Monday, March 27, 2023

Vintage Tri-X in two developers

Last year I found a bulk loader in my darkroom that was full of film that turned out to be Tri-X from about 1983, stored in a freezer until about 2005, and in my relatively cool basement ever since. Earlier this year I built two 35mm Populists and of course had to run some film through them. A roll of the the free vintage film would be good enough to verify the cameras worked and were light safe. I exposed half the roll in one, and then, in total darkness of course, switched the film to the other camera.

I use Caffenol all the time with 100 speed films and love it. In discussions of Caffenol there is often a caution that it might increase base fogging in higher speed films, and of course, extremely outdated film is always at a risk of base fogging. The recipes call for 1 g/l Potassium Bromide to control this, or 10X that amount of regular table salt, which is the normal formula I use.

Since this was just trying to verify these two cameras were OK, it seemed like a good chance to see just what the Caffenol would do to the ancient film. As usual, it was semistand developed. It was quite a surprise how dark the background turned out.

Accidental exposures of film in a bulk loader are usually pretty streaky since the film is tightly rolled together.  This looked pretty uniform across the whole roll. In order to make sure I hadn't somehow exposed the film, I loaded another roll and developed it the same way I had when I first tried this film - semistand developed in Rodinal 1:100. As with the first experiment, the background was a little dense but within acceptable limits.

The negatives developed in Caffenol are on top, the Rodinal bunch in the middle, and a normal strip of HP-5 at the bottom.

I guess everyone's recommendation to stand-develop unknown old films in Rodinal 1:100 and the warnings about background fogging with Caffenol are confirmed by this experience.

It was worth a try to give the dark negatives a scan. It's not that hard and verifying the film-worthiness of the cameras required it.  I was really surprised a few of them yielded decent pictures,

 A slightly different view of the sunbeams in the living room

Ceramic Santa

My gloves.

Sunbeams on the chair in the sunroom.

The tiny tin microbus.

I loaded Neville for the control roll. The Rodinal developed negatives didn't turn out so bad. The Sun Room is always dependable for interesting light.

With the camera in the opposite corner.

My cooking corner in the kitchen.

A clean milk jug on it's way to recycling. By the way, these make the best material for the clicker in a 35mm Populist.

The top sliced off a tomato. The composition was really off from where I wanted it to be and this is cropped to about half the negative.

Burt and Kibitz contemplate the roses.

A monstera philodendron in the kitchen window.

I had Neville with me for the Photo Opp photo walk at Appleton City Center.  I see now why it was so dark in there. All the skylights were covered with snow.

Later in the week, I had to go to Appleton to meet with John and Graham from Photo Opp about a possible event. I was the first one there, so since the camera was in my pocket...

Sarah and I both went to Fluffy's new veterinarian. The examining rooms are small, so I waited in the sunny and angular waiting room,

The spring peeps have a similar shocked expression as the ghost pillow, and current events keep giving them plenty to be concerned about.

Another thing I didn't expect was how fine grained the pictures are.  It's more noticable in Caffenol pictures than the dilute Rodinal.

This will be covered in a future post (color film takes a long time to come back from the lab), but my involvement with Photo Opp took a whirlwind turn. I've recently had lots of conversations about how surprising it is that my photographs are done with a pinhole camera. Most people expect something from a middle school science class. Although I've been infatuated with 35mm color film, I've never really gotten in to 35mm in black and white. One thing I'll say about the 35mm pinhole rendering is that the dreaminess that people associate with pinhole is enhanced by the noticeably lower resolution of the smaller negative.

The challenge for the Fox Valley Photography group this month is black and white. I suppose that's special for most people although there has been some monochrome in the monthly challenges other than my own. Maybe this old film will be appropriate so at least I'll have a good story for the discussion.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Photo Opp and photo-oops.

Photo Opp is a new organization in Appleton dedicated to photographic education. They're renovating a former synagogue to house a community studio, darkroom and meeting place. They have been hosting several events to engage the community.

