Sunday, January 28, 2018

Cemetery Series: Holdman

Note: This is an on-going series of articles documenting the old and abandoned cemeteries of the inland Pacific Northwest on film. You can see the entire series here

When my dad got sick two years ago, I started making more trips back and forth to see him and help out with his care. This was an hour away from where I live and I could easily get there by traveling most of it on an Interstate Freeway. Instead, I decided to use the backroads, something I hadn't done for several years.

Clouds were breaking up quite nicely.

Those back roads take me right through an area called Holdman, which includes a small cemetery built on a hillside, just above the main road but hidden by a bank of greasewood brush. Unless you know to look for it, you can drive right by without ever knowing it's there. I have stopped here with my camera maybe a couple of dozen times, so I'm certainly no stranger to this cemetery. I was going right by it on my way to visit Mom when I saw that the clouds were breaking up and the sun was starting to poke through. I hadn't planned on shooting anything, but this was as good an opportunity as any that I was going to get this day.

The only image in this post that doesn't utilize a #25 red filter.

Luckily, I had a camera with me, albeit not everything at my disposal. This was my Canon Rebel 2000 loaded with some Ilford PanF+ 50. I decided to shoot it at ISO 40, something I've had some luck with before. Unfortunately, my only lens was the kit zoom that came with it: A Canon EF 80-210 f/4.5-5.6.  Not my first choice, but I did have a red #25 filter that fit.  What's the best camera you can shoot? The one you have with you.  So, that's the setup I used.

Not the cemetery itself, but this is the view looking northeast, the only road in sight. 

That kit lens clearly doesn't hold a candle to any of the L glass I have available for an EOS film camera. It would have been nice also to have my 17-40mm available for some wider shots. In that case, I would have been able to get closer to the monuments and make them more prominent in the image, without having to decrease the importance of the sky. But maybe next time.

Having exposed these images a third of a stop over box speed, I developed these in Rodinal 1+25 at 68℉ (20℃) for 5 minutes. The negatives came out a bit thin, and the resulting scans contained more grain than I'm used to seeing in PanF+.  I'm not sure if that is due to compensating for some under development or the fact that a red #25 filter always seems to pronounce the grain more in my film images. The resulting contrast was a little more than I'd bargained for, but as I look through these images I think it helps enhance that sense of stark isolation.

The view looking west, sans monuments.

So, while I hadn't showed up here with the intention of this being a part of my Cemetery Series, I'm glad I got some images here.  I'm sure I will be back sooner rather than later.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Cemetery Series: Sand Hollow

Note: See the first post in the Cemetery Series for more details about this project. Entire series here.

It has saddened me to visit a rural cemetery in the past and see blatant vandalism committed to the grave sites. Sadder yet is when efforts are no longer made to fix the damage done, to put things back together. The people who cared about them and marked their existence are now gone themselves.

I think this is more common in our rural pioneer cemeteries, away from anything resembling a city and away from the manicured green lawns and big, sprawling oak trees. We know that these people lived a hard life. In our efforts to create an idyllic past, however, we gloss right over the poverty and despair and hardship many of them lived through during that time. And life itself was never a guarantee. So many of these markers record dates of children who never made it past grade school. Some of them lie side by side by side, all from the same family.

Time has taken its toll at Sand Hollow Cemetery. Find A Grave reports that as many as 95 graves exist here. I personally question that number; it's just hard for me to fathom that many people in such a small area. But it's clearly more than big enough for the 19 that are known, and seven whose markers still exist today.  I think the vandalism left standing has kind of given way to a natural deterioration all its own. Some day, even the place itself will be forgotten.

The day I visited in January was cold and gloomy, just a hint of precipitation in the air with the fog just starting to roll in. I didn't stay long. Perhaps I would have if the day had been filled with better skies. As it was, there wasn't much to shoot, certainly nothing sticking up out of the ground. In fact, as I approached from the road, only one marker was visible. Everything else had been toppled over and lie hidden in the grass.

This had been broken for a long time. Also, light source at left: Not sure if that is a leak, or...
I shot these with my newly-repaired Canon Elan 7, a camera that I had given up as beyond repair when a technician told me he had a part for it. This has been my flagship film camera in the past, so it was a great relief to get it working again. Sometimes it's nice to shoot and not have to think about what I'm doing. And yes, I used a Lensbaby on this, a Muse actually, probably my only impulse purchase related to my camera gear. These were all shot at f/8, in case you're wondering.  I don't get this lens out often, but when I do I try to make sure its unique characteristics are used to benefit the photo, and not just as another toy. It's probably up for debate whether or not I accomplished that here.

