Wednesday, April 23

A Blogger's Life...

It can be hard being a blogger. You toil away writing posts and trying to think of new subjects for no reward but even then some people, who get to read that content for nothing, like to tell you what a terrible job you're doing. Just as well I'm thick-skinned.

I experienced this first hand on the Rangefinder Forum when I wrote the post critical of Ralph Gibson's decision to go-digital. Then, after writing Part One of "Why Do We Talk Such Rubbish About Lenses?" I got it again on APUG*. Serves me right for trying to "promote" these posts on other forums, I guess, but how else am I supposed to reach a wider readership if I don't let people know what I've been writing about?

Sunday, April 20

Reeds on Lake Iznik

by Omar Ozenir

Lake Iznik

The historic Nicaea, today's Iznik, lies on the eastern tip of the lake bearing the same name, some 90 km southeast of Istanbul. It is a small town well past its days of glory as capital of the Empire Of Nicaea and the Byzantine Empire. Numerous remains from the olden days, mostly semi-protected, are an organic part of the town.

Nicaea's long and eventful history includes two of the seven Ecumenical Councils which drew hundreds of bishops from the Christian realm to the city in order to settle theological disputes*. In particular, the First Council of Nicaea settled the exact date of Easter...which is today!

I like to imagine that after an exhausting day of heated discussions some 1700 years ago, the church fathers walked out of the western gate by the lake and whilst looking out over these waters - possibly standing on the spot where I took the picture - brooded over the nature of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

* According to Wiki only the British were absent! (We were rolling our Easter eggs at the seaside-Ed.)

FWIW, some links :

A Little Darkroom Story

After weighing up the odds for a good picture I went ahead and secured the Rolleiflex TLR on my tripod very low on the ground. Although I have a couple of larger and heavier tripods my main means of support has been a Gitzo Traveller for about ten years now. It was quite expensive, but in hindsight worth every penny because when folded it fits into an ordinary backpack and doesn't get left back at home.

Film was Kodak Tmax100, exposed at EI 50 and developed in Rodinal, diluted 1+50. The exposure must have been around a quarter of a second. In frame no.7 the waves look nice and actually make the picture for me. Not so much in the next frame.

Kodak Tmax100 negative

I must have said this before, but I like to draw parallels between the darkroom and a kitchen, since we have to "cook" the negative. As you can gather from the straight print below, the cooking has been quite serious in this instance.

Straight Print

I used fibre based Ilford Multigrade IV and aimed for a gutsy print with a brooding sky right from the start with a grade 4.5 filter. First, a few test strips gave me a base exposure for the water with good, solid blacks and nice tonal separation (let's call this base exposure T). Then I proceeded to add drama to the sky.

Using a piece of cardboard about midway between the enlarger lens and baseboard, I gave another T exposure above the red line, hardly moving the card, just some tiny natural trembling of the arms and hands. I tried to retain a sense of light on the horizon without an obvious burning-in line. Moving on, the area above the blue line received an exposure of 2T by moving the cardboard slowly up and down. 

The amount of the extra exposure was just gut-feeling really and I liked the first full frame print this gave me. Only the troughs between the waves could've benefited from some lightening to enhance the sense of movement.

During the next full frame print I dodged the green areas in the diagram below (i.e. troughs between waves) for about half the main exposure with a ball of Blu-Tack stuck to the end of a wire. And finally I darkened the corners for another 20%. If you do the maths, that's T/5 seconds for the lower corners and 4T/5 seconds for the upper corners. Am I a bit nitpicky or what? :)

Printing Diagram

The 30x40cm wet print on FB Ilford MGIV with an image area of 25x25cm...fresh from the oven:

Click to enlarge

Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate it!

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Omar's Darkroom Posts

Friday, April 18

For Nostalgia Lovers Everywhere...

I came across these on the PetaPixel website the other day and just love them, especially the one above. They're screen printed posters done by a guy called Jerome Daksiewicz as a way of celebrating analogue photography.

Wednesday, April 16

Polypan F back in stock

Photo by Michael Raso

Have any readers used this stuff? I'm not aware that it's on sale in the UK but it looks an interesting film. The Film Photography Project sold out a while back but now have more Polypan F in stock and, unlike some Lomography products, it's reasonably priced at $4.99 for a 24-exposure roll. Previously, it had only been available in bulk but the FPP is now hand-rolling it.

Tuesday, April 15

Part Two: Tri X/Acurol-N - The dull day film search goes on!

The pics here are some others from the roll of Tri X I shot in dull and misty conditions and developed in Spur Acurol-N to see if the combination would impart some sparkle to low contrast scenes. It can be dangerous extrapolating from just one roll of film but I have to say that I like this look.

