Monthly Archives: January 2012

Phoebe’s Misadventures in Developing Film

Earlier this week I decided to tackle a pile of black and white film that’s been waiting to be developed for months. As I was setting up the chemicals my oldest daughter, Phoebe asked if she could help. Since I had four canisters to develop, each at different times, I readily accepted. I’ve been hesitant to let the kids help me with the developing process but at twelve-going-on-fourty-five-years-old, Phoebe is plenty mature enough to concentrate on the task at hand. Plus, I was excited to introduce her to this side of analogue photography.

With chemicals at the right temperature and the right kind of tunes on the iPod (funk and soul, of course!) we started dancing to the music as we agitated the film in the wetting stage.

Having Phoebe was really helpful. Our first two tanks had developing times that were 30 seconds apart, so I was able to start her developing process ahead of mine. With good timing and preparation we were able to finish the process together. Since I had four tanks to get through, it was a huge time saver.

I suppose the first clue that something was amiss would have been the dark, cola-like color of my developer, Ilfosol 3. I opened it about six months ago and it lives in my garage, which has seen a few temperature changes in that time. I’ve always stored my chemicals in the same place and I’ve used Ilfosol 3 when it was brown before, so I didn’t anticipate any problems, until I saw pink liquid drain out of the tank after the developing step.

Undeterred, it was on to the washing stage for both of our films.

I noticed our film looked kind of pinkish but stranger things have happened. It was when the Permawash turned bubble-gum pink that I knew something was wrong.

Yeah, that’s never happened. Still we plugged on, but when it was time for the final, magic step–the reveal of the pictures on the negatives–this is what we saw.

As the father in “A Christmas Story” says..”He looks like a big, pink nightmare”. I was frustrated. Not only were two rolls of film ruined, but Phoebe didn’t get to experience the fun of seeing the pictures on the film. I was sure she’d be my darkroom buddy forever after seeing pictures appear on the film because it’s such a great reward after all the mixing of chemicals, timing of steps and shaking of canisters.

I quickly went back over the process in my head. Maybe I didn’t dilute the developer properly? This time I made extra sure to be very, very careful when measuring and calculating. Here’s what the next two rolls looked like and where they ended up.

GRRR!!! Six rolls of film turned out to be really, pretty garbage. My fixer was fine, even after the process. Here’s a shot of Phoebe testing it when we were finished.

The stop bath, too, appeared normal. It was still the same lovely shade of yellow at the end of our session. I can only infer that the developer went bad in the garage. Fortunately, there was none left after our disastrous session.

I didn’t get upset, although I did express my disappointment to Phoebe. I told her how fun that moment is when you unwind the film and see your pictures. I told her I was bummed that she didn’t get the same experience. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s just the way it goes with film” is what I told her. She was really great and told me the next time I had film to develop, she’d love to help.

Another thing that needs help? The Photo Palace Bus! I know I keep mentioning it but it’s such a worthwhile cause and with only four days left, they’re still really far behind in getting their funds together. Please, if you haven’t already, check out their Kickstarter page and consider supporting their cause.


Light Painting and Help The Photo Palace

Over the holidays I decided to try my hand at some light painting while walking along the streets of my town at night. For these shots I used my Smena 8 with Kodak Gold iso 400 film.

I was getting warmed up here. As you can see, it’s just a hand-held long-exposure shot, but I like the composition.

This one is zippy! I moved the camera in circles near a bare tree lit by LED lights.

The lights in this tree were further up in the sky. I must have used small, circular motions because the shapes made by the lights look like little snails.

These lights were at the top of a lamppost. They were the old-fashioned kind of lights with giant colored bulbs. You can really see the difference in color temperature between these and the LEDs.

I have more light painting shots on the way. I loaded my Canon 70’s film SLR with Fuji slide film (which I’m getting cross-processed) and am eager to see what I captured.

Remember the Photo Palace bus? Well I got this email from Anton, one of its creators:

Hi Friends,

Well with two weeks left in the funding campaign I really am hoping for a miracle. We are only 20% funded and somehow we are supposed to raise the rest in just 14 days.

