Ektar 100+Summarit 1.5

My first two rolls through my new (2nd) Canon 7, which I bought to be able to use some nice German-made lenses for Leica cameras.  These lenses are quite old even by my standards: the Leitz 5cm Summarit f/1.5 that I have is a relatively modern copy from 1953, and while it is coated (single coated), the contrast is not nearly what I’m used to with my Pentax lenses (younger by approximately 20 years).  The Summarit also has a reputation for being rather soft, though shooting as much as I could at f/8, I think it’s sharp enough for what I’m doing here (not as sharp as my Takumars though).  I’d still like to pick up a screw-mount collapsible Summicron for landscape pictures, but in a pinch the Summarit does nicely.  I’ve wondered about getting one of the modern Voigtlander lenses (or Lomography’s new Jupiter 3+) for color work, as I wasn’t sure how the low-contrast Leitz lenses from the ’50s and earlier would handle color film, but I was also curious what an ultra-saturated film like Ektar 100 would look like, and here are some of the results.

I need to shoot in the sun more, most of the time I was out it was overcast and that didn’t help much, but also I wonder if they weren’t underexposed a bit too.  I don’t have enough experience with Ektar to say if this is indeed the case, but roll #2 (the last 5 pics) show much improved color to my eyes.  I might just buy a few more rolls and continue testing this film/lens combination at some point.

I processed these pictures the same way I’ve been doing black & white, which is taking PSI output at -30 contrast and adding contrast back in using Photoshop.  I also have the regular PSI output, but prefer the added control.  This film captures quite a lot of information, and as someone who has more experience with black & white, it’s hard to get the color I think this film should have while still retaining detail in highlights/shadows.  But I’m learning.

I’ll probably be going back to black & white next for this camera and lens, but the experiments with color will continue!  I plan to shoot a roll or two of Provia and Velvia through the Canon 7 this Summer, and I hope that I’ll like the results of that, as I’m more used to Fuji’s color than I am to Kodak’s.  And Ferrania is coming soon as well, I hope.  I will say this about Ektar though: it handles different and mixed lighting extremely well!  I shot about half of my 2nd roll indoors and usually under fluorescent lights, and was quite satisfied with the colors even working straight out of PSI; very little tweaking was needed, and it was quite easy (a few examples are here).  Yes it was a bit slow for that purpose, but it has me considering Portra 400 for occasional indoor work now

Assignment #1 – Intro to Photography

Fall 2013.  Our first assignment was to explore shutter speeds and apertures, learning how to use them in creative ways go get the effect we were after.  We were to produce six prints: fast and slow shutter speeds, wide and narrow depths-of-field, and two that were a combination.   And I had to use at least two rolls of film to do it, and show the contact sheets.  That part really went against my way of working in the past, taking a month or more to finish a single roll (these requirements cured me of using 36-exposure rolls, too).  Though I suppose with assignments lasting only 2-3 weeks, it makes sense.  I quickly got to the point where I would shoot for a few days (one week tops), and spend the rest of the time in the darkroom, printing.

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narrow depth of field, wide depth of field

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long exposure, short exposure

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wide dof/long exposure, narrow dof/short exposure

I believe I have all the aperture and shutter speed info written down somewhere, but not on me.

There are two self-portraits in there, as well as one that I took at my old job at Seven Falls before it closed down.  Two of the shots were taken while out cutting down dead trees for firewood with a friend, an annual Summer activity.  What’s nice is that now that I’ve finally got these scanned to my satisfaction (for now), I can put up some outtakes that either didn’t fit the assignment or didn’t work with the rest of the images.  Some of them may be familiar:

 

How much contrast is too much?

I went to 11-mile Reservoir for a class back in June, and while we were primarily recording nature sounds, the camera had its place in my explorations as well.  Looking at the pictures later with the other members of my group, one made the comment that they were too high contrast, something I didn’t even think about or notice myself.  I think he’s right, but it took me this long to actually correct them.  The thing is, the lower contrast didn’t necessarily improve things…

So what’s the deal, then?  I was alright with what I had before, but there was definitely more detail in the pictures that I wasn’t getting.  Maybe I’m too content, and I need to be more critical, train my eye better.  It’s interesting what the change in contrast does to the colors.  This is the first roll of color negative (and the only one I’ve shot all year) that I’ve put through the Pakon since getting it back in February, and really, just how different the look can be from so small a tweak makes me think of some of the complaints Ken Rockwell has against anything that isn’t Fuji Velvia: I don’t really have a baseline for how any particular image is supposed to look.

