Archive for the ‘film’ Category

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IR Flash — progress!

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

So, I finally leveled up with this IR flash mess I’ve been working on. I’ve got actual, honest to goodness results.

Warning: This is going to be very nerdy and tech-y. If IR photography isn’t your thing, just look at the pictures and move on, unless you want a serious soporific. I’ll put up a less geeky post on IR street photography later.

I’m not going to do a whole tutorial write-up thing on how to go about this, because there are already a couple of good ones here and here.

The first one does a great job of explaining how to go about putting a gel on your flash with a bit of space to prevent, you know, melting. However, the filter mentioned there has a non-optimal cutoff for IR film currently in production. The second one (which will be of particular interest to XA shooters) provides a film/filter pairing which is currently available and works great: Ilford SFX gel filters and Rollei IR400 film.

I tried this combination out with my Nikkormat FT-2, 2.8cm f/3.5 Nikkor-H (a great lens for IR work), and a Nikon SB-24.

Nikormat FT-2 with SB-24

Shooting wide open with the flash at full power produces usable exposures for subjects in the 8-15′ range, give or take, with some definite (but acceptable) overexposure for subjects close up.

This is reasonably consistent with the flash’s calculations for ISO 12 (which is what I normally rate IR400 at when shooting with an R72 filter), which suggests I may be able to engage auto mode — or, if subjects aren’t too distant, I may even be able to shoot safely at f/5.6, which would be lovely from a DOF standpoint.

With the Nikkormat and 28mm f/3.5, I’m shooting blind, because I’m working with an opaque infrared filter over the lens. (Note: for night photography, this can be omitted. However, since current IR films are sensitive to visible light, using them for flash work without a filter on the lens during the day is likely to be somewhat counterproductive.) However, with a 28mm lens, even wide open, I have enough DOF to scale focus reasonably well, and guessing the composition isn’t too hard.

BTW, if you’re curious about how scale focus works, this may be helpful:

Scale Focusing with the 2.8cm f/3.5 H

Anyway, after all that technical mumbo-jumbo, what matters is, it works!

BART, Richmond Line Commuters

I’m even reasonably pleased with that photograph as such — successful test aside.

The one downside to this setup is that it tends to let through a little more visible light than I’d like — the SFX gels are a little loose in that regard. Not so much that I’m blinding people, but it bugs me just a little.

So, I’m also still fiddling around with alternative options. One not-really-successful setup is this:

Bessa R with Sunpak 622

It’s a thick eBay 89b filter intended for Cokin-type filter holders which I’ve taped to the front of a wonderfully cumbersome and powerful Sunpak 622. This setup works quite well for digital IR flash with my unmod’d D40, and emits very little visible light, but is completely useless with Rollei IR400. However, initial tests on a less powerful flash provided some exposure with Eke IR820. (Which suggests that the eBay filter isn’t a true 89b equivalent.)

I was hopeful that the Sunpak (which I got specifically for this project) would enable me to shoot with this filter/film combination through sheer power. And it does, sort of, but unfortunately the working distance is still too short to be really useful in the majority of situations.


That was shot at f/1.7, and you can see that even just at about 8′ feet or so, it’s already significantly underexposed. So, while this is not a failure, as such, it’s obviously of very limited practical usefulness unless I’m willing to get truly in-your-face. I’ll continue experimenting with different filtration options and see what I can get on this front.


Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Laney Construction

Oh, hey. Look at that. IT’S NOT INFRARED. : )

I haven’t given up the IR experimentation (sorry, haters), but over the last several weeks, I’ve been slowly making my way through a couple of rolls of color film in the Olympus XA. I had them developed recently, and I’ve got the scans post-processed and uploaded now.

One of the rolls is Ektar, a film of which I’m not normally a superfan — but which seems to really be at home on XA. I think it has to do with the comparatively low contrast of the XA’s lens — it takes the edge off of Ektar’s contrast and saturation.

Laney Construction

One of the more successful subjects on the roll is this construction site at Laney College. Construction sites are one of those categories of subject which is inexplicably tricky to photograph well, and yet at the same time is hard to turn away from. The appeal is easy to understand, I think — sites and situations which are undergoing transformation sort of cry out for documentation, and unlike many natural landscapes, you can’t tell yourself, “well, I can come back another week or another season.”