The photographs in this post were of particularly dull scenes - even for me - but it's still been possible to get something with a bit of punch. The four pics here were all shot in about ten minutes after I'd left Cath in the car a short distance away.

It was quite a chilly day and the car was parked half on a grass verge on a narrowish road and I didn't want to leave her in that position for too long in case a big lorry had to pay a visit to one of the local farms. So the pics were taken, chameleon-like, with one eye on the viewfinder and another peering back up the road, all the while listening for rumbling tyres.

The set up here was the same as in Part One - an Olympus OM2n with a couple of Zuiko primes. The shot of the bath in the drystone dyke was done on the 24mm f2.8 and the others with the 50mm f2 macro. The Tri X was rated at 400 ISO, a speed at which it gets a half-zone contrast boost in Acurol-N.

The thing that attracted me to this scene was the bulk of the farm buildings in the mist and drizzle. It made a nice, atmospheric backdrop so it was just a case of finding something to stick in the foreground. I messed around with a few combinations but I like the one at the top of the page the most. I think the picture of the road just above also works because of the way the white paint stands out amidst the murkiness. It's the only real highlight in the scene.

When I was scanning the pic above of the old bath used as a trough by the local beasties, I realised I missed a trick by not rearranging the bottles. I should have pulled them, neck first, to the nearest right hand corner so that they filled the area of water at the front. Never mind, I'm sure there will be other misty, drizzly days around Carnoustie. :)

My first image of the gate had the farm buildings centred directly over the top of it. At the shooting distance, the gate and the buildings were the same width on the film. But it looked a bit static so I took another with the two forms just displaced.

I was tempted to go in closer and get the gate bigger in the foreground but I've learned from experience that it's easy to lose a sense of context when I do that. We've all been told over the years to "fill the frame" but it's not always the best policy. Sometimes space around the subject gives a better sense of place.

So, I reckon that I'll be using a lot more Tri X in Acurol-N in future and would love to see how it looks in medium format. Although I don't mind a bit of grain I don't like too much and, until I print these 35mm negatives, I won't know for sure if the grain is too big for my taste. With medium format, that worry would disappear.

One final thing that struck me on this outing is the great sense of freedom shooting a 400 ISO film handheld gives me. Yes, it's good to use a tripod whenever you can but sometimes it can actually get in the way of photography.

Take the bathtub photo. I was semi-straddling the dyke to get this one and the moss-covered stones were pretty slippery. The front edge of the tub was only a couple of feet away and it would have taken me a while to get the tripod set up for this shot. There's no way I'd have managed to get it and the other shots in ten minutes wrestling with my old Slik three-legged monster!

Saturday, April 12

Talking Gear: Camera Bags, the Devil's Spawn

I've been meaning to write this post for a while as much to garner your opinions about what makes a good bag as anything else. Is there anyone out there who has found their perfect bag? I suspect the silence might be deafening.

Over the years, I've picked up a few bags, mostly secondhand, but, after an initial burst of enthusiasm, they've been relegated to the status of camera storage containers, left behind in cupboards and hardly ever seeing the light of day, dull or otherwise.

They were bought on the recommendations of people on camera forums and include two Billinghams, a Domke, a Lowepro Slingshot and a Crumpler. Of these, the only one I actually use as a camera bag on a regular basis is the Domke. It's an F803 and is a great, no frills bag if you just want to go out with a camera, two lenses and a few rolls of film. I constantly switch one outfit or another in and out of the bag., domke f803, crumpler bunny man, billingham 335, billingham 225, lowepro slingshot, fotima
Domke F803 with my Contax outfit. A nice combination., domke f803, crumpler bunny man, billingham 335, billingham 225, lowepro slingshot, fotima
It's quite a tall bag but it's difficult to make much use of the upper area.

But I often want to take a lens or two more than that and that's where I have a few problems with the Domke. I can fit more gear into the expanding pockets at the front but the trouble comes when you want to change lens as there's nowhere to put the lens I'm taking off and holding it between my knees - as I often do - is inviting disaster.

Thursday, April 10

Part One: Tri X/Acurol-N - The dull day film search goes on!, analog, analogue, silver gelatin, film, darkroom, tri x, kodak,, om2n, om2, olympus, developer, development, spur, acurol-n

This might seem like an obsession to some readers but if you knew the number of dull days we get in the part of Scotland where I live you'd maybe be a little obsessive, too. A "normal" film and "normal" development results in some very flat-looking negs. I've tried a few film and developer combinations in search of something that endows a scene with a little sparkle. After this quick look at Tri X and Acurol-N I reckon this combination is the front runner just now.

