Dec 31, 2018

2018 Rewind

Hard to believe, but it's that time of the year again to reflect on the previous year and start looking forward to the next one. I set out some achievable goals for 2018; namely, to shoot more color film and get more optical prints done at Blue Moon Camera. Mission accomplished, as I currently have several prints made from both 135 and 120 format film over the last year. I also included some prints in with some senior work as well. Some other highlights from 2018:

  • Added a 180mm f/3.5 to my Mamiya TLR collection. I just don't shoot that camera often enough. 
  • Added a Canon AE-1 Program that is in really nice shape; it just needs a little oil job to get rid of a (slight) squeak. I don't even know if it needs a full CLA; but I don't know that I'm up to a DIY job either. 
  • Added a Tokina 25-55mm f/4 in Canon FD mount. 
  • Added a Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 Macro in Canon FD mount. Both this lens and the previous do double duty on my Fuji X-T20 mirrorless. 
Also, I've unloaded most of my Canon EF (EOS) gear, so I'm shooting just FD mount these days. 

I didn't shoot as much pinhole this year as I thought I would. However, I do have some prints made from a shoot along the Oregon Coast, and they're beautiful. 

I ran through a 100' roll of hp5+ in about a year. It's time to restock. Edit: An hour after I wrote this, but before it posted, I walked into a photo store and picked up a bulk roll of the stuff. I wasn't even planning on spending any money, and I wasn't even sure I was going to reload with hp5+. It was all they had in stock in bulk rolls, though, so hp5+ it is. 

2018 was my lowest output on this blog. 

Well, that's about it for my 2018 thoughts. See you in 2019.

Nov 24, 2018

New Canon in the stable

I came into contact recently with a Canon AE-1 Program 35mm camera. This is essentially the exposure-priority version of the Canon A-Series line that was popular in the 70's and 80's. I already own the A-1, which adds and aperture priority setting. Both cameras are also capable of full manual as well as 'Program' mode, which makes both settings for you.

I wasn't sure about adding another 40-year old camera to the lineup, but I thought I would give it a go and see how things came out. I ran a roll of Kentmere 400 through it and photographed the same image at different shutter speeds, allowing the camera to adjust the aperture with each click of the wheel. 

Glad I did. All of the exposures are consistent, not something I can always say with the A-1.

I should probably do this same test with my A-1. I'd like to see just how inconsistent those exposures are. Or is it just my imagination? Time will tell.

So, it will be good to have an additional camera in my bag. It can be frustrating to reach for a camera only to realize it has a completely wrong roll of film in it for your situation. I know, film problems.

And yes, I need to post more. I hadn't posted anything since August, over three months ago. But I have another post coming through the pipeline soon.

Aug 11, 2018

End of Summer Round-up

I don't normally like to get behind on my film developing, but I found myself with a sandwich bag full of unprocessed film last week and decided to do something about it. Most of it was 35mm format, and at least one roll dated back to last spring. There were one or two rolls that, even when I took a glance at my notes in FilmTrackr, I didn't remember shooting. I had to actually pull them out of the final rinse before I could see what was on them.

Ilford hp5+ @ ISO 1600, shot on Canon Rebel 2000. Developed in Ilfotec DD-x 1:4 for 13 minutes. 

I'm pretty certain my only purpose for this roll was to practice pushing hp5+ to 1600. And it looks like I still need some practice.

Rather than create a new blog post for each roll, I decided to just post the best ones here. Or the best of the worst frames, as the case may be.

Ilford PanF+ on a Canon A1. Not the ideal for capturing motion on a bright sunny day, but shoot what you've got. 
In some cases, it's the end of a camera system for me. I've said good-bye to my Canon EOS cameras as I've sold off my digi 5DmkII and most of the lenses that went with it. My remaining Canon system is the resurrected A1 with some FD lenses.

Ilford PanF+ on a Canon A1.  Standard development in d-76 1:1. 
School is starting up again soon and, for my own internal calendar, a time to update and refresh things that are going on in my life. Out with the old, in with the new. For some people that takes place in January. Given my 28 years in and around school systems, mine occurs at the end of August.

