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Monday, April 27

Pre-exposure follow-up

Being an inquisitive sort, I went on to Google+ and the Analogue Photography Users Group and posed much the same question on the topic of Bruce Barnbaum and Barry Thornton, who's right and who's wrong, as I featured in my last post.

Friday, April 24

Barnbaum v Thornton: who's right?

Pre-flashing or pre-exposing a negative to improve shadow detail in contrasty scenes was a technique advocated by the late Barry Thornton in his book, Elements. I've used this approach with paper negatives in a bid to tame the high contrast they tend to produce.

Thursday, April 23

Fair Witness tops the charts

Congratulations to David Keenan whose new black and white photography book, Fair Witness, is the best seller in its category on the Amazon website. I wrote a little about the Kickstarter project David launched back in June to raise the necessary $24,000 for publication.

That was a success and the book was published by an Italian company. Fair Witness is a collection of 70 of David's best street photographs and won the backing of Leica Camera, Elliott Erwitt, Mary Ellen Mark and other important contemporary photographers.

I've had this pic of Elliot sitting on my desktop for ages
just waiting for an excuse to use it.

The book is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, local bookstores, and signed copies directly from David's web site. The publisher price is $45.

Wednesday, April 22

Firstcall now stocking Bergger paper

Firstcall Photographic's spring/summer catalogue arrived in the post the other day with the usual sprinkling of film and darkroom goodies jostling for space alongside digital gear. One thing I noticed, though, is that the company is now stocking a couple of darkroom papers from French firm Bergger.

Monday, April 20

The LEICA Diaries - Part Eight

The Leica experiment goes on and I'm continuing to enjoy working with the M2, almost exclusively, it has to be said, with the 50mm Summicron. That's partly because the 35mm Summaron and 90mm Elmar need a good service as they're on the soft side and lacking in contrast, particularly the Elmar. I'm sure both would be capable of much more than I'm getting from them at the moment after years of haze and goodness knows what was removed from their elements.

Thursday, April 16

Erwin Puts' old articles available again

Many readers will be aware of Leica afficionado Erwin Puts and I'm sure you'll have your opinions about him both pro and con. Erwin is one of those writers who tends to incite annoyance and enjoyment in equal measure. His critics accuse him of being overly-enthusiastic about Leica products but many fans of the German marque love him for the same reason.

Tuesday, April 14

New Intrepid 5x4 camera makes it into production

Back in November I wrote a little bit about an affordable new 5x4 camera at the planning stage in England and the Kickstarter programme that was being used to help finance the project. (Here's the link to that Intrepid Camera Company post complete with a video that tells you what it's all about.) Well, production of the plywood-based camera actually got underway on Monday and it shouldn't be too long before the first models are winging their way to the new owners.

Monday, April 13

Dreams of Freelancing

Many moons ago I had a hankering to be a freelance photojournalist. I must have been about 17 at the time and was just falling in love with photography. It seemed to me there could be no more enjoyable and satisfying job than being paid to take photographs and working as my own boss.

Friday, April 10

Adox CMS 20 - adventures in development Part Two

This is Part Two of Scotty Elmslie's experiments to find a conventional developer capable of producing good results with Adox CMS 20 II document-type film. If you haven't already done so, please read Part One or you'll be all at sea.

CMS 20 II – Test to determine ISO and development time

by Scotty Elmslie

Third Roll

Exposed at ISO 12/10/8 and developed in Rodinal 1+119 (2 + 238 ml) for the equivalent of 20 minutes at 68F, closer to traditional stand development. Rodinal is sufficiently active that I didn’t think I needed to do this in a 500 ml tank (4+496) since the whole point is to exhaust the developer at the film surface to limit the highlights.

Agitation was gentle for 5 seconds, once after 10 minutes. Unfortunately, this was not enough agitation. The developer appeared to bleed from the clearer (shadow) areas in the negative down into the denser (lighter) areas (the sky was at the bottom of the reel). It also bled in from the clear, unexposed edges. Even with this dilution, the contrast was excessive.

ISO 8:

Fourth Roll

Exposed at ISO 10/6/4 developed in Rodinal 1+119 (2 + 238 ml) for the equivalent of 13 minutes at 68F with 15 seconds initial agitation and 5 seconds every 4 minutes after that.

At ISO 6 the shadow detail is still not rendered properly. The reduction in development is getting closer to normal contrast but it is still too high. However, the agitation was insufficient and the thinner portions of the negative still bled unexhausted developer into the darker negative (lighter print) tones. When I do a fifth roll I will probably use ISO 6 since this is the normal low limit for 35 mm cameras. It will require more frequent agitation and shorter development, around 10 minutes.

ISO 6:


The good news is that, as advertised, it is an extremely fine grained film that can be used to make huge enlargements. It probably exceeds the resolution of most conventional lenses. It is possible, with some effort, to get it to render a pleasant range of tones from moderately dark to very light without blowing the highlights. CMS 20 is fine where the subject is low in contrast or where you don’t mind letting the shadows block up.

On the other hand, there are several more conventional films available that have grain that is nearly as fine, are easier to develop and whose true ISO (at 0.1 above film base = fog) is much higher.

Even ISO 6 may be overstating the film speed. To keep the contrast from getting out of hand, development needs to be so gentle that the shadow details and textures simply cannot be brought out. Deep shadows remain blocked up and cannot be coaxed into revealing texture. Insufficient agitation leads to bleeding of active developer and loss of sharpness.

It may be possible to get some form of normal development between ISO 12 to 20 using Adox Adotech developer. But I am not interested in spending $26 on a bottle that can only develop six rolls to find out. 

I would not recommend CMS 20 with low-light or high contrast situations since reciprocity will be hard to determine and control. The only thing I suggest in these cases is that you bracket your exposures. That’s OK for 35mm but it may be extravagant for medium and large format.

While CMS 20 II might provide some benefits for 35mm photography, medium and large format users are better off with TMax 100.


Bruce writes: A couple of years ago, I thought CMS 20 could be something of a wonder film and set up a Flickr group to encourage people to post their results. If you want to see some pics using this film then please visit the group at

I kind of lost interest in CMS 20 for the reasons I wrote about in Part One. I know other photographers have tried the film with varying degrees of success over the years. If you've cracked it or know of someone who has then please let me know about it by email.

Thursday, April 9

It's ULF time again!

Ilford's annual call for ultra large format photographers to get their orders in for the once-a-year production run of weird and wonderful film sizes seems to have become the main way I have of marking the passage of time.