Columbus, OH – checking in

It’s the city I was born in, and still feels like home to me, having grown up there and also gone to college for 4 years.  It’s good to be back for a while.  When down at my grandparents’ house, I discovered a few rolls of exposed 120 Kodak Verichrome Pan in my grandpa’s drawer (along with a rather crappy plastic camera…there was a reason I left that one behind, though I’m rethinking that now).  I decided to ask around town to see what could be done about getting that film developed and came up with a bit of success.  Also rooting through my own drawer at my dad’s house, I came up with a few 35mm rolls that have probably been sitting there since I was in middle school: 2 rolls of Fuji 200 and a roll from Seattle Filmworks.  This was way back when I had no idea what the hell I was doing, but evidently I used the good stuff occasionally, even if it was only in my Kodak Cameo thrift-store special.  I’ve started doing research on labs doing ECN-2 processing, but don’t know who I would send the film to yet.

Does anyone reading this have experience sending in old rolls from Seattle Filmworks that can give a recommendation for a good ECN-2 lab?

Since I was going to be here for a few weeks, I thought it would be a good idea to scout out the local photography scene as it stands now, as well as see if anyone could develop those 120 rolls of my grandpa’s.  When I left Columbus 5 years ago, I was just getting into film, but The place to go to was Cord Camera, at least according to my dad.  They were the first store I sent film to back in 2009.  If you follow that link, you’ll see that they’re sadly no longer in business, and it looks like I missed the boat by about 6 months.

Cord Camera sends you to the World of Photography, which is actually not too far at all from my brother’s apartment, where I’m writing this now.  They do indeed have a good selection of used gear, though their prices do seem to be a bit out-there, but they also start marking down items that have been there too long.  Since deciding to build up the Spotmatic as my main 35mm system, I’ve been looking for m42 lenses for a good price.  They had a Helios 44-m that I’m still considering.

It seems the only place left in town that still does film processing (and not much else) is a printing shop called McAlister Photoworks.  They even do 120 film, which is nice to know, but not black & white. I did get a couple recommendations for freelance darkroom magicians, and will have to send my grandpa’s film out to one of them.

Other stores I looked in on were the Midwest Photo Exchange which has a good selection of pro film from Kodak, Fuji, and Ilford, and also the Columbus Camera Group quite close to Ohio State campus; they’re notable for operating out of an old smelly church.  Lovely place, I’d do the same!  They had rolls and rolls of expired (2002?) film for $3.00 a roll, mostly slide film: Ektachrome 64T and Velvia in 120, plus assorted 35mm rolls, even some AGFA Scala.

Besides all that, I’ve gone ahead and ordered 2 rolls of Cinestill 800T to try out, I might shoot a roll while I’m here, to mix things up.  Already used up a roll of Tri-X and am halfway through some Fuji Superia 800, but haven’t been out the last week.  I suppose we’ll see how things go.

Again, if anyone has experience getting movie film like Seattle Filmworks developed, I’d love to hear from you, and especially would appreciate a reccomendation for a lab that does ECN-2 processing.

Some pictures from my earlier days as a photographer

I found out my grandma died last night.  She was nearly 70 when I was born, so I didn’t know her as well as I would have liked.  She had dementia that turned into Alzheimer’s the last 10 years or so, so the clearest memories I have of her aren’t necessarily the best, or representative of how she lived her life, I’m sure.  To keep this photography-related, I started shooting film right before I moved to Colorado and don’t have too many images of her, but there are a few, taken by a younger and less-experienced me, the first two with (her husband) my grandpa’s old camera and cheap consumer film, the last three trying out Ektar 100 for the first time, on a camera I didn’t quite know how to use correctly.  Oh well:

Mary Irvin 1917-2014
She wore combat boots.

Seeing this doesn’t fill me with joy the way it does others.

…but I’m not accepting defeat either.

I’ve been watching all the news stories that Pro8mm has been posting and rejoicing about.  Honestly, it looks like film users had a lucky scrape here, because I certainly haven’t been worrying that Kodak was in danger of closing down film production.  And the good news is, they’re not.  However, there are a few things I got from reading this article:

1. The film studios didn’t give a damn about partnering with Kodak, and are only buying film under pressure from some certain filmmakers.  Not surprising, but still disappointing.

2. I didn’t know the Rochester plant was in danger of closing.  I also didn’t know that film made up so little of Kodak’s business these days.  Good thing for them, I guess…

3. “Over the next few years” is a very short amount of time.  What will happen after that?  It seems that the studios agreeing to buy a certain amount of film stock is a stop-gap measure that has an expiration date.

