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.

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Old film discovered in my Pentax K1000

I pulled my old Pentax K1000 off a shelf recently and decided to try shooting it again, only to discover that it still had film in it – it was just sitting there waiting to be used.  I didn’t know when I had last used it, but figured it was around the time I got my first digital camera.  There were still a few shots left, so I put a new battery in the camera so I could use the light meter, shot the rest of the roll and had it developed.  Turned out it was loaded with Kodak Tmax 400 film.  Judging from the age of my son in the shots, this film sat in the camera for about ten years, and no doubt endured some hot weather during that time.  The images on the negs came out extremely thin, like they were severely underexposed, and very low contrast – so that apparently is what happens as Tmax ages. The images that I shot recently were just as thin as the ones shot nine years ago, so it didn’t seem to make a difference if the film was exposed when the film was new, then sat, or if it aged before being shot.  I did some major curves adjustments in Lightroom to pull out these images.  The first two images are old ones, the other two are recent ones.  The image of the leaves has the end of the roll visible at the left edge.

The old K1000 seems to still work great.  I got this camera as a gift from my parents when I was in high school, and I’m sure I’ve shot way more photos on it than any other camera.  Picking it up again after all these years, it took no time at all to feel comfortable shooting it and knowing right where the few controls are (right at your fingertips on a couple simple dials, not hidden inside an electronic menu).

The lens that I have on it is a Tokina f:2.8 28mm that I bought in college.  I had wanted a wide angle lens but couldn’t afford much at the time, and this was a pretty cheap lens — but in my opinion it turned out to be a pretty darn good lens.  I shot for years with that one lens after my 50mm got dropped and broken (it was on the camera at the time, and the camera was fine).  I love the wide angle of that 28mm focal length, and some of my favorite images were shot with it.

Mat Marrash wrote a nice article about the K1000 as the perfect starter camera on the Film Photography Podcast site. It was a perfect starter camera for me.  Using a basic full-manual camera like this is a great way to learn.

I’m looking forward to shooting this camera some more.

I wonder how many half-shot rolls of film are sitting in other peoples’ cameras.  There might be some great family memories just waiting to be developed.


Ron II’s Rolleicord III

My friend (and only known regular reader of this blog) Ron got a bit over-zealous bidding on twin-lens reflex cameras on ebay, and ended up ‘winning’ a Rolleicord III and a Yashica 635 at about the same time. He thought the Rolleicord might be broken, so he dropped it off one day for me to have a look.  I figured out that it worked fine, though the shutter speed adjusting lever seemed stuck at first – a bit of force loosened it, and it works fine though is still a bit tight to move at the higher shutter speeds. I held on to it and shot a couple rolls of film to see how it worked, and I really liked using it.

Ron liked both cameras, but grew more attached to the Yashica since he was shooting with it, and I was avoiding seeing him so I wouldn’t have to return the Rollei.  He enjoyed being able to shoot 35mm film in the Yashica (but don’t ask me why you’d want to use a big TLR camera to shoot little 35mm negatives).

Feeling a need to own just a couple more fly rods – flyfishing being his major avocation – Ron didn’t see the need to own two TLR cameras, so he offered to sell the camera to me for what he had paid. That put a small dent into the cost of his two new fly rods, and gave me a great new camera at a good price. Win-win.

The Rolleicord III is a great camera for me.  Not too big and heavy; good lens; decent, though a bit dark, viewfinder; rock-solid build; silky-smooth focusing and winding; auto-stop film winding and frame counter. The auto-stop is a great step up from my Ricohflex, as you don’t have to watch the red window while winding to make sure you stop at the right place for the next shot.  Just shoot and wind.

Rolleicord III

The Rolleicord line is the cheaper little-brother to the famed Rolleiflex. The Rolleicords, as I understand, were built similarly, but with not quite as good of lens, not quite as fast of lens, knob winding instead of the Rolleiflex’s lever-wind, and a few less features (for instance, no double-exposure prevention mechanism on my Rolleicord). They also sell these days for a fraction of the price of a Rolleiflex, so I think they’re a good buy.

The image quality I’ve gotten from it is great.  The lens is quite sharp corner-to-corner, with no apparent vignetting at all. Very crisp images.

The images shown here were shot on Tmax 400 black & white negative film. Scanned by North Coast Photo (Enhanced Scans). These were some of the scans that came back dark and overly-contrasty, but came out great when they redid them for me.

More info about the Rolleicord III


Drifter’s Cabin

Super Ricohflex

These images were shot on the Super Ricohflex 120 TLR camera on Tmax 400 film.

I like the quality of these images from the Ricohflex.  The first shot is a little soft, due either to not focusing quite right or a little camera motion, but I think the softness gives it a dreamy quality that I love.  I don’t think the softness comes across much in the small size shown here.

The original scans that I got back from North Coast Photo were extremely high-contrast, with shadow and highlight detail lost, as I mentioned in an earlier post.  Color scans that they did were great, but the ones from black and white film were disappointing.  I emailed them and explained the problem, and they asked me to send the negs back, and they rescanned them and reimbursed me for the return shipping cost.  These redone scans turned out great.  Hopefully they now have solved whatever problem they had, and will produce good black and white scans in the future.