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May 18th, 2023

Getting Ready For Gay Days…


This happened in Orlando the other day.

It’s just a couple weeks to Gay Days in WDW and this is one reason why I’m going there with my cameras. Mostly I just want to enjoy the parks, and being able, finally, to go whenever I want now that I’m retired. I think I want a Disney weekend…okay, let’s just go…no need anymore to request vacation time… It’s been something I was looking forward to. The park reservation system and the fact that it’s difficult for single diners to make dining reservations at my favorite places made me question if I was ever going back again. But I think I’ve worked through all that now. I have my annual pass again and selling my DVC points gets me back to making stays in the basic and mid tier park resorts where I can make reservations on the fly whenever I want, which is nearly impossible at a DVC resort. So I’m back in my comfort zone there.

But Gay Days this year is a special case given all the hate mongering going on down in Florida. So to have some Mouseketeer fun with all the other red shirts in the parks isn’t just a good time this year, it’s an act of defiance. Yes, we are Disney people too. And I want to show my support for Disney since they’re taken a lot of static for supporting us. But also, I want to document what is happening down there, in my own way, with my own eyes.

(As a side note, I’m working on getting another photo gallery up here of the stuff I took during the Love In Action and the Love Won Out protests.)

Security is something you almost never even see at WDW, except at the park entrances where screenings and bag checks take place. Once inside the park you might think it isn’t even there at all. But I’ve seen it appear…suddenly out of nowhere…once.

It was in front of La Cava del Tequila inside the Mexico pavilion at EPCOT World Showcase. Someone, probably having had a little too much to drink, got upset at the wait to get in (it’s a pretty small bar with only a few tables), and started causing a loud angry scene, and so I was told later got physical with another guest. He was instantly surrounded and spirited offsite.

And it’s easy for their security to come out of nowhere because there are usually dozens of hidden entrance/exits for the cast members to come and go so they can go about their work. Walt Disney wanted all the mechanics of making the parks work kept out of sight so as not to spoil the illusions he was creating. Magic Kingdom is built on top of a network of tunnels, they call them utilidors. And everywhere in the parks are scattered little out of the way doors and passages marked “Cast Members Only”. And the really interesting part of it is nearly none of them are hidden in a way you might expect. Instead, the scenery is such that your eyes are always directed away from where they are.

And according to a certain someone I used to know who worked there, cameras are everywhere.

So I’m hoping that first weekend in June their security is on their top game. I want everyone to have a good time. I will be very satisfied if the only photos I get are of happy Gay Days Mouseketeers. Because that is a message people still need to see as a counterpoint to all the lies that are surely coming before, during and after the event.

As you can see there, outside the parks it’s probably going to be brutal. I may try to get a few shots of it, but I will have to be very Very careful.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

February 26th, 2023

Once Upon A Time…

Cute young guy trying to take a picture of himself in the kitchen mirror with his first 35mm SLR…

I was going through my archives looking for more shots around Congressional Plaza for the next episode of A Coming Out Story and I came across this and zoomed in and I thought…wow…did I really look like Finn Wolfhard back then??

This would be sometime in 1971. I’m either 16 or 17. I’ve got the Petri on a tripod in the dining room pointed at the large mirror over the kitchen sink. I’m guessing I did it that way because the light in the dining/kitchen was better than in my bedroom. At this point I’m still just finding my way around 35mm film photography. I may have just bought the Petri.

I dug up the roll and I can tell from the way I sectioned off the negatives I hadn’t even begun my catalogue system yet. The catalogue entry says “Date Unknown”, that it’s tri-x pan and that I’d developed the roll in D-76. “Date Unknown” is what I put on the stuff I’d developed and stuck into #9 letter envelopes before I got serious enough to safely store and work out a catalogue system for them. They’re not all in great shape.

I’m trying really hard to get the pencils and inks done, finally, for ACOS episode 36 done, and it’s really driving home how necessary it is to have reference photos. I took lots of photos of the apartments I lived in back then, but precious few of the area around them and so much has changed over the years I can’t just go visit and take a few reference shots.

Right now I’m really regretting I didn’t get some shots of the shortcuts I used to take to walk across the railroad tracks to get to the Giant or to Congressional and the Radio Shack before they started building Metro. Nothing there is like it was. There was an old wooden bridge over the tracks I could walk across to get to the Giant from Wilkins that they took down years ago. I discovered it was part of an old abandoned roadway that connected Rockville Pike (Montgomery Avenue back then) to the old school and then to Parklawn Cemetery. You could still see fragments of it in the woods and near the Pike back when I was a teenage boy. It’s all gone now. The entire area where I walked across the tracks to Congressional is now the Twinbrook Metro station.

