My Weekend

Dairy Images

One of my goals this year is to use 35mm B&W film in a diary camera in order to push myself through the learning curve.

This weekend I loaded up the Leica M2 with a 24 exposure roll of Tri-X 400 with the intention of pushing it to 1600. The scene was a local deli, Brents, on Saturday night and a rib-joint in Burbank on Sunday called Ribs USA.

Here are my keepers. For the techies, a write up of my process is at the bottom.

Dairy Images

Dairy Images

Dairy Images

Dairy Images

Dairy Images

Dairy Images

Dairy Images

This roll was taken with my Leica M2 and Zeiss 50mm Biogon f/2.0. Most of the images are with the lens wide open at f/2.0 or  f/2.8 @ 1/60th. The lighting was  typically moderate restaurant lighting.

The developing was Clayton Chems F76+, dilution 1+19, 14:30 min @75F. Lowell Huff (the chemist behind F76+) recommends 1+19 11:00 min @75F “for push processing”. I assumed this was for one stop, so for two, I added another 30%. Normal dev is 1+9, 6:00 min @68F .

During scanning (VueScan) I measured a value of 2.09 for the Exposure Lock. The negs were a little thin, so I found myself pushing the Brightness setting to 1.5. I have found it better to push the brightness during scanning to avoid blocked up blacks.

Post in Lightroom/CS5 included small amounts of dodge and burn – artistic license to darken shirts, brighten faces, burn edges, etc…  Very little was done with any constrast tweaking and no curves adjustments.

My next B&W film purchase and why?

Kodak TMAX 400 in the Rollei 35
Kodak TMAX 400 in the Rollei 35

I think I’ve reached a first milestone in my B&W film work. I’ve logged enough rolls to confidently select my next, bigger, allotment of film. I’m comfortable with my developing technique and developers.

To date, I have bought only 5 rolls at a time. I’ve tried, in roughly this order, Ilford Delta 100, Kodak Ektar 100, Ilford FP4+ 125, Kodak Tri-X 400, Fuji Neopan Acros 100, Rollei 80s, and Kodak TMAX 400. My experiences have been spread across both 35mm, medium format (120, or 2 1/4″ x 2 1/4″ / 6×6), and large format 4×5. I’m used Kodak D-76 developer, Clayton Chemicals F76+, and R09 One-Shot (a Rodinal equivalent).

I’m certain that some of my go forward preferences (or more accurately, dislikes) are as much due to my inexperience as the characteristics of the film/developer combination that I used. Never-the-less, here is where I have landed.


I’m really enjoying the results from Clayton Chemicals F76+ available from Freestyle. It is liquid, not expensive, available locally (from Freestyle), and easy for me to see how changes in my developing approach is effecting the film.

I’m also enjoying Rodinal for Fuji Acros and want to continue to experiment with it for push-processing some night-time street work.


My work is falling into two main categories: Quiet Nature in medium and large format and Street in 35mm and (soon) medium format TLR

For street I’ve picked Kodak TMAX ISO 400. The choice was between TMAX and Tri-X. The ‘net is filled with forum discussions about the differences and preferences between the two. I’m going with TMAX @ 400 for most of my work because I like the whites. However, I’m ready to start evaluating Tri-X pushed to 800 and 1600 for indoors and night street work.

For 4×5 I’ve picked Ilford FP4+ ISO 125. Even with the little 4×5 work that I’ve done, I love the tones and smoothness of this film. I don’t know how to express this yet, but I love it’s whites. It could be that it just matches Clayton F76+ really well or I just like it. It is also a good price-point in 4×5.

I’ve not shot a lot of FP4+ in 120, but based on my 4×5 work, you bet I’ll be looking to exploit it in medium format too. But I also am committed to Fuji Neopan Acros ISO 100. I’ve yet to find a single person on the planet who doesn’t like this stuff. It has a completely different look than FP4+ and I still need to wrap my mind around when to use which.

