Sunday, 26 June 2016

Caffenol C-H success

After some rather grainy results with Caffenol C-L stand, Rodinal 1:100 and Rodinal 1:50 I thought I would try the Caffenol C-H recipe on a roll of film that I thought I had stuffed up. To my surprise this is my best result so far. Some of the shots actually have contrast and noticeably there is a lot less grain.

I am substituting the potassium bromide with Iodised Sea Salt at 10 x the amount so this would be 10 g/l. I also used the waterfree Washing Soda rather than the sodium carbonate which probably just gives the same result.

My next roll of film will be some 125 ASA to see if the grain is even tighter and I will use the same process or try the recommended Rodinal at 1:25.

Camera :   Canon A1
Film:   Ilford Pan 400
ASA EI: 400
Developer: Caffenol C-H 15min @ 20c
Agitation: Constant inversion for 1st minute then 1 inversion every 20 seconds.
Scanner:   Plustek 7400

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Upgrade to Film

"You've definitely lost the plot"

We have a perfectly good Canon DSLR with pro lenses that has provided us with some great shots on our travels. So when I announced my intention to purchase film cameras and developing in coffee, the above encouraging words were spoken. So I will try to explain my Upgrade to Film, or is it just a regression with old age like going back to Beatles music on vinyl?

Looking over many digital photos in Flickr and 500px they just seem a bit unreal. There appears to be more kudos in direct proportion to the time spent in Photoshop ramping up the contrast to levels where landscape shots look like a different planet to the one we live on at present. The Film galleries just seem to provide more warmth and natural realism. I'm not a fan of photo editing software programs as I am told I have a colour perception deficiency. For me it's just run the scanning program, click auto adjust and accept the inevitable outcome in good faith - job done and await the critics.

I see Film Photography as an art form.

  • The art starts with the thrill of securing the right camera at a bargain price, then buying all the bits and pieces for a few $'s from Hong Kong ebay traders. Little parcels arriving weekly in the post and half the time I am perplexed as to what I ordered until I feel the package and go oh yer - a lens cap.
  • Once I've got the camera it usually needs some cleaning and basic servicing. They have sat on a shelf for 20+ years and just need a new battery and fire off 100 shots or so. Light seals are easy to replace and often it is the camera that looks a bit rough that comes up a diamond mechanically. Nearly every camera I purchased has immaculate lenses which is a good sign the camera had very little use. I prefer camera sets that are one owner and have lenses.
  • Sourcing 35mm film at a reasonable price locally is impossible. The ebay trader 'Film Festival' has good stocks at the right price but there is a shipping delay that is worth the wait.
  • Taking the camera out for a photo shoot is just awesome. Each shot has to be thought out, planned and executed as film is too expensive to waste. The feel of the metal body, the simple adjustments using real dials that don't beep, manual focus, frame the subject perfectly and press the shutter release to feel the superb internal mechanical movements as the piece of jewellery in my hand operates a multitude of mechanical and electrical functions to allow just the right amount of photons to enter and embed into the film coating. Did I just capture light!
  • Finding a good colour processing lab can be the next challenge in this art form. Not much help there but for a whole lot of fun is self developing black and white film in various emulsions. The best challenge is Caffenol where all the ingredients can be sourced at the supermarket.
  • If I've had success with all this and by some miracle have exposed negatives, then it's time for the 'coup de grace' when the negs are put in the scanner and the preview scan comes up on the screen. Be prepared for many disasters, but then there are the surprise rewards with great shots that I've forgotten I took.
Thats the art form for me. It's the whole process and the challenge with what can occasionally be an outstanding result as good as anything an expensive digital camera could do without a big dose of photoshop.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Why Shaky?

Having an "essential tremor" in the right arm does not bode well for a hobby in photography. But as I've got the bug I might as well admit that I am the Shaky Photographer. High speed film is definitely my friend.

