Jazzing It Up

Nikomat FTN, Nikkor C 35/2 O.C, Ilford HP5 Plus via dr5 reversal process

Back in August we attended a jazz concert by some friends of ours, this gig happened to be at a local church courtyard.  Part way through the concert an elderly lady was assisted to sit in the chair in front of me, and I thought her woven hat and silk shirt made for a nice foreground subject.

The trumpet player in the background isn’t quite as well defined as I would have liked, but I still think the lady, the musician and the tree round out the composition nicely.

I shot this with my old Nikomat FTN SLR and (then newly purchased) manual Nikkor 35mm lens.  I love shooting with a “normal” 50mm lens, but I find in tighter quarters a 35mm focal length is more flexible with its slightly greater angle of view and depth of field.

A few things of note (and very retro ones at that):

Nikkor C 35/2 O.C

Down the Slide

Rollei B 35, Ilford XP2 Super

I have now put a few rolls of 35mm film through my latest two new cameras.  My initial impressions shooting with them are 100% positive.

The Nikon F6 is an absolute dream to use.  In theory it is just an evolutionary step up from my F100 (mixed heartily with plenty of DNA from the F5), but it is noticeably nicer to shoot with in almost every single way.

However, I don’t have much film from it developed just yet so impressions on its metering, autofocus, etc. will have to wait.

The Rollei B 35 is an entirely different kind of camera, but has thrilled me just the same.  I have found myself carrying it around with my nearly all the time at night and on the weekends when I am sporting my off-work cargo shorts.

I thoroughly enjoy setting the aperture, shutter speed, and focus distance completely manually.  The Rollei doesn’t even have a rangefinder so I am honing my jedi mind tricks by thinking “Is that four or five feet away from me?” all the time.

The above shot is one of many that I like (most of which are in focus!) that came out of a roll of Ilford XP2 Super film.  This is a 400 speed B&W film which is developed in color print film chemistry, so you can take it into your corner drug store to get it processed.

Canon: 1 – Me: 0

Nikon FA, Zoom-Nikkor 80-200mm f/4.5, deep red filter, Ilford HP5 Plus via dr5 process

Q: What is more difficult than trying to get a stand of flamingos to pose for a photograph?

A: Loading film into an early rangefinder.

I tried loading some film into my Canon IV-S last night.  I used to think loading my Nikomat FTN was tough, but I have been humbled by this recent experience.

If you recall I tried repairing some holes in the Canon’s cloth shutter a month back.  I still need to take some pictures with it and see if I sealed the light leaks or not.

This camera has a very old-school design with a solid back and removable base plate.  In order to load the film you actually have to pull it slightly out of the 35mm cartridge, slip it under a clip on the camera’s removable take-up spool, and then slot both of them with film strung in between into the upside-down body.

(Don’t forget to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time too!)

The real trick is that it has to have some slack to pass over the sprocket mechanism, but then once it is in place you tighten it up over the sprockets to make for a solid film advance.  I thought I was doing this right after reading some tips, but multiple attempts later I still could not get the film advance knob to actually move the film.

Ugh… I mauled the start of a nice fresh roll of Ilford B&W film in the process.  I think for my next attempt I will work with an old roll of some junk film so that I can play around without fear.

Black And White Reversal

Nikon FA, Zoom-Nikkor 80-200mm f/4.5, deep red filter, Ilford HP5 Plus via dr5 process

Wow, I am seriously impressed with dr5 lab!  I sent them a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus traditional black and white film to be processed into slides and love the results.

Normally black and white film is processed into negatives which can then be printed using traditional photo paper or scanned and turned into a positive image by your computer.  But the dr5 proprietary development process turns the black and white film into a positive image slide just like true (color) reversal film.

They claim that this is superior when your intention is to scan the film and post-process it digitally, and so far I can’t argue against them.  The scan results from their slides are far cleaner (fewer scratches/blemishes) than I am used to and seem to have excellent detail, contrast and dynamic range compared to working with a strip of negative film.

And I have to say the slides also look gorgeous in real life on my light box.  It makes me want to pull the projector and screen out for a good old fashioned slide show.

Maybe I will do just that next time my in-laws visit.  I will see if I can get my mother-in-law to fall asleep during the show just like the good old times…

Jamestown 2006

Nikon F100, Nikkor 28-105mm AF, Ilford HP5 Plus

I recently developed a roll of film which had been long lost.  Well, not exactly lost but merely relegated to the dusty deep confines of my desk for about 5 years.

Back in 2006 when our first son was not yet a year old we made a day trip to historic Jamestown, California.  We also visited the nearby Railtown which contained some historic rolling stock such as the above locomotive.  I shot a roll of B&W film which seemed appropriate given the western, gold-rush and steam train subject matter.

I distinctly recall having to coax and cajole our baby to drink his warm bottle of milk during lunch time.  Nowadays we have to coax and cajole him into eating his chicken or vegetables.  The more things change, the more they stay the same!

Back To The Future

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

My Uncle was asking a while back if I had heard about the Fujifilm FinePix X100.  It is perhaps the spearhead of a recent resurgence of “retro” styled digital cameras.  Of course, Leica has never strayed from their design aesthetic as well as traditional function with their digital cameras.  But the X100 does not require you to take out a second mortgage on your home to afford it so we may see more mid-range photo enthusiast pick it up, or the Olympus PEN EP-3 or rumored retro Canon PowerShot.

Is there a resurgence in classic camera interest behind these releases?  Are the camera manufacturers trying to appeal to those of us still clinging on to our film cameras?

I have to admit all of the above mentioned cameras have some appeal to me, despite some of their claims seeming false.  (The X100 is referred to as a “rangefinder” even though the focus-assist is digital, as is its manual focus control which has no mechanical linkage to the lens.)

My Uncle also pointed out an interesting opinion article by Froma Harrop where she speaks of this trend away from the high-tech and towards the high-hip and high-touch.  It really hit home with me, as I personally feel the exact sentiment she makes reference to about needing to escape high-tech.

I work with a computer all day, use a smart phone for all sorts of tasks, and am constantly swapping out my digital gear year-after year.  When I want to have fun with photography I get a big kick out of using a 40 year old camera which still works pretty much as good as the day it was made to take shots like the above.

But don’t worry, I am not crazy enough to try sticking my beloved manual Nikkors onto my phone using this abomination just to get better looking Hipstamatic shots.  (Thanks for that lead, Sharon.)  I may live in both high-tech and old-school worlds, but I don’t plan on mixing them up quite like that!

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.