The fog was rolling in just was I was packing up to go. 
Film/developer details: This is Ilford hp5+ shot @ ISO 1600. Developed in Ilfotec DD-x 1+4, 13 minutes at 68℉ (20℃). 10 inversions first 30 seconds, then 4x per minute in 10 seconds afterward. I don't know that this is the best developer for pushing this film two stops. It seems like the grain got away from me a bit. It's a little harsher than Microphen, which I used on my last development session.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Winter light = Ektar time

For me, the best and longest-lasting light for landscape photography occurs in the winter months, roughly Dec-Jan. Of course, that might be different depending on where you are at in your hemisphere. But it's ideal here in the inland Pacific Northwest. That afternoon sun just hangs around as pleasantly as an old childhood chum who's come to visit.  It never gets more than 45 degrees above the horizon, and it takes a good long time to go down.The only problem is, where I live, we can get low-hanging, lifeless clouds for much of that time. Or fog. Or just ice without snow. Just not ideal times for color film photography.

But once in awhile the landscape gods smile down on us and treat us to some fresh snow and a nice, sunny day with a few clouds overhead. That was the case for me just before Christmas of 2017. School was out, and snow had fallen throughout our region, a good 6-10 inches on the ground depending on where you were. I had spent the morning paying a visit to my mom, who lives about an hour away, and was lucky enough that I brought my camera with about a half roll of Ektar left in it.

Ektar can go really blue in the shadows while leaving sunlit areas with good colors. It was cold out, after all.

Some morning cloudiness had given way to sunny skies and clear conditions, so I took advantage of the situation and left mom's house to take the long way home. Having brought my 4WD pickup along, I managed to make my way through some snowed-over gravel roads that made up most of my trip that afternoon.

I love the comp here, but I scanned a lot more turquoise than I should have.

These images represent about 2 and a half hours of cordial light and lengthy shadows, something you're never going to get around here in the summer months.

I'm getting the hang of developing c-41 myself at home. For the most part, my colors are coming out well. When they're not, it's a result of my scanning, which I'm still trying to improve and perfect. And in the end, my goals for these images aren't scans for the computer screen, but optical prints that get physically handled. That is what I have in mind now when I'm shooting.

We might or might not see any snowy weather the rest of this winter. Temps are supposed to be well above freezing for the forseeable future, but it's only the beginning of January. There's still time. If we don't, I'm glad I had the chance to get out and burn some Ektar. And if we don't get any more snow, I'll be patiently waiting for spring!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Doing Work

My grandfather immigrated to the US from Germany in 1907. When he got here, he had no friends, no family, and had to create his own life from scratch. He settled in Oregon, and ended up doing a lot of physical labor work until he landed in a saw mill doing...more physical labor work. He eventually married, raised four kids and tried to retire at age 65.

I say 'tried' to retire because he was miserable in his retirement. His work had become his purpose, and that part of him was impossible to let go. So, within a few months, he went back to the sawmill, doing the same job he'd retired from earlier. (As a side note, I can well imagine that they put new hires with him on the board chain. If you wanted to work at that sawmill, you had to keep up with Dutch.)  Grandpa worked there until he was 75 and then retired for good. He lived another 15 years and was physically healthy and active up until the very end of his life.

I look at my Canon A-1 in that same way. When that model came out in 1978, it had all the technology that that era could muster up.  ISO that went all the way to 12,800. Three autoexposure modes: program, aperture priority and exposure priority, all under one roof. Fully manual operation if you preferred that. Solid metal construction. It was meant for work.

My particular camera was purchased in the early 1980's and was used by one guy for a couple of decades, reportedly taking thousands of 35mm film images during that time. He 'retired' it when he went digital, but that camera still had a lot of life in it and still needed to fulfill a purpose. It fell to me at some point in the last few years and I've given it a second career with my work.

I had reported my intentions to retire it for good when the dreaded 'Canon squeal' came up along with a sticky shutter. However, over this winter I made the decision to spring for a CLA at Blue Moon Camera in Portland. They assured me that that squeal didn't really mean an impending death; it just meant that some maintenance was needed.

