Aspens at June Lake

June Lakes, Hasselblad 500 C/M

These past couple of months I continue to work both film and digital, nature and street. In May I spent a weekend in Bodie and June Lakes in the Eastern Sierra’s. I spent more time being with my husband than shooting, but I got in some late afternoon shooting at Silver Lake and then the next morning at Bodie. I previously posted my Bodie images from the Horizon Perfekt.

These are from Silver Lake in the late afternoon, around 5pm. Silver Lake is on the northern side of the June Lake loop. There is a nice lake with marshy grass and lots of aspens. The area I was shooting is right off a parking lot which probably accounts for the graffiti on the trees. It seems that no mater how much I work on my nature subjects, I’m still attracted to the scenes with a human touch.

I’m fairly happy with these images, but still view them as learning-sketch images. Compositionally, nature scenics is something that I still need a lot of work at to capture the quiet elegance that I’m after. Recently I learned of the photographer Tim Rudman through an interview with him on the Film Photography Project (FPP) podcast. I like his imagery very much (and the FPP too!).

June Lakes, Hasselblad 500 C/M

In this scene of Silver Lake, I was attracted to the texture of the marshes, the sweep of the shore-line and the bushes on the far side. I have only an 80mm and 60mm lens for the Hasselblad. I am working hard at capturing the right light for these black and whites.

I think the aspens are somewhat more successful. Here is a different composition of the trees with the graffiti. Though I’m not so sure about the space between the group of trees on the left and right.

June Lakes, Hasselblad 500 C/M

Technical Details

Camera: Hasselblad 500C/M
Lens: 80mm Planar T*Filters: Yellow, ND Grad on the scene with the lake
Film: Fuji Neopan Acros 100
Development: Rodinal 1+50

 

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

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+

Mysterious Forest – Learning from the Negative

Hasselblad 500 C/M, Ilford Delta 100, D76 1+3, Post processed in LightRoomHasselblad 500 C/M, Ilford Delta 100, D76 1+3, Post processed in LightRoom

This image represents the next steps in my learning about development, scanning, and post-processing. They all go together and even though there was a good amount of additional contrast added to this image (as well as some dodging and burning), the feel of medium format and film are still very present with an expansive feel and lovely tones.

The first thing about this image is that, straight off the scanner, it was amazingly flat. I can’t even tell you have flat it was. It was so flat that I thought I’d completely messed up the processing. However, after some help from my friend on Facebook community “Film Shooters Collective” I was able to reverse engineer what was going on.

1) The image was somewhat under-exposed.

This was one of Southern California’s typical “June Gloom” days (even though we are now in August!) with high overcast and flat lighting. It was precisely this lighting that encouraged me to go out shooting. Shooting in a strong sunny day is nearly impossible to manage the highlights and shadows. However, still having shot way more digital than film (in an intentional way) I was too concerned about the highlights and I let the shadows go too dark. The upshot was that most of the image was underexposed.

2) The scanner software, left to its own devices, wants to make a neutral gray image

Much like the metering in our cameras, the scanner software, by default, wants to find an image that averages out to neutral gray. In the case of my first scan, this produced a really gray image, and I thought it was the negative itself. It wasn’t, it was the scan. After I figured out what was really going on with the negative by using the densitometer in the SilverFast software, I was able to tweak my scanning parameters to get an image that was easier to modify in post. I still added quite a bit of contrast and then the normal dodge and burn but there is a beauty in the gray tones of this image that reflects the film itself.

3) My film holder was not positioned properly for a sharp scan

Flatbed scanners have a specific place where they focus – as some distance above the glass. It turns out that this is variable from scanner to scanner and there are little feet on the film-holders that can be adjusted. However you need to figure out how to adjust them and then run the experiments to find just the right height. In my case, I have the Epson film-holders set to the + position and added one-ply of post-it note paper in addition. I’m now really happy with the sharpness of the scan.

4) You will need multiple scanning software

Just like post-processing software and camera bags, one-size does not fit all. I ended up using SilverFast to judge the quality of the negative (it has a densitometer), once I figured out what was going on with the density itself, I was able to get nearly identical scans with either SilverFast or VueScan. VueScan is still easier if you know where you need to go with the negative itself.

El Matador Beach – The need for contrast

El Matador BeachEl Matador Beach, Malibu CaliforniaIlford Delta 100, Hasselblad 500 C/M, 80mm T*, D76 1+1

As I work in Medium Format (2-1/4 x 2-1/4 film), I’m looking for simple shapes and compositions. There were some very lovely simple compositions at El Matador this weekend, but they weren’t very effective in B&W. I’ve been thinking about B&W and intellectually understood the need for contrasts, but it wasn’t until I evaluated this image in with my other, simpler, images, that I understood just a little bit better.

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

Lessons in Digital and Film

Penn's CovePenn’s Cove, Whidbey Island Washington
Ilford Delta 100, Hasselblad 500 C/M, 80mm Planar T*

I’ve recently started shooting some film – 120 medium format on a fully manual camera with no meter and no battery. I exploring big quiet landscapes as a compliment to my street work. Shooting both film and digital is allowing me to learn lessons from both worlds.

Do not under estimate the advantage of controlling every step of the process.
With digital you have control over every step of the process from exposure to processing to print. I just got back a roll from, what should have been a good lab, that was totally over developed ruining both the contrast and grain. My developing kit is now ordered.

Cost is relative.
Developing single rolls of B&W at home requires an initial investment of about $150 of equipment and chemicals, a few hours of study, and some practice spooling film onto reels in a dark bag. Developing theroll takes about 30 minutes (including setup and cleanup) and probably costs less than $1.00 in chemicals. Adobe Creative Cloud (assuming you use LightRoom and Photoshop) costs $40/month, takes hundreds of hours to learn, and NAPP membership is $100/year.

Having a limited number of shots on a roll motivates discipline.
When I am shooting film I don’t press the shutter when my brain says “you know that’s not good”. This doesn’t mean that I won’t experiment. Digital is a fantastic sketch book, film is the final oil. Sketching to develop new ideas is good, but drawing drivel is a waste. (Though sometimes drawing drivel is the only way out of a block.)

You can buy thousands of years of experience for $4.19.
A roll of 12 exposure 120 (medium format) Ilford Delta 100 B&W film costs $4.19 on Amazon. It represents thousands of person-years of science, experience, taste, and subtlety designed right into its emulsion. A digital color-to-B&W conversion is spectacularly susceptible youthful exuberance, lack of vision, and any momentary lapse in judgement that can occur while making any one of a hundred of decisions realized simply by pushing around little sliders. (This actually applies to processing your color shots too).