Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Winter In The Bone

December 2011, Chicago, Illinois
(Agfa B-2 Cadet, Fomapan 400 120 film, home developed and scanned)
K said she would like to see this printed big - something along the line of several feet across. This does get cooler as it gets bigger, maybe one day when I'm fabulously wealthy.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Out Of Focus Fridays (OOFF) - Step Into My Parlour

October 2011, Benecia, California (Canon Elan 7ne, Kodak Ektar 100, 17-40mm f/4.0)
So a dear, old friend (or is that an old, dear friend at this point), tells me that she "wants to go with me" on these out of focus experiments, but they make her head hurt. This one is for her: a little slice of focus on the right side of the spiderweb will give her eye something to rest on, and hopefully keep her little head from aching too bad.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Morning Herald

October 2011, Benecia, California (Canon Elan 7ne, 17-40mm f/4.0, Kodak Ektar 100 film)
An angel figurine in one of K's parents spare bedrooms. The statue can actually look quite creepy at night, but I loved the way the lace curtains diffused the morning light coming through the window for this shot. To get the statue to be more than just a silhouette, I had to use a very slow shutter speed. No tripod, just bracing my back against the side of the bed as I squatted down to get the angle.

Quite impressed with the Ektar 100 film, although it was a little tricky to get the film to scan correctly. Will probably do a longer write-up on the film later, but short version seems to be that it is a really nice color negative film that gives almost slide-like results, but with a lot more exposure forgiveness. Not a perfect film - does a horrible job rendering skin tones for white people - but damn good, nonetheless.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

North Side Space Port

Holga 120 WPC, Kodak T-Max 400, Home developed and scanned
November 2011, Chicago, Illinois
One of the CTA elevated train stations near our apartment. Shot with another one of my plastic cameras: the Holga Wide Pinhole Camera, which takes 120 film and gives you a 6cm x 12cm size negative. Never done much with pinholes before, but I like what I am getting with this camera. More coming soon.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Digital Darkroom: Scanning Black & White Film In Color

This post is about being reminded that while trial and error can be lead one down creative roads that would otherwise remain unexplored, it can also send you down the wrong path without even being aware that there might be a better way.

It's a basic fact of modern photography that almost all film shooters are also digital, even if they don't own a single digital camera. Unless all you want to do is make wet prints in the darkroom to pass around by hand, you are going to need to find a way to digitize your analog images if you want them to get seen. Most people don't even deal with paper prints anymore - they shoot on digital, post images to Facebook, Flickr and etc. or maybe email digital photo files to friends, family and like, all of which get viewed on some type of monitor.

"New Year Light" - January 1, 2012, Chicago, Illinois
(Canonet QL-17, Fomapan 400 film, home developed and scanned)
The final, post-processed "color scan" of the black & white negative. The negative was scanned as a 24 bit color image (RGB) and outputted to a 24 bit RGB TIF file. There is much more detail in the shadow areas and much smoother transitions between tones than any of the Grayscale scans of the same negative, even when saved at the highest Grayscale bit setting.
If you are shooting film, getting that image converted to a digital file means getting a scan somewhere along the line. You can scan prints, of course. And scanning a print is relatively straightforward. Even low-end scanners will generally give you a decent scan of a color or black & white print. But a scan of a print is, at best, a third-hand representation. The negative is used to make the print, which is used to make the scan - each step in the chain represents a potential loss of detail and degradation of the image.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Everything

"Happy Everything" (December 2011, Chicago)
Ilford Delta 3200, Holga 120n, home developed in Ilford DD-X

Saturday, February 11, 2012

"The Impossible Project" . . . Perhaps Too Aptly Named?

This is a post about giving up on a good idea.

My old, super cool SX-70 camera and some "re-imagined" instant film from The Impossible Project. Such a good idea, going nowhere fast. (Panasonic GF-1, 20mm f/1.7)

I really, really wanted the people over at The Impossible Project to succeed. I bought a decent amount of their early attempts, knowing that what I was actually doing was subsidizing their research, rather than purchasing a viable film format at that time. And the initial progress was hopeful - the films got better. Unfortunately, they never got "good."

"Gotham" (September 2010, SX-70, TIP PX 100 film)
This is one of my early attempts with TIP film, and still probably my favorite result. Temperature sensitivity has made the TIP films very difficult to work with out of doors here in Chicago, where the temps tend to reside at either end of the extreme and are rarely settled into the 60-70 degree range where the film seems to work best.

