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.

Fujipet EE – Ektar 100

It’s been more than a year since I loaded this camera, and I spent all of last school year with the Fujipet just in my backpack.  Things I learned:
-I didn’t have the film advanced to frame 1 for the first several months I shot it, and it took several months to get to frame 1 because I wasn’t winding it far enough, either (I really didn’t use it that often).
-it might need faster film, or a bit more sun
-maybe I shouldn’t be leaving Ektar 100 lying around in a camera for a year before processing?
-maybe before making any judgements, I need to shoot another roll.  I remember that I didn’t always have any needle action when looking through the viewfinder, I just hoped for the best.

I’ll also admit, I’m a bit rusty on color film now, and the fact that I didn’t have the Pakon’s color profiles really bummed me out.  I scanned on the school’s Epson Perfection 10000 in the Visual Resource Dept. (I assumed that would give me better results than the V600s in the library), which took me about an hour for the 10 images that turned out.  Then another couple hours in Photoshop trying to get the colors to look right (large blue cast, and I don’t think I got completely there with some of them, but I burned out, man).

Ektar looks great when I can get it properly exposed, though why it wasn’t most of the time, still confuses me.  Everything I’ve been able to find about the Fujipet says that it should use ASA100 film, but many of my shots came out really underexposed, and that was with me covering the selenium meter with my hand, telling the camera to give it the widest aperture it could.

I have some Fuji Across in 120 that I bought with the express purpose of putting through this camera, but I’m wondering if I shouldn’t pick up something a bit faster, even going back to Tri-X, because the other thing I’m wondering is if the selenium meter is starting to go.  I do think, however, that I’ll put at least one roll of Acros through it, and I’ll make sure to shoot it on a sunny day.

All complaining aside for a second though, I think the Fujipet has a pretty sharp lens, considering it’s plastic, and I can get plenty of detail on those scans when the camera shake doesn’t affect the picture.  OK, I guess I’m not done complaining, after all.  1/50 second can be kind of hard to use handheld with the 70mm lens.  I’ll have to attach it to the tripod next time.

The Epson V600: A monumental pain in the ass

When I started this post, I had been scanning my Tri-X 120 negatives for about 4 hours, though most of the time has been spent on attempting to scan my Tri-X 120 negatives.  For every time that it does actually work, there are too many where it tells me “Unable to write to disk.”  I’ve read suggestions from Epson’s site, and am trying to correct all the problems.  I’m actually on two computers, just to save all the computing power for the scanning machine. Of course, it might help if the school’s software was up to date, which I’m not sure it is.

Honestly, I’m done for the night.  Nothing I’ve done so far has had any effect, and some time after the 5th picture it just stopped working.  I’d been trying now for 10 times in a row with no success, so I called it a night and hopefully will be able to work more later.  I was able to scan 1 image as a TIFF file and 4 as JPGs, which seemed to be the way to go, so all contrast and level adjustments were done while scanning.  Here’s what I was able to get done:

Not as bad as they could have been, and the file sizes are tremendous, to the size where it’s taking my home desktop a while to load one up (I suppose a 3.2GHz processor might have something to do with that).  While I have been very happy with Mike’s Camera’s Noritsu scanner that digitized my slides, I wasn’t quite satisfied with the scans from that 120 Tri-X negative, so I’m glad I had the chance to go back and tweak slightly.  No doubt I could do a lot more if I knew the Epson software better, and hadn’t been so burned out.  I’ll try a different computer next time, and see if that makes a difference to me.

Independence Day with the Nikon N60 and Fujipet EE

In the small town of Woodland Park, there are few times that are better to go out shooting than Friday mornings at the Farmers’ Market, but the 4th of July is one that definitely surpasses that: more booths, more people, more space, more going on.  I thought I’d do something different this summer, I’d dig into my backlog of cameras and pick out two that I hadn’t used yet, and give them a go.

