Saturday, October 15, 2022

Dawson City on film

In early September I was in Yukon with some friends for 10 days. Late September I got the film back from the lab and posted some Tombstone landscapes. While walking around Dawson City I captured some of the buildings that caught my eye. These were captured on a Fujica GW690 using Kodak Gold 200 film. 

Digital photos exist for some of these, but you won't find them side by each. The intent was not to create images for easy comparison. I don't have the technical skills or the desire to do the documentation for a rigorous comparison, and there is no real reason to do so. The main intent was to wander the town during some quiet time before lunch, and capture images of the buildings that interested me for whatever reason. 

In a few cases I was using the camera as a sophisticated light meter, since the light was flat and kind of tricky. In some cases there are digital photos but not film, or film but not digital. Why would I do that? Good question. (Look! Over there, a polar bear!)

1. In three visits to Dawson City, I have not been inside this building. I'm told the show is excellent. But most evenings I was in one of two states. One, heading out to try to capture aurora skies. Or two, collapsed in a heap in bed.




5. The ferry across the Yukon river. Back and forth all day. This is not a cable ferry, the pilot has to actually account for the fast current, and then run aground just right. Hard enough to anchor the ferry so people can drive off and on, yet not so hard as to damage the ferry or make it impossible to get off again. Every trip is a bit different. 

The astute of you are asking yourselves, "what do they do in the winter?" The ferry is retired for the season and they build an ice bridge. Yes, life gets tricky during the transition seasons. I'm told it's $400 for about a 1 minute helicopter ride across the river. Maybe ok if you are suffering severe medical distress, but you'd hate to do that because you planned badly and are running out of groceries.

I was sitting, waiting for the ferry to be in just the right spot for this photo. 


7. The Kissing Sisters. These are a pair of famous buildings, built before people fully understood how to build on permafrost. This is why there are abandoned buildings in Dawson.


9. No, that's not an artifact of holding the camera at a funny angle. The building really is tipped over.

10. This one and the next one are just beside each other, and do not appear to be falling down, so I'm not sure why they've been abandoned. There is a housing shortage there, so I'm a bit surprised they haven't been renovated. Then again, the costs for doing so could be far more than any possible return.

11. I was wondering what this building used to be. It has a vaguely 60's federal look to it. 

12. The school and library is such a cheerful building. I don't think it's new, I think they've dressed up an older building. 

13. One of the hotels. Our group stayed there on the last trip.

I missed one of the more famous buildings downtown, the one that used to be a bank. I do have a photo of it in digital, and it will appear on my other blog site, probably tomorrow. Every time I was near it with the film camera, there were obstructing vehicles ruining the photo. There are some Dawson photos that will show up as well, because, why not.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Yukon by film

Yukon is an amazing photography destination, especially in September, and especially Tombstone Territorial park. That was the highlight of my recent 10 day trip as part of a Neil Zeller tour. This was my third time there, and I loved it all over again. 

The first time into the park overwhelmed me. I'd never seen anything like it. The bleak mountains with rivers of vegetation colour changing by the moisture levels, the open spaces, the dramatic skies, the silence, all really got to me.

This time I wanted to capture at least some of the images on film, thinking that Kodak Gold 200 would really do justice to the landscapes. It was a bit tricky packing all the digital gear, and the Fujica GW690 with 15 rolls of film, knowing I had to go through airport security and trying to be within weight limits. It all worked out better than I expected. The security people asked if I wanted the film hand examined before I had a chance to ask them, and were curious about the film camera. Not that we had a lot of time to talk.

In the end I put 7 rolls through the camera. 8 photos per roll, so 64 photos. I really goofed with the roll from Solomon's Dome, in that they were all slightly out of focus. Not quite sure what I did wrong there. Down to 48 possible photos. The light conditions were a bit challenging and I'm still new to metering light myself. In no case did I use the digital camera as a fancy light meter.

In the end I edited 45 photos, which is actually more than I expected. I missed focus ever so slightly on one, and a couple are near repeats. Some are the same landscape from subtly different points of view, and somewhat widely different lighting. Wait a few minutes and the look of the landscape can change completely. I love watching cloud shadows drifting along the mountainsides. 

There's two sequences. Today is my pick of Tombstone landscapes, with one from the Top of the World highway. Later will be some of the buildings in Dawson itself. The remainder of the film photos from Yukon, as well as several from an earlier trip to the Great Sand Hills in Saskatchewan will be showing up in my other blog. You can see the Tombstone digital panorama photos here  and more of the film and digital landscapes will show up as well.

