Editorial: Kodak Super 8 camera (again) and Orbita 13, the pinhole bullet time video

With the new semester comes new assignments.  The photoblog assignments are no more.  I can’t say they were that beneficial to the class anyway, we never really discussed anything or critiqued work there, just breezed through the pictures and that still took up half the class period.  At least it helped me as far as writing prompts go, gave me content to publish on a weekly basis so this blog didn’t just die away while I focused on other matters.  For this semester, we are tasked with reading photography-related stories that the instructor finds for us, and reflecting on two of them.

http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/kodak-and-the-analog-response-to-disruption

I think the main tone of this article is one of positivity, definitely comes from the business aspect of it; it’s apparent that the writer doesn’t know much about photographic technology, but cites several examples of success in other related fields where outmoded technology isn’t crushed by the relentless tide of progress, but is able to adapt into a niche market.  I’ve been following this news since nearly a month ago when it first broke, and there are several aspects to this that haven’t been quite covered.

First of all, Kodak is going back to one of their old business models with super 8 film, that of the all-in-one package deal: they’re putting infrastructure in place to be able to process the film, scan it (at 4K res!) and will upload the digital files online for the customers to access.  The projected cost of this will be $50-75, which I sometimes wonder about: it’s extremely competitive, almost like a shot across the bow to the processing facilities and mastering houses.  I’m going to be paying around $125 per reel for film, processing, and scanning, so it’s really attractive thinking that a year from now I (and everyone else) will have to pay only half that.  How do you keep up as a processing facility when you’re competing against the company that makes the chemicals you use?  Of course I don’t know how it will all work out, and what percentage of business super 8 film makes up from a typical processing/mastering facility.   Phil Vigeant from Pro8mm seems very positive about this publicly, but just how it will affect his business, I can only speculate.  It seems that Kodak is really wanting to exercise more control over super 8 film.  Will that be bad?  I dunno.

As far as manufacturing cameras and things go, Kodak, for the last 50 years or so, has been primarily concerned with consumer-level products, low-quality and cheap.  I don’t expect them to resurrect their Ektar lens lineup (it would be nice), but just looking at the number of features this new camera will have, I’d call it at least couple steps up from the last one they made:
-max8 widescreen
-9,12,18,24,25fps speeds, all with crystal sync
-integrated sound recording
-accepts c-mount lenses
-automatic and manual exposure modes
-digital video assist/viewfinder
-rechargeable battery with USB connectivity
-price tag is $400-750
The Canon 1014XLS I use features none of those.  It does, however, have a 36fps speed for slow-motion, and quite a nice time-lapse feature as well…I suppose it’s not quite obsolete yet!  In looking at this new Kodak camera, it seems to me that it’s almost a scaled-down version of the Logmar that came out just last year.  There have been rumors that Logmar had a hand in designing/building the prototype, which I hope is true, because otherwise, that’s more toes Kodak is stepping on.  The Logmar originally sold for $2000, evidently was a one-off batch of 50 units.  Pro8mm still has some for $5000, but I think they’ll be keeping them a long time.  I can’t see spending that kind of money for super 8 when you could get a 16mm camera for a fourth of that.

So I see a story here between the lines, one where the giant corporation is starting to stomp on some of its small-time competition, and it reminds me that as much as I root for Kodak and want them to succeed, they are still a faceless juggernaut to some degree.

Does it matter to me?  No.  Personally, I’d rather see film continue to be manufactured, and if that means that a few small businesses are sacrificed along the way, I’d call it an acceptable loss.  I’ve read a few theories about the best way to make for Kodak to make money in the new digital age, and something like abandoning its current distribution method would go a long way, I think.  One can already buy motion picture film directly from Kodak (I’ve never done it yet, but maybe I should; Freestyle and B&H do take their chunk).  I wish that the still photography side (I suppose that’s Alaris now?) did the same thing.  Off the middleman!  Still, with Fuji making a concerted effort to get out of film by the end of the decade, I’m happy to see Kodak doing so well: their film business broke even in 2015 and is expected to turn a profit this year.  That, along with the new super 8 camera and infrastructure, plus the fact that Ferrania should start making film again this year, really heralds 2016 as being a real renaissance for film.