Laney Construction

The difficulties are a bit harder to figure out, and I don’t think I have them all straight in my head yet. Part of it is that the great machinery and the huge quantities of raw material tend to lend a lot of drama to the situation — and yet, unless one is shooting an annual report for the construction company or the site owner, documenting that drama is probably not what the photographer wants out of the situation. One has to try to find a place to stand from which one can enforce a human-scale perspective…

Laney Construction

US and California Flags

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

US and California Flags

US and California Flags

I spent much of Saturday printing this image in the Laney darkroom. (This is a negative scan; I haven’t scanned or photographed the resulting prints.) I had a fairly pleasant time of it, despite still being in recovery from the BBC plague. One of those days when my instincts lead in the right direction and the negative isn’t outside my modest printing skills. I also got some positive feedback from some of the old hands there, which is always nice.

The essential draw of the photograph, which I am somewhat ambivalent about, is its resemblance to a calla lily.

On the one hand, one of the things I love most about photography in general and about infrared photography in particular is its ability to subtly transform the familiar — to reveal the known world in surprising ways.

This is an example of that, and I believe a rather successful one; there are few objects which are more strongly locked in to their customary symbolic use than a flag; the vast majority of representations of flags fall into either nationalistic/patriotic uses or into very blunt subversions of those uses.

But here, motion distorts the flags’ shapes, and infrared light obscures their markings. Together, they allow the flags to briefly become something else.

I like that — a lot — but I worry a bit about the fact that the typical response to the image is, (a), “What is that,” and, (b), “Cool, it looks like a calla lily.” Not that I dislike the resemblance, but I’m always a bit nervous when I stray into the territory of “picture puzzles” and “fuzzygrams.” I don’t think the purpose of a photograph should be to befuddle or confuse (note: this is not a general rule for judging photography, just a personal preference for my own work).

I value the fact that this photograph documents the temporary transformation of a flag into a flower; however, that value is as dependent on the ability of the viewer to perceive what it “really is,” as it is upon their ability to perceive the way it is being transformed. And of course to say that it depends upon the viewer’s perception is also to say it depends on my ability to connect to the viewer…

SFMOMA — 75th Anniversary

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Silhouette (Tri-X 120 003-05)

SFMOMA has put together some fantastic photography for the exhibitions celebrating its 75th birthday. I wrote a short piece on one of works by Henry Wessel over at 1/125, but really, there are too many fantastic photographs to list.

Best of all, a lot of the photographers I was most impressed by are folks I had never heard of before. The one that struck me most was a street photograph by John Harding which is the most compelling photographic depiction of race I’ve ever seen. (That wasn’t made by De Carava, anyway.) But there are also fantastic images by Max Yavno, Leon Borensztein, Nata Piaskowski, and John Gutmann. (Apologies if I misspelled any of those.)

I also got to check some things off the big list of stuff I felt dumb for not having seen before. First time seeing Minor White’s photographs in print form. (Not as blown away as I thought I would be — the reproductions in Bunnell’s book are very good) First time seeing Atget’s photoraphs in print form — including a portrait of a prostitute which rather disrupted my notion of what Atget is all about. (Also: have I mentioned how much I love albumen prints? I really love albumen prints.) First time seeing daguerreotypes and tintypes.

I had the Koni-Omega with me (see above). I was shooting with Tri-X at 1600 — a good combination of camera and film, with the strengths of each covering the weaknesses of the other. (The weaknesses being Tri-X’s outrageous grain when pushed and the shallow DOF of 6×7, respectively.) And, of course — as usual — the Koni-O drew interested glances and outright interrogations from the other patrons.

Flood Control

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Flood Control Station

Sorry things have been dead here and, to a lesser extent, over at 1/125. It’s a function of equal parts holiday/family stuff, a metric f****ton of personal errands and whatnot (lots of whatnot), and having a bunch of film I need to get developed and scanned.

