TRI-X + Rodinal 03

Nikon F3, 50mm f1.4, TRI-X, Rodinal 1:50

Again, I’m a lazy shit, actually I hate writing so it takes me a long time to sit down and type. Actually I’m really good at doing nothing and I mean nothing just sitting around and staring into space.

This is the last batch of 3 rolls in my calibration of TRI-X developed in Rodinal 1:50. I have now shot and developed 9 rolls of film and have decided on a provisional normal development time/dilution/agitation etc.

To recap (I have not listed stop and fix times as they remain the same for all batches):

First batch of 3 rolls:

  • 9 min development time, 1 minute of pre soak, first minute of development time with continuous agitation then 10 seconds in each min thereafter. Note that all times in this batch were timed with chemicals being poured in during the development time.

Second batch of 3 rolls:

  • 9 min development time, 1 minute of pre soak, first minute of development time with continuous agitation then 5 seconds in each 30 seconds. Note that all times in this batch were timed with chemicals being poured in during the development time.

Third batch of 3 rolls:

  • 9 min development time, 1 minute of pre soak, first minute of development time with continuous agitation then 5 seconds in each 30 seconds. Note that all times in this batch were timed with chemicals being poured in before the timer is started.

The final batch gave me a very good starting point for a normal development time. There is lots of shadow and highlight detail and good separation throughout the mid tones. This is by no means the end of the process as I will continue to refine the normal development process and at the same time start to create times etc. for N+1, and N-1.

Please remember that your times/results may differ but it gives you a place to start and then you can go through the process yourself.

This will be the last post for a while on developing film unless I start another round of work to refine the N+1 and N-1 times.

Nikon F3 + 50mm f1.4, TRI-X + Rodinal, Scanned on Minolta Scan Elite 5400

EXCESS BAGGAGE 02

4×5 Arca Swiss, Schneider 120mm Super Symar

I thought, it maybe about time I talked about photobooks.

First, I need to get something off my chest re the naming of photobooks. People seem to be racking their brains for anything that might be obtuse, opaque and altogether only relating to the images in a post-rational way. I collect photobooks, not in the way, say, someone who is wealthy but I do have a library of about 100 or so books and as time goes by the titles have become so much more abstract and as such could relate to any images that are between the covers. I find this practice to be very off putting although; it hasn’t stopped me from buying them.

Actually I will talk about the books I have bought in the last six months, not in an in-depth way, just in terms of would I bother buying them had I known what was between the covers. I usually buy on the Internet based on recommendations.

The following list is the last 6-8 months, which turns out to be a bit scary, as I have bought way more than I thought. I think I should now keep my hands in my pockets. The list is in alphabetical order.

Recent book list:

You will notice I have gone a bit overboard with Luigi Ghirri. I did this based on first reading his writings which were published by Mack. I haven’t regretted it once and continue to source as many as I can afford. Unfortunately most are out of print and those that are available can get quite pricey, case in point was the Luigi Ghirri, ‘It’s beautiful here, isn’t it…’, an Aperture publication and you will see from my links above it is very pricey at least for me. If you haven’t seen his work I would recommend getting his book titled Kodachrome, it’s a really good primer and covers a lot of his early work.

In the mean time a few words about my Nikon F3 + Tri-x + Rodinal project. I have 3 more rolls to develop and I will post scans from them as soon as I can. A few words on the Nikon F3, did I say it was a Tank? Well it really is a tank, heavy clunky and for me a bit inhibiting. So I’m now looking for an FM2n, smaller and less brick like. Actually missed out on one on eBay last night, got beaten by a late bid it was £5 more than my bid?!@?”.

Will start next time with either the F3 project or review of some of the books listed above. Also please forgive the amazon links above, if you do buy from my link I’ll get a few pennies towards more books which is very helpful.

EXCESS BAGGAGE 01

Canon 5D, Covent Garden, London

So… the title above will in future denote a post about everything that is swirling around in my head. Sometimes it just gets overwhelming and you just have to have a BIG DUMP, switch that pinball machine off and drain the life out of it, just so you can start again with a clean slate.

This world seems to be in a fucking terrible state at the moment. Mother nature is trying to tell us to smarten the fuck up, if you know what I mean. Really, we have natural disasters happening everywhere in the world, it’s a bit terrifying if you really think about it.