So off it went, and was just recently returned to me, well, not 'good as new', but in very usable, workable condition with everything sounding as it should. The days of heavy lifting might be behind it, but that doesn't mean it can't put in a full day and carry a big share of my 35mm work going forward. Eventually, something will happen and we'll have to send it to that great Camera Lab in the Sky, but until then it's going to continue fulfilling its purpose. Because I've got a whole lotta 35mm film taking up space in the freezer that needs to get shot.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2018 Directions

First of all, Happy New Year, everybody. I hope your holiday season has been good to you this year. 2017 was a bit of an off year in terms of how much I was able to get out and shoot, and in particular taking advantage of some seasons. This next year looks to be better for me in that regard.

My first post of the last couple of Januarys has been to discuss the path I want my film photography to take in the upcoming year. Looking back, some of my items succeed, while others go by the wayside, or postponed for another time. The year 2017 was no different, nor will 2018 likely be either. So here are my thoughts about my film endeavors for this year:

  • I plan on saving my best negatives and having some prints made of them at Blue Moon Camera in Portland. As of this writing, 5x6 prints are only $0.80 USD apiece, so not bad if you just get a few of them done at a time. It's not much more to print from a 120 negative. Film is meant to be a tactile experience; the end product should be as well.
  • With four different kinds of black and white 35mm film bulk loaded and in the freezer, I need to shoot a lot more of it. "Shoot more film this year" seems like a cliche, but specifically I need to shoot the film I've got rather than keep buying more. 
  • And to contradict my 2nd bullet above, I'd like to add some color film to the freezer. That Kodak Vision 3 50D from FPP would work great. I'm getting more comfortable developing my own c-41 film. 
  • Or how about some Eastman Double-X 5222 black and white film?  That's available in bulk as well.
  • I've been neglecting my pinhole camera lately, so it's time to get that back out and see what I can do with it. 
  • And to combine the first, third and fifth bullet, I've seen some nice color pinhole prints when the film is exposed, developed and printed properly. With some Lomo Purple, Ektar, Fuji 160 NS (fresh, purchased locally) and Portra. 
So as always, I'm looking forward to enjoying 2018 with some film, getting out and enjoying this big world of ours. Happy New Year, everybody. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Film for the Holidays

For me this year, my 35mm film of choice is Kodak Vision 3 500T tungsten-balanced 35mm film from the Film Photography Project. It's intended for motion picture use and usually sold in 400' rolls, but thanks to Michael and the gang at FPP it's available in 35mm cassette format to shoot in still cameras.
Film color balanced for tungsten light. Note the color of the late afternoon winter outdoor light in the background.
As the name implies, it's a 500 speed film, but I've shot it at 1000 to be able to use indoor light without a flash. I developed it myself in c-41 at the initial stage of 4:15 instead of 3:30, as per box instructions when pushing a stop.
Dad's high school scholar blanket, Class of 1954. 
As expected, a lot of grain showed up and the shadows were pretty noisy when I tried to scan. All in all, though, I'd call it a success. I'm in the middle of a second roll and would like to have a third done by the time I'm done with New Year's Day.  We shall see.
Plenty of noisy grain in those shadows. Not sure why I scanned this with less contrast than the others. 
I've previously shot the daylight-balanced, ISO 50 version of this film also with some success, but it's been a few years. Now that I'm getting more comfortable developing my own c-41, I just might get a 100' bulk roll of it (also available from FPP) to shoot it outdoors this coming year.
Our small town 'Living Nativity' scene lit up with tungsten lights. 
I'm also working on a holiday project that will involve the use of some indoor flash. No problem with that light source being a different color. I have plenty of gels and will use the proper one to balance all of that out.
Our hearth at Christmas time.I like that I don't have to use flash if there is enough indoor light available.
So Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. I'll have some year-end posts up before long, including my annual 'Directions' post. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Salvaging a roll

I came to the conclusion that I had a faulty shutter on my Canon A1 this past fall. In doing so, I decided to discontinue the roll of Ilford PanF+ that was inside, winding it and setting it aside for the time being. I came across that roll while looking for an item in my camera bag the other night, and souped it in d-76 1:1 that I had already mixed up. Truth be told, I forgot that I had even shot it until I pulled the negatives out of the final rinse and held them to the light. Sure enough, several of the frames were intermittently dense, telling me that I made the right decision to quit using that camera and send it in for a CLA and possible repair. The good news is that the camera will be ready to go soon, possibly before the new year.

