Spotmatic shutter problems

This is where I start jumping around in time a little.  After shooting ~40 rolls of film summer 2019, I found out that on the last few rolls the camera shutter had developed a problem.  I had already decided that I would start using my Olympus point & shoot, which has the same focal length lens as I’d been using, plus weighing a heck of a lot less, so it wasn’t like I was obliviously using this camera and ruining so many images; it was only the last 2 rolls of Tri-X that I shot with the camera, thank God.  If you look at a lot of the exposures you can see that the right side of the frame is underexposed, to the point of being clear.

Still, it was annoying since I’ve had this exact camera serviced twice in the last couple years, but this time I think it’s my own fault.  I’m extrapolating from what Sover Wong says about the Nikon F2, but seems like it might be applicable, and I’m a guilty offender: I left my shutter cocked for hours, overnight, even several days in a row.  It’s a habit I have that as soon as I take a shot I’m winding for the next shot, I like to make sure I’m cocked and ready to shoot.  And I never thought about burning a frame at the end of the day to let the springs inside rest, so I did this to myself.  The slower shutter speeds are fine and I shot a roll of Tri-X at 1/60 back in the Fall but I’m hesitant to go above 1/125 which means outdoor shooting will be tricky.  I’m smarter now than I was earlier this summer, but this has put me at a bit of a crossroads.

This was a 1/1000sec exposure which should have been a good shot, alas!

I sent my Pentax ESII to Eric Hendrickson a few years back but he couldn’t bring the camera into spec.  My other ES has developed the same problem it had before which means I’d need to take it apart and give it a bit more valve oil.  And despite giving my beloved SPII two CLAs there were still other problems that came up this Summer (outside of the 6-month warranty), namely that the film spacing is starting to become a bit erratic and the film counter has stopped working. Is my local camera tech to blame for not checking everything thoroughly, or is this just the consequence of using a nearly 50 year-old camera?  Until this I’ve had no problem with the build quality of the Spotmatic and the lenses are top-notch of course.  While the shutter problem would require a CLA anyway and is totally my fault, what that means is that I’m looking at another $120-150 repair.  I’ve shot M42 (and this specific Spotmatic SPII) for a complete decade now and I’ve been so pleased with the Takumar lenses but with my current needs I’ve decided that it’s time to move on to a more capable camera system.

Thoughts on Silbersalz35

First of all, I’m happy that it’s happening at all.  I’ve shot Cinestill but never any unadulterated ECN-2 film but it seems to be the big thing now.  I’m glad 35mm film is coming back to its roots.  There have been some big announcements in the past week or two, and even Kodak has been promoting it.  Perhaps one day we’ll get rid of the C-41 process and shoot ECN-2 color negative completely; I had a dream about that once.

But despite the hyperbolic review by the Phoblographer, there is nothing new or game changing here.  First of all, there was a company called Seattle Filmworks that was doing the same thing way back in the ’90s though they didn’t exactly have the best reputation for quality, I think they used a lot of recans and short ends of varying age.  And even more recently the Film Photography Project has been hand rolling some movie film for people that either want to develop it at home or send it to a lab (there are several labs in the US that will do it, either with ECN-2 or cross-processing in C-41 chemicals).

I’ve been thinking about trying movie film in ECN-2 for a while, if nothing else, then because it should give me the same look as shooting super 8 or 16mm.  And being a lot cheaper than shooting a roll of super 8, I could test out various lighting schemes and shots before going down the motion route.

But this is the first time since Seattle Filmworks that the entire ecosystem has been set up around just ECN-2 processing.  Silbersalz35 does sell everything together at once though, so you’re getting a better idea of the full price, which is €20 or 4 rolls for €60.  I assume that the quality will be top-notch but the big problem is that you’re shipping to/from Germany which won’t be quick and you’re looking at a shipping charge of at least €30 (which includes VAT I think).  Then again it’s about €92 for 4 rolls of film which comes out to just under $25 per roll.  And considering that the US labs are charging around $20 just to process ECN-2, maybe I’ll be trying this out after all.