The Rollei 80s is the odd man out here. I’ve actually loved the stuff I’ve done with it shooting it with a 3-stop red filter. However, it feels like an outlier film for me. For now, I’ll not be replenishing my stock, but may go back at some point.


White Sands National Monument on Film

Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Rollei 80s, Red Filter, EV -3, Rodinal 1+50
Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Rollei 80s, Red Filter, EV -3, Rodinal 1+50

Four friends, three hours, eighteen exposures, one Hasselblad 500C/M, White Sands National Monument.

It could be a book title, but instead describes a portion of a trip to New Mexico this January. During the trip our band of four visited Bosque del Apache, the Very Large Array, and White Sands National Monument.

I’m primarily known for my color street photography, but I’m also in pursuit of learning myself B&W film photography, both street work and nature work. This is what I was doing hanging out in the land of the birders and landscape photographers with a medium format film camera and some rolls of Fuji Neopan Acros 100 and Rollei 80s.

We arrived at White Sands National Monument in time for the late afternoon sun and hoping to catch the moon rise before they kicked us out of the park. I had half a roll of Neopan Acros in the Hassy, but was really looking forward to shooting a roll of the Rollei 80s. Acros is known for its smooth tones and the Rollei 80s is known as a high contrast film – quite different. In addition I shot the Acros with a yellow filter – add just a bit of contrast, but the Rollei with a red filter. The Rollei is already red-sensitive, so adding a red filter should really create deep dark skies and bring out the ripples in the sand.

It was late afternoon, and the sand at White Sands is, as one might expect, white. The light was definitely had a nice blue cast, but I’d be lying if I told you that I understood how the light and color would effect my shots. I’m still quite much hiking my way up the learning curve.

Starting with the images on Neopan Acros. How classic is this film? It is so classic that I though I was looking at a 1950’s guide book. The images that were most striking to me were on the roll of Rollei 80s. I think for two reasons, I was getting warmed up and more creative and the film really picked up on that creativity.

Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Neopan Acros 100, Yellow Filter, Rodinal 1+50
Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Neopan Acros 100, Yellow Filter, Rodinal 1+50
Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Neopan Acros 100, Yellow Filter, Rodinal 1+50
Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Neopan Acros 100, Yellow Filter, Rodinal 1+50
Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Rollei 80s, Red Filter, EV -3, Rodinal 1+50
Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Rollei 80s, Red Filter, EV -3, Rodinal 1+50
Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Rollei 80s, Red Filter, EV -3, Rodinal 1+50
Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Rollei 80s, Red Filter, EV -3, Rodinal 1+50
Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Rollei 80s, Red Filter, EV -3, Rodinal 1+50
Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Rollei 80s, Red Filter, EV -3, Rodinal 1+50
Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Rollei 80s, Red Filter, EV -3, Rodinal 1+50
Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Rollei 80s, Red Filter, EV -3, Rodinal 1+50

Destination: Santa Barbara – Mission: Large Format Photography

SB Mission Church(Click image for a larger version)

This past week, I took my first seriously considered shots with my newly acquired Tachihara 4×5 field camera. I recently purchased it from a good friend who does marvelous landscapes, but says that she is “too old” for film and 4×5 now. Mine is a neutral wood color with chrome fittings. The bellows are a little crumpled at the lens end, but light tight. I have two lenses. The 180mm is considered a normal lens, somewhat equivalent to a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera. The 90mm is a wide-angle, equivalent to a 30mm. I updated the ground glass, which is what is used to focus the image, with a hand made borosilicate glass from Steve Hopf.

My first destination was the Santa Barbara Mission. The Santa Barbara Mission is actually quite small, and not much of an opportunity, outside of the church itself. Unfortunately, the front is under some restoration and was covered with scaffolding and surrounded with ugly green fences. My sights were set on the church interior. I carefully setup and initially pulled out the wide angle, but soon realized that the normal would do. This image is the kind of image that is made for large format photography. I took two more in the courtyard, but they really just can’t compare.

