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…?!

FP4+

Until now I have been using whatever film (within reason) came to hand out of my fridge. I have a dedicated fridge that is full of film that I have acquired over the past two years or so, and for black and white work I have mainly been using Ilford FP4, SFX and HP5+.
I wanted some consistency with the film that I use and had narrowed my favourite down to HP5 and FP4. I am getting low on both, and the rolls that I have of each stock are either almost expired or I am unsure how they have been kept before I got them. Or both. I have had good results with both films but I made the decision to stock up on FP4+ rather than HP5. I have achieved good results in the past both pushing and pulling both stocks of film – rating the film at an either higher or lower ISO to compensate for ambient light levels and developing accordingly – but I chose FP4 because natively it is an ISO125 film. For my pinhole work the lower ISO is more appropriate, and if I am not using it in a pinhole camera and I need to I can rate it at anything up ISO1600 with no real issues. I bought 20 rolls of 120 format, with the intention that a lot of that will be used on the trip to Mull to make the work that this reflective journal is leading towards.

I also bought 100ft of bulk 35mm to load into cartridges. This works out to be about £2.50 per roll which is much better for me financially that buying individual rolls when I can load it myself with my bulk loaders.

A New Manifesto

I now feel that the reasoning for making the work is becoming clearer.  My memories of things from my past are as a general rule not crystal clear. I retain these slightly hazy memories from past experiences, family holidays as a child. Day trips. Too many to try and make a real list. Some are clearer than other, some are more important than others. One that really stands out was time spent on the Isle of Mull in June 2007. It was a two week time frame – the first was a week to celebrate my girlfriend’s (now wife’s) cousins 30th birthday. The family owns a house on the island and is a very sentimental place for them all.

The second week was a break for Ashley, myself and her mother and father. In reflection, it was one of the first gatherings of their family that I was a part of, and also the first time that I had been invited away with just Ashley and her parents. Possibly it was the first time that I felt accepted as a genuine part of their family.

It was also the time that I first went out of my way to purchase what I thought was a half decent camera to document the trip with. I don’t think thats a major part of it, maybe more just a side note…
I have lots of memories of the two weeks, and the majority of them are places, and short snippets of time unfolding within those environments. We visited an art gallery, outside of which was parked a purple Reliant Scimitar. We went to a nearby beach and there were cows walking on it. There was a random shed, not dissimilar to the one that I have been repeatedly testing cameras on recently. In it was an old, rotten, MK2 escort. It barely fitted in there and the shed was falling down around it. This list could go on but I don’t feel the need for it to.

On May 3rd 2017 I am making a trip back to the Isle of Mull with Patrick, my now father-in-law. He is exhibiting some work in the art gallery that I remember and it seems ridiculous not to go as well and make this body of work. Its at least 600 miles to get there, so its not something that I can just up and do one random weekend.

I intend to find these places somehow and use my pinhole camera to photograph them. It is my intention that the resulting images should look as they do within my memories. Black and white, soft in clarity, but recognisable for what they are.

I have a folder full of images taken on this trip back in 2007. I have dug them out of a forgotten hard drive – I haven’t looked at them for probably 7 years. Yet I don’t want to look at them now. I feel that if I look at them then what I have in my head will disappear and until the work is made at least I do not want that. I feel that if that goes, then I will not be able to research this way of working genuinely. I don’t want to look at them but I don’t want to go there and make this work and realise at a later date that i’ve missed something.

I want to make it clear as well that I do not wish to re-enact, or re-stage any of these images. That is 100% not the purpose. I think that I will just tuck away that folder of images so I am not tempted to look. I now don’t see the purpose of having put them back onto my computer. They have the potential I feel to ruin what I am doing.