There are of course subtle and not so subtle differences between digital and film, but I'm not going to put them side by side to compare them, mainly because that's not the way they were captured. If you want to go through and do that, feel free.

All of these are metered for shadows (as best as possible with an iphone app) and tending to err towards over exposure. Scanned with a T6i using a Canon EF 100mm f2.8 L macro. Converted to positive with Negative Lab Pro and lightly edited there. The biggest task in Lightroom was removing dust spots, most were very lightly edited overall. I've found pushing the sliders for film photos in Lightroom gets weird fast.

1. The best example of rivers of colour.

2. The first film panorama ever for me, constructed from the digital version of two film photos. 9000 x 3900 px, or 30 x 13 inches.

3. The second panorama, 13300 x 3900 px, or 44 x 13 inches. This is the valley leading to Tombstone Mountain, with the actual mountain just visible. That doesn't happen often.

4. One of the photos used to construct the above panorama. 

5. I don't know what I did, but I'd love to do it again. And again and again. One of the effects I try to get on digital photos is to look like a painting. All of the film photos tend to look that way a bit more than digital, and these next several really hit it out of the park on that front.

6. Yes, that same valley again, but with totally different light.




10. There was essentially no editing done in NLP and none at all in Lightroom for this photo of the beaver pond.



13. Top of the World highway on the way back to Dawson after a river tour to 40 mile. You can see photos of that here

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Film astro learnings

Learning film photography continues to be fun. Digital photography is so forgiving because so much can be fixed during editing. Typically not so much with film, at least not now with my current skill set. I'm learning that I need to pay attention every step of the way.

So for starters, when loading film into the camera, be sure about the film and it's ISO. I goofed. I thought it was Gold 200, when in fact it was Ektar 100. That makes a huge difference in exposure settings. When I dropped it off at the lab I mentioned that, and asked the film to be pushed 1 stop during developing. I think it worked out. This is on 120 film in the GW690.

Cleaning the lens is always a good idea, and that includes the camera that is scanning the negatives. There's one faint line that is consistent in several negatives that I think is actually in the scanning camera. I don't really like any of the images where that faint line shows up enough to scan it again. Although I suppose I should clean the camera, pick a negative and do it again so that I know for sure.

For the astro session we went out to Forget-Me-Not pond. It was a perfect evening for sky photography. There was no wind so the pond was calm, there were no clouds, there were no bugs, and it was warm. We set up looking mostly straight south to catch the galactic core. 

Here's the film view, trying to expose for the shadows, but the sky was still surprisingly bright. (f3.5, about 2 or 3 seconds exposure) For those interested in this camera, the 90mm f3.5 equivalent in full frame terms is about 38 to 40 mm, and f1.2.)

As an aside, exposures more than a second, and less than about 5 seconds are kind of imprecise with this camera because it's a T mode, not B. Meaning the shutter stays open till the shutter speed is changed. I cover the lens with a hat and reach under it to do this. I suppose if I really, really knew what I was doing in situations like this I could slowly cover the lens with a piece of card stock from the top down, so it acts like the old neutral density filter in Lightroom that you could drag down. It seems like a chancy proposition.

Once I got the digital camera set up and clicking away, I started with the film camera. The initial plan was to aim straight north between some trees that I thought would make for a nice composition. After some tripod trouble I put a beanbag down on the ground. I made sure the focus was set to infinity, lens open to f3.5, put it down on the beanbag, aimed pretty much straight up, and clicked the shutter button. No way I was going to lie down and try to peer through the range finder for composition. This was one place where having one of the shutter buttons on the front of the camera makes it easy. The first exposure was 15 minutes, the second was 20, and I moved the camera a bit between photos.

They look like this.

These next two are the same image with different processing. The first of them is converted to B&W, which seemed to help with the vignetting. 

The sky is pretty dark there so the overall exposure time was about right. I might try 25 minutes with Gold 200 next time, providing the sky is really dark. That will get a longer trail. Now that I know it works, I can think about composition to make the images more interesting. I've got some Acros II 100 to try as well.

This digital photo from that evening ended up being July Image of the Month. (Sigma 14mm f1.8, 30 seconds)

Here's the other single digital images I liked, just for fun. There's lots of other photos with various satellites and aircraft in them.