http://petapixel.com/2016/01/29/photographer-shoots-bullet-time-using-a-ring-of-100-pinhole-cameras/

If the women don’t find you handsome, they’ll at least find you handy!
~Red Green

The guy builds his own bullet-time rig, makes his own pinhole cameras to use it, processes the film in caffenol?  Impressive!  In fact, almost too impressive…  If I didn’t know that he was making this for a masters thesis, I’d kind of think that this is a bit much, even for me.  Because I read this earlier today after seeing it on Facebook, and wondered: what’s the point?  Aaahhh, it’s to get a good grade!  But then that makes me think about why I bother with film in the first place, and how digital photographers must see me: not much differently, I’m sure.  Still, after watching the finished video, I think it’s a gorgeous work of art (dunno about the music though; it doesn’t feel connected to the images, more like it was merely dropped in).  The handmade aspects of it really do come through in the final product, you can see how imprecise the cameras were aligned, the subjects getting closer and further away and the sprocket holes appearing and disappearing, the film having different exposures, etc.  But this isn’t The Matrix.  I don’t want it to be slick.  It has all the dirt, grit, imperfections, and ultimately the tactility and uniqueness of being an analog work.  It really makes me want to step up my own game!  And also compose something different for that video…

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Home: Project 1 – Intermediate Photography

What is home, what is family?  How do we define just what that means to us?  When thinking about the concept of family, I usually go back to a passage in the bible where Jesus describes a his concept of family: “A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’ ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers…’” (Mark 3:32-34). The concept of family (or home) seems to be in flux so much of the time, but I also remember the old saying, “Home is where the heart is.” We create home wherever we go and wherever we are most comfortable, and the people around us that we accept into our lives become our family—indeed, frequently better, because we don’t get to pick our biological family.

In this idea I was inspired by Larry Clark, from his book Tulsa to his film Kids, and his later work.  He seems to really have adapted well to niche societies in a way that I don’t think I could have.  I really admire the way he has become involved in the modern skateboarding culture and other groups of young people, as if after all his old family died around him, he was welcomed into new homes. As a man in his mid-60s, he’s become an adopted child, or at least a foster child.  In execution I was inspired by some good friends of mine whose kids’ rooms feature some great photo collages (the kids are my age and have since moved out, settled down, gotten married, but their rooms are still pretty much the way I remember them being when I was in my late teens).  I’ve known this family for nearly 20 years now.

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Being from central Ohio, I think the first phrase I ever learned to say was “Go Bucks!” and with my parents both graduating from Ohio State, it was only natural that I (and my brother) follow in their footsteps.  Sadly, I never graduated from there, but I keep the spirit alive out here.  One of the things that I am able to do more often now that I’m living in Colorado Springs is attend the Pike’s Peak region OSU alumni association get-togethers to watch the football games.  A lot of the rest of the images were taken in and around my church, or at related functions.  There are quite a lot of food pictures; nothing says family and home to me like breaking bread together.

I printed on Oriental cooltone fiber paper (glossy) for the black & white, and Ilford Gallerie Pearl for the digital prints.

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Week 6 – Intermediate Photography

Too bad I didn’t shoot these a week before, I might have used them in my project…

Still having trouble with this expired Tri-X.  I tried shooting a roll at 200 and developing in Caffenol C-L, that came out wonderful.  I shot this roll at 400 and it fogged.  I just can’t win, it seems.  Here’s one more, for Stacy:

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One of my favorite artists (though not a photographer) is Henry Darger.  His story isn’t too dissimilar to Vivian Maier’s, for those of you that know primarily photography.  He worked as a janitor at a Catholic school for basically his whole life, never talked to anyone, just kept his head down and did his job.  When he died and they opened up his room, they found a 15,000 page book he’d been writing, complete with his own painted illustrations.  If not for the fact that his landlord had been a photographer trained at the IIT Institute of Design, it all might have been thrown out.  I find it a bit ironic that Darger spent his life working on a massive story and the only thing that interests most people are the pictures, though to be fair, they are amazing pictures:

