Como Park Conservatory

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A few weeks ago we spent a nice evening walking around Como Park taking photos as a family.  My wife wanted to learn to use our Fuji X-T1, and my son was carrying my old Canon DSLR, so I went old-school and carried my Rolleicord.  After our picnic dinner on the lawn, I loaded a roll of Fuji Acros 100 black and white film, and we set off for the Conservatory.  We intended to go inside the conservatory and back out to the beautiful Japanese garden, but found that both were closed for the evening, so we just walked around the park.  With all of us taking photos, I enjoyed for once not being the one slowing down the rest of the family.  I had no trouble finding subjects for my 12 images on my roll of film, and enjoyed the slow process — if I would have been shooting digital I probably would have taken a hundred shots and ended up with about the same number that I liked.

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I developed the film myself the night before last, which was quick and easy since I had chemicals premixed and ready to go. This is the first time I’ve developed 120 film, and it’s even easier than 35mm because you don’t have to mess around with opening the film canister — you just unroll the film right off the spool (inside a dark-bag) and onto the developing tank reel.  I let the film hang to dry in an unused room where it’d be unlikely that much dust would be flying around in the air, then last night I “scanned” the images.  I say “scanned” in quotes because I actually shot photos of the negs using my X-T1 with an old Micro-Nikkor 55mm manual-focus macro lens.  The process was quick and easy, and the results are stunning. I’ll be writing a post soon about my process.

Details:
Camera: Rolleicord III
Film: Fuji Acros 100
Processing:  Arista Premium Liquid Developer, mixed 1:9, 7 min. @ approx. 68 degrees F.
Arista Indicator Stop Bath; Arista Premium Liquid Fixer; Kodak Hypo Clear; Water wash; a couple drops Arista Flow wetting agent; hang to dry with no wiping.
Scan:  Fuji X-T1; Nikon Micro-NIKKOR-P.C Auto 1:3.5 f=55mm (at f/8); Logan 4×5 light pad.


Into the Darkroom

We finally moved to the second part of my son’s photography project – printing photos the old-fashioned way. We’re lucky to have a large laundry room with some kitchen counters (we had a temporary kitchen down there while remodeling our kitchen a few years ago), so it makes a great darkroom.  There were only a couple of small windows to black out with plastic garbage bags and duct tape.  There were a couple of ceiling light fixtures in which we could replace the bulbs with my old safelights.  There were even two separate sections of counter so we could have a dry area for the enlarger and a wet area for the trays, which was very near the laundry sink.  In the sink we rigged up a makeshift print washer by simply setting a very large developing tray on top of the sink, running water into it and letting it run over into the sink.

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We started out by making contact prints of his two rolls of film one evening. I had some very old photo paper left from the last time I worked in the darkroom, probably 15 years ago or more. Turns out that unexposed photo paper doesn’t last forever!  The pack of 8×10 Kodak RC paper came out really dark with hardly any contrast, as if it had been fogged. I had a pack of Illford 5×7 paper that fared better, so we were able to piece together contact prints of all of the negs using several sheets of that. I ordered a new pack of Illford 8×10 gloss RC paper and we looked at the contact prints for a few days while waiting for that to arrive.

He settled on a couple of images that he wanted to enlarge, and we got to work. I had forgotten most of what I used to know about chemicals and the timing of developer, stop bath, fixer, washing, etc, so we had to do some research, but it all went pretty smoothly.  We spent a few hours in there to get good prints of two images, but they turned out great. The negs seemed a little low on contrast, so we used a fairly high polycontrast filter to boost the contrast of the images.

The first photo we printed was a close-up of a moss-covered tree with a blurred background of a small stream, shot in the Cascade mountains. We did a test strip to figure out the exposure time, and he decided he liked a pretty dark exposure.  That print went pretty quickly and we had a nice final print in just a couple tries.  I helped him set up the enlarger and focus, then he exposed the print, and I ran the timer while he worked the print through the developing, stop bath, and fixer trays, and into the wash tray.

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The second one took a little longer to get the way we wanted it. It is an image of Pike Place market, with sky at the top and the market below. He liked the high-contrast look we got using the polycontrast filter in the enlarger, but it resulted in a washed-out sky when we got the exposure correct on the lower part of the image.  This gave me a great opportunity to teach him about dodging and burning.  We burned in the sky by exposing it for a few extra seconds while I dodged the bottom part of the image, and the building canopy at the right edge.  A few tries and we had a very nice print.

He entered both photos in the 4H art competition at our county fair, and took home a purple ribbon for the Pike Place photo. Being in 4H is what prompted him to do this project in the first place — he thought it’d be a fun project to enter at the fair. Since he won a purple ribbon, he gets to exhibit it at the Minnesota State Fair at the end of the summer!

