Porto at Night

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Horizon Perfekt (swinglens) camera, TMAX 400

A few days ago I had a total disaster with a roll of TMAX 400 B&W film and Xtol 1:1. The result was bright surge marks on every frame. After reading many opinions that ranged from over agitation to under agitation, I decided that I couldn’t isolate one specific thing that I was doing wrong, but that I needed to really start from the beginning.

This post summarizes what I learned using TMAX 400 and Xtol 1:1. These lessons may ONLY apply if you are using plastic tanks and reels and normal (not stand) development. They may be totally wrong if you are using stainless steel tanks and reels or stand development.

These experiments were done with Xtol 1+1and TMAX 400 film, 35mm, 9.25 minutes @ 68-degrees. 1 minute pre-soak, 1 minute water-stop, Photographers Formulary TF4 fixer.

Lesson 1: Paterson tanks and reels are the ones you should be using. Let me say this again – PATERSON TANKS and PATERSON REELS!

The tanks I’ve seen are all designed to pour out the sides and refill down the center through a funnel shape. I now understand this approach – pour out fast, refill gently and from the bottom up. Paterson tanks takes this approach one step further with a deep top well, allowing about 1/4 to 1/3 of your chems to come into the top of tank (above the funnel) to be remixed from the bottom up. Even if you are using the tank to its capacity, there is plenty of room for the chems to fully mix during agitation.

Comparing Paterson reels against cheap reels, you will see that the plastic is thinner with more space between the spirals. Therefore the chems rush in-between the spirals with less force.

Lesson 2. Forget all those super gentle crazy-8 slow inversion techniques – just invert 180-degrees, then back to upright (don’t forget to tap to dislodge any bubbles)

The super gentle crazy-8 and parabolic patterns will not mix your chemicals sufficiently and may even defeat the design of the Paterson tank. You want the take full advantage of the Paterson tank design which allows chems to flow into the top of the tank around all sides and then fill back down the center of the funnel. The only way to effectively do this is to do a quick invert to up-side-down – letting the chems flow into the top of the tank from all sides, then a quick revert back to upright. If you take off the cap, you will notice your chems in the funnel and that it may take a few seconds for the chems to flow back through the funnel. You may want to wait a couple seconds before starting the next inversion. I rotated the tank 45-degrees to start the next inversion.

Lesson 3. Initial agitation 5-7 times in 20-30 seconds followed by 2 inversions each 30 seconds

I can’t say that 1 minute initial agitations followed by an agitation every minute would be better or worse. I can just say that the negs I got were great with this approach.

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Truck in the Center of the Town

Truck and TownWhen framing up these panoramas my compositional agenda was to look for layers. I tried to bring some object into the foreground while looking for a perspective that aligned interesting items behind it. While looking for this image, I walked all the way around the truck and finally ended here giving each element a place of its own.

Horizon Perfekt, Arista Premium 400 (TriX 400), Clayton Chemicals F76+ (1+9), 7:15 @ 68º. Agitate for the first 30 seconds and 2 turns every minute.

Propped Up in Bodie

Propped UpThe Horizon Perfekt is a Russian camera, made in China, and sold by Lomography. It is in a class of cameras called swing-lens cameras. This camera takes a 120º pano with a 28mm lens by rotating a slit from left-to-right. The film itself, ordinary 35mm film, is held in an arc so that the lens is equidistant to the film plane during the full image capture.

I was inspired to purchase this camera by the work of Jeff Bridges (yes, the actor, son of Loyd Bridges the star of Sea Hunt) who uses a vintage camera called a Widelux. Jeff Bridges uses his to document the making of his movies. I was looking to purchase a Widelux, but they are expensive and due to their age, prone to need custom repair. The Horizon Perfekt was $349 through the Lomo site and comes with a 2-year warranty.

Development notes: Arista Premium 400 treated as if identical to Kodak TriX 400. Developed in Clayton Chemicals F76+ (1+9), 7:15min @68º. This was an experiment to increase the development time to bring out a little more contrast than my previous TriX negs. I will keep this new time, especially for overcast soft lighting. Agitation first 30 sec, then 2 turns per minute. Your mileage may vary.

Bodie and the Horizon Perfekt

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Do a search for Bodie on the inter-galactic-web and you will find lots of pictures. Color, black & while, and plenty of HDR. Each time I visit Bodie I want to capture its mood in a special way. My plan for this visit was to take a bunch of 4×5 looking to capture as much detail as I could muster. But I also took along a new toy – the Horizon Perfekt. The Perfekt is a “swing-lens” camera taking a 120º view by, literally, swinging a lens around an axis. It uses 35mm film, but the negatives are about 1.5 times wider. Once I started framing up the area with the Perfekt, I couldn’t stop.