Why I love Tri-X

It’s Thanksgiving, so what am I most thankful for?  Tri-X, of course.

I suppose it’s all about the mood.  There’s a lot of darkness in these photos, perhaps because I tend to use Tri-X where there isn’t a whole lot of light, and it always gets the image.  You can push it, pull it, overexpose or underexpose it and still get results.  It’s the most versatile film I know of, the best damn black and white film ever made.

You will notice that most of what I have here are people.  I suppose that with larger formats it would work great for landscape photography (which I don’t do a whole lot of in black and white), and I was experimenting a bit with caffenol back in the day, pulling film a stop and using a semi-stand development to reduce grain.  Fuji Acros 100 seems to be the king of black & white landscape photography these days, but I’ve always said it’s Kodak for black & white and Fuji for color (and I’ve always said that I’ve always said).  One of these days I’ll mix it up.

I’m not the only person in the world to love Tri-X, it does happen to be the best-selling black and white film in the world.  Because of its latitude and forgiving latitude in not only exposure but also development, it’s used in a lot of photography programs (including mine).  It was used by newspaper photographers from the 1950s to the 1980s, used by combat photographers in Vietnam, and countless street photographers to this day.  Think of a famous black and white photo and chances are it was shot on Tri-X.  Classic Americana.

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Bad news and good news

So the bad news first: according to Japan Camera Hunter, Fuji is discontinuing 5-packs of all their 35mm slide films, plus Natura 1600 and large format Acros 100.  http://www.japancamerahunter.com/2017/10/film-news-fujifilm-end-nigh

Considering that a single roll of Velvia 100 costs $15 and a 5-pack costs $55, it will be costing $4 more per roll.  I’ll be stocking up as much as I can now because I certainly can’t afford a 25% increase and I’m sure neither can everyone else. Now this is only the 35mm, it seems medium (and large) format is safe for the moment.  It might be the beginning of the end, but we probably have a few years left.  Still, I’d say that by 2020 Fujifilm will be making film no more.

While I love Fuji slide film and will shoot it as long as I can, I hope that Ektachrome will be a tremendous success for Kodak and that it will have been reworked for increased longevity.  While Fuji slide film is supposed to be stable for 300 years, Ektachrome has a reputation for fading rather quickly, and this problem had better be addressed in the new formulation.

Also, I learned today that Cloutier Fotographic, local camera store #3 (and run by a friend of mine) will no longer be carrying film and darkroom supplies, due mostly to the bankruptcy of their distributor of Ilford products, but also because of Fuji’s announcement.  I try to support my local camera stores as much as possible, but honestly things like film, etc I’ve been getting from Freestyle Photo for quite a while.  I do hate that so much stuff is going online (especially as Cloutier just started carrying JCH Streetpan recently), but I’d rather that my dollar went further, and I’m really more interested in supporting the film manufacturers than I am brick and mortar stores that mark up the prices.

Now on to the good news: there’s a new black & white film company from Russia called Silberra, and they’re holding an Indiegogo campaign right now.  Please contribute if you can! https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/silberra-b-w-photographic-films#/

Also, don’t forget that the Reflex 35mm camera will be going onto Kickstarter November 7th (originally they said it would be yesterday but they pushed it back). For all the bad news, there are plenty of exciting things happening in the film world.

Don’t ever trust the meter…

Don’t ever trust, don’t ever trust the meter, it lies!
Don’t ever trust, don’t ever trust the meter, 
When it cries, cries your name…

I’m paraphrasing Queensryche here.  But the point is, that even I’m still making exposure mistakes on occasion, and evidently it had to do with it being a particularly overcast day (a rare occurrence in Colorado Springs, I can tell you).  Evidently everything I shot during the Pike’s Peak Regional Airshow was underexposed by a stop or so.  Not the end of the world, thankfully, as Ferrania P30 seems to just lose contrast when it’s underexposed.  At least, under the circumstances where it’s an overcast day, and using a 1940s lens.  Here’s the worst offender:

 

That was at least 2 stops underexposed.  Even though underexposed, I was able to pull incredible amounts of detail in scanning, it was just a matter of bumping up the contrast and usually lightening things up a bit.  What I couldn’t say is what’s up with all the dust particles and water spots (and I always run my film through the StaticVac right before scanning).  I had a roll of Tri-X developed at the same time and there was nothing wrong with that roll at all; I think I will make an entire post out of unfairly comparing the two films.