As TIP has gone forward, it seems that the emphasis has shifted. From my perspective, it seems like TIP has essentially abandoned the idea of developing a true replacement for the Polaroid integral films, and are now just intent on milking the hipsters for every red cent they can before the fad fades.
"K Playing Scrabble" (above), "J & C At The Ballpark" (below) (May 2011, Polaroid Spectra, TIP  PZ 600 film)
You can see the marked temperature effect between the two shots above. Both were from the same pack of PZ 600 film. The top shot was taken in an air conditioned hotel room, the bottom shot was taken outdoors on a hot and humid day.
The first few iterations of the TIP films showed decent improvement - the "Silver Shade" product got closer to providing a neutral black and white, and the "Color Shade" product, while remaining washed out and very soft, was actually getting to the point where it was differentiating colors and not just a wash of muddy blue tones. You were still having to shield the prints immediately upon leaving the camera, but the UV protection was at least getting better.
"Ye Olde Ball Game" (May 2011, Polaroid Spectra, TIP PZ 600 film)
Another shot from the ballpark. In this case, the strong sepia/yellow cast actually works, making the picture seem old and giving it a nostalgic feel.

But then things seemed to stall. The email updates from TIP became less and less about advances to the film, and more and more about marketing gimmicks - "limited editions," different color image frames, accessories and refurbished Polaroid cameras priced for hipsters living in trust fund lofts rather than tip jar apartments. And as actual improvements to the product appeared to get fewer and farther between, the cost of the product got higher and higher - including the need to sometimes buy additional products to make up for deficiencies in the film itself. Right now, TIP film will run you approximately $3.00 per shot, not including shipping. Pretty steep rate for an unstable, unpredictable and (let's face it) still highly flawed product.

"Summer Garden" (June 2011, Polaroid 600, TIP PX 600 UV+ Black Frame film)
Case in point as to the gimmicks - the shot above is a special edition of the PX 600 UV+ film. Still has the same temperature sensitivity problems, still too sensitive to light during development, still a problem with uneven distribution of developer chemicals (see the cutout in the center top of the frame), but hey the enclosure is black, isn't that cool? (Of course, if you just scan the image without the "way cool" black frame - as above - you are just left with a finicky, over-priced film product.)

I don't know why the research seems to have stalled. Perhaps the technical hurdles are just too steep to overcome at the scale that TIP is able to fund. Perhaps the partial re-introduction of integral Polaroid/Fuji films has killed off some of the demand - and therefore the funding base - for TIP films. I have not used the Fuji Instax or the Polaroid 300 (which is essentially a rebranded Fuji Mini 25), but from what I've heard the quality is heads and tails above the TIP films at less than a third the cost per shot. True, the newer cameras leave a lot to be desired in the cool-factor category. Frankly, they are just plain ugly, at least in my opinion. But having an attractive box to run your film through only gets you so far if the film itself fails to deliver.

Supposedly, there are even more improved versions of the TIP films coming down the pike later this year. Indeed, the last email that I got from TIP was a bundling sale, that appears to be trying to clear out all of the old (and now for much of it, expired) film stock. However, even at the "super sale" price the per shot cost is still more than $1, which is where to my mind the cost should be in general. The new "improved" versions of the films will almost certainly be more in the $2 to $3+ per shot cost range, and if the most recent updates are any guide, improvements will likely be incremental, at best.

Perhaps I would think differently if I was more of a studio shooter. (There is some very cool work being done with these films, but almost all of it is studio work where the important factors - temperature, lighting, etc. can be controlled to optimize the result.) However, I'm not, and given the ongoing disappointment with the TIP films (not to mention the expense), I have reluctantly decided to give up on integral films altogether. The quality is just not there for the production of traditional photographic images, even in the Fuji/Polaroid integral films, and I simply don't think in the artistic way needed to elevate the types of images you can get with TIP films to get something that is worth clicking the shutter.

I sold off my second SX-70 body some time ago, and will be putting the other one up on the fleaBay this weekend. I still dream of TIP (or perhaps Fuji, Polaroid or ?????) resurrecting the SX-70 with a quality film product to run through it, I don't think the chances are at all likely, and I would rather use my time and money to subsidize other aspects of the (still shrinking) film market that provide me with the quality and usage experience that make them worthwhile now, rather than those that dangle the chance of that on some ill-defined future date while expecting me to pay premium rates for an inferior product.

Sorry TIP . . . it's not me, it's you. Later.

"Wake Me Up When You Get Your S#*t Together" (June 2011, Polaroid 600, TIP PX 600 UV+ film)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

First Snow of 2012 (Con't) - Rosehill Cemetery

January 2012, Panasonic GF-1, 20mm f/1.7, 400 ISO, f/8.0 @ 1/500
Black & white conversion in Lightroom 3
A few more shots from the only decent snowfall we have had yet this season. These are from the Rosehill Cemetery here in Chicago. This is great, huge older cemetery a little north of where I live. You will often see other photographers there, but the morning of these shots it was just me and the groundskeepers, who were busy plowing the numerous roads that wind through the cemetery grounds.