I was going to make a video update talking about the educational component of the venture, but with 30 minutes left at my job (which is where I edited the last video because my computer is not powerful enough) my Final Cut file crashed and the info got lost so there’s no time to start over…

In the update I was going to say how many wonderful things we will offer to the film community at large: art shows where people can see a gum print and a tintype and a bromoil print, workshops on pinhole cameras and cyanotypes for kids, more involved classes for adults, lectures on the history of film and how it affected the developments in photography, setting up community dark rooms all over the country…. there was a lot there, but now it’s all lost in the digital realm (if I was working with film this would not have happened…). In any case – imagine me looking rather desperate in my packed-up darkroom pleading for help 🙂 It was going to be a good movie…

I really hope that this goes through and we’ll be able to get on the road by summertime. PLEASE help us out by doing another wave of postings here and there and everywhere about this project with a link to it. If you tell the people – ‘hey, I support this!’ they may listen closer and support it as well, right?

Below is the photo of Rollov Film Center – the space where I taught about a dozen students for the past year. It’s all cleaned up and ready for my departure. Please help make this campaign a success 🙂

Sincerely,
Anton

Yikes! Please help spread the word about this fantastic project and if you haven’t yet contributed to the fund, hop on over to their Kickstarter site and do so. It’s such a fantastic way to let people know that film is NOT obsolete and that there are lots of us who still love kickin’ it the lo-fi way. Besides, I really want to meet these two fellas when they come to my town!


Fuji Natura Classica Review

The Fuji Natura Classica is a small, 35mm film camera that boasts the ability to take pictures in low light without flash. When loaded with 1600 iso film, the Natura Classica’s shutter speed is very fast in challenging light situations, which eliminates the inevitable blurry subjects that appear after attempting to hold the camera still for a long exposure shot. After waiting a few years to get my hand on this fancy little camera I can honestly say that I am not disappointed.

It’s price, around $300, is pretty steep for a point and shoot film camera so I attempted to order one from the Lomography Society with piggy points, however they were sold out when I finally accumulated enough, so I purchased one from eBay instead. The price of this camera has come down a little bit in the past year or two, so if you’re looking for one eBay is a good place to start. Mine arrived very quickly from Japan and when I opened the instructions I discovered they were written only in Japanese. A search of the internet turned up this page from Moominsean’s blog that was extremely helpful. While it appears there’s no English version of the manual (because the camera was originally available for sale in Japan exclusively) his blog contains a translation of some very important steps. The writing on my camera’s buttons are in English, thank goodness. I know a couple of non-Japanese speaking photographers who have the version of this camera with Japanese writing on the buttons which would look pretty cool, but would be another layer of frustration.

Initial impressions of this little camera are that it is very lightweight, almost cheap-feeling. Kudos to the Fuji folks for including batteries for the camera in the package (a lithium CR2 3volt). The lens (f 2.8 to 5.4) goes from wide to telephoto (28mm to 56mm) with the push of a lever. My lens action was smooth and very quiet, but not as quiet as the actual click of the shutter and advancing of the film, which are virtually noiseless. It’s like a stealthy little spy camera.

I used 800 iso Fuji color negative film for my first roll since it was the fastest film I had in my supply. These first few pictures were taken in my kitchen and living room in the evening.

Overall, the pictures aren’t bad at all considering I’m not using 1600 speed. When I zoomed in to focus on the orchids in the top picture a little red light kept flashing when I depressed the shutter halfway, which I thought meant the picture was out of focus but clearly my subject is not blurry.

Next, we took a trip to the local big box hardware store.

Wow! I know this lighting would have totally confused a normal camera. I’ve tried taking pictures in this store with a 35mm point and shoot before and have gotten crappy results. These were outstanding.

On New Year’s Eve my little camera went on a trip to Bethany Beach.

The sun was hiding just behind the building in this shot, throwing the surfer (all decked out for NYE) into dark shadows.

