The Lita Vietor View

Nikomat FTN, Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5, Nikon Y44 light yellow filter, Ilford HP5 Plus

I am still scanning away, and it is slow going.  Even with simple family shots I cannot resist some cleanup via the Photoshop clone tool to remove some scratches, hot spots, etc. on my film.  For slide film I can use the infrared channel cleanup in Vuescan, but for negative film that isn’t possible so I have to go the manual route.

Infrared cleanup (for scanners and software that support it) is a lifesaver with slide film.  It is kind of like an automatic version of a clone/intelligent heal tool.  By using the infrared channel during the scanning process Vuescan (and other scanning applications that support it) can automatically identify where the emulsion has been scratched, where there is lint/dust, and other disturbances with or on your positive image and then fill in that spot based on surrounding image data.

This can easily save five, ten, fifteen minutes or more per image if you are “detail oriented” like me and like clean images.  I think I spent ten minutes cleaning up the B&W image above (negative, so infrared not possible…).  This is back from the winter by the way, and there is a slight possibility my Dad was actually the photographer as we were passing the Nikomat back and forth.  It was the first roll I put through that camera which has been my favorite classic shooter of late.

Which makes me wonder even more about dr5‘s chrome positive B&W developing process.  They offer their own custom chemistry for your B&W negatives to turn them into B&W positive processed film. This is not unlike good old Agfa Scala, may it rest in peace.  But I am curious to see if their B&W positives can leverage infrared cleanup during the scanning process. That could be a tremendous time saver for B&W shooting!

I think the next roll I will shoot (after my scan fest is finally over) will be a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus destined to pilot my use of the dr5 chrome process.  They say it is their highest volume film type, so it should go well.

Batching It

Nikon N80, Nikkor AF-D 50mm f/1.8, Fuji Provia 100F

No, I am not talking about having to cope with my dear sweet wife and adorable kids being out of town for any time.  I merely meant that my box of shame has finally forced me to investigate the wonders and mysteries of batch scanning.

I have been a big fan of the Vuescan scanning software for quite some time.  It is a 3rd party application which can be used to control nearly any scanner.  I have used it with at least six different scanners over the last ten years or so with great results.  I love it for its straight forward (if detailed laden) interface, consistent usage model across both film and flatbed scanners, and high end features such as color calibration/profiling, multi-pass scanning, and infrared cleanup of slides.

I am usually a control freak and like to tend to each scan one-by-one, but with 18 rolls waiting for my attention I figured it was time to learn to automate!

I was afraid that I would lose some control if I used batch mode, but actually it is more about saving user time than automating.  I enabled Input>Batch Mode>Auto & Crop>Multi Type and started a preview on a cut strip of film with six images.  Vuescan proceeded to perform independent preview scans of all six images.

The beauty is that before performing final scans, Vuescan allowed me to step through each preview and adjust scanning setting for each independently.  I rotated for vertical if needed, set scanner focus point, adjusted crop (though auto was almost always perfect), and even adjust color settings.  Then when I hit scan it executed all six final scans but with their independent settings in place.  This might not have sped up the overall process, but since I could focus on other tasks (like a blog post) during the preview and scanning phases it felt like I was much more productive.

I wish I had tried this before, as you don’t lose any control at all.  And it also makes me seriously want to process slide film as strips for batch scanning rather than mount them since the days of analog slide shows are pretty much over.

Oh, by the way, one down and seventeen left to go…

Nikon FA

Nikon D300, Micro Nikkor AF-D 105mm F.2.8

My interest in photography began with my Father.  I can recall back when I was a kid making frequent visits to Ace Camera in Burbank, CA in order to develop film shot by my Dad in his Canon AE-1.  He is still into photography, although he focuses more on collecting cameras than shooting.

His first constructive criticism of this blog went something like “For a blog about classic photography, you sure don’t have many pictures of classic cameras.”  Well, let me try to rectify that with this post!

