Monday, May 27, 2024

First own development!

When I started using a film camera, I wasn't sure how into it I'd get. There were vague thoughts of doing my own developing, and then finding a darkroom for prints, but I think it's smart to walk before running. So here's one at my walk stage from last week, developed by the lab.

Those that have been following along know I now use two film cameras. The 35mm is a Canon EOS 3, one of the last film cameras before digital came along. The medium format is a Fujica GW690. I started by having a local guy develop the film and I've been really pleased with how that worked out. Alas, he has sold his home and is moving to Nova Scotia. 

Thus the time has come to try developing film myself. I was a bit nervous about the whole thing, in spite of watching several videos about the process. I picked up everything I needed to develop B&W film from The Camera Store. Chris was very helpful and reassuring.

There were already several photos in the camera and I finished off the roll with a visit to a spot I've wanted to pose a model on for years. Alas with the rain the water was much deeper than our rubber boots, so we moved along and found a similar tree trunk on dry land.

I'll show you the pairs of photos, negative, then edited, with some comments, then get into development details below the photos.


1B. This was taken several days before Michelle and I visited on Sunday, and the water had risen so that most of the trunk was submerged. To get the photo I want, I need to be in the water. Right now it looks pretty muddy and gross.


2B. A river running down the hill into Fish Creek.


3B. The Bow River near the bird sanctuary.


4B. The Bow River near Mallard Point.


5B. Same as 4.


6B. Michelle posing on the other tree trunk we found. This is a tough exposure with overcast clouds, trying to balance her white dress with the dark jacket and the roots. 


7B. She got rid of the jacket, which makes the exposure easier, though in an ideal world an assistant would have reflected some light onto her face.


8B. The light was a bit better for this photo, although I think my eyes are playing tricks on me. I keep thinking there's an ever so slight green cast to this image.

Photos 1 to 5 are all long exposures, using a 10 stop ND filter with an exposure factor of 1.3.  The actual shutter time varies depending on the amount of light and what the wind is doing on the water. I generally aim to err towards more time with the shutter open, if the light is variable with changing cloud cover.

I'm not entirely sure if the photos were slightly under exposed in camera, or perhaps slightly over developed. My inversions were maybe a bit too fast, and did a few more than the recommended number. Not sure how much that matters. (If you know, feel free to comment or email!)

Develop process.
The trickiest part of the whole process seemed to be getting the film off the camera spool and onto the reel that goes in the development tank. I practiced a bunch of times with a blank roll. It's easy when you can see what you're doing, but as you all know this has to happen in total darkness. 

You need to slide the film into the end of the spiral track, just under the little tab. 120 film has a tight curl from being wound on the spool and it wants to stay curled. Plus the two sides rotate with respect to each other to load it on, but the tabs have to be square to each other to start, and stay that way till you're ready to ratchet the reel to load the film. They don't want to stay that way, and it seemed to me that three hands were needed. 

Then I figured out a trick. I cut a piece of exposed film into a slight wedge shape, and slide it into the reel just below where it needs to be loaded. This keeps the two sides aligned during the initial feed, and supports the film. Once the film is fed about a quarter way onto the reel, I took out the exposed film so I could ratchet the two sides. Ta da! First try in a dark room. 

I had assumed it would take a while. Then I had to wait while the water and chemical mix warmed up.

To go with the Ilford Delta 100 film, I used all Ilford development chemicals. Ilfosol 3, Ilfostop, and Rapid Fixer, with everything pretty close to 20 C. I followed the instructions quite closely using these mixtures and the same bottled water I use for making wine.

Dev 1+9 = 50ml + 450 water, for 5 minutes, with inversions per Ilford, though I did an extra one.
Stop 1+19 = 25ml + 475 ml, for about 20 seconds.
Fix 1+4 = 100 ml + 400 ml, for 3 minutes with inversions.
Then rinse with lots of inversion. The last rinse had a wetting agent added. Squeegeed with my fingers and dried. Digitized per my usual procedure, which I've talked about in earlier blogs. 

Am I thrilled? YES! I like how they came out, and with no more dust or water spots than I've seen on other rolls. They might be a bit dark in the shadows, but they were all done under overcast skies. I think it would look odd to see a brightly lit subject under gloomy skies.

Learnings? I was pretty close on times, though I got a bit flustered when the Devit timer on my phone kept going between pours and additions of the next chemical. That was between the Dev and Stop chemicals so I don't think it really matters. I think I'll turn off the auto feature for that, and do the pour and press the button thing. It took a little longer than expected for the chemicals to go from 18C to 20 C like I wanted, so next time I'll use a warmer water bath. Yes, I know I can let the development run a little longer for a cooler temperature.