Nothing is like it was. I can’t just go down there and take some shots of the old neighborhood. The old neighborhood, except for the apartments anyway, is not there anymore. Somehow I need to recreate it. Or at least a good enough representation that I can be satisfied with it.

Nothing is like it was. I’m not like I was. Just look at that photo! Wish I’d known how cute I was back then, I might have flirted with a little more confidence. Of course back in 1971 that could have got me killed.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Once Upon A Time…

February 7th, 2023

The Photography Geek Revisits An Old Hostility

I’ve been a camera kid ever since elementary school, but it wasn’t until I got into high school and a friend showed me how to develop film that I really took off with it. This was 1970-72 and back then the camera at the top of the pecking order was the Nikon F. It was legendary among professionals and dedicated amateurs. It was also very expensive, even in its most basic form way beyond my reach. I knew it to be the gold standard of 35mm SLRs. But the more I studied it, the less impressed I became.

Truth be told, a good part of why would be the insufferably egotistical classmate whose parents have given him a Nikon F. I mentioned him briefly in A Coming Out Story

(The names throughout the story have been changed to protect the innocent…and the not so innocent…)

I’m sure I had the insufferable streak in me too. It comes with being a teenager. But I also had the geek gene, and by my junior year I’d researched all the 35mm SLRs on the market, examined as many as I could at various camera stores, and I had issues with the design of the Nikon F. It struck me as a very clunky piece of equipment, and especially it’s big bulky TTL (Through The Lens) metering prism that seemed a ridiculous kludge. And why the hell did you have to take the camera apart (okay…take the back off…) just to change film? WTF?? But the F was the gold standard of professional photographer equipment and the only thing I could figure was that it, like the Kirby Vacuum, had a lot of attachments so it could be everything to everyone.

When Canon came out with the F1 and its system in 1971 I was overjoyed. Here was a camera that got everything exactly right. I flipped burgers all summer long to get one. 

Time passes…the universe expands…I began making good enough money I could afford all the Canon FD lenses I’d ever wanted, and there were many good ones on the second hand market. I bought a second generation F1 body, and then the third and final one. But a chance encounter with a Nikon F2 at a camera store in Kansas gave me some second thoughts about Nikons, and cameras in general. There is something about these older, all mechanical devices that reaches into you, like a handcrafted musical instrument, or a fine automobile with a stick. Something you miss in a lot of digital equipment today. But maybe that’s just the kid I once was, remembering how it used to be, talking.

So I bought that F2, and later believe it or not, a Nikon Ftn. Professional black for extra coolness points. My Canon F1s are still the favorites (although the Leica M3 a friend sold me is threatening to knock them off that pedestal), but I take the Nikons out and about whenever a certain frame of mind occupies me. All I can tell you is it’s something about the mechanical feel of the cameras.

And it interested me enough to dive a bit deeper into the history of these cameras over the years. And because of that I understand a little better about why the Nikon F is as big of a kludge design as it is. And yes…it is.

Let me say this in advance: The basic Nikon F body is actually as solid and durable as its reputation says. This thing will go to hell and back for you. The meter prism though, is another story. I seem to have had good luck with both of mine as they are still fully functional (just don’t get me started on that screwy center weighted pattern). But I’ve bought the basic prism finders for both of those cameras, just in case. And while yes it is every bit as solid and robust as it’s reputation…it’s still a kludge. A kludge can work perfectly and reliably and still be a kludge.

Why do you have to take the back off the Nikon F to change film? Why is the shutter release in such an awkward position? Because they basically scaled up their rangerfinder to make their first SLR and that’s how the rangefinder was built. I’ll give them that they got a lot right…the instant return mirror, titanium shutter (which the rangefinders had since 1958), user replaceable focusing screens and viewfinders. But it’s such a mess of good stuff and why the hell did you do that. 

The metering prisms especially. There were three generations for the F body, and the first of them is like a showcase of why I had issues with the reputation of Nikons back in the day.

