Winter Sunset Through a Window (Old, Enigmatic Film)

Winter Sunset, Old, Enigmatic Film

This image represents an experiment.

Back in 2013, my father-in-law gave me a Sawyer Mark IV twin-lens reflex camera. The Sawyer shoots on 127 film–an older format, larger than 35mm film but smaller than 120 film.

Almost no one manufactures 127 film these days. (I have acquired some new 127 color film, but am a bit reluctant to shoot it.) I bought three rolls of black-and-white film from eBay. The film was enigmatic: it was wrapped in foil wrapper identifying the film as “panchromatic” film, but it contained no other identification. When I opened the wrapper, nothing identified the manufacturer of the film. Nothing identified the film speed. And, of course, I had no idea how to develop it.

I shot a roll in my Sawyer, and my six-year-old daughter shot a roll in her Kodak Brownie Starmatic. I guessed the film was originally an ASA 100 (now ISO 100) film. I exposed it as if it was 25 ASA film–that is, I overexposed by two stops.

I developed both rolls using a technique that I sometimes use for Kodak Tri-X: I diluted Kodak HC-110 developer 1:100 in water. Then, after filling the developing tank, I agitated it for thirty seconds, set it down, and let it stand for sixty minutes. This is known as “stand developing”–“stand” precisely because you let it stand and don’t agitate the film in the solution.

I had a bit of trouble spooling my roll of film onto the plastic spool that holds it in the developing tank. The film was so brittle that a portion of it broke off. But the broken portion was on the leader section of the film, and I didn’t lose an image.

I was pleased to find that I had obtained images. The film is spotted and grainy, but I have images!

I didn’t try too hard to get artistic images. I just wanted to try out this enigmatic film. I took the shot here through the window of our living room. It was a hazy winter afternoon, and the sun was setting through the haze. That meant that the scene had a very wide dynamic range. The film captured more of that range than I really expected. I printed the image onto Ilford MGIV resin-coated paper, glossy finish.* This paper is pretty contrasty, and I probably lost some shadow detail. Then I scanned the print on my 2008-vintage scanner, which eliminates detail in both shadows and highlights. Woo-hoo! (I’m planning to buy a better scanner.)

Again, I’m not offering this as an artistic image. It’s really just a story about using a beautiful vintage camera and some really funky film–and still getting a result!

* I’m lazy and cheap, so I use only the Ilford resin-coated paper. It’s easier to handle than fiber-based papers.

At the Light End of the Street

The Light End of the Street This past Sunday evening (March 22), I put out our trash and recycling cans. It was snowing, and this was the scene at the end of our street. (We live on a dead-end street.) I took this shot with my iPhone 5s and edited it a bit. I was reminded of James Carr’s great song “At the Dark End of the Street”:

Carver Park, Busch Pressman

Busch Pressman, Carver Park 1

I took this photograph a few weeks ago using my Busch Pressman Model D, a folding 4×5 inch rangefinder. I used a red filter to try to bring out some detail in the sky, which was quite hazy. I was holding the camera by hand, so I couldn’t use a particularly slow shutter speed; I think that I took this at 1/100th of a second. The red filter requires a three f-stop correction, so I probably shot this at f/4.5. It was a bright but hazy day, and those conditions will usually call for f/11 at the reciprocal of the film speed. I was shooting Ilford 100, so that would have called for a shutter speed of 1/100th of a second and a focal ratio of f/11. Given the three f-stop correction required by the red filter, I would have opened the shutter three stops (f/11 > f/8 > f/5.6 > f/4.5). I suspect that’s right, given that the cattails in the foreground are out of focus.

For what it’s worth: When I shoot 4×5 film, I record notes about the focal ratio and shutter speed. I have those notes for this photograph–but they’re lurking downstairs somewhere, and I just don’t feel like looking for them . . .

This is a scan of a contact print–that is, I made the print by laying the negative face-down on the photographic paper. The negative is 4×5 inches, and so is the print.

You can make contact prints without an actual enlarger. You can use any light source to create a contact print. I happened to use an enlarger as my light source–but the image itself was not enlarged.

Long ago, contact prints were very common. I have purchased a bunch of old snapshots, and I’m confident that most are contact prints made from medium-format film: 120 or 620 or 616 or the like.



Tulips, RB67

A few months ago I purchased a small enlarger capable of printing from 35mm negatives. I enjoyed it–but I decided that it’s just too small.

