Eastman House

I honestly didn’t shoot that much, I was so busy just looking around.  This was one of the places I’d been wanting to check out since I found out the next Blackburn Reunion would be near Rochester.  Just standing in the same rooms that the Great Man stood, walking where he walked, it was special.

Compared to the McMansions that are made today and some of the places I’ve seen Eastman’s house seems modest, even austere in a way.  But one thing that I was aware of is that everything is of top quality.  There were some very nice grounds with flowers and at least one pond, but I enjoyed the grape vines more, at least they’re something useful.  I tasted one too, they’re way too sour.  Besides that the only souvenir I took was an acorn that fell from one of the oak trees in his front yard.  Everything else has a bit of significance too: a long exposure in the camera obscura, a mirror selfie in Eastman’s study, the nitrate archive, and Eastman’s love of music (wouldn’t let me get close enough to the pipe organ).  Probably these pictures aren’t very interesting to anyone but me, that’s ok.  If you’re in Rochester and you love shooting on film, go make your own pictures there.  Just don’t buy a roll of film in their gift shop, it’s outrageously expensive.

Blackburn Reunion 2018, Pt.I

Every couple of years my college buddies get together around Labor Day Weekend to hang out.  This year we stayed at the house of one of our uncles, on Canandaigua Lake in Upstate New York.  I miss this area quite a lot, we spent some time here when I was a boy and it was great to make it back to such a beautiful spot.  There was some hanging around as you can see, board games, lots of meals, generally stuff that we did together when we all lived in Columbus.  Flying into Rochester, NY and staying around the Finger Lakes I of course left all my Fujifilm stocks at home.

The roll of Cinestill 800T was downright ancient, I think I’d had it in my fridge for almost four years and it looks rather grainy.  It’s also the first roll I’d shot in a while and I did shoot it outside now and again, with my orange filter.  That worked better than the first time I tried.  Strangely, I had to work with the indoor shots much more to find an acceptable color temperature (not my strong suit).  I was anticipating some late nights in near-darkness and the T-Max 3200 definitely came through for me there, this is the second roll of the stuff that I’ve shot.  One of my goals was to take a good portrait of each of my friends, though there was some resistance to that.  I got a pretty good shot of most everybody (and they even turned the camera on me once or twice too).  I also tried a cigar for the first time ever and puked my guts out about half an hour later (then it became a true college party); ironic that one of my buddies had mentioned earlier that he never took whisky and cigars together for just that reason, and I had to learn the hard way too…power of suggestion?

The T-Max 3200 was bought last year (in an order from Cinestill).  I think I’m acquiring a bit of a taste for this film: the grain is certainly pronounced (in fact compare it to the last time I pushed Tri-X to 1600), but I love the moodiness that it gives the pictures.  In fact next time we get together I might just keep it all black & white because I’m a bigger fan of that roll of 3200 than anything else I shot.  Then I could roll out the f/1.4 Yellow 50; this time I knew I wanted to shoot some Cinestill 800T so I brought out the 1.8/55 SMC Takumar.

So is the 3200 really any better than pushing Tri-X to 3200?  I honestly don’t know, I’ve only pushed Tri-X to 1600.  I have heard that the results can be a bit unpredictable to go beyond 1600, but then perhaps I should put that to the test myself.  Or maybe look at T-Max 3200 shot at 1600, to compare the grain.  It does look very grainy, more than I would have thought.  Where does the T-grain have its limitations?  The outside night shots here were T-Max 400 shot at 3200; it might not be the most scientific comparison, but I don’t see much difference.

And in other news…

Cinestill are at it again!  They’ve restarted their crowdfunding platform to make medium format 800T a reality:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/cinestill-120-medium-format-film

Now, they did this a while back.  The difference is that they’re asking for a third of the money they originally did, so I assume they’ve been seeking funding from other sources since, and their crowdfunded goal is much more attainable this time around.  Their rewards are much more enticing and varied, as well!  100′ roll of 35mm 800T, anyone?  On top of that, instead of Kickstarter, they’re using Indiegogo this time around, meaning that any funds they receive they will be paid out regardless of whether or not their goal was met; this is significant for several reasons.  This time though, I think they’ll meet their goal easily.  It’s not been a day yet and they’re up to $45,000 already, but then again it doesn’t matter if they make their goal or not.  Supposedly Kickstarter is much more successful than Indiegogo, precisely because it’s an all-or-nothing deal, and that helps generate excitement and higher pledges, especially during the last few hours.  This time around though, I think we’ll see medium format 800T film become a reality.

