Finding Myself In The Old Ways…


It seems that I am addicted to film…

Miss Lue & A Hungry Egret

I still shoot with digital (A7RII) and love the look and capability of it, but FILM is what I go to every time I go out shooting… It is Terrible and exciting at the same time! It is so bad that I am looking for another freezer to store my excess film stock!

This is (again) Stormy Seas in Georgetown, SC

This is (again) Stormy Seas in Georgetown, SC (perhaps the most photographed boat in the Low Country). I have hundreds of images of it but I am pulled to photograph her in B&W film each and every time I am in Georgetown. There is something about her lines and textures that inspire me to document her life, and I have for years. Yes I will visit ANY shrimp boat (or grist mill for that matter) and each and every time I visit I see something different and unique… Yep addicted!

DATA:

The image was taken about 5 days ago on a 6×9 Fuji GW 690 II using medium format Fuji Acros 100 film and a red filter, developed in Perceptol 1:1 and Wet Mount scanned on a Epson 850 pro. The 6×9 format will give me 8 images per roll and I will usually scan 2 or 3 per roll, but I am very critical and selective because the wet scan process takes about 3/4 hour per scan!

The top image is near Stormy Seas in Georgetown, about 2 blocks away at another commercial dock and seafood house.  I have shot this a hundred times on both digital and film, but never have I captured such a pleasing image  as this.  It is to me a more enriching image full of mood, contrasts and tells a story.  I pleases me to no end the tell the story on an old FILM camera of an old boat and failing lifestyle just as the shrimp boat is in the background and the Egret in the foreground telling a different yet the same story!

There is also the consideration that is tied to the process of working in film.  It is slower and much more deliberate, a truer work of love in that you control every single step of the process…

  • Film choice (Kodak Tmax 100, Tmax 400, Fuji Acros 100 or Rollei IR400)
  • Camera and lens choice (Medium or Large Format)
  • Considering the composition and lines.  
  • Getting the exposure dead on (how many of you do that in digital?)
  • Adjusting for contrast and detail in shadows or highlights.
  • Film development and processing for highlights or shadows (another complete immersion of self discovery)
  • Drying (yep at lest 24 hours in a dust free drying cabinet)
  • Choosing the best image for exposure, sharpness, composition, contrasts, lines, dust & hair and so on..)
  • Wet scanning (at least a 1/2 to 3/4 hour project per shot)
  • Cleaning up on the computer by removing dust and hair and adding a bit of contrast)

All in all, the top image took about a week to complete from end to end!  I simply love the process, being immersed in it and becoming one in the creative process.   Yes it is slow but when I am done it is a total representation of MY PERSONAL VISION!

Film is making a HUGE come back in the world of photography!  So much so that you will be shocked when you visit Ebay and look at the prices of old film cameras and systems!   All of the major film makers in the world are increasing their production of films and even Kodak is bringing back discontinued film products!   New film companies like New55, Impossible Project, and FILM FERRANIA have opened up and are making emulsions!

Developing has never been easier, there are many mail order labs out there but you can process your own film in your kitchen with very little effort and investment!  You will need:

  • Dark Tent or changing bag to move your film to a daylight tank.
  • Daylight tank (I reccomend a Stainless Steel tank with steel developing reels by Hewes)
  • Distilled Water
  • Developer ( I recommend Perceptol by Ilford)
  • Stop Bath
  • Fixer
  • Wash
  • Water Rinse
  • Distilled water rinse with wetting agent
  • Clips to dry your film in your bathroom shower
  • A flat bed scanner like Epson 500, 600, 700, 800 or 850)

Total you are looking at about $120 for everything accept the scanner!   There are great videos on Youtube that will take you thru every step in the process!

Tybee Island Light, Kodak Tmax 100 FIlm on a Fuji GW 690 II camera.

The image above of the Tybee Island Lighthouse was taken last month on Kodak Tmax 100 rated at 50 ISO  on the 6×9 format medium format Fuji System.  It was hot and the area full of tourists, even up on the top of the lighthouse itself!  Still the act of creating this image was both fun and fulfilling and I walked away with exactly what I envisioned as I stood there looking at the scene!

I especially love shooting with Medium Format cameras.  They are easier to travel with and the negatives are large enough to give amazing prints.  I do have 3 4×5 large format cameras also that are great fun to you but as you can imagine, they are difficult to travel with.  Once in a great while I will shoot with a 35mm camera, usually smaller rangefinder that were sold in the 60’s and 70’s!

