Why I love Double-X

Because for some reason Tri-X just isn’t enough for me.  When I want something a bit different I go for the 5222, Eastman Double-X.  Reasons to use Double-X?  Though grainier, it’s sharper, and it gives a different look, lovely tonality.  And cost, if you’re willing to invest in a 400ft roll of the stuff!

Tri-X is an everyday film, Double-X is for special occasions, and I used it for a few specific projects including my 2-semester-long (and just wrapping up) document of making Overwhelming Majority.

This current iteration was developed by Kodak in the late 1950s and then left alone, so it will give you a classic, mid-century look, especially if you use older lenses/cameras. And that is something I recommend!  It requires fairly precise exposure and development can be tricky since it’s designed to be used with Kodak D-96, and anything else will boost the contrast quite a bit.  Using older, low-contrast lenses will tame that somewhat.  I tend to shoot it inside if the light is good enough, or outside on overcast days.  I’ve seen some pretty good results from pushing, etc, though I’ve never had much luck myself.

Here are some great resources if you’re going to shoot Double-X:
Project Double-X (sadly defunct due to the death of its owner)
Through the Viewfinder’s 400ft Roll Project

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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.

People at the airshow

The Axis Trio strikes back hard!  Seeing all the Allied warbirds was too much for them.  Although it was a perfect day to try out the Ferrania P30 Alpha film for the first time, I underexposed the film by at least a stop (and did in my Spotmatic too, shooting Tri-X).  Thankfully, it wasn’t a big deal:

Even though underexposed, there was plenty of detail, which I am extremely happy about!  The shots were completely usable, though like I said in my previous post, bumping up the contrast so much did start revealing lots of dust and scratches, water spots, etc, and I didn’t have the same problem with the Tri-X (see below). I will say that my local camera store isn’t one of the labs that Ferrania recommends.

Here is all that shooting info again:
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
Very overcast day
Shutter speeds were nominally around 1/125 at f/8 (I was shooting at around ASA100)

Tri-X definitely has a different look to it, slightly more consistent when underexposed I’d say (the middle shot was overexposed by a stop I think).

Alright, here’s the thing with the P30: It’s so fine-grained that I expected it to be much sharper than this, and it looks soft as butter.  I’m not completely convinced it wasn’t my lens, but comparing it to other shots on Double-X those look much sharper.  Here’s a 100% crop from my scan:

So the other possibility is that P30 is sufficiently thicker (or thinner?) than regular film to be out of focus in my Pakon, so I will have to rescan both negatives making sure I refocus using some P30 film.  Then I will have to refocus again with something like Tri-X, for everything else I scan.  It’s on the agenda, but I haven’t quite found time yet.

This is one of the best exposed shots I had.  And here’s the other one from the last post:

And one last one, this is an extreme example of burning in the sky, just to see what was possible:

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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.

Overwhelming Majority released to the world

Overwhelming Majority is an experimental documentary dealing with issues of alienation, isolation, and social anxiety.  I remember my teacher Jane sending me this article when I was making the film and being very intrigued by that aspect, something I’d never considered.  OM has been screening at film festivals for the last year and a half, but in light of recent events like Las Vegas, perhaps it’s time to be seen by the rest of the world.

WINNER: Best Experimental film – 2016 Blissfest333
WINNER: Best Experimental film – 2016 UCCS Short Film Festival
NOMINATION: Best Experimental film – 2017 Wales International Film Festival
NOMINATION: Best Documentary Short – 2016 Blissfest333

OFFICIAL SELECTIONS:
2017 London International Documentary Festival
2017 Carmarthen Bay Film Festival
2017 Colorado Short Circuit
2017 Wales International Documentary Festival
2017 Durango Independent Film Festival
2016 Southern Colorado Film Festival