4. Now the positive side: since Kodak’s business has pretty much leveled out now, they have the best opportunity right now to find stability and a working business model for their chemical imaging.

5. Sale of chemical still photography products hit bottom a year or two back, and is steadily on the rise.

At the end of the day, all those people who over the years told me that film was dead come off sounding like this:

(obviously not mine)

Digital has done its damnedest to kill film, but it still hasn’t succeeded, despite its claims.  Great artists don’t compromise, and as long as there are those that are willing to stand up, speak out, and fight the good fight, the choice for chemical imaging will remain a viable one.  Notice what I’m saying the goal of film users is: choice.  Will the masses ever cast away their digital cameras and way of life to usher a renaissance of the all-film age?  No.  Film users’ goal has not been to stomp out every other way of making images (moving or otherwise), but merely to ensure the survival of a unique way of working, and the results it produces.  To do otherwise would be like doing away with a primary color, like yellow.  Sure, everyone’s images would become much more patriotic overnight, yet we would all be living in a world with much less depth, less interesting.  Half our color palette would be gone!

Kodak won’t be making film forever.  All their equipment is set up to run high-volume production, and it isn’t cost-effective for them to produce film on a too-low-volume.  At some point, they won’t be able to afford the lack of demand and will close down the plant, but they’re not the final film manufacturer.  Orwo still makes black & white motion picture film, Ferrania is reopening soon and will make color reversal (and negative).  On the still side, there’s again Ferrania, Ilford, AGFA/Rollei, Foma, and several others that are emerging from obscurity (and Fuji, for the time being).  Film isn’t going to die any time soon.  At the very end of that, there will be plenty of large-format cameras around, and with processes like wet plate collodion one isn’t dependent on a company manufacturing film; all it takes is a supply of glass windowpanes and the knowledge to mix chemicals.  It’s been around for 150 years and will last longer than anything else.

One more thing to reflect on, and a picture (again, not mine):
Digital Dilemma

This is from the official report on the cost of archiving digital information, specifically movies, researched by the AMPAS Science and Technology Council.  You can read the full report here if you’re interested (also available here).  How much work will be lost, because the cost of maintaining it will prove too high, or ultimately unreliable?  Films like Citizen Kane, The Great Dictator, Metropolis, A Trip to the Moon, and countless others can be bought and viewed today by anyone, because the film elements have stood the test of time.  In a hundred years, will we be able to say that about Russian Ark, the films of Lars von Trier and Steven Soderbergh, or all of the digitally-captured films that will be made this century?  Knowing digital’s archival limitations, will films increasingly become cheap throw-away products, a downward creative spiral?

I don’t know why so many people think true artists would compromise so fully as to abandon the best medium for image capture that’s ever existed.  I’m extremely grateful to the artists in the movie industry that are so powerful that people will actually listen to them. To all the people that speak up on behalf of film, thank you! It’s the most important creative choice available.

Epson V600 revisited

Back to work on ol’ school scanner.  I had lots of problems last time, which I seem to have gotten around now, it just took a little brainpower.  It seems I’m only allowed to save a maximum of 1.5GB on a school computer, and after that things just don’t save.  It’s good I know that now, instead of taking things out on the equipment, I’m the one who’s to blame.  Well, actually the school is; their greedy ways kept me from scanning medium format images to TIFF.

Then again, I’d only use TIFF if I were planning to work on a picture in Photoshop, and it would be pretty annoying having to get one finished and either uploaded to Cloud or saved on a flash drive, then deleted from the hard drive before I could scan the next.  Anyway, I prefer to get all I need from the scan rather than endlessly alter things in Photoshop.

Standard scan – it looked more interesting on the road, I guess…Irvin001
Epson scan

One gripe about the Epson software: zooming in on any previewed image resets the scan settings!  If you have some settings that work well, but you want to fine-tune things, even where the edges of the image are, and all the settings reset.  I wrote down some standard settings on a piece of paper.

01AA014   Irvin007
Standard scan                                 Epson scan – my friend’s son

Having the power to do adjustments is somewhat annoying I’ve found, and depending on how particular one is about their images, can take a long time.  At least with slides, if I do my job right with the camera, everything looks the way it should automatically.  I used expired film this time, a roll of Fujicolor 200 that I picked up at a thrift store for 50c, overexposed 1 stop.  Perhaps it wasn’t enough, I’m not sure.  The scans from the camera store came out somewhat bland, I thought, and makes me wonder just how expired this film is.  I bumped up the saturation a bit when scanning in some cases, played around with the color shifts, but I’m no wizard with the scanner (yet).  It’s good to have the camera store scans as a baseline, to tell me when I’m losing too much information due to incompetence.