Sacajawea at Fort Clatsop. Ilford hp5+ shot on an Olympus Stylus Infinity. Light leak from bulk loading (or at the factory), not from the camera. 
I'm continuing my 2018 goals of printing more of my work. I have some sitting at Blue Moon Camera as I write this. And, I still need to shoot more medium format film with the C220. I'm finding that that's not really the ideal walk-around camera, but something to be used deliberately and purposefully. It's really ideal for landscapes and portrait work, something I need to do more of. And I will as soon as the hot weather and smokey skies go away for the year. Those are my film plans for the remaining third of 2018.
I don't know how, but this shot made Flickr's Explore section for that day. Ilford hp5+.

I much preferred this one. 

Jul 29, 2018

Print Your Work

You've probably heard it before, but this year I made a commitment to it. The very first item from my 2018 Directions post was to print more of my film work. I'm pleased to report that I've been able to accomplish just that with both my landscape and paid portrait work. Blue Moon Camera and Machine in Portland, Oregon is one of the last optical color printing labs in the United States. I've been having them develop my color film (something I said I was going to do more of myself, by the way) and then print my favorites from each roll. What's cool is that their counter turns into a light table with the flip of a switch, so you can evaluate your negatives right then and there. Even though they're a couple hundred miles from me, I've been able to get in there several times this year to get it done.

Here are a few of my examples. These are direct scans from the prints and not from the negatives. The scans don't really do the prints justice, but it gives you an idea what I've been able to accomplish:

Bicyclist on the old Columbia River Highway at Rowena Crest. Fujifilm 160NS, shot on Mamiya C220. 

Spring flowers at Rowena Crest, in front of Dry Creek Bridge. Fujifilm 160NS on Mamiya C220.  
Abandoned convenience store in Kent, Oregon. Kodak Ektar 100 shot on Zero Image 618 pinhole in 6x9 format.

Jessica, Class of 2018.  Kodak Portra 160 in 35mm format, shot on Canon A1 with 50mm f/1.8 lens. 

Keomi, Class of 2018. Kodak Portra 400, shot on Mamiya C220 with 180mm f/3.5 lens. 

Jul 2, 2018

Canon A1: An update

This is a quick post without any accompanying photographs. I had recently announced that I was retiring my Canon A1 35mm camera (see bottom of that post) because of some over-exposure issues that I wasn't able to pinpoint. The camera had just been CLA'ed and I just figured something was going bad with the electronics. Turns out that wasn't the case at all. I was going to adapt the 50mm f/1.8 lens that was on it for use on my new digital Fujifilm X-T20, when I discovered that the aperture was stuck wide open. No wonder the negatives looked grossly overexposed, 5+ stops worth!  Luckily, I have another lens exactly like it that works just fine. I'm going to run a test roll through it, but I don't anticipate any problems. This is a fantastic revelation for me in that I have loved shooting with that camera.

So, now that I'm selling off my other Canon EOS digital gear, I'll completely get rid of the EOS film cameras I've accumulated as well. Time to pare down.

Coming up: I've recently had a lot of color 120 film processed by Blue Moon Camera in Portland, including prints, and I will be sharing those very soon. Those were shot in both my Mamiya C220 and Zero Image 618 pinhole. One of my goals this year was to print more of my work, and I've made some strides toward accomplishing just that.

Apr 28, 2018

Columbia Inland

I love shooting color negative film, but don't always trust myself with developing it myself. Time and temps are supercritical, and my color scanning workflow can sometimes give me results I don't want. I only send my most important and most promising color film out for development.
Cliffs in the Wallula Gap of the Columbia River, SE Washington state.
I recently shot a roll of Kodak Ektar in my C220 medium format camera because 1) I needed to test out a new 180mm f/4.5 lens and 2) the clouds were looking really, really nice that day. This wasn't a roll that rose to the level of important/promising.  So, I broke out my bottles of c-41 developer. This was a batch that had been mixed together 6 months ago or so--the outside recommended limit--and had about 8 rolls of 35mm film through it already.
McNary Dam
For the most part, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. A few frames I wasn't able to quite get the colors I was looking for, but had some nice images from others.
Hat Rock. Development streaks duly noted, and another reason to send out your film.
I'm shooting more color film in the Zero Image pinhole camera these days, and I won't necessarily send all of that out. When I can't, I know I should be able to get at least acceptable results by doing it myself. Usually. Hopefully. And hey, there's always the b/w conversion trick when it doesn't work out the way I wanted it to.
Ektar converted to monochrome. 