How much time are you all putting into your color images?  I’m kind of used to just taking what the photo lab has been given me (unless I’m wandering into dangerous color temperature territory, ahem, Cinestill).  Maybe it’s force of habit, maybe it’s that I don’t find my color work as critical/important as black and white, maybe it’s because there are too many variables I have to deal with now, and I can’t be bothered.  It’s not really a complaint, but more of an observation.  Color changes things.

Pinhole lens vs. macro lens comparison – Alternative Processes

Yeah, I was sure there would be a big difference, I just didn’t know how much!

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For reference, the top image was the 4/50 S-M-C Macro-Takumar, and the bottom with the pinhole lens which has a size somewhere between 1/3-1/4mm, giving it an effective f/stop between f/172-256. It was also my first time using T-Max 400, which I already knew was going to be way overkill for the pinhole lens.  I noticed that the grain was about the same size between shots on T-Max 100 and Tri-X, and I suspect that even Tri-X is overkill when it comes to sharpness, which means there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be using the fastest, grainiest film I can find!

At least the Caffenol C-L concoction I’m working on doesn’t seem to be hurting me any.  Yet.

This makes me really want to make another pinhole lens, with a much smaller hole…

Tri-X and Caffenol is not a good idea – Alternative Processes

At least not the Caffenol-Delta recipe!  I jumped in headfirst on this, and should have done a bit more research before I tried it out.  Live and learn, I suppose, but I knew going into it that I was taking a risk, I just wish I had tried it with another roll of film, because I had some beautiful shots on this one, and this roll ended up looking like a reel of super-8 film using a super-grainy stock.  These were all with the pinhole lens, but compare them to what I was able to do in regular D-76.

We had a day of extremely heavy fog, so heavy that after making it 15 miles out of the 40+ down to school and narrowly avoiding 2 accidents in that time, I decided it was a safer bet to pull off CO-24, hang around Woodland Park, and take some pictures instead trying to tempt Fate once again (also, I had Jim Grey’s words rolling around in my head, I’m sure that influenced me).  It really was beautiful, and I love foggy mornings; sadly it’s something that doesn’t happen too much in Colorado, but I’ve been fortunate this year.

The last two shots were fulfilling the requirements of our pinhole assignment in Alt.Process class, which was to construct a pinhole camera and take some pictures of objects that relate to what object the camera was in its previous life (before being turned into a camera).  Since mine is a lens rather than a whole camera, I took pictures of my current film stockpile and collection of Takumar lenses.

This has a good chance of turning into my final in this class, plus I think I can combine it with my current film scoring class assignment, so I’m soldiering on.  I bought some T-Max 400 to try in the delta recipe, and signed up to the caffenol facebook group.  In fact, I’ve learned one rather important thing there just this morning: Tri-X works quite well in the Caffenol-CL recipe, which would really make my life easier, easier than trying caffenol and learning a new film at the same time…

The Snow in Black & White

I’ve been busy scanning things.  Well, actually the scanning part is easy, it’s the getting things just perfect afterwards that really chews up time.  Unless someone is in a big hurry, I’ve found so far that with black & white and the F335 it’s best to just take the raw files and do all the corrections myself in Photoshop instead of relying on PSI to do it.  Unless they’re really low contrast images PSI will overcompensate, and while it’s feasible to just turn down the contrast right there, I’d rather get my black & white images just right.  And it takes lots of work.

This is Arista Edu.100/Fomapan 100 which I developed myself in the school darkroom (first roll in a year!) using D-76 1:1 developed for (I think) 9min.  I had already bought my Pakon F335 so I waited until it arrived and this was the first roll through the scanner.  edit: I forgot to add, most of these shots are in my local neighborhood, just took them as I walked along one day.  #4 was taken from the Wal-Mart parking lot.

I shot this roll in the Olympus Trip 35, more from the same roll as this.  I have to say, that little camera is quite handy to have, especially in winter.  It’s simple to use, even with gloves on, and it fits quite nicely in a coat pocket.  This is only my first roll through it, but I could already tell it wouldn’t be the last.  It’s got a sharp lens and I don’t think the Fomapan does it justice, I have a feeling this would be a great camera for landscapes with Ektar 100.  With a 40mm f/2.8 lens I would have thought that it would be exclusively an outdoors camera but reading this post has changed my mind a bit.  I suppose that with the right film, you could get away with just about anything.  Cinestill 800T, anyone?

