endings and beginnings

M6TTL, CV 35 f1.4 SC, TMY, DDX, 72F, 6.5min

First with the beginnings: after much clumsy web administration and wordpress tomfoolery, this site is back. On a new URL and at a new host with I think at least 95% of the content. This blog has bounced around a lot over the years. It started as a WordPress v1 site hosted on GoDaddy. That was something like 11 years ago. Over the years, I’ve upgraded wordpress numerous times, moved it out to wordpress.com hosting, changed URLs, moved it back to GoDaddy, etc etc. The site had accumulated a lot of cruft over the years and through those moves. GoDaddy has been threatening/promising to upgrade me for at least a year, but I’ve been putting it off because I knew all that accumulated cruft was going to take some sorting through. When I finally contacted to support to say “OK, let’s do this shit” somewhere in the process leading up to upgrade, the posts table got dropped from my wordpress database. Not much of a site without that. GoDaddy’s response was less than satisfactory, so I started looking around for alternatives and ended up here, on A2. I pieced the site back together from old SQL backups and exports from an orphaned wordpress.com instance. GoDaddy did eventually come through in part, but by that point, I was already most of the way done with moving. There’s still a bit of clean up to do in the database, and there’s a registrar move still pending, but it’s done enough to start using.

TMY2, DD-X, 72f, 6.5min

And now, for the endings: everything photographic around this place is falling apart. This weekend, my 15 year old Patterson tank slipped out of my hand and cracked itself on the bathroom counter taking a big chunk out of the lip in the process. To the extent that it was ever water tight, it is no longer. A replacement arrived from Amazon in less that 24 hours. If only everything were that easy.

This weekend, I also discovered that a little bit of plastic had broken off one of the film carriers for my Coolscan 9000. The carrier that holds two strips of six 35mm negs is a hinged affair in which the two pieces of the carrier are held together – and thereby the negatives held somewhat flat – by two plastic clips. One broke. I went back to using this carrier earlier this year because batch scanning 12 frames is way faster than doing five at a time in the glass carrier. The quality difference isn’t massive with 35mm, and I’m getting lazy in my old age. That particular carrier now goes for more than $250 on eBay, which is nuts for something that cost $60 back when these things were new. I think I paid less than $200 for the glass carrier originally, so $250 for plastic one is absurd.

Accept that it isn’t really absurd in the context of how expensive all the Nikon scanning equipment has become. The Coolscan 9000 itself now goes for something close to $6000, if you can find one. I bought mine for $2K shortly after Nikon started discontinuing film scanners, but before the 9000 itself was officially be discontinued. I think it’s the only time I’ve ever timed an ‘investment’ correctly.

I’ve had nagging concerns about the 9000 for years. The FireWire interface, while better than SCSI, has always required a bit of voodoo to keep working. I really started to worry when Apple started dropping FireWire ports, but adapters seem to work fine so far. I’ve also worried about the mirror getting dirty, but frequent resolution tests don’t show any degradation, so I seemed to have dodged that bullet. I didn’t think about the plastic fatiguing. Or the power switch failing (last year). I crudely fixed the power switch, and the carrier still works with only one clip, but as Dante Stella recently noted, the mortality of film cameras is ever more apparent, and I’d argue that extends to the whole system of production. I’m starting to get worried. When the Coolscan dies, all the alternatives are pretty unappealing.

So, broken scanner, broken development tank, and my XPAN is still making that noise that started during our trip to Louisville earlier this year. Like the Coolscan, the XPAN would be hard to replace, and I’ve recently come to realize, that’s its what I do the work I like best with. It’s really all about that aspect ratio. A number of 120 cameras have similar aspect ratios, but the weight and size makes those unsuitable for my preferences. Nodal point options like the Horizon don’t really do the same thing. Really, the only option for shooting wide aspect ratio 35mm is a Mamiya 7 with the adapter kit. That’s not a terrible option, but it’s not quite the same aspect ratio, it’s supposedly clumsy to use, and by the time I buy into lenses, I’d probably be in for about the same amount as another XPAN. And I’d still be at the mercy of the Coolscan, or perhaps one of these.