Project final: gallery installation – Advanced Photography (redux)

We had a pop-up show for one night, this was what I had printed and installed.  It’s hard to sequence them exactly linearly but the last picture gives you an idea what I had in mind.  Final sequence can be glimpsed among my exhibition photos here.

Artist Statement:

Yee-haw State – Joseph Irvin

Coming from Ohio, all I originally knew about Colorado were the stereotypes: mountains, skiing, Coors, and cowboys (this was pre-marijuana).  I was initially forced to embrace the Western aesthetic when taking a job as a Jeep tour guide around Colorado Springs, but I’ve gotten into the spirit over time, to the point where it is now a lifestyle.  Every time I go to a thrift store I’m looking for more western shirts and cowboy hats to wear on tours.  I’m paid to present a certain aspect of Colorado culture/history to visitors and new arrivals, and the boss’s mantra is “Make it like Disneyland!”  While it might not have happened quite like that in real life, we live in a postmodern settler society, where the cowboys have traded in their horses for 4x4s.  We’re driving them on old wagon trails and railroads.  A lot of my time is spent in Garden of the Gods, now the #1 visited park in the country (and it’s being loved to death).  In a state that is experiencing massive population increase and a rapidly growing tourism industry, what is it that makes Colorado unique, and what about that are we selling?  A lot of people say that they hope I never take this landscape for granted, and I didn’t…back when I moved here.  But one does get used to it over time: now it has the familiarity of Home.

Everything was printed on Ilford fiber paper at a custom size of 15×10.  I’d got my usual box of Oriental 8×10 but my photo instructor insisted I go bigger which was frustrating because I’d bought this paper months ago in preparation and now had to find something last minute.  Thankfully Cameraworks came to my rescue cutting me a deal with some 16×20 Ilford they’d had for a while.  I had less than 2 weeks before the show and had to print like mad all day everyday and still didn’t get everything finished, but enough to display at least.  I suppose that printing on 11×14 paper would have been easier to frame (I just hung everything with putty) but I had to come up with a plan fast to print as much as possible and use the entire frame.  So I cut my 16×20 paper in half, trimmed an extra inch, and made a custom taped-off template.  I had a negative holder which showed the edges of the frame so I tried as much as possible to give every print a black border, a nice differentiation to the usual white.  I think I’ve ranted before about cropping the side of a 35mm film frame when printing to a 5:4 aspect ratio, something else my photo instructor insisted on was seeing my entire frame.  Thankfully everything worked out.

What happened? Pt. III

My guess is he didn’t stay on his side of the road and had to overcompensate when he encountered oncoming traffic.  I could have held this a little bit steadier, and part of the problem was I didn’t want to risk having only one side of the frame exposed, so this was 1/60sec and taken really quickly.  It’s a shot I’ve been hoping to get for a while and hopefully I’ll get a better shot next time this happens.

This was my first experience with Rollei film (the last remnants of the once-great AGFA, manufactured in Belgium) and really it was a mistake to use it for anything work/project-related because the speed just isn’t what I need.  The rest of this roll was used for still-life work, a bit more controlled environment.  I’m not complaining, it’s a great film for what it is, but not what I need for my regular applications.  Like the name suggests, this is an old-fashioned-looking film, rather contrasty like Double-X or Ferrania P30.

This was a roll generously given to me by Mark Ewanchuk who’s a really great guy and a wonderful photographer.  I want to say that we had a conversation about Retro 80S not working with the Pakon scanners because the polyester base, and we talked about this a very long time ago.  Mark, sorry it took so long, this roll was in my mom’s freezer forever.  I had no problems whatever with scanning with the Pakon F335, as you can see.  I hope you aren’t having the same problems with your new(ish) Noritsu!

