Sunflowery

One of my favourite portraits of late.

Incidentally, I should point out that I am seeing –ZERO– difference between the “amateur/home” three-step colour development kits (developer-blix-stabilizer) and the four step “hoighty-toighty” kits (developer-bleach-fixer-stabilizer).  Furthermore, I actually haven’t been using inversions for years–agitations are just fine, no matter what you read.

Finally, you don’t need to agitate the Blix every 30 seconds…15 agitations every for the first part of every minute are sufficient.

I have updated my “Colour Development Guide” to reflect the reality of my process.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: If you can develop B&W, you can develop colour…as long as you have a reliable method for precise temperature control.

2017

Well, I swore I was just going to do my TEN. BEST.

The photo had to grab me…or I wouldn’t mark it.

Then I had like 50 by the time I went through the catalog.

So I compromised, and thought “Ten film, Ten digital…”

And then I just gave up.

So in no particular order, here are about 35 photos that I can’t narrow down.

(…And I haven’t even touched medium format yet).

🙂

Plenty to be grateful for this year…I hope you enjoy.

(Oh and 21-14 in case you’re counting…)

😉

Happiest.

Happiest-1

Or “I think I’ve been wrong…Part Two“.

Remember when you were happiest photographically?

Then I bet you went and ruined it.

Why? 

Happiest-2

For me it was the D700.

Man…when I look back at those images, I wonder what I was EVER thinking selling that camera.  Sure, maybe it was the particular time in my life that makes me smile…but I’ll bet someone probably convinced me that 12 lowly megapixels wasn’t enough.  (Now I’m shooting tiny little 6MP images on film; but more on that later…)

Anyway, the “restless years” followed (don’t even get me started…) and here I am.

Happiest-3

Yes, there has been happiness along the way, but I’ve gone and ruined that too.

There was the X100, the Monochrom…(oh WHY oh why did I sell it??)

Happiest-4

In any case, it seems as though there is a recent epidemic of these “Don’t listen to the hype and just go and shoot” posts out there.  At least in the circles I currently run.

Maybe we’re all just coming of age?

😉

Happiest-5

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think there is anything wrong with innovation and experimentation.  It got us (me) where we (I) are today…

But I probably could have stopped some years ago, and been perfectly content.

Happiest-6

Funny…now I’m happiest shooting B&W film in my thirty year old camera.  But when I think back to when I first started taking pictures, I would have given anything for the kind of “certainty and predictability” we have available to us now.  And many many people are doing a stunning job of making it work for them.

Happiest-7

So I say: good for them.  They should do just that.  Whatever it is, with whatever works for them.  No matter what it is.

Happiest-8

Me personally….I need to stop reading reviews.  Or trying to make my photos look like “so-n-so’s”.  I also need to stop leading myself into temptation…browsing sites like Fred Miranda or GetDPI.  Instead of wondering how my photos would look “if I only did (had) such-n-such…” I just need to focus on the gratitude…

The gratitude for the photo I have, and for what it represents.

Happiest-9

Happiest-10

Happiest-11

So….The other day I made a “blood pact” with a friend of mine…

I wonder if either of us will keep it?

Happy shooting to you all,

-Mark

 

 

 

Top Ten 2014 – Film

LOL.

Uncle.  I give up.

I can’t do it…

I don’t even think I made it through the whole year.

(Fun Fact: I shot and developed 3748 frames of 35mm, and 634 frames of MF in 2014)

That’s a lot of chemistry…No wonder my mind is gone!

🙂

Here’s twenty for your amusement.

(So I guess, not really Top Ten…)

I didn’t even open up the MF folder…it just wouldn’t be fair.

The last image is my absolute favorite for the year;

The rest are…just memories.

I can’t even believe I shot some of them in 2014.

A further reminder, that time does not, in fact…stand still.

Happy New Year Everyone,

-Mark

2014-10F-6

2014-10F-1

2014-10F-4

2014-10F-2

2014-10F-11

2014-10F-3

2014-10F-8

2014-10F-5

2014-10F-12

2014-10F-7

2014-10F-14

2014-10F-9

2014-10F-15

2014-10F-10

Watcher

2014-10F-13

2014-10F-18

2014-10F-17

TheFairgrounds-3

2014-10F-20

Top Ten 2014 – Digital

Without further ado…in no particular order, my ten favorite digital shots from 2014.

Choosing was harder than I thought!

Babie J and The Producer seem over-represented…I guess I’ll have to fix that.