Here it is…

When I first beheld this, I gave it more credit than it’s due. I figured, oh, the engineers weren’t quite all in on TTL metering so they put the meter on the outside facing forward. Okay…fine…lots of makers did that, usually by adding a clip on meter to the top of the camera. In fact, Nikon did that before they came out with this. But why the hell is that prism so goddamned large. Okay…they had to work out the mechanics of getting the shutter speed and aperture in the viewfinder….right? No. You saw the aperture in a window above the eyepiece. Dig it…you want to know your aperture, you take your eye off the viewfinder and look at the little window above it. Or…you know…you could just look at the lens. But it gets Better!

Here…let me show you the on/off switch…

Yes…that’s right. They call this finder the “flag” finder for a reason. The on/off switch is just a cover over the metering cell. Since it used a cds cell (Cadmium Sulphide) which changes resistance to the current based on how much light is hitting it, you can effectively turn off the meter by covering over the cds cell. With no light hitting it the cell is at 100 percent resistance. Flip the “flag” out of the way and the cell gets light and current flows through the meter. Voilà! An on/off switch! This is truly engineering brilliance. 

Let it be said that this effect has probably saved a lot of light meter batteries from an early death. You put the lens cap on and even if you’ve forgotten to turn off the meter, it’s effectively off anyway.

Notice how you set the max aperture of the lens by way of fiddling with the film speed dial. That was a perennial problem for the Nikon photomic viewfinders all the way to the F2a. To do stop down metering all you need to do is turn the meter on and stop the lens down to the taking aperture and read what the meter is telling you. But you really can’t focus with the lens stopped down. So there’s Open Aperture Metering, which is you take a reading on what’s coming through the lens at it’s max aperture. But then the meter needs to know what the lens maximum aperture is. An f1.4 lens is going to be sending more light to the meter than an f2.8 lens.

So on this viewfinder you match the lens aperture to the film speed. On the best of the F photomics, the FTN, you set the max aperture of the lens by doing what they used to call the Nikon shuffle: mount the lens then twist the aperture ring all the way to high, then all the way to low. Forget to do that and the meter will give you the wrong exposure because it does not have the correct max aperture for that lens (when you mount the lens the meter defaults to f5.6 and that’s what it’ll think the lens max is until you fiddle with the aperture ring).

It wasn’t until Nikon came out with the photomic F2A that they figured out how to do open aperture TTL metering with automatic registration of the lens aperture. But you need the “ai” lenses for that to work. Give them this, they figured out how to do an on/off switch much sooner.

Okay…yes the camera bodies are practically bombproof. You put a standard plain viewfinder prism on either the F or the F2 and you have a camera that will get you through almost anything. And this is why the standard prisms are becoming expensive and hard to find in good condition. Bring along an F2 with a standard prism, and a good handheld light meter you are ready for almost anything.

That said, if I had to do some work in a disaster zone I would be bringing one or more of my Canon F1s. They’ll do the job. Or…that darn Leica! I was never much fond of rangefinders until I got my hands on that camera. I read some poor soul who had to sell his M3 say that it was a God level camera and he was right. I felt so sorry for him.

The Nikons have a distinctive mechanical feel that suits me. Sometimes. Given how much I used to badmouth them back in the day I know a bunch of classmates that would laugh themselves silly if they ever saw me with one. Okay…fine. You live and learn. They’re good cameras. Mostly. Somewhat. Just don’t get me started on how legendary they are. You’ll get an earful. 

Okay…so you just did…


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Photography Geek Revisits An Old Hostility

January 14th, 2023

Loving My Film Cameras…Not Simple Nostalgia

I was out and about with the Hasselblad over at that new rowhouse development nearby that’s been a muse ever since they started building it. I looked outside and checked the sky and it was that good mix of puffy clouds and blue sky that works well with a red filter and my photographic style. I wanted to finish a roll and ended up finishing two. It was more than the creative urge motivating me though. I’d just spent some out of budget money on a previously owned medium format camera of a type I’d own previously and sold perhaps recklessly. And that came about because of a really bad experience with that Canon R mirrorless digital camera I briefly owned that I’m still chewing on all this time later, after I traded it in for a full frame 6D and several good primes. Yes it was that painful.

Supposedly those mirrorless cameras are the latest and greatest but the fact was that camera kept getting in my way. It kept overriding my settings on ISO and shutter speed. I kept having to fumble with every setting on just about every shoot and it kept jolting me out of my zone. One problem was the control set of the R was just different enough from the Canon EOS digitals I own and have had previously that I was constantly getting confused. Always fumbling with the settings when I wanted most to be paying attention to what I was looking at was irritating, but I figured I’d eventually learn how to adjust the settings on the fly. Then, and quickly, something else began happening regularly that made me angry at the camera. That has never happened to me before.

