20061010 Tuesday October 10, 2006

It's Amazing What a Good Developer Will Do

Pathway to the Sky
Originally uploaded by Berin Loritsch.
Development is much easier now that I have a good developing agent. I'm using Kodak XTol now, and it is a world of difference better than Ilfosol S. First, Ilfosol S is a very low contrast developer and XTol is a much higher contrast developer. XTol is more flexible, because it is also a compensating developer, so with longer and more dilute development times I can have lower contrast if I need it. The quality of the image and the smoothness of the grain is what sets XTol apart. I even like it better than Perceptol. (2006-10-10 09:30:00.0) Permalink Trackback Comments [0]

20060901 Friday September 01, 2006

I've got to get a handle on developing film

I developed my roll of film where I was experimenting with the zone system. Now I had already started the roll pulling the film to ISO 250 so I could use Perceptol on it. Unfortunately, I didn‘t quite have enough Perceptol for even 1+1 dilution. It ended up being about 1+2, and even though I extended the development time it just wasn‘t enough. There were no strong blacks or whites. Admittedly in the evening there wasn‘t a lot of high contrast light. I still didn‘t get what I was looking for and most of the pictures ended up looking rather gray like the one posted with this article.

Also quite anoying are the streaks from the developer getting caught up in the sprockets. Before I got them because I agitated too vigorously. Now I‘m not agitating enough. I‘ve gotten some good tips, and I‘ll be changing developers soon. I need to get a good routine down that is repeatable and high quality.

(2006-09-01 17:35:54.0) Permalink Trackback

20060830 Wednesday August 30, 2006

Zone System and Exposure Meters

Here‘s the basic premise of the zone system. Your tonal range is separated by 10 stops ranging from pure white to pure black in a printed picture . By performing a set of test shots at the rated speed of the film, you can more easily visualize what the tones look like. Most important is the reference zone, Zone V. Zone V is what your exposure meters are calibrated to reproduce. That means if you point the meter in shadows, the shadows will be exposed to render medium gray. As a result the highlights will likely fall outside the usable range of the film.

Ah, but here is where things fall into place. The usable range of film would be zones II through IX, with zones III through VIII having full detail. You always want the darkest part of the picture where you want full detail to be in zone III. Then using your spot meter you can find out where other parts of the picture happen to fall. To expose the shadow detail in zone III, you spot meter the shadow and drop the suggested exposure two stops. It‘s not a hard and fast rule, but it provides you with better tools to interpret what your meter is telling you.

Of course it still works with color film, although it‘s easiest to think of tones in terms of black and white. The bottom line is that once you‘ve calibrated your system to middle gray, you have a wonderful tool at your disposal. And there‘s the rub. How do you calibrate your exposure time without a densitometer? Most of us enthusiasts don‘t have the tools at our disposal to perform the tests to make the system really work for us. There is a way to do it using an enlarger and prints, but if your workflow stops with a scanner like me, what do you do? I‘ll have to figure something out. I may have to buy a used densitometer to make it worth my while.

(2006-08-30 22:28:22.0) Permalink Trackback

20060613 Tuesday June 13, 2006

Developing Film is Fun for the Whole Family

Ok, so maybe that‘s an exaggeration. However this is a way that my daughter and I get to bond. She is a very creative soul, and in the lower elementary has written several of her own books (illustrated and bound by her). She even has a series with a recurring character. Of course the distribution for her works of art is rather small right now being my wife and I. Since I have been picking up photography as a hobby, and started developing my own film to cut down costs, I figured we might be able to share the joy of developing film together.

Typically it is not a good idea to let young kids play with chemicals, so I take care of mixing the chemicals and putting the film on the spiral and in the tank. Last night, as she saw I was starting to develop a couple rolls from graduation, she exclaimed “I want to pour!“ With proper supervision she is fairly careful so I let her pour the developer, stop, and fixer at the proper stages. She also took care of agitating the developer. That‘s saying something because the pushed TMax took 21 minutes to develop. She was involved the whole time.

My wife upon seeing the two of us develop the film commented, “My two geeks :)” She likes seeing the pictures, and she prefers to see the finished product in hand. She can‘t stand the develop only that I do. I wonder how I‘m going to break it to her that I‘m using slide film for the cruise in a couple weeks. I don‘t think the place I use does reversal printing, but even if they do it would be very expensive to get the whole roll done.