Overall, as promised, it really wasn't difficult. I'll be doing this again.

It was suggested that I photo the procedure, but I was focussed on the procedure, not documenting it. I'll want to do it a few times before trying to take photos during the process. Plus if I'm the one doing it, it's pretty hard to be taking the photos.

As a bonus, here's what Michelle looks like in colour.

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Saturday, May 11, 2024

An aurora movie blog

Everybody heard about the amazing aurora borealis we were to get starting the evening of May 10. I'll be honest and say that after seeing the aurora from the Arctic Circle, I'd become a bit of an aurora snob. Still, they said this would be good, so I picked a location and headed out about sunset.

My thought was to set up in South Glenmore Park, looking north, thinking I might get the aurora over downtown, and reflections in the water. Except all the action was to the south. Here's the photo that went around shortly after I got home.

Here's a link to the movie.  

This had my computer churning away for most of the day to edit over 1900 images that make up the sequence, and then assemble them into a movie.

The sad thing about it is that while there were lots of people out watching, many left before the show began at midnight. The people watching with their eyes wouldn't have seen any of this. All our eyes could see was what looked like a mist or a cloud. Even the people holding up their phones were only getting part of the show.

There is a followup here

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

K Gold 200 in colour (and b+w)

Those of a certain age, or good taste in music know I'm listening to a classic Cheap Trick album as I'm writing this. 

When I first started photography I was all about the colour. It's only recently that I've been coming around to the idea that sometimes less is more, that colour can be a distraction. In a recent session with the GW690 I accidentally left a yellow filter on, thinking I was exposing B&W film. I was not. It was Lomo 100 colour, but I rescued it by converting to black and white in Negative Lab Pro. 

Kodak Gold 200 is one of my favourite films. I fell in love with it on a trip to Yukon in 2022, in medium format with my GW690, photos here. Recently it was the film in my carry around camera, a Canon EOS 3 with a 50mm lens.

When I got the the film back from the lab, I'd thought of tweaking my workflow in Lightroom so I could more easily convert to both colour and black and white and see which I liked better. First step is to digitize and import. Make a virtual copy of all of them, and mark with a colour. Use NLP to convert to colour. Or black and white, it doesn't matter. Go back and select the original exposures, and make another virtual copy, mark them with a different colour. Use NLP to convert to colour or black and white, whichever you didn't do.

Now you have 3 copies of each image in a neat row, the original negative, the black and white, and the colour. It's easy to go through one at a time. My system is to mark the ones I want to work with as 1 star. I was surprised at the differences between the two versions, even more than the lack of colour. Most of them it was an easy choice. Other things popped out. I ended up picking 16 colour, and 7 as black and white.

My normal process is to crop out the borders and lightly edit in NLP. Then I'll go into Lightroom, deal with spots and hairs (and there's always at least some) and sometimes tweak the sliders a bit more. Mark with 3 stars to show I've edited, and export. 

1. As you'll see I'm kind of obsessed with reflections, especially during the multiple iterations of the winter to spring transition. 


3. It's easy to see why this one doesn't work in black and white.

4. And this one didn't work in colour, with the trees going this lurid orange. 

5. Water is hard. I've seldom been happy with water photos that are not long exposures, and I've pretty much stopped trying. I'm not sure why I did this one, but it's about the closest I've done that shows what our eyes see. I think it's a slowish exposure, maybe 1/15 or so.

6. Bridge 8, one of the least photogenic bridges in Fish Creek. 


8. Oddly enough the red of the dogwood (I think it's dogwood) doesn't really show up on digital. 

9. An optimistic flower in our garden, in between snowfalls.


11. This was an easy choice, the colour was a swamp.


13. My favourite two trees in Fish Creek. I'm still working on posing a model on them. Pity it was raining and 6C this morning, me and her bailed.

14. This was hard choice. It's still a bit orange, but the black and white was kind of off as well. It's hard to describe.

15. I'm not sure if the jpeg version in the blog will show the water effect I see in Lightroom. It's like there's a clear shimmer layer on top and the reflection is underneath it. Plus a bit of film grain. Way better in black and white.

16. More reflections in a swamp.




20. There are times I regret carrying only one lens. Look for the heron. Having the 70-200 would have been so much better for the bird, and so much worse for the reflections.