Edit: Oh yes, we will!  It’s the last day of the campaign and they’re 130% funded, surpassing $150,000 which means we’re going to see 800T in large format sheets as well.  Not only that, but they’ve extended their deadline by two weeks, so perhaps we’ll reach the next goal, 50D in 120 as well.  Beyond that, there’s an unannounced stretch goal, I’d certainly like to know what they are planning…

Edit 2: Final tally is 155% funded at $187,570; their stretch goal was for $190,000 but from what I’ve read, Cinestill won’t let that missing $2500 stop them for long.  I expect to see medium format 50D soon, and perhaps large format as well. 

The Read Headed Zombie virus has been eradicated

Bittersweet.  The last Read Headed Zombie show ever was back on Halloween. It’s something that I’ve played sets in, I’ve been part of their art/music contests, and have generally hung out with a lot of these people for years now.  My roommate was one of the performers that night, and he’s one of the first people I met when I moved here from Ohio.  I think he’s singlehandedly responsible for me knowing the people in these pictures.

As this was a special occasion, I broke out my last two rolls of Cinestill 800T and put those through the Spotmatic, plus some more of the expired Tri-X through the Trip 35 (those were mostly so underexposed that they were unusable, even though I tried developing at 3200…the usable ones are the last two shots in the series).  I’m really pleased with the Cinestill, considering I shot it 1200-3000 and didn’t push.  They did start getting pretty grainy, but it didn’t bother me to make some black & white, the grain looks just right, then.  They really turned the lights down low for most of the show, I was shooting wide open at 1/30 and 1/15 almost the whole time, handheld.

 

Here’s to you, guys.  Whatever comes after RHZ, I’m sure it’ll be fantastic.

Just a few posts from the Colorado Springs scene:
https://resurrectedcamera.wordpress.com/2015/09/13/week-3-intermediate-photography/
https://resurrectedcamera.wordpress.com/2015/03/26/little-canyons/
https://resurrectedcamera.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/learning-curve-with-cinestill-800t/

Week 11 – Intermediate Photography

Halloween marked the final Red Headed Zombie show, which I have been a part of for several years now.  I’ll have a full post coming on that soon, but wanted to pick out three of my favorite images for this week’s assignment.  I even tried printing some to my black & white paper, it didn’t turn out all that well, unfortunately.

I broke out the Cinestill for this concert, but the lighting was so poor that I was shooting 1200-3000 and hoping the film’s latitude would come through for me.  It did, in fine style, but with the more underexposed shots, the grain (and colors) were a bit too much to deal with; they look fine as black & white, though!

kenny-clarke-7
KENNY CLARKE New York, 1948 – Herman Leonard

528
DEXTER GORDON New York, 1948 – Herman Leonard

When people think of jazz imagery, it’s hard not to think of a Herman Leonard picture.  I first noticed his work this summer when taking a jazz history course.  Our textbook was Jazz by Gary Giddins & Scott DeVeaux; Leonard’s images are all over the place in there, and so striking.  He got his start in post-war New York using his camera to gain free admission to jazz clubs, and over the years ended up hanging out with (and taking pictures of) some of the great jazz musicians of all time, including Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, and so many others.  I picked out two of my favorites to show here.  If I had thought of it soon enough, I would have chosen a master’s study of Herman Leonard, considering that I’m myself a musician and spend so much time around musicians.  Too late now, I suppose…

Cinestill 800T, before and after

I’ve been thinking about Cinestill 800T again recently, mostly because of seeing how other people are using this film, and I wanted to chime in a bit more.  Going back to my writeup from last month, I just wanted to make it clear that a lot of the time, this film doesn’t look very good right out of the scanner, so be encouraged.  I’m seeing a lot of people posting Cinestill images raw, and they just don’t look right.  Remember: adjust the curves.  Here’s what I mean:

01AA025  01AA025a
before                                               after

Just a bit too much blue.

