What happens when a group of like minded photographers get together? A whole lot of photos get taken, often of other photographers taking photos of you. For week 16 I was in lovely downtown Findlay for the FPP (Film Photography Project) Walking Workshop. Even though the weather was pretty bad, we were kept warm by super positive thoughts and some fantastic people. I even got to meet a fellow 52-roller Susan! We spend the day out shooting downtown Findlay, a Polaroid Party at the University and a large format workshop to round out the awesome event.
This past weekend at the Film Photography Project’s Walking Workshop in lovely downtown Findlay, Ohio, at the Polaroid Party at the University they had a couple stations setup for portrait work. I had used by trusty Auto 250 (Polaroid Model 250 Automatic Land Camera) at Milton’s Help Portrait event a couple years back now which was a hit but I never thought to hook it up to a studio light. The camera is equipped with a PC socket which allows you to hook up an electronic flash mounted on a bracket, or radio trigger.
The two big lights were taken by Mat’s massive Sinar P2 8×10 camera, so I opted for a brick wall backdrop and a single diffused beauty dish from above as my setup. Keep it simple, right? For film stock I brought along all old Polaroid Stock (2009 expired, so the freshest you can find it these days), two packs of Type 664, a wonderful B&W ISO-100 film, and Type 690 a colour film. The results…amazing, especially the B&W work.
It was great to have so many willing, and some not so willing models to step into my ‘studio’ I think I’m going to work on building a similar dish for my strobist kit and doing some more Polaroid Portrait work in pop up studios. Could be a lot of fun!
Pack film is one of the best (in my opinion) instant formats out there, plus even though Polaroid doesn’t produce the stock any more Fuji produces a great B&W film, FP-3000b and Colour FP-100c that are readily available through the Film Photography Project, along with the cameras to shoot the film!
Long Live Film!
Well it was bound to happen.
I finally jumped in.
I got a Large Format camera, loaded, shot, and developed.
And it worked.
Back at the end of February I took a trip down to Rochester, NY with my friend Chrissie to visit our friend Andrew and Jenny and her Husband Aaron to check out the Rochester Subway and the Genesee Brew House. Of course there was a visit to Photo Source, this small camera shop in downtown Rochester run by Dick Raas. I have been hunting a 4×5 camera for a while and really wasn’t picky minus the fact it needed to be portable. Walking in, I bee-lined for the Large Format shelf and found this beauty.
A 1940s era Speed Graphic, but there was something a little odd about this camera. The Speed Graphic was the famous press camera of the mid-twentieth century. Dick proceeded to tell me about this one, it had been stripped down of all the things that made it a press camera, gone was the focal plane shutter, range finder, optical view finder. It had been basically turned into a field camera, came with a lens (Kodak Ektar 203mm f/7.7), film holders, basically everything I needed. And at the right price. I quickly ordered a 90mm lens off KEH.
And then it sat, it was pretty intimidating, I had never used a camera like this before, film came in sheets, loaded into holders, everything was upside down and backwards, closing the shutter.
So I watched a couple videos on YouTube…
Okay, I felt pretty ready about this. One good thing was the film holders had old film in them so I practiced daily loading and unloading the film, putting them into the Unicolor Drum I got from Burlington Camera. So this past Saturday I finally loaded up four sheets of film (Ilford HP5), loaded a tripod, Spotmeter, blanket, both lenses and headed out.
Before I even metered the scene I composed it in my head, then metered twice. Marked the spot, then went and got the camera, lined up the tripod, mounted the camera, opened it all up, blanket over the head and focused, recomposed, focused again. Then set the exposure, checked again on the glass, mentally flipping everything. Then closed the shutter and loaded the film holder, double checked the shutter, pulled the darkslide, and pressed the release. Replaced the darkslide.
Okay, that wasn’t too hard, despite being nervous as hell when I pressed the cable release. The second exposure went much better. There two shots down, and two more to go, but those I wanted to save for downtown Hamilton. The next step of course was processing, again back to the web, reading, youtube videos. I arranged to use the last surviving darkroom at Sheridan College, being able to work outside of a change bag first off helps me out a lot. Two sheets loaded, and started it rolling on the base. Some chemistry sloshed out which did cause some troubles to one of the sheets, but this was my first time, can’t expect perfection. But out of the four sheets shot, getting three images that I like, is pretty good I think.
Couple things I learned…especially when using my 90mm lens, I need to bring the lens forward a touch more as in the two images (I cropped them out in post) you can see the camera body (oops). And to make sure no one is too close when exposing as they may bump into the camera and you get camera shake. I’d also like to thank Mat, Sean, and Owen for all their help in getting me started.