Last Saturday, they held a Photo Walk in downtown Appleton. It was a little dismaying when I realized they were referring to the interior of the City Center Mall, somewhat of a challenge for pinhole. I chose the EyePA 30 for it's eye catching design and it's f133 ratio - the fastest I have - loaded with reciprocity-failure-tolerant Ilford FP4+. Exposures in my kitchen measured about 3 minutes so there should be something possible in the interior of the mall.

It turned out to be a fun event. I have wanted to chat with the organizers about some possible role for pinhole. In addition to making contact with the Photo Opp leaders, it was fun to interact with other film photographers among the phones and DSLRs. I saw a Hasselblad, two Leicas and the cutest little black Voigtlander Bessa. One of the young men I met does direct positive processing with black and white film and exhibits the results with a slide projector. There were lots of interesting conversations between, or for me, while taking pictures.

Both the lighting and the socializing made pinhole photography challenging. This image illustrates both issues. I hesitate to lead with this because it might reinforce the wide spread conception that "Isn't pinhole photography zany!" This is a double exposure. Because I was just standing there while the shutter was open, I was often engaged by people curious about my handmade cameras. The first exposure ended in the midst of all this discussion and when that broke up, I forgot to wind the film! The other problem was that City Center is lightly occupied and it's not worth it to keep the main corridors lit as brightly as a store or workplace. Exposures were measuring from ten minutes to hours. The dimness is demonstrated because the first exposure was ten minutes during the introductory remarks on the ground floor and you can hardly tell it's there. The only recognizable thing from the first exposure are the legs and shoes of someone at the lower right who happened to stand under one of those spotlights.

I'd better find some light. The third floor of the atrium is an event space. This little platform is probably where they put the musicians.

At the end of the wings of the mall are elevator lobbies. More brightly lit, but still six minutes and no one down here to talk to.

While that was being exposed I walked back into the mall and saw this lit-to-code section below me on the second floor. In the space on the left were a group of children being led in a vigourous dance. Their parents waited next door. While making this exposure, a woman approached me and asked why the place was crawling with photographers. I explained about Photo Opp and the Photo Walk. I didn't mention she just happened to be in about the only place with people and light. She never mentioned the cardboard camera with the eyeball on my tripod.

Another double exposure. The next frame was a giant gumball machine right by the front doors, but still six minutes. While waiting for that, a young woman who had been a student employee in my department during my last years at the University introduced herself. She was a Radio-TV-Film major and is now a free-lance video editor. When I cleaned out my office, I had given her eight sheets of 16x20 RC Paper left over from a 1997 pinhole workshop (I was trying to impress the participants with a giant camera).We spoke about the possibility of some pinhole photography videos. The second exposure is another more brightly lit area, Murray Photo, a co-sponsor of the event, who probably sold every film camera there. I had two more cameras in my pockets. When the exposure time was over, I was showing them to two photographers who wondered how the tripod mount was made. I think I might have moved the camera without closing the shutter and got a third exposure on this one.

It was getting a little tedious waiting around for these long exposures, so I went outside. The half block City Center Street terminates in this turn around with all the lights on under the sheltered drop-off zone on this gloomy day.

Getting out by myself didn't prevent another double exposure.  For the first exposure I was in a parking space in the street next to a construction fence right at the curb. There was a giant pile of snow between me and the oncoming traffic, so I wasn't in any danger. After closing the shutter, I wanted to get to a completely legal spot about thirty meters away and forgot to wind the film when I got there. There wasn't much silver left for the second exposure of a distinctive modern church. The two images kind of compliment each other.

Anywhere else, East Johnson Street would be described as an alley full of the backs of the businesses on College Avenue. The one establishment with the front on this side is a kitchen/cantina with a Dia de los Muertos theme which my square format camera insisted I capture.

The City Center block is generally modern and a little brutalist but has this one slightly Parisian facade. When trying to decide whether to try for this picture, I noticed that it was a store for high quality ink pens. This one's for you, Joe.