I don’t know what to think about Fomapan.  Its grain isn’t too bad and it has a classic grain structure, but nothing really stands out to me about it, it’s hard to form an opinion one way or another.  With Kentmere 100, even though its grain is huge for an 100-speed film, I at least think that it has a fantastic character and look to it, and would prefer using it to Fomapan 100 for most things, except maybe landscapes like we have here.  I suppose the price being right, it was a good film to try out, and I do have another roll which I plan on putting through something I’m a bit more familiar with like a Spotmatic, but I don’t think it will become a standby for me.  It is however, quite cheap to buy.  One thing I remember reading (after the fact, unfortunately) is that it really should be pulled somewhere under 100, and also the developing times are too aggressive and if overdeveloped the highlights can bunch up quick.  The chart hanging on our wall said 8-10 minutes in D-76 1:1, I really should have gone for 8 (or less) instead of 9, especially with all the snow and overcast skies, but I suppose I’ll know for next time.

Canon T50, expired film and negative density

I’ve put off writing this post for a while now, partly because I’m not partial to this camera and partly because the scans were a bit flawed.  This camera was gifted to me by a friend along with a whole lot of Canon FD lenses, most of which were off-brand zooms, but also a pretty nice 35mm f/2.8 wide angle that has gotten a lot of use in the last year, as well as two (!) 50mm f/1.8 lenses (bringing my total up to three).  So, that equipment along with the Canon AE-1 body, 100mm lens and now more zooms than you can shake a browncoat at, I’d say my Canon system is actually pretty far towards completion.

I’m not a fan of the T50 because there isn’t a whole lot of control a photographer can have over it.  It only works in Program mode, which I’m not a huge fan of.  In fact, its one saving grace is that it doesn’t read DX encoding, meaning I have some control over the exposure using the ASA setting (as long as you’re not going outside of ASA25-1600).  In that at least, it has an edge over the Nikon N60.  Using a roll of expired Fujicolor 200 of unknown age that I picked up at a thrift store for 50 cents, I knew I wanted the colors to come out as warm as possible (or at least have the film exposed properly) so I shot this entire roll at ASA25-50.  Sometimes it worked out, sometimes not as much.  (OK, it has more than just Program mode, if you take your lenses off “A” it gives you 1/60, but I didn’t try that too much, as a lot of the roll was taken with the 100mm lens)

One big problem I’m learning with shooting expired film is that even when exposing several stops over box speed, the negative density might be a bit on the thin side.  Talking to my camera store, it seems that’s a pretty big contributing factor in causing scanning lines.  Without my own scanner and a more personalized scan and attention to detail, I think it’s just going to be something I’ll have to live with.  This day, my mom asked me if I wanted to go take pictures of fall leaves with all her peeper friends so I came along, but I made her take her Minolta XG-A and a roll of Ektar.  That roll was pretty fresh and didn’t suffer from any scanning lines.

With all the complaining out of the way, I’ll say that those Canon FD lenses are quite wonderful, nice-looking and very sharp.  The only reason that I don’t use them more often is because I prefer the character of the Pentax Takumar lenses, even with the eccentricities of using the screw-mount system (Canon lenses look much more neutral to me).  I knew I’d end up getting some pretty nice images, and scanning lines aside, I did.  I’ll rescan this roll myself once I have that capability, but for now, I was stuck in Photoshop using the Healing Brush whenever I had the time and got pretty tired of trying to fix the problems.  Here are a few that I’ve got done and I think turned out pretty nicely.

Here’s an example before Photoshop:
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I don’t think I talk enough about how nice and how sharp those FD lenses are, but I’d say they do very well indeed.  One of these days I’d like to run a roll or two of Cinestill 50D through my AE-1 and see how that looks, but the T50 I got tired of dealing with and to use up the roll fast I took pictures of several of my other cameras.  Strangely enough, there are no scanning lines on those shots.  Hmmm…

Why I love Fuji Superia

This is my favorite product coming out of Japan, over even Nintendo or Studio Ghibli.  It may just be a cheap consumer film to a lot of people, but the colors it gives me are just fantastic.  That affordability really is an asset to me, especially when I was just starting to shoot film.  I had no job, no money, and I really took my time with my shots.  It was a great way to learn, but I’m glad I was paying $2-3 a roll instead of $10.  One of the bargain marts down in Colorado Springs used to get expired Superia in from time to time so that really helped me out, and it’s readily available at Wal-Mart as well, in 4-packs that might have gone up in price a bit, but still don’t break the bank.

