Thursday, March 31, 2022

More B&W

A bit over a week ago, Cam and I did a road trip to pick up my new (to me) camera. I put some Acros II 100 into it to shoot on the way home. It turns out I only found a couple shots I liked, but then took it for a walk in South Glenmore Park. I wanted to see how a forested area would turn out in B&W. In the most recent blog you saw the shots of me that Ken took, now scroll down and see the ones I took of them.

But we start with the trip. 
1. f16 1/60 for both of these. This actually took two tries to DSLR scan. Dust, especially in the upper left corner where it's easy to see. And yes, there's still dust specs. 

and 2.

It's obvious I edited them differently, even though they were shot within a few minutes of each other. I'm still working on my thoughts about editing film. I'll remove the obvious dust specs where they detract from the image, and if I like it enough I'll reshoot it if I have to. So far I like showing the full negative but that's not always possible. Stay tuned for further thoughts as they emerge.

For those that insist on comparison, here's what it looks like in colour, with different focal lengths and exposure.


In South Glenmore park I chose to stroll along the paths along the hillside, wishing I'd brought traction aides in some places. The path itself was icy, with the areas beside it clear of ice, but full of brush. The light was really nice through the trees, though it made for tricky exposures. I usually double checked with the light meter. 

5. f11 1/125  I liked the crossed trees and sense of depth. I wanted as much of the background in focus as I could.

6.  f5.6 1/30 This was a bit of a gamble. I was trying to balance getting everything in focus, but not too slow a shutter speed, and not knowing how it would look.

7. f4 1/500, loving the strong contrast in the bark, and wanting to see how the out of focus areas beyond looked. If anything the dark areas of the bark were darker than shown here, but I didn't want to lose the detail in the bark at the top.

8. I think these are a little overexposed, but I didn't note the settings. Still, lots of detail, and it starts to give me a sense of how portraits are going to work out.

9. In a digital photo I'd probably have cropped this in bit, and might still for this. However, I like the sun and moon motifs balancing each other. This is my favourite shot of the roll.

The astute of you will note there are only 7 photos from the roll. I'd taken one of some fir trees, but there was a light leak, or a hazy flare across the bottom right of the photo. Plus I think it's ever so slightly out of focus. 

Saturday, March 26, 2022

This time, Ektar colour

This blog is going to be written over several days. If you've been following along you know I purchased a Fujica GW690 film camera from The Film Experience in Longview. Partway through the first roll it appeared to lock up, and it turned out a spring had broken. Considering it's probably more than 40 years old, I'm not terribly surprised. That was replaced and in the mean time I shot several rolls in a loaner GL690, which is a very similar camera. 

There's some photos of my GW here, before the repair, which includes my Canon 6D Mkii for size comparison. On the way home from the first ramble with the repaired GW, I stopped to have a friend take some photos of me with the camera. They'd been curious about it, and this was their first chance to see it in person. There's a yellow filter on it because I was shooting B&W. Thanks Ken!

When you say the film negative is 6x9 cm people say, yeah ok, whatever. But then show them this and they are all holy doodle!

This counter is times 10, not the number of rolls or individual photos.

If there's a way of using the serial number to get the actual manufacture date, Mrs Google hasn't been able to find it so far. As should be clear from the photos, this is a used camera. There are wear marks and scratches, but it doesn't look like it's been abused. Hopefully it's previous owner or owners treated it well. I almost prefer it like this, rather than new out of the box from some hitherto unknown storage container. It has more personality this way.

So now I'll go back to a mostly chronological order for the photos. This is the new Inglewood bridge during a photo walk with some buddies. Portra 160 on the GL690. I call this sort of shot 'there I was and this is what I saw.' What I really wanted to do was find the spot in the middle of the river where the two bridges would frame one another. As you can see, trying that would be a bad idea.

The day before I picked up the repaired GW690 I took a walk along 17Ave SW after dropping off tax documents to my accountant. I had Ektar 100 loaded, and was looking for colour on a bright sunny day. I chatted with a couple people along the way about the camera. That doesn't happen much carrying around a regular Canon digital camera.

