Jeep tours 2017, Super 8 edition, Part II

Cast of characters from the Cowboys & Jeeps days, early on in my career as a rough and ready tour guide.  Some of these jokers are still with us, others have moved on or are currently convalescing.

Again these are cropped to a 1.66:1 aspect ratio, Nicholas Coyle Film & Video scanned the film for me in 5K.  These are right out of the box HDR scans with a one-light pass.  Next step will be to get into DaVinci Resolve and color grade everything, though I still have 11 rolls of Super 8 from 2018 that I have yet to get processed and scanned.  There are still many interviews yet to conduct, and everything was shot silent so I need to get a lot of sound effects also.  This documentary is taking a lot longer than my last film; I suppose I want it to be a worthy successor.

Peak construction

Pike’s Peak is working on a new donut shop that was supposed to be finished around the same time as the new Cog Railway.  It looks that the new summit house will be finished first, though who knows.  Here are a selection of shots that I took Summer 2019 as a documentation of the ongoing work. (And yes I know I have some shutter problems)

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Scanning a whole summer’s worth of film

40 rolls, to be exact, all Tri-X.  It was an incredibly productive Summer last year, and half the reason I took the 4×5 class in the Fall was so I could develop all that film for free in the university darkroom!  And then of course I have to scan it and thank God for the Pakon: it paid for itself twice over in money and time with just that one batch of negatives.

So as far as photo projects go I’m reminded of something our photo instructor Stacy had us read: The Helsinki Bus Station Theory which I’m sure I’ve posted before.  Hopefully I’ve stayed on the bus long enough to start making something unique, and this is where all my best shots are; I was ramping up quite a bit the second half of Spring ’19 and as you can see my output was steady for months there, as it has been this Summer as well.

As far as all the pictures that I took over last Summer, I usually digitally process every one of them and show them to my photo instructor Stacy, but getting involved with 4×5 for the subsequent semester and now COVID-19 has kept me from doing that (also I procrastinated).  I don’t consider myself the best editor of my own work and there have been many times in the past that I’ve had a shot that the class has liked, I’ve overlooked, and it then waits until the end of the project to be seen.  That’s why I have an entire collection of shots that didn’t get used for one critique; sometimes they end up being favorites of the class.

Between last Summer and this one I think I’m at 75 rolls of Tri-X total, with 35 of them awaiting development, as well as processing and editing.  The work continues…

Jeep tours 2017, Super 8 edition, Part I

Bugs, birds, sheep, hotshots, and old vehicles.  These are some of my favorite shots of the Super 8 footage I took 3 years ago now.  As much as I talk about  film photography being affordable, I have to admit that motion picture film expenses can pile up quickly, even when shopping around for the best price.  In 2017 I shot 15 rolls of super 8, but never set aside money to get everything developed and scanned, so it’s been sitting in my mom’s freezer for the last 3 years.  What else was I spending my money on back then?  Film festivals, I suppose.  I still have 11 rolls from 2018 that I haven’t sent off for processing yet; I was planning on making a documentary but put that all on hold to concentrate on photo project stuff instead.  Now I’m taking the time to get all my footage in shape so I can decide how to proceed on the documentary front.

Shout out to Nicholas Coyle Film & Video for the incredible 5K scans, I’m using up all the campaign contributions I made with this documentary project.  I cropped to a 1.66:1 ratio, but nothing has been color/contrast graded yet. that will take considerably more time I’m sure.  Nick told me the film was a bit fogged, understandable considering how long it’s been in my mom’s freezer.

Workin’ on the railroad II

Here are a few shots taken Spring/Summer 2019, some of the last of the old Pike’s Peak Cog Railway built 1890-1891. (And yes I know I have shutter problems)

Some of the construction once they tore up the rails, etc.

The metal refuse pile as it was the day after they tore out the rails.  If I’d been up there earlier I could have brought back my weight in railroad spikes but I did come away with a few plates and bolts.

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Scanning 4×5 Large Format Film

…using the Epson Expression 10000XL in the Visual Resource Center at UCCS.  The Epson software took a few minutes to set up but I suppose that it’s nice that once everything is calibrated I just hit the scan button and go off to do something else for about 20-30 minutes.  Or once a few images are done I’ve started working on those in Photoshop and backing everything up while I wait.  Also I’m writing this post (though as you read it it’s months later).

