Tag Archives: film photography

In the land of flowers

Although I haven’t been posting very many photographs, I’ve still been taking them as avidly as ever.

I am so thrilled to be living in Humboldt County. Money may be tight, my future may fill me with worries–but all I’ve got to do is take a walk and look around myself, and my heart becomes light.

The natural beauty here is astounding. I had expected the towering redwoods and the rocky coastline, but nobody prepared me for the FLOWERS.

The flowers bloom YEAR-ROUND. There are flowering trees, bushes, branches, beds EVERYWHERE. My nose is constantly pressed into petals; I talk to the blossoms sweetly and pick them up off the ground to cup in my palms and carry home. “Communing with flowers” is my preferred personal method of connecting with nature. The variety and abundance of flowers here means I do this on a daily basis.

In addition to the flowers, I also commune with the humans here, around whom I’ve cultivated a sweet little life. Since moving to Arcata in January, I’ve found myself surrounded by a ton of like-minded people. We take care of each other, play music together, and teach each other things. I love our lazy days and our adventures, and I try to capture them with my camera as much as possible.

I’ve been shooting fiercely since my brother sent me 10 rolls of Kodak Ultramax 400 for my birthday (although I also found an unshot roll of Agfa Vista 400 in an old purse, SCOOOREE). I’ve already blown through more than half those rolls.

I’ve been developing them in my bathtub here. After so many years developing film on my own, I can quickly identify a method for a makeshift darkroom anyplace and go about my splashy business without a hitch. I’ve even gotten to demonstrate my process to others!

I’m honestly behind on sharing photos, though. I’ve already processed, scanned, and edited several rolls, but haven’t gotten around to posting or sharing them.

Part of the delay is that I’d really love to DO SOMETHING with my photography, but I don’t know what. Something professional, something bigger than myself. OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS, friends.

For now, my film photos are a labor of my own love, my own personal diary. Making them makes me happy, and I guess that’s really what’s most important.

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The strangest

These are photos from August 2016 that I never published anywhere because I got swept up in the rush of packing, moving, and school.

My homeboy Link and I were feeling super inspired to be creepy after watching all of Season 1 of Stranger Things. One afternoon, we were sitting in my living room and he asked, “Have you ever been to the old cemetery in Antes Fort (the village across the river from my town)?”

He started explaining it to me, how it was tucked away in the woods and filled with crumbling Revolutionary War graves. So we decided it was IMPROMPTU ADVENTURE TIME and hopped in my car with some black-and-white film to go take creepy pictures. It helped that there were cornfields and a steepled church nearby.

I forgot about these for a while, but I was telling my friend about this cemetery the other day and it reminded me that I still had them. Enjoy the strange.

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Step outside, the summertime’s in bloom

In the middle of August, I am going to be moving to northern California for graduate school.

I feel very “right” about my decision to do this–about the area I’m going to be living in (the redwood forest!), about the field I’m going to be studying (neuroscience!), and just in general about the way I’m going to live my life going forward.

But I spent the past year absolutely working my ass off in order to make it happen. There were a lot of times when I would feel sad or frustrated or worried about the future, and wonder whether I was ever going to be able to get the things I wanted. At those times, I’d usually start working even harder–and I asked myself, “When will I ever feel that it’s okay to rest a little?”

At the beginning of the summer I was still humming on all that nervous energy. I thought I would spend the summer like I spent this past year: by myself with a bunch of textbooks.

But then I realized that this is the perfect time to rest and enjoy things. While I am, of course, doing all the preparatory stuff that I need to do before I move, I’m also savoring all the time I have and taking good care of myself in the meantime.

After all, this is going to be the last time that I’m in my Central Pennsylvania home for a long while. Although a large part of me still celebrates my departure on a regular basis (most often when I encounter the extremely conservative social and political opinions of the people around here), I am also taking time to appreciate the natural beauty of my surroundings, the familiarity of home, and the company of longtime friends.

I’ve also been indulging in art, writing, and music on a daily basis and it just FEELS SO GOOD. I am the queen of never having enough time for everything I want to do, and I often push my creative cravings to the side when they don’t have due dates or paychecks associated with them.

But I’m getting better at treating artistic expression as what it really is to me: an outlet for my feelings and a means for me to relax and play. It’s much easier to prioritize creativity when I look at it as an important component of my emotional well-being.