And finally, my favourite shot from the first four…
I’ve honestly smelled better in abandoned buildings than this dark brown almost black solution sitting on the counter in my film lab (read: laundry room), but will it actually develop film, everything I’ve read and seen online says it will, my brain and nose say otherwise and I pour it into the tank. So as I agitate the tank, I am hoping that this strange brew (with apologies to Bob & Doug McKenzie) does its job.
So before I continue, let me answer the question that some of you may be asking, what exactly is caffenol? Caffenol is a film developer that you can make at home using various ingredients that are readily available and is generally non-toxic and definitely not restricted. The blend I will be working with is known as Caffenol-C-M. Within this blend there are four ingredients, the first being water, 500mL of it in my case, next is 50mL of washing soda (Sodium Carbonate), 8mL of Vitamin-C powder, and then 80mL of instant coffee. When it comes to coffee the going theory is that the cheaper the coffee is the better job it will do, so to that end I decided to prove this through experimentation. I shot four rolls of Fuji Neopan Acros 100; three rolls I would develop in Caffenol-C-M, and one in HC-110 (a traditional film developer). Of the three developed in Caffenol, the first would be developed in the Folgers Blend (cost of the bottle, $5.00), the second in the Nescafe Blend (cost of the bottle, $8.00), and the final in the Davidoff Blend (cost of the bottle, $11.00). But how exactly does this blend develop film? There are three different agents at work here, the first two are developers. The instant coffee contains a chemical called caffeic acid (C9H8O4), this is the same stuff you find in your average aspirin, this acts as your reducing agent and does most of the heavy lifting converting the silver halide salts found in b&w film into metallic silver leaving them on the film base to create the image. The second developer is ascorbic acid (C6H8O6) this is where the Vitamin-C powder comes into play. Although this doesn’t do the same amount of work as the caffeic acid, it does speed up the process, reduces fogging, and prevents staining. The final addition is the sodium carbonate this is the accelerator, raising the pH level of the solution and allowing the developers to do their job.
The process I’d use to develop is as follows, Caffenol-C-M (500mL water, 50mL washing soda, 8mL vitamin-c powder, 80mL instant coffee) develop for fifteen minutes, then a water stop bath for one minute, then fix with Ilford Rapid Fixer (1+9) for five minutes.
The first roll through the tank was the Folgers Blend, the negatives were rather dense, and I was afraid there were not any images on them, but after holding them up to the light I could see the frames. Next step was into the scanner, and this is where I was really blown away, although fairly flat, the tonal range and grayscale were fantastic, and the sharpness of the images were truly something else.
The second roll was developed using the Nescafe Blend. Again the negatives were rather dense, but again images were there. When the scans came out the tonal range was much more flat than what I had gotten out of the Folgers blend, and the images were not as sharp. Although the images were pleasing, and decent separation of tone, there wasn’t any depth.
The third roll was developed using the Davidoff Espresso 57 Blend. Wow, just wow, overall the negatives were a lot cleaner than the other two blends with the images much clearer to the naked eye and when held up to the light, but the real surprise was again with the scans. The image were much sharper than the Folgers blend there’s lots of depth and separation in the tones which are equal if not cleaner than the Folgers hands down.
So in conclusion, does the theory of the cheaper the instant coffee stand? Not really, all three types proved that they could develop film without any major issues, but in my mind the Davidoff (most expensive) did the better job by far. How does caffenol stand up to regular film developer (HC-110) well it really doesn’t, Caffenol produces much more grain in the film, which really isn’t a bad thing) and does produce a much denser negative compared to HC-110. But Caffenol does hold one thing that HC-110 does not, it’s something that you can blend, and modify all you like to produce the image that you want. So if you take anything out of this, it’s a springboard to try it yourself and continue to play and have fun. I’d like to thank the Caffenol Blog, the Caffenol Cookbook, and Deputy Dan Domme for their help in making this a success.
Ah Belfountain, after finding out about this place through fellow photographer Bill Smith, it soon became a favourite spot of mine to take a nice winter’s walk. Thinking I’d have a nice sunny afternoon I heading out for the hour drive north.
Sadly it was all cloudy by the time I got there, so rather than blow a roll of slide film in such dull light, I only took my trusty Nikon FM2 and one of my last rolls of Agfa APX100. This time I also took a walk up into the village of Belfountain as well to grab some shot there before retiring to the local coffee shop to warm up before heading home. Despite shooting at near wide open aperatures, and slower shutter speeds, I feel good about these shots.