Then there are the prevailing governments of the US and UK. I realize compared to the US we are small fry here in the UK, but dam we make up for it in stupidity! Where are all the visionaries and why aren’t they leading us into the future, are there none around at all. Here’s an example of the type of politicians we have, our PM and Mayor for London are all about banning diesel cars and replacing them with electric cars. So if that isn’t short sighted, it’s the same as when they touted diesel as the future fuel. None have looked to the future and thought about what it might lead to.

An example would be the battery pollution. The disposal of batteries is the elephant in the room, even if they developed a battery that lasted years and years, because at some point the car owner will trade it in and then it becomes worthless junk and goes to the scrap heap plus its battery. Also where the hell are all the electrical points to plug them in on the streets? London house design does not really allow for cables from each house stretching across the pavement and if it did just think of all the fun teenagers could have with a cable cutter! The power points won’t sprout like mushrooms overnight and who pays for it (there’s an entrepreneurial opportunity!) and where does all that additional electricity come from? Do we build more nuclear plants with their inherent waste fuel problem?

If they were visionary they would have the answers already but the don’t because they are only reactive politicians not proactive. All I ever hear is we have heard the voice of the people and we are going to do something… what? They will say and do whatever keeps them in power and while in power they tell you why you cant have what you voted for!

Thinking out of the box I would say, that they should legislate that all new homes that are built starting from now must be electrically self-sufficient. The builders would be obliged by law to provide, install and sell solar panels along with the house just as they pay for the shingles on the roof. It would just be another building material. I’m sure that would eventually go a long way to lessening the strain on our existing energy grid. They would also be required to install an outside electric car power point on every new house. This will lead to a future not reliant on dwindling fossil fuels. All this can be done starting today and for those who have existing houses like myself, the cost of installing would be deductable on my personal taxes and the materials would come out of the government. I think that there would be a very tidy profit for the government when you consider the financial costs and waste disposal issues of nuclear power plants.

While we are on the subject of dwindling fossil fuels, when was it in the best interest of the population to put all our energy needs in the hands of a few profit generating private interests, even more so when those private companies are foreign owned! I would have thought, that from a simple-minded security perspective, it would have been in our interests to keep our electric generation and drinking water under one umbrella to protect us from any disaster, war etc. .

I want my leaders to be dynamic, thinkers who know history and can think for them selves, within the sphere of making a better place to live for everyone! By everyone I mean all black, white and yellow and every shade in between and surrounding, ALL the people on this planet.

I don’t want leaders who I’m either ‘embarrassed for’ or ‘find embarrassing to me’. I want them to be motivated by a genuine goodness for the people and not what they can suck out of the people.

Now to my photographic dump.

First I must state that I shoot digital about 97% of the time and analogue the other 3%. So I have come to realize and accept that when I’m gone there will be no remains of my life’s work, or my family growing up. Perhaps there will be the occasional print that I had made but that’s about it! No one will be able to go to a car boot sale, in the hopes of picking up some ones photo album. All there will be are used and abused and deleted hard drives, nothing you can look at, nothing you can touch or smell, nothing, nothing at all.

However, I do love the air and colour of optical analogue prints from analogue negatives. All you have to do is look at some of Luigi Ghirri’s prints. This does NOT include digital printing on analogue paper.

So does that mean I think analogue is the way to go. Not sure either way, it’s a hugely wasteful medium, water in particular and silver polluting of the ground water. It’s not too cool for the environment. I used to work as a lab manager for a commercial custom photolab in Canada and the amount of water that went down the drain each and every day was obscene.

I just came back to this post a few days later. I’m going to have to finish it later. I’m too fucked off with the world today.

To be continued…

TRI-X + Rodinal 02

Nikon F3 + 28mm f2.8, TRI-X + Rodinal, Island of Tabarca off the coast of Alicante, Spain, Scanned on Minolta Scan Elite 5400

Following on from my previous post on TRI-X + Rodinal. I have just finished developing the remaining 3 rolls from the test set.

I developed it to the same time 9 minutes but refined the agitation cycle. If you remember I wasn’t happy with the internal contrast of the mid-tones, they just looked dirty and lifeless. To remind you, the first 3 rolls were developed for 9 minutes, with agitation for the first minute and then 10 seconds in every minute. The ten second agitation cycle was always at the top of the clock with 50 seconds standing.

