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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Gardens in Guimares

Portugal, Rolleicord V, TMAX 400

When I showed up in Portugal with a vintage Rolleicord V twins lens reflex (TLR) camera and several rolls of medium format B&W film, Arthur Meyerson, master of color photography, looked at me askance. Of course, I had my usual pack of digital gear centered around the micro-four-thirds system, but with the promise of castles, churches, and gardens, I was hoping to find opportunities to do a little bit of B&W work.

Our visit to Guimares was two-thirds of the way through our 12 day Portugal adventure organized and led by Keron Psillas and Arthur Meyerson. I had almost given up on using the Rollei until I saw these gardens with mossy steps and big over grown trees. It was spectacularly lush. The afternoon we arrived at the Pousada, the light was nothing special though I did get a unexpectedly beautiful sunset-moonset from the window in my room. But the following morning, with rain still dripping from the trees and mist in the air, the sun filtered in in magical patterns. There were several of us photographing that morning and I was the last one out, running so as not to be late for our departure to Porto.

I tend to like my B&W images a little dark and moody, which can make printing quite tricky. I hope you like these. They were a great delight to see come alive as I hung the negatives to dry. [Rolleicord V, TMAX 400]

The Rolleicord V is the low-end of the Rolleiflex line, and this particular model was manufactured between 1954 and 1957. It sports a 75mm Schneider Kreuznach Xenar f/3.5 lens, which I believe is uncoated based on the glow that I see in the highlights of these images. This is a medium format film camera which uses 120 film and the negatives are 6 centimeters (or 2 1/4 inches) square. The camera itself is actually quite small (roughly 4x4x5.5 inches) and light (less than 2 lbs) for a medium format camera. To take an image, you look down on the waist-level view finder and compose and focus a reversed image (reversed, but not upside-down) on the ground glass. This is all done through the top lens, or the viewing lens. The taking lens is just below and contains the shutter. The TLR is a very simple camera which explains why it is still in perfect working condition even after 60 years.

Portugal, Rolleicord V, TMAX 400

Portugal, Rolleicord V, TMAX 400

Portugal, Rolleicord V, TMAX 400

Smile

Smile

Some images deserve presentation with a big border and prominent attribution. Some images bring it all – content, structure, emotion, intrigue. Some images make you proud to be their creator.

This image was taken on a warm sunny winter afternoon in Santa Barbara. The local camera club had organized an outing to the Santa Barbara Zoo. And, while I wasn’t all that interested in taking animal portraits, I figured the zoo to be a good place to practice a little people photography. People at the zoo is a simple idea, but I had to make it harder. I would spend the day using a vintage 1970’s Mamiya C220 TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) camera that was gifted to me by a good friend. My film for the day was Kodak TMAX ISO 400 B&W.

Off I went to the zoo, looking for my opportunities and learning to use the camera all at the same time. I shot about 2 1/2 rolls at the zoo, 30 images. Most were boring. Some were down right desperate. For most of the day I felt like I was chasing the picture instead of having the picture come to me.

Lunch came to the rescue, an opportunity to leave the zoo and explore the neighborhoods. As we were looking for a parking space near our favorite Mexican restaurant, I noticed a barber shop on the corner. I walked over and stopped in front of the window. As I started fiddling with the camera, these two girls, bored and waiting for their brother or father for their hair-cut, turned to me and started playing for the camera. I positioned myself to use my shadow to see into the barber shop. Looked down into the waist-level finder, focused, cocked the shutter, and waited for the right moment.

Mamiya C220, Sekor 70mm f/2.8, Kodak TMAX 400, Clayton F76+ 8:00 min @ 68˚