Spur Acurol-N is a developer that seems to give a little boost to mid range contrast and not just denser highlights which is sometimes the only effect of extending development in search of extra oomph., analog, analogue, silver gelatin, film, darkroom, tri x, kodak,, om2n, om2, olympus, developer, development, spur, acurol-n

An acutance developer, it can be used at dilutions of up to 1+150 although most of the time it's in the 1+35 to 1+70 range. Tri X has to be rated at 250 ISO to achieve a normal contrast range with Acurol-N at 1+50. Shot at 400 ISO and given the 1+35 treatment, it gets the equivalent of about plus half a zone contrast increase. At 640 ISO, it gets a +1 zone increase and at 1000 ISO a whopping +2 zone boost., analog, analogue, silver gelatin, film, darkroom, tri x, kodak,, om2n, om2, olympus, developer, development, spur, acurol-n

I decided to start slowly and build up to the higher contrast treatment if it was needed so I shot the roll at 400 ISO and gave it 15 minutes at 1+35. It might not look it from the pictures on this page but it really was quite a dull day which speaks volumes for the Tri X/Acurol-N combination. The negative scans got a levels tweak in Lightroom, a slight edge burn and a light sepia tone so they're not "straight". But I know from trying some other film and developer pairings that much more drastic post-processing treatment is often necessary to achieve a similarly nice tonal range.

For a variety of reasons, I just haven't been able to get into the darkroom for a while and I'd much rather print from the negs before saying too much more but, from what I can see from the scans, they're nice and sharp and the grain is very crisp. It's not the finest grain I've ever seen - nor the most obvious - but it's quite acceptable and actually adds something to the moody look I was after., analog, analogue, silver gelatin, film, darkroom, tri x, kodak,, om2n, om2, olympus, developer, development, spur, acurol-n

The subject for all these pics is Westhaven, a small fishing community just along the coast from my home in Carnoustie. They show the old moorings set into the rocks, something that can only be seen when the tide is out. The camera was an Olympus OM2n and the lens the lovely little 24mm f2.8 Zuiko.

There wasn't an awful lot of light around but I was mostly shooting into whatever there was. The OM2 is great for this type of thing. Instead of using it on manual, I keep it on aperture priority auto and use the large exposure compensation dial when I need to make adjustments. For some of the shots, 1.5-2 stops extra exposure was needed to get some detail in the shadows. Dialling that in through exposure compensation is quicker than switching to manual but you have to remember to reset the dial or everything will be shot with the same exposure adjustment., analog, analogue, silver gelatin, film, darkroom, tri x, kodak,, om2n, om2, olympus, developer, development, spur, acurol-n

I had about ten pics off the roll that I thought were worth showing but that's too many for one post so I'll split them up and add them in Part Two. The photographs divide up quite nicely as the rest are from a different subject - but still shot on a dull day!

You might also like:

Firstcall 400S In Rodinal
New Spur HRX Dev: Same Grain, More Speed
A Sharp Wee Number

Monday, April 7

Why do we talk such rubbish about lenses? Part Two

I've had my Zeiss lenses for the Contax system for about eight years and have come to love their look. The negatives from the 50mm f1.4 Planar and 28mm f2.8 Distagon just seem to have a sparkle about them and I've often imagined that I can pick them out just by that look alone.

So it was natural that I should do a few test shots with the Planar to show how much better it is than other 35mm system lenses I have such as the Zuikos and, in particular, the famed 50mm f2 Macro. Bad idea. 

The fact is that the Zeiss negatives didn't really look any different when directly compared with those from the Zuikos. I was keen to get some high res scans done to prove to myself that this weird anomaly was just an aberration.

Saturday, April 5

Production problems hit new Ilford Classic

There's an interesting thread at the Film and Darkroom Users Group (FADU) about the recently-introduced Ilford Classic FB multigrade paper, specifically the fact that it's just about unobtainable in the UK at the moment.

A few tentative theories were advanced as possible explanations - most correct in some part -  but now Matthew Wells, who runs AG Photographic, has stepped in to shed some light on an issue that only affects Classic and not the Cooltone or Warmtone FB versions.

Thursday, April 3

Why do we talk such rubbish about lenses? Part One

OK, it's a provocative title and I'm as guilty as the next person of hyperventilating about lenses but it's still a question worth asking. We go on and on about sharpness, contrast, bokeh, glow, etc, as if they make a huge difference - but do they?

We all know what an unsharp photo looks like but, providing an image is "sharp", does it really matter how sharp? Has a photograph ever failed because, although sharp, it wasn't quite as ultimately sharp as it could have been given a fair head of steam and a tail wind?

Yes, the best Leica lenses are probably better than the rest but what does that mean? That you can only take a valid picture with a Leica? Hardly. In fact, if you take a look round Flickr I think you'll find that many of the really boring images were taken with a Leica. Although it has to be said that the pet cat and garden flower close-ups are usually very, very sharp.