So I changed the agitation to 5 seconds every 30 seconds and kept the time to 9 minutes and the 1 minute of continuous agitation at the start. The difference was subtle but better. The mid-tones had more contrast in them and didn’t look as lifeless.

Conclusion

I have decide to refine the agitation even more by not including the pouring in or out of chemistry in the 9 minute development cycle. This will allow more development by approximately 30 seconds overall and I’m hoping that will be sufficient to raise the mid-tones to my desired level. If not then I’ll have to change the total time but at least I have locked down the agitation. As you can see this is a slow process but will bring many rewards once I have finished the testing. Also I think this illustrates how small changes can have large effects. This gets back to my beginning articles where I stressed consistency.

I will continue this test and update the conclusions as time goes by. But there will be other posts between on a variety of things.

I have decided that I would talk about my photobooks based on what I have bought in the last 6 months. These mini reviews will not be in-depth but whether or not you should take a look at them for yourself. I often find it difficult to buy books over the Internet unless I have handled them somewhere before but that isn’t always practical. So I’m faced with the same issues as everyone else. I would also like to talk about my feelings regarding the photobook market.

See you soon.

Nikon F3 + 28mm f 2.8, TRI-X + Rodinal, Alicante, Spain, Scanned on Minolta Scan Elite 5400

TRI-X + Rodinal 01

Nikon F3 + 28mm f2.8, TRI-X + Rodinal, Alicate Spain, Scanned on Minolta Scan Elite 5400

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have decided to give the combination of TRI-X and Rodinal another go. To that end I shot 6 rolls while I was in Allicante, Spain and finished them off here in London. Well, I have developed the first 3 rolls and in no particular order and will discuss my findings here.

There is no surprise that the negatives were quite sharp with a long tonal scale, all of which I expected. However, the grain was large not clumpy but evenly dispersed through the images. Did I just say GRAIN, oh my, it’s there and proud of itself, so if you don’t like grain stop here and forget about this combination.

The development time and agitation was dictated by an app that I downloaded. It’s called Massive Dev sheet, which can be easily found on the web here (http://www.digitaltruth.com/apps/mdc/). The app called for 9 min in total with agitation for the first full min and then 10 seconds on the 12 every minute. This meant the film developer combination was standing for 50 seconds in every minute. Also as is my custom I pre-soaked for 1 min at 68 degrees which promotes even development. The same temperature that all the chemistry was used at.

So how did they look? First I have to say, the F3 continued to work well with no hitches whatsoever and the negatives were very well exposed and quite sharp. Although, I did find walking around with it to be a bit heavy and slow. I have grown very used to carrying a mirrorless camera around with me, so the extra weight was noticeable and also the slowness of the camera itself. I’m currently carrying a Fuji XPRO-2 which I have to say is a very sympatico camera for me.

Now back to the negatives. The shadows were fine, well-defined with excellent contrast and extending quite a bit down into the darkness. The highlights were reasonably well controlled and not blown out on any frame and I scanned all frames. However, and this is the rub for me on this first pass. I have given this a few days to percolate in my mind and have come to the conclusion that the mid-tones do not have sufficient micro contrast in them. This resulted in mid tones that were not particularly handsome, actually rather dirty looking. Overall the images had a rather dirty look to them. Not at all what I was expecting and at first I wondered if the TRI-X formulation had changed since I last used it some 20 years ago. But I have settled on the thought that it was the development agitation cycle which didn’t create enough mid-tone contrast. At least that’s what I think and I’ll stick with that for now.

So the next 3 rolls will be developed for the same time I indicated above but the agitation cycle will change. I have decided to agitate for the first full minute and then 5 seconds in every 30. I hope this will counter the compensating affect, which would have been created with all the stand time of the first development agitation cycle.

I have posted a few samples of the images here for you to look at and one that was created from my XPRO-2. You will easily be ably to see which is which although they are tagged appropriately. I post the digital one because it was taken at the same time as the B&W in Alicante and has the same contrast range. I do think it handles the scene better.

