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This is intended as a place for me to write about things that are relevant to my practice.  At the moment this is not live, its only for me.  I may make it live at some point, i’m not sure yet.  Well I guess if you’re reading this then I’ve decided that I will open its up for everybody.  Just don’t be too surprised if one day the link disappears.

I have an odd relationship with writing, sometimes I don’t mind it, sometimes its the last thing I want to do.  You’ll notice a lot of spelling and grammar errors.  I make no apologies for that.  As I said earlier this is just really for me.  Unless I decide to publish it.  Whatever.

You’ll notice I ramble a lot as well.

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Three Minute Tips #6 – Make A ‘Dark Room…’

Yeah, a dark room, not a darkroom.

I really hate film changing bags.  They’re horrible little sweaty bags of hell.  Its incredible how quickly your hands get soaked with sweat inside them, and ask anybody whose ever loaded film onto a processing spool, if any of it gets wet you’ll ruin your film.  It’ll stick to the spool and snag up and crease and you’ll swear and want to smash things and then you’ll give up…its true.

This is what I do.

Simply four cushions from Ikea, that are normally on our sofa.  They fit perfectly into the window rebate (is that the word) and seal out the light.  Or seal in the dark…  Works best when its dark outside but in a pinch can be done during the day.  I switch off the lights in the nearby rooms so no stray light leaks in under the door or anything, and there you go, a room where I can load my tanks and bulk loaders in complete dark without having to use those stupid sweaty hell bags.  Theres plenty of space to lay things out and theres even a ‘seat’ should it be needed…! 😃

Try it, you’ll never go back I swear.

Three Minute Tips #5 – Semi Stand Development.

So every now and again I’ll purchase a new camera and inside there is a roll of film – sometimes with just a few frames shot, sometimes almost finished and I’ll always finish off the roll and attempt to develop them.

Last year (2017) two such examples were an original Diana and some ‘faux’ TLR whose name I have forgotten…

The roll that was in the Diana was a roll of Boots branded black and white film that even had a few frames left.  I didn’t even know that Boots ever made roll film and my attempts to contact them about it failed.

So anyway, this is supposed to be a three minute tip – sorry I forgot.  The best way I have found to cope with these old films, or unknown films, is a semi stand development process.  With regular black and white development your film is submerged in a solution of developer for between 5 and 10 minutes on average, and you agitate it in the solution once a minute or so.  This all varies between films and developers.  Usually you’ll mix up your developer to a ratio of something like 1:25 (developer:water) but with a semi stand I tend to do 1:100.  This creates a much weaker solution so therefore the film needs to be in it longer – about 90 minutes I have personally found best so far.  The film out of the Diana, at the time of me processing it, I had absolutely no idea how old it was.  The Diana was brought to market in the 1960, so the film couldn’t have been shot before that (although technically it could have already been an old film before it was put in the camera…), and much internet research could not get me any information whatsoever about Boots ever selling their own branded 120 roll film – so it couldn’t be very recent either.

With early old film – this one could in theory have been 50 odd years old – I really worry that too much agitation is going to cause parts of, or all of the emulsion to lift away from the base of the film.  I believe that stand developing with minimal agitation will minimise this risk.

The other issue aside from the age was that being able to find any info on the film also meant that I had no developing times for it.  Again, stand developing seems to circumnavigate this issue, as I have developed several different emulsions in the same mixture and technique with success.  I use Rodinal R09 at a ratio of 1:100 and leave it for 90 minutes.  Every half an hour I will give a small agitation with the spinner on the top of the tank.  I don’t do a full inversion – I don’t want all that liquid sloshing around in the tank and running the risk of possibly lifting the old emulsion.

Below are a couple of examples from the Boots roll –

…and thats it.  To conclude – weak developer, longer time, unknown film, old film.  Again I hope this post has been of use to somebody.

Just to add, below passage taken from Wikipedia, so you can choose whether or not you think its true –

“It (stand developing) has a compensating effect whereby the developer exhausts itself in areas which require greater development whilst remaining active in less-exposed areas, which has the effect of boosting shadow detail whilst preserving bright highlights.”

 

 

 

…and by the way, looking at the clothes 1960s…?

Three Minute Tips #4 – Make yourself a Force Washer

If you’re developing your own black and white film at home in your sink you’ll know that you need to wash your film under running water that is approximately the same temperature as your chemicals.  If you don’t have a mixer tap, a great alternative is one of those push on / pull off shower head attachments that you can buy for your bath taps.  One end goes on the cold tap, one on the hot, cut the shower head off and hey presto you have one of those force film washers for less than a fiver.

Three Minute Tips #3 – Negative to Positive

There are a few apps available that allow you to preview your film negative as a positive.  A quicker way that I have been using for a long time to do it is to invert the colours on my smart phone.  Im sure most smartphones can do this but i have an iPhone 6s and I know how to do this on iOS.

Settings, General, Accessibility, Display Accommodations.  At the top of the list you will see ‘Invert Colours.’  Click on this and toggle ‘Classic Invert.

It inverts all the colours over the whole of the operating system – including the camera.  When you then hold your camera up to a film negative, preferably on a light box you will see on screen the positive version.

…but thats not quick you say…!?  Well no, thats not, but if you go again to your Accessibility settings, scroll right to the bottom and go to the Accessibility Shortcut tab you can set this up as a shortcut from the iPhones home button.  Three clicks of the button from any screen and the screen will invert.  Three clicks again and its back to normal.

Its no alternative for a scan, but helpful for quick reference.