With one exception these are quite lightly edited. The dust and hair behaved itself so there were only a few corrections there. My trouble this time seemed to be getting the negative in the carrier lined up with the camera frame. Plus a bit of getting the camera itself level while shooting, which explains some of the irregular cropping. I have one of those little 3 way bubble levels that fit in the shoe, maybe I should put that on the camera for rambles.

I love how the colours popped here! It's almost brighter than I remember seeing. Pity there was a car parked where I needed to stand to square up the composition.

A little over exposed, so I tweaked it a bit to tone it down, but it still looks washed out.

Two views of a mural that I quite liked. The one with the building reflection was actually taken first, then I took up a space in the parking lot to get the second shot, which I like better. It's a good thing the guy trying to park wasn't really hungry. I think I dropped the shutter speed a stop here or the light bounced off the building a bit differently. I don't know the name of the artist that did the mural.

Even lighter shades show up nicely. I had taken a quick shot of a school bus to see how the bright yellow turned up on film. I was quite pleased with it, a very realistic yellow. Pity I slightly blew the focus. It reminds me once again that focus is quite sensitive on this.

I'm finding portrait shots tricky, particularly looking up. I should have been stopped down a bit more on this, which might have got the trees in focus. I was working on the balconies about half way up for focus, and I can see now that's incorrect. Not sure what's happening with the blue fringe at the top of the clouds. That looks a bit odd, but isn't anything I did. I think.

Me and a buddy did a bit of a road trip yesterday (as I write this) to pick up the camera and explore some back roads near Longview. The day was a complete success. I took some Acros II 100 along the way, and then explored South Glenmore park. The idea was to work on calibrating my eyeballs for exposure, and see how a treed area comes out in B&W. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 18, 2022

Black and white conversion

I've never done much black and white, but I'm coming around. I picked up some Ilford Delta 100 and went for a walk downtown with the loaner GL690. (Only a few more days till I get mine back!) The intent here was not to produce deathless art, but rather work on exposure. 

It was a bright sunny day, but mostly the shadows were not that dark because of all the reflections from the buildings. I'm pleased because the real goal was to get some detail in the shadows, and not totally lose details in the highlights, and I got that. I'll talk about this a bit more for the last two shots. However I blew the focus on one shot, much to my chagrin, because it's the shot I liked best. 7 of out 8 is a win in my books.

If you're reading this, you probably know the sunny 16 rule. It's a way of estimating exposure parameters without a light meter. Which, surprise, this camera doesn't have a light meter, and neither does mine, so I want to try to get my eyeballs calibrated for light. It goes like this, if your subject is in bright sunlight, f 16 and setting the shutter speed to the inverse of your film ISO will (usually) produce a good exposure. I only used the light meter on the last shot, the building in 8 and 9, because the difference between light and dark was quite strong. It took a while, I had to struggle with that because I'd accidentally tweaked a control. Of course there are other combinations of aperture and shutter speed that will work. You might choose differently for depth of field consideration, or tweak them depending on the exact light circumstances or the shot you have visualized or the particular film in the camera. 

Overall these are lightly edited. Some dust spots are still there but not as bad as the last scans. There are no filters on this camera, but I'll probably get a yellow one for future B&W shooting. That will help with cloud definition.

1. This is the negative, and then the positive, and I actually like the negative better. The positive is still a bit dark, and I could probably have pushed it a bit more. But there's a tiny bit of detail in the tree bark, so yay!




5. We all know the bridge is a bright red, and I'm kind of tired of it as a subject. I wanted to see what it would look like in B&W. I really struggled with the composition for this because I'm still figuring out the frame lines in this camera. There's two sets of them because this particular camera has several lenses, though changing them is a pain. For whatever reason I got myself messed up as to which set of framelines applied to the lens I was using.

6. Reflections! And if I had the frame lines in the viewfinder figured out better, I'd have composed this slightly differently. I had no idea how this was going to look in B&W.

7. There was lots of gold in this image, which caught my eye. The right place for this composition was several yards closer to lose the light posts, but that would have put me in the middle of a busy street.

8. This is the one where I wanted to get the bit of texture detail in the light top of the building, and keep the brick detail around the S. There was full on sunlight, and lots of glare from the white walls of the construction walkway I was standing in. 

