Sunday, May 15, 2022

Mystery Film in the Manic Expression Cube.


When I was getting a 40 year-old box of 4x5 Plus-X off the top shelf in my darkroom, I noticed there was a bulk loader in the shadows next to it. When I picked it up, I was surprised that it was full of film.

There's two possiblities. I may have brought it to Oshkosh from Galesburg in 1985, in which case it's probably HP-5. I was getting into Panatomic-X at the time, but probably wouldn't have bought 100 feet of it. The loader looks in too good a shape to be mine which was in continual use for about seven years. It might be from when we got rid of the freezer in my department in 2003. I threw away a mountain of Photomechanical Transfer Paper (my former boss was a sucker for a quantity discount), gave away a shrink-wrapped block of 24 rolls of 35mm Panatomic-X and took home the 4x5 Plus-X which nobody wanted. I may have also brought this bulk loader home. The only film I remember ever bulk loading was Kodalith, used for "word" slides. It's hard to believe that the last person to have used the film wouldn't have labeled it including a note that she was the only person allowed to touch it. (Thank you Steve Jobs, Aldus and Adobe Systems!)

The old Plus-X turned out to be fine, but a fast film like HP-5 even in a cool basement sounds like a long shot. If it's Kodalith, it can be developed to a continuous tone but still pretty high contrast negative with dilute developer. It's about ISO 12.

I loaded a roll and put it the Manic Expression Cube. I decided to measure as ISO 200 (not very carefully though) and see what happened when I semi-stand developed it in Rodinal 1:100, as everyone recommends for unknown film. Convenient - that's the way I do it all the time.

There does seem to be more background fogging than I would expect, but otherwise the negatives look surprisingly normal. Digital processing can essentially edit the background out and stretch the dynamic range back to normal, especially at 16-bit greyscale.

The way the little camera exposes the entire width of the film, it was hard to see legible edge marks.  I finally found one.

It's Tri-X. I've never been a big user of Tri-X.  Just before I started here there was a big, nasty split up of the AV department between it's Instructional Technology arm and the Graphics and Photography arm, which became a new department in a different division, University Publications. My conjecture is this bulk loader was filled just before that happened and along with the other black and white film, just never got handed over to Publications even though we no longer had any use for it. That would make it also about 1983.

For the past few years, I've been obsessed with using multiple cameras for back-up on Pinhole Day in case I screwed up really badly. (I have done this before.) I started with a self portrait on the back porch.

A second version. When people ask me how I decide what's in the picture, I have this vision in my head of taking out a giant cookie cutter and chopping out a piece of reality. I was really intent on just finding out if this film was any good and it's like I quickly previsualized the picture, then closed my eyes and went at it with the cookie cutter. Occasionally this results in an interesting composition I never would have thought of. In a movie, there would be someone following me.

Your basic curtain equivalent.

A nice looking loaf.

A scene also recorded with medium format.  When my album comes out, use this for the cover art.

Carl Schurz's boot.

I went up to the Trout Museum of Art to deal with some issues well before the summer workshops. I made the mistake of asking about registrations, and it's now become the workshops that may occur this summer.  They've just done another marketing push, so we'll see.

I was involved with other cameras and although this camera was usually in my pocket, it never got used. One day I had a major conflict of whether I wanted to go on a bike ride just for the ride, or go out and take pictures. I decided to take just the camera and the little Joby tripod, and try to finish the film quickly then hit the road.

I couldn't pass up the courthouse being serviced by two cherry pickers. I held the camera against a street sign.

What had been the blighted industrial Universal Foundry District is now occupied by giant rectangular apartment buildings. This one had a little more dramatic double stairway entrance.

I think this might have been the convent at the Catholic Church downtown. It's now some kind of men's dorm.

Trying to hold the camera against my bicycle handlebars, with the rising front as high as it would go. Are those streaks something to do with the venerable film or a leak in the camera coming through the sprocket holes?

I did use the Joby once, on the ground, again at maximum rise.

The Manic Expression Cube has a .17mm pinhole 24mm from a 24x24mm frame. The film is no longer a mystery.

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