Nikon F3 + 28mm f2.8, TRI-X + Rodinal, London UK, Scanned on Minolta Scan Elite 5400

Nikon F3 + 28mm f2.8, TRI-X + Rodinal, Alicate Spain, Scanned on Minolta Scan Elite 5400

Nikon F3 + 28mm f2.8, TRI-X + Rodinal, London UK, Scanned on Minolta Scan Elite 5400

Nikon F3 + 28mm f2.8, TRI-X + Rodinal, London UK, Scanned on Minolta Scan Elite 5400

XPRO-2, 23mm F2.0, Alicante Spain,

Nikon F3 and TRI-X + Rodinal

Nikon F3 + 28mm f2.8, Kodak Colour Negative, Scanned on Minolta Scan Elite 5400

In the spirit of returning to my roots in photography, I have designed a small programme for myself. I’ll be shooting a Nikon F3, which I bought especially for this project and TRI-X developed in Rodinal.

First though, I would like to point out that I have never purchased used equipment in my long life, always believing that buying second hand was buying someone else’s problems. I’m not sure that’s applicable anymore due to the rapid changes in cameras over the last few years. Digital always gives you gas, buying the latest and greatest unlike when I started some 50 years ago. Cameras were updated at a much slower speed and the film always stayed the same or at least you could update your work by buying different film for the characteristics you now wanted.

My career with cameras and photography started with a new Canon FT. I must have bought it near the end of its life cycle as the FTb came out about 6 months later. This prompted me to buy the FTb in the hopes that Canon would have updated that infernal quick load mechanism! It always scratched my film and always only the images I wanted to print. The FTb didn’t change anything, the quick load mechanism was still there and scratching to its’ hearts content. In total frustration I ditched both and switched to Nikon. The Nikon I purchased new was a Nikormat (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikkormat) and it solved all the problems associated with the FT and FTb except one. The one problem that became immediately apparent was the incredibly load shutter. Still I resolved to stay with Nikon from that moment on as it was far better at handling the film.

After some years shooting B&W with the Nikormat I wanted to investigate medium format, then Large format. Guess what, I think I burned through more cameras and formats all the way up to 8×10” cameras. Wow, did I spend and loose a lot of money over the years. The large format in particular almost broke me, I went from 4×5 to 5×7 and ultimately landed on a Toyo Field 8×10. It of course had its own problems such as after shooting for a short while you couldn’t actually lock either the front or back standards so they always creeped out of alignment, so f…k… annoying. I think I must have spent at least 30 years shooting black and white in all formats and cameras only to loose it all in an unfortunate incident which took all my negatives within a few hours.

Back to the F3 at hand: it’s in good shape with only a small amount of brassing on one top corner and for sure it could use a good cleaning. It came with a fresnal screen and not the default screen, I found this very hard to critically focus with so I had to go on the hunt for the default split image screen, eyes not being what they used to be. Next I had to buy a lens for it so I found a Nikor 28mm F2.8 on ebay so my total outlay was £325.00 which I considered ok, not great but a definite alternative to buying and selling a digital camera every 5 minuets. It is quite the tank I have to say and I’m not as precious with it as I am with my digital cameras, which I find quite liberating to some extent.

First out of the F3 was a roll of Kodak colour negative film. I only shot about 12 frames and took it to a 1-hour photo lab. I did this to test the meter and general camera performance. Something I would recommend anyone do before they start to trust used gear. All worked very well and you can see an image from that test roll at the top of this article.

The main aim is to shoot TRI-X and develop it in Rodinal. Now that doesn’t seem to be that unusual except it is for me. I never could get Rodinal to do what I wanted and finally gave up on it 40 years ago, perhaps I was too impatient when I was young. So this is about examining the two together and really trying to make it work for me.

I took the F3 and TRI-X with me on our annual vacation to Spain. Although it wasn’t the only camera I took, that would be taking too much of a chance for me. I did fire off 4 rolls of film though and just finished developing them. I’m currently waiting for them to dry.

My next post should be an evaluation of this first pass and then modifying the development times.

Hope you stay tuned!

To be continued…

Alicante, Spain

Alicante, Spain. Playa De San Juan Fuji XPRO-2, Tom Rice-Smyth

Alicante, Spain

Sorry for the lack of posts, I have been on my annual vacation with the family. Every year we flee this sodden town of London for blue sky and warm sunshine and our fill of vitamin D and when we got back to London I was gripped around the throat by laziness! It was probably a reaction to the cold and monsoon rain here.

Alicante, Spain, was this years’ destination. We have always gone to Spain for our summer holidays mainly because of cost, it’s cheap and the guarantee of sunshine. This year was no exception; we basked in 36-degree weather with a beach that just couldn’t be beaten it was a paradise.