XPAN, Delta 400, DD-X, 72F, 6.5min

There is one another option, albeit one that makes me uncomfortable to consider. The GFX 50s has an XPAN mode. And yes, I realize I could crop on any sufficiently high res digital, but .  . .  I need to see the aspect ratio in the VF. As far as I can tell from the limited mentions of the feature in online reviews, the GFX VF shows the aspect ratio. And the GFX has traditional dials. I didn’t even like the infinitely spinning control dials on film SLRs, and the multi-modality of them on digital hasn’t made them any easier for me to us get on with. I don’t totally hate the available GFX lens options, although the only way to get the same angle of view as the XPAN’s 45mm would be get the Fuji zoom. I’d prefer a prime, but as long as we are dreaming, I could consider going wider (with the 21mm equiv) or narrower (with the 35mm equiv). Or just get both.

A GFX with a few lenses isn’t cheap. In fact, I probably could buy another XPAN and a replacement Coolscan 9000 for about the same amount of money. If anyone reads this, I’m sure they’ll point out things like film and developing costs. Those incremental costs don’t mean much at the volume I shoot, so I’ll ignore that.  Assuming near cost equivalence, how does one choose between two radically different systems?  How do I balance my worries about the reliability of the XPAN/9000 against concerns about the size/weight and digitallyness of the GFX? How much, if any, would my photography benefit from a more modern, flexible option? Not something I have to decide today, but I can see the time coming where I’ve either got to reinvest in film gear or make a switch to digital.

In other news, I think my iPhone died in the rain today. So yeah, everything is breaking around here.

 

 

Heat, D76, Tri-X, Burgers

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It’s been hot here, into the upper nineties and hotter for a week until last night. D76 isn’t great at high temperatures. Something about one of the developing agents working faster than the other, and the contrast builds quickly above 72F even if you adjust your times. It had been a while since I’d used D76, and I’d forgotten this if I’d ever known it. I’d also forgotten how smeary it can make Tri-X look. Not a sharp combo, particularly not compared to a film like TMY2 in XTOL or Tmax developer. Sharpness isn’t everything, but it’s something, and when also aren’t getting great shadows, it’s hard to love D76 as a 35mm developer.

But the burgers were good . . .

82F

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, HP5, XTOL 1+1, 82F, 6 minutes

I’ve finished up shooting for SOFOBOMO 2010. I’ve still got a bit of post processing to do (and redo -see the middle of the set on flickr), but I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I’ve got to work with. See the last post for a link to the set.

In other news, it’s going to break 100F today. When I developed a roll of HP5 yesterday, the developer came out at 82F even after being cut with ice water. HP5 has longer development times than TMY2, but it was still a brief 6 minutes in the soup. I should write post one day about developing in the heat, something I first learned to do in South Korea, and something I’m having to relearn in DC as we don’t have central AC.

State of the Art

Me, Mamiya C330f, Leica M6TTL, Biogon 35 F2

Photo courtesy of headsticks.com

It’s been about nine months since I’ve done much blogging. In that time, I’ve moved to DC, sold my car, started a new job, been promoted twice, been to lots of museums and a few plays, bought an iPhone, ate some good Korean food, updated to WordPress 3, wrote a new theme and shot almost 100 rolls of film. It’s been busy, and I’m not going to spend my whole day off going into the details, so here’s the current state of the art in brief.

Cameras and Lenses

I still carry my M6TTL almost everywhere, usually with just a single lens, most often the CV 35 1.4 SC, but also the Biogon 35 F2 or the Hexanon 50 F2. The 28 and the 90 mostly stay on the shelf.

On the weekends, I sometimes shoot with the Beast, a Mamiya C330f with an 80mm F2.8 lens and a sticky shutter. I wish it had a built in meter, but I’m getting better at guessing exposures or using the M6TTL for metering. I saw someone carrying a Mamiya 7 II the other day; those have meters in them, right?

