Medium Format Update (Look Ma, I Developed it Myself!)

So I joined CEPA Gallery in downtown Buffalo and now have access to a fully-stocked darkroom.  I rolled on down there with my one roll of 35mm and 2 rolls of 120 and tried my hand at developing them on my own.  How'd it work?  Great (with one caveat)! First, the negative:  My 35mm was shot.  It was a mix between me removing them from the dryer prematurely and my old Minolta shortcircuiting and scratching up the negatives.  Suffice to say, I need a new 35mm.   Here are some of the shots.  I think they sort of look cool in a ruined vintage sort of way.

The 120, on the other hand, looks pretty flawless.  Any issues are exposure-based, not anything to do with the developer.

Ko Chun by Niagara Falls

KC's aunt was visiting Niagara Falls last month, so we drove up and spent an afternoon there.

The rapids near the falls.

I also shot off a roll down in South Buffalo so I'd have it ready to develop.  Kinda neat looking.

This old chestnut.

So yeah.  Overall, a success.  I'll be back for more.  Maybe I'll even try my hand at developing my own 4x5 next time.

Medium Format Mini-Update

Just got my roll of Portra 400 6x7 back from the camera store.  Last weekend, my dad and I drove out to the Tifft Nature Reserve in Lackawanna.  Tifft is a one-time garbage dump turned really-quite-lovely park in the middle of industrial South Buffalo. The light wasn't where I wanted when I took these, but I was anxious to shoot them all off and get to the Velvia 50 I brought, so here's what I got.

Allentown Art Fest 35mm

Man the Allentown Art Festival is the worst.  Once a year, all the suburbanite Western New Yorkers drive their Toyota Highlanders into the big city to block my driveway and overpay for cheap tchotchkes.  My buddy Dave and I went.  He bought a coffee mug and we went to Aroma for drinks.  I took some 35mm photos on Portra 160.

Then I shot the rest of the roll at City of Night at South Buffalo's old Silo City.  That was, at least, fun.

O Hai, Internet

The nonexistent rumors of my death being greatly exaggerated, I've returned to this dark corner of the internet to post my film failures.  Turns out the Crown Graphic didn't have a light leak.  The bright blotches popping up in my photos was a result of loading film holders and then not immediately packing them away in the darkness of a photo bag.  So yeah... I learned my lesson, and they'll all look lovely from here on out. If I don't underexpose them.  I shot off the rest of my Velvia and the results were disastrous.  I've decided to finally bite the bullet and buy a spot meter, because Jesus Christ.  Look at this garbage.

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Whoops!  My 40 year old  light meter finally met its maker, so these were completely destroyed.  3 bucks a shot, down the drain.

These turned out a little bit better:

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It's all relative though.  I sort of hate them all.  I'll get better.  I promise!

Oh, and I bought this thing:

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Mamiya RB67 6x7 medium format camera.  I took this bad boy to Pittsburgh for a Premier League friendly and took some pictures.  They aren't fine art, but they at least proved the camera works.

I promise to be more vigilant in the future.  Recently finished two weddings, with two more to go this month.  Also, I just shot a roll of 6x7 Velvia 50 and Portra 400.  Sneak preview:

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Na zdrowie.

On Large Format and Light Leaks

So my camera has a light leak.  It's most likely the bellows (though I suppose it could be the film holders, but I suspect not) and I'm going to have to jam a flashlight in there and fix it.   Getting my Velvia back, it was fun to see that white splotch in the corner of (almost) every image.  The photos look pretty good though, outside some iffy exposure. Below, I've skillfully demonstrated the light leaks with Photoshop.

I cropped that noise on out, so they're (sort of) usable images now.

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The second fun part of my film adventure was sending the wrong negatives in, so I accidentally got two unused negatives back.  Cool beans.

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Also, I fried this one.  It's pretty disappointing, because that ice is long gone now (it was in the low 80s today) and that was a gorgeous sunset.   That being said, the composition is pretty bad, and I don't miss the cold even a little bit.  I'm not sure how I got this so wrong, but the proof is in the pudding.  Oh well.

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SAVING GRACE: this photo.  The light and everything isn't perfect, but it has that look you can't get with digital.  It's maybe a little underexposed - I could certainly brighten it up in Facebook - but I think I like the velvety look it has here.  The zoomed-in detail is pretty stunning too.

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For what it's worth, the original resolution was 14970 x 11829. That's just nuts.  And yes, that's definitely an eyelash or something in the middle.  I'll have to scan it again.

Winter is Leaving? Mini Update

So the polar vortex decided it liked upstate New York and has rolled back in for another week or two.  In the event that winter never ends, that I die in this frozen hellhole, or that I lose interest and never post again, I felt I should offer an update on film photo land, for the 3 people who might be interested. In short, I've been holed up in my apartment, trying not to die of hypothermia, lens shopping.

In case you're interested, the Crown Graphic is currently listed on Ebay for a slightly exorbitant price:  http://www.ebay.com/itm/231169783025?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649

I'm willing to move on that price.  You know what they say:  Aim for the moon.  If you fall short, you'll end up suffocating in the frozen void of outer space.