Medium Format:

  • Fuji GF 670 (this is my travel camera in 6×7 format with a 85mm lens that folds up into a thin light camera)
  • Fuji GW 690II (this is a 6×9 format camera with a 90mm lens and a bit larger and better built than the GF camera)
  • Fuji GW 690 III (a newer version of the 690II)

Large Format:

  • Shen Hao 4×5 Cherry Field Camera with 5 lenses and film adapters for also using 120 film.
  • Polaroid 900 converted to 4×5 with a 150mm Fujinon lens.  Think of 4×5 travel camera!
  • Polaroid 110B converted to 4×5 with a 90mm Schneider Angulon lens, again travel!

So, while film does indeed require much more effort over digital, the results simply cannot be compared.   These medium format negatives have a native resolution to create a 71×53 inch print without upsizing it at all!  The amount of detail is simply stunning and more importantly (at least t me) is the fact that the process become a Zen like activity in creation!

I hope that you enjoyed this post but more importantly to me at least that you considered my words on the creative process and taking complete control of it!

 

 

 

 

 

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One Perfect Image…


Sometimes we just have to stand there taking it all in!

Hoodoos in Bryce National Park at the Sunset Point Overlook. Olympus XA with Kodak Tmax 100 film. This is MY defining image for my entire trip!

Hoodoos in Bryce National Park at the Sunset Point Overlook. Olympus XA with Kodak Tmax 100 film. This is MY defining image for my entire trip!

Ahh, have you ever had one of those defining moments in life where you KNOW that you are witnessing something truly special that touches your soul?   Well that is exactly what this was for me.  We had been on the road for almost 11 days on a trip from Rapid City thru Wyoming and Utah.  Our last stop of the trip was supposed to be in  Zion National Park but we had to cancel due to terrible rain and flooding in the park.  We extended our time in Arches which was really nice but it was not until I stood here in Bryce National Park at the Sunset point looking down into the canyon that I realized that I had made a mistake… I should have added onto the time there.   We only had ONE day to explore Bryce and it was very nice there with many great vistas and rock formations, but this image at the Sunset Point was the defining moment for the entire trip for me.  

Hood Valley, Bryce Canyon, Sunset overview.

Hood Valley, Bryce Canyon, Sunset overview, Sony A7rii

Understand, that I am NOT talking about either of the  photographs captured and shown above, but rather the moment for me personally standing there taking it all in, becoming one with the scene, no camera, no thoughts of photography only the experience and impact of witnessing the greatness of the scene.   I stood there for a good half hour drinking it all in and I will remember the emotional impact upon me for the rest of my life.   Yes… it was that powerful.  

There is some serious food for thought in this last statement.  In these days of rapid fire digital photography don’t you think that we can quickly loose sight of what it is that we are trying to create in our art?  Shooting in film slows you down which aids in the creative process.  This is not to say that we cannot do this with our digital systems because we can and I do, but rather most of us who practice this art tend to “hurry, capture and move on to the next thing!”   

Olympus XA 135mm

Olympus XA 135mm

It was almost as if it was an afterthought that I actually took my Sony A7rii with me up the trail to the overlook and took a few images which were actually quite nice in color, but after the sensory overload of the scene I could only think of one thing, B&W and FILM.  Yes, I could convert the color image above to B&W in post processing and do quite a good job of it but NOTHING can compare to what I can create with film!  So, it was a bit of a walk back down to the car where my wife and 7 year old grandson were resting because of the long drive to get here, but down I went with only one task, to trade the digital for a TINY B&W film camera, the Olympus XA.  The XA is the worlds smallest 35mm rangefinder camera. It has an amazingly sharp lens with easy focus, but the key is the fact that it is pants pocket (not those bulky cargo pockets but regular ones), it is light and handy.

I took so much camera equipment on this trip that the only space I had for a film system required that it be tiny.   Against all of my experience I threw in this tiny camera along with just 5 rolls of Kodak Tmax 100 film and off we flew.  I am so glad that I did now but having said this it is only fair to share that this was a colossal mistake.  I should have made room for a medium format (120 6×7) camera and taken out a lens or two for the Sony.   I have learned my lesson and will never repeat this mistake.  Don’t get me wrong, the XA captured an amazingly detailed and  sharp image. I love how it turned out.  The Kodak Tmax 100 film along with the Perceptol developer generated a image (yes small) with tiny grain and great sharpness.  Am I happy with the result?  You bet!  Would I have been happier with a larger 120 negative, OMG YES!!  Can I have a do over please?  Yes, I know, not to much of there ever being a chance for that.