21. Another view of the heron.

22. Reflections in a storm water pond. The grass went kind of orange and the clouds showed up better in this version.

23. Last photo on the roll, and wanted to be done. I went back and forth trying to decide which version was best.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Lomo 100 colour rescue

Film photography, especially medium format, and even more especially large format, which I haven't got to yet and might never, is about mindfulness. Taking ones time with the composition. Making sure everything is right before clicking the shutter button. There are photographers that work through an actual checklist on their phone or taped to the back of the camera.

Let's just say it's a work in progress for me. So far about the only mistake I haven't made with the GW690 is leaving the lens cap on, mainly because I rarely have it on. Only to travel.

So there I was, out for a photo ramble with Sean, thinking we'd work on some long exposures in Carburn Park. The ponds are often really good for reflections. My thinking is that a reflection photo of something is more than twice as good as a photo of the thing by itself. Except the ponds are still mostly covered with ice. We were not deterred, and strolled around looking for compositions anyway. We even found some and ended up having a wonderful afternoon. Sometimes it's more about the people you might be with.

My thought was that I was going to expose black and white, and to that end I put on a yellow filter to increase contrast, along with a 10 stop ND filter for a bright sunny day with light clouds. The foil around the film roll said Lomo 100, which I knew. However I had forgotten they had come out of a box labeled color some time ago, and did not notice that it said Lomo colour 100 on the backing paper when I loaded it. Oops.

Most of these exposures are about 30 seconds, with the longest about 50 seconds. Even though the Viewfinder app gives exposure settings, and can compensate for ND filters up to 10 stops, it doesn't add in colour filters and doesn't calculate reciprocity failure. I think I read somewhere that a yellow filter is a third to half stop. I couldn't find any hard reciprocity data, the closest I could find is that some people treat it like an ISO 200 film. So I arbitrarily added some seconds to the exposure time. Other than the weird  colour, the exposures seem to have come out well enough. I figure that between NLP and Lightroom, there's lots of latitude for fixing exposure, as long as you err on the over exposure side.

Running the negatives through Negative Lab Pro as colour was lurid and otherworldly to say the least. I was mostly doing reflections of trees in the water, and that lens is sharp sharp sharp. The sense of space and light was interesting, but a bit off putting. Nothing I could do in NLP or Lightroom could fix that. The solution is to drop out colour and convert the negative to black and white right from the start. I was more careful the second time with dust, and ended up with cleaner scans, so that much was to the good.

These are lightly edited in NLP and Lightroom. I'm thinking I really should get Nic Silver Efex. I'm coming to like black and white more and more. 


1B. This is the original scan and edit. Imagine, if you will, that lurid sickly sky and reflection of the sky in the remaining photos. 

2. We worked our way around the big pond. Sean was trying to get a streak of colour from walkers and bikers, but I don't know how that worked out. How long to wait for the light, or for the missing element in your composition to come along, or for the aurora borealis to flare up, is often a topic of discussion when more than one photographer is present. Even though the path is visible in most of these photos, and there were a ton of people out enjoying the beautiful day, none of them show up, which is what I intended, so I'm happy about that. I had been thinking of scenes where there are obviously people, but the exposure is long enough that they move quicker than the film catches them.

3. Yes, there are homes that back onto the park. That would be nice to walk out a back gate into a lovely park.

4. There's some interesting gnarly trees.


6. From the north end of the park it's a short walk to the Bow River, and we strolled along downstream. This is a quiet branch of the river.


8. Our eyes could see the ripples and waves as the river crosses over the rocks going off to the left, but none of that shows up here. Water can be difficult.

9. Almost back to the car, we stopped at the bridge over this little slough.




The astute will have noticed that 11 A and B are almost the same photo. The difference is I took the filter off for this last photo on the roll and edited it for colour. I had belatedly thought that I should get at least one normal exposure to see what this film looks like. My thinking is that it looks a bit like Ektar 100, which I'm not terribly fond of. It makes the grass look a bit more orange than it really is, and seems kind of harsh. A plus for Lomo is that the film lies flat which makes digitizing easier. 

I suppose I should note that I'm not trying to produce a print here. There's still some dust spots, and the shadows are a bit dark. I should probably do a better job of cleaning the various filters. With a bit of work I could probably increase the contrast in the sky, but doing that between the tree branches is tricky. 

My plan is to give the ponds a couple weeks for the ice to clear and try again, this time taking out some of the Lomo 100 earl grey. I kind of like the look of the naked branches, so after ice and before leaves is perfect. Let me know if you live in Calgary and want to come along.

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