You can see above that the 1983 Nikon FA has a “modern classic” look.  It isn’t quite as vintage looking as a my chrome FTN, but also is a far cry from the curved lines and textured surfaces of my F100 or current DSLRs.  It was available in either black or chrome finishes; I personally think that the black finish is more suiting for the era as it fits well with the predominantly black 1981 Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 AI-S manual lens I have attached to it.

The FA was the first Nikon body to leverage the new AI-S focal length indicator ridge on the rear of the lens mount.  Previous generation AI lenses gave the camera no indication what their focal length was.  The interesting part is that AI-S Nikkors were first introduced in 1981, two years before the FA was released.  Nikon has a history of sneaking in new features in their lenses even before there are cameras on the market that can use them.

The FA is smaller and lighter than both the earlier FTN and the later F100.  It feels positively petite in my hands, although the detachable hand-grip bar is very welcome.  I have no fear of dropping it when held with just my right hand with the bar, although it isn’t quite as rock solid a feel as my F100.
FA-BThe right-side shutter speed dial shows its steps from 1-second to 1/4000 of a second. Bulb and a fully-manual 1/250 of a second options are also available.  The M250 setting is the only one that will operate without any batteries in the camera, so if desperate you can use that in M mode along with setting the aperture manually as well.  Feel free to use the Sunny Sixteen exposure rule if warranted!

You can also see the one of the other firsts delivered in the FA here: A full set of Manual, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Program-automatic exposure modes.  They are all available with virtually any Nikkor lens, from an AI-converted F-era lense through modern AF lenses.  You can even use AF-G lenses (which have no aperture ring) in S and P modes.
FA-CThe left-side film-speed ring has a number of functions hidden in it.  You can see the supported speeds from ISO 12 to 4000 in 1/3-stop increments, and you set it simply by lifting the outer edge of the ring to unlock it.  There is also a 2-stop exposure compensation control also in 1/3-stop increments which is unlocked by the lower-right chrome button.  Clearly they both rotate the same ring achieving the same effect as far as the meter is concerned, but setting them independently allows you to compensate without confusing yourself about what speed film is loaded.

Pushing the black lever on the inside of the ring allows you to lift the film crank and thereby releases the back of the camera to load or unload film.
FA-DThe back of the camera shows a couple of my favorite features.  They aren’t critical, but are very nice touches.

The first is the eyepiece shutter.  When shooting photos on tripod or otherwise holding the camera away from your eye, light from behind the camera can enter into the eypiece and affect the metering or even exposure.  I would often shade my F100’s eyepiece when exposing on tripod as I didn’t bother with its slip-on cover.  But the FA has a lever-activated shutter built right into the eyepiece, which is colored red so you can’t mistake when it is in place.

And the “note holder” is a classic touch that lets others know you are shooting film, here with my current preferred B&W film box-end firmly in place.
FA-EFinally, we get to the CF-31 case made specifically for the FA.  This was designed to hold an FA along with the common accompaniment of the time, the Nikkor 35-70mm f/3.5 AI-S zoom lens.  While I love the FA, I fear that the cases Nikon made during this time are not my favorites.  Earlier hard leather cases are classy, durable, and form-fitting.  This “semi-soft” case feels way too soft to me, uses thin, wrap-around arms to hang off the strap, and looks like a humpback whale to boot.  Later cases for N80, F100, and current cameras seem at least to have sturdier construction and some kind of screw-in attachment to the baseplate.  Oh well, I have seen some vintage aftermarket cases for this era of Nikons, perhaps I can find one for my FA some day…

All-in-all I really like the look, feel, and so far function of the FA.  I need to put some more film through it before I give a functional report, but I am very glad that it is now part of my collection!


Box of Shame

Canon S90

There are things I absolutely love about working with film.  I love the cameras, the different characteristics of the films, the look of slides or traditional prints from negatives… the list goes on and on.