9. And the negative of 8. Again, I like this better than the positive.

There was a lovely couple sitting on a bench beside the river. I saw the shot clear as day, and asked if they minded having their photo taken. They did. Sigh. Maybe they're in the middle of an affair and they're afraid I'm a PI and the photos would be used as evidence. Except a PI wouldn't have asked.

All in all I'm quite pleased with these. It was a beautiful day for a walk, the photos turned out nicely, and the scan process is getting better. It's still a bit of a jury rigged affair. The hardest part is getting the camera in exactly the right place above the light pad. For those that care about the scanning process, the settings were ISO 100, f4, 1/50.

I've got a couple more rolls, and I'm wondering if I should try to run them through this camera. I want to see what the Ektar 100 looks like in medium format because I was a bit disappointed with it in 35mm. Then again, I slightly underexposed it, and it wasn't bright and sunny, which is where Ektar shines. I'd like to try some night shooting with it, and with the roll of Cinestill 800T I picked up. If you've got any questions about the GL690, ask quick, I only have it till Tuesday. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Re-dos, and exposure failure

Still shooting the loaner GL690. My GW690 has been repaired by replacing a broken spring, and because of complicated travel arrangements beyond the scope of this blog, I will pick it up a week today. Can't wait!

I enjoy shooting the GL, but as previously noted, there are some learnings in progress. I'd mentioned last time there were issues with dust and hair during scanning. Just so you know, after looking at the hair under higher magnifications, I'm convinced it's Celina. 

There were three images from recent rolls that I liked where the scan had been ruined by dust and hair. The plan was to reshoot them, trying for less dust and no hair. Removing dust spots is merely tedious, but depending on the background hair is more difficult. 

Here's two of the reshot images, one of Longview, and one from our East Village walk. I'm pretty sure that even people that have never been to either place can figure out which is which. And yes, there are still dust spots. You go pixel peeping and you'll find them. Knock yourself out. Tell me where they are in an email sent to

Sean and I went out to Banff for an early morning shoot last week. I brought the tripod, thinking to mount the GL on it and try some long exposure shots. We ended up stopping to help pull a couple out of the ditch. I don't know what the story was about how they got there, or what they had been doing previously at 3 in the morning up a dead end road. By the time that was all over and we arrived at the Lake Minnewanka dam we were well into hand held territory, so the tripods stayed in the car.

From a walk, breakfast, and chat with a friend the morning was a complete success. It's tough getting images in the Banff area that are not banal from over exposure, but from a digital perspective there are a few I'm pleased with. 

However, from a film output perspective the morning was a failure, other than collecting more learnings. I knew this experience would happen, and it will almost certainly happen again. No matter what I do, no matter how carefully I work on it, some of the shots are not going to work out. There are any number of reasons why. Some of them are "doh!" oops moments that could happen to anyone. Some of them are compositions or scenes that just didn't turn out as expected, usually because of the difference between how our brains see things, and how the camera sees things. That can happen in the digital world as well.

But for me the thing I'm struggling with is exposure. In the digital world it's easy to see that the exposure isn't right, and one can usually take shots till it is right. Bracketing is the work of a second. I'm still learning the light meter, and trying to train my eyes about what makes a good exposure. Even though for the films I've been shooting so far I've been chanting the mantra, err on the over exposure side, I'm not erring enough. Or I'm misreading the meter. Or the meter isn't seeing the darker areas I'm pointing it at.

The mountain shots were difficult light and I knew that. Morning sky very bright, shaded treed mountain sides very dark. Snow and ice in between. In fact, out of the 8 of them, I didn't like 7. Dark. Dust spotty. Banal composition. I thought at the time one was out of focus, but I can't see it in the scans, so that much is a success at least.

Here's a digital and film version of the only shot I kinda mostly like. I like the film version of the sunlit mountainside better, but there is no info in the trees no matter what I do. So I probably could have pushed the exposure a stop at least, and maybe two. Or get a graduated neutral density filter.

I shot a roll of Illford Delta 100 B&W while strolling around Princes Island and the west end of downtown. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

3 rolls from loaner GL690

To sum up the story so far, I bought a Fujica GW690, but it needed some TLC. It's off getting that, and I'm shooting a similar camera, a GL690. If you're interested in the differences between them you'll go look it up, or you know already. If not, you're already scrolling down.