SO, one of the things I’ve returned to is film photography, of course.

I was only shooting black-and-white for a while, ever since the beginning of the year. I still want to keep using it regularly because I like it stylistically, but then last week I discovered like, 8 rolls of unshot color film that I’d forgotten I had.

I’ve been shooting with my Olympus OM-10, which has proved to be the most reliable and lovely film camera I’ve ever had. I’ve also been TRYING to use my Zenza Bronica medium format camera, but medium format and I just don’t seem to get along too well. I’m not familiar enough with it to troubleshoot it yet, and so that’s frustrating.

I’ve been the only one to touch any of my films, processing-wise, for the past two years. I am now very comfortable with the whole routine–spooling film with my eyes closed is second nature; I can judge approximate temperatures  just by putting my hand in the water. I used to worry every time that I was going to somehow screw up my film, but that’s only happened to me maybe once in the entire time I’ve ever processed it.

I know how to adjust timings, temperatures, and agitation/inversion cycles for each chemical in order to get the effect I want, and since I’m confident I won’t ruin my film anymore, I have been playing around with it a little. I’m going to probably start playing with it even more.

I am also going to be stretching the limits of my C-41 Tetenal chemicals and seeing what comes of that. The current batch I’m using was mixed over a year ago, and they’ve been used to develop many more rolls of film than is deemed “ideal” by the manufacturer.

I actually wasn’t sure if they would still work on the 35mm rolls I processed last week, but I added time to the developer and Blix steps to account for the degradation of the chemicals.

Usually I develop for 3:30, so I added a minute to that to develop for 4:30 (at approx. 102 degrees F). In hindsight, I shouldn’t have added as much time because the developer is so time-sensitive. The photos came out all right, but the highlights blew hot. Adding 30-45 seconds would have been better.

Following a guide I found online, I also Blix’d them for SO MUCH LONGER–15 minutes, actually. I’m glad I did though, because some of the medium format film I processed before the 35mm rolls definitely started to do some alarming things (change color, grow spots) while it was hanging to dry, and I guarantee it’s because it wasn’t fully fixed.

I have been vacillating about buying new color chemicals, but I don’t see the point in doing that since I’ll be traveling across the country so soon and don’t feel like worrying about their temperature or security while they’re packed in my car with my other stuff.

So I’m going to be doing some more experimental stuff for fun with these chemicals until I leave! Look forward to some weird stuff, I guess.

For the following photos: the black-and-white is mostly Tri-X 400, although there is one roll of Ilford HP5 mixed in there (CAN YOU SPOT THE DIFFERENCE?). The color is one roll of Ultramax 800 and one roll of Agfa Vista 400. There’s also some of the medium format in there, which is Lomography Color 100.

The time period they span is varied. Some are older that I just hadn’t developed; most are recent. One roll is double-exposed, which was something I vaguely remember doing but had completely forgotten about until I saw what came out of the roll. My scanner is terrible at detecting and cutting in the right places with the double exposures and the medium format shots, so I just embraced the weirdness of it and let some of the photos bleed together.

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Forward/Backward

It’s been a really weird month, and I only have two rolls of film to show for it.

As I mentioned before, working three jobs really wore me down. I’ve been doing it since August, and I love being busy. But combined with all the other things going on in my life, I was really feeling like I was just being dragged around by my neck from one obligation to another. I actually didn’t have a day off for over a month.

This town always drags me down, too. Something had to give at some point.

But, I did quit my job as a manager at a grocery store. I put in my four weeks’ notice at the end of October, and finished up right before Thanksgiving. I really feel a sense of relief, and now I have a much more open schedule to dedicate more time to my other two jobs, particularly my newspaper assignments.

I spent a stupid amount of time being laid up in the middle of the month–I had wisdom tooth surgery, and then I was sick the next week. I don’t normally like stopping my forward momentum, but it was necessary.

I fell very unexpectedly in love towards the beginning of the month. Outside of all the crazy things happening in my life, it’s so nice to have this very, very good thing happening. It makes me excited for the future, even though I’m also terrified of my future right now.

With all the things I’m trying to keep in order, my anxiety’s been resurfacing. I’m facing a lot of old struggles that I thought I was past, and I’m not being very nice to myself. I always take on too much, but I’m trying to do better. It’s just disappointing to feel like I’m moving backward in regard to my personal progress.