The gear is a bit of a cornucopia, so I haven’t bothered to post…

I hope you enjoy.

-Mark

2014-TTD-2

2014-TTD-3

2014-TTD-4

2014-TTD-5

2014-TTD-6

2014-TTD-7

2014-TTD-8

2014-TTD-9

2014-TTD-10

2014-TTD-1

Let me show you something…

BulkRoll-1

For the longest time, I was in the habit of prying open my film canisters (inside the changing bag) and tossing them in the trash.

(Which is rather counter-intuitive from a waste standpoint, and makes little sense when I was trying to find quality reusable canisters for bulk rolling).

Turns out, the best canisters were the ones I already had (er…or rather: was throwing out).

While this is probably out there already in some form, I wanted to share the method I was using with you.

  • When finished a roll, do not rewind your film all the way into the canister.  Leave the leader protruding somewhat.  If you have accidentally wound it in, use a leader retrieval tool, or use this method for extracting the end.  (I have not been able to make it work successfully…but I only tried once.  And not very hard at that.  Your mileage may vary).
  • Cut the end of the leader off to form a very gentle point–pictured in the photo above.  As it turns out, this also makes your film easier to start on the developing reel, and makes coiling a 36-exposure roll a sure-fire thing.
  • Toss everything into your changing bag as usual (minus your canister opener tool…) and add some scissors.  Feed your film onto the reel like so:

BulkRoll-2

  • Keep pulling lengths of film out of the canister (in the dark!!! 🙂 ) and feeding it onto the reel.
  • When you have finished feeding the entire roll, you will be left with the canister wound tightly against the reel.  Measure a finger width from the canister, a make a cut straight across, like so:

BulkRoll-3

  • You will then be left with an empty canister, and a secure leader ready to be taped to, and bulk loaded.
  • Not only will you reduce waste, but you will save money too!  (And feel generally better about yourself!)  These cartridges are certainly more reliable than the cheap plastic sort…

BulkRoll-4

Enjoy, and good luck!

-Mark

 

Here, have some colour.

TheColorPage-1

…Also known as “My Archimedes Moment“.

I wasn’t in my bathtub when it happened (I mean, who has time these days??)

But I may as well have been, ‘cuz that’s about what it boils down to.

So without further ado (as long promised…)

How I fixed my color development.

TheColorPage-2

The issue at hand is a frustrating one: A tendency toward magenta casts in the shadows of self-developed Portra and Ektar.

I apologize in advance if some of these concepts seem overly elementary to you (there is actually nothing ground-breaking here…)

I am embarrassed to say that the solution is a little bit simple.

Given the effort I was undertaking, I am surprised I had not taken this step sooner.

Before I tell you the “how…” I feel I must tell you the “why

The first thing that needs to be understood, is that color film is basically arranged in four (relevant) layers.  (There are more, but for our purposes today, just the ‘color’ ones matter).

Although these layers are simultaneously exposed (it’s a “speed of light” thing…) they actually develop at differential rates.  That is: the film actually has depth.

The second thing is, we may in fact be talking about two separate issues.  Namely:

  • If your developed photographs have a diffuse color cast (too magenta, or too green) then your starting temperature is off.  Your chemicals are either too hot (magenta) or too cold (green).
  • If only certain areas are off (the shadows, for example…) then your temperature regulation is flawed.

Let me state it another way: There are two separate details that must be attended to for successful and satisfactory home developing: Precise temperatures, and temperature precision.  These concepts sound similar, but they are actually quite different (…yet, uh, interrelated).

🙂

(There is a fair amount of misinformation circulating on the intarwebs, mainly because of the confusion regarding the above issues).

The first important point that I will make is this: The manufacturer of your chemicals has specified a certain development temperature and time.  The fact is, you can actually use whatever temperature you want–you just have to vary the development time appropriately (just like B&W film!)  The problem is, it is rather difficult to know in advance how to vary the time appropriately.  (There is actually an equation for it based on the natural logarithm, but I am not going to get into that here).  Fact is, many labs do it for a variety of reasons…

Your kit is designed to be used for 3:30 at 102ºF.

Plain and simple.

Therefore, you need to be as close to this starting temperature as possible, to avoid diffuse color casts.

Now for my magentas…

Problems with magenta casts in the shadows are due to differential over (or under-) development of the various layers of the film itself.  This occurs for two reasons:

  1. Despite similar chemical composition, the layers themselves are actually differentially sensitive to the development process itself.  They are arranged in a certain manner because of how they filter light.  They do not develop in a similar manner.
  2. Given the “thickness” that I spoke about earlier, the layers themselves have different permeabilities and propensities to develop faster or slower, especially if the temperature changes over time!!