Aside: Even though the 4H building isn’t one of the most visited parts of the Minnesota State Fair, the fair itself is pretty huge — last year’s total attendance over the twelve days of the fair was 1,824,830 people!  Yes, 1.8 million people.  It’s a big fair.  So I think it’s a pretty big deal that he gets to show a photo there.

I think the print turned out great:

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It was a lot of fun, and now that I have some fresh paper and chemicals, I should get back in there and print a few of my own negs. A true silver-gelatin print is a beautiful thing!


Digital?

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Yes, this is still the Shot on Film blog, but in addition to shooting old film cameras, I do shoot modern digital cameras.  No reason not to enjoy both.  I recently bought a Fuji X-T1, and I know that a big part of why I fell in love with it the first time I saw one was because the design of it is so much more like a classic film SLR than any other digital camera I had ever seen. The shape, design and feel of it, the shutter speed dial, the ISO dial, the aperture ring on the lens (that’s one thing I wish they’d gone a step farther on — putting actual aperture markings on the lens).  Once the camera is set up the way I like to shoot, there’s little reason to ever push buttons or look at menus on the LCD.  I can just leave the LCD off and use the viewfinder and feel almost like I’m shooting film, except that the electronic viewfinder (EVF) shows me approximately what the actual exposure is going to look like (nice feature, I admit).

I shot some photos early one morning this week, and when looking at them in Lightroom a couple images struck me as looking like film photos. Film has a unique look and I feel like I can usually tell when a photo was shot on film. I follow a number of photographers on Tumblr, and as I scroll through the images almost nightly, I usually notice photos that I think were shot on film, and more often than not I’m correct.  Of course, digital images can be edited to look more like film, such as by using the popular VSCO film packs in Lightroom.

These images shown here are the two that jumped out at me for some reason as I looked through my images today. To me they look like they were shot with my Mamiya 645 on Ektar film.  Maybe it’s the rich brown tones that Ektar renders so nicely, maybe it’s the little bit of extra contrast that I added in Lightroom, maybe it’s the Fuji Provia camera profile that was applied when I imported to Lightroom. I think it’s probably all of those, but also one other thing — I started shooting very early in the morning, before sunrise, and to work in the low light I cranked the ISO of the digital sensor up to 3200.  Shooting at high ISO results in digital noise in the images, and with previous digital SLRs that I’ve used (Canon 40D, most recently), the digital noise was really unappealing – these multi-colored spots that just looked unnatural.  What I notice about these images from the Fuji is that when I zoom way in, the noise looks to me almost like film grain!  Perhaps that’s why I thought this looked like a high-res scan of medium-format film.

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Here’s a screenshot where I’m zoomed in at 1:1 on screen.  Click it to view full size:

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And zoomed in more.  Click to view full size:

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Don’t worry, I’ll be back with more film photos.  I haven’t gone completely to the dark side!


Passing along the love of film photography

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My 13-year-old son just successfully developed his first two rolls of film.  It has probably been close to 15 years since I developed my own film, so I had to do some research to refresh my memory on the whole process.  I ordered chemicals from Freestyle Photo (Arista developer, stop bath, fixer, wetting agent, Kodak hypo clear).  Once we mixed up chemicals, the process was so easy that I’m now excited to shoot some film and develop more.

He had shot the two rolls of Tmax on a recent vacation using my old Pentax K1000, after he told me he wanted to learn how to shoot film, develop and make prints.  This K1000 was my first ‘real’ camera, a gift from my parents when I was a little older than he is now.  I used it through high school, college and for many years after college until getting my first DSLR.  It made the process even more meaningful to me by having him use that camera.

I taught him how to spool the film onto the metal developing reels, but I spooled these ones for him (inside a changing bag).  That’s something that takes practice to get good at, and I didn’t want to risk these first rolls of film.  Next time he can try spooling his own.  I have one of those plastic spools that you rotate and it pulls the film onto the spool, but I don’t like the tank with that one, so I used the old stainless steel tank and spools.  There’s kind of an art to spooling film on those metal reels, but once you get the hang of it, they work great.

His negs are now dried and hanging in the laundry room.  It looks like he nailed the exposures very well, and has some good negatives to work with.

Our next step is to light-proof the laundry room and set up the enlarger to teach him how to print.  It will be interesting to see how much patience he has for the printing process – and how much patience I have after being in the ‘digital darkroom’ for so many years.

I’m thankful that he wants to learn how to do this.


A brief affair with a Leica M6

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Earlier this winter I had the pleasure of handling a Leica M6, and actually using it for a few days. Thank you, Chris!