My productivity has suffered from my schedule. And when I run back and forth from one mundane thing to another, or lie on my couch for days, there really isn’t a lot of photography happening. Which is why it’s been over month for me to shoot and process just two rolls of film.

I usually prefer not to develop a single roll of film, since I have a tank that can hold two spools of 35mm film. Since it takes long enough to get all the chemistry to the correct temperature, it just makes way more sense for me to do them both at the same time.

I haven’t had any problems at all processing color film. So far I’ve done six rolls with these chemicals, so I’ve already more than gotten my money’s worth out of them.

I was worried about the chemicals this time, because I didn’t use them for a month and have stored them on my enclosed back porch, which isn’t AS cold as being outside, but is still cold enough that we use it as a makeshift refrigerator in the winter.

The developer is looking a little brown, but apart from that, there was no noticeable difference in the quality of the photos.

I’m going to keep using these chemicals until I notice any sort of degradation of the image–partly because I’m cheap, partly because I want to avoid mixing a new batch for as long as possible, and partly because I’m really curious to see how long they can realistically last.

Actually, I love everything about processing film. To me, the hassle is not a hassle at all–it’s a really gratifying process. I understand that digital is convenient and all, but it’s just not the same. It doesn’t have the same heart.

Film is half science, half magic, to me. Right now, my shots are sort of a cobbled-together record of my life, but what I really want to do is shoot purposeful, planned film shots, in which the medium itself is part of the expression.

All I want for Christmas is a bunch of different types of film, maybe some more chemicals. I’d love to lock myself in a darkroom for a week and make good use of my enlargers and the piles of negatives I have from the past five years.

SADLY, life doesn’t let me do the things I want. So for now, enjoy these random shots from the past month or so. The earlier ones were shot on Kodak Ultramax 400, while the later ones are Ultramax 800–nothing exotic, but I still love these films.

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Autumn feels

I’ve been beyond busy for the past couple of months and, frankly, it’s wearing on me.

These pictures, as a result of me having so little free time, span almost a whole month. And they were only two rolls of film! That’s how much time I haven’t had to shoot photos.

So, enjoy pictures of my friends, and angsty shots of fall features, and some weird lonely photos inside my house that I took because 4 pm light is golden and magical (and also I was really sick of having a roll of 100 ISO film in my camera). There are random bits-and-pieces as well, since I carry my camera everywhere.

Some of the photos were taken with Ferrania Solaris 100, the others were Kodak Ultramax 800. All were processed by me, in my sink, when I finally had time.

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C-41 Color Processing at Home–And it Worked!

 

So, as I said in my last post, I decided to take on the task of developing color film by myself. Surprisingly, everything went really well!

After some online research and after reading several guides, I bought the C-41 Press Kit, which costs $24.50 and says it can process up to 8 rolls of film (although many people have said you can get more out of it, if you’re daring).

Compare that to the ~$10 cost of getting a roll developed at CVS, and obviously I’ll be saving a lot of money this way!

Anyway, the kit was pretty easy to mix up. There are three chemicals required to process C-41 color film:

  • Developer (A pretty innocuous-looking pink liquid when mixed)
  • Blix, which is a bleach and fixer combination–it comes in two separate chemical packets (When mixed, the two react and the entire substance turns a nasty prune juice color and smells AWFUL)
  • Stabilizer (Clear, simple, not fussy about temperature)

So, this past weekend, I found a huge glass beaker in my house and some safety glasses in my basement, heated some water on my stove and mixed the chemicals outside on my back steps.

The chemicals really aren’t so caustic that my precautions (mixing outside, safety glasses) were really necessary. My dad was cooking dinner in the kitchen and I had just painted the kitchen table, so I had more space outside. It was a little windy, so I figured the glasses would be helpful if the powder blew around while I was mixing.

The most difficult part was getting the temperatures correct to mix the developer and Blix–they need to be mixed at 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Naturally, first it was too hot, then too cold, but eventually I got it all mixed!

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So, Sunday night, I filled up my bathtub and gave it a try.

I followed this guy‘s instructions very closely (supplemented by a few other tutorials I read) and even used the app he suggested, LabTimer. I just used one of my Paterson tanks, my filtered funnel, and my usual thermometer (which is pretty reliable).

