Wednesday, August 30, 2017

redoing the past

Midway through the 1960s I was looking for a career change. I enrolled in a commercial photo course given by a school in New York's financial district.  Toward the end of the program, I bought a boxy case to hold the matted photos I had made during the course, and I took that on job interviews.  I did get a few job offers, but the ultimate outcome of the undertaking was that I decided I did not really have much of an aptitude for a career in photography.  I did learn some useful things about photography, however, and I liked the pictures I made from that time.The negatives from my photo school days were all lost over the years, but I did hold onto my portfolio case with some of the mounted prints I had kept.

I was nearly ready for retirement when I finally got back to doing some more photography.  I shared some of my early digital work on and I decided to make some copies of my New York pictures to put on line as well.  At the time I did not want to cut up the big matte boards on which I had mounted several projects, so I just made digital pictures of the individual photos using a primitive Epson digital camera.  That seemed a good idea at the time, but looking at the pictures on years later I saw that the images were very small and of rather poor quality.

I decided that I would like to have some better digital copies of my early work, so I set aside my nostalgic qualms about cutting up the mattes so that I could copy the individual prints on my Epson flatbed scanner.  The outcome would have been better had I held onto the original negatives, but the new digital copies are quite a bit better than the ones I made originally with the little digital camera.  The photos in this series were made with a Nikon S rangefinder camera.  The film was likely Tri-X.  The pictures were shot over a period of several weeks on the streets of New York's Chinese community.



Monday, August 28, 2017


My efforts at film splitting to produce 127 from 120 roll film have been complicated by poor results from the film I have been using in the project, Arista Edu Ultra 400.  While it seemed a good idea to use cheap film while sorting out my DIY film splitter, the results only made life more difficult.
   In the past, I've gotten perfectly fine images from Arista films, usually combined with my favorite all-purpose developer, HC-110, both with dilution "B" and as a stand developer.  This time, though, the first roll resulted in images with extreme grain.  The next roll had images that were barely discernible.
   An on line search turned up quite a few experiences similar to mine with Arista 400.  A lot of people showed perfectly fine images made with the film, while others like me reported a mixed bag with inconsistent, sometimes disastrous results.  So, when I put in an order this morning for some film, it won't be Arista.

Friday, August 25, 2017

film splitter update

I have learned a few things about my derevaun film splitter after putting a couple rolls through it.  I thought I would pass along the small modifications I have made for the benefit of anyone wanting to  try this rather elegant solution to producing discontinued film formats from 120 roll film.

The nut and screw assembly turned out to be a little short to easily span the width of the Falcon-Flex box camera.  I therefore inserted a couple of pieces of sheet foam on either side.  That allowed a much more firm fit for the cutter assembly.  It also meant that I could fully screw in the small screw on the left end of the connector nut, which in turn allowed the width adjustment to be easily made by just turning the connector nut.  With the cutter assembly held firmly in place the horizontal adjustment of the cutter became considerably easier as well.
   In the process of making my measurments with 120 film backing in place in the camera I noticed that the film rails in the camera are actually a bit wider than the film, so measuring for the position of the cutter starting at the side of the camera produced some inaccuracy.
   Inserting the film leader in the take-up spool and advancing the film centers the film strip, and in this camera that means that the edge of the film is actually 2mm inward from the side of the camera.  With the film backing in place, I dabbed a little white paint on the film rail along the border of the film backing; that gave me a starting point for measuring for the desired 46mm width needed for cutter placement.  Accuracy in this regard is desirable, both for allowing the film to travel properly through the camera in which it will be used and also to ensure that the film will properly seat in the film processing spool.
   I'm pleased with the outcome of my DIY splitter endeavor so far; it is going to give me a lot more choice in regard to film types in using my 127 cameras.  The splitter could also be adapted to other formats, and even the left-over strip on the right side could be used for some of the subminiature formats.  I am also currently discarding about seven inches of the 120 film strip which is not needed for the standard 127 film format.  That extra amount could be made use of for a few more exposures in cameras not having a too-tight film compartment.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Through the clouds at Albuquerque.

derevaun's film splitter

So, I made a film splitter with a couple dollars in parts from the hardware store, an old 120 box camera and instructions from Flickr user, derevaun.  I don't recall where I got the old Falcon-Flex which forms the body of the splitter and provides the film holding and advance functions.  No damage is done to the camera in the process, so if I should ever get a yen to see what the camera can do, that possibility remains available.  Derevaun's advice to get the parts from ACE Hardware turned out to be excellent; they had everything I needed including a very helpful store clerk who helped me find the necessary nuts, screws and washers.

The parts include a long and a short machine screw, a long connector nut, two nuts and two washers.  The cutter is a No. 11 Xacto blade.  The nuts and washers which hold the blade are first screwed on the long screw.  Then, the long screw and the short screw are screwed into either end of the connector nut and adjusted to allow a tight fit in the body of the camera.

The blade holding nuts and washers are adjusted so that the blade is a little less than 46mm from the left side of the compartment.  The tip of the blade rests against the roller on the take-up side with just a millimeter or so protruding above the film plane.  The assembly took about ten minutes.

I had a junk roll of 120 film in my tool box, so I put it in the device, closed the back and rolled the film through the camera.  The roll came out perfectly cut with the wider section being just the right size to fit my 127 cameras.  So, I popped in a roll of Arista Edu Ultra 400 and split that.  I put the camera in my dark bag to remove the film roll.  After separating the film from the backing, I rolled it up and put it into a black 35mm film container.  This evening, I'll take the film into my bathroom/darkroom and roll it into some 127 backing paper.  I illustrated that process for creating 828 film in my 6/25/17 post entitled "rollin' , rollin', rollin...".

