Going analog – some more black and white

At last I’ve managed to send the films shot on my La Palma vacations to MeinFilmLab.de and got them back after a week. So currently I’m spending my evenings fighting the film scanner and the scan software, only to state that scanning black & white negatives is quite easy and fun, while scanning color negatives is more of a masochistic process…

At least I’ve found a way to get some satisfying results and will now process the seven films one by one.

Meanwhile I’ve tried to self-develop my second black & white film and would like to show you some of the results.

This time I shot an Ilford Delta 400, again near the Hamburg Habour City and the new Elbphilharmonie. The development recipe was quite standard (Ilford Delta 400 in Ilfosol 3, Dilution 1+14, Duration 12 minutes, Temperature 20°C).
And instead of being extremely careful with the wet film, I’d chosen a more pragmatic approach and a origami-like folded paper towel to remove the remaining drops of the watered strap. That worked out somehow and there are no flow marks or smears visible anymore.

Have fun with the pictures  and feel free to comment or give some useful hints. Some of them look very “vintage” while I must admit that the former results archived with the very expired FP4 where a bit more satisfying.

 Where this experiment starts

Going analog – bored while waiting…

Get some more gear and go self-developing… It took me some time to send the exposed films out to MeinFilmLab for developing and therefore I’m still waiting to get the negatives back and I’m still curious about the results. Waiting is kind of boring and when I get bored I tend to get twitchy and I end up getting  some gear for black and white film developing.

First thing was to print out from the internet to get some guidance and read a suitable book. I found “Absolut analog” by Monika Andrae and Chris Marquardt at the local book store, which was really a great reading to start – complete, on the point and helpful, at least for me.

On Jobo.com a proper starter kit was available, on Amazon some chemicals (Ilfosol 3 developer and Ilford Rapid Fixer) as well as a changing bag. 5L of demineralized water were waiting at the hardware store and, in order to practice the film handling in the changing bag prior to crack the first real film, I got some cheap Agfa color straps from a local dealer.

Next thing was to sidle around Hamburgs new Elbphilharmonie and get two films ready for development while waiting for the Jobo-kit to be delivered. I had an Ilford Delta 400 available, so that will be the next film to splash around with and, very deep down somewhere in my cases and boxes, I found an Ilford FP4 that has probably expired in 1985. That was the one to start with today.

Winding up the film onto the development coil, all inside of the changing bag without any sight on what I did, was quite challenging but, due to some training with the Agfa films, it worked out somehow. The remaining steps where quite easy, thanks to the good preparation by hints and guidance found on the interwebs and in the book mentioned above.

Due to the age of the expired FP4 and its probably decreased sensitivity, the normal speed was ISO125, I exposed it like an ISO80 film and decided to go with a development recipe (Ilford FP4+, Ilford Ilfosol 3) for ISO100, knowing that I could not expect too much from this experimental approach. It’s just a test and the next film will be developed a little bit more earnestly. Massive Dev Chart was very helpful in getting the recipe, temperatures and times. I chose a dilution of 1+14 for the developer, because it gave me 3 more minutes of process time for my first approach, instead of hurrying the process with a stronger 1+9 dilution.

So, after some watering, developing, fixing, another refreshing bath and a night of hanging in my bathroom in order to get dry, here are some freshly scanned results of my first self-developed strap of film.

All pictures are shown as they were scanned, no further spotting or exposure adjustments. I’d just decreased the size and let Lightroom add some moderate sharpening during the JPG export. Guess I have to face a challenge with the drying process. There are a lot of water streaks and stains, even if I’d watered the negatives in demineralized water for about ten minutes. I’m positively surprised by the exposure and the look.

Feel free to comment and I’m thankful for hints and guidance regarding your experience regarding negative drying.

That was fun!

Where this experiment starts

Going analog – Thoughts in between

11000 meters high, 830 kilometers per hour fast. Is there a better place to recap and to write down some first thoughts about my little analog journey? Two great weeks on the island of La Palma have just come to an end. I’d left all the digital gear at home and went for my annual tracking vacancy to the Canaries, armed with just the Leica M6, a light meter and some tins of film.

