(Over)exposing myself

A few months ago, I went on an early morning photo trip with two fellow analogue lovers. My weapon of choice was a Nikon F100 and a new Samyang AF 14mm f/2.8. The ammo a roll of Adox Silvermax. Basically the same as the old, legendary Agfa APX 100. A silver rich emulsion with fantastic tones and a wide exposure latitude.

I was looking forward to playing with small apertures and long exposure landscape shots. But what I didn’t know was that the lens has an electronically controlled diaphragm. The F100 cannon control the aperture on lenses with electronic diaphragms, so all my shots ended up being shot wide open in stead of the f/8-11-16 that I had set the camera to. Of course that meant that all shots got horribly overexposed and I was quite annoyed. Got home and put the roll aside a few months till I figured out what to do.

I decided to try to stand develop the film. While stand development has a lot of great advantages, I had a few bad experiences in the past. Mainly foggy base and surge marks from the sprocket holes. I decided to try, nonetheless, but I added 2 grams of iodized salt to my developer to try to avoid base fog and surge marks. My developer of choice is HC-110, so of course I used it here as well.
I wanted at least 5 ml of concentrate in my working solution, so I made a 1+119 mixture with 5 ml of concentrate. That gave me exactly 600ml of developer – perfect to pour into my two 135 roll Paterson tank. I presoaked my film in tempered water while mixing the developer. I swizzled using the stick for the first minute, then banged the tank 3 times on my table and put the tank into a 20°C water bath and let it sit for 60 minutes without any agitation. Then I rinsed and fixed as normal.

The results came out pretty nice. The tones are rich and the contrast is good. Below is a few examples:

Tiny footprint

Kodak Tri-X 400 in tiny footprint developer.

We all know it, photographic chemicals are not very environmentally friendly. They all contain hazardous stuff. That is why it can be a good idea to use a developer with only a tiny amount of chemicals in it. For this purpose, we can use the developing agent phenidone, which can be purchased on Ebay. The chemical is an extremely potent developer which means that only a tiny amount is needed for developing a film. On top of that is has very low toxicity and unlike metol, another developing chemical, phenidone does not cause dermatitis upon skin contact.
I will give you the basic recipe here.

To start from scratch, you will need the following:

  • 10g phenidone
  • 250ml propylene glycol
  • 25g sodium hydroxide in dried crystal form
  • Vitamin C powder
  • Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • Distilled water
  • 2 250ml chemical bottles

The developer cannot be mixed and stored as a ready to use solution or concentrate. It needs to be mixed immediately before each use. However, we can prepare a few solutions beforehand.

The phenidone solution:
Heat 250ml of propylene glycol in a safe container in the microwave for 30 seconds. Then mix in the phenidone powder, little by little til it has all dissolved. This will give you a 3.7% phenidone solution. We use propylene glycol here, because it prevents the chemical from oxidizing, thus preserving it. Store in one of the chemical bottles.

The sodium hydroxide solution:
Dissolve 25g of sodium hydroxide crystals in 200ml of distilled water. Then add more water till the 250ml mark. This will give you a 10% solution. Store in the other bottle.

One shot developing solution:

  • 400ml water
  • 8ml sodium hydroxide solution 10%
  • 1.4g baking soda
  • 1g vitamin C
  • 0.3ml phenidone solution
  • Water to 500ml

In 400ml of water, mix sodium hydroxide, baking soda, and vitamin C. This can create some bubbles or foam. Once it has settled, add the phenidone solution and top up with water to 500ml. You are now ready to go. If you for some reason need to control base fogging a bit, add 2g of iodized table salt to the developing solution. I have not tried this yet but it could be an idea if developing expired and/or poorly stored film.

Developing times are usually around 17-19 minutes for regular black and white films at 20C (68F). Agitate GENTLY for the first minute and then again GENTLY for 10 seconds every 3 minutes. Some films may require a shorter or longer development time. Experiment for yourself.

I’ve had great success with Kodak Tri-X 400 shot at box speed and developed for 17 minutes. Below are a few unedited examples from that film.

This basic recipe can also be used with other developing agents. There are many natural developers and one that immediately leaps to mind is coffee. Now this is not your average Caffenol-C recipe, but I would certainly like to try this one using instant coffee instead of phenidone. Other natural developers worth mentioning is beer, thyme, peppermint, green tea extract.
When I find the time, I will experiment more with this.