Across the street in Houdini Plaza there was an enthusiastic rally for Women's Rights. The extreme wide angle fooled me again. The tall central plaza pillar and the 222 building behind it seemed to call for the rising front, but that might not have been the best choice. I burned in the sky to represent the stormy path ahead for us in hopelessly gerrymandered Wisconsin.

I didn't want to go home with one frame left in the camera. On the way back to the Mustang, from the island in the middle of Appleton Street, here's another parking ramp with a bit of a selfie in the door.

The EyePA 30 has hand-drilled .23mm pinholes, on the axis and 11mm above it, 30mm from a 6x6cm frame. The Ilford FP4+ was semistand developed in caffenol.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

A glitch but a nice little camera.

Building pinhole cameras is easy. Managing computer files is hard. After the third revision of the templates, I started a "Building the Compact Series Cameras" post, making a 30mm camera. When I got to the last step, the camera front, I discovered that when assembling the PDF from individual one-page Inkscape files, somehow I had imported an earlier version of the third page. There were many changes which made the camera a little wider and this old front was almost 5mm too narrow. Out of stubbornness and because I liked the inclusive feminist theme of the box, I went ahead and adjusted the already-cut-out parts and finished the camera. That made the pinhole opening, tripod mount, and the slots for the winders off center which required some cutting, patching and extra lightproofing. 

The film reels were awfully tight when that front when on, but it loaded without trouble and the film advances fine but takes a hair more force than is preferable.

If I drill a pinhole too small for the camera I'm working on, if it looks good, I'll save it and try again rather than trying to enlarge it. It must have taken a few tries to get the pinholes for the Glenlivet Pair, because there was a .23mm and .22mm in my collection, optimal for this camera's 30mm distance to the pinhole.

We've had a weather pattern with lovely sunshine in the early morning, which became thick overcast by the time I got ready to go out and take pictures. After several days of this, I had to go downtown anyway, so set out with camera and tripod despite the totally diffuse lighting.

The back of the east side of the 200 block of Main Steet.

I was curious to see if the extreme wide angle would allow this geometric little bush to achieve Center of Interest status against the busy background. It kind of worked.

The slabs and columns of the hotel parking structure along the Fox.

After my comprehensive coverage of the inoperable Jackson/Oregon Street Bridge this summer (here, here and here), you might like to see it carrying traffic again. The Department of Transportation just approved plans to replace it with a higher fixed span bridge in five years.

The bridgetender's house.

The expansion of space is always surprising when using a camera with a 90 degree angle of view. The tree reflected in the window is less than 6 feet away from the wall.

We had been to the Paine Art Center and Gardens several times recently and I remembered standing in the driveway thinking the back corner of the building would look cool with a wide angle camera. One of those sunny mornings, realizing the sky was going to change later, I got myself together early and went over there.

I've always wanted to photograph the dining and breakfast rooms of the Paine with sunbeams streaming through the windows, but by the time they're open, the rooms on this side are mostly in the shade. It seemed I might get the interior sunbeams from the outside. Not wanting to have my reflection in the window, I stepped aside during the exposure and ended up with the reflection of the white snow instead of my dark visage which made the interior visible. 

The corner between the dining and breakfast rooms with just the hint of an interior sunbeam,

The porch behind the Great Hall.

Another try to feature a leafless tree against a busy background.

As I was walking around to the now partially sunlit front, I recognized the scene I had noticed on the previous visit. Maybe would have been better with the sun around this side in the afternoon, but that's not the way the weather has been behaving.

For a long time I avoided extreme wide angles because of the strong vignetting. I hardly notice it anymore. Maybe it's the semistand developing that makes the difference less extreme. I still have to burn and dodge a bit, but it's pretty easy to get a mostly uniform exposure across the frame.

The Diversity 30 has .22mm and .23mm hand-drilled pinholes, on the axis and 11mm above it,  30mm from a 6x6cm frame. The film is 100 semistand developed in Cafennol.