As this was the 4th of July, I thought I could at least be a bit more patriotic and use Kodak film this time.  Go America.  I had 5-6 rolls of Kodak Max and Gold 400 film that my aunt had given me when I was in Louisiana for a wedding (thanks, Judy), so I pulled out one of those.  Unfortunately, even being freezer-stored for the past 10 years wasn’t enough by itself to yield good results in the N60.  This camera has no way to override the DX encoding, and one can tell from the pictures that they are underexposed for the most part (the camera store’s scanner had problems with several of the negatives too, there are occasional streaks).  The guy with the guitar is the only shot in which the colors look right.  I think I have 4 or 5 rolls of this film left, I’ll make sure to shoot this film at 100, just to be safe.  I’ve already complained about the autofocus, so no need to do so again. One happy thing about the camera though, is that there was a big chunk taken out of the front element of the lens, big enough that I could see it in the finder, but thankfully this didn’t show up on the film at all, as either a flare or light streak.  I’d read that one can fill in dings with black nail polish or the like, but it really wasn’t necessary.  This N60 was given to me by a family at church who no longer uses it.  If what you want to do is take pictures, it’ll do it, but I’m not a huge fan of these modern-style cameras that make you go through hoops to make the camera useful.  Having to hold a button and spin the one wheel to switch aperture or shutter speed is too much hassle, and then there’s the autofocus.

The Fujipet EE was actually much more fun to use.  I picked this camera up at the city-wide garage sale in the fall of last year, for a whole $2.50.  Not bad.  The guy selling it said that it was the camera he had had growing up in the ’60s.  Just a guess, but I’m betting his dad was a GI stationed in Japan or Okinawa after the war (like my grandpa was).

When I got the Fujipet, I bought one roll of Tri-X 120 film that was put away in the freezer, and I pulled it out for that day.  I took the film to the same place that did my slides, and they did kind of a botched job.  The pictures are the wrong way around, and though they don’t look particularly bad (though not the way I’d want them to look), I wonder if they had the negative flipped toward the film base side instead of the emulsion, so I had to flip those around.  They actually forgot to scan my negatives, and it had to be sent back a second time.  I dropped them off the same day I dropped my 35mm color negative at the other camera store, but turnaround for this medium format black & white negative was about 2 1/2 weeks (and the 35mm was of course done the next day).  They had a special deal they call “Holga processing,” which is processing (color negative, positive, or black and white, you can cross-process, and push/pull is no extra charge), plus a scan for $15, which isn’t too bad.  Still, there’s another option available to me, as yet another camera store in Colorado Springs does regular business with Dwayne’s Photo in Kansas (of Kodachrome fame), and their prices seem to be a bit better.  I’ve loaded a roll of Ektar into the Fujipet, and I’m going to try sending this roll to Dwayne’s, and maybe I’ll be happier with them, but we’ll see.

Speaking of Ektar, which is an ASA100 film: according to this wonderful site (which admittedly is dedicated mostly to the original Fujipet, so I don’t know just how different the technical info would be), I’m guessing that this little camera is set up for 100 speed film, what with an aperture of f/8-16 and a single shutter speed between 1/50-1/60 second.  There is a sticker on the inside of the camera that recommends Fuji Neopan SS (which is ASA100), and the last user of the camera had the box top from a roll of Kodak Verichrome Pan (ASA125), so I bought this roll of Ektar, plus a 5-pack of Fuji Across 100.  Looking at the roll of Tri-X though, it doesn’t look particularly dense (certainly not like it was overexposed by 2 whole stops), so I wonder if I’m wrong about the film speed.  I guess it’s possible that the camera store knew enough with the Holga processing to know that the film needed to be pulled, and admittedly I don’t know enough to tell just by looking if that’s the case.  In fact, I haven’t looked closely at a negative since fall semester, so maybe this roll of Tri-X is overexposed.  I guess time will tell.

The Fujipet EE is extremely easy to use, but there are some quirks.  There’s no way to tell how far to wind the film (and no rewind), so the image spacing is interesting, to say the least.  I started off with a half-turn, then started a whole turn, then went to more (I read about it somewhere, but couldn’t find it again).  I think one complete turn of the winder is correct, though I’ll find out after my next roll I guess.  The lens is I think around a 70mm length, and combined with a speed of 1/50 can produce blur if not held steady, that’s something else to keep in mind.  Honestly, I was surprised at how good the images are considering it’s a super-basic plastic lens.

One last thing with the Fujipet: there’s an actual class on Lomography given at UCCS, called “The Plastic Camera,” and it’s the class that I’ll be taking this fall, in all likelihood.  I really wish I could have taken landscape photography instead, but it doesn’t work out for my schedule.  In any event, the Plastic Camera class is the only one (past Intro) that is completely film-based.  As I type this, I’m also busy trying to figure out the school’s standard scanner, an Epson V600 flatbed device.  So far, the results are promising, but the process is a major pain in the ass.  If all goes well, this could be what I end up using for my medium format work for next semester’s class, which means lots of black and white 6×6 images, and perhaps not much else…