What do I think of the Epson Expression?  It’s as big a piece of crap as the V600 but at least it does 4×5 film.  It’s the only scanner on campus that can do large format.  Thanks to this site I found out that I could only do 2400dpi scans, but considering how long it takes to do those I don’t think I’d have the patience to let it do longer.  One thing I noticed, is that you must keep track of this:

(7 min. my ass…)
If the scanner isn’t making noise for a while, click that to get the damn thing working again; it’s like the scanner went out for a smoke break and needs to be kicked back into the building to do some work.

I’ve been printing some of these in the darkroom as well, but now that I have digital access to all my negatives I can see things I would have earlier, like where the dust has been caked in, just how bad my developing technique was starting out, how many times I missed focus (I think I should be using a loupe), things like that.  And the successes are quite successful, here’s an example:

Cowboy weaponry at the ready.  Kodak T-Max 400 pulled 1 stop.  

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Developing 4×5 large format film

…is a pain in the ass.  Mostly because it’s like starting all over again after I’ve been shooting 35mm film for a decade.  There are so many new things that I’m learning and while my results have gotten better with time I don’t know everything yet.  For instance while most of my images look pretty good these days there is always the odd sheet that’s just off, like this one:

I suspect that this film holder is a bit light-leaky but besides that I don’t know what’s up with it.  I developed 10 sheets in one batch and it’s the 2 sheets I shot on top of Pike’s Peak that look pretty fugly.

The Yankee Agitank is an old model bought used but B&H is selling these brand-new.  I confess I only used it once and it was such a hassle plus the results left much to be desired.  It was the first time I developed large format film so there were plenty of variables to take into account, still I don’t think I will use this tank again.  Here’s a failure below, but there weren’t many successes:

The Rink-Roselieve tank works reasonably well but there are always a few problems either due to me loading a sheet or two of film incorrectly, or some other problem that I haven’t identified yet.  I found that it does help to pre-wash the film beforehand, but even then there will be a random spot on a sheet that doesn’t develop, like below at the bottom of the picture:

Besides spots like that on the edge of a frame I’m pretty happy with the images, though I wonder if one side of the image is getting more development time than the other, just looking at a lot of my images (in this case the left-hand side).

The Stearman Press SP-445 (a Colorado company!) gives pretty much perfect results but is a pain in the ass to get sealed.  For one thing the O-ring doesn’t seem to keep the lid closed so I used a piece of tape to keep the top lid from falling off.  That is a minor inconvenience compared to the drain and vent hole lids, whose twist-off caps are so hard to work with my (I suppose) arthritic hands that I need to use a few wet paper towels for grip and it takes me 60-90 seconds to get the caps off to switch chemistry.  This time needs to be taken into account when timing the development especially, and hopefully agitating for the first time a full minute after adding the developer won’t harm the images much.  It only holds 4 sheets of film at a time and takes ~450ml chemistry which is nice, because I don’t necessarily want to shoot 10-12 sheets of film the same way, that’s locking me into quite a lot.  The Stearman’s smaller capacity allows me to be able to switch films quicker, push/pull more often depending on my needs, and despite my griping the results have never been less than stellar.  Here’s from my first attempt:

The only thing I haven’t tried yet (and I was looking at buying last semester) is the 6-sheet Mod54 holder that fits inside Paterson universal tanks.  I think I would like it, but sadly the months of January and February are ones where there is no extra money for buying anything, and those ended up being the last I was able to use the darkroom.  I’m hoping my instructor will let me in for the Spring semester but of course we just don’t know right now.

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Steampunk Birthday 4×5

As a continuation of this post, here are the 4×5 shots I took down in the basement of Bristol Brewery.  As far as where I put everyone I was mainly looking at where the light was falling and trying to get the brightest spot.  Now that I’ve had more experience I would have gone for that amazing background and just use a longer exposure.  Live and learn I guess.

If one looks at the group shot, the bottom of the picture has some funky thing going on from the developing.  I’m not sure why the other sheets of film escaped and this one had problems, but we always had some sort of problem with the big developing tanks (that hold 12 sheets).  At the end of the year we bought a Stearman Press tank that holds 4 sheets, which is good because I don’t need to wait until I’ve shot 10 sheets and then develop them all at once.

What’s in the future for Ferrania?

I’ve always tried to be upbeat and positive regarding Ferrania in the past, and certainly this year must certainly have been hard on them. I suppose some will read the announcement and accuse them of abandoning their original promises (well, the phrase “Our Kickstarter campaign must evolve into something new…” probably sets off some alarm bells) and honestly I don’t know what Ferrania is ultimately saying myself.  They throw out a hint at color film (note: they never use the word reversal) down the road but wisely have not committed to anything; in the past laying out projected timelines hasn’t worked well for them.