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Henry Darger

Darger created most of his figures by cutting pictures out of magazines, sometimes tracing and multiplying them, sometimes pasting the cutouts themselves right into his paintings.  It’s an inspiring use of collage that no one had ever tried before, and today Henry Darger is known as one of the most important examples of outsider art.  I remember watching the documentary film about Darger, In the Realms of the Unreal, for an art class while at Ohio State.  Truly a fascinating portrait, though a pretty tragic one, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.  If I were to speculate on why he never showed his manuscript or paintings to anyone, I’d say that he was afraid of any kind of attention, something that I can understand to some degree, but wanting everything to be fair, it is still very sad that he died not knowing how influential his work would later become, and never reaped the benefits of his own notoriety.

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Henry Darger

Darger’s images, and his story, are frequently in my mind.  I think one of my own biggest fears is being forced into a “normal” life, and having to push my own work aside, underground, only something I do in spare time.  I don’t know how I could do that, if I would survive.  Supporting myself with music is one of my biggest goals.  I was created to be creative.

Week 4 – Intermediate Photography

I learned a new word today: reticulation.  It basically describes what happens when there is an abrupt shift in temperature when developing a roll of film, for example when going from one bath to another.  From what I can tell, it looks a lot like having exaggerated grain, except it’s a bit more uniformly placed, and circular.

 

 

I don’t know enough about it to say if that’s what went on here, but I think I must have been a bit too sloppy when processing this particular roll.  I think the film may have fogged a bit, which would mean I should have added more Potassium Bromide.  On top of that, I might have pushed the film slightly without meaning to, or at least overdeveloped.  The negatives came out denser and with much higher contrast than I’m used to.  At least I kind of know what’s going on with it, and considering everything I try with this particular batch of T-Max makes it look worse, I’ll go back to what I was doing here, pulling one stop and developing in D-76.

On another matter, my first results from using a short exposure roll didn’t go quite as well as I’d hoped.  In fact, there’s almost nothing usable on the roll at all.  Thankfully, it would appear that I don’t necessarily need to keep my weekly assignments completely separate from my larger class projects as I originally thought.  I rushed through the rest of the roll in my Spotmatic and got it processed and scanned yesterday.

A friend of mine gave me that book a couple of years ago, when I was completing my final for the intro class, which had to do with portraits.  While I had been familiar with the National Geographic documentary films growing up, I’d never paid much attention to the magazine itself.  I hear that some big events are afoot there, being bought out by Rupert Murdoch after spending 127 years as a non-profit organization.  I wasn’t familiar with William Albert Allard’s work before owning the In Focus book, and I haven’t found too much out since then, either, though from his site I learned that he’s one of the only photographers of his generation whose entire body of work has been in color.  There were several fantastic portraits by Allard in that National Geographic book, but I think this one is particularly striking:

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Eduardo Ramos with his dead sheep, Puno, Peru, 1981 – William Albert Allard

“A taxi had come tearing down the road and hammered through the sheep, brutally flinging half of them off the road…The driver never even stopped.  But we did.  As the boy looked up at me with his shattered face, I made just a few pictures because I had to…More than $6000 in contributions came in from readers from all over America.  They wanted to help.  The Geographic contacted CARE, and that organization was able to locate Eduardo…His family’s sheep were replaced, a water pump was provided for his village.” -William Albert Allard, from In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Portraits

There’s something in the boy’s face that says: “Why are you pointing a camera at me now?”  You can tell by his clothes how poor he is and how the loss of even a few sheep could be a devastating blow.  I think in that situation, my first instinct wouldn’t be to take a picture, it would be to get in and help physically.  Yet with the resources and reach of a magazine the size of National Geographic, as well as the compassion and generosity of its readers, taking that photograph helped that boy more than anything else anyone physically there could have done.  There are alternating stories told of Allard’s portrait of Eduardo; another version is in the video you can see at this site.

