Very old Verichrome Pan film in the Kodak Duo Six-20

I received my Kodak Duo Six-20 many years ago from a relative, and put it on a shelf for a while, then later got curious about shooting with it.  I don’t really remember doing this, but apparently I noticed that it had film in it, so I probably wound it forward a frame, then took a test shot out my office window before winding the rest of the way and removing the film.  For many years this roll of film sat around, and now I decided to finally develop it.  Maybe this film would hold the lost images that would solve the mystery of the JFK assassination, or at least hold some interesting snapshots.

I developed in HC110 at higher than normal concentration for four minutes based on a test strip using a method described here.  To summarize, I cut a small strip off the end of the film while spooling it in my dark bag.  That strip was then exposed in the light, and dipped in developer in one-minute increments.  I then used a developing time at the point where extra minutes didn’t add any more density.

Well, after developing, fixing, washing, etc, I was a bit disappointed to see what looked like just two images on the film.  And after scanning I discovered that one of those images was the one I had shot out my office window years earlier.  The other frame that was exposed contained no discernible image, just some odd cloudiness.  The rest of the roll appears to have been very underexposed or not exposed at all.

Here’s the one image:

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It looks like it could have been shot fifty years ago, but no, it was just shot on very old film.  I can’t find info on when they stopped making Verichrome Pan in 620 format.  It began production in 1956, and I found one site that said 120 format Verichrome Pan was discontinued in the 1970’s.  I would guess that 620 was discontinued earlier than 120 was, and certainly no later.  So this film was probably 40 to 60 years past it’s expiration date when I developed it.  And who knows what kind of heat it endured over those years, sitting in an attic or something.

Here’s the roll before I unspooled it:

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Here’s the camera:

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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


Apple Orchard – Super Ricohflex

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Shot with my wonderfully ever-unpredictable Super Ricohflex.

I love nearly everything about this camera, including it’s swirly circular bokeh (see background of apple photo below) and odd focus problem that throws parts of the images into focus that shouldn’t be. Look closely at the bottom photo for one example of this — the image is focused right around the kids, but an area very close to the camera in the lower-left corner of the photo is also in focus. I see this in many images from this camera when focused in the distance. I’m guessing that the lens is slightly tilted, thus acting a little like a tilt-shift lens. The fact that the lens focuses by turning probably adds to the randomness of where in each image that odd focusing occurs.

These were shot on Portra 160 and developed and scanned by Precision Photo. Nice high-res 5000 x 5000 pixel scans.

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Industrial color on a gray day

There’s something about gray, foggy, dreary days that make me want to go out and shoot photos.  Just such a day presented itself last spring when there was still ice on the Mississippi River, and the new Lowry Avenue bridge construction was in full swing.  When I went out that day, I had in my mind the landscape photos of Australian photographer Chris Round.  His photographs rarely depict a pristine, unspoiled landscape, but rather they usually involve man’s impact on the land, the man-made landscape, the industrial, the abandoned, the forgotten, the dirty and gritty.  There’s a simple, sublime beauty to his compositions and to the calm colors that make his work stand out among the current plethora of over-saturated photos.  The gray sky, even lighting, and overall muted colors of this day reminded me of his work, and I set out to try to capture some images inspired by him.

When I saw these images yesterday (after sitting on several rolls of film for months and finally sending them to Dwayne’s for developing and scanning), I was really pleased with what I saw.  I think I accomplished my goal of capturing what I was seeing and feeling that day.

These images are from a single roll of Kodak Ektar 100 film, shot in my Rolleicord III. These are the straight scans from Dwayne’s, with no editing done except for my standard Lightroom export, which resizes the images to fit the blog and ads the copyright watermark.


Spiral Slide

I’ve been busy with selling a house, buying a house, moving, etc, so it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted here.  I have a few rolls of film lying around that need to be developed, but in the meantime here’s an older shot from my Super Ricohflex.  Shot on Kodak Portra 400.  I like how you can see the blue sky and clouds reflected in the slide.

As we settle into our new home, I look forward to unpacking my cameras and finding some time to shoot again.


The Seductive Tree

I’ve stayed twice at a particular cabin on Lake Superior, and have both times been captivated by this tree on the point in front of the cabin. There’s something about this solitary tree that draws me in, and I find it hard to photograph anything else in the area. Of the two rolls of film that I shot in my Rolleicord the weekend I was here, most of the images were of this tree. These were shot on Ektar 100 film, some handheld, some exposures of several seconds on a tripod. Some at dawn, some at dusk.

Which is your favorite?


Hollywood Theater

The Hollywood Theater opened it’s doors on Johnson Street in NE Minneapolis in 1935, and has been closed since 1987. It’s in rough shape, but has recently been re-opened on a limited basis for some theatrical performances. And the local arts television show MN Original recently filmed a nice performance by local musician Mason Jennings in the theater, in which the theater’s beautifully decrepit interior plays a starring role.

It was designated a local historic landmark in 1990 and the city of Minneapolis has owned it since 1993. There have been many redevelopment plans discussed over the years, but nothing has happened so far. It would be an amazing space if it were renovated and re-opened as a live-performance theater.

Another feature of the part of NE Minneapolis I call home is the resident flock of wild turkeys that roam the streets, sidewalks and yards. They’re frequently seen outside the local coffee shop and corner restaurant, or sitting on the small strip of grass next to the craft store, in front of the funeral home, or even sitting on the park benches lining the sidewalk.  They’re quite used to the people and cars around, and take their sweet time crossing the street. They’ve become symbols of our little corner of NE Minneapolis. As I was taking the Hollywood Theater photos above, they wandered by, so I had to snap a shot of them in the street.

The second photo of the theater was taken with my Super Ricohflex on Portra 400 film, and the rest were shot on my Retina IIIc, also on Portra 400. The third photo — the straight-on shot — was cropped square from the 35mm frame because I liked the composition better, and straightened a bit in Lightroom. The first image, taken with the Retina, was adjusted in Lightroom — I added some Recovery to darken the sky that was a bit washed out, and a little fill light to brighten up the darker areas under the overhang. It gives it a little bit of an HDR look, I think, but hopefully not too much — I tried not to over-do it.  I’m always amazed at how much detail can be pulled out of the highlights and shadows on a good scan of a negative.