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.
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.
Back in October when I visited New York City in addition to a plethora of still photography cameras I also took along a super 8 camera, and while in NYC picked up two cartridges of Super8 film, Kodak E100D, and shot them around the city. Once again the footage was out of focus, which I soon found out was due to the camera not my operation of it. Which is a good thing over all. Again I’m rather pleased with how it all turned out.
Now the camera, it sadly lost it’s life after getting hit by a subway (after I had pulled the second cartridge out) so it won’t be bothering me anymore and I’ve already replaced it with a much nicer unit, again a Eumig, a 300/XL with a big bright split screen focus viewfinder. I also picked up the last two caridges of E100D (as Kodak has discontinued this line) from West Camera and plan on shooting it again this summer (maybe Chicago?). I am also looking forward to working with Kodak’s new Super8 stock the Vision3 50T!
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
Nothing says end of summer for Toronto like the Canadian National Exibition. I usually make an effort to attend on the labour day weekend to take in the airshow, saldy this year the light was horrible so my airshow photos just didn’t turn out that well. But I took a chance to wander around the grounds a little more this time around to do some street photography of the crowds and came out with some wonderful candid shots of the many people who attend the CNE!
Nikon F4 – AF DC-Nikkor 105mm 1:2D
Kodak Technical Pan (ISO-25) – Blazinal 1+50 4:30 @ 20C
Kodak Plus-X 125 – HC-110 Dil. B 5:00 @ 20C
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)
With the annual siege reenactment coming up this weekend, I figured I may as well introduce you, my readers to the Fort that is on the site of Canada’s bloodiest battle, and the last major engagment in Upper Canada from the War of 1812, Fort Erie. The old Fort is located in the town that bears its name, Fort Erie. Located close to the lake, the fort is open to the public and is maintained by the Niagara Parks Commission. For more information about the old fort you can visit their website at: www.niagaraparks.com/old-fort-erie/index.html
Fort Erie was one of several forts that were built along the Niagara Peninsula as part of the defense of Upper Canada at the close of the 18th century. The site has actually housed three forts. The first two forts, built 1764 and 1779 respectively where both destroyed by winter storms sweeping off Lake Erie. In 1803 it was decided to move the site of the fort further inland by fifty yards, and construction began on a new masonry fort. But construction was slow, and sporadic. And when was declared in 1812, Fort Erie was far from complete and only had a small garrison.
Thankfully the American’s did not make an attempt to seize the fort during the first year of the war with most of the action happening out on the western front of Upper Canada and the failed invasion attempt at Queenston. Soldiers from Erie were sent out to engage and take back the battery at Frenchman’s Creek. But in 1813, when Fort George fell to the Americans at the end of May, the garrison at Fort Erie also fell back to Burlington Heights, destroying the incomplete fort in the process. American forces did not make an effort to reconstruct the ruins, but rather occupied them, only to be driven out again during the winter campaign of 1813 that saw the American’s ejected from the peninsula. After retaking the fort, the British put a more concentrated effort into rebuilding Fort Erie, leaving the task in the hands of a much larger garrison from the 8th (The King’s) Regiment of Foot with Major Buck in command of the fort. But when the Americans once again arrived in force on July 3rd, 1814, the fort was taken with little effort. It was the Americans that finally completed Fort Erie, expanding its defenses, and using it as a base of operations for their campaign across the Niagara Peninsula. By August 1814 the fort was near impregnable as the British drew their siege lines to remove the Americans from Upper Canada once again. But multiple bloody attempts by the British only ended in failure, and by September of 1814 they fell back to their own strong point at Chippawa. The weather and the British invasion of the eastern seaboard of the United States at the end of 1814 forced the Americans to retreat across the river in November. During the retreat they destroyed the fort leaving it in ruins.
After 1815 the British maintained a garrison in the ruins of Fort Erie, but the fort itself was never rebuilt completely, and eventually by the mid 19th century the garrison was removed as well. The fort was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad helping escaped slaves from the United States find freedom in Canada. When the Fenian Brotherhood was conducting raids through Canada in 1866 they used the old Fort ruins as a base for their operations before their defeat at the hands of the Incorporated Canadian Militia. The ruins became a popular spot for the public to gather and the grounds as a picnic spot for the residences of the town of Fort Erie that had grown up around the old fortifications. Even author Mark Twain and the Prince of Wales (Edward VII) visited the grounds when they were in Canada. Restoration efforts began in 1937 to rebuild the fort to the configuration it was in during 1812 to 1814, it was reopened to the public as a museum and historic site on July 1st, 1939. During the restoration a mass grave was discovered of both American and British soldiers. In 2011 major renovations in and around the fort made it more accessible to the public and a new visitors centre was completed for the Bicentennial years. During the second weekend in August the Fort hosts reenactors from both Canada and the United States who recreate the bloody siege of 1814.
As part of the 2011 renovation, staff constructed a typical British seige battery which visitors can go see. Reenactors representing the Royal Artillery will often camp here during the August reenactment.
With Files from:
Guidebook to the Historic Sites of the War of 1812 Second Edition by Gilbert Collins – 2006 The Dundurn Group Publishers
Photos: Pentax 645 – SMC Pentax A 645 35mm 1:3.5 – Kodak Plus-X Pan (PXP)
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