Here are all the stats for this:
Scanned myself with the Pakon F335, edited in Photoshop
D-76 stock at 8min (I think, or it could have been 9min…it was developed by my local camera store)
Canon 7 with the Leitz 35mm f/3.5 Summaron
Overcast day
Shutter speeds were nominally around 1/125 at f/8 (I was shooting at around ASA100)

The Axis Trio makes its first appearance, here’s a pic:

(Shot with the Spotmatic SPII on Tri-X) – Japanese camera body, German lens, and finally, Italian film!

As far as first impressions go, I wasn’t expecting much at all because John at Cameraworks said they were very underexposed and the negatives were quite thin.  I don’t know how to describe what I mean, but looking at the curve I provided, the picture was there right in the middle, where with something like Tri-X all that information would have been way to one side where it’s much less usable, and usually is a lot grainier.  And this film certainly has some fine grain!

I shot that 35mm Summaron at f/8 all day and it looks incredibly soft, compared to my beloved Takumars (this is really the first time I’ve put it through its paces), which threw me for a while.  Having had a couple weeks to think it over and studying the rest of my scans, I think I might be dealing with a focus error here.  Is P30 a different thickness from most other films?  I’m going to rescan all the negatives when I have a chance, and make sure I run the autofocus wizard using this particular film.  I assume that I will also have to run it again to refocus it to all the other films I use.  Again, nothing wrong with that roll of Tri-X I scanned at the same time.

I’m hoping that the dust/water spots were just so noticeable because of the underexposure.

Quo vadis?

I had a surreal moment recently, as scrolling through my Facebook feed was someone I know only from the WordPress world:

My worlds are colliding.  Also surreal: having a link to the Resurrected Camera from Petapixel (I’m #46).  But though I forgot about it in the 2 or so years since Jim first put me on this list, Jim’s description of my blog really bothers me: “Joe explores and discovers with his old film cameras.”  I don’t know if I’ve ever brought that up with you Jim, sorry.  Really it’s something that has caused a bit of an existential crisis for me.  If that’s the description that sums up what I’ve been doing here for almost 3.5 years now, I think I need to reexamine what I’m posting, what my motives are, and what this blog should actually be about.

It’s been a journey for me, and I started posting January 1st, 2014, after having taken an Intro to Photography class at my university.  I found that one photo class wasn’t enough and ended up going for a minor in photography.  Then I started shooting super 8, made a short film, and over the past year have been taking that to festivals.  My long-term photo project begun in Advanced Photo has been the chronicle of making the film from beginning to end, and photographing the film festivals has been the tail end of that.  But what is this blog actually about?

My intention at the beginning was to show the world that film photography is not expensive, and often cheaper than digital, as well as visually superior.  If that’s not what people think of when they think of The Resurrected Camera, I probably didn’t do a good job emphasizing this aspect.  Maybe it’s time to bring that back in again, or start finding a new theme, new direction.  The name itself, Resurrected Camera, came from the astonishing generosity of other people who have given me cameras, and the incredible deals I’ve come across for items that no longer hold value to people.  Is that still relevant?  And am I still following that goal?

Here’s a self-portrait with my beloved SPII.  I always talk about it because I paid $5 for it at a garage sale, it’s still my main camera, and really if I needed to, I could get by the rest of my life using nothing else.  Maybe it’s time for one of those one camera, one year challenges.  Or something.  The trouble is, since I’m done taking photo classes, I don’t really have a direction anymore.  All the stuff I’m down to are pics I took back in April (or earlier!) that I’m doling out once a week.  Sometimes posting even that much seems like a chore.  It was my goal to make what I’d already shot last all summer, but maybe it’s time to get all that out of the way quicker and start afresh.  I don’t know what direction I’ll take now, but it is my goal to make this blog a little less aimless in future.