When I'm capturing the night sky I sometimes assemble many images into one to get the star trail effect, but that night the digital intent was to get nice single shots of the galactic core.

For the next session I'll do a bit more research around the specific film I plan to use, (and make sure that's what goes into the camera!) what filters might be useful, and aperture suggestions. I shot wide open because that lens is still sharp, but closing down a stop might help with the vignetting. I've got two more chances coming up, one in the Great Sand Hills, and the second in Yukon. Hmmm, I should probably research capturing northern lights on film, last time I was there, it was spectacular!

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Red peony difficulties

Regular readers of my other blog know of my unhappiness with how the red peonies show up in photographs. Until recently that meant digital photographs.

The problem is that the red peony is a deep dark rich red, and as the blooms unfold, that red stays the same. Until, that is, the sun hits them, then there is a strong magenta tint. People looking at them say it's sort of a purplish red. I am not going to dive into the details of how camera sensors, filters, and software create a colour image.

In digital photos it transitions from a red to an ugly magenta startlingly quickly. In addition, depending on exactly how the light reflects off the petals, it's really easy for the highlights to be blown out entirely. I end up under exposing the whole scene, and usually end up doing colour manipulations in Lightroom to keep it under control, with mixed results. 

Then I started shooting film, and was really curious how the red peony would show up. Here's several photos from the GW690 using Kodak Gold 200, scanned with a digital camera and lightly processed in Negative Lab Pro. Note that I'm still figuring out this software, and some of the sliders are extremely sensitive at various places. They can very quickly go from no visible change, to no visible change, to I think I see a slight change, to good golly that's horrible. In Lightroom doing anything more than cropping and removing dust spots is fraught with frustration because everything is backwards and the results can change just as quickly as in NLP.

1A and B. The blooms appear to be a bit of an orangey-red to me under overcast skies. Slightly different processing trying to get the stone wall right. I think B is closer, but there wasn't much effect on the blooms.

2. Most of these aren't quite the deep red, though the second bloom from the left is almost right. Overcast skies again, but still showing highlights.

3. Captured in full sun, showing the magenta. Actually shot at f8 1/30 and it's a bit bright. Sunny 16 would say f16 1/1250, so you can imagine how that would look. I can't remember if I was metering on the blooms or for the shade. 

4. Same as above, f8 1/60. I like how this looks.  Maybe I should have closed down to f11 and tried that, although perhaps then the leaves in the lower corners would be really dark. I was pretty sure with this photo that I had captured a flying bee doing it's thing, but can't see it.

5, 6, and 7. Digital, after a LOT of editing, and I'm still not happy with them.
No matter what I did I couldn't get rid of that magenta, and in this light my eyes didn't see any when taking the photo.

Still too bright.

The best of the digital bunch, I think, but it still doesn't look right. That grass is much too green and the red is too bright. It sort of looks like why many people don't like HDR images.

The film red isn't quite right either, but at least it looks more natural to my eye, and the transitions are much gentler. 

As a bonus, here's a nearby pink peony. 
8. Film, still Kodak Gold 200. This is much closer to the actual blossom colour. 

9. Digital, shot a few days earlier. This pink is a little lurid but the stone wall looks about right.

So. All in all, if I was using film anyway, and happened to include the red peony for whatever reason, the processing for it would be no different than any other scene. Generally with film one tends to err to overexposure, but not with the red peony. At least my limited experience says so. Whereas digital red peony photos require a lot of care to capture, and even more to process.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Why digital or film?

Regular readers will know I recently bought two film cameras, a Fujica GW690, and a Canon 7.  (Here's a photo of them both.) Plus the Canon 6D mk2 I've had for several years, and an older Canon T6i. To say nothing of a fairly current iPhone, which is a pretty capable camera for most subjects in most light, and is probably all the camera that most people need.

I borrowed a pair of film cameras from my friend Sean to see if I liked shooting film, and I did, though those particular cameras didn't feel happy in my hands. Then I discovered the GW690, and love shooting that. Then the Canon 7 because who can afford a Leica?

So now I have the question, why would I shoot a particular scene on one particular camera, and not another? The trite answer is that it depends on which I'm carrying at the moment. I might have gone out with a specific camera or specific lens to look for suitable images, and happened to come across a scene where I wish I'd been carrying a different camera. It's happened any number of times, and that was before I bought the film cameras.

I'm still noodling through, but thought I would talk about what I intend to shoot with each camera, recognizing there's some overlap.