It was a sweaty, humid, somewhat messy experience. The most time-consuming part was getting everything to the correct temperature, which I had expected.

Also, the Blix likes to build up pressure and leak out in little gross droplets while I do the inversions.

BUT, it was worth it, because when I took the roll out of the tank, it had images on it!

I was so psyched that I immediately developed another roll while the temperatures were still high.

So, here are the results. Full disclosure, I have edited them, but that’s because I don’t see the point in showing off crappy photos. The important thing to me is what I CAN PRODUCE as a final product and really, these ain’t too shabby.

One roll was Fuji Superia 200  and the other was Tudorcolor 200 (which I had read is basically just re-branded Fuji Superia… and after seeing the qualities of it, I tend to agree).

Both of these shift so, so blue. I really don’t like working in cool tones, so I definitely color-corrected ALL the shots to warmer tones.

They were also slightly over-exposed, which would lead me to believe that I may have had the developer a bit warmer than necessary. So I’ll try to be mindful of that in the future.

But really, not so bad! All the images are basically just like “this is what I’ve been doing this past week.” Pizza and margarita night, bar with my friends, bike rides, and the state fair.

(NOTE: Some of the photos toward the end of the first roll have light leaks and blatant overexposures. This was my fault–I made a rookie mistake and opened the back of the camera without realizing I hadn’t rewound the film)

ENJOY! And if you have any tips for color processing, please share them with me 😀img438

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I heart Portra 160

Before I used Portra: “I don’t really see what the big deal about it is.”

After I used Portra: “OKAY I GET IT NOW.”

I don’t want to shoot with any other film ever!

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I was really impressed by the results of the roll of Portra that I shot a couple of weeks ago.

Like I said before, I’m testing some of the expired films that I found in the basement of the photo store where I work. This roll of Portra 160 expired in… 2006? Or something like that? You’d never know by looking at it.

I usually like to shoot pretty casually for test rolls–nothing that I’ll be sad about if it doesn’t turn out, nothing that’s going to blow your mind if it does turn out.

I also try to put the film through its paces by using it in a variety of lighting situations and by taking close-ups, portraits, and landscapes.

So I just loaded this roll on Labor Day and went to the Lock Haven Regatta with Maggie. I used to love going to the Regatta when I was younger, but we got bored pretty quickly, so then we went to our friend Dance’s house, and I tried to use up the roll even though it was getting pretty dark outside.

I STILL had exposures left, so then there are some photos that are just random shots I took in my daily life to finish the roll (ALSO, to try out an f/1.4 lens).

I have to say, even though it’s only ISO 160 film, it stood up TREMENDOUSLY well under all the conditions in which I used it. I naturally got some motion blur on the low-light photos, but I was hand-holding the camera entirely.

Sadly, it took FOREVER for me to get this roll processed. I went to CVS, where I usually have my color film processed, but their machine was broken! And it stayed broken for quite a while.

I’m not complaining–the CVS in my town offers one-hour film processing, which is rare to find nowadays and has been a huge asset to me in the years I’ve been shooting film.

But this sort of reminded me that, hey Erica, maybe you should prepare for the day that it STOPS offering film processing. Also, I’m really impatient when it comes to getting my photos processed.

SO, I am now waiting for a C-41 Tetenal press kit to come in the mail, and I’m going to start processing color film in my bathtub.

Keep your eyes on this blog to learn how that works out for me!

Oh, and without further ado, here are the lovely, brilliantly saturated, smooth-grained photos I got from that one roll of Portra.
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Lost and found

Reason # 18 why film is more ~magical~ than digital:

Sometimes, you take photos and never get them developed. Sometimes you forget about them for months or years.

But they’re still there! Lying in wait, chemically existing but physically invisible inside a little dark canister. And there’s something about developing old photos that has an air of archaeological discovery–when were these photos taken? What are they of?

Yes, I am waxing too romantic about it, but it truly IS fun to develop film long after you’ve forgotten what you shot with it.

Recently, I finished off a disposable camera that I started sometime last year (my best guess is around March 2013) and had it developed. A few are from this summer, but most of them are from last spring.

I also found an old roll of black-and-white Ilford HP5 that I shot over three years ago, and I finally developed it in my sink. I found a ton of photos from the big budget cut rally at LHU, plus apparently hanging out in a cemetery?