This video is also a good one to watch:

 

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Fred Rogers

Joe’s personal Caffenol C-L recipe

For what it’s worth, this is my own personal recipe, I’m still experimenting with it, but I’ve been pretty happy with the results.  If I change anything, I’ll come back to this post.

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For starters: I am using a Paterson universal tank.  I keep the 1liter water measure, because that will fill up that tank to the brim.  I fill to the brim because I’m using at least a semi-stand development method, and I want as little air inside the tank as possible.  My recipe is based on Reinhold’s, but converted to the American volumetric measuring system, and from doing some digging online and off, I’ve included a few other useful rules of thumb, like developing times.

Astro Beck (who is a friend of my Alt.Process instructor) told me that caffenol tends to “contaminate” plastic to some degree and exhausts fixer, et. al, faster than normal processes, so it’s best to have a tank and all other chemicals set aside exclusively for caffenol use.  If all you do is caffenol, I’m sure it wouldn’t matter, but this could be important if you’re still developing with other chemicals, or share equipment with someone who does.

I’m using the C-L recipe because I have found Potassium Bromide to be essential.  I know there are recipe/film combinations that work without it, but I shoot mostly Kodak film, and Kodak films tend to fog badly without KBr.

I’ve listed ingredients in the order that they should be added, usually mix hard and wait for the water to clear to see if more mixing is needed.  The KBr that I have is a combination of powder and large crystals.  The hard crystals are fine in the solution, but they need a bit of soaking before they’re ready to be crushed down, and then more soaking before they completely dissolve.  Coffee is last because you won’t be able to see anything after it’s added.  Generally, I use water at around 70F (70 degrees Fahrenheit) though the original recipe calls for 68, as it takes enough time to mix that the water cools down (unless it’s Summer, then maybe it should be 66F…will experiment and check back).

Water (1000ml) – for two rolls, a full tank
Washing soda (3 1/2 tsp)
Vitamin C (2 tsp)
Potassium Bromide (~1/4 tsp) (KBr)
Instant coffee (8 tsp)

Water (500ml) – for one roll (I know, you only need 300ml, you could do a third of the 1liter recipe)
Washing soda (>2 tsp)
Vitamin C (<1 tsp) (a heaping teaspoon)
Potassium Bromide (~1/8 tsp) (KBr)
Instant coffee (4 tsp)

After all ingredients are mixed, let sit for 5 minutes (this is a good time to start presoaking your film as well).  After 5mins/when you’re ready, dump the water out of the tank and pour in the developer.  Here’s a good rule of thumb for developing times:

ASA100 – 15mins
ASA200 – 30mins
ASA400 – 45mins
etc.  Every extra stop, add 15mins.

I use semi-stand development, which is something like 10sec immediately, then 5sec after that at 1min, 2min, 4min, 8min, 15min, 30min, etc.

This seems to work with all regular Kodak black & white films (I haven’t tried Double-X, etc), so it’s more a case of what speed you’re shooting at rather than what film you’re using.  Since you’re agitating much less, grain is reduced, and I particularly like what it does to Tri-X.

I’ll admit that my negatives look pretty thin using this formula, however, they are extremely low contrast, so no detail is lost.

I’ve found that adding more coffee will make the film develop faster, but mostly has the effect of making the highlights block up, so definitely go light on the coffee if you’re pushing film a few stops.

For more information on where I sourced my materials and how much I paid, click here.