The easy one first, the iPhone. 
Documents to be sent to someone. Taking a photo of a scene for the meta data, typically the location. In a related sense, I might take a photo of a scene taken with another camera to help remember what colour those scooters actually were, or what the phone thought a particular scene looked like. When I want to capture a scene, and it happens to be the only camera available. If I need to put a photo on social media right now. The V word, as required, which is really rare.

Another easy one, the T6i.
I use this and a macro lens to photograph the film negatives to create a digital image. Plus it's a backup during an important shoot in case something happens with the main camera. Plus, sometimes during night shoots I'll set it up pointing in a different direction than the main camera. Or I'll lend it to a particular friend if we go for a camera walk. She loves doing macro shots with a 'real' camera.

Canon 6D mk2.
This is the workhorse camera. I'll use it for races, community association events, trips, and client shoots. I'm usually still taking it on walks where I intend to shoot film, with the intent of capturing something I don't want to use film for. Or dialling in on exposure settings in tricky situations. Or when HDR is needed. Or night sky shots where I want to capture many exposures in a row. Or where I need a long lens, or a really wide lens. Or when I want to capture a film image as digital for whatever reason. There are many 'or' situations here. I have no intention of jumping on the mirrorless bandwagon, though in a sense, I already have. Both the film cameras are mirrorless in the usual sense of the word.

The joy of this camera is the huge negatives, nearly 6 x 9 cm, meaning an enormous amount of detail can be captured. The fixed lens on this camera is a 90mm, which means it's about the same as a 40mm lens on a 35mm camera. In practice that means a bit wider than normal, which is considered to be a 50mm lens. Buying and developing film costs about $3 a photo, so I'm not going to take shots on a whim. They are almost certainly going to be carefully considered and composed as best I can. So landscapes or group portraits in a setting. Shots where there is lots of detail and texture (see May 2022 Image of the Month). Art (which could mean darn near anything, but I'm not going to get into it here.) 

Canon 7
A much smaller and more nimble camera. Not quite a shirt pocket size, but it will go into a generous jacket pocket. It's about a third the cost of the GW690 per photo, so I'm more willing to take risky shots, and have fun with it. Experiment with different films. Urban scenes. Informal portraits. 

As an added bonus, the film cameras are great conversation starters. Walk around taking photos with the big DSLR or a phone, and typically nobody pays any attention. But film, I've had several people come up and ask about the cameras. That's fun.

The overlap.
This is a bit of an odd situation. Most people look around and they see what they see. Something shiny or unusual might catch their eye, or some clever bit of advertising, or a specific thing they're looking for. Or maybe the woman in the red dress.

Most photographers are looking for something that will make a good photograph, and even more specific, one that can be made with the equipment on hand. It's remarkable how specific this can be. If the 70-200 lens is the one on hand, I'm not going to 'see' macro or close up shots. If I've got my mind set that I'm going to shoot a scene on film, even if I've got the digital camera with me, I'm likely to think of it as a sophisticated light meter, not a camera.

An example, you ask? Last weekend I worked with Michelle on trying to get a nice selfie in B&W. Read the back story here. As it happens, I took the GW690 and some black and white film (Acros II, if you're interested) with the idea I might try portraits with that film. After we finished the digital photos, I put the film in the camera, tweaked the settings, and coached Michelle on finding focus. Several clicks. We moved outside and tried that. I did not think of using the digital camera while we were doing these shots, not even a little bit. I was concentrating on the film experience.

These are not intended to be formal portraits, but rather to find out how skin looks with this particular film, without any lighting tricks. If you remember the selfie post, I'm sitting in the same place for that first shot. Then outdoors, in the shade. The background is whatever it happens to be. There is no special editing to soften skin or try to create 'dramatic' light.

As ought to be obvious, these are not selfies. Michelle did really well holding a big camera at a fairly slow shutter speed. These are all cropped a bit to an 8x10 format, but there's still lots of detail left; I could crop in much further. Something to keep in mind if I want to do a tight head and shoulders shot.

Michelle is in really harsh mid-day sun here. I tried softening the shadows, but what I really needed was someone to hold a reflector or something to create some shade. Or move elsewhere, but the chair was so comfortable...

Another from a slightly different angle, with slightly different settings, making a subtle change in skin texture. Pity about the the change in the fencing and bright spot in the upper left. Note to self, bring the reflector package next time.