(2006-06-13 09:20:10.0) Permalink Trackback

20060612 Monday June 12, 2006

Experiments in Photography

Originally uploaded by Berin Loritsch.
I've posted about the troublesome gym before. In order to properly expose a photo in that place you really need ISO 400 or higher. Well, for this year's graduation I didn't have any on hand. In fact, all I had was TMax 100--a very nice black and white film. I decided to do an experiment even though both my film and my developer were not really designed for this task. I pushed the TMax to ISO 400, and then compensated in development. The Perceptol did its usual job of minimizing the grain. In fact this is probably the nicest ISO 400 grain I have shot yet.

Another thing that I was quite pleased with was the sharpness of the pictures. I'm using the same exact lens that I've used in this gym before: the 50mm f/1.8 lens. The difference is the camera. The EOS 1n that I bought has an incredibly accurate autofocus sensor. It puts the newer Rebel K2 to shame. I blamed the glass for the poor performance, and it was really my camera. As you can see by this picture, there is no shame in that lens. Put it on a good camera and you have fantastic results. (2006-06-12 23:39:17.0) Permalink Trackback

20060603 Saturday June 03, 2006

Develop your own B&W;

I find I really enjoy developing my own B&W film now. It‘s been all of a couple weeks, and the results have been very good. In fact, all the pictures I will show in this post were rolled, taken, and developed by myself. It‘s kind of a Zen like thing. I can stop thinking for a bit and just be I always start by arranging my workspace and mixing my working strength of developer, stop, and fixer.

The developer has already been poured at this stage

After I load the film on the plastic reel and put it in the light tight development tank, I soak the film in water for about a minute. I take the tempurature of the developer using a cheap food thermometer (which I only use for developing film), and figure out how long it shood be developed (Ilford has a nice chart to adjust development times based on temperature). Next, I put my wristwatch on the table, and mark a piece of paper with how long the time is.

I've already been tracking time here

After I‘ve poured the water out, I pour the developer in and mentally mark where the second hand is on the face of my watch. Do the beginning agitation (5 turns back and forth with the swizzle stick) and tap the tank on the counter. I then put the lid on and at each time the second hand passes the mental mark I do the normal agitation (5 flips), tap the tank on the counter, and mark the minute in groups of five. In between time to agitate I clean up after myself as I finish use of beakers and other things.

At the end of development time, I pour our the developer and pour in the stop and agitate that. It sits for a minute, and then I pour out the stop and pour in the fixer. I do the agitation with the fixer for about 3 minutes and pour it out.

Finally, I wash the film for about 5 minutes or so under running water (flipping the reel a couple of times). My last step is to pour in 300ml of water that has two drops of dawn dishwashing detergent and let it soak for about a minute. The dawn is a cheap way of adding a wetting agent so that spots don‘t appear and priming the beaker to be washed.

I don‘t have a picture of the final step which is hanging the film up to dry. I take it to the bathroom with some cheap magnetic clips I bought from Office Depot and hang it from the shower rod. It takes about a half hour to dry so if I have some film to develop I‘ll start on that. By the time I‘m done, the previous roll of film is done. I never have to have two strips next to each other to dry — unless I get a bigger tank.

It may sound like a lot of work, but it really isn‘t. I may not be trying all kinds of different developer and film combinations, but I find this excersize helps me relax after a long day.

(2006-06-03 10:56:25.0) Permalink Trackback

20060530 Tuesday May 30, 2006

It's not a tablecloth...

We recently went on our annual trip to the Shanandoah Valley area to celebrate our 10th anniversary. The photo set showing off the beauty of the area is at flickr. Among all the impressive sights was a very unique table in our room. The table was hand made, and while it looks like it has a table cloth, the detail is carved and painted into the table itself.

We usually pick one new thing to do in that area every year. This year we decided to go to Linden Vineyards to sample the Virginia wine and the incredible scenery. We were not dissapointed. We enjoyed the sampling of their vintages (which amounted to about one glass), and then picked the one we liked best for one additional glass. With goat and lamb cheeses and baggets, we were living the life of riley. After the little picknic, we walked a bit on the property and took some pictures.