Put another way: Have you ever tried to print black on a three-color printer?  (Cyan, Yellow, Magenta…)

It doesn’t look black.

Or rather: it won’t look close to black unless the relative ratios of each color are close to perfect.

So (if you aren’t bored and snoring already…) the short answer to my problem was this:

  • Too much magenta in the shadows, means you have too much green in your negatives, which means that this layer was overdeveloped relative to the other two.
  • The issue at hand was one of imprecise temperature regulation.

I had always assumed that because I was using an immersion circulator (with a precise starting temperature…) and because the development time was so short (only 3:30!!) that my temperature would be rock-solid stable…

Well my friends, I am here today to tell you exactly what happens when you ASSuME…

😉

The problem is, I wasn’t actually keeping my tank in the bath the whole time…just the chemicals between steps!!

(duh!)

Fact is, from start to finish, the temperature of my developer had dropped by almost 2.5ºC over 3:30!  (If “pushing” film, it was even more…)

This is completely unacceptable.

Based on the Kodak spec sheets, the temperature of the process is not designed to vary more than 1 degree Celcius total–this means 0.5ºC up or down!

So how did I solve my problem?

(Well, it’s not totally perfectly solved…see below).

Nothing comes out of the circulator for more than a few seconds of pouring.  Then the tank itself goes right back in.  This is why the closed systems like the Jobo work so well…the temperature of the whole apparatus is tightly controlled right from start to finish.  It is not an insurmountable problem…it just requires close attention to detail.

Now here are the important caveats I have collected over time:

  1. Certain films are more sensitive to this problem than others, because of the manner in which their emulsions are formulated.  Portra (and to a lesser extent, Ektar…) are especially bad because of their focus on preserving pinks and purples in skin tones, and maintaining vibrant colors.  The Superia line is relatively insensitive.
  2. Exposure matters.  This may appear self-evident, but again: certain films are more predisposed than others.  The whole reason guys like Jose Villa have been so successful (well…that, and his obvious talent…) is that Portra doesn’t actually blow-out as you over-expose it; it just tends towards the pastels.  You don’t want to be too far to the right, as you will tend to find these colors.  On the other hand, underexposure means having to push the negatives in post, yielding similar issues in the shadows.
  3. You will still have to do some color correction.  Automated processes like the Pakon are designed to take the guesswork out of this for you, by detecting shadow casts; but programs like SilverFast will also do the job.  The aim is not a neutral negative, but rather a solid negative without localized issues.
  4. Old (or overused) chemicals will also cause similar variability.  As a result, you may find yourself changing them over before completely spent.
  5. pH Matters.  I’m not going to get into this at length right now, but suffice it to say that if your water supply has issues (Well water, or something…) you may want to consider actually mixing your chemicals up with distilled water.
  6. Pay attention to how your chemicals are mixed–some of them are hydrates (especially the Blix) and thus incompletely soluble.  It is not “Add to 1L of water…” it is actually “Mix up in 500, then top up to 1L.  Not a big deal at first, but makes a difference as your chemicals become exhausted.

Seriously though…I think that’s about it for now.

Hope this helps.

Good luck!

(…and don’t get discouraged.  You can do this!!)

All the best,

-Mark

(Oh yeah: The photos!  They were shot on Portra 400 (pushed to 800) on the Mamiya, and developed for 4:45–A veritable torture-test for this sort of problem.  Check out those blacks!)

Greg B

GregB

“A scholar, a gentleman, and a generous guy at that…”

I was fortunate enough to meet Greg through this site–he contacted me and was interested in trying some cinema film.

It turns out he is an extremely prolific photographer (and gadgeteer!) and lives a short hop away in Vancouver, BC.

Greg has sent a few different films my way, and even introduced me to my new personal favorite, Eastman 5222

Born in Nova Scotia, but raised in Northern Ireland, Greg certainly has a story to tell.

Despite the fact that he is much, much older than I 😀 it would appear that Greg and I probably crossed paths in a former life–he is a Professional Chef by vocation, and was at one time responsible for creating the menu at major chain of restaurants you may have eaten at.  I distinctly remember his name emblazoned on the glass during my University years at a former sister chain…

Greg is now a purveyor of fine tile, glass, and stone.  Chances are, you have probably come across some of his impressive work in a Bathroom, Airport, Hospital, Restaurant, or Hotel near you.  His clients come from far and wide–and it is easy to see why.