It kept refusing to take the shot when I pressed the button.

I would press the shutter release and nothing happened. So I’d press it harder and still nothing happened. Cursing soon followed.

Many months later, having traded that camera in for one I could work with, I began thinking that part of the problem I was having is these new mirrorless cameras don’t simply meter the light, they analyse the scene and set the exposure accordingly before you even touch the shutter release. Which they can now because they’re not using one or more CDS cells looking at the light coming in from the lens. There is no mirror, so when the camera is turned on the detector is always seeing what you’re pointing the camera at. What you are seeing in the viewfinder is a computer generated image from the signal coming off the detector.

But there have to be many built-in assumptions going on in those real time analysis and those may not always work for every photographer and every scene. Supposedly there are ways of advising the onboard computer as to how to take the shots they way you want them taken, but those I have seen are cumbersome to use while you are working and trying to stay tuned into what you are seeing. Worse, I began to discover that even when going to an entirely manual mode, that is, I set the ISO, aperture and shutter speed, the camera would still insist that it knew better and would randomly refuse to take a shot when I hit the shutter release.

I think some of the problem there is I am almost always shooting into the sun. That’s part of my style. I don’t always do that, but I do it lots. That can be tricky but it often gets me the emotional feel that I am looking for in a scene. This however goes against the grain of most basic photography courses which will tell you to shoot with the sun at your back. And it’s true that you can almost never go wrong that way if the camera has any halfway decent metering system. My hunch is a lot of digital camera scene analysis computers are set up to expect that. Yes you can choose different modes…landscape, portrait, indoors, and so on…but the rule of thumb is the light is shining on the scene, whatever it is, from behind you, and most of the time I am shooting into the light. This may be confusing whatever algorithms are employed by the camera’s software to analyse a scene.

But I have done this since I was a teenager and I know how to work it. What I’ve always loved about my Canon film cameras is that 12 percent gray rectangle in the middle of the viewfinder is actually a beam splitter and a portion of the light hitting it is being deflected to the light meter. It’s precise in a way center weighted metering just isn’t and I need that extra precision when I’m shooting into the sun. I can sweep that 12 percent rectangle across a region and get an average of it, whereas a spot meter makes me take a lot of separate readings which would slow me down. I can find my middle grays and figure the extent of the range of highs to darks and decide where to set my aperture and shutter speed. Typically I always aim for the fastest speed I can since I almost never use a tripod.

The Canon digital SLRs I’ve had tell me what they’re focusing on but what they are metering has always seemed a bit fuzzy to me. The meters are analysing the scene inside the viewfinder, since until the mirror flops up the detector can’t see anything. I don’t actually know what it is they’re judging it by. But those cameras have a meter and hold function I quickly began using. Basically I would decide on a place to focus and meter, point the camera at it and just press lightly on the shutter release. The camera would focus and meter and I could hold that and re-compose the shot. Fine. Whatever. It worked. I was content.

But the R seemed to just throw all that away. Maybe if I’d studied the manual longer I would have got it. But every avenue I could glean from the manual seemed cumbersome…and just plain weird. I was told in one passage to use the touchscreen on the back to specify where to focus and meter, but that meant I’d have to take my eye away from the viewfinder while working which I deeply dislike. But never mind because I ended up having to turn off the touchscreen (there was a setting) because my nose was always hitting it and causing the camera to suddenly do something I didn’t want. There was a joystick like control on the back that supposedly allowed you to set a spot to focus and meter on, but it just seemed awkward and I never tried it.

The camera was a bundle of distractions. I would set the effective ISO to something and discover sometime later the camera had set it elsewhere. There seemed no way to force the camera to use the fastest possible shutter speed in any semi-auto mode other than aperture priority and use the widest aperture possible all the time. But even then the camera would occasionally balk.

And ultimately it was the nothing happening when I pressed the shutter release that really Really ticked me off. I will endure a lot of struggle to learn new things in the name of progress and personal growth, but by god when I press the shutter release all the way you take the damn shot! If I got it wrong I’ll deal with that. But I press the shutter release, you take the damn shot!