The most overwhelming feelings are currently a deep relaxation, the knowledge of not having missed anything and the curiosity to finally see the results. I don’t expect much from the photos themselves, as I don’t have that much experience in fully manual analog photography. I’d taken a lot less photos, compared to my previous journeys to the Canaries. Instead of taking about 150 shots a day I just took about 15 this time. In best case, I’ll get as many keepers as during another holiday by reducing the number of “naa-not-that”-shots significantly. I will find out once I receive the developed results in three or four weeks. And with keepers I don’t mean those high-class-national-geographic-wow-shots, an amateur might capture once in a lifetime. I’m only thinking about those well photographed pictures, which are not only interesting for family and friends but might also create some smiles on some faces (which is much more than one can expect from a simple picture). I would be happy if the results proof that I got back a little bit of my photographic drive and that the results will hold up my idea of quality.

Did the way I took the shots change during the last two weeks? Of course, it did. One thing is the reduction of the pure number of photos taken. The other aspect is, that it slowed me down significantly. Where I was shooting all around me the other year, taking the extra shot with another focus and that with another exposure setting and wait, don’t miss the shot from deep  below, this time it was mostly like seeing an interesting motive or a nice view, having some thoughts about how the picture should appear, estimating the light, framing the picture and just taking this one shot. It felt like that is how it should be. So far so good.

Are there some sad or mixed feelings? Did I regret anything? No. Despite the fact that I’m curious to see the pictures…

Did I make mistakes? Oooohhh, yes I did.
I’d left the light meter at home most of the time. Not really a problem, because the M6 has a build in light meter which works perfectly fine… with a fully charged battery… Therefore, I took the challenge and estimated the required exposure settings most of the days… curious about the results…
Besides a roll of T-Max 400 for some possible street shots, I was equipped with some rolls of Kodak Ektar 100 for the bright-light-up-on-the-mountain-photography and some of Kodak Portra 400 for having some room to play in darker situations. This ended up with shooting on ISO 400 on the bright sunny mountain top at the telescopes of La Palma, because  half of the film had already been used during the former trip in the woods as well as trying to get some slightly sharp frames with an ISO 100 film deep down in the dark and wet laurel woods, because the day before I’d walked through some sunny meadows in the north. One has to plan in advance… This also tricked me not to have the ability to use the preferred aperture for some shots and I had to compromise to get at least a somehow valid exposure. Lesson learned and I’m curious about the results.

Will I try this again? Absolutely. It was fun, it was the slow kind of photography I’d wished for and helped me to focus on the frame. I often had to walk for the preferred picture instead of just turning the zoom ring. I also had to not take some shots, because with a prime lens it was not possible to create an interesting frame. But I’m absolutely fine with that.
And I’m pretty sure that analog photography will become a constant and important part of my photographic life. Until now it was an inspiring journey and I didn’t miss anything.

And did I already mention that I’m curious about the results?

Where this experiment starts

Going analog – seriously…

While the most interesting part of hanging up a painting is to visit the ironmonger and buy a brand-new hammer, gear testing is quite fun, even though it is not what I expected it to be. Hurrying through 2 straps of film, just to make sure that the new gear is working, got a bit unsatisfying. So it was time to snap a little bit more instead of only doing some test pictures.

Better take the sunny afternoon off, throw on the warm coat against the cutting cold wind and have a walk at the riverside. So I visited Hamburg Landungsbrücken and the new Elbphilarmonie with its great view onto the harbor and the roofs of Hamburg. The Leica was loaded with a Kodak Ektar 100 film, my light meter got a new battery, I had some time and the sun was shining. What else to say but that I had a great afternoon wandering around at Hamburg river side, on a relaxed search for some frames worth to capture.

Even when it is very likely that it might get boring after a while, I must admit that I really like the vintage look of these pictures.

What divides us from a jelly fish is the ability to learn. Therefore, this time I’d choose another film developer and decided to send the film to Mein Film Lab, a German full service provider which offers development, scanning, prints, negative storing and, at least in my case, a nice and really appreciated feedback and hints regarding the exposure. I ordered the full service with prints in 13x18cm, high resolution scans as 16Bit TIF on DVD, contact prints and for sure the developed negatives. All this was not that cheap and, with overall 50€ including transfer, after ten days a small parcel reached me and I was positively surprised by the results.

