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.

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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.

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…?!

“Do You Name All of Your Cameras…?”

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Back in April I was at my local car boot sale scavenging for cameras when I came across an original Diana camera.  It was in its original box with one of the previous owners name and address written on the bottom and even had the instructions with it.  The only thing it was missing was a lens cap, but having never really been interested in the Diana range of cameras I didn’t know at the time that it was supposed to have one.  And I probably wouldn’t have cared – I certainly don’t now.

The chap was also selling something calling itself a ‘Vista Colour Camera,’ and bundled the pair together after some haggling for the princely sum of just £8.  £4 for an original Diana in its box isn’t to be sniffed at.  £4 for a boxed Vista Colour Camera…? Well I’m not sure about that one.  I’ll talk more about that monstrosity another day because its now fast approaching July and I’ve still not really tried it out.

 

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So a little bit about the Diana…  As I understand it, they were marketed by the Great Wall Plastic Company as an inexpensive gift/toy camera in the 1960s.  I don’t know if it’s made or Bakelite or some type of more recent plastic but it’s certainly very 1960s in its aesthetic.  You probably know already but since about 2007 Lomography have been selling a cloned ‘new’ version of this camera called the Diana +.  Hipsters want them now I guess…

Plastic lens – Check.  Ability to focus – Check.  Well sort of.  You’ve got a basic focusing ring that screws the lens towards and away from the film plane.  Options for 4 – 6ft, 6 – 12ft and 12ft – Infinity are marked on the front of the lens barrel but in the couple of rolls of film I’ve put through the Diana none of these have seemed to make the slightest bit of difference.

I think that the blue top plate looks fantastic.  In the sun it’s a cool baby blue.  Right now under a light in the kitchen its kind of grey with a blue hue to it.  The graphic design work on the stickers on top are a work of art, and leave you in no doubt which type of film to stick in there…!  Oh and turn that film advance and listen to the wondrous noise that comes out of it.  Its like a kids bicycle when the spokes are covered in those clicked clacker things.  It’s awesome really.

Mounted in this top plate is a big bright viewfinder so you can see what you’re pointing it at.  Although it’s not coupled to the lens and has no parallax correction markings so if yore attempting to shoot something vaguely close up be prepared to compensate for this.

The actual body of the camera is black and has this disgusting ‘pebbledash’ finish to it on both the front and the back.  The texture feels pretty shitty, but at a guess I’d say the thought behind it was probably grip in the hand.  I mean its pretty heavy.  Once loaded with a roll of 120 roll film it weighs about as much as a roll of 120 roll film…

It has three aperture settings (and I use that term loosely) that are simply marked with the standard recognisable ‘Cloud’, ‘Sun/Cloud’ and ‘Sun’ symbols.

These apertures are not formed by blades how you may be familiar with in a modern lens, rather simply just a plate that moves behind the lens when actuated by the selector switch underneath.  This plate has two different sized holes (apertures) in it, which correlate to the Sun/Cloud and Sun settings, and for the Cloud setting the plate moves aside.  Just make sure when you’re changing your settings that the aperture in the plate sits central as it has a habit of not centring itself.

 

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As for shutter speeds well what a choice you have here.  You’ve got your ‘B’ for bulb setting and your ‘I’ for…well to be honest I actually have no idea what the ‘I’ stands for…?  The ‘I’ setting is the normal picture taking made where even if you hold the shutter release down you’ll still get the same single exposure time.  I don’t know what this exposure time is; at a guess I’d say 1/60sec.  God knows what it is now probably at least 50 years since manufacture…

The shutter release button isn’t really a button, more of a lever.  Move from top to bottom and the bottom of the stroke is when the shutter is released.  There is no lock to prevent you making multiple exposures, but I guess that that is part of the charm of a Diana.

No tripod attachment thread.  Although nobody has probably ever needed one I struggle to think why the Great Wall Camera Company or whatever they were called thought people would like a bulb setting on their camera but no real way of steadying the camera other than the old ‘sit it on a wall or similar’ technique.