Three Minute Tips #2 – Identifying Rebranded 35mm Film

Discussion is always rife on the internet about rebranded film – “oh don’t buy ‘X’ its just rebranded ‘Y'”. “I use ‘A’ because its rebranded ‘B’ and its cheaper…”

I don’t personally care much about rebranded film.  Film’s film to me within reason, one look in my fridge will confirm that – but I know that there are people who do care, and this quick post is for them.

Direct your browser, either desktop or mobile, to dexter.pcode.nl and you will be presented with this –

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 14.15.45

Now on your 35mm film cartridge, have a look under the barcode and you’ll see a six digit number.  Input that number in the box at the top and hit GO.  You’ll now get something like this…

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 14.16.28

I used got old AgfaVista 200 from Poundland (RIP) as an example.  Quite a good example actually because this is one I see again and again being discussed.  As you can see the site claims it to be a Fujifilm emulsion, the Fujifilm 200 stock, and details what other films it was rebranded as, one of them being the infamous Agfa Vista film.  It also tells you how many exposures are on the roll.

 

Three Minute Tips #1 – Making Acurate Pinholes

You can buy laser drilled pinholes these days and frankly they are awesome.  Go and speak to James at Reality So Subtle if you need some.  Sometimes though, when you’ve made a pinhole camera out of a biscuit tin or a book or a roast duck or whatever, I really don’t need that kind of accuracy, so I make my own.  Quickly here I’ll outline how I do it.

You need a piece of thin tin, a coke can or similar is ideal, a pin, a set of micro drill bits and some light grit sandpaper. The drill bit is not used to make the pinhole but rather test the size later. These can be bought in many sizes. Take the square of tin and gently press the pin onto the surface. Aa self healing cutting mat is ideal to do this on as it will stop you damaging your nice dinner table… Press very lightly and you’ll start to notice a high spot on the reverse of the tin. Take your sandpaper and sand this high spot until it’s gone. Again press the pin creating another high spot and then sand. Repeat this process and eventually you’ll create a tiny pinhole. Sanding the metal obviously makes it thinner and through testing I have found that there is a correlation between the thinness of the metal and the sharpness of the image. Take your micro drill bit and try and pass it through the hole. Keep sanding and using the pin until you can pass your drill bit through the hole, then you’ll know that you’ve got a pretty accurate pinhole size and shape.

Macro Pinhole

One of things that draws people to pinhole photography is the ‘infinite depth of field’ that the medium is able to capture.  A lot of people assume that this means that everything in the composition, from the pinhole to infinity will be sharp.  Unfortunately this is not quite the case.  I researched this in quite a bit of depth for my Masters degree, but the general consensus is that if you have the optimum sized pinhole for your cameras focal length, then everything from 20 x your cameras focal length should have reasonable sharpness.

For instance.  You have made or converted a pinhole camera, and its focal length is 50mm.  Most online calculators will tell you that the optimum pinhole size for 50mm is around 0.3mm, give or take a few 0.01mms.

I have found this to be correct and with my 50mm cameras I use the 0.3mm laser pinholes made by James at Reality So Subtle and have no issues with them.

Your camera now has the optimum sized pinhole for its 50mm focal length and so the maths says that everything more than 1000mm away from the pinhole (50mm focal length multiplied by 20) should be of optimum sharpness.

This maths does start to fall apart though in my experience once you start looking at parts of your image that are a very long way away, but thats for another post.

Anyway the point of this post was to talk about a little experiment I tried a few days back.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but the guys at the Sunny 16 Podcast run a bit of fun called the Cheap Shots Challenge.  Each round has a specific ‘genre’ of photography and the idea is that you use the same cheap film camera for each round, and then the submitted images are judged by the guys and usually a guest.  This time around the genre was bloody macro, and of course my cheap shots camera is a pinhole camera…

Hence my ramble about how subjects too close to the pinhole are not in focus and therefore pinhole cameras are shit for macro…

So what to do about that.  Well unless I can find someway of altering the way light and physics work…(one day Neil)…the only thing to do is to incorporate a lens of some kind.  I don’t know if that’s frowned upon within the pinhole community or not.  And actually, I couldn’t care less if it is. 

I came across one of those crappy little lenses the other day that are designed to go over your mobile phone camera lens and are supposed to let you shoot fish-eye, wide and, yup, macro on your phone.

I tried looking through it at something really close and it seemed to work ok but I didn’t really know how it would perform on a camera, especially over a pinhole, so I tried it on the front of a pinhole body cap on my digital camera.  Yes I have one of those kicking about…it’s a Canon 600d if you’re interested. 

The principle seemed to work, very well in fact.  I did seem to be able to focus pretty well on subjects that were just a few centimetres from the pinhole.  So I made a very sophisticated coupling system that allowed my to securely attached the lens to my Zenit TTL pinhole conversation (Blue-Tac) and set off to find something interesting to photograph.

Well. Flowers. Macro always starts with flowers doesn’t it? They’re interesting and normally fairly common. Mine had to be static, indoor flowers as my exposure times were running five or ten minutes in some cases. 
And thats really about all there was to it to be honest.  I used the Pinhole Assist app as I would normally – again I cannot say enough good stuff about this app, and told it that I was using the Zenit, which is pre-saved in the app, and that I was using Ilford FP4, again, pre-saved with reciprocity failure rates, and away I went.

Some images worked well, some not so well.  I think the ones where I was too close didn’t come out so good.  Below are my favourites.

Oh yeah one last thing.  I mentioned above that they were taken using Ilford FP4.  Thats not incorrect and yes its a black and white film.  The colour that you can see is the result of scanning the black and white negs as they actual colour they are.  Just so you know, and just in case you care. I hope you care, I mean you’ve made it to the end of the post…?!