Standard scan – Katy playing at the Pike’s Peak or Bust RodeoIrvin002
Epson scan

One day I will master tone curves.

Probably not today.

I think I’ll have to search around for a good book on digital scanning.  I’m always ready to learn new things, now that I have some (free!) equipment with which to play around.

Standard scan – the dog hiding from the evil thunder.

Epson Scan

This is the only picture that came out looking like it should.  This is the Superia Look that was missing for most of the album.  Maybe it just got more light than the others, I’m not sure, but I tried to get it as close as possible to the first image.

You know, honestly, I’m not altogether happy with the results of the scans.  I had lots of trouble scanning some of the images without little annoying dots all over the picture, something to do with changing the colors too drastically, I believe.  It’s great for correcting colors when things don’t turn out the way you want them to, but if you’re using fresh film properly exposed, I think you’d be better off with just the standard scans.  Also, I thought that scanning at 4800 dpi would give me more detailed images.  Then I decided to see just how sharp those 4800 dpi images actually were:

Standard scan (at ~400%)Fullsize-Epson
Epson scan (at 100%)

What’s with that???  I certainly wasn’t expecting the camera store’s scanner to be so much sharper than the Epson!  This really negates the reason for scanning at such a high resolution in the first place.  I’m no expert on doing these kind of tests, maybe I got something wrong, but I mean, how do you argue with that?  I’d be more disappointed if it had cost me money, but believe me, I don’t think I’ll ever buy one.

The cost of shooting film

This is the kind of thing that comes out when you decide to prowl around the Japan Camera Hunter website at 3:30 in the morning.  I thought it had some merit, so I’m posting it here. 


Anyone who doesn’t shoot film because it’s “too expensive” isn’t going to be enticed by having cheaper film to shoot.  Even if it were $1.00 a roll they wouldn’t do it, not only because of the price of developing/scanning, but also because they’re constantly being reminded of the cost every time they want new pictures.  Never mind that there are people out there GIVING away film cameras (I know because I’ve had several given to me) and that the entry cost for film photography is so incredibly low, compared to spending thousands of dollars for a DSLR.  

These people forget how much they spent on digital equipment because they pay it all up front, so paying $10.00 to take 36 pictures doesn’t seem like a deal to them.  Never mind that they’d have to shoot maybe 200-300 rolls before it equals the cost of that digital camera they bought.  

By comparison, since I took up photography in 2009, I’ve shot around 60 rolls of film.  For about $12.00 per roll (say $4.00 for film and $8.00 for processing and scanning) that comes out to $720.00 in 5 years.  That’s an average of $144.00 per year, at the equivalent of a roll of film per month.  Now compare that to the cost of going to Starbucks…  Let’s say $5.00 per visit once per week (quite a conservative estimate, really; some people do that shit daily) for a year would be $260.00.

For the first 3 years I shot Fuji Superia (which I really love) or expired film wherever I could find it, to keep my costs as low as possible.  I bought a 4-pack of Superia 800 from Wal-Mart early this year for $12.00 and one could easily keep the costs as cheap on the b&w side with Kentmere and Arista.  

So shooting film is expensive?  Hardly.

The Epson V600: A monumental pain in the ass

When I started this post, I had been scanning my Tri-X 120 negatives for about 4 hours, though most of the time has been spent on attempting to scan my Tri-X 120 negatives.  For every time that it does actually work, there are too many where it tells me “Unable to write to disk.”  I’ve read suggestions from Epson’s site, and am trying to correct all the problems.  I’m actually on two computers, just to save all the computing power for the scanning machine. Of course, it might help if the school’s software was up to date, which I’m not sure it is.

Honestly, I’m done for the night.  Nothing I’ve done so far has had any effect, and some time after the 5th picture it just stopped working.  I’d been trying now for 10 times in a row with no success, so I called it a night and hopefully will be able to work more later.  I was able to scan 1 image as a TIFF file and 4 as JPGs, which seemed to be the way to go, so all contrast and level adjustments were done while scanning.  Here’s what I was able to get done:

Not as bad as they could have been, and the file sizes are tremendous, to the size where it’s taking my home desktop a while to load one up (I suppose a 3.2GHz processor might have something to do with that).  While I have been very happy with Mike’s Camera’s Noritsu scanner that digitized my slides, I wasn’t quite satisfied with the scans from that 120 Tri-X negative, so I’m glad I had the chance to go back and tweak slightly.  No doubt I could do a lot more if I knew the Epson software better, and hadn’t been so burned out.  I’ll try a different computer next time, and see if that makes a difference to me.