I must admit that I felt a little self-conscious under the dark cloth, a little like an impostor. I recognize this feeling from when I first started doing street photography. It is a kind of I’m not good enough self-editing that will go away with a few more clicks under my belt. It was also fun to see people stop, as if they were going to wait for me to take the picture, even before I had the lens on the camera. I politely waved them through.

SB Pier(Click image for a larger version)

My second destination was the Santa Barbara Pier. It was a little later than I had anticipated and a bit of a race with the sun. With more experience I might have felt the adrenaline of Ansel Adams rushing to get his one shot of Moonrise Over Hernandez, but I just kept muttering “not the way for a novice to try large format photography”. None-the-less, I lined up a nice shot of the pier. I waited a while to avoid some people, but then the kids came into the scene. As the sun was setting, I had no real choice but to work them in, which of course makes the picture.

I’m using Ilford FP4+, rated at 125 ISO, but I’ll be honest, I just metered as if it was 100 ISO to keep things simple. I used the modern equivalent of a Polariod back to check my exposures, my Olympus OMD. It is really no larger or heavier than a spot meter and far more flexible. My developing was with Clayton F76+ using his published times and agitation method as described in a sheet he sent to me. 7 1/2 min @68 degrees; agitation for the first 10 seconds followed by 1 turn every 30 seconds. I scanned with VueScan with no adjustments. Post-processed with a little dodge and burn in LightRoom. The thing to note is that there was no overall tone curve or levels adjustments, the tonalities of the film was just right-on. The image of the pier was cropped vertically to a 16:9 aspect ratio.

On a Foggy Morning

Sepulveda Basin 1 Hasselblad 500 C/M, Fuji Neopan 100 Acros, Rodinal 1+50

This is one of those hidden treasures in the middle of the great urban expanse we lovingly call LA. In the middle of the San Fernando Valley, within a few blocks from the congested interchange of the 405 and the 101 freeways, lies the Sepulveda Basin. On a cold morning, mist rises from the warm waters. Birds roost in this unlikely desert oasis only in the winter months.

These three images continue my exploration of B&W film photography. The last image was taken with a high-contrast, red-sensitive film and a red filter.

Sepulveda Basin 2 Hasselblad 500 C/M, Fuji Neopan 100 Acros, Rodinal 1+50

Sepulveda Basin 3 Hasselblad 500 C/M, Rollei 80s + Red filter, Clayton F76+

Our Gang – Not quite as old as the camera

Nancy - The Thinker
Nancy – The Thinker (photo by Joni Agnew)

I had a fun time with the gang last night, photographing them on a 1920’s Kodak Pocket No. 1A which I bought at an antique shop on Whidbey Island for $20. It is is great condition and had one tiny pinhole light leak in the bellows which I repaired with a dab of liquid electrical tape.

I’m not sure I’ll use this camera much, but I can’t image a digital camera still working in at the turn of the next century. Another thing to consider – 8 shots to a roll, 8 shots published. Not sure I can say that about digital either.

Randi - Our Classy Lady
Randi – Our Classy Lady
Judy and Jerry - In Love
Judy and Jerry – In Love
Jerry and Joni - Long Friends
Jerry and Joni – Long Friends
Jerry - The Joker
Jerry – The Joker
Jean and Chuck - Posing
Jean and Chuck – Posing
Darrel - Get Me Out
Darrel – Get Me Out
Chick - As A Kid
Chick – As A Kid

Beautiful Poison – Lessons in developing my first roll of B&W

Beautiful Poison
Beautiful Poison
Hasselblad 500 C/M, 80mm T*, f/4, Ilford Delta 100, D76 1:1

In a previous post, Lessons in Digital and Film,  I described some of the lessons I’ve learned from the process of using both digital and film. One of my lessons is not to underestimate the advantage of controlling every aspect of the process – from exposure to print. This revelation came as I was struggling to scan some negatives which, I believe, were not developed with the best of care (Ok, I think they were over developed bringing out more grain and contrast than the film should have shown). Then and there, I made up my mind to start developing my own negatives and begin to mature my own flavor of an analogue/digital hybrid process that I would control from start to finish.