I only had shot about 18 total frames on that roll, and roughly a third of them were obviously unusable even before scanning. A few of them worked quite well, though. It had been awhile since I shot any PanF+, and I had forgotten how much I loved that tiny grain structure when developed in d-76.

These images are from two different locations: Astoria, on the upper left hand corner of Oregon, and McNary Dam on the Columbia River, which is only about 10 miles from my house and a place where I frequently take my camera.

From our trip to Astoria last summer, and wishing I had brought my 70-210mm with me.

A fish ladder at McNary Park.

PanF+ works a lot better out of the bright sun. 

I have no idea why I set these up like this.

Another view from Astoria. Pity we didn't have good clouds on this trip.

Friday, November 24, 2017

New Canon Rebel 2000

Canon Rebels aren't at the top of the list for must-have 35mm film cameras, but they do fit a niche for my needs. Since I also shoot Canon EOS digital, it only makes sense to have some cheaper film cameras that fit those lenses. I've previously documented some troubles with their reliability, but for now these are working for me. I just picked up a new Canon Rebel 2000, and used a roll of Ilford hp5+ to test it out.

Kit lens used on this image. An EF 80-200mm f/3.something. 
Interestingly, it came with a couple of kit lenses, one of which was an 80-200mm plasticy thing. It's light and surprisingly small, but if it doesn't do the job it needs to in terms of image quality, it will be gone. I plan to do a side by side comparison with that and my EF 70-200 f/4 L and my EF 135mm f/2 L.  It wouldn't hold up in the digi world, of course, but I wonder how that translates to 35mm film. We shall see.

Because this is kind of a plasticy camera body, I hesitate to put my heavier lenses on it and mount the hold thing on a tripod.  I don't have the ring mount, and I wonder what kind of stress that would put on the mount. 

And finally, I'm still trying to figure out hp5+. I seem to have to give it a boost in the scanning stage, so I wonder if an extra 30 seconds or so in the developing tank would make a difference. In any event, I'm happy with my recent acquisition and am looking forward to putting it to use this winter. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Faulty equipment

I'm somewhat at a crossroads in my film photography right now. No, I'm not having an existential crisis about what film to shoot, what format, Ilford vs. Kodak...nothing like that. I've had several cameras develop problems which have impacted my shooting abilities lately.
My AV-1 was overexposing by at least a couple of stops before I changed out the batteries. The sky is completely blown out here, of course, but you can at least see how Kentmere 400 deals with overexposure. Every frame in this roll was affected, several much worse than this one.  Souped in d-76 1:1.

To date, here are the camera issues I'm dealing with:

  • Canon A-1 with a sticky shutter and infamous 'Canon squeal'.  I'm told that this is actually fixable, and I just might put out the funds necessary to get this done.
  • Canon Elan 7, at one time my flagship film camera body, has a broken door shutter. Up until a couple of years ago this was easily fixable by ordering a $12 USD part.  Everywhere I'm looking that part is showing "NLA".  
  • My Canon AV-1 was overexposing every single frame, and I thought something was wrong with it. A quick battery replacement solved that problem. 
  • My Mamiya C330 continues to display vertical lines on either side of the frame, sometimes randomly, effectively turning it into a 645 when I crop.  I still am very interested in a regular 645 SLR/Rangefinder at some point.
Same camera, same film after changing out the battery. Note to self: Always check AE settings against what feels reasonable at the time. When in doubt, check with a DSLR or light meter. Saling House in historic Weston, Oregon.

As luck would have it, I just picked up a Canon Rebel 2000 in pristine condition, and for a very reasonable price. That will boost my EOS shooting, but I'm still not sure what to do when that film door comes apart...

Kentmere 400 in d-76 1:1, shot in a Canon AV-1 with a fresh battery.
So, I'm down to a single functions Canon FD and two EOS film cameras to shoot with. A Mamiya TLR if I want to put up with its quirks. And a Zero Image pinhole for those times I'm feeling all pinholey.