An all round great learning experience. I'm not as un-photogenic as I thought. Being relaxed in front of the camera is really important. I love what a fairly wide open lens does to the background. B&W and all the shades in between can be really interesting. I think film (carefully done) is more flattering for my skin than digital, but then again, with editing anything is possible. Michelle just looks great on film or digital, B&W or colour. 

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Ukrainian colour on Fuji Superia 200

There's a couple overlapping stories here, and I've been unsure how to tell them. So let's start with with the event itself, and when it veers into film stuff, the readers not interested in film can stop. How's that for a deal?

My friend (which is a simple word for a multi-faceted relationship) Michelle recently (in the great scheme of things) got several tattoos done by a talented Ukrainian artist. Anya told her about a downtown walk to fund raise for Ukrainian war relief efforts. I heard about it and thought it would be a great way to try out the Canon 7 and Fuji Superia 200 colour film in an urban setting.

A short digression. I don't have any Ukrainian ancestors, as far as I know, but I'm still horrified by what is being done to Ukraine. My massage therapist has Ukrainian ancestry, and I've donated some money to her, to flow to aid efforts. There's a lot of personal initiatives to funnel money to various forms of relief. Whatever works. 

We met up with the group, and tried to ignore the very bad Christian rappers importuning the growing crowd. I don't know if that's their regular beat, or they knew of the walk and decided to try to convert some souls. They were not successful. It was very bad rap.

I loved the colour and intricate needlework! They sang as they walked, and though I didn't understand the words, I could tell it was deeply meaningful to many of the walkers. A few of the photos worked out. At the end M and I went for a fancy ice cream cone, and did some further strolling and more photos. Because taking photos of M is such a hard thing to do.  







Only 6 photos out of the roll, you ask? What happened? Two and half things. Not all the film got shot during the walk, some of it was after. Some of the time I blew the focus on the Canon 7, my bad. And some of it gets into a complicated film thing. Non-film people might just want to scroll down to enjoy the photos, and skip the text.

I'm mostly pleased with the colours coming out of the Superia 200. Look at the red of the bridge in photo 7A, that's pretty close to the colour it actually is. The rich yellow and blues came out quite nicely, and the green of the trees looks right. 

However, that film hated Michelle's skin. That's one of the complicated film things. The two A photos below are the Superia 200, and I had to work hard to get her skin to come out even this nice. Given some selfie experiments yesterday with my face, I can only imagine how badly that film would treat my skin. Yet, scroll up again and look at the woman in photo 4. I didn't do anything special in editing, and her skin looks great.

The other complicated thing is converting the negative to digital. In simple terms, I take a photo of the negative with a macro lens, and normally it is simple. The negative goes into a holder that is supposed to keep the film flat. Click, done. Most negatives are pretty flat so it isn't hard.

Except if the film isn't flat, the digital camera image will be out of focus or distorted. That's what happened to many of the photos from the walk. This film curls hard in 3 dimensions. It curls up like it was in the little canister it comes in, it also cups from side to side, and worst of all it twists longitudinally. (No, I don't think the lab would have done anything different with this film, compared to other films.)

I also think it's a fraction of a mm narrower than other films, which makes it even harder. It is brutal to get it flat in the holder. Some of the shots I could tell looking at the negative they were out of focus, so I didn't mind those. But the rest of the shots just weren't good photos (again, my bad), so I wasn't going to the frustrating effort of getting them into the holder properly.

I've got two more rolls of the Superia 200, and quite frankly, I'm not interested in putting them in the camera. If any of my film buddies wants to have a go, get in touch and we'll go for a walk. If you develop your own film, maybe there's special tricks to tame the curl. Or maybe you use the anti-Newton ring glass trick for digitizing. Get in touch, I'll give you a deal.

So what's the B photos, you ask? Those are Kodak Gold 200, shot on the GW690. Again, these are not meant to be a direct quality comparison. There's very little editing done to these photos, and nothing special done to her face. The red of the bridge is slightly more orange, but that might be an exposure thing, and could probably be tweaked in editing.

7A. Superia 200, then Kodak Gold 200.



8B. I'm still working on exposure, and happy when it works. What I should have done here is opened up the lens and gone for a faster shutter speed to blur out the tree blossoms a bit more. Live and learn.

9. One last shot with Kodak Gold 200 for today. If  you remember the May Image of the Month, here's another view of that space.

Introduction to this blog


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