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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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…?!

Zenit TTL 35mm SLR Pinhole Conversion – Part 2

These are the first results from the Zenit pinhole conversion. I decided to continue handholding the camera as I was liking the results that I got panning the Ensign camera, even though I am not sure how relevant they are to my work. I do like the fact that when you are panning, if you get it right you can isolate a subject from its background. It reminds me of the work of Alexi Titarenko, although the subject is obviously nowhere near as defined as his – the steps for instance in his St Petersburg work. These images were all shot on a very clear bright day, so the exposures worked out to be about five seconds including additional time to take reciprocity failure into account. This is clearly a short enough time that I can hand hold the camera still enough to get a subject that is recognisable as a person. The last image is even recognisable to people that know him. You dont capture intimate details but enough to make the subject or the scene recognisable.

Zenit TTL 35mm SLR Pinhole Conversion – Part 1

I wanted to see what the result would be of a pinhole camera that had an actual mechanically operated shutter. The simplest way I could think of for trying this was to convert a regular 35mm SLR camera into a pinhole camera. To do this I bought a body cap off of eBay and drilled out a hole in the centre. Over this hole I securely taped one of the Reality So Subtle brass pinhole discs. Coincidently the focal length of this conversion, the distance between the film plane and the pinhole was again 50mm so I could use a 0.3mm pinhole again.

 

The 50mm was measured as accurately as I could but I cant say for sure it was dead on. Even with a vernier calliper it could have been one or two mm out.
I taped over the viewfinder and the old battery chamber to make sure no stray light could get in and the body cap screws in to no light should be able to get past this. I added a shutter release cable that could be locked off to allow for long exposures without holding down the button on the camera and can use it in bulb mode for an exposure as long as required. The frame spacing should be as accurate as it would be when using it conventionally with a lens. The pinhole adaptation should make no difference to this.

 

C-41 In Rodinal – Test Results

So last night I burned a roll of pound land 35mm in the garden taking the same shot, so that I had a roll of 35mm that I could try some timed tests in Rodinal for varying times.  In the darkroom I extracted the length of film from the canister and cut it into three lengths. Each of these lengths was then loaded onto a separate spiral and then into a dev tank.

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I mixed up a Rodinal solution of 1:50 and at 20 degrees started the tests one at a time.  The 12 and the 13 minutes were fine but looked pretty much the same once pulled out of the tank.  For this reason I added an extra thirty seconds to the 14 minute tank to try and get through and get a thinner neg.

Results below…

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Alright yeah I know that they’re not easy to see details but you get the idea, they all look fairly similar.

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Here you go this is a scan and close up.  I think that the 13 minute result is the best for overall contrast .  I am slightly confused though as the 11 minute result from the other day pre-scanned like this –

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I seemed like the neg was too dense for my scanner to see through, resulting in this horrible digital mess. When putting the question out there on the internet I received much the same response.  I had hoped that leaving in the dev for longer would cut through some of the orange base and it would appear that this has worked.  Or at least something else has worked…!  Either way I appear to be able to get a workable neg out of a c-41 film in black and white chemicals.

So to recap.

13 minutes in Rodinal 1:50.  Agitate for the first minute then the first ten seconds of each remaining minute after.

One minute in ILFOSTOP, agitating for the full minute.

5 minutes in Ilford Rapid Fixer, agitating for the first minute and then the first ten seconds of each remaining minute.

Ten minute wash in 20 degree (or there abouts) water.

Final wash in Kodak Photo Flo.  About six dunks in a tank of solution.

Hang to dry as normal.

Kodak Photo Flo – An Amendment

So it does seem that I was wrong in a previous post about the use of photo flo as I was still getting streaky negs but I seem to have sorted it now….

I have found that my favoured way is to make up a jug of Photo Flo, not accurately – about 300ml of water and about half a ml of Flo (use a syringe) and then ‘drag’ my negs through it.  I attach the regular drying/hanging weighted hooks to both ends as normal for drying and then whilst holding them both in each hand, allow the film to curl slightly into a C shape under its own weight.  I then lower it into the jug and allow the length to submerge in the jug.  You can then do this a few time, hold it up and you will see the solution running off.  A couple of dips normally does the job just fine.  The strips of film are then hung as normal with a towel under them to catch the remaining solution as it rolls off.  Again, don’t wash the solution off, and now I don’t even recommend squeegeeing them – there doesn’t appear to be the need and you eliminate the risk of damage to the negs.

Hope that helps somebody…!

A second attempt at developing 120

So after the fiasco that was the other days roll of 120 I decided to have another attempt.  This one went much better, although there are too many variables to determine exactly what the problem was on the first roll.

Camera was the same Coronet Flashmaster.

Film – Ilford HP5+ (1st variable.)

Film was fresh stock (2nd variable)

This film went on the spiral first time with no problems.  It is maybe worth noting that after the first roll I did some googling, and found a lot of people saying that they had a much better success rate loading 120 if they snipped the corners of the film before attempting to get it onto the spiral.  Snipping the corners helped prevent it snagging up as it was loaded.  (this then was the 3rd variable.)

It may also be worth noting that (possibly as a result of the snipped corners) as the roll went on easily my hands didn’t get all sweaty, resulting in a spiral that stayed dry and didn’t cause the film to hang up.  This could I guess be a 4th variable…!  Either way, this roll went on fine and developing went ahead as per the films tech sheet.  After the film had developed and dried I noticed that there were a few small dents in the film.  Genuinely no idea how they occurred but I guess the film is fragile, so the smaller kink could have done it.  The scanner fortunately didn’t ‘see’ them though so they have not come out on the digital files which is a result.


You will see though that there are some curious marks left behind on some of the images.  Some would appear to be evidence that the film did in fact not go onto the spiral nicely, and was left making contact with itself somewhere along the line.  Some I have absolutely zero explanation for…!

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Southwold pier.  To be honest it is one of my favourite towns to photograph, and if I want to try an idea it is normally the first place to give it a whirl.  This first image above developed pretty much fine.

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Different angle of the pier.  Curious white streaks in the film which to me suggest that the film was possibly pressing against itself in places.

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No idea.  Possibly a double exposure…?  The Coronet Flashmaster is fully manual so there is every chance that I shot a frame, and forgot to wind on for the next one.  Cool though.

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Streaks down the left of the frame.  No answers for.  Nothing physically wrong with the film so I assume it was an in dev issue.

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Pretty much fine again apart from the scratch

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End or beginning of the roll.

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Very curious black streak, again with no explanation…!

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Same view pretty much but without the defect

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Possibly the other part of film that was pressing against the earlier frame?

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and finally another that apart from being a bit patchy is almost ok.

Success I think.  Well I like them at least.  If any of you know the black and white dev process inside and out and have any thoughts on what these defects could have been caused by please do drop me a line i’d love to hear your thoughts.  More to come, although I think it will be 35mm again next time as I believe I’m getting a bit of a backlog that needs developing.  Until then take care all.

Speak soon