Behind the counter of a diner. Sun was streaming in to the left so the scene was partly lit with natural light. I love that there’s no icky green-ish tint here from the fluorescent lighting. I got that weird blinking red light again when I was taking this shot. I’m beginning to think that it’s not a matter of focus but of being in low-light picture-taking mode or NP as they call it in the manual.

That night I saw one of my favorite bands at a local bar and got some pictures in a really dark setting.

That last shot was outside. I think my results would have been much better with some 1600 speed film but these results still far surpass what I would’ve gotten from an ordinary camera. There is very little blur in the band shots and the detail found in the places with good lighting is amazing.

Finally, I was anxious to get some pictures outside in full sunlight since I’ve heard mixed reviews about the Natura Classica’s performance in those conditions.

This was the beginning of a 5K that I ran on January 1, 2012. I don’t see anything wrong with these results. Here are some pictures taken from a walk on the beach. I was thrilled to able to capture beautiful images of the inside of a sub lookout tower.

In this dark picture, I was holding the camera out into the space of the tower as far as my arm would allow since you can’t actually climb into the towers. The only available light inside the tower comes from the slits that line it’s sides. I got much better results by keeping the camera close to the side of the tower and therefore, closer to the light. This is pretty much the same picture but with much better exposure and detail at the top.

Overall, I am hugely impressed by the Fuji Natura Classica. I love taking pictures without flash partly because I suck at using a flash and partly because I just love natural lighting. If you are the same kind of photographer the Fuji Natura Classica is well worth the investment. I failed to mention earlier that the camera does come with a flash that you can turn on and off in the menu but with results like these, who needs one?


2011 in Review

Happy 2012! Hope your holidays were fun and full of great food, drink, friends and family.

I thought I’d share some of my favorite iPhone shots from the holidays.

These were iPhone shots in Hipstamatic taken with my iPhone Holga lens turret on the ‘Quad’ setting. It was fun to goof around with the different effects while the lights were flashing.

One of my personal favorites, my son Elias was disguising Stewie with a ‘stache. I ran this one through Lo-Mob for the blown out color and sprocket effects.

I’ve been a little food-obsessed lately, probably because the scale told me to stop eating garbage and drinking so much beer. Damn scale! The top two shots are of Trix cereal as seen through the macro iPhone Holga lens turret. I saw one of these brightly colored nuggets sitting on the counter by itself and thought it was a button. When I looked closer, I realized it was cereal….wow.

I’m not much of a baker, but my two daughters love to make cookies and cupcakes, especially at Christmas (no wonder the scale is mean to me). The Hershey’s Kiss peanut butter cookies are one of my absolute favorites. We make them totally from scratch. After I set them on this napkin I saw how neat the patterns looked. The original picture was nice, but running it through Percolator took the picture to a whole new level.

Now, onto New Year’s Eve! I’ve never gone out on NYE and normally fall asleep before midnight but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to hang with some very close friends and go see one of my favorite bands at a local bar. There were lots of photo bombs that night…..my friend James is a great photo bomber/creeper, as seen in this shot.

I decided to bomb his photo next….it ruined a classy shot, but it was a helluva good time!

Even the kids got in on the action. Here’s my friend Loretta’s daughter photo bombing a shot of my son Elias and her other daughter Emme. She just ran right into the picture. It’s one of the funniest shots of the evening.

At the bar I took some low-light pictures of one of my favorite local bands, Sweet Leda.

All shots taken through Hipstamatic except for the next-to-last one. I used Fusioncam for a wicked-cool double exposure of the stage lights and the band.

Finally, I got a little message from WordPress, the lovely folks who host my blog. In 2011 I participated in the Post-A-Week challenge and I think I only missed two weeks of postings (because of vacation). My stats were staggering! I’m going to continue posting once a week this year as well. It was a bit of a challenge at first, but I’m glad I participated. Many, many thanks go out to you, the reader! I’m glad you all find my thoughts mildly entertaining enough to check in once in a while.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


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