutes.  Based upon the film on the light table, I'd say that all of the times ended up similarly, though the 10 min. time was certainly denser.  I can see that the film certainly has a similar response to sunlight as the Polypan F film that also lacks an anti-halation layer.

marks on top from film clip test

note the flare from the white surfaces, what I call blooming diffusion

Film F is more of an "atmospheric" film -- there is of course, grain, and the blooming diffusion, especially when you have a white subject, is quite noticeable, as well as the low-contrast.  Now, that does not mean it's a bad thing, and if that is the look you wish to go for, by all means give the film a try.  The lack of an antihalation layer means you'll want to make sure that you use shorter exposures, if possible.  Longer exposures will cause more diffused results, but maybe that's not a bad thing if you are going for that look.  I used the Lensbaby Velvet 56 lens, which also may have contributed to the overall look in the results.  I'll bet the film would be an interesting one to use with models.

Finally --

This is the beauty of shooting with film.  There is a film for whatever look you want, and not every film will give you the same result.  My takeaway from using these two films from Film Washi is that Lomig Perrotin should be commended for bring interesting and unique film stocks to market.  I don't expect every film to be to my taste and subject matter, and only you can appreciate what these films can do when you try them.  I certainly adore the Washi S film, and want to try more in the future with other subjects and conditions. 

[Note:  I fixed the developer information on 6/25, as soon as I found out from The Darkroom]

Saturday, June 01, 2019

The Canon AE-1 Program - just shoot!

Even though I am a committed Nikon user, I do enjoy testing and shooting with  other camera systems. About a decade ago, I somehow got on a Canon SLR kick, and shot a number of Canon SLRs from the 1960s-70s - Canon FTb QL, Canon TL, Canon AV-1, Canon EF, Canon AL-1, Canon T70, Canon Pellix, the A-1, and the F-1.  I really liked the A-1, and it was every equivalent of the Nikon FA, but lacking in the simple control system and metering ability of the Nikon.  I never used a Canon AE-1, as popular as they were, but I recently acquired a Canon AE-1 Program.  I have been shooting with it quite a bit in the past month, and I want to share my thoughts on the camera.  This won't be a complete review of the camera's specifications, history, and operation, as they are easily found elsewhere.

First of all, the Canon AE-1 Program (or AE-1P) appeared in 1981, as a successor to the very popular AE-1 that came out in 1976. At the time, few cameras had full automation, or Program mode, which made the AE-1P an improvement over the AE-1, which, like many Canon SLRs, were shutter-priority in the automated mode.  The AE-1P also has manual and shutter-priority too, but I'll bet most users shot in full program mode, with the camera choosing the right shutter speed/aperture setting, allowing you to focus solely on your subject. For frame of reference, the Nikon FE2 came out in 1983, and it replaced the Nikon FE that appeared in 1978. Both of those cameras are Aperture-Priority and Manual mode cameras that are among my favorite manual Nikons. The user still had to select an aperture, and the camera the shutter speed.  The Canon AE-1P basically did away with that user choice thing, because dammit, the metering is VERY good, and in full program mode, I have found every exposure to be what I wanted.

This particular example of the AE-1P is all black, making it look like a sleek and professional camera.  It uses FD lenses, and I shot it with a Canon 50mm f/1.8, Canon 85mm f/1.8, and a Canon 24mm f/2.8 lens, as well as a crazy Sigma 16mm semi-fisheye lens.  When the Canon AE-1P was new, it was selling for around $300 in the US. I bought a Pentax MG around 1983 at a Service merchandise store, and had I chosen a Canon AE-1P instead (or a Nikon FE2), I wonder what directions my photography may have gone.  While the Pentax SLR was a pretty competent beginner SLR, it was aperture priority only, with no real manual control, except at 1/100 sec.  It's obvious to me now that the AE-1P was a game-changing SLR, coming out at a time when competitors were also exploring automation, but not all at the same level of excellence.

Initially, I found that I was overthinking when I shot with this camera.  Without reading the manual,I assumed that the S setting was for Shutter-priority, but then realized it was for the Self-timer.  I was always wondering if it was working properly, of course.  The shutter has just a bit of a wheeze, but seems to work just fine.  I see the aperture reading but not the shutter speed in the readout in the viewfinder, which was initially disconcerting.  After I developed the first roll of b&w film, my fears were laid to rest, and I just composed and shot with the camera in full Program mode.

Viewfinder - The viewfinder of the AE-1P is bright and the center focus area is easily used, with the split image rangefinder surrounded by a microprism rangefinder.  That's a good thing in a camera that has been designed to move the attention to the composition, and not the controls.

Handling - I can't find fault with the camera's ergonomics, as the right-hand grip is well-placed and not too big. The film advance lever is smooth and easy to operate, and the shutter button is well-placed.

Controls - Everything is where it needs to be. However, the S setting on the top deck still wants me to think that it's not for self-timer. Usually, the self-timer is located on the front of an SLR, but of course, Canon likes to confound people by moving things around.  The A-1 also had the same feature with controls around the advance lever.  The stop-down lever on the front is rather awkward in use, and I'll bet few people actually used it. If there is a control that is missing, it would be exposure compensation. 

I can see why this camera was so popular. Put in a roll of 35mm film, select the ISO setting, and start shooting.  Compose and shoot.  While this camera's Nikon equivalent is the tiny Nikon EM, the EM did not have any sort of useful manual mode.  The Canon AE-1P is heftier, and in most aspects, a far better camera.  The Canon AE-1P was made for those that want to shoot images with great results, and I have to say that the camera achieved that.  I am no Canon fanboy -- Canon was awful in flash technology, and could never be consistent with control design and placement, even in the EOS film era. However, with the AE-1 and AE-1P, Canon hit a price point and performance point that was ahead of Nikon's offerings - at least in the consumer market.   In the end, though, Canon's complexity was a problem, and cameras like the AE-1 and AE-1P suffer from the effect of age on electronic components, and squealing shutters.  I believe that Canon should have gone with the well-proven and very reliable Copal-Square vertical metal shutters (used on the Canon EF!) that Nikon used.  It wasn't until the T series that Canon abandoned the horizontal cloth shutters for good.    Overall, the Canon AE-1P is a great SLR, and if you find one that works well, buy it.  It's a great street and travel camera, since all you have to do is focus and press the the shutter button to get the shot.  Is it a good learning tool for a class? No.  A Canon FTb QL is a great camera to learn on.  However, it's a great camera to give a kid to shoot with, as the learning curve is very short.

I hope to shoot more with this body, and with some Ektachrome later on.  I'll be busier than ever in the coming weeks as we prepare for our move to NC, so it may be a while before the AE-1P gets any use. I'll probably not be blogging a whole lot either, but we shall see!