There were a few things about Alicante that took me by surprise. I was expecting to see a traditional Spanish town and I was quite looking forward to photographing it over my holidays, but it isn’t. I have to mention this is the first time we haven’t rented a car for the duration so we were stuck in the city. Although I have to say there is practically no street parking so that was the upside. On first inspection it looked like the whole place had sprung up since 1950, mostly ugly multistory apartments rarely a house and a few squares that did have old trees in them. Why? I’ll answer that soon, it was nothing I had ever thought. However, after reviewing my photos when we got home I did find a few that were interesting.

Anyway, lets get on to the good parts of Alicante. There were more good restaurants than one could ever want for (it’s a Spanish holiday destination), at least 20 within a 5-minute walk from our apartment. The apartment was in the old town. My wife soon found a restaurant with fresh mussels, which she loves almost as much as oysters and it was approximately 3 minutes from our front door, bonus! And my daughter found an ice cream shop that sells artisan ice cream called Laneu, which was just below our apartment.

Then there was the main city beach that was 10 minutes walking from our flat, although it was very crowded as it was at the bottom of the city. We went there twice and then found another beach that was 15 to 20 minutes by tram (Note: the trams are air-conditioned) and the beach was paradise on earth.

Playa De San Juan is an amazing beach. The journey started at the Mercado tram station and we got there via Tram line; L3: Luceros-El Campello. It cost approximately €4.35 one-way for 3 of us and we got off at the Les Llances stop. You pay for your return journey on the tram from a machine that takes coins, paper and cards. The beach was right there only feet from the tramline. We rented 3 lounge chairs and 1 umbrella for €16 per day, which is cheaper than we have ever paid in the past. We were no more than 20 feet from the water and by about noon we had the beach practically to ourselves it was marvellous. I’ll post a pic or two of the beach.

Restaurants as I mentioned earlier were plentiful and here I come to some favs;

First up was Alma Del Sur, a small hole in the wall, it seats about 7-8 people in a pinch but the fries and the seafood are amazing especially the calamari and the proprietor is extremely helpful, she even left her restaurant to give us directions.

Second up was Bodhigreen. It’s a vegetarian menu but is so worth a try as an island of green from the majority of fried Spanish food, reservations are necessary and they are quite busy so book a few days ahead.

Why is Alicante just 1950’s apartments and newer even in the old town? This riddle was solved by chance. My daughter spotted a coffee shop called Canada Coffee . So of course I had to try it (I’m sort of Canadian but living in London, a long story), anyway, I started talking to the Barista who turned out to be from Kamloops BC, Canada. His name was Shawn, again someone who was immensely helpful, solved the mystery. He had been living and working here for 5 years and it turns out he went on a small tour recently. It seems that Alicante was the very last holdout against Franco during the revolution and he asked Hitler to carpet bomb the city. Of course he obliged and they turned the entire city into dust! Now the city is plagued with poorly built buildings from the 1950’s, which are slowly being pulled down and replaced with well built but modern apartments. Unfortunately the apartments are international in style so the Spanish character is slowly disappearing.

This was somewhat of a disappointment for my wife and I as we do enjoy looking at architecture and galleries. The only gallery was the Museum of Modern Art but when we went there the current exhibition turned out to be very good especially for me. Just before leaving for Spain I had ordered a book by Gabriele Basilico, ‘Bord de mer

Lately, I have been collecting books by Luigi Ghirri and his contemporaries that he collaborated with in Italy in 1970’s-1980’s. Anyway, their current exhibition included the Berlin photographs of Gabriele Basilico and someone I hadn’t heard of Horatio Coppola (HC). HC had some wonderful B&W that were done in 1933 Argentina.

Just before leaving for Alicante I decided to start a project in B&W. I purchased a Nikon F3 and a Nikon 28mm f2.8 and a brick of TRI-X and decided to have another go at Rodinal. I have never had much luck with this combination but Rodinal has some charachteristics that I really love so I have decided to give it another try. I took the F3 and TRI-X with me to Alicante so that I could shoot of some test rolls. I’ll report on my progress and the F3 on my next post. I would like to mention that this is the first time in my life that I have bought used gear so will report on my success or lack thereof in my next post.

Enjoy the photos and see you next time. All images taken with XPRO-2 and a combination of 23mm f2 and 35mm f2.