Old film pt. deux

I shot the Orwo NP22. Rated it at ISO 32 to compensate for the alost 30 years it is expired.
Developing went along almost smoothly. For ease, I used HC-110 dil. B. (1+31) rather than Xtol. I had to guess the developing time though. I looked at other film stocks and concluded that a time of 5 minutes in HC-110 would be the normal developing time for unexpired film of this type shot at box speed. The recipe said to develop for 1.5-2x the normal time, so I chose 8 minutes for this experiment.

The developer is supposed to be cold – 10C (50F), so I mixed it from water I had stored in the fridge. However, as it was very warm here, I noticed that the developer very quickly rose in temperature. When I poured it into the development tank, it was already 12C-15C and during development, it rose even further to about 20C. I therefore decided to cut the development short and stopped it after about 7 minutes.

A quick mobile shot of the negs on a light table.

It seems that base fogging is somewhat under control. But what I didn’t know was that the film was already exposed, so the negatives are overexposed due to the double expossure.
Since the original, 30 year old exposure contains images of persons and small children, I will not publish them. However there was this one rather cool double exposure.

Cool double exposure from the film.

The recipe I ended up using looks as follows:

  • 300ml HC-110 dilution B ( 1+31)
  • 2g iodized table salt
  • Temperature 12C -> 20C (rising)
  • Development time 7 minutes
  • Agitation: 1 minute initially, then 3 turns every minute
  • Fixing for 4 minutes

It needs tweeking, of course. Next time, I will try to control the temperature better using ice cubes or a large cold bath for the development tank.

Old film

I recently found a roll of some old Agfa Ortho 25 film and a roll of Orwo NP22, 125 ASA film. How old, I have no idea. Once again, Daniel Keating comes to the rescue with some experience based advise.

He wrote a nice article for diyphotography.net about reducing base fog on old, expired film.
Basically the recipe is as follows for a 300ml tank for 135 film:

  • Mix a normal solution of your favorite developer
  • Add 2 g of iodized table salt (or 0.2 g of potassium bromide). Acts as a restrainer to minimize fogging.
  • Cool it down to 10°C (50°F)
  • Develop the film for 1.5-2 times the standard time for a 20°C (68°F) development of that particular film stock. Agitate normally.
  • Fix and rinse as usual

This procedure should give very fine results even with old, poorly stored film. I am looking forward to trying it out and will of course post an update blog about it.

Note: Daniel Keating’s article actually says to use benzotriazole as a restrainer. However Daniel wrote to me that 0.2 g of potassium bromide would also work.
Now, where I live, photographic chemicals are not easy to come by. But as I read in the Caffenol Cookbook, potassium bromide can be substituted by iodized table salt by using ten times the amount. In this case 0.2 g x 10 = 2 g. This is experimental, of course, but worth a try!
Daniel’s article can be read in full here: https://www.diyphotography.net/how-i-removed-base-fog-from-old-film-stocks/

Breaking the rules

Developing film is always interesting. When I first started out, I used Rodinal, but I found it too grainy. Didn’t like the results I got. Then I found Kodak Xtol. I loved it. Really lovely results! Only downside – the shelf life of the mixed developer stock. So I got my hands on some HC-110. Really lovely developer with a shelf life of about a million years or so. A thick syrup like concentrate that you mix with water. I really like HC-110 – but I kind of miss Xtol. So when my friend, Søren, came with the idea that you could perhaps make a stronger concentrate of Xtol that would last longer, I got to thinking, so I asked in the Facebook group “The Darkroom” about experience with making such concentrate. A nice man called Daniel Keating gave me a few tips. He suggested mixing the Xtol powder up in propylene glycol, so I got me some of that. Sadly, the Xtol powder is insoluble in Propylene glycol, so that experiment was shut down before it even began.
He also suggested that I simply split the powders up and only mixed what I needed. I had long thought of that but people were always like, “You can’t do that. You don’t know if the chemicals are evenly mixed in the A and B powders”. I asked Daniel about it and he said that he had been doing that for 47 years with all kinds of powder developers and never had a problem.
So I broke the rules and went for it. I wanted to make 250ml of Xtol stock, so I weighed the contents of each bag, thinking it might differ a bit from the weight stated on the bags. It did. The contents of Part A was 241 grams, should have been 244 grams. Part B was 269 grams, and should have been 270 grams. I divided the amounts and ended up with 12,1 grams of part A and 13,4 grams of part B to make 250 ml of stock. I mixed and put a film in my Paterson tank.
I made a 1+1 solution of Xtol and developed my film – an Ilford HP5 shot some months ago at iso 1600 (N+2).

One of the images from the test film. HP5+ @1600. Xtol 1+1, 23,5C for 13:30 min.