When I’ve been shooting it’s been mostly with my Koni-Omega. I sort of neglected it for quite a while there — in the fall I was mostly alternating between the RB67 and the Bessa R. I forgot the joy of working with that beautiful anachronistic monster. I also forgot how hard it is to walk down the street with the Koni-Omega — if I don’t have the camera discreetly in a bag, I get stopped by almost every passer-by to answer questions and receive compliments…

Film lag

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Rainy Day at Work

Shooting a lot of film can sometimes make me feel out of sync. Particularly when I’m writing blog posts that have a connection to something happening at a particular time.

It generally takes a fair bit longer for a film photograph to go from exposure to being online than it does for a digital photograph. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a polaroid back and a film scanner, you can be nearly instantaneous. But generally speaking, some time passes before film is developed, and some more time passes before it gets scanned, and some more time before the scans are post-processed and uploaded.

That’s usually all to the good. A little time passing gives some perspective on things that can be of great value when it comes time to edit. (That’s edit, not post-process.)

It does sometime lead to a certain sense of temporal dislocation, though. I shot this roll of film on a rainy day, and I actually forgot about it. It wound up with a bunch of film that I’d set aside as being not time-sensitive, stuff that I determined I could “get to later.” I forgot about it, and some weeks went by, until I had a roll of film with the same dev time that I had to develop, so I snagged this to put on the other reel in my tank.

It’s funny, because this was shot on whatever the last rainy day was here. Since then, we’ve had sunny days and overcast days, and now we’re coming up on the next round of rain, just as I get these uploaded and posted here — right in time to be vaguely topical again…

Rainy Day at Work

It’s not travel photography

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Or, maybe it is. But don’t tell anyone, since I’m on record as saying that (a) travel is the most shallow form of human experience, and (b) travel photography is lame. (It’s possible I said it more eloquently than that. It’s also possible I said it much less eloquently than that.)

In any case, I had a great time visiting Andrew in Santa Cruz, and I made a few photographs while I was there. This included a bit of birding and a bit of casual astrophotography. The latter was pretty funny, since I don’t know anything about stargazing and have pretty lousy night vision, and Andrew, who does know about stars and whatnot, and who can see after dark, doesn’t have any experience with my camera gear, and is also currently operating without full thumb opposability, etc. As Andrew put it, between the two of us we made one semi-competent astrophotographer…

I was strongly tempted to bring some medium format gear, but it didn’t seem reasonable to try to take both my 400mm f/5.6 and my RB67. Too bad, because there were some scenes that would have been extremely well-suited to medium format, including some fantastic night scenes. I made do with what I had, though, which was my Bessa R and some of that sweet free Portra 160NC, and I came away with a few photographs I’m quite fond of.

Student Haircuts



Santa Cruz, November 2009

I won’t pretend to have acquired any magical insight into the nature of Santa Cruz. I mean, yes it’s dripping with hippies and white guilt, but we all knew that already, right? Besides, the order of the day was not drive-by sociology; it was bad movies and in-jokes.


Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

The Med (IR) (Fr. 07)

So, I finally got around to shooting, developing, and scanning some infrared film. Yay!

For my first try, I used Efke IR820 Aura. This is the version without anti-halation layer, intended to mimic Kodak HIE. Of course, I’ve never shot HIE, so I have no idea whether it succeeds or fails in this regard.

Berkeley City Club (Fr. 32)

I went with this to start off rather than straight IR820 in 120 (which I also have) because I wanted to be able to both shoot several subjects and bracket my shots, so 36 exposures made more sense than 10.

I used my Nikkormat and, for the most part, my 28mm f/3.5 H — a lens which I know from experience and Rorslett’s reviews to work well with IR.

I’m using D-76 1:1, which doesn’t have a listed time on the data sheet, so I guesstimated the increase over the time for stock. (I used 9min. at 70.5 degrees). I metered for ISO 3, which is what’s specified by the data sheet for use with my filter (Hoya R72). I bracketed my shots, and in a couple of cases, I preferred an exposure two stops over that, but for the most part, ISO 3 gave the best results. (That translated to about 1/4 of a second at f/8 for the conditions I was shooting in, mostly.)

