Sunday, May 31, 2020

Walking the Dog

The dog and I took along the Argoflex on our morning walk to Old Town.  The camera was loaded with a roll of 120 FP4+, re-rolled onto 620 spools.  I reduced the processing time for this roll to seven minutes at 20C in L110.

I liked the mid-tones that resulted from giving the FP4+ a little less time in the developer.  The Argoflex is always a joy to shoot because of its brilliant finder and the reliably nice sharpness from the modest lens and shutter.

Monday, May 25, 2020


I took my Nikon FE on a couple walks on both sides of the river.  I decided to try processing the FP4+ in L110 following the recommendation for time and temp at the Covington HC110 site.  Nine minutes turned out to be way too long and I got very dense negatives.  Luckily, FP4+ turns out to have very good latitude for a relatively slow film and I was able to rescue a few shots.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Tough (to) Love

I took a walk into Old Town about nine in the morning.  I thought I might find some people and maybe a few old cars around the Plaza as I had last weekend.  However, the place was nearly empty, looking a lot like a graveyard on a slow day.

Well, no matter; I was out mostly to familiarize myself with a camera that had been given to me some time ago, a Holga 120N.

This model, in addition to the Optical Lens, features zone focusing, two f stops, bulb and instant shutter settings, a flash connection, and a fixed speed of around 1/100.  The camera uses 120 roll film and can shoot either 6x6 or 6x4.5 if you have the frame mask.

I decided to use Ilford FP4+ for the inaugural outing.  That proved to be a poor choice for a couple of reasons.  What I found in trying to load the roll of FP4+ was that the cartridge would not fit into the film chamber.  The X-shaped holes at the spool ends were just a little too small to permit wedging the cartridge in place.  So, I ended up re-rolling the film in the darkbag onto another spool which gave me just enough wiggle-room to get the cartridge inserted.

The other problem I ran into with the FP4+ was that, like a lot of other roll films these days, the framing numerals are small and dim, making it very difficult to advance the film without overshooting a frame unless the ruby window is exposed to bright sun.  I managed to lose two frames on the roll due to winding too far, but I was glad to see in the end that there were no light leaks in the vicinity of the window.

A 60mm lens is a bit on the wide side for a 6x6 camera and the viewfinder on the Holga shows quite a bit less than what is going to show up on the film.  The vignetting in the images came as no surprise, but the contrast and sharpness were a bit less than I expected from the meniscus lens.

If I can talk myself into shooting another roll of film in the Holga I think I'll likely get images I like a bit better knowing more now about what to expect from the camera.  Simple compositions that are not over-reliant on capturing fine detail are clearly advisable, and it seems like it could be interesting to try some portraits.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Nikon Color

Summer has come early to Albuquerque.  We have eaten a couple of artichokes already from Margaret's garden and more are on the way.

Saturday saw some relaxation of the restrictions imposed by the health emergency in New Mexico.  It looked pretty much like a normal weekend day in the Plaza Vieja, including a few custom classics.

I enjoyed the solidity and simplicity of the Nikon F.  The 1.4/50mm lens that came with the camera is a solid performer.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Flowers Still Bloom

It was a very fine walk on a brilliant morning, and I easily used up all 36 frames of a roll of Fuji 200. On top of that, in processing the roll with my Unicolor C-41 kit I also came up with solutions to two problems which have plagued my color processing.

The last half dozen rolls of color I have used have been marred by red stains, mostly located in the spaces between frames, but also spilling into the picture area.  The fix for that problem seems to be just increasing the time in the Blix solution from six to eight minutes.

The other problem is a longer term one.  The negative strip was binding up in the plastic reel of the Paterson tank so that I had great difficulty in getting the last six frames or so onto the reel.  Quite often the film strip would kink and badly mar the negative.  I had previously improved the loading of the film onto the reel by completely winding the film back into the cartridge and then removing the film from the cartridge in the dark bag.  That seemed to make the winding on of the film onto the reel go more smoothly at first, but I still ended up most often with difficulties near the end.