Anyway, I’ve also recently discovered several rolls of UNDEVELOPED MYSTERY FILM in a box of photo supplies that someone gave me. I want to develop them too, but I’m half-afraid that this is exactly how horror movies start.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve got now.

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TMax 400 Test roll

As of right now, I’m currently working three jobs.

I don’t mind a bit. I love being busy, plus I’m doing everything I can to save money so I can move far, far away!

Besides that, my most recently acquired job is straight-up awesome. I lucked out and fell serendipitously into a job at a photography store, where we sell cameras, camera accessories, film, and more. We also offer services like printing, camera cleanings, and lessons.

I’m in heaven there! All this knowledge of cameras and experience with photography that I’ve accumulated over the years solely for the sake of my own interest and enjoyment is finally USEFUL and APPRECIATED!

In addition, my job there comes with some pretty unique perks.

For example: There is a massive amount of old stock in the basement that needs to be organized. Last week, I was feeling adventurous and went down there to look through some boxes.

Guess what I found? A whole box full of old films!

Portra, Ektrachrome, Tmax, and more–in both 35mm and 120mm. They’re all expired, but we know that some of our customers are film enthusiasts who might like to shoot with expired film to achieve some sort of effect. Before selling any rolls, though, we decided we should test some out.

So, my co-worker and I are the lucky girls who get to test the films out!

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I took home these three films with me last week to try out. I had to finish up a roll of Ultramax 800 I was shooting, but after that, I loaded up the Tmax 400 to shoot with.

This was really just a simple test. I shot a little bit over the past week, but I shot the majority of the roll this past Saturday night out at my cabin.

I was surprised by how clean the images were. I truly expected a lot more fogging with expired film (all the rolls were 6+ years past the expiration date), but you wouldn’t even guess it was expired by looking at the photos!

I did get a little higher contrast than I’d prefer, but I’m not sure I can really blame the film. I processed this myself using D-76, and I was a little unsure of the developing time.

I went with 11 minutes after researching a little, and it seemed adequate, but in retrospect I probably could have done 10.5 instead.

I think the main problem may be that I agitate a little too much. I agitate every thirty seconds for five seconds, and I hear most people say they only agitate once a minute.

I sort of like a higher contrast on my images, though, so I don’t want to agitate too little. I think I just need to strike a better balance. Maybe the next roll I develop, I’ll try agitating every 45 seconds?

Anyway, here’s how my test roll turned out!

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A bike ride, documented

A few weeks ago, my two friends and I went to the Watsontown Flea Market, which takes place every Sunday.

We’d never been there before and weren’t aware of the hours, so we got there when a lot of things were shutting down. But still, as soon as we got out of the car, my friend pointed at a table across from us and said, “Hey, look Erica, a camera!”

The camera in question was an Olympus OM-10. The guy was asking 20 bucks for it, I offered 15, and he gave it to me for 15. Not a bad deal, considering I hadn’t tested it or anything, but it looked very clean on the inside.

A few years ago, I was interested in buying an Olympus film camera. I was back-and-forth about whether I wanted the OM-1 or the OM-10, and eventually chose the OM-1.

I’m sorry, but I’m not a big fan of the OM-1. I really, really want to like it, but the way the light meter works seems so inconvenient to me. It’s a dark little lever on the side that flicks back and forth between two brackets to let you know when the lighting is correct. I think it’s difficult to see, and it always took me so long to take a photo with it. Someone, please feel free to tell me why I should love the OM-1, because I still have it.

Anyway, the OM-10 is a totally different story. It has a light meter that reminds me of my beloved Minolta XG-1, and there’s something about the quality of the photos it takes that I really like.

To test it after I bought it, I decided to use my roll of I.D.S. Just Click It 160, because it was only 12 exposures. I wanted to finish the roll and get it developed quickly because I was itching to see if the camera worked.

So, I went for a bike ride, and just documented the whole thing. I ended up getting rained on, but the pictures turned out lovelier than I expected.

 

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The last few photos were taken after I got back to my house to use up the roll. It started POURING on me out on the trail, so I had to put my camera away and seek shelter for a bit. I was trying to show the rain on everything and my soaked shoes.

But I love this camera, I must say! The film turned out to give me some pretty cool colors as well, although I really could have picked a more colorful day to use it. Oh well, I’ve still got another roll of it to use.