(suggestions welcome)

Flying with film to the UK

I’ve read a bit about people’s experiences taking film into/out of the UK, though usually most people are going through London.  My flight in the beginning of April was Denver to Detroit to Amsterdam to Cardiff (back was the same except switch Salt Lake City for Detroit).  I’m not a stranger to taking film on an airplane, but this was my first-ever trip overseas.  As an old hand, I’ll echo what others have said before, in that you want to:
-show up early, when there are less people and you’re not in a hurry
-always be polite
-if possible, try to find a line being looked over by someone older, in their 40s or 50s: they’ll actually remember film
-have your film ready to hand over and don’t take up extra time getting it out (I keep mine in a separate ziploc bag in the outside pocket of my carry-on)

Now I’ve heard that the security in the London airports are rude and will never accommodate requests for film to be hand-checked.  Thankfully, it was not a problem to or from Cardiff at all…the Delta terminal in Amsterdam, that’s another story, but that was mostly due to my transatlantic flight being delayed and terribly long lines waiting to get to my plane.  When flying out of Cardiff, I asked them to be hand-checked and they did seem slightly put out by it, but did acquiesce.  There was the standard “the new scanners don’t damage film” spiel, but like I’ve read I just told them politely that I’m still unsure about that and that I preferred them to be hand-checked.  They were under the impression that taking the film out of its plastic containers would do more damage than the x-ray scanner, so there is that to deal with, but ultimately it turned out fine.

While not having to go through customs in Amsterdam, I did have to when I reentered the US in Salt Lake City before catching my connecting flight, no problems with hand-checking the film there.

Say hello to the Fujica ZC1000

Well, what’s one to do when Kodak pushes back the release date for the new super 8 camera(again), and raises the price by 166%?  Go to their bitter rivals!  The Fujica ZC1000 was the top of the line single-8 camera back in the late-’70s which makes it a contender for the best small format camera ever.  It has many die-hard fans (especially in Spain, it seems) who consider Fuji’s cartridge design to be superior to Kodak’s in image stability.

The ZC1000 is among the most full-featured cameras available in the 8mm format, fully the equal of the Beaulieu super 8 cameras (and more robust in construction, it’s said) so comparing the specs to the new Kodak camera, it holds up quite well, only wanting crystal sync and a max8 film gate.  On the plus side it has a greater range of framerates, from 12-72fps, plus single frame (and can connect to an intervalometer), and I do prefer having all controls as easily-manipulable dials and buttons, not jogwheels and menus, with an optical viewfinder.  And if you do want video assist, it’s possible.

There is a downside, of course: with Fuji no longer making single-8 film, we’re left with using long-expired cartridges, cut-down 35mm reversal stocks from Retro8 in Japan, or reloading your own cartridges with Kodak super 8 film.  At least we have that option, and that the Fuji cartridges were designed to be reusable!  I don’t know how much trouble this is going to be, but I do admire the people who are keeping the single-8 format alive any way possible, and willing to give this a go myself.

As excited as I was about the new Kodak camera, I’ll wait until  it’s close to its originally-advertised price of $750 and skip the $2000 ‘limited edition’ version coming out in a few months.  And when I do have the new Kodak super 8, it should fit in nicely to my c-mount/8mm system I’m building here.  The Fujinon zoom lens is very highly-regarded, up there with the best Schneider and Angenieux zooms you find on the Beaulieus.  I’m sure the Fujinon will look great attached to the new Kodak camera…sacrilege perhaps, so I might as well go all the way and shoot some Fuji Provia super 8 film.

As well, I picked up the 10mm Kern Switar built for the Bolex cameras, and I hope to add a few more to that collection as well.  That Switar, incidentally, like the favorable opinions of the ZC1000 itself, came from Spain, from a filmmaker with whom I’ve become friends (This short film was shot with my lens on a ZC1000).  I found a British seller on eBay selling the single-8 cartridges and bought the entire stock.  The camera itself was, strangely enough, in Northeastern Colorado!  It was a 3-hour drive there, I tested out the camera for half an hour, then drove all the way back.  Even factoring in the gas money I’m quite happy with what I paid, and now have a great 8mm setup to make the leap from still photography to motion pictures.  It’s my goal to shoot my next film with this camera, and hopefully many after it as well.