But, I have to admit that digital has at least one major advantage which is convenience of post-capture processing and distribution.  I can live with the the delay to ship out my exposed film to my current favorite lab and then get the film and/or prints back.  But we live in a digital world now as far as “consumption” of photographs is concerned and getting the images into Flickr, SmugMug, my personal devices, and of course this blog are really the end game.

So that brings us to scanning, and my current predicament which I will detail for you now.  I call the subject of the above shot my “Box of Shame” as it presently contains the below developed and waiting-to-be-scanned rolls of 35mm film:

  1. Kodak T-Max P3200 B&W shot at a friend’s wedding back in 2006
  2. Ilford HP5 Plus B&W shot in Columbia State Park also in 2006
  3. Fuji Velvia 100 color slides pushed 1-stop (thought I would cross process, but didn’t) shot in my back yard of my boys playing this past winter
  4. Fuji Velvia 50 color slides pushed 1-stop, same time/subjects/reasons as above
  5. Fuji NPH 400 color negative by my wife using her Blackbird Fly around our neighborhood
  6. Fuji Superia 1600 color negative by me using my Sprocket Rocket inside the Exploratorium (horribly underexposed I might add)
  7. Fuji Provia 400P color slides at same time/place as above (though outside with good exposure)
  8. Kodak T-Max 400 shot of our 2nd to last family trip down to Orange County
  9. Kodak E100 VS cross processed at Happy Hollow from March (ok, partially online in this set)
  10. Fuji Provia 400P from same Happy Hollow visit but via my Sprocket Rocket
  11. Ilford HP5 Plus B&W of family shots around San Francisco
  12. Ilford XP2 Super B&W of some local kid park activity
  13. Ilford HP5 Plus B&W family shots from out last Orange County trip
  14. Two rolls of Kodak E100G cross procssed from the same trip
  15. Kodak E100GX cross processed from the same trip
  16. Fuji Provia 100F from a family park outing to Ed Levin Country Park
  17. That Sensia 200 test roll of color negs shot through my “new” Nikon FA

Depending on how you count them that is 17 to 18 rolls of film I need to scan!  Yikes, I need to get cracking!

By the way, you may notice some changes to the design of this blog as I play some more with Typepad’s canned layouts.  The gray hyperlink text of the “Simple White” layout is too hard to read…

First Few Pack Films

Polaroid 320, Fuji FP-100C

I finally got the last of my Fuji FP-100C pack of prints from Southern California scanned in.  These include a few more shots from the water park as well as from Legoland (my young sons’ favorite amusement park.) It was only my second pack of film that I ran through my Polaroid 320 camera and so far it is my favorite.

To back up a bit, I tried my first pack ever back in April.  It was some expired Polaroid 100 Sepia pack film (ISO 1500) purchased from Impossible which was a little tough to work with in terms of exposure latitude.  It had a classic B&W look to it but preferred strong light with low contrast.  One or two low-light shots were almost completely washed out and one or two shots with varied lighting levels resulted in clearly over- or under-exposed elements.

This Fuji FP-100C (ISO 100) color pack film definately required strong lighting, but seemed to be much more flexible in terms of contrast levels.  All my shots were in either in direct sunlight or at worst light shade, but every single one came out looking good.  Its color is beautiful and seems both vivid and even tempered.  Its look is very distinct and even when scanned is clearly not from 35mm film or digital capture.

I did start a third pack of Fuji FP-3000B (ISO 3200), however all three shots I tried were complete failures.  I thought this high speed B&W film would allow for shooting indoors but I was wrong. I had major problems with backlighting and even moderate side-lighting from windows.  I didn’t bother scanning these in at all, and will try the rest of the pack outdoors later…

So far my 320/pack film lessons learned are:

  • Use strong, direct and even daylight whenever possible.
  • Adjust for parallax even when subjects are 5 feet away.  (See my ninth shot which appeared fully centered in the rangefinder.  The right mariachi musician is only half in the print.)
  • Do NOT keep the developed prints face-to-face, their emulsions will start to stick to each other and feathering or ripping will occur! (See my tenth shot for some clear feathering on the wall and upper-left transport, in other shots I touched it up a bit in Photoshop.)