In other news, I'm considering purchasing any and all of the following:  the 16-35 L lens for the 5dmii, a Bronica or Mamiya 6x7 medium format film camera, a wooden folding 4x5 field camera from Zone VI or Wista.  Any suggestions?  Any gear to sell?  Let me know!

The 35mm Project Mark iii / Toronto Snow Bonanza

Last weekend saw me trekking up the Godforsaken QEW (because in Canada, they name everything after another nation's monarch) to Toronto to pick the lady up post Taiwan visit.  We actually had a great time.  I brought the Minolta along, because the thought of losing the 5d to theft or drunken absentmindedness was too much to bear, and I actually got some nice shots.  For what it's worth, Portra is now my favorite film.  I'm actually not sure what Ektar brings to the table that Portra doesn't.  If you know, please educate me. So we braved a mini-blizzard to eat noodles on Queen street and drink coffee at a Starbucks.  Have you ever been to one of those?  It was really good.

Mad photos of snow and KC's back.  Enjoy.

Large Format Mini Update

Today, I got the remaining 4 negatives I had forgotten to mail last week.  If you read all my updates, I'm sure you're pretty sick of this beach. Sunset on frozen Lake Erie.

I actually sort of love this.  This is essentially a straight scan, with no digital post-production.  I never cease to be amazed by Portra's dynamic range.  It's hard to see here, but the shadows retain detail, even in a shot that's metered for the sun.  It's pretty cool.

Unfortunately, not all my photos worked out.

 

Whoops.

So I don't hate this photo, but it's obviously shot.  Outside the off-center framing, I apparently caught the Crown Graphic's rail on the top of the image, while screwing with the lens tilt.  This one was exposed for the sky, while the sun was still higher in the sky, and the lake turned bright gold for a minute.  Rail in the photo, off-center sun, and problem with focus, but still... it's sort of nice looking.  I'll try this one again.  I'd love to attempt it with a split ND filter.

My Ghetto Large Format Setup

My initial jump into large format came after months of contemplating the idea.  Try as I might, I couldn't get myself to pull the trigger on a $500+ folding camera like a Wista or Shenhao, and wasn't about to buy a more affordable studio camera to lug around in my backpack. The camera I finally settled on was a badly used Graflex Crown Graphic from ebay.  The camera, with the lens and 3 film holders, cost $150, including the shipping.  Is it ideal for landscape photography?  Not really.  The movements are extremely limited, and it won't fold up with my Fujinon 90mm mounted.  Still, it was really really cheap, and it's hard to argue with that.  What DSLR can you get for 200 bucks?

The Crown Graphic, in all its cheesy glory.

The lens that came on the camera was really a piece of junk.  It's a Graflex Optar 135 (wide normal) that would, in great condition, probably be worth less than $100.  It had no coverage for movements to speak of, was scratched pretty badly, and stuck for several seconds on any exposure longer than a quarter second.

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As soon as I was able, I picked up a Fujinon 90mm f8 on KEH for around $300.  This lens, which is roughly a 30mm or so on 35mm or digital, is a little bit more difficult to focus on the ground glass, but provides superior images.  Plus, it's pretty.

The Fujinon mounted on the Crown Graphic.

So far, I've shot exclusively Ektar 100 and Black and White.  I have a box of Kodak Portra 160 on the way from Amazon, so I'll have a broader range of experience with it soon.

When I get my negatives back, I run them through an Epson v700 flatbed scanner.  If I ever take any really dynamic shots, I'll certainly get them drum scanned professionally.

Just for fun, here's a negative on my ghetto light table (a Kindle Fire running a flashlight app.)

An Ektar 100 negative on the Kindle.

And here's the same image after scanning.

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So there you have it.  A fully functional large format kit for about $400.  That's what you'd pay for a Canon t3.  Grab a tripod and cable release and you're ready to roll.  My next move is to pick up an old Pentax Digital Spotmeter on KEH, then to upgrade to a wooden folding camera, and possibly buy a portrait lens.  (Whatever money I make with the digital camera gets dumped into the large format.)

If you shoot large format, what's your setup?  Where should I go from here?

35mm and the "Film Look"

Anyone who regularly shoots film in 2014 will tell you that it has its own look, totally distinguishable from digital.  I tend to agree. Dyngus Day (google it!) at Buffalo's monolithic Central Terminal.

I spent a few months shooting my mom's old Minolta X-370, both in home-developed black and white and lab-processed color, and the results were, at the very least, interesting.

KC and the dog.  Sort of charming results from cheap Kodak Gold Max 400 film.

The images are at the mercy of my scanner (an Epson V700,) so I'm sure some of the shadow and highlight details are lost but, even so, I'm pleased with them.  I'm especially fond of the black and white work, as it seems to carry an entirely different feel than that of digital photography.  As always, the photos are mostly of that rust belt Utopia I call home, Buffalo.