Now lets talk briefly about light leaks.  You know that the Diana’s and the Holga’s and all the plastic pieces of crap like this leak light onto your film.  Hell that’s part of the charm isn’t it?  That’s why you wanted one?  Right?  Meh…

Light leaks are present at the top of most images taken with this one.  I think it’s the red film number window.  Actually it’s probably the crap fit of the entire casing as well.  The damn thing is only held together with one lock (again, term used loosely) on the bottom of the casing, and that’s unlocked itself several times already…

Light enters the lens and is inverted thus producing an upside down picture on the film.  That would mean that the light leak being at the bottom of the camera, where the film number window is, puts the results at the top of the image. I guess that this could be sorted with black electrical tape over the window and possibly around the edges of the casing, but imperfections like this are why people want these stupid things aren’t they?  It’s like ‘in-camera’ Instagram or something…

So what do the images that it takes look like?  You know exactly what they look like…Square, 4x4cm (ish) frames with massive vignettes and with focus that drops of enormously at the edges of the frame.  But that doesn’t matter because chances are the centre of the image isn’t going to be razor sharp.  Or even just sharp sharp.  It’s going to be soft.  Soft as a soft-boiled egg.  But no really even if you actually used the focusing scale on the lens it’s hit and miss as to what you’re gonna get out of it.  And even then you’re beautiful image is going to have an enormous light leak smeared across it.  But you already knew all of this.  That’s why you wanted a Diana in the first place.  Be it one of the new variants from Lomography or an original one like this one.

 

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No flash sync and no light meter. It’s just a plastic box with some springs in it.  Normally how I like a camera to be, but it’s the emphasis on that word ‘plastic’ that doesn’t really do it for me.  Don’t get me wrong I like the images that come out of it, but the visual aesthetic of each of these images is always the same, regardless of the photographer or what they do with the camera.  It seems to be that a Diana is suited best to a sunny day (its definitely a summer camera) and a beach.  But it would probably get all clogged up with sand because the panels fit so freaking badly…

 

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Oh yeah.  And the strap is too short for a fat man.

Are You an APS Shooter…?

So the other afternoon I bumped into friend that I haven’t seen properly in years and the conversation naturally turned to the ‘what are you doing these days’ threa.  It wasn’t long before I was being offered an Olympus Trip. “You know, one of the old ones that takes film…” Sweet. I do like an Olly…

I arranged to pop round and pick it up and was presented with a camera case and immediately opened it up to find…a Kodak advantix F600…

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It’s certainly no Trip, But cosmetically it looks like it’s barely been used which is good, and it does appear to have a part shot film in it which is always fun. It’s takes a CR123A battery like the Olympus Mju as well so I swapped one into it and it fired up a treat.  It’s got a 30-60mm zoom lens so nothing special there, and comes equipped with the standard run down of flash settings. A chunky little late 1990s beast in that classic ‘1990s space age brushed crappy grey and black’ finish. Even has a tripod mount which I’ve always found a must have for small point and shoot cameras…!

I’ve been after something that takes APS for a while now. A pal of mine on instagram (yes you @londoncameraproject) is forever harping on about APS and how it’s a forgotten gem of a format. I’ve personally never shot it and personally can’t see why it was really ever a thing…but, I now have the F600 and a stack of APS in the fridge I’m going to give it a go once I’ve worked out a satisfactory bodge for developing and scanning it. I know that there are labs around that advertise dev of this format but I’d really like to work out a way of doing it at home. The main issue that I think I’ll face, other that the actual dimensions of the film are that APS isn’t supposed to be released from the cartridge. Well maybe it is for development but certainly afterwards it goes back in the cartridge to keep if clean and safe. I need to hack an old cartridge open really and have a gander at how it works.

Interesting thing about APS is that you can wind it fully back into the cartridge mid roll and swap it out for another. Say colour to black and white or ISO200 to 800, and then when you pop the cartridge back in it automatically advances to the next frame. Just like swapping the backs out on my Bronica… 😂

Anyway because of this feature you can’t open the camera until the film is wound back, the F600 has a lever on the side to open it and I assumed it was jammed…but a quick look at the manual online (available at https://www.manualslib.com/manual/89133/Kodak-Advantix-F600zoom.html?page=16#manual incidently) showed me my error.

Anyway. I’ve shot a few frames with it, and once I find a suitable way to develop and scan the film I’ll post some results. But really don’t hold your breath, you’ll probably pass out…