I must say that I am starting to really like slide film much more than print film. While the dynamic range is not as good, the colors are outstanding.

(2006-05-30 10:02:48.0) Permalink Trackback

20060515 Monday May 15, 2006

Same Film, Different Speed, Vastly Different Results

I have to assume that Kodak‘s UC series film was design for the ISO 400 speed. I have to assume that because the same film at ISO 100 is very different. The UC400 film is beautiful, able to reproduce rich color, and the yellow walls in my kitchen flawlessly. The UC100 film is artificial, with reds that punch you in the face. At a young adult formal at church we had someone who looked kinda like Tom Cruise, no offense to my friend. I took the picutre with the UC100 film and it looked like he was wearing lipstick. At my neice‘s first birthday party, I took a picture of another of her uncles and the red was completely saturated. I haven‘t gone through all five rolls yet, but after three rolls with the same results it kind of makes you wonder.

Bottom line is this: Kodak UC400 is a great film, Kodak UC100 is bad. The red saturates long before any of the other colors. I did have to use the flash a lot, but even the pictures where no flash was used we have the same phenomenon. As far as grain quality and sharpness, there wasn‘t enough of a difference between the UC100 and UC400 do try and work with the deficiencies of the slower film. The grain quality of the UC400 film is excellent, and you have a lot more flexibility for indoor pictures without flash.

(2006-05-15 09:04:08.0) Permalink Trackback

20060512 Friday May 12, 2006

Pan F Plus MiniReview

These are my impressions after one roll, and may in part be due to my developer. However, the results from the roll were definitely sharp. So sharp you could cut yourself. The grain is very small, but as with all film ever present. I have to admit that shooting with the Pan F Plus (ISO 50) was not as fun as shooting with the Delta 400 (my current favorite). So what‘s the problem? Shooting at ISO 50 is a double edged sword. Shure it‘s easy to create the long exposure effects such as shooting pictures with moving water. However, it is difficult to find a time of day that is bright enough to not need to lug a tripod around but not so bright as to have harsh lighting.

I mentioned the insanely sharp pictures, but it did bring a problem when I was trying to take advantage of depth of field. I set up all the billiard balls on the table and focused on the center ball. I took several pictures, just adjusting the aperture. At the widest aperture, the smallest DOF, every ball was still pretty sharp. The numbers on the balls were now just softly focused. There was nothing as dramatic as when I focused on a leaf with a car in the background.

Now, every now and again developers have a bad roll. I think that is what happened here. Every picture seemed over developed. There were some shots I took trying different metering targets, but even the ones where I used the grey card to set the exposure looked overexposed. I‘m not sure what happened. As I don‘t have my own chemicals and such yet, I can‘t play around with development options on my own.

BTW, a serrendipitous accident. By forgetting to switch my scanner to B&W negatives I found that if you scan with the color negative setting you get a pretty decent sepia tone.

(2006-05-12 07:51:35.0) Permalink Trackback

20060428 Friday April 28, 2006

Mini Tripod, It's so cute!

I just received my mini tripod, and I was surprised just how small it is. This thing rocks. It‘s meant for situations where you need a low vantage point. It has a screw adjustment to control how close to the ground you can get. In fact, I opened it all the way and the tripod sits just about a centimeter off the ground (from the bottom).

This picture was taken with the tripod at it‘s lowest setting while sitting on my (quite messy) desk. Both of these pictures were taken with my Kodak digital P&S just because I wanted immediate gratification.

It‘s funny, I don‘t like using the P&S camera any more. I get so much satisfaction from the film Rebel. I won‘t complain if someone buys me a Canon DSLR (I have an investment in lenses), which would give me the best of both worlds. However, I will continue to shoot film for the forseeable future. Even with the DSLR, I‘d shoot film for certain subjects. You can‘t get images like I got using the Ilford Delta 400 with digital — they usually end up looking like the Ilford HP5 roll. Even with color, you don‘t have the flexibility that you do with film to pick the right flavor of color saturation for the job. Sports shots will definitely be with the DSLR though. Considering the volume of pictures I would need to capture the few really good shots, digital is the only real way to go.

(2006-04-28 09:17:43.0) Permalink Trackback