Kentmere 400 in d-76 1:1, shot in a Canon AV-1 with a fresh battery.
My priorities right now are to get my A-1 working again if possible, and replace it if not. Both are about the same cost when purchased from a reputable dealer (I don't do eBay). I'm really hoping that a door latch for the Elan 7 can be found. At this point, I'd be happy if I could get somebody to 3D print something. We're on the cusp of winter, and I'd like to shoot up some higher speed, bulk rolled films I have in the freezer.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Adventures in Street Pan

I don't do reviews on here, but it would be a mistake to not chronicle my thoughts and experiences about a certain film emulsion. I tried JCH Street Pan 400 at the behest of Jim Hair several months ago. I didn't get around to shooting any until this last August, and am just now processing it. Glad I did, too. This is good stuff.

You can google it yourself for more information, but this is a resurrected street surveillance film that was just re-purposed and re-introduced to the market back in 2016. It's contrasty and apparently possesses a good deal of red sensitivity, quite the opposite of the hp5+ I've been shooting.

Excessive grain acknowledged d/t pushing the curves in scanning.

I wasn't able to get any clouds against a blue sky for this roll, but that will be coming on my next roll (in the tank as we speak). And there will be a next roll. You see, even before processing this first one, I picked up a dozen or so more just because of what I'd been seeing around the interwebs.

I souped these in d-76 1:1 for the prescribed 10.5 minutes on the box. The negatives came out pretty thin, but a quick conversation with Jim told me that he extends that time to 16 minutes. Surprisingly, though, there was a lot of detail present, even when the negatives were fairly transparent. I think my grain is more pronounced because of the compensation in scanning, but examples I've seen show a fairly soft pattern in that regard. We'll see if the extra time in development gets me closer to a more ideal negative.

I can see this being a good film to use for the coming winter months, outside with cloudy/flat light conditions. I'm not sure if it's a good indoor film to push or not; it seems too expensive to do much experimentation on. A brick ran me north of $100 USD. Given the reported effort to bring this stuff to market, I can't complain much. It will be a nice mix up to go along with the rest of my arsenal this fall and winter.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Selecting a new 400 speed film

I need a versatile, bulk load-able 400 speed film that is readily available and that I can work with to get consistent results. As much as I'd love to bulk load Tri-x, that option is simply too expensive to justify it in 2017. I've seen prices for that stuff as high as $120 per 100' roll here in the US, which adds up to a lot more than what you pay for it per individual 36-frame cassette. There is simply no rationale for it.

So what's a film photographer to do for a 400 speed film with plenty of versatility on either end of the ISO spectrum? TMax, Delta, and even Kentmere 400 have all seen the inside of my camera at some point over the last several months, but I've decided to settle on Ilford hp5+. This is a 400 speed film that checks all of those boxes for me.

It doesn't have the gritty punch of Tri-x or the silky smoothness of a T grain like Delta/TMax. But as I work with it and refine my development, I'm starting to see how I can put it's own unique attributes to work for me. And there's a certain satisfaction knowing that Ilford is a stable company, and that hp5+ specifically comes from a rich heritage of hp-labeled monochrome films. My own dad shot hp3 in his Argus C3 back in the late 1950's.

So for me, financial considerations caused me to look elsewhere for my 35mm film needs, and I've landed on this one. As winter sets in and I turn my lens indoors more often, I'll appreciate being able to work with an extended ISO range.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Beer Me

Fuji Acros 100 in a Zero Image 618 pinhole. My exposure settings were just by gosh and by golly, and I figured I would stand develop to realize as much of the image as possible. Negatives were really, really thin, but I managed to squeak these out of the deal.

Perspective is everything in pinhole photography. It's probably been said before, but let that one ring from the mountain tops. The above image was shot with my Zero Image 618 sitting on the table, positioned horizontally. 

This image above was taken from the same spot, still sitting on the table, but this time situated vertically, so that this time the pinhole is a few more inches above the surface of the table. It makes a difference. To me, this is a stronger image because the foreground is much less in your face and less pronounced. The top image might be a better choice if there were some peanuts or other small items placed directly in front of the camera.
This hot mess was the result of a double exposure. 
Even though the negatives were pretty thin, I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of detail to be had in the darker areas of the image. Deepest shadows are, of course, completely black. This was a pub establishment set up in a warehouse microbrewery. Lighting was mostly artificial light from the ceiling level, with a few decorative lights closer to ground level.