So lets sum this up a bit shall we?  

  • SLOW DOWN,  take the time to really look at your subject!  If you do this your chances of creating a world class image will greatly improve.
  • Look closely at what is in front of you, take the time to feel its emotional impact upon you and only then bring out the camera and with your skill and insight to the scene make the camera (nothing more than a tool) capture what you saw!
  • Think in both color and B&W.  Remember though that B&W removes the clutter and confusion of normal color work.  In my opinion, B&W allows you to capture the soul of the scene! So yes, take color but also take B&W, you might be surprised at how well you can do.
  • If you are working in digital only, during post processing work color first completely, save the image THEN process for B&W generating all of the mood that you possibly can!

Ok, this post is done.  Get out there, shoot and create, but slow down and think about what and WHY you are doing it!

Going Home to Mama…. Returning to Film!


The joys of returning to our photographic roots…

Pier

Murrells Inlet Fleet, Polaroid Type 55 4×5 film, Wet Mount Scan

Have any of you considered film photography?

There is something about working with film that is very calming which can center one’s soul allowing you to really connect with your art. For me it was like going home to Mama.  The feeling of working with your hands as part of creating your art will make it more involved and enable you to to really influence the hidden nuances in your work. It will add a bit more complexity to your workflow but trust me it is worth the effort.  The single largest change is forcing you to slow down in your creative process, it forces you to really consider every part of your workflow. It really is not any more difficult than digital photography, but it is a bit more involved.

Polaroid 900, Tmax 100 4x5 @ 64, Perceptol

Polaroid 900 with a Fujinon 150mm lens, Tmax 100 4×5 @ 64, Perceptol 1:1 developing

Take a really close look at the details in this image, click on it and look at it in the full screen mode.  Look at the GEARING on the edge of the wheel.  The detail there will take your breath away!

Film Cameras

Olympus XA 135mm

Olympus XA 135mm

I have way too many film cameras to list them all, some really small like the Olympus XA which is the worlds smallest 35mm rangefinder and a joy to use.

I also have an Olympus RC 35 camera that is another fixed lens rangefinder. It is simple and fun to use and can be found for very little money.  I have mine rebuild and given a bright blue suite that suites it quite well!

My Custom Olympus 35 RC Film Camera, one of dozens of film systems I shoot.

My Custom Olympus 35 RC 

My Leica M7 Film Body

My Leica M7 Film Body

My last 35mm camera system is a Leica M7 system. It has interchangeable lenses and is one of the best built camera systems that I have.  Couple it with the world class Leica lenses and you have an unbeatable 35mm system.

Confusion, Petri 7S 35mm, Eastman XX flim

Confusion, Petri 7S 35mm, Eastman XX flim

Fuji GF670 Medium Format

Fuji GF670

Fuji GF670

Fuji GF670

Moving up to Medium Format 120 film systems I have three.  I have the Voigtlander Bessa IIIw system that is 6×7 format and the Fuji GF670 camera (also sold under the name of Bessa III) with a longer 85mm lens (left & right). The 670 is my medium format travel camera of choice.  Not only is it a functional camera with a built in meter but it is attractive and it always will draw a crowd when I get it out to use! Another nice point to the GF670 is that it folds down on itself to a thin easy to store camera in your bag!

Mamaya RZ Pro II system

Mamaya RZ Pro II system

And lastly the Mamaya RZ Pro II SLR ( Right) with interchangeable lenses and a world class metering system. This camera is large and heavy but easy to use and a very powerful camera system! I have a f/4 65mm and f/4 180mm lens for it.  I also have both the waist level finder and a metering prism with spot and matrix!  Like I said, heavy and big, but I use it for ultra long exposures on the coast with the Fuji Acros 100 film which has almost NO RECIPROCITY failure up to 140 seconds then only 1/2 stop after that!   The film base is a little on the thin side but still my film of choice for long exposures.

Stormy Seas, Fuji GF670, Tmax 100, Perceptol 1:1, Wet Mount Scan

Stormy Seas, Fuji GF670, Tmax 100, Perceptol 1:1, Wet Mount Scan

Beautiful!

Polaroid 110 with 90mm lens converted to 4×5!

