Developing B&W Film

As part of my return to a film workflow, I decided to work through my backlog of film. These are 35mm and 120 rolls of both B&W as well as color, which I’ve shot over the past year. (On expired film, no less!) I don’t have the chemicals yet for C-41 processing, but I did get what I needed for B&W. Last night, I developed one roll of 120, and two 35mm rolls. These were shot on a Holga, a Lomo LC-A, and a Leica M6.

Old habits die hard, and after a few minutes, I was back in my groove, able to process without thinking too much. After drying, I realized how important a good light box is, as I tried to use a flashlight and some paper to see my new negatives. What really stood out for me, were the images from the M6. Not only did it appear to have more keepers, but even photos I struggled to capture, seem to have come out ok. Once I digitize these, I’ll get a better look at the performance of each of these cameras.

Some tips for those wishing to develop their own B&W film:

  1. Use a Patterson tank, and double check the required volume of liquids (written on the bottom). This really helps save on chemicals!
  2. Use glass jars to store your chemicals. Photographer’s Formulary is a nice brand, and I like their amber colored containers. They also come with caps!
  3. Add in glass marbles to fill up the empty head space in those jars. This will help your chemicals store longer. Also store them in dark, cool area.
  4. Label all those jars! I have added information for developer type, mix date, and how many rolls processed (counting 120 as 2), for the stop and fixer. (I reuse these)
  5. You don’t have to wait 24 hours for freshly mixed developer, just make sure it is dissolved properly.
  6. Make notes for chemical types. Use it like a cheat sheet during processing.
  7. LabTimer for the iPhone is great, and simple to use.
  8. Pipe in some music to help pass the time.

I still have a few more rolls to process, and I just got some Portra 120 to experiment on. I have plans to visit the local badlands in Central California, in a few weeks, to try out creating some medium format landscapes. Film is back, and it’s better than ever!

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Photography: The Craft

I made a recent observation the other day, almost an epiphany. It changed the way I saw photography as a craft, and not just a medium. For the past several years, I’ve found myself in a creative rut. I tried shooting new subjects, new cameras, even tried different art forms like drawing and painting. Nothing pulled me out of this rut. I did shoot some film during this period, but only developed the rolls, and only turned some of the image into digital files for editing. I then realized what I was missing, the actual craft involved in photography.

I am “classically” trained in photography, with a BFA in photography. I went to college when film was still the defacto standard, and digital was not something to be taken seriously. Oddly, at the time, I suggested that as artists, we should embrace the digital format. I was the only one to hand in projects completely done in a digital workflow. But I also spent hundreds of hours in a darkroom, developing film, and using enlargers to create prints. It was this process, that I equated to the physical craft of photography. And I realize today, it is what is missing in my art.

I don’t believe it is nostalgia, as I continue to return to film every year or so. The look and feeling of film is unmatched. The physicality of holding a fibre print, with deep blacks that are not based on inkjet technology, is wonderful. The entire flow with a 35mm or medium format camera is slowed down and seems more deliberate. The process of loading film, shooting manually, envisioning the image in your head before pressing the shutter, even the decision to push or pull the film, choice of emulsion or developer, all add variables to an image you would not see, till after the final wash. It was this physical, hands-on approach to photography, that made me feel as if I was creating art.

With digital, it all seems too simple. Not to say there is no room for digital photography in fine art, there absolutely is. For better or worse, digital makes photography accessible to everybody. Anybody can press a button and have a nice digital image. The problem for me, artistically speaking, is that it requires less hands-on time. Shooting, and composing is the same between the two, but there is no developing, or in the case of actual darkroom prints, the manipulation of light. Modern photographers push pixels, and have instantaneous results. To me, to be a photographer, you have to play with light.  Know how to manipulate it, anticipate it, and read it. Plus, a film-based workflow leaves you with a physical negative, something that is good for at least 100 years. There is something very satisfying about that; a permanence in a physical object, which can be seen generations from now. Unfortunately, digital has not reached a point where it is truly archival.

It is in these little negatives that I think the magic of art is created. The emulsion captures a specific time and place, the light changing the physical form and shape of the emulsion, to give us an image. A negative truly is an actual record of an event, touched by the light itself. Whereas digital is a machine’s interpretation of light, removing us further from the creation process.

For myself, I need to feel physically connected to my work, to make both cognitive and subconscious decisions throughout the creation process, before I can say a piece is truly unique and personal. Digital will continue to dominate what I do, but film will be there, to allow me to practice the craft I learned, and the true art medium I work in.

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A Few Neat Shorts

I saw these three short videos today, about personal reasons why some photographers choose to shoot film. Have a look!