(note: I forgot to transcribe my recipe before I moved, had to go back and get my notebook, so my last roll of film was just slightly off, as I went by new/different calculations)

Week 1 – Intermediate Photography

I hope I’m doing this right…this next class proposes a new challenge for me: create new work weekly, whereas I’ve been going back to old habits.  I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a scary concept for me, as I’d like to think that I’m thrifty in how I shoot, but also, I just didn’t do a lot of shooting this summer.  I just developed Thursday a roll that has been in my camera since mid-June.  Can I shoot a roll of film a week, and, in being forced to present at least three new images weekly, how much will my quality suffer, especially if I’m pressed for time elsewhere?  I’m halfway through a roll of Provia, but I don’t want to waste that roll to the needs of expediency, plus it would take nearly a week just to get it processed.  I’ve thought about cutting 36-exposure rolls in half, I’ve thought about a 100ft bulk roll of Fomapan or Kentmere, I’ve been comparing prices back and forth.  A 100ft roll of Tri-X is $50 more than a roll of HP5.  Wow.  With Tri-X, it’s almost exactly the same price between a 100ft roll and the same number of feet in 24-exposure rolls, 36-exposure rolls are cheaper than a bulk roll; and you don’t have to load the cartridges yourself.  I eventually found some newly-expired T-Max 400 in 24-exposure rolls for not too bad a price, since it was there I decided to go with it; I don’t think I’ll feel as bad burning through rolls of T-Max.

I was trying to figure out just how I got a light leak across four out of the first five exposures, I think that it must have happened after I took that fifth picture, and it must have happened on the right (take-up) side of the camera: the light leak is in the same spot on each picture and the effect is lighter counting back from #5.  I’d be disappointed (and probably should find some gaffers’ tape anyway), except that it literally happened only on the pinhole shots, and I suppose that gives them just a bit more of that authentic lo-fi aesthetic.  As for the others, some friends of ours from Ohio were in town, and I like taking pictures of my friends, especially when I haven’t seen some of them for 6-7 years.

Someone else who likes making pictures of his friends is artist and photographer Chuck Close (at least according to this site), and so I give you his daguerreotype portrait of minimalist composer Philip Glass:
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Philip Glass, Stage II – Chuck Close

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass, Philip Glass…

I remember seeing the documentary of Close working with the 20×24 Polaroid, but I’m not sure I’d seen his daguerreotypes before, that was a real treat for me looking at them in class.  I love to see the old photographic processes alive and well after 150+ years: it’s a ray of hope that the most tedious and expensive (and best-looking) photographic processes still survive in the modern blink-and-it’s-gone digital world.  I chose the Philip Glass portrait because being a composer myself, I like seeing the masters of my craft celebrated in a larger sense, by those outside the music world, and Philip Glass is one of the only living composers who is fairly well-known and recognizable to a lot of non-musicians.

Close’s work is meaningful to me also because it is transformative: here is a man who started out started out as a painter focusing on portraits, who has embraced the more modern world by using technology, yet he chose the most outdated process of them all.  As his paintings were gigantic, so too can these large format images be increased to truly tremendous size with almost infinite detail.  It’s also a redemptive concept how physical limitations and life circumstances don’t have to end who we are.

Close has been presenting portraits of Glass for some 35 years now, and it’s fascinating to see how he’s physically changed over the years.  Max Reger once said that pigs and composers only come into their own after they’re dead.  Glass is now nearly 80 years old, and while he’s not quite there yet, looking at this new portrait while remembering the old one makes me more conscious of the fact that no one is here forever.  Yet here is a composer whose style is instantly recognizable and oft-imitated, one of the most successful modern classical composers, and here is his image preserved for future generations, just as we have portraits of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and countless others.  May the music last in people’s memories even longer than his image.  In Close’s portrait, I see a man approaching immortality.

This post was written while listening to Songs from Liquid Days.

Students conducting students

…it was a bit like a horror movie…

This was the first of two scoring sessions we did in film scoring class.  As one of the directors, I didn’t have much to do, and ended up taking pictures.  As I brought a quiet rangefinder that day instead of a noisy SLR, I felt more confident about taking a shot here and there while they were actually recording.  Having the drum set there helped me as well, I’m sure.

Off-topic, this is post #100, so I’m celebrating that milestone.  It’s only taken me the better part of 2 years.