To me that looks like a successful development. So far so good. Next experiment was a Rollei Ortho 25 shot last year at a photo marathon. It developed perfectly from the look of the negatives. Very contrasty though.

Rollei Ortho 25 Plus – film was shot over a year ago and was not stored properly.

It looks fine – although it seems that the film did not handle sitting exposed for a year and some months in a nonsuitable environment very well. Something is definitely not quite right – but I blame the film, not the developing.
I will do more experimenting, but for now, my conclusion is that of course you can split the powders into smaller portions. Just shake well before you measure up a small batch.

From Ukraine with analove

First of all, please excuse the title of this post. I thought it was funny.

I’ve had my Kiev 60 for a few months now. It is an awesome camera. Fully manual classic 35mm style medium format SLR. It’s a tank! Heavy and sturdy. You could kill a bear with this thing. This camera uses the same lens mount as the German Pentacon Six – the P6 mount. This means you have access to a lot of awesome lenses from Zeiss, Schneider and the native, Ukranian Arsat. I put the camera through a test, shooting a slide film, Fujifilm Provia 100F. Slide film are notorious for having lousy exposure latitude. This means that the exposure should be more or less spot on to get a nice image. So this was really a perfect test of shutter speeds. Mostly the fast ones though. Other than the Provia, I also shot a Kodak Portra 160 and a Kodak Ektar 100. All these images were shot with a Zeiss Sonnar 180mm f/2.8. A beast of a lens – tack sharp and a pleasant bokeh.

The camera itself is pretty cool to shoot. It’s heavy, so probably not the best vacation walk around camera. The shutter gives a nice clunk, but it doesn’t feel like the mirror creates too much camera shake. The TTL prism is awesome. Very bright and easy to focus and frame through. The lightmeter in the prism sucks though. I just pulled the batteries out of mine and use the camera with a handheld meter or by using the Sunny 16 guidelines.

The kit lens for this bad boy is an Arsat Volna-3 80mm f/2.8. A classic Soviet medium format lens. It is actually quite sharp – supposedly even sharper than the equivalent Zeiss version.
I shot a single roll of Fomapan 200 with this one. I developed it in Caffenol – and it went horribly wrong. However, a good modern scanner and some proper software saved it. I think the Volna-3 looks good – very good even.

Fomapan 200 – Caffenol C – Volna-3 80mm

The last lens I have for the Kiev 60 is the Zeiss Flektogon 50mm F/4. I have shot with it, but have not developed the films yet. Supposedly it is not the sharpest of the sharpest, but should be good enough.

The camera does have a frame spacing issue. At least mine does. It is an easy fix, a screw needs to be adjusted. I just haven’t had the time to sit down to fix it. The spacing seems to differ from film stock to film stock. The Provia had overlapping frames, by about 5 mm. The Kodak films seem to have fine, but a little narrow spacing and the Fomapan has spacing which more or less does not exist – no spacing and no overlap either. From guides online, I believe that this camera is extremely easy to adjust in different ways.
I love it!

An adventure in medium format

I began my venture into medium format when I got an old Zeiss Ikonta folder. It was a view finder camera with no way of knowing if you actually hit focus. I shot one roll of film with that camera (actually the first film I developed myself) before selling it and then I bought another Zeiss.
This time an Ikoflex. It had an issue with the shutter. It stuck on certain shutter speeds. So I decided to try to clean it myself. It went quite well, except for the minor detail that I ended up with an oily shutter which I didn’t really notice until I tried shooting in cold weather. The shutter stuck again because of the cold oil and all the shots ended up with a lot of camera shake.

My first Zeiss Ikoflex

By that time, I had decided that even though I could clean the shutter again and get rid of the last traces of oil, I really didn’t like the Camera all that much. The fastest shutter speed was no more than 1/300 sec. and to me that is way too slow for a sunny day with an HP5+ loaded. Other than that, I found the viewfinder too dim for my eyes. So again, I got rid of it and got myself a new twin lens reflex – a Yashica-Mat from 1957. The one with the old and legendary Lumaxar 80mm lens. Awesome camera. Awesome lens. Nice and bright viewfinder and a max. shutter speed of 1/500. If you can find one – buy it! Shot a few rolls though it and had a blast.