This morning I developing my first roll of B&W film in 34 years. In my senior year in college I signed up for was Photography 101. The only requirement of the class was to end up at the end of the semester with a stack of hand printed and mounted B&W prints. We learned development, printing, and mounting. I don’t really remember any specific lectures or teaching sessions but I have a copy of “Upton and Upton” around here somewhere. I do remember always having my camera, shooting all around San Francisco, and the quiet slow mornings printing in the darkroom.

Oddly enough, I remember almost nothing about the developing process except those spiral steel reels. So I set off on some research to learn about developers and stop and fix and ordered up a bunch of stuff which arrived Friday. Yesterday headed out shooting and developed my first roll this morning.

Here is what I learned:

1) Find one development formula that seems reasonable and stop.

Everyone says its easy, and after this morning I’ll agree – it is. However, with today’s democracy of information, the ease with which anyone can publish information on almost any subject, what the newbe finds is an every wandering conversation of subtleties, nuances, variations, and opinions. It would be easier if there a dirth of information and the uninitiated was led into thinking that there is just one “MASTER RECIPE” per film that is found on the film manufacturer product sheet. I was a nerve rattling journey of fear, uncertainty, and doubt until I just stopped looking and locked down on my approach to chemicals and methods.

2) Just say yes to presoak.

I decided to do a presoak for one simple reason – seeing one video showing the dumping of inky-black presoak water into the sink. Mine was inky-black too. Just seemed like a clearer way to start.

3) The meaning of the phrase “clean negatives”.

Many sources of information suggested to open the tank and look at your film at the end of the fixing process to inspect that the film “was clear, not milking” and ensure that the fix was complete. One source even opened the tank before fixing (really!, I didn’t try that). Not one source, however prepared me to for the magenta tinged film base I would see. I also noticed that as I dumped some initial tankfuls of rinse water into the sink, that the water itself was was magenta, so clearly something good was happening and I was actually rinsing off the last of any remaining dye on the base emulsion. And lo, at then end of my 10 minute rinse under slow running tap water a clear base negative emerged. Ah that’s what they meant by “clean negatives”.

4) “I just want to say one word to you, just one word… Plastics” (from The Graduate)

When looking at tanks and reels, just go with the Samigon Universal Plastic Developing Tank and Reels. They are easy to load, the tank didn’t leak, and the recommendations of chemical volume on the bottom of the tank covered the reel perfectly and still left room for good agitation. Using plastic reels was way easier than what I remember of spiraling 36 exposures on to stainless steel reels. Also when you live in a warm climate (like me) I figure that plastic won’t conduct the warmer room and hand temperature like stainless steel.

5) Remove the film backing before starting to load the film onto the reels (applicable for 120 film only).

I practiced loading the reels several times with a sacrificial roll of film and I found the hardest part was not when starting, but when finishing the loading. I found it really difficult to get the film untapped from the backing paper and if I accidentally loaded the film onto the reel past tape it was really hard to recover. Then I saw a video where the guy just removed the film from the paper first, re-rolling the film into a reversed roll while he was doing this. Another trick was that when he got to the tape, he removed the tape from the backing paper first then from the film. This was much easier and I was left with a simple coil of film only ready for loading onto the reel. (Of course, all this happens in the changing bag!)

Here is my final recipe:

  • Presoak: 3–4 minutes in tap water at or near your development temperature. Fill tank, soak (3–4 min), dump, fill tank again and dump immediately.
  • Developer: Kodak D–76 @ 1+1 dilution, 68ºF/20ºC. Agitate first 60 sec, then 10sec per minute for remaining time (as per Massive Dev iPhone app @ 68F/20C)
  • Stop: Tap water. Fill, agitate, dump – 2-times
  • Fix: The Phtographers Formulary TF–4 Rapid Fix – 5 minutes
  • Rinse: open tank with running water – 10 minutes followed by a 30 sec soak with LFN