Like many amateur photographers, I’ve often lusted after Leicas but figure I’ll never actually spend the money to own one.  After carrying this one around a little, I can see why people are willing to spend big bucks on these.  They are simply beautifully designed and built pieces of machinery.  It feels wonderful to hold.  A Leica in your hands seems to build confidence.  The solid feel, the weight, the smooth focusing lens, the precise feel of everything, the simplicity of it, all come together to make it feel like this is what a camera is supposed to be.  I can see why — according to Canon’s own website — when Leica first released the M3, Canon gave up on making rangefinders to focus on SLRs:

It was reported that Canon’s engineers who saw the “Leica M3” for the first time were greatly shocked by the level of perfection in the camera as represented by the brightness and visibility of its viewfinder, as well as by the accuracy of its rangefinder. In spite of the fact that their improved model “IV Sb2” had received good acceptance from its users, Canon engineers realized that, with the debut of the “Leica M3,” the camera world was about to experience great change. This heralded the era of great changes in cameras, leading the company to seek new directions.

Since it was difficult to imitate the “Leica M3” introduced in 1954 in terms of its bright viewfinder and accurate rangefinder, many camera manufacturers, including Canon, were forced to shift their development goals to the camera that would lead the world’s market in the future. What Japanese camera manufacturers, including Canon, decided was to concentrate on the single lens reflex (SLR) camera with system capabilities, which could be developed using Japan’s own technology. This SLR camera was to become the new camera, which would be accepted by the world, capable of overcoming the previous limitations of the rangefinder cameras including the use of telephoto lenses.

There you have it — Canon admits that it was the superior Leica that drove them out of the rangefinder business (though up until the M3, the Canon rangefinders were keeping pace with Leica).

I think maybe what I liked best about this camera was carrying it around.  Sounds odd maybe, but the weight and size of it, combined with a really nice strap that Chris has on the camera, makes it just feel right tucked snugly against my side, with the strap slung over my opposite shoulder.

Shooting it was a little difficult for me because of the lens that was on it (35mm f/2 Summicron).  The framelines for the 35mm lens are a little wide in the rangefinder for someone wearing glasses, so I had a hard time framing up shots.  I’d have to shift my eye around to see the framelines.  With a 50mm lens, the framelines would work great for me, but anything wider is tough to view while wearing glasses — at least it was for me.

I didn’t have much time to actually use it while I had it, but I managed to take a couple of walks with it and shot some random stuff just to try it out.  The results below aren’t anything too special, partly because I was just shooting some stuff quickly to try the camera out, and partly because the film somehow got fogged.  I don’t know if something went wrong with developing (at Dwayne’s Photo, so I doubt they did anything wrong), or something happened in shipping, or what.  I’ll never know, but the negs are pretty low in contrast because of the fogging, so I had to adjust them a lot in Lightroom to make anything look decent. This resulted in some super grainy images because the contrast had to be punched up so much.

I also didn’t nail focus on all of my shots, which surprised me, because I thought I was right on.  One of the huge advantages Leicas have over other rangefinders is the bright rangefinder spot that makes focusing quick and easy, so I don’t know how I messed that up, but some of my shots were not focused properly.

Overall I really loved using it, and I felt like I could just keep carrying it around forever.  I still doubt that I’ll ever own one, but you never know.  I guess I can picture myself one day downsizing my arsenal of old cameras to a very small selection of really good useable, practical cameras, and a nice Leica could certainly fit into that small collection.

Though it was a brief affair, I will look back fondly on my days spent with her.

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all shot on Kodak Tmax 400
Developed and scanned at Dwayne’s


Riley

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Polaroid 180
Fuji FP-100C
© Rick Schuster

I’ve been shooting black and white film in this camera until just recently.  I loaded up some color film thinking I’d shoot one more roll before putting this camera on ebay, and man, color is where this thing shines.  Not sure if I want to part with it now.  I love the look of this.  Such beautiful warmth.

This was shot with Fuji FP-100C film that expired over two years ago (and hasn’t been refrigerated).  I’ve heard that the new Impossible Project film is all over the board for color, even varying from one batch to another, but this Fuji film is solid.

about the Polaroid 180


A few shots with the venerable Polaroid 180

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These were shot with the Polaroid 180, considered to be the top-end Polaroid instant camera, with it’s impressive Tominon 114mm lens, Zeiss viewfinder/rangefinder, and fully manual operation. I haven’t used this camera nearly as much as I should. It’s fun to use, and the results are impressive.

These were shot on Fuji FP-3000B instant black & white film, and scanned on my flatbed Epson V-500. I boosted the contrast a little in Lightroom and removed a few dust specs from the scanning.

I’ve been considering selling this camera, since it’s quite valuable and I haven’t been using it much, but I’m gonna put at least one more pack of film through it first.  Maybe by then I’ll be hooked and won’t want to part with it though.

About the Polaroid 180

p.s. – Back when I first started this blog I did a little experimenting and found that when WordPress scales images down to fit the blog post, they get a little bit softer looking than if I exported the images from Lightroom at the exact size that they would display.  I’ve decided that despite this, I’m going to start uploading my photos at a larger size so you can click on them to see them larger.  I did that with these, so you can click to zoom.