Two days ago, I purchased from the awesome National Camera Exchange in Golden Valley, Minnesota, a Beseler 23cII enlarger. The 23CII can handle negatives up to 6×9 centimeters.

I built a stand for the enlarger this afternoon. This evening, I developed a couple of prints. I made this print from a negative shot on 120 film using my Mamiya RB67. I’m pretty sure that the lens was wide open (f/3.7). The film was Ilford Delta 100, developed in Sprint developer.

I printed the image on Ilford MGIV resin-coated paper, glossy finish. After developing it normally, I toned it in Ilford selenium toner. The selenium toner changes the cast of the print a bit, making it a trifle bluer. I think it makes the print look somewhat crisper.

I haven’t used my RB67 in a while. This photograph tells me that I need to break it out again.

One Rose, Two Cameras

Cambo, White Rose

Busch Pressman, White Rose


I photographed this rose with two cameras: the first with my Cambo SC-R 4×5 monorail view camera, and the second with my Busch Pressman 4×5 press or field camera.

These images are scans from contact prints–that is, I placed the negatives face down onto photographic paper, exposed the paper, and then developed the paper. I printed both images onto the same piece of paper (a 5×8″ sheet of paper, cut from a 10×8″ sheet).

I just realized that I flipped the Pressman image. I took both shots from the same general setup, using the same tripod (a Majestic tripod with a Majestic Chicago head: a very stable platform). I set up the bouquet in our living room, with natural light at the left of the image. As I look at the image from the Pressman, the light is stronger from the right. It should be stronger from the left. I didn’t place the negative with its emulsion side directly against the photographic paper.

Oh well. I’m not going to reprint the image. I actually quite like the lower image, as it has (to my eye) a very three-dimensional quality.

A bit about the cameras: Both cameras use 4×5 film. I used Ilford Delta 100 film for both images. I have a beautiful Rodenstock Apo-Sironar 210mm lens for the Cambo. On a 4×5 camera, a 210mm lens is about equivalent to a 70mm lens on either a film camera that uses 35mm film or a full-frame digital camera. So the 210mm Sironar is the equivalent of a very, very mild telephoto lens.

I have a Kodak Ektar 127mm lens on the Pressman. The 127mm lens is about equivalent to a 42mm lens on a 35mm film camera or a “full-frame” digital camera.

I dialed down the Cambo lens very tight–f/32 or f/45. (I can’t remember which.) I shot the Pressman wide open at f/4.5.

In translating from a 35mm to a 4×5, you effectively triple the length of the lens and divide the focal ratio by one-third. Thus, a standard 50mm lens on a 35mm camera becomes a 150mm lens on a 4×5 camera. And an f/1.5 lens on a 35mm camera becomes an f/4.5 lens on a 4×5 camera.

On a 35mm camera, an f/1.5 lens is pretty fast, and it has a pretty shallow depth of field. Many digital cameras simply cannot get that fast or shallow. For example, many digital cameras use APS-C sensors, which have a “crop factor” of about 1.5–that is, one must multiply the focal length of a lens by 1.5 to find the equivalent focal length of a lens on a 35mm film camera. For example, I have a Nikon D5000. My 35mm lens for that camera is the equivalent of a 52mm lens on a 35mm film camera.

Sensor size also affects focal ratio. On an APS-C camera, an f/1.4 lens is the equivalent of an f/2.1 lens on a 35mm camera: 1.4 x 1.5 = 2.1. And an f/2.1 lens on a 35mm camera is equivalent to an f/6.3 lens on a 4×5 camera.

So an f/4.5 lens on a 4×5 camera is equivalent to an f/1.5 lens on a 35mm camera–and to an f/1 lens on an APS-C camera.

In short: the f/4.5 lens on my Pressman is actually a very, very fast lens.

Part of the joy in using a very fast lens is that it provides a very powerful sense of depth of field. I think that the Pressman image here provides a good sense of depth, of roundness.

I had to use contact prints because my home enlarger cannot handle negatives larger than 35mm. I’m planning to buy an enlarger than can handle at least the negatives from my cameras that use 120 film (i.e., 6×6 and 6x7cm negatives). In the meantime, I can obtain 4×5 prints from my 4×5 negatives!

Finally, I toned these prints using selenium toner. I use a resin-coated paper, so the selenium toning has a very subtle effect. The prints look very slightly warmer than they do without toning.

I understand that the selenium toning has a stronger effect on fiber papers. I may try using a fiber paper–but I’m very happy with Ilford MGIV resin-coated paper, which is very, very easy to use.