So, this time I rewound the film nearly to the end in the camera, but left a little bit of the leader sticking out of cartridge.  I then cut the end the leader so that I had a straight edge at the end and I clipped the corners, providing a very slight taper.  I then put the cartridge into the dark bag and popped the top off with a church key to remove the film which I then loaded onto the reel.  The result was a smooth ride of the film all the way to the end.

I concluded that the film loading problem was due to the film wobbling slightly as it travels along the groves in the plastic reel and the sharp corners catching in the partitions along the course of the grooves.  I tested that idea by running a short length of film all through the reel and observed that the film did jam, but could be freed by jiggling the film or the reel a bit.

Another thing I have been doing for a while now is paying attention to the instructions which came along with the CineStill processing kit I used just one time; they are much more detailed than the Unicolor kit.  The CineStill instructions advise adding two percent to the processing time for each roll of film processed in the reusable chemicals.  Both Unicolor and CineStill say that eight rolls per kit is the limit, but my experience has been that you can get at least twice that.  The CineStill kit also has detailed instructions for push, pull and variable temperature processing.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

HP5 in PMK Pyro

My film comparison project has gotten a bit off track due to Ilford's recent price increase which brings its costs nearer to what Kodak is charging for similar films.  Still, HP5 is a good choice in terms of quality, so optimizing its processing seems a worthy goal.
    One of the characteristics of Kodak's TMAX that has always appealed to me is its capacity to produce some nice smooth sky tones without the use of filters.  HP5 in PMK seems to get quite close to TMAX in that regard with fine grain and a broad tonal spectrum yielding good detail in both highlights and shadows.  I have found that with any of the films I have been using lately that it is important to exercise some care in burning and levels adjustment in order to avoid emphasizing grain in the midtones.

Here are prices at B&H Photo as of May 6th.

TMAX 400.......$7.99
Ilford HP5.........$5.99
Kentmere 400.. $4.99

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

A Life in Photography

A Canadian friend sent me a link to a 2008 video biography of Ted Grant, a photojournalist who was very well known to our northern neighbors, though not to most of us in the U.S.  Grant died recently at the age of 90.  The Video, Ted Grant; The Art of Observation is excellent in its portrayal of a personality ideally suited to a photo career, as well as in its exploration of his photographic technique.

Ted Grant - The Art of Observation
Grant's interest in photography was initially nurtured by his father who, though apparently confined to using just a box camera, was nevertheless a careful craftsman and a good teacher.  In early adulthood Grant decided he wanted a camera for his birthday, so his wife bought one for him in 1949, a 35mm Argus.  Looking at the pictures of Grant with that first camera, it looks to me to be a postwar Argus A2B with a coated lens and simple two-position focusing. That model is pretty similar to my prewar A2F which lacks the coated lens, but has a full-focusing lens mount.  Grant appears to have sold some stock car racing pictures from the A2B to a local newspaper which got his career started.

My prewar Argus A2F
By the 1950s Grant was working for a large photo agency.  At that time photojournalists were nearly all still using Speed Graphics, and the pictures tended to be setup shots of newlyweds and businessmen in corny poses.  Grant, with a couple friends, then started his own photo group and he graduated to using 35mm equipment and shooting feature stories that were much more sophisticated in regard to concepts and techniques.  Grant says in the video that his important sources of inspiration from that period were the big photo magazines like Life and Stern and Steichen's The Family of Man.

What makes Grant's story particularly compelling for me is that his career spanned nearly my own whole involvement with photography.  I grew up in a world that was portrayed for people primarily by the big news magazines like Life, and that period lasted until I was in my 30s and getting serious about being a photographer. Like Grant, my photo heroes were people like Eisenstaedt, Cartier-Bresson, Gene Smith and Gordon Parks.

Photography, in fact for me in that period, was nearly synonymous with photojournalism. I attended a commercial photo school in Manhattan in the 1960s and managed to sell a few pictures to newspapers and wire services like AP and UPI.  One of my pictures found its way into Life's back page, but that was by then close to the end of the the big photo magazine era, as well as to my ambition to be a photojournalist. I took a long break from photography and really only got back to it as a hobby after I had retired.