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Re-visiting the Old

It is ironic that I find myself drawn (again), to film photography. There will always be something about film, something magical for me. The discovery of toy cameras, makes this discovery of serendipitous images, even more alluring. It’s like finding a little treasure in a pile of images. It also ties into this post, and a new direction for my blog.

As my last post indicated (3 years ago!), I’ve been busy settling into a new home. I’ve also been busy exploring other art forms, both photography and otherwise. After this divergence, I’ve returned back to photography, with the lessons of this experimentation. Much of the time has been spent understanding the concept of “art for the sake of art.” But, also, trying to create meaning with art. I’ve found that the discovery of meaning, can be found through creation. And sometimes, art can be just that. Art.

So I hope to return to this blog, and talk less about the technical, and more about the process of creating art, showcasing what projects I am working on, and new discoveries I’ve made as an artist.

The biggest realization recently, has been the creation of prints. Photographers don’t print anymore. They post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, and that is their only medium to showcase their images. Unfortunately, the computer screen does not match the fidelity of a masterfully printed photograph. And you really can’t hang a computer up on a wall.

I’ve decided to start printing my images again. I used to use an Epson 2200 printer, but ink was becoming cost prohibitive. (I was able to create a series of brightly colored 13″x19″ prints, which I still enjoy today) Instead, I’ve decided to outsource my printing to a couple different candidates (BayPhoto, ProDPI, and possibly, Adorama). I hope to continue to build up my print library, and keep an ever changing photo display in my home studio.

Here’s to a new direction in my work, and a new direction for this blog!

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Changing It Up

I’ve been so busy moving to my new location, I haven’t had a chance to even update any blogs, shoot, or even edit photos. Things are beginning to settle down though, and I can finally get working again. I’ve stopped using my own web domain. The work and effort necessary to maintain it was too much. I am now on 500px instead. Not quite as elegant as Smug Mug’s custom solution, but it’s also free and requires very little in terms of management from me. I am still in the process of uploading my images, but If you are interested in visiting, here is the URL:

In other news, I’m hoping to get a decent shot of the Endeavor riding shotgun on the NASA 747 tomorrow morning by Moffet. Fingers crossed!

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Think Tank Test Drive Demo Out

For folks who would like to try out Think Tank’s modular system, either the Modular Rotation or Skin Rotation sets, Think Tank is offering a 2 week free trial now, until March 31st or until all sets are given out. If after two weeks you don’t like it, you can return it, otherwise you bought it. More information found here.

The Skin system seems pretty useful to me, but I wonder if it would be strange walking around with all my gear hanging on my hips? I do like the customizable options. Perhaps it would be best paired with a backpack – so only the most often switched out or used gear is placed on the hips, the rest is carried in the backpack. I may consider doing this, or just purchase one of the Retrospective shoulder bags.

Here’s a great review I found of the Think Tank Skin set. He addresses some of the main concerns I have shooting out of a backpack. Have a look!

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Adobe Photoshop Touch Released on iPad

Adobe announced today that their iPad version of Photoshop is now available for $9.99 through the iTunes store. For additional information, please check the Adobe site.

This looks like it will be a fantastic tool for the photographer on the go. It will be interesting to see how this app will fare against Apple’s recently announced iPad version of iPhoto.

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Adobe Lightroom 4 Released

Adobe has released a new version of Lightroom, bringing the venerable photo management and editing software to version 4. Full version is priced at $149 and the upgrade is priced at $79 for existing users. For a limited time, Adobe is also offering free shipping on Lightroom 4 upgrades and purchases. If you have yet to purchase Photoshop, you can add on Lightroom 4 for an additional $99 to complete your workflow. Check out Adobe for additional information.

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Polls Closed!

Thanks to all who voted! Considering it is a tie between The Hummingbird and Carmel By The Sea, our Winner will have their choice of a prize!

And the winner is…Stephanie! Congratulations!

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Help Me Choose!

Hi Folks!

Help me choose a photo to submit in the “Been There” photo contest, run by The Guardian. Details can be found here. For all your efforts, if you remember to “Like” my Facebook page, or subscribe to my Twitter feed, you’ll be entered to win a signed 8″x10″ photo of the most popular photo in this poll. Thanks and good luck!

Fine print: Polls close at tomorrow, 2/22/12 at 6PM PST. Additional votes after the cutoff date will not count towards the chosen photo. Winner will be chosen tomorrow at 6PM, and will be notified via Facebook or Twitter. Please allow up to three weeks for prize to arrive. And yes, if you subscribe to the Twitter feed and Like the Facebook page, you will be entered twice!

Categories: Poll | 3 Comments

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