Apr 17, 2018


It was good to get out one day after school last week. We were between rain storms and some nice clouds were moving in and out of the region. I already had some business to do in another nearby town that evening, so I brought along the C220 to try out my new 180mm f/4.5.  The only problem was, I neglected to bring the step-up ring so I could put a 52mm filter on the 49mm thread. Oh well. So, rather than throw in the towel and not shoot anything, I just reverted to the 80mm f/2.8 and utilized the red #25 filter that happened to be with me. I'll get to use that 180mm in a live setting one of these days, I promise.

Ilford fp4+ in Ilfotec DD-x 1:4.  

I haven't shot a lot of Ilford fp4+ in the past--probably never in this format--but I picked up a couple rolls on a recent trip to Blue Moon. This seemed as good of a time as ever to shoot it.

Where I live, agriculture comprises a large part of the economy and lifestyle. Farms, grain bins and other related structures dot the landscape, surrounded by wheat fields as well as some notable row crops.  At one point, our region supplied a lot of potatoes to McDonald's. There are even a few wineries in the area.

I can't resist a good straight road shot once in a while.

So when shooting conditions are good but I can't get very far away from home, these are as good of subjects as any to capture.

Surprisingly, there is a dearth of abandoned structures in our area. They're out there, they're just hard to find.  It seems as soon as a house, outbuilding, or grain bin is retired, it gets torn down to make room for something else. Technology in the agricultural sector here moves forward.

I developed these in Ilfotec DD-x for 10 minutes at 68℉. Negatives looked ok, but could have possibly used a little more agitation. Still, they scanned pretty nicely. After scanning so much 35mm film, I'm always amazed at how much more detail I get out of 120.  As stated before on this blog, this is going to be my main, go-to format this year.

On a side note, and very unrelated to all of this, I'm retiring the Canon A-1 that I had just put some money into CLA'ing. My last two rolls have been horribly overexposed, and it's just not worth troubleshooting anymore. I love that camera, but I can't shoot it if I don't trust it. I will instead rely on my EOS cameras (I have three) for my 35mm work. They're not as small and compact, especially considering the glass I have for them, but they're accurate and I will get good, consistent negatives from them. RIP Canon A-1.

Apr 15, 2018

2018 Directions: An update

Edit: I had written this clear back at the beginning of March but for some reason never followed through with publishing it. I have no idea how that happened. In any event, here it is,  6 weeks later. 

Fact: I have 70+ rolls of 120 format film in my freezer right now. About a third color negative (Portra, mostly) and the other two thirds various types of b/w negative.

Fact: I am back in the medium format business now with a working Mamiya C220 camera. In fact, as of this writing, I have a 180mm f/4.5 on the way to go along with the 80mm f/2.8 that I already have.

Fact: I shot very little 120 film last year, for a variety of reasons.

Kodak Ektar 100, from 2015.
Needless to say, 2017 was a lean year for my medium format photography, and I'm due to make up for that in 2018. Rather than thinking "I need more film," (like I tend to do) I just need to shoot what I've already got.   And a quick glance into my freezer shows me:
  • Kodak Tri-x
  • Kodak Portra (160 and 400)
  • Fuji 160 NS (purchased locally from someone who imported it from Japan)
  • Fuji Acros 100
Plus, some loose rolls of Rollei 25 and Ilfords of various types: hp5+, fp4+, PanF+, etc... An exception to my call for 'no more film' here might get ignored if I decide to get some Kodak Ektar. That one film type is conspicuously absent from my freezer right now.

Ilford PanF+ 50, from 2015.
So even though we're already two months into it, I'm declaring 2018 my year of medium format.  I should have opportunities aplenty. In addition to some anticipated senior portrait work, I plan on making a trip to Alvord Desert in SE Oregon again, as well as some other family trips this summer. I've vowed not to let the wildflower season in the Columbia River Gorge pass me by again this spring, and that will be here before we know it. I missed out on shooting locally out in the Wallula area last year.

Fuji Velvia 50, from 2016. As usual, a little blue in the shadows.
All that to say, with March 1 here and my own shooting season just around the corner, I'm more than excited to be back in the medium format game. And as mentioned in my last Directions post, I will print my best work, optically.

Jan 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.

Jan 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.

Jan 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!

Jan 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.

Jan 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.