Using this film almost exclusively for my first 3 years as a photographer, in a lot of ways I grew up with it.  I certainly cut my teeth on it, I learned more about film using Superia than I did in my photography class with Tri-X.  I’ve used it indoors, outdoors, in all different kinds of weather, overexposed, underexposed.  The results I’ve got just make me so pleased.  In saying why I love Superia so much it could almost be why I love the Takumar lens so much as well.  I counted: there are exactly 3 shots down below that are taken on a non-Pentax camera and lens.  I’ve read on other sites about alchemy as pertaining to film, and I can say without a doubt that I believe every word, because I found it here with the combination of Pentax’s SMC lenses and this film.  It’s how I create gold.

A few months back I came across this post from Cinestill regarding a comparison test between 800T, Fuji Pro400H, Portra 800, and Fuji Superia 800.  I was a bit surprised to see Superia on that list, it didn’t strike me as a film that pros would fall back on (maybe they used it after Fuji discontinued Pro800Z).  Looking at the results, it’s obvious that Cinestill 800T comes in first, but what came in second?  That’s right, according to their test, Superia 800 comes out looking better than either Pro400H or Portra 800.  i was so proud to see my beloved Superia perform so well compared to films that cost 2-3 times as much.

Superia 400 (as well as Reala) was originally available in 120 size as well, a fact I only found out after Fujifilm discontinued it, sadly.  I’ll bet it looked wonderful in medium format, but there doesn’t seem to be many examples posted on the net.  Other products in the Superia line that have recently been axed are a 1600 speed film and Reala 100.  Back in the day there was also a line called Fujicolor Press that was really just Superia that had been cold-stored since its manufacture, and they say it gave some really vivid colors.  It’s really sad to see the line dwindling, and sometimes I wonder just how long Fuji’s going to keep making film at all.  The only new film Fuji’s come out with lately has been Natura 1600 which I have yet to try.  Hopefully Fuji’s stabilized enough that they’ll start adding new films now, not taking away the classics.

I’ve used all four variants of Fuji’s consumer film line, Fujicolor 200, and Superia 200, 400, and 800.  Below are examples of all of them in no particular order.  They’re all great, so enjoy this collection of my favorite shots taken with this wonderful line of films:

Well done, Fujfilm.  Long may this film be made.

A lost view

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It’s an older one, from the end of Summer 2011, when I was a wee baby photographer.  This is Royal Gorge, some tourist trap near Cañon City, CO. (I looked up the alt number for ñ, pretty impressive, right?  I mean if it were Canon City, I would have had to bring a Nikon camera…)

There was a pretty impressive bridge spanning the top of the gorge, but I didn’t find any interesting angles to photograph it. Sadly, the bridge and almost everything else in and around the area was lost in the fires two summers ago, though perhaps it’s just as well in a way because I seem to remember the bridge being a popular spot for suicides.  I don’t really know what the state of Royal Gorge is these days, if they’ve rebuilt or not.

I was pretty patient in those days (and much poorer), my output was certainly not what it is now!  I sat on that roll of film until the following Spring before finally developing it (only shot one other roll during that time, too).  I wish I could say that I chose my shots carefully and that each one is a masterpiece, but really I just got lucky occasionally, and learned a few things.

Countryside

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Was this taken with my Sigma zoom lens?  I can’t remember exactly, it was 3 1/2 years ago now, but back in those days I think the only things I carried with me were the SMC Pentax-A 70-210mm and the Sigma 35-135mm zooms (they were also practically the only ones I owned).  It’s hard to favor the look of this lens over a real Pentax-made one and I doubt I’d use it these days but I didn’t let my equipment (or lack of it?) prevent me from taking a chance in the early days; I hope I can keep that spirit alive.  The objective is to make good images, and the important thing I try to remember is that one doesn’t need the fanciest equipment, or even hardly any equipment at all.  It’s something I really need to try to learn myself, to be happy with what I already have.