As I said, and obviously, I am still chewing on it. I really wanted to like that camera. The new electronic viewfinders are amazing. But if anything, the experience with the R made me so much closer to my old mechanical film cameras. And…so very happy to see film having a renaissance among young and old alike. Even if it means the good equipment is becoming scarce and expensive.

So…this came in the mail today…

I had one of these for years but ended up selling it to KEH when I needed some spare cash and concluded that since I had the Hasselblad I wouldn’t need it. By then I had the metering prism viewfinder for the Hasselblad which made working with it faster. And with it I found working with the Hasselblad much more like working with any of my 35mm film SLRs. The Mamiya has the typical TLR waist level viewfinder which reverses left and right and that made it hard for me to judge a scene. And no through the lens metering. You can get an eye level metering prism viewfinder that corrects right/left but it seems awkward to hold the camera that way. And I have become accustomed to using a handheld with the Leica, and I think I can work with that backwards left/right thing now. 

And having only one good medium format camera in an age when getting them repaired might be hard, was something I decided was not worth the risk. So I bought another C330. I really like these for their solid heavy duty build and that you could swap out lenses. I don’t think there is another twin lens reflex you can do that on. A 55mm wide angle pair came just today and a correct lens hood for the taking lens is coming soon. I still have the red and orange filters for its lenses.

And when I press the shutter release, it takes the shot. The only reason the Hasselblad won’t is if I’m past the last shot on the roll or I still have the dark slide in. That’s completely reasonable.

I’ll take it for a drive when the weather and the sky look good.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Loving My Film Cameras…Not Simple Nostalgia

October 19th, 2022


Film is not dead: Demand soars for vintage cameras in developing trend

After fading in popularity, film photography is seeing a major comeback fueled by younger generations and social media. NBC News’ Gadi Schwartz takes us inside the developing craze with a story shot entirely on film.

If this means my favorite films and papers are coming back…good. But I doubt that. There’s more expense to starting up production again than any of the manufacturers would probably want to bear. But I would produce way more silver prints if I could have my beloved Agfa Brovira back in all its grades.

I never left film, though I adopted and have used digital since the first user level cameras were marketed. Digital has a place in my workflow, especially when I’m a working photographer on a news event or a wedding (or a class reunion like a few weekends ago!). But my art photography is almost exclusively film, and that almost exclusively black & white. If the objection to film is it can’t be as precise a representation as digital can with the latest and greatest digital cameras, then what of black & white photography. What of 2D photography? What of still photography at all. Reality doesn’t stand still and it isn’t 2D and we perceive it in color. By that measure my Tri-X Pan images are pretty far removed from reality. Why do I hold onto it, especially since it’s a lot more work than digital? Because it works for my art.

Marshall McLuhan famously said the medium is the message. But Picasso said it better: Art is a lie that makes us see the truth.

Well…the artist’s truth.

Black & white film has always worked for me as an artist. It lends to the image exactly the right “tone” for the feeling I’m trying to get out. I know what I’m doing with it. Whether I do it well or not is another matter. But I know what I’m doing with it. There’s a lot of reasons why someone would enjoy working with film. For me it’s a need. I never stopped.

I’ve been noticing this resurgence in film photography for quite a while now, and waiting for it to fade away again. But it keeps getting stronger, if the prices of film cameras are any measure. Now if I can just have my Fuji Neopan 400, my Kodachrome and my Agfa Brovira back. Oh…and Pakosol. And H&W Control film and developer. And how about Kodak Panatomic X…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Film

October 18th, 2021

Weekend Of Nostalgia, Ten Minutes Of Terror

Well…serious doubt. I have a bunch of undeveloped film I need to get to, but which I’ve been putting off because Kodak mucked with the formula for HC-110, my go-to developer ever since I was a teenager. I know this developer. I get exactly what I want out of every film I commonly use, and I am comfortable enough with it that I don’t worry about using it with a new film I’m trying out. I adore this product. So when Kodak fucked with it I was pissed off. Then I worried.

Allegedly they made the change to make producing it more environmentally friendly. And it just happened to take away another virtue of the developer some of us loved: the nearly limitless lifespan of the concentrate. For decades we ignored the expiration date on the bottles of concentrate because we knew it would probably still be good for years afterward. From now on we would have to pay attention to that date.