I just hope that they actually are working on color reversal film and that it will be happening soon.  I like the P30 but it’s no substitute; I’ve hoarded my 5 Alpha rolls for years now but it’s my plan to shoot up the rest of it this year and buy some of the fresh regular production rolls.  Here’s a compilation of what I was shooting back in January and February:

It’s good stuff, but very slow for what I do so I don’t anticipate using it much.  On the other hand, if they had made just another ASA400 film I’d complain about that too (I have in the past).  Actually I’d love to see P30 slit as super 8 or at least 16mm: considering how fine-grained it is it would look lovely in small-gauge.  I hope Ferrania thinks about some of the underrepresented markets out there, like Double 8, Double Super 8, especially in 100ft rolls there.  Hopefully P30 will work with reversal chemicals but it can of course be scanned too, and even just selling long-length cans of super 8 film (not loaded in cartridges) would be great for those who load their own cartridges, like those shooting single-8 cameras.

But I am still eagerly awaiting some Ferrania Chrome 100 and it does get frustrating sometimes when all I hear about from Ferrania is updates on P30.  That said, I hope readers can tell which side of the fence I fall on here.  I want only the best for Ferrania and hope they are tremendously successful.

Why I love Takumar lenses

1. An image quality that is unsurpassed for the price point
2. A build quality that is second-to-none

Pentax made 4 series of lenses going back to the late-’50s.  There were:
Auto-Takumar
Super-Takumar
Super-Multi-Coated Takumar (S-M-C)
SMC Takumar (mostly cosmetic differences)
I try to get the S-M-C and later lenses for the better coating; evidently at the time Pentax had developed the best lens coating available and nearly every other lens maker was paying Pentax for the technology.  I’m not planning to write a detailed history of the brand here, so I’ll stop with what I’ve said.  A lot of my early information came from this site, very helpful.

Since it’s been 5.5 years since my last post professing my love of Pentax I thought I’d go back through the archives and compile some of my favorite pictures; they’re generally in order of when I shot them and it should be readily apparent how much Tri-X I’ve been shooting (a lot) compared to everything else (not much).

These lenses have a special character which I really like, they’re plenty sharp too, and extremely sturdy (also: damn heavy).  Hold one in your hands and turn the focus ring: if this doesn’t make you want to try a Spotmatic out at least once then I don’t think we can be friends.  I will however understand if it doesn’t become your main camera outfit after shooting one because there are other SLR systems that are much more advanced.  That’s ultimately what made me move on.  We had a good run together and I’m sorry to say goodbye to these wonderful lenses.  If only Pentax had made a body worthy of their greatness!

The Spotmatics are a great line of cameras but do have some inherent weaknesses which were never overcome.  Build quality is standard 1960s which is to say solid and sturdy, no complaints there.  I learned to live with stop-down metering, and screw-mount lenses.  Actually if both bodies are hanging around my neck I’m much more comfortable unscrewing a Takumar than a Nikkor, so far!  Though considering the modular (and advanced) features of the older Nikon F, Pentax did make some pretty strange choices in camera design at the time, for all that they did right.  The most complained-about features (screw mount and stop-down metering) were corrected by the mid-’70s but quality started dropping fast soon after, about the time they went to the M-series lenses.  I used to wonder why Pentax got such a bad wrap but can start to understand with some of the later stuff where they obviously had to introduce cost-cutting measures to keep going.  They still made some quality gear (including their first and only pro-level camera starting in 1980) but eventually were acquired by the closely-associated budget line, Ricoh.  Pentax was always playing catch-up to other brands and trying to recapture their former glory by then.

But it was just about 10 years ago that I first bought a Spotmatic  (an SPII) with my first Takumar, at a garage sale for $5.00.  It looked pretty much like my mom’s Minolta XG-A (chrome and black) and I didn’t know that the lens was made by the same company as the body; I almost didn’t buy the camera because I thought I was getting a cheap off-brand lens, but at $5.00 it was still a deal so I took it.  I asked the owner if there were other lenses that I couldn’t see but she said no.  Later I studied the lens and body closer and did find that they both had Asahi marked on them so I knew at least I wasn’t getting an off-brand lens thankfully.  Shooting a few rolls in 2010 convinced me that this lens was something special so even with acquiring a few more advanced cameras soon after I kept coming back to the Spotmatic, kept buying Takumar lenses.  I’m sure I’ll still pull out the system from time to time, I’m certainly not planning on getting rid of it.