I also shoot occasionally with an Olympus OM2 and 50mm F1.8. The OM2 replaced a dead OM1 with a sticky mirror. I like it enough that I often think of buying an OM4 and that ridiculously over priced 40mm F2.

Tamrac straps on everything, the kind with leather pads and quick release buckles.

Film & Developer

The last three to four months I’ve mostly been shooting TMY2, about 30 rolls of it so far, but I’ve also shot a couple of rolls of Provia 100 and other odds and ends that have been at the bottom of the film bin for too long. I’m developing with XTOL stock almost exclusively. TMY2 developed in full strength XTOL forgives many exposure errors and scans with very little apparent grain. XTOL is pain in the ass to mix up, but a batch stored in eight 600ml Nalgene bottles lasts 16 rolls of 35mm, so mixing it up is at least an infrequent chore. There’s half a bottle of Rodinal on the shelf for emergencies.

DC’s tap water doesn’t leave hard water stains on negatives, so I’m not even using filtered water anymore except for the final dunk in PhotoFlo.

Scanning & Post

I’m using a Nikon Super Coolscan 9000, still the most expensive piece of photo gear I’ve ever purchased. I’m scanning to 16 bit greyscale tiffs using Vuescan’s Tmax 400 Pro preset. Crucial detail; the crop buffer is set to 10%.

Some quick curves, sharpening and adding a border completes the post work. A flickr pro account gives me unlimited space, so I export a jpeg large enough of to make a 6X9 print and archive to flickr for safe keeping. Near-line storage goes onto a pair of mirrored WD drives. Working files get backed up with Timemachine.

Printing

My Epson R2400 died from neglect months ago. I’ve replaced all the inks, but the magenta stills says it’s empty. I’ve considered getting it fixed or just replacing it, but I never printed that much anyway apart from infrequent bouts of misguided discipline. As an alternative to home printing, I’ve just assembled and ordered my first blurb book. We’ll see how that goes.

Silk Shirt: Neopan 400, D76 and Fortuitous Mistakes

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These, and the photos in the preceding post, are from a couple of rolls of Neopan 400 developed in D76 1:1 for 6.75 minutes at 72F, which is a minute and 45 seconds less than the Fuji data sheet recommends. This wasn’t intentional. I misread the time/temp conversion chart. I seem to be doing this a lot lately, but in this case, it turned out fine, good enough, in fact, that I repeated the ‘mistake’ again this morning with two more rolls, although this time I went for 7 minutes – round numbers are easier to time.

Lately I’ve been biasing my exposures to the shadows more heavily than I have in the past, so between that and the under development, I’ve probably pulled the film a bit. Seems to be working for me. I’m also playing around with some new scanning techniques. More on that later.

For the record, these shots are actually Freestyle’s Legacy 400. Although the edge markings are slightly different, it seems to be Neopan 400. Mixed in with a roll of Neopan 400, the density came out identical to my eye.

Kate’s Parents Have Cats

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, Neopan 100ss, Rodinal 1:100

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, Neopan 100ss, Rodinal 1:100

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, Neopan 100ss, Rodinal 1:100

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, Neopan 100ss, Rodinal 1:100

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, Neopan 100ss, Rodinal 1:100

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, Neopan 100ss, Rodinal 1:100

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, Neopan 100ss, Rodinal 1:100

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, Neopan 100ss, Rodinal 1:100

and I am massively allergic.

This Neopan 100ss is not bad stuff. The purple tint takes some extra washing to clear, but no problems other than that. Developed in Rodinal 1:100, 72F, 16.25 minutes, 30 seconds initial agitation, 3 inversions per minute thereafter.

Fieldtrip to the Parking Deck

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

M6TTL, CV 35 1.4 SC, TMY2, Rodinal Stand

TMY2 in Rodinal stand is . . . uh . . . interesting?