Greg was down for the weekend on business, and we had a chance to meet up.

(The photo above was taken at f/1.4 on Natura 1600 in extremely poor conditions–It does not do him justice.  He was trying to pick a beer…)

I recount for you here, some of our more relevant conversation (there may be some paraphrasing on my part…)

Desert island bands–Pick Three?

“Um, would have to be the Stones, Pink Floyd, and probably Led Zeppelin”

Not U2?

“They’d be close.  For sure Top Five… Even though I’m from Northern Ireland.”

Desert island food?

“Indian or Thai.  I’m currently trying to perfect my Butter Chicken…”

Desert island beer?

“Something in an IPA.”

Desert island camera?

“Probably something Nikon-ish.  I’ve got a bit of a collection…”

Favorite one to shoot with?

“Probably the Monochrom…fantastic for landscapes.”

So how many cameras do you have, anyway? 

“I’ll take the Fifth.”

We don’t have a “Fifth” in Canada.

“We do now…My wife might hear this.  By the way: have I shown you this one?”

Newest aquisition?

“An old Linhoff Technical.  It just ‘jumped in my car’ when I drove past the photo store…”

Interesting.  That happens to me a lot…

Greg was kind enough to send me a selection of his work…I am sure you will agree it is simply stunning.

I hope you enjoy.

(Thanks Greg…and if my wife finds the new cameras, it is all your fault!!)

image_5

image_9

image_1

image_16

image_17

image_14

image_19

image_20

image_21

The Pakon F135+

Pakon-1011-1

My filmy photographic life flashed before my eyes lastnight…so to speak.

Hence, the (unintentional) quasi-review I have been promising you for quite some time.

See the image above?  (Well, of course you do…)

Notice anything unusual?

Fact is, my negatives have been exhibiting increasing signs of lines, scratching, and damage recently.

Yesterday, the whole roll came out looking like this.

I was pretty sure it was the scanner.

I have tried compressed air in the past, and even fed a cleaning cloth through it (don’t ask…)

Just to be sure, I scanned the same negative on my Plustek…

The line was not there;

I knew my baby was hurting inside.

So off I went; Torx screwdriver and alcohol swabs in hand…

I was somewhat certain I would not be able to correct the problem, as I thought the scanning chamber and transport mechanism on the Pakon was sealed.  (I have opened the unit before, but never completely stripped it down…)

I managed to get at the sensor, and gave that a wipe; The focusing lens got cleaned as well.  The chamber got opened, and everything thoroughly cleaned.

I knew there was a chance the glass or sensor might be permanently scratched.  (Worse still, I might damage it myself…)  But I had to try and save her.

Back together, and tremulously fed another strip through (the first one got stuck because I had left a wire in the wrong place).  So apart again, and back together…

The image below was the end result:

Pakon-1011-3

She was saved!!

So without further ado…

My Pakon F135 Mini-review

(Are you ready?)

(Are you sitting down with a nice cup of coffee, or a glass of cold beer?)

“It ROCKS”

Yes, that’s all.

If you’re serious about 35mm photography, you need to own one.  Now.

(Before prices go up, or they disappear…)

I actually have two.

(Yes, I know I didn’t tell you that, but just because I have a spare one sitting in a box, doesn’t mean I was just going to let this one go!)

I don’t actually even know if the second one works, as I haven’t even opened it yet.  It was $200.  They were about $8000 brand-new.  Most of them were re-purposed from old CVS Photolabs.

  • Yes, you need Windows XP (I run Parallels on my Mac…)
  • Yes, you need the software patch to allow you to scan “C-41 B&W”.  (If you need it, shoot me a line…)
  • Yes, it is simple and totally worth your effort.  You put the film in, and it scans.  Flawlessly.
  • For color it is even better: DX coded, and spot-on every time.

Most of them are quite ugly to look at (yellowed and dirty) but work just fine.  The “Plus” version (the only one around nowadays…) produces an image 3000 x 2000 pixels.  For a 35mm frame, that’s around 2100 DPI!!

For reference sake, here is the same file on my Plustek at 1800 DPI:

Plustek-1011-2

The Plustek may be slightly sharper, but this was scanned in 4 passes using multi-exposure.  The single file above took 10 minutes to produce.  With the Pakon, I would have had 36 frames saved to my harddrive, imported into Lightroom, the bad ones rejected, some minor edits done, my teeth brushed, and my pajamas on.