And there was more. You use HC-110 by first making a “stock” solution from the concentrate. Then to develop, you dilute the stock further. Dilution ‘A’ is one part stock to three parts water. ‘B’ is one part stock to seven parts water. The more it is diluted, the longer the processing time, which works better for some films. Dilution ‘A’ gives you a very rapid development time. I always use ‘B’ as a “one-shot” developer. That is, use it once and discard it. That gives you consistent results over re-use which slowly exhausts a developer.

Kodak insisted that nothing regarding dilutions and processing times had changed with the new formulation. But the chatter on the photographer forums was full of doubts about that, especially when you actually mixed up some of it, because whereas the original formulation was syrupy and with an amber tint and a very distinctive (and unpleasant) odor, the new formulation seemed just to be water.

But from the photographer forums I heard that it was all good as far as dilutions and processing times. So I bought a bottle and for months it just sat in my basement darkroom while I worked up the nerve to try it. And thus, my backlog of undeveloped film grew.

And I dawdled. This happens to me when I have to shift gears because something’s changed that I didn’t expect to change and now I have to adapt to this sudden change, but first I need to overthink how. 

Then one day on a Facebook group dedicated to memories of growing up in Rockville, someone posted a shot he’d taken of a train wreck that had happened in the early 1970s on the main line out of DC. I’d covered that wreck with my Mamiya Press Camera for a local county newspaper. It took 120 roll film and had swappable film backs which came in handy when you’re in the middle of something. Plus, it gave me large 6×7 negatives which provided lots of detail with very little grain, even if I was using a fast film like Tri-X Pan.

So I remembered working that train wreck. And there, in that guy’s photo, to my delight, was I, walking back up the tracks and presumably to my car after getting some close in shots of the wreck, the Mamiya slung over a shoulder. 

Photo by Tom Lockard
From the Facebook Group “You know you grew up in Rockville if you…”

It was like seeing a window into my past, into a happier time…when that great big beautiful tomorrow really was in front of me…or so I thought…

I still have that Mamiya Press Camera. It is one of only two cameras I still have from back in my teenage days when I was aspiring to be a newspaper photographer, the other being the Canon F-1 I bought after a summer flipping burgers at a local fast food joint. The lens on it had frozen up and so I’d consigned it to the top of my camera cabinet, along with my first camera, the little Kodak Brownie Fiesta. But it had nostalgia value to me. I took photos with it that got into the local newspapers. We’d worked together back in the day. So even if it was no longer functional, I was keeping it.

It sat for a couple decades up on top of my camera cabinet, reminding me of a happier time. Now I had to see if I could get it working again. 

I looked online to see if I could buy another lens for it, since I doubted anyone would repair the one I had. As it turned out, someone had a nearly mint condition lens for it and I snapped it up.

So I had my Press Camera working again, now I needed to run some film through it to see if everything was still working. And also admittedly, to revisit the feeling of being a teenager again, working with that camera and imagining that someday I would be a professional newspaper photographer. As it turned out what I revisited is it’s actually somewhat difficult camera to work with since the viewfinder really doesn’t give you a good idea of where the frame is, and the rangefinder is very dim, which makes focusing it something you have to be careful about. But having those swappable film backs, like the Hasselblad has, is very nice when you’re in the middle of something. 

The trip to York turned into a two day affair. I went back with the Hasselblad and the Canon F-1N, and I knew I had stuff I really wanted to get developed and scanned. So now I had more film to develop, and today I dug into it with the new HC-110. Almost immediately I began to worry. The stuff really did look like it was just water.

Worse, although allegedly the concentrate didn’t expire until late 2023, some small amount of something had crystalized out of it while the bottle had been sitting there, and I didn’t notice until I’d emptied the bottle into a mixing bucket and felt something rattling inside. I tried adding water to get whatever it was back into solution but it wouldn’t budge.

Now I was really concerned it was a bad batch. But I pressed on and decided to test it with the two 120 rolls of Tri-x Pan I ran through the Press Camera, which were themselves a test of the camera. I had images on them I didn’t want to lose, but which I wasn’t entirely happy with either because it’s difficult for me to compose to a “normal” focal length lens and that’s all that camera has. I reckoned that if nothing came out of the tank I could always run another couple test rolls through the camera and try a different developer. After venting to Kodak about what they did to my go-to film developer.

So I mixed up my chemicals and did the thing I’ve done so often I probably do it in my dreams too and just don’t notice that its dreaming. I have a nice Weston thermometer and the old Kodak Darkroom Dataguide and it looked to be five minutes of developer, followed by a splash in stop bath, and four minutes of Rapid Fixer. As I poured developer into the tank I was nearly convinced I would only see blank film when I opened the tank up again.