Sunday, August 20, 2017

nice rides

Saturday morning found me and my Foth Derby at a motorcycle swap meet near the railroad tracks on Central Avenue.

One block to the west was a long line of low riders, most on trailers, waiting to get into a car show at the Convention Center.

The overcast sky was a challenge for the expired Portra 160.  I lowered the shutter speed to 1/50, but most of the shots were still a bit under-exposed at f9.0.  I knew that would be the case, but a wider aperture would have given too little depth of focus for the subject.  I had to do some fancy PhotoShop work to get acceptable color and contrast, with variable results.

I'm mostly happy with interesting results from the expired bulk Portra 160, but it would be a nice change of pace to shoot some higher speed black and white film which would be better suited to the camera and its rather sharp Foth Anastigmat lens.  I'm trying to talk myself into making some sort of film splitter to produce 127-size film from 120 roll film.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

the best laid plans

teacher's pet
My plan was to try the combination of cheap Kentmere 100 and Rodinal 1:50.  That basically went ok.  The results were a little grainy, but not unpleasant.
    Then, about half way through scanning the roll my old XP desktop died.  That left me with my Windows 7 laptop running an old version of PhotoShop and Epson Scan which are much inferior to PS/CS2 and SilverFast on the old machine.  I guess I can live with it a few days until I figure out what to do about my hardware and software dilemma.


pine tree clouds

The camera was my Minolta Minoltina AL-S, my best ten dollar find, from an El Paso junk shop.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


The Mamiya C330 will never be a favorite shooter for me.  It is too big, too heavy and too hard to handle.  It does, however, have some unique capabilities , mostly in the area of close-up work due to the extending bellows.  Also, I have invested in several accessories for the purpose of taking full advantage of the camera's possibilities including an eye-level prism finder, a paramender for parallax correction, and a left-hand grip which frees up the right hand to operate all the right-side controls.  Recently, I loaded the C330 with a roll of Acros and took a slow stroll around the nearby botanic gardens.  Two hours later I had only managed to use half the roll of twelve frames, so I took the beast home and unloosed it on my our home's four-legged contingent.


Heritage Farm

Buckboard Wheels




Sunday, August 06, 2017

Acros; Day Two

I used the second half of my roll of Acros in the Retina I during a walk through the riverside woodland.  The sky was hazy and produced nice light in the cottonwood forest, but presented a challenge for the little viewfinder.  Most of the shots required an aperture of f8 or f5.6; that worked ok for subjects at a range of ten or fifteen feet, but anything closer got rendered sharply mostly by luck.  The Retina I has a very smoothly operating shutter release, so I was comfortable shooting it as slow as 1/25, but that still did not get me acceptable and predictable depth of focus. 

Had I given a bit more thought to my equipment and where I was taking it, I could have brought home quite a few more good shots.  For instance, I have a couple of accessory rangefinders that could have given me sufficient precision in focusing on my subjects.  An even better solution would have been to mount the Retina I on a tripod, allowing the possibility of shooting at the smallest aperture of f16.  At a focal distance of three feet that provides a depth of focus of about a foot, while at a distance of six feet the sharp focus zone has a depth of over four feet.   All of that information is made available on the dof scale on the bottom of Retina I.  Next time, I'll pay closer attention.

All of which is not to say that I considered the experience a failure.  I learned something, and I spent a couple hours wondering through the cottonwood forest admiring the lush mid-summer vegetation, oblivious to the cares of the world.  Then, I went home and spent about six hours processing the film, scanning the negatives, editing the pictures and writing up my ideas about the experience.  All good.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Old Town

I decided recently that I would like to shoot some 100 speed black and white film in 35mm, which I have not done in some time.  I bought several different brands from B and H Photovideo including a couple rolls of Acros, and I loaded one of those into my Retina I.   I devoted the first half of the roll to a sunny day walk through Albuquerque's Old Town.

The Retina I is the smallest and simplest of my Retina cameras.  It has a reliable Compur-Rapid shutter and an excellent 3.5/50 Kodak Ektar lens.

My Retina I is a post war model. There are many small variations in the viewfinder types, but the features are essentially the same as the first one produced in 1934 which was designed to accommodate the 35mm cartridge developed by August Nagel. The history of the long Retina line is thoroughly presented in the Kodak Retina Wikipedia page.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Bilora Bella

I've always liked the sporty style of the Bilora Bella.  Since I have a good supply of 127 film available now, it seemed like a good excuse to indulge my interest, and I found one easily on ebay for twelve dollars and shipping.  The Bella line of cameras made in Germany from the mid-1950s to the mid-'60s included models that used 120, 127 and 35mm film formats.  My 3c model produces an image measuring 4x6.5cm on 127 film.  There are two apertures, probably f8 and f11, and a self-cocking shutter with speeds of 1/50, 1/100 and B.  The lens can be focused by estimation from 3.5 feet to infinity.

I did a poor job of loading the film in the camera and managed to fog several of the frames, but the ones toward the end of the roll of eight exposures were ok.  I don't think the lens is coated, but it seems about as sharp as that on other simple cameras and the choice of apertures, shutter speeds and full focusing does offer a bit more versatility than the average box camera.