Film festival information, pt. 3

The film festival submissions process still baffles me.  I have no idea if I’ve gone about this the right way, if there are things that I should be doing but aren’t, and what I can do from here to improve my chances.  One of the things I did is to send out emails to the festivals after they’re over asking for comments and some have been nice enough to respond.  I’ve gotten a few emails from festival directors who have taken the time to reply in depth giving me some interesting perspectives on my work, and it has helped me see exactly what these festivals are after, how I can improve for the next film, hopefully.  Actually, one of the most in-depth and longest critiques I got helped me understand how much of an idiot that festival director was (or at least how different out perspectives are), so at least I learned not to submit to that festival again.  I’ve also started taking the opportunity to get the programmers drunk and ask them in person when I go to festivals, to find out specifically why my film got in.  From my communication so far, here are some good points to take away:

-There will be festival directors and programmers out there that are idiots.
I appreciate the in-depth response that I got from this one guy, not least of which is because he took the time to respond: most didn’t.  And I don’t feel defensive about it, don’t want to use this post to lash out, but I will say this: he just didn’t get it.  Since none of you have seen my film anyway it’s hardly helpful to delve too deeply into specifics.  Everything in my film that other people have complimented me for was for whatever reason seen as a mark of amateurism, right down to calling it an ‘experimental’ film.  Some festival programmers will have no experience with (or interest in) experimental films, no art background, and no desire to play anything but the slickest Hollywood-style productions.  And to be fair, my film isn’t for everyone and probably wouldn’t have played well to that particular audience.  I’m still working out a way to know in advance which festivals my work will play well at, so I’m not wasting as much money in submission fees.

-Don’t submit unfinished work: only submit the best possible film.
If the film you’re sending in isn’t ready to go up in front of an audience that minute, it’s a waste of a submission fee.  Programmers will not watch a film in its entirety if it sucks, and I’m sure they have to watch a lot of shit.  And whether it’s true or not, they say they can tell from the first few minutes (seconds?) whether a film is worth their time.  You’re not guaranteed to have your film watched all the way through.  For the other side, rough cuts aren’t accepted well.  A direct quote: ‘If they can’t submit a finished film before our submissions deadline, how can I trust them to finish it on time for the festival?’  Really, I think that’s a legitimate argument.  ‘Submitting late is better for you than submitting an unfinished film.  Or don’t submit at all, wait until next year.’

-It’s really out of your hands.  Also, shorter is better.
There was a programmer who really loved my film, had it as a contender all the way up to the final notification deadline, but still didn’t program it.  He wrote me that people programming festivals see a lot of shit (which I can firmly believe) and that originality is greatly valued.  Talk about mixed messages, considering that he rejected me, so I’m not sure how valued it can be.  But he said it would have gotten in if it were shorter.  ‘Programmers love short films that are in the 5 to 7 minutes range in total run time. Why? Because they can usually fit it in easily anywhere into the schedule.’  Unfortunately, Overwhelming Majority is 10:46.

-Programmers will read your cover letter
Evidently that’s one thing that set me apart, or helped explain my work, or gave insight into my film for one programming director.  And because it’s so rare, finding the one person who totally gets this film is great…especially when he’s the one who picks the films for the festival.  My cover letter’s description of central themes and inspirations helped him build a program around my film.  Also, that guy from above, who thought the term ‘experimental’ was just a mask for it being severely amateur, read my cover letter too, and mentioned it as another reason he rejected me.

Even other filmmakers I’ve talked to don’t have any special insight into submissions, they’re just as confused by the whole thing as I am, and they’re on their third or fourth film now.  And I sure don’t know why I got into the festivals I did, except that the programming directors that saw them liked them enough to include them.  So in conclusion, I really don’t know anything after all, but I’m slightly wiser going into the process and hopefully others will be as well.

edit: this is post #200!  Congrats to me.

Part One | Part Two