Give Dad A Nikon!



Nikon D300, Micro Nikkor AF-D 105mm F.2.8

I’m not sure how many of you received an e-mail with the above title about ten days ago, but I sure did.  Clearly Nikon USA’s marketing folks were targeting those undecided with respect to what gift to give to the Fathers in their life for Father’s Day.

Maybe my wife is also on their mailing list, she is quite the Nikon fan herself.  But somehow she got the idea that I might not mind a new Nikon body.  She didn’t buy me a Coolpix L120 like their ad suggested, but rather a Nikon FA!

As I hinted at before, the Nikon 1983 FA is in several ways a revolutionary camera, if not an odd bird.  It is:

  • The last big developmental step in Nikon’s manual focus bodies (other bodies released since were low-end like the FM10/EM10 or arguably a refinment of classic designs such as the FM3A)
  • The first matrix meter from any camera maker, initially called Automatic Multi-Pattern (AMP) using 5 segments
  • The first Nikon to offer all four main exposure modes (MASP), and the only one to do so with manual lenses (the F4, F100, F6 and other later bodes don’t offer S or P with manual lenses)

I managed to shoot a quick roll of some ancient Sensia 200 film through it just before our trip this past weekend and it seems to be working just fine.  Exposures appear spot on, even when shooting in Program mode on my AI’ed Nikkor 35mm f/2 O.C.  I have barely had time to play with it though, and will recount some experiences and lessons learned later.


Chicago Bound

iPhone 3GS, Hipstamatic

Well, we are traveling yet again this weekend. I had a hectic week between the last trip to Southern California and this one, so unfortunately I didn’t get to scan any more of my Polaroids.

This weekend we are visiting my family in the Chicago area. While we will be here for Father’s Day, that isn’t the purpose of our visit. My Grandmother is turning 90 years old and my Uncle and Father are throwing her a big party. But the side effect is that I will also spend Father’s Day with my Dad, a rare treat given neither of us usually travel for this holiday.

Speaking of which, my dear sweet wife added to my camera collection in honor of the holiday. I have barely played with my new toy yet and have no photos to share, but I do have a clue (or two): My test exposures were taken with my existing manual Nikkor lenses in shutter-priority and program-automatic modes…

Oh, and the above shot was simply a snapshot from the flight over the Rocky Mountains (still with snow!) using my favorite app Hipstamatic.

Buckets Of Fun

Big Splash

Polaroid 320, Fuji FP-100C

We wrapped up a long stay in Southern California this past weekend.  Visiting my in-laws is always a blast, but this time we spent nearly a week there and had the opportunity to visit a water park (twice!), Legoland, as well as meet our brand new niece.

I fired off a few rolls of film and won’t see them back from Photoworks SF for a week or so.  But I was able to start scanning my Polaroid 320 shots.  I made it through 5 instant prints from my pack of Fujifilm FP-100c ISO 100 color pack film.

This was my first Fuji pack, and so far I have to say I was impressed.  All my shots were taken in bright sunlight, and working with full light the exposures were spot on (way to go 320!) and the colors vividly saturdated (nice work Fuji!).

Hopefully I can scan the rest tomorrow night…

Hello World!


Nikon F100, Nikkor AF-D 50mm f/1.8, Kodak E100VS (cross processed)

Perhaps this should have been titled “First Post”, but this feels more like a welcoming to me. I also suppose I should wax poetic about my plans for this blog to become something impacting the very fibers of the blogosphere. But honestly, all I need to do is post some content to test out the design and formatting capabilities!

I suppose a few of you might wind up reading this first post though (hi Honey!) so just to set the record straight:

  • I love photography
  • I especially love film and more manual processes and techniques
  • My gadget-loving tendencies drive me to try new old cameras, lenses, and accessories

So if you were wondering what I will be capturing in this blog, it is my love for taking photographs using less-than-modern techniques! Now back to my formatting…