Shot with the Yashica-Mat on T-Max 400

So now I though it was time to find a camera with interchangable lenses. I sold the Yashica and found a banged up Zenza Bronica S2a on Ebay. The Japanese 6×6 SLR Hasselblad 1000F knock off with awesome Nikkor lenses available. It has a focal plane shutter with a max speed of 1/1000 – woohoo – even better for bright days and large apertures! The camera has some issues with the focusing screen. On this particular model, it is mounted in a silly way where the light seal also works as a spacer to ensure the correct distance to the mirror in order to have precise focusing. On old cameras, this light seal deteriorates and leaves the focusing screen in the wrong place.
I went to it – replacing the light seal and installing a new, brighter focusing screen with a split prism. I read online that a focusing screen from the Ukranian Kiev cameras would be possible to mount in a Bronica S2a. It was – sort of. The dimensions were not exactly the same but it fit. The thickness of the Kiev screen was not the same as the original Bronica screen, so that required an adjustment of the light seal once again. I tried getting precise focus but was not able to nail it. Nonetheless, I shot a few rolls with it. It went alright but my lack of experience shooting all manual and using an external meter, was really becoming a problem using this large and heavy camera. I managed to get a few good shots through though.

Shot on Fomapan 200 using the Bronica S2a and a Nikkor 200mm lens

I went on a search for a medium format SLR with automatic exposure. I found the Zenza Bronica ETRS. I got rid of the old S2a and got myself an ETRS. Yet another SLR with interchangable lenses. This time a 6×4.5 with leaf shutters built into the lenses. Max speed is 1/500. The automatic exposure prism that is mounted on my camera works perfectly. It gives nice and well balanced exposures every time. The camera is equipped with the optional speed grip which adds a flash hotshoe (NICE) and a film winding lever (double nice). This camera with these accessories mounted is a dream to shoot. It’s easy to manual focus and again, the automatic exposure just nails it. Loving this camera is easy.

Shot with Bronica ETRS on Fomapan 200 film

I started missing other types of medium format. After all, 6×4.5 is the smallest of the 120 film formats. I got my hands on a Mamiya RB67 and brought it to a single shoot. It did not match my shooting style at all. Way too bulky and slow to use, so I returned it again.

Mamiya RB67 on Fomapan 200 pushed to 800.

I found myself yet again missing a larger format so I picked up an old Soviet Russian 6×9 rangefinder folder – the Moscow 5. Quite a quirky camera to use – but fun. The rangefinder sucks if you have glasses like me, but it’s extremely fun to shoot. Yet again a fully manual camera. By now, my experience had increased quite a lot and shooting all manual with a meter is no longer a problem. Rather a relief from the stress of fast paced shooting like with a DSLR. I love the Moscow 5 and am not about to part with it.

The Moscow 5 produces images like this on Fomapan 200.

Shooting a TLR became appealing to me again. Easy focusing and simple exposure control. So – yet again – I bought a Zeiss Ikoflex. This time a different model – the IIa – with a 1/500 sec shutter. The finder seems a bit brighter too (or did I just get new glasses?). I love shooting it – really. I have had so much fun shooting it, I think this one is a keeper!

Zeiss Ikoflex IIa on Rollei Digibase CN200

The final chapter of my medium format adventure is this. I traded in my Bronica ETRS kit for a Ukranian Kiev 60 kit. The Kiev 60 is a 6×6 SLR in the same design as your standard Canon/Nikon/Olympus/etc. film SLR, rather than the modular Hasselblad like design of the Bronicas. The Kiev is just massively bulkier and could potentially cause serious blunt force trauma, if one is not careful. Why I did this – I wanted a 6×6 with interchangable lenses and I was tired of the little too easy shooting that the ETRS offeres.
At the time of writing, I am still waiting for GLS to drop off my new Kiev at my door step.
Till then – keep calm and shoot film!

And then there was silence – first impression review

I recently got my hands on the photo book “And then there was silence” by renowned Danish photojournalist Jan Grarup. The book is an almost 500 page giant, weighing in at just under 5 kg.

My first impression is that it is an impressive piece of work. It must have taken a lot of coffee and perhaps some tears to get through selecting images for that many pages.

Let’s jump straight to the core of this. The photos. Jan Grarup travels the world’s war zones and disaster areas, documenting human tragedy at its worst. He has a special talent for capturing beauty even in the most grotesque scenes. Unlike the famous photojournalists of the last century, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Cappa, among others, he does not seem preoccupied with capturing the decisive moment. Jan Grarup captures feelings, atmosphere in astounding compositions. One has to wonder, how he manages to use angles, composition and depth of field, almost to perfection in many of the pictures in the book. Some pictures left me with an ambiguous feeling: How can one be totally breathtaken by beauty in images showing absolute horror?
Photographically, it is all that it is built up to be – and more. The title seems to fit perfectly. Flipping through the pages, you are rendered speechless by both the beauty and the horror of the images. An absolutely amazing feeling – even though you are supposed to feel bad after looking though the book.