But how to get a chemical reaction into bits and bytes is another story…

Where this experiment starts

Going analog – Let’s test

Now that the gear is complete, it is about playing around testing the components and to make sure, that camera and lens are working fine. So let’s head to the photography store and get some film. Somewhere I’d read, that Fuji Velvia 100 makes nice colors and Kodak T-Max 400 has a nice grain. So get the Velvia, missing that it is a positive film, and that Black & White strap. The T-Max was the first film I’d loaded into the Leica, sometimes in February at 4 p.m. The light was ok and so I started a quick round through the Hamburg Stadtpark in order to capture some frames. The small lake and the greens where covered with some last snow and I was directly running into my first mistake. I took my light meter, adjusted aperture and ISO, measured carefully, set the camera according to the resulting time and took some shots of a tree and the distal planetarium. Only to archive some slightly underexposed frames, cause under white, bright conditions it is always a good idea to overexpose by one or two steps, just to get the snow white, Remember this 18% grey thing? Doing these shots with a digital camera, one would have easily recognized the underexposure and corrected it. Not that easy without a display…

Next, it was already nearly dark and I’d fired all thirty-six T-Max test shots, I drove down to Hamburg Habour City and loaded the Velvia. Knowing that an ISO 100 film will not be that much fun under such circumstances but curious about the first results I had another quick walk at the riverside and completed the next thirty-six test frames.

The next adventure was to get the film straps developed and I got the complete “Foto Dose”-experience. First I was taught that developing will take exactly ten days. After ten days I had to learn that developing will take exactly two weeks. After exactly two weeks I was told the delivery was expected exactly tomorrow, and tomorrow I finally got the T-Max negatives and prints and the framed Velvia positives while the also ordered prints where missing. Arrrgh…

At least I could verify, that camera and lens are working fine.  And I’m really blown away by the look-and-feel of the pictures. Very vintage, much colored. Looks intensely like “back then”.
To get even more in touch with the gear before going on vacation, I will take the chance and have an afternoon near Landungsbrücken and Elphy, with a Kodak Ektar 100 (…people say it is the Velvia of the negative films, believe me…). But that is another story on another day…

Where this experiment starts

Going analog – GAS…

What’s next? Gear Acquisition Syndrome or get some toys. Yay!

When I started thinking about the idea of going analog, my old Mamiya ZE was the first camera that came to my mind. Unfortunately, with a preset aperture priority and without the ability to go fully manual. Furthermore, when I took it out of its bag to inspect it, I found some dissolving seals and sticky old synthetic leather.

My second thought was to use the old Mamiya RB67 which I got some years
ago, from a colleague. A great toy and I enjoy playing around with this camera a lot. But it is heavy, big and bulky. Really heavy, big and bulky. And the lens, a Maniya Sekor 80mm f/3.5, which not only controls the aperture but also the shutter openening and speed has a marginal problem. The times are running quite accurate but unfortunately not when I press the shutter but after some unpredictable time. Not that easily to operate. I will have the lens repaired in a little while but this combination is for sure unusable for my approach. And did I mention that it is heavy, big and bulky?

Third try was to go with a Canon 7, an old Canon rangefinder camera with a build in selenium photometer and the Leica M39 screw mount. Used M39 compatible lenses, even originals by Leica, are relatively cheap to get. But there is still this thing with the selenium light meter. Some deeper research brought up, that finding a model with a working photometer is at least extremely time consuming while not nearly impossible.

What else… Having already thought about some used Leica lenses…
Why not have a look at the used camera market and get a Leica rangefinder. Maybe a Leica M3, , or M4, or M4-2, or M5, or M4-P, or sh*t, I’m lost. I never really was informed about the historical lineup of Leica. Fortunately I received some very appreciated consulting from my fellow photographer Dirk Möller (don’t miss his portfolio on http://www.dirkmoeller-fotografie.com) who pointed me to the Leica M6 and to the offers of used gear at Photohaus Collonaden.

At Photohaus I had the ability to choose from three available Leica M6 and after turning over some registers with Leica serial numbers, helpful guidance from the Photohaus staff and having the the different bodies visually checked, I finally chose a M6 built in 1995 which made the best  mechanically impression and looked very clean. And, Woohoo, I got a very special edition “Leica Partner-Aktion Deutschland 1996”, Yeehaw…
Furthermore, Photohaus gave me the chance to test the body in the wild for some weeks and, in case of mechanical defects, to change it.

At least the body has to be completed with a lens. You remember this one camera, one prime lens thing? After some research and after being paralyzed by the prizes charged for original Leica glass, I decided against it and got a Voigtländer 35mm f/1.7 Ultron. And I got a 90mm f/2.8 Elmarit (…from Leica…), just because I was able to make a snip on ebay. And because I would like to have a portrait lens. I know… This one camera, one lens thing… Unpacking that lens, built in 1964, and turning this still unbelievable smooth focus ring for the first time was quite impressive.

