After shooting so many different film stocks it’s difficult to fit shooting something new into the normal shooting process. After so much testing I start to gravitate towards certain films. But there’s still a huge pile of rolls I haven’t shot yet. Guess I’ll slowly go through them one by one.
I already shot Kodak BW400CN in medium format. This is an 35mm add-on. Following the “+1 stop for every decade of expiration”-rule I exposed the role as ISO 200 and developed normally. Not sure how it was stored, but the quality suffered quite a bit.
Last month (December 2016) I participated in the Emulsive Secret Santa. I got several rolls of film and the first one – Ilford FP4 for medium format – is finally done.
I still have to perfect putting in film into the Pentacon to avoid those overlapping frames (transport problem). Guess that’s the drawback for buying cheap/old gear. But since I’m not going to rob a bank anytime soon, I’ll work with what I have.
Leipzig, Germany – January 2017
Medium format (120), black/white negative film, 12 exposures (6×6), ISO 125
During a district expedition this summer I visited Atelier Beissert. After our talk about art, photography and black tea, I discovered some old film cameras tucked away in a cabinet. Showing some (okay… a lot) of interest, Peter offered me two of them to try/buy. One was an EXA 1a equipped with a Carl Zeiss Jena f2,8/50mm lens.
Nearly 1 million EXA cameras were build between 1949 – 1990 in Dresden, Germany. They are fully mechanical, have no light meter and are build like a tank. Good for taking photos or hammering nails. Most of them (1a is one of them) use the “Exakta” mount.
It took some time to shoot a full roll of film on *another* camera – I might have a collecting problem. Being able to use a waist level viewfinder gives you a whole new perspective and shooting experience. I really liked it. What I didn’t like was the max shutter time of 1/175 sec.
Now that the film is developed and scanned I have to say, damn that’s a good lens. Sadly the frame counter was physically broken off, so I had no idea how many images were left. In the end I didn’t buy the camera because of that, but I guess now I have to look for a better preserved one, or at least for a M42 mount version of that lens.
Black and white photography for the financially challenged
On a side note I think I settled on an ISO400 b/w film for “normal” day to day shooting: Rollei RPX 400. If you order 10 at a time over at Macodirect you pay 3,75 EUR per roll. I also looked into bulk loading film, but decided against it for the time being. I’d have to shoot a whole lot more, before the savings on film exceed the investment of a bulk film loader. But I’ll keep that option in mind.
The “Days of Industrial Heritage” (german website) are 4 days of presenting past and present effects industry had/has on production, history, city development and social life in Leipzig, Germany. It’s held once per year, 2016 being its 4th installment and my first time attending it.
I already showed some photos, but wanted to take a bit more time and create a small photo-essay summarizing all of my photos in one article.
You always read “don’t compare your work to others”. It’s hard. And you see a lot of work by other people – old masters, emerging voices, exhibitions, social media, magazines, during photography meetups, the list goes on.
I find myself asking what exactly I shouldn’t compare. Technical details like exposure, depth of field, resolution? Or the impression (light, atmosphere, emotion)? Or the content? Or the impact on the viewer?
What about comparing my different own work? Wasn’t I a different person years ago? Wasn’t I in a different mood, when I took this picture, compared to that picture? How do I order the various things I photograph? What do I want? What do I want to say with my images? What do I want my photographs to achieve?
I think the HGB workshop started something, that’s slowly unraveling now. I ask questions. I recognize the difference between photographs with and without people in it. I have the feeling, that an image without a person in it, can only go so far. A landscape shot can be perfect, but there’s something still missing in it.
Or that’s all just a phase. Or a small step on the ladder to a more rich understanding of photography. Or I’m getting old and emotional. Or I’m just looking for something *else*, after taking images of things for years. Or I’m finally over some internal issues. Or or or.
As almost always: at the end, there are more questions than answers.
One thing I really underestimated was the time it takes to scan 10 rolls of film. First you have to press them for at least a day, better a couple of days – depending on the curliness of the material. But I didn’t have that time before the weekly workshop review and I couldn’t wait another week – time was running out. So I spent – after developing for a whole day – another whole day for a “quick” preview scan, to evaluate what I had.
The trap of quick previews
All the auto-features of the scanner were enabled and the scan quality was low. All for a faster process – or so I thought. At the end, all the images looked wildly different.
Looking through them, after a full day of scanning, I felt really discouraged. All the images looked bad. There were 400+ photos, but nothing for the exhibition or the book. Three days of shooting for what? Who was I, thinking I could make a book after only a couple of weeks of planning, only some days of shooting, when others took *years*? Did I have to abandon the project and resort to plan B?
On friday morning I decided to not look at anything project related until monday. The weekend came and went. On monday I still didn’t look at anything. On Tuesday I started to scan everything again, but this time “properly”. Took two full days, but the images looked so much better. I could color balance one batch, while scanning the next.
My scanning / color balancing method
I scan everything with an Epson Photo V550, which I bought used, when the V800/V850 were announced. I use the Epson Scan software, deselect every automatic correction and use a curve layer in Photoshop for manually setting the black/white/grey point.
Quick tip: with the eye dropper tool (color picker) selected, you can right-click and change the sample size. Especially useful for setting black points / white balance of grainy negatives.
Normally I’d scan color negatives as color slides and use the ColorPerfect plugin, but since the film (Adox Color Implosion 100) is not supported I went back to my old method.
After everything is scanned and manually color corrected I import everything in Lightroom and minimally adjust a couple of things, mainly exposure and sharpening. At the end my images look something like this:
Much better to look at and work with. Scanning everything again after the quick preview scan, enabled me to better judge my work and make image selection much easier. But that’s a topic for another blog post.
If there’s interest I could write-up a more in-depth scanning tutorial. If you have a way to simplify things for me, I’d like to know as well.