Nikon FM2 – AI-S Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8 – Agfa APX100
Blaiznal 1+50 13:00 @ 20C
At the foot of Trafalgar Road is one of my two favourite locations in the town of Oakville, the downtown. Located along the old Highway 2, now Lakeshore Road is dotted with boutique stores, coffee shops and high-end restaurants. The snow and bright sun only made the place that much better in my view as I took a cold walk through not only the main street but the side streets that run down to the lake, taking in again the century homes, the small frame ones to grand brick manor homes, reminders of Oakville’s past, and current wealth in the area.
Nikon F3 – AI-S Nikkor 50mm 1:1.4 – Kodak Tri-X 400 (400TX)
HC-110 Dil. B 4:30 @ 20C
Sometimes a change of location is good, and as you all know I have a love for the northern section of Ontario. So over the course of the summer Tim, Chris, Tom, Mat, Dan, and I started formulating an idea for a retreat up into northern ontario for a weekend film retreat, eventually settling on the last weekend in September. We all being fans of or connected to Film Photography Project. The numbers changed over the course of the summer, settling on Tim, Dan, Chris, Tom, Myself, and Tim’s Friend Eric. Six guys, a lot of beer, and even more cameras everything from a 8×10 beast, to 35mm (no 110, sorry).
But it didn’t stop us much, we still managed to explore Sturgeon Bay, French River, and of course the lovely Naiscoot Lodge we were staying.
Pentax 645 – SMC Pentax A 645 35mm 1:3.5, SMC Pentax A 645 80-160mm 1:4.5
Kodak Tri-X Pan, Kodak Tri-X 400, Kodak Portra 160
Polaroid Automatic 250 Land Camera – Polaroid Chocolate
My car wound it’s way along the dusty road deep in Ontario’s cottage country, I sort of knew where I was going, but it was based on probably outdated satellite imagery and information from someone whom I didn’t really trust. But as I was in the area I decided to take a chance. The gates to the old Seven Mile Island property were wide open inviting me come in, not a sign of life as I drove along the narrow track road along the shores of the lake. Oddly enough it began to remind me of the old children’s novel “Gone Away Lake” which was a favourite of mine. All it was missing was the overgrown Victorian homes and the kindly brother and sister.
Oddly enough there was an older gentleman who still tends the ground, he was more than happy to let me wander the grounds. The gardens and grounds remain in good shape, the buildings many are still there intact although time has taken it’s toll on the place having no one really living or using the place for over ten years now. The property showed use as far back as the 1880s when it was used as a hunting lodge and camp. Through the last half of the 19th and into the early 20th century the property earned it’s name as Seven Mile Island, and was transformed from a wild hunting lodge to a grand estate with manicured lawns, fountains, and gardens.
Through the mid-20th century the property was forgotten, but new owners once again took up the mantle and began to restore the site, the grand cottage was restored, more buildings, added. The property was opened to the public, a summer camp was operated. Families could enjoy picnics, and take boats out onto the lake. Dances were held as were garden parties.
Into the late 20th century the property was turned into a public restort, but that project failed along with several others…and artist colony lived there in the early 21st century, but since 2002 no efforts were made to restore or reopen the site. Only the kindly old gentleman who tends the grounds. THere’s no sign of the grand cottage that once occupied the site, there were two modern looking homes (which could be from the 1950s improvements) but they seemed occupied so I made a point to avoid them. I may have to go back there.
Contax G2 – Carl Zeiss Planar 2/45 T* – Kodak Plus-X (125PX)
Sometimes you just look up and see your first camera sitting there, the lens still shining as if new, and it begs you to be used. Well that happened recently, my very first camera, religated to my third shelf (were I place seldom used cameras, ones that work but have something off with them, or just cannot get the film anymore…), the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s, a five dollar garage sale find. All mechanical, the battery for the light meter long dead, but everything still works. So I dicided to take it out for a trip.
Because I can.
Minolta Hi-Matic 7s – Rokkor-PF 45mm 1:1.7 – Silver Tone 100
When you use Leica, Nikon, Carl Zeiss optics the idea of plastic lenses and “toy” cameras will often scare a photographer, you really don’t know what you’re going to be getting out of your image. It certainly won’t be the sharpest image on the block, vignetting is going to be there, soft focus, light leaks, all very possible. Add Expired film into the mix and things just start getting dicy.
Something that many photographers won’t even touch, and I used to be like that…until I picked up, on a whim, a Holga from The Film Photography Project. And instantly was dragged into the wonderful world of toy camera photography. I just had to tell myself “the images won’t be perfectly exposed, they’ll be out of focus, and probably look weird” and sure enough they did.
But I was okay with this. I recently took my holga out to a small group retreat back in march but never got around to scanning the film I shot, until recently and found that I really liked these images.
Holga 120N – Kodak Tmax 100 (TMX), Kodak Ektachrome Lumiere Pro (LPP)