Now it is about to get some light on some straps of film and making sure that everything is working fine.

Where this experiment starts

Going analog – How…

When talking to some of my fellow photographers, while this project was not more than a half-backed idea, most of them had the same concerns about running around with an analog camera and they list almost the same benefits of digital photography:

  • Take pictures with different settings
  • Inspect the result immediately
  • Take as much pictures as you want
  • Just try several different viewpoints
  • Handling this digital thing is so much easier
  • Much cheaper, no need to get the prints
  • Just go with some high megapixel stuff, you can crop afterwards
  • You can change the picture during digital processing, several times, lossless

Sure, this are all valid advantages of digital about analog photography – technically. But this experiment is not about technology.

If you want to change something, a good approach might be to get off the beaten tracks.

I don’t want to take several shots of the same motive with different settings from different viewpoints. I want to think the picture before shooting it – once. It is also a challenge to adjust aperture and shutter speed, not only to get a valid exposure but to achieve the mood you’d planned to create. Decide about film speed for 36 exposures instead of spinning the ISO-wheel for every shot. Decide about black & white or color instead of trying BW in post, alternatively. Think about what film to use, what grain and what color and exposure behavior is favored. It is about thoughtful, considerate and slow photography.

All this can also be done with a digital camera. Valid argument, but: If you want to change something, a good approach might be to get off the beaten tracks.

Ok, there is still the thing with the higher costs. I guess, I’ll have to bite this bullet…

Some years ago, I had just fallen in love with the brand-new Fuji X100, I made the decision to leave all Canon gear at home and just take the X100 with me on my tracking vacation to Tenerife. It was fun and, with a little adjustment of the way I thought taking pictures, with a little more personal movement (with a fixed focal length you often have to “walk” your frame) and with a lot more concentration on foreground and background content, finally I was really happy with the results. And, in my own opinion, it opened my photographic mind.

So, why not extend this experience and go analog with a fixed focal lens? An analog camera without any exposure automation, film and a prime lens. This should be sufficient change to refocus my view on photography, possibly get some new inspiration and at the best light the passion again.

Next time less awkward text but more about the gear…

Where this experiment starts

Going analog – Why…

Sometimes one recognizes that some important things are missing. I have to admit that during the last two years, I have lost contact to two of the most valuable things one can have – some people that are really important friends and my beloved hobby, the photography.

Sad losses in the family during 2016 as well as some stressful and time consuming challenges I had to face in my professional career within the last two years had cost me power and creativity. The strong feeling that you should fix the fence but can’t afford the time because every day you’ll first have to catch the cattle. The sentiment of having no power, being tired and groggy. Making a step forward but only to assert to be thrown under the bus…

To recover disregarded connections to some lost friends, broken more or less caused by my own laziness, is one construction side and maybe an additional story. The other one is to walk out and get back the fun and satisfaction that the photography gave me once. Seems that I have lost the focus, somehow.

About thirty-five  years ago, I got my first “real” camera as a birthday present. A Mamiya ZE 35mm reflex camera together with a 50mm lens, a year later complemented with a 80-200mm zoom lens. It was great fun to start my first photographic experiences. Some years later, driven by the relatively high costs for film and prints and the limited abilities of the half automated ZE either, the interest changed and girls, cars and making music took its place. Then, in 2007, I found the way back to my old and long buried passion. Gear has changed several times since then and with a lot of passion I have drifted from capturing water drops into the first tripod depression, did some birding and rabbiting, searched the balance between lens distortion and blurred brick walls, survived the phase of askew street photos, did some dusk and dawn and, eventually, found out that people and landscape are my favorite areas. As long as I’m not with other fellow photographers, cause while hanging around with others, talking aperture and shutter speed, the theme is irrelevant.

Lack of time and some other impacts put me off a little bit. And, with a little distance, the look at my last landscape series, taken during my last stay on the island of Langeoog in last November, shows some uninspired, sometimes boring and mechanically taken pictures. To get your own idea, just have a look at the last two post in my Langeoog collection on G+, here and here ### Link:  ###

I cannot paint, so I take pictures. And somehow, I shall attempt to get back the fantasy, the inspiration and the satisfaction I’d once archived out of my photographic experiences.

One way might be to change things a little bit and therefore I’ve decided to leave all digital stuff at home, turn the clock back some years and give analog film a second chance (although film is that hip currently).

This will be my little journey for the next weeks and you’re welcome to join me.