I shot a roll of B&W on the way home, and two more of Portra 160 on a ramble with buddies in East Village. It's all a learning experience. Out of the 24 possible photos, I ended up with 11 that weren't horrible, although 3 of them are a special case I'll get into later. Which, all things considered, is better than I expected. 

Two of them are outright my bad, clicking the shutter by accident. Several more have soft focus, and a couple I cannot now think of why I thought that might make a good photo. One of them I took 3 different photographs of the negative, one to capture the whole frame, one quite a bit closer to zoom in on the person, and one that was about as close as I could get the lens to focus. 

There are a few shots where the negative is ok, but the digital photo is not. The problem is dust and hair, and I cleaned the lens first! I really did. Our house is quite dry, so I'm suspecting static attracted the dust during the process, and it moved around. Some of the shots are better than others, and it's ok removing a few spots in Lightroom. Others, like the Quirk Creek Gas Plant, are essentially ruined because of the dust and hair showing up in the sky. If the photo itself was better composed (I should have aimed the camera slightly to the right), I'd take another photo of the negative, rather than try to clean it up. Still, I know where the plant is, and it will be there for a while, so if I want a better photo I'd start with going to get a better photo, rather than work with what I've got.

Most of what remains are the 'there I was and this is what it looks like on film' sort of shots. I'll add them to the 'Of the Day feature on my other blog. Here's the ones I like the most.

I found this shed on a side road north of Longview. This was an exposure learning thing for me, trying to balance the deep shadow with the bright early afternoon sun on the snow. I used the light meter in the shade. There was minimal editing of the film version, mostly removing some dust spots, and I'm sure if you look closely you'll find more.

For comparison, here's a similar digital shot in colour. Normally I don't go on about settings, but sometimes that will happen here, given that it might be important to understand how the photo looks. The digital camera said ISO 100, f16, 1/125. Which is about what you'd expect shooting using the sunny 16 rule. I've already learned that in harsh Alberta mid day clear sky sunlight, the sunny 16 rule will be on the over exposure side just to start.

And converted to B&W.

These were not shot to be a comparison between the qualities of digital and film. Digital is digital, and film is film, and I believe that there's a time and place for each. All of these photos are lightly edited.

A selfie after coffee and a treat. Again, the composition is somewhat off.

The downtown Calgary public library is awesome! I've shot the inside, as has probably every other photographer in town. I liked the light on the curved wood, and again, this is an exposure learning shot.

 And the aforementioned multiple tries of the same negative. Ann was happy to pose, but this is not a carefully thought out portrait. We wanted to get on with coffee. Again, this is a tough exposure in the mid day light and her face is a little over exposed, especially in the third shot. I tried dealing with that, but didn't go that well, and I didn't want to put a lot of time into it. If I want a better shot of this, I'd start by buying her a coffee and getting a better shot on film.

Mainly I wanted to see what detail would be in the negative, and how close I could shoot with the macro lens during the scanning process. These are all the full camera shot, with no zooming or cropping. Looking at photo 3 in Lightroom you can still see the fine individual hairs and fabric details in the scarf and camera strap. Zooming in further, however, it begins to pixelate. 

So if I want a really detailed image, I could shoot the negative in 3 portrait orientation shots, and stitch them together in Lightroom. That would be about 6240 px by 9360 px wide. If I did everything right, putting the camera on a tripod, absolutely nailing the focus, using a really fine-grained film, and being really careful with the scanning photos, I could probably get a gigapixel image of 9 photos to stitch together. I can't imagine why I'd do such a thing, unless someone wanted a huge detailed print of something. Huge. Detailed.

So, more learnings:
  • Clean the lens even better!
  • Check the mirror and sensor for dust.
  • Try to control the static, though I confess I don't know how to do this.
  • Really work on exposure and focus. This not a camera for snap shots.
In other news, I've got a roll of 35 mm film in to London Drugs for developing and scan. As a reminder, I'll post the other images with some commentary in the Of the Day feature on my other blog, here, spread over a bunch of days. Stay tuned!

Introduction to this blog


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