As part of my arsenal of gear I have a monopod and a few tripods of various sizes. Even a hiking pole with a bolt on top for a quick camera connection. Any solid object nearby is a handy spot to steady the camera with. When I am out night shooting wildlife I have the monopod extended from the Metz flash ready to plant on the ground. It helps but looking through my 300mm lens would give a pro photographer kittens. For me it's take a shot and pot luck. Looking forward to setting up the Nikon FE with the 125 flash sync. The timers get a work out too. On longer times I still don't trust my shakes so I often set the timer and steady the camera till it fires. The Nikon is awesome for this as when the timer is triggered it flips up the mirror immediately and holds it till the shot is fired.

The Camera Bug

GAS - Just found out that photographers can get this and not from eating the wrong food. GAS stands for Gear Acquisition Syndrome and apparently just like fishing, one can never have enough gear for this hobby. Now if I was into digital this would be very expensive and I would be on a very short lead. But I have become smitten with film photography and cameras of the 70's & 80's. Now the best part about that is a lot of this older gear is just awesome and it's inexpensive (except Leica's). Cameras that were over $1,000 in 1980 can be purchased for $100 or so, complete kits with multiple lenses and other necessities for under $200. Trouble is not just one or two cameras is enough. Soon there is not enough room in the camera cupboard as they have bred like rabbits in spring.

My GAS problem started when I decided to see if I could repair the broken battery connection in my wife's old Leicaflex SL2. It hadn't worked for over 20 years. With some research I found a hearing aid battery the correct voltage. Used liquid solder to rebuild the terminal. Aluminium to pack out the battery area and voila the light meter works again. Poking around the cupboard we found the old camera bag owned by an old relative. Inside was quite a find being a M3 Leica in near perfect condition. Now I was really hooked but this old timer needs a service as the shutters are not working at over 250. Shall save up for a service at $300+ ouch!.

Leica M3 - 90mm Summicron

Scanning ebay and gumtree I noticed the Canon AE1's were well priced. But then I saw this great kit of a Canon A1, multiple canon lenses, Metz flash and bag for $150. Bargain and what a great revolutionary camera with AE & TV. I liked it so much I bought a second one with the mythical 50mm 1:1.4 lens. Shown here the Canon A1 is set up for spotlighting wildlife at night in the national park behind our house.

Canon A1 - 100-300 Zoom lens - Metz C45-5 Flash - LED Lenser spotlight

Now don't start reading the Ken Rockwell web site as he will talk you into more gear and your GAS problem will become obsessive. Ken recommended the Nikon FE which are an awesome camera and can be purchased dirt cheap if your prepared to do a bit of maintenance like light seals and cleaning. I really need the 125 flash sync and will be using this for my night shoots instead of the Canon once I buy a good Nikon zoom lens.

Nikon FE - 50mm 1:1.4 - MD11 motordrive

Time to stop buying gear and start taking more photos. But which camera to use?

Caffenol - First attempt

After reading many internet articles and sourcing suitable ingredients, I nervously concocted my Caffenol Stand brew and proceeded with attempting to develop a roll of film. Hardest part was getting the damn film onto the Patterson Spool in the black bag. (I have since watched a few youtube videos & now have the correct technique).

Well after 70 minutes developing, then washing and fixing, I was quite surprised that there were actual images on my negatives. The results were not too bad although according to my photographic adviser, they lacked contrast and a bit grainy. Hmm, well I have since learnt that Stand development does wash out contrast (which apparently can be recovered post processing) but on the other hand is totally forgiving on film speed as the developer will only develop the light areas so far and then slowly works on the dark areas. So on a single roll of film one can shoot at 400ASA and also shoot at 1600ASA yet the negs will still turn out okay.  My thought is that this is like turning the potential of a film camera to that which a digital camera does automatically in low light. I have yet to fully test this out but have switched between 400 and 800ASA on one roll with not much difference in the end result. Don't take anything I say here as gospel as I am only just a beginner in photography and just passing on what I have researched.

The shots below are from my first Caffenol roll. The river shot was scanned as a colour RGB. Realising my error later I rescanned the Mercedes in Monochrome.

Canon A1 camera - Ilford FP4+125 - Caffenol Stand 70min @ 20c - Plustek 7400 scanner