January 2012, Panasonic GF-1, 20mm f/1.7, 400 ISO, f/8.0 @ 1/320
Black & white conversion in Lightroom 3
January 2012, Panasonic GF-1, 20mm f/1.7, 400 ISO, f/8.0 @ 1/500
Black & white conversion in Lightroom 3
January 2012, Panasonic GF-1, 20mm f/1.7, 400 ISO, f/8.0 @ 1/250
Black & white conversion in Lightroom 3

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

First (And Last?) Real Snow of 2012

January 2012, Panasonic GF-1, 20mm f/1.7, 400 ISO, f/8.0 @ 1/20

Middle of last month we had the first snow of the New Year, and what will perhaps turn out to be the only real snow of the 2012 Winter. Chicago has been having extremely mild weather this year. The usual sub-20s temperatures and snows that require you to dig your car out the next day have yet to materialize. I don't mind the milder temperatures and certainly don't mind not having to excavate a couple feet of snow just to have a parking space, but at least snow gives the otherwise dead and gray landscape some visual interest. Without the occasional snowfall, the Midwest landscape can get pretty bleak between December and March.

January 2012, Panasonic GF-1, 20mm f/1.7, 400 ISO, f/8.0 @ 1/20

January 2012, Panasonic GF-1, 20mm f/1.7, 400 ISO, f/8.0 @ 1/15

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Food Motivated

This is Rudder waiting for a treat at the September 2011 8K/5K run/walk event for the local no-kill pet shelter, PAWS. They put on the event every year, and this is the second year that Rudder, K and I have participated. Always fun to see all the other dogs and all the money raised goes towards PAWS and other pet-related charities. 

Still a little behind on dealing with the last of the 2011 film images, but am (slowly) catching up. 
Cross-processed Kodak EB-2 (expired), Canon A-1, 50mm f/1.8
Rudder Waiting For Treats @ PAWS "Run For Their Lives", September 2011, Chicago, Illinois

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fuji 400H Film With The Holga

I would like to like Fuji Pro 400H more than I do, as it would be nice to have an alternative to Kodak Portra 400. Jury is still out, generally, but it doesn't work that well with my Holga. The Fuji film appears to be rated at least a stop faster than it really is - meaning that it really needs to be overexposed to get decent colors and negative thickness. Since the Holga only has two aperture settings (at best) and one shutter speed, you either need to get just the right lighting conditions, or you need a fairly forgiving film. Black & white films tend to have a lot more exposure latitude, so you can get decent exposures under much more varied lighting conditions than with color negative film. Kodak Portra 400 also has a lot of exposure latitude, although not as much as the better black & whites. I've had very good luck with the Holga using Portra. However, given Kodak's recent troubles, and its apparent attitude toward us "backward" film shooters, having an alternative would be both helpful and prudent. Unfortunately, it looks like the Fuji isn't going to be it.
"Eventide" (Roscoe Village, Chicago, October 2011)
Holga 120n, Fuji Pro 400H
I like this shot, even though it is strongly underexposed, as I think the underexposure helps create a mysterious and evocative mood.
"A Little Light Is So Religious" (Roscoe Village, Chicago, October 2011)
Holga 120n, Fuji Pro 400H
This shot shows a much better exposure, resulting from the more direct light on the steeple and the bright sky.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2012 Photography Goals

1) Shoot a lot more pictures - mostly film, but also digital;

2) Of more subjects - places, people, things and styles;

3) And follow through - organize, edit, print, share and display.

The sign of a true photo geek . . . stacks of negative preservers ready to be filled with all my brilliant photographic masterpieces (or, you know . . . pictures of cats and stuff).

So back in mid-2011, I put together a list of self-styled "photography assignments" that I hoped to complete over the summer and before the end of the year. Life intruded, and due to a combination of work and other factors, I got around to very few of the items on my list.

This year, while many of the same intentions remain, a more streamlined, more general, approach to goals and self-assignments would seem prudent. My photography doesn't pay the rent - at this point, it doesn't even pay for itself - but it does help to keep me sane and it is much more satisfying to take it seriously than to approach it in a slip-shod manner. To that end, my photography goals for this year can really be summarized as: shoot more and actually do something with the images after the shutter is tripped.

That said, I do have some specific ideas in mind both for the "shoot more" front side and the "follow up" back end, that I hope to accomplish in the next month of so. Right now we are still in the "ugly season" of Chicago's winter, but there photos still to be taken and spring will be here soon. I'm really digging black and white film photography at the moment - especially now that I am getting a handle on doing my own development at home - and this town has a lot of great landscapes and subjects to explore.

Getting back into film has definitely reactivated my love of photography, but there is definitely no assurance that the analog medium will continue to be viable and/or affordable in the long-term, especially as to color film availability and processing. But that is even more reason to make the most of it now, while it is still relatively accessible and cheap to shoot film.