Very slow, but not too slow to include seated people, such as in the scene at The Med. And faster shutter speeds could be obtained by the use of larger apertures, at the cost of depth of field. Pushing is also a possibility, but it’s not like it isn’t grainy and contrasty enough to begin with…

Ghost Ring (Fr. 35)

Slow film

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

From the time I started developing black and white a year or a year and a half ago up until very recently, I only shot two black and white films (excluding C-41 B&W films) — Kodak Plus-X and Tri-X. Those were the first I used, they seemed to be good for pretty much everything (with the inclusion of push-processing Tri-X), and I liked the way they looked. (Well, I’m not as passionate about box-speed Tri-X as I am about Plus-X.)

But between the odd purchase here or there, some film that came with a camera I bought, and I recent gift of some film, I’ve developed quite the sampler of other films — generally just one or two rolls or so of each, but I decided it was time I started shooting some of them to see if I liked them.

For no special reason — other than good, old-fashioned curiosity — I decided to go slow. By which I don’t mean taking my time getting around to it (well, I had already done that). I mean experimenting with ISO 50 and 25 film. Ilford Pan F Plus and Efke 25, to be specific.

The Pan F I had in 35mm, so I ran it through my Olympus XA — always a good choice when I don’t really know what I want to do with a film. The results were illuminating.


The slow film encourages you to shoot wide open, which really encourages the XA to vignette, and the slow speed of the film makes the vignette quite unmistakable. The result is rather lomo, somewhat to my surprise, and is very at odds to the results I’m accustomed to getting from the XA — probably because I usually feed 160 or 400 speed film through it.

And, indeed, when there’s enough light to stop well down, the results are quite sharp and clear, with only a tasteful degree of vignetting.

A | Laundromat

It seems to be well at home for city scenes. Hard lines and sharp shadows seem to really click. (I’m starting to sound like those film mystics who read psychology and aesthetics into chemistry, aren’t I? Oh well, it was bound to happen…)

Next up, I tried Efke 25. I had this in 120, so I used my RB67. The results are really, really old school.


It reminds me of nothing so much as what I’ve seen of Atget — not in terms of the photographer’s skill, obviously, but the tonality of the film. (Of course, Atget was shooting on glass plate, not film, but you get the idea.)

I stupidly forgot to look up the times before going to develop this film, and I wound up accidentally pushing about a stop. Fortunately the highlights held up rather well, for the most part. However, the film is an incredibly curly bastard — the strips would literally snap into tubes and leap about the room, much to my frustration. Thank god for the betterscanning holder for my 4490, or I might have just given up on scanning it…

And just as well I didn’t, because I like some of the results…


I carried the trend forward today with a roll of IR820 Aura. I haven’t developed it yet, so I have no idea whether it’ll prove to be at all successful. It was certainly entertaining to shoot at ISO 3, though…slow exposures in broad daylight definitely seem a little bit perverse.

I’m normally very much used to thinking in terms of speed — fast films for low-light shooting, fast shutter speeds to stop motion, etc. Because I’m accustomed to thinking in terms of human and animal subjects — things that move at a certain pace.

Slower films — especially when they’re used with slow lenses, or require filters that force even slower exposures — make this sort of thinking/shooting difficult or impossible. Time becomes a resource you dole out in quarters of a second or even several seconds at a time, instead of in hundredths or thousandths of a second, and situation, form, and texture come to outweigh the pursuit of the decisive moment.

It’s quite instructive. Of course, not all live subjects are inconsistent with slow films…I even managed some wildlife photography with the Efke 25. Of course, it helps to have a certain sort of subject…

Turtletacular (View Large)

Company releases self-serving study results. OMG!

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009


“The last three years of data have shown a steady decline in people who report owning a traditional film camera, decreasing from 67% in 2007, to 61% in 2008, and dropping all the way to 48% in 2009.”

How does that show the “imminent death” of film cameras? Casual snapshooters who were going to switch to digital already have, and that part of the film market is already dead. In fact, I’m surprised there are that many in 2009 who acknowledge owning film cameras…

The people who are still shooting a lot of film (excluding disposable cameras) are not lay people, they’re pros and earnest amateurs. They make up a small fraction of the population, but they shoot a lot of film. And anyone who knows anything about photography already knows all these facts.

But thanks, “provider of award-winning imaging services for wireless carriers” for this press release which is doubtless going to be creating hideously annoying threads in flickr groups for weeks to come.

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