For high-res printouts, I still rescan a frame or two using the Plustek or Epson, but for getting a whole roll into the computer reliably, the Pakon just cannot be beat.

So there you have it.  My review is finished.  I finally did it.  I can now sleep at night.

Here are a few more from the lovingly restored F135:

2014-1012-48

2014-1011-32

2014-1011-35

 

 

 

Hard Time…

Jailbird

…or “Proof Of Concept – The Conclusion

The Producer looking appropriately interested during the first big soccer night of the season.

It was literally zero degrees out.  Things were frozen.

Yay Spring.

 

Moving onward:

The answer to your first question is, of course:

“Because”.

(If you have been here before, you will already know this, and will probably not have even asked this question).

The second answer is a little more complicated, requires a protractor, some trigonometry, and the (temporary…) use of a rubber chicken.

Ahem.

In any case, as some of you have already guessed, this is indeed tungsten-balanced motion picture film…Kodak Vision3 500T, to be exact.

It is rated at ISO 500, but may easily be shot at ISO 800 if not terribly expired.

It is one of the few color films still available for bulk loading.

Given what I have already spent (let’s not talk about the hours here, m’kay?)  It will probably run me about $2 per 36 exposure roll.

The problem is, it has one major (major.) caveat:

It is coated with black goo.

Vision3

The strip on the left (well, the left, coursing down toward the bottom right…) is the Vision3.

The strip on the right is regular ‘ole Superia 400.

The black stuff on the shiny back side is called Remjet; it is an anti-static/anti-halation layer.

It must be removed before traditional processing.

(Motion picture films are intended for different chemistry called “ECN-2” which take into account this layer.  If you want to use standard C-41, this stuff needs to come off first.)

There are companies which happily sell you a 36-exposure roll (with the Remjet already removed…) for around $10.

As it turns out, it is not all that difficult to get off, but does require some extra attention.

While my process is still under refinement, the following has been working for me presently:

  1. BEFORE undertaking traditional C-41 processing, you will need some baking soda, and water that is HOT.  Really HOT.
  2. Put 1 tablespoon of baking soda in each litre of water.  I recommend two litres.  (Remember: HOT!!)
  3. Try to portion it out into 4-5 washes (about 400cc per wash)
  4. Dump it in.  Agitate for 60 seconds.  Dump it out.  Repeat.
  5. You will notice that the first wash comes out black.  This is good.  Successive washes will get more greyish/pink.
  6. The water should be clear by the fifth wash.  If not, keep going:  More water.  More soda.  More HOT.
  7. Once the water is clear, do one final rinse with plain warm water.
  8. Start my Guide to Color Developing…
  9. Do the Pre-soak.
  10. Do the Developer (Yes, 3:30 if shot at ISO 400-500)
  11. Do the Blix.
  12. Do the Rinse (3:00)
  13. STOP RIGHT NOW!!!
  14. Pull the film out
  15. Yes, that’s what I said: Pull it out.  It is no longer light-sensitive.
  16. Hang it up on a clip.  Don’t clip the bottom.
  17. Put a small piece of very wet (and well-rinsed!!) soft sponge at the top of the SHINY BACK SIDE of the film (Where the Remjet used to live…)
  18. Make your fingers into a “pair of scissors” and clamp the film…One on the back of the sponge, and one on the front of the film (emulsion side).  Don’t worry: your bare finger will not damage the emulsion side of the film.
  19. Sweep from top, to bottom in one smooth, continuous motion.  This will remove the remainder of the deposited Remjet.
  20. (Now this is the hard part…) Remove the film from the clip, and carefully re-thread it onto the spool.  (This will be difficult, because the spool is wet, and the film soft).
  21. Don’t touch the emulsion!!
  22. I said don’t touch it.
  23. Do the Stabilizer.
  24. Do the Photo-Flo (or similar surfactant…)
  25. Rinse.
  26. Remove.
  27. Dry for 2 hrs.
  28. Scan, and process to your heart’s content.  (More on that to follow at some point in the future…It definitely requires some tweaking).

(Look, I never said it would be easy…just fun).

Dammit, I already told you: Because!!  But there’s more: It has a unique character (beautiful skin tones, with a vintage look to boot.  Forgiving grain.  It’s different, OK?)

I hope this was entertaining…Now don’t you y’all go driving up the prices of this stuff on Flea-bay!!

All the best,

M.