But when it was time to pour the developer back out of the tank it came out a dark rose red. Not exactly what the old formulation did, but close and I was encouraged. It meant Something was going on in there.

After the fixer I took the tank to my utility sink where I had the film washer going, and opened it. Success. Exactly the density the negatives were supposed to have.


Now I can get to the other stuff. I have some good ones in those rolls. Post some of it maybe this weekend after I’ve got some of it scanned.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Weekend Of Nostalgia, Ten Minutes Of Terror

July 20th, 2020

That Feeling Of Wholeness

…or at least somewhat. I don’t have a boyfriend, I probably never will. But I have a full paper darkroom now…sorta…and you take the feelings of completeness where you can find any.

So…following up on my post a while back about finally establishing a paper darkroom at Casa del Garrett…I did some of this over the weekend…


These are the first fiber base silver prints I’ve done in decades. Fiber based photo paper gives, in my very strong opinion, much Much better dynamic range in terms of darks versus whites than RC (Resin Coated) paper does. Although I’ll grant that RC paper, and mult-contrast paper, have improved immensely since I was a young man finding his way around the darkroom.

But I’m still hassling the details. This one would be perfect except it’s got a rust spot on it from a clip I used to weigh it down in the wash. A second attempt is in the print dryer. Because glossy fiber base prints must be dried in a print dryer, roller squeegeed face down on an absolutely clean and smooth chromium plate.

Photo-Flo makes an acceptable substitute for Pakosol, but I am still unhappy it isn’t made anymore. Nothing put the gloss on glossy paper like Pakosol.

I think I have that “first good print” now that I promised the co-worker who gave me her granddad’s Beseler 23c, but I’m still deciding.

I’d forgotten what a chore cleaning up after making silver prints is. Let alone the entire process of washing and drying fiber paper prints. I’ll be very surprised if my water bill isn’t a bit more next month.

I need to think about this for a while…now that I’ve done some silver prints, and against my experience with digital printing. Digital printing is no easy peasy thing either if you want everything just perfect. But the difficulties in getting to what you want are different in each process.

Sometime next week I want to set down my thoughts about it. Now that I have a paper darkroom set up I reckon I’ll keep doing silver prints. But it really is an altogether different thing. Each individual print is its own work of craft and art. You have to work each print as though it’s a custom, one-off work, even if you are printing dozens off the same negative. I suppose this gives the silver print its value. If the negative is a difficult one…needing lots of dodging and burning to get it right (I had to do some on that Grand Canyon shot, but it wasn’t extensive), and some delicate touch-up work with a spotting brush afterward, you might really have to sweat each and every print you make.

Again…I suppose this is what gives the silver print its value…provided the print maker is good at it. At the moment I rate myself above average…but that’s mostly coasting on what I learned back when I was a young man. I think I can get better the more I work with it…and I reckon I probably will if only for the personal and artistic challenge of it. The only thing that’s changed for me since those days is I have a Much better enlarger now. Well…and multi-contrast and RC papers have apparently improved immensely. I was actually stunned at how much dynamic range these have now.

But the computer can make so many little corrections, spot touching, tonal adjustments, dodging and burning masks, that sort of thing, plus sharpening algorithms that correct for handheld blur you might not have even noticed until you got into bigger enlargements, that it’s probably going to remain my primary tool going forward, even now that I have the paper darkroom I’ve always dreamed of having. Both of these media make me think about the final image differently, in their own ways, and that’s a good thing. But it’s the paper darkroom I realize now, that makes me a better photographer. That is why I’m going to keep doing this. But…not routinely because…whew…it IS a mess to clean up afterward let me tell you…

I remember long ago, when I got my first really nice German enlarging lens, a Rodenstock Rodigon 50mm. I remember how shocked I was at all the flaws in my negatives it revealed. It made me a better photographer. Likewise, I’m seeing things now that I would have otherwise just written off after I looked at the scans with a thought of “Oh I’ll fix that in the computer”. Everything starts with the initial photograph, whether it’s digital or film. Get the focus right, keep the camera steady, get the exposure right, and what the camera gave you won’t fight you every step of the way when it’s time to make a print or pull off an image file to post somewhere.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on That Feeling Of Wholeness

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