My 900 converted to 4x5 by Alpenhause Kamera Werke

Polaroid 900with 150mm Fujinon lens converted to 4×5

Moving up to 4×5 Large Format cameras, I have three. first I have a Shen Hao cherry field camera.  Functional as it is beautiful.  I rarely take it out, rather I am using a Polaroid 900 converted to 4×5 with a Fujinon 150mm lens and a Polaroid 110B camera converted to 4×5 with a Schneider Super Angulon 90mm lens.  It is a beauty and very wide!

Yes, as you may have noticed, some of these cameras are quite large.  This is due to the negative size.   Let me give you some idea as to why digital cameras can never come close to the resolution of film.

Focus Test - Epson Wet Adapter Across 100 Perceptol 1:2 Springmaid Pi

Montreat Cascades, 4×5 Tmax 100 developed in Perceptol and wet mount scanned.

Lets start with medium format:

  • Medium Format 6×7 format makes an image 2 1/4 inches tall and much wider.  Scanned at native resolution of 6400 dpi on an Epson 850 Pro scanner gives me a file resolution of 16452 x 19668 dpi or a print size at 300 dpi of 4.5 feet by 5.3 feet!  This is huge.
  • Large Format of 4″ x 5 ” scanned at 6400 dpi (native) gives a file size of 29107 x 36070 dpi or a print size of 8 feet x 10 feet!  There is not a digital camera system in the world that can come more than a small fraction of this!

Film

Film has turned wildly popular again in the past several years and many of the big film manufacturers have started increasing their film production lines again. This is especially true in the medium format lines (120) and 4×5 large format films! Film can be found in single rolls or in bulk almost everywhere again.  The big box companies like B&H, Adorama and many others carry almost every type and format that you could ever want!

Processing in B&W has never been easier at home with eco friendly chemistry with no darkroom needed. Only an initial outlay of around $150 will get you started. Cameras can be found anywhere for next to nothing!  You will need:

  • Dark Bag, a cloth bag that it light proof with arm sleeves that enable you to put your film, developing tank, reel an lid inside with your arms to move the film into a light tight developing tank!
  • Developing Tank, I recommend a stainless steel version.
  • Film Reels, I like the Hewes stainless steel ones.
  • Developer, comes either in a powder or a Liquid.  I like Perceptol and/or Rodinal R09.
  • Fixer, to remove un-used silver
  • Liquid wetting agent to prevent drops to dry on your negative.
  • Clips to hang you film up to dry!

You can scan your film into your computer with a good Epson scanner like the 700, 750, 800 or 850.  You can also buy an adapter for your camera allowing you to scan by photograph!

While I work in both color and B&W, digital and film I find time after time I pick up a film system and load it up with a good B&W film. The process of developing your film can really help you connect to your work as well.

I like several films, here they are in order of favor:

 

  1. Kodak Tmax 100 in 35, 120 and 4×5, very small grain, good dynamic range easy to process
  2. Fuji Acros 100 in 35, 120 and 4×5, very small grain, good dynamic range NO RECIPROCITY FAILURE, easy to process
  3. Rollei IR400 in 35, 120 and 4×5, Infrared or normal B&W, good dynamic range, easy to process
  4. Rollei Retro 80S in 35 and 120, amazing clarity and sharpness, good dynamic range easy to process
  5. Eastman XX in 35, motion picture film used in B&W movies of the 50’s, smooth gradient transitions.

 

As an example here is the top image from last week of the fishing fleet taken on 20 year out of date Polaroid Type 55 monochrome instant film. The camera is also a Polaroid 900 that my daughter sent me years ago from a garage sale that I had converted to 4×5 with a Fujinon 150mm lens. A MOST beautiful camera in a bright new blue suite that is just fun to use. It is both rangefinder and ground glass focusing that forces you to slow down and really consider each and every image you capture!

The Type 55 film, even outdated, works flawlessly and generates amazing images where the edge markings add to the artistic impact of your subject

Pelican Dock - Type 55 4x5 Film, Wet Scan

Pelican Dock – Type 55 4×5 Film, Wet Scan

So what do you think?  Are you tempted to try this out?  It is easy.  For starters, you can look at the continuing education departments at a local college or hight school.  Most offer B&W film photography with darkroom work.  This will teach you enough to allow you to determine if you would like to further investigate this wonderful medium!

You can also contact me and request info on one of my film workshops held in Pawleys Island SC.  I would love to have you and share this amazing link to our past!

Please let me know what you think of this post!