My Grandfather’s cameras

According to my dad, aunts, and uncle, my grandpa (father’s side) was a pretty good photographer.  I haven’t seen too many of the pictures he took, certainly by the time I knew him he wasn’t actively shooting much, if at all.  One of my aunts worked part-time as a wedding photographer for a long time, my dad was fond of photography for a while, and certainly the photo bug resurfaced in me!  Just a few weeks before moving to Colorado I had been over to their old house and found some of his old cameras, which I took with me when I moved:

Imperial Cubex IV, TKC Kalimar A, Kodak Bantam f/4.5

Only one of those took 35mm film so it was the one I used way back when I was a wee baby photographer.  The other two take rollfilm that’s not readily available (it all has to be cut down from 120 medium format) so I’ve never used them, though I did buy a few rolls for them years ago.  As this is my last semester with access to a darkroom I’m making it my mission to shoot those rolls and develop them by June.

When I went back one last time in April 2019 I happened across two more, and it would seem the cream of the crop, as far as features go: an Argus C3 and a Kodak Retina IIIc.  The Retina will require some work to be functional but the Argus works well enough, a tough little camera.  So along with the two rollfilm cameras I’ll at least put a roll of 35mm through the Argus and Kalimar, for old times’ sake.

All this equipment and no ideas…

…what to shoot with all my extra time off.

Right when the tourist season would be gearing up I’m sitting inside doing not much.  So you’d think this would be the perfect time to film something, test out a few cameras I haven’t used yet, send it in to a lab that’s still open which would have the benefit of helping with their economic struggles.  But I have no ideas right now.  So until something sparks in my head I’m spending a lot of time online, doing a lot of reading, and rewatching my favorite sci-fi series, Babylon 5 (and here’s a great piece of recent scholarship about this wonderful show).

Actually I did have one idea: get out tonight and film the super moon.  Better than nothing…

Business as usual

First of all a big Thank You to everyone out there keeping the country (and the world) moving, from the ISPs to the smallest courier services.  Stay safe!  When soap, sanitizer and toilet paper was getting hard to find, when school was closed for the semester (including the UCCS darkroom), when everyone started hoarding food, when I first heard the words “Social Distancing,” when film stopped coming out of Italy, when no one wanted Jeep tours anymore, when state governments started issuing lockdowns for non-essential services, there have been some brave businesses that have continued to supply photographers and filmmakers with what they need to keep on going.  I want to give a big Thank You to the companies and employees willing to carry on during the recent pandemic.  I’m sure there are more but these are the ones that have made public announcements on social media or their websites, so I didn’t have to call them up to confirm:

Film manufacturers
Ilford Photo was ramping up production in March and is shut down as of 04/01, still shipping out their inventory to photo retailers and customers.

The Film Photography Project
Freestyle Photo

Also, Ilford has been compiling a list of worldwide film retailers.  Where to find Ilford film online

Motion Film Labs/Scanning Houses
Nicholas Coyle Film and Video

Camera stores/still photo labs
Denver Digital Imaging (full service photo lab)

Kosm Foto has been compiling their own worldwide list here.

And here are film/photo-related businesses that I’ve heard have been using their production lines to help save lives
Kodak has started making ingredients for hand sanitizer
Standard Camera company has been 3D printing parts for face shields

I’ll update this list when I hear anything new, there’s a page on my site I set up for this purpose last week, which can be found here.  Keep shooting!

Project Part 4 – Advanced Photography (redux)

(…And it’s a big one!)

We had an online critique and then for the exhibition I had to decide which images to print from this series as well as the other three critiques.  This is 11 rolls of film here, I asked my instructor to look through what I had and pick out the strongest images, so these are all the ones that work best (she said my hit ratio’s getting better).  No particular order besides chronological, except that there are several images that go together as a sequence.

The first four rolls were developed at the same time as this roll, and as the darkroom tech left out paper developer instead of film developer, they’re extremely high-contrast and difficult to print or get right in Photoshop.  Once I was on a roll I kept going and by the time the semester was over I’d shot about 150ft of Tri-X, around 30 rolls of film.  Then I shot another 20-25 rolls of film over the Summer during the height of the tourist season, and about 75 sheets of 4×5 in the Fall ’19 semester through February in the semester that technically is still in session.  By the time I get everything compiled I hope to have enough for an exhibition and a book but current events have put that on hold a bit.