The book’s psysical appearence seems quite nice from a distance. A large hardback bound in black cloth with white printing. However on closer look, it seems a bit cheap and a little fragile. The cardboard making up the inside of the cover seems a bit soft to me. Thick but soft. And the assembly and binding itself seems like it could have been done tighter.
The paper is a nice quality 150 g, semi glossy type which feels nice and durable to handle. For image printing it is quite okay. It doesn’t make the photos pop, but then again, many of the pictures are large and had to be viewed from a little distance to get the best impression of them. The paper seems perfectly fine for this. The smaller pictures, I feel lose a bit of detail though.

The price for all this is very reasonable. 349 DKK including shipping and a 10% donation to Unicef. That is a very nice price for a book of this size with that many extraordinary photos inside.

In conclution the book is of photographically very high quality but is lacking a bit in the physical department.

Are you interested in photography?

Or just in taking pictures?

Today  that question suddenly popped into my mind. The reason it did, is because I am sometimes struck by the lack of historical and technical knowledge that so-called photography enthusiasts display.
For me, my interest in photography is not at all limited to taking pictures. Of course, actually taking a photograph is the main goal, most of the time. But getting to know the historical background, the development in processes and techniques over the last 200 years and of course knowing about the work of some of the people who have pioneered the craft during the last century is very important too.
Sometimes, I spend a lot more time studying photography than actually doing some myself. I can watch the same documentaries over and over again, discovering new details every time I do. I study old cameras, filmtypes and printing methods till I am blue in the face.
So when I come across enthusiastic “picture takers” and try to talk to them about photography – key persons, history, cameras etc. I am sometimes surprised by the lack of interest in the thing they are actually doing.
Now, I know we cannot all share the same interests, but to me it is still kind of sad to see knowledge not being accumulated but simply thrown away to make room for the next new, fast zoom lens or high ISO sensor.
I am afraid that knowledge about photography will be lost with each coming generation, caring less and less about how we got to where we are now, technologically.

Stand development of pushed and pulled film

Pushing and pulling film are techniques to get more out of the film than box speed allows.
Pushing means shooting and developing as though the film was a higher speed (ASA/ISO) than rated by the vendor. And pulling is the opposite, shooting and developing as though the film was slower than rated.
How this is achieved, is really simple. The film is either under- or overexposed by the number of stops required to achieve the desired film speed. E.g. by underexposing a 400 ASA film by one stop, you are actually pushing the film to 800 ASA – if you remember to develop the film as though it was an 800 speed film. And likewise, if you overexpose a 400 ASA film by one stop, you are pulling it to 200 ASA, if you develop accordingly.
This is possible because the latitude of a modern film emulsion is quite large – much larger than what we see in digital sensors. And most vendors will tell you, how much your film can be pushed or pulled while retaining an acceptable image quality. Typically about two stops over and under the rated box speed.

Now, this is quite cool, if you require a higher shutter speed, but lack the light when shooting at box speed – or require a shallow depth of field and a slower shutter speed for motion blur but have too much light. The downside is that you have to shoot the entire roll of film at the same ASA speed – if you want to develop traditionally that is.

This is where stand development comes into play. Stand development is basically a development method where you let the development tank “stand”, meaning you leave it alone for the majority of the development time.
For this to work, you need a thinner dilution of developer than usual.

I use a 1:100 dilution of Rodinal (R09 One Shot) for my stand development. I let it sit for about an hour, only agitating for the first 30 seconds, then stop and fix as normal.
Now, the theory is that, if you do not agitate, the developer will go to work on the highlights the fastest as they are the more sensitized. After a while the developer sitting next to the highlights will exhaust and “protect” the highlight areas from overdevelopment. The shadow areas, though, will continue to develop for as long as they need according to their individual levels of exposure.
Because stand development works this way, you can actually push and pull images throughout the entire roll of film and still have usable negatives on all exposures.

I did a small test to demonstrate that you can actually shoot one film at different exposures and get nice results on all images. The test is not perfect because the light changed a little because if moving clouds and I wasn’t on a tripod, so focus changes a little from image to image. The film is Ilford HP5+ box rated @400 ASA.

These five images were shot immediately after each other. 0 is the correct exposure according to box speed and the others indicate the number of stops over- and underexposure. These have not been corrected individually.

After scanning, I pulled the images into Adobe Lightroom and did an autocorrection on “0”. Then I synced the settings to the other four images, so you can see the immediate difference.

These are the same images as above, but all have been individually autocorrected, so you can see the difference in the final results.

Below are the images in a larger size for inspection.