I almost never get images I like right away with this film.  It’s not so much of a problem, as long as I’m willing to take a few minutes to adjust some things in Post.  What it means however, is that knowing ahead of time that I’m going to have to tweak it after scanning, I’m only going to shoot it for projects where I’m willing to put in that extra time to get it looking right.

One more thing: this entire roll needed adjustment except for the absolute last exposure.  For some reason, that one came out looking fine, despite the fact that the shots right before it, taken literally one foot from each other, are as blue as everything else.  Out of the entire roll, this one was fine:
01AA041
Too bad I fudged the focus

The guy at the camera store said maybe the color temperature of the lights was different, I don’t think that’s right.  I think it has to do with this camera (Pentax SF-1) having a plastic window on the back that I forgot to tape over.  If that’s the case though, just look at how well I was able to salvage those shots!  If you’re shooting the 800T (or any of the Kodak motion picture film being repackaged by Cinestill or other companies) and it doesn’t look right, don’t be discouraged with the results you’re getting!  Pull it into Photoshop, Lightroom, whatever you can get a hold of and start adjusting curves or color balance, add some contrast maybe.

That’s all I have for now.  Merry Christmas to everyone, I probably won’t be back on until next year.

The learning curve with Cinestill 800T

Since the beginning of September I’ve shot two rolls of Cinestill’s initial offering, the Kodak Vision 3 500T motion picture film (rated at ASA800 for still photography).  In that time, they’ve been pretty busy, packaging up some Eastman Double-X (which I’ve bought a few rolls of but haven’t tried yet) and also the Vision 3 50D (coming soon so I’m told, but unfortunately I just don’t have the funds to order any right now), as well as trying like hell to get the funding to release the 65mm 500T film stock in medium format/120 size.  I’m disappointed they didn’t meet their Kickstarter goal but they’ve been positive about the whole thing and who knows, they might be able to pull it off one day.  I’ve been dying to write about this film but really I don’t know if I understand this film stock yet–I honestly thought that I knew enough about film now and it would be an easy transition to Kodak’s motion picture films.

Well, the truth is that I have plenty more to learn.  Thankfully I still have two rolls of this film and I don’t feel like giving up.  There will be more Cinestill posts in the future.

The story begins back in the end of February when I shot a friend’s show on daylight-balanced Fuji Superia 800.  I thought most of the shots came out pretty well considering my meager Photoshop skills, but I’ll admit that they’d look better with a customized scan job instead of the standard one I get at my camera store.  Back then I didn’t realize that there was a void in my life but now I understand that high-speed tungsten-balanced color film is something that will be very useful for me the more I shoot indoors.  I don’t know exactly when I first heard about Cinestill 800T, probably sometime during the summer, but what finally tipped the balance is when I attempted to shoot another inside show in relatively low light using Portra 400 and a blue filter.  It turned out not to be a good idea; even with my Minolta SRT-MCII’s relatively bright viewfinder and fast 1.4 lens, I was having a pretty hard time focusing.  I wish I could show you my results from that but sadly I messed up when loading the film and didn’t actually take any pictures (the film was reused).  I never realized that the blue filter would cut out so much light that I’d have a hard time focusing, but I won’t be trying that again unless I can find a good rangefinder camera (that works) with a fast lens.  With an SLR it’s just too hard for me, but when I heard about Cinestill 800T, I knew I had the answer.  Here’s my first roll, taken the day I got back from Ohio:

One shot has some mild adjustment to the curves, another had some dodging, both done in Photoshop.  I’m really happy that I have access to Photoshop on any computer on UCCS campus, it definitely gives me an alternative to homework between classes.  If you’ve read up on Cinestill, you know that the remjet anti-halation layer has been removed to make this film compatible with C-41 processing.  Here is the result of that:

I shot the majority of this particular roll at about ASA1200.  Looking onstage from the crowd (there wasn’t actually a crowd), I could have easily gotten away with 1600 and am glad I didn’t give it more light; perhaps I can darken things up with a custom scan but as things are now, these aren’t quite usable, so take note if you’re focusing on a platinum blonde under a spotlight.  Over all, I’d say it was a pretty successful first roll.  I used my Pentax Spotmatic SPII with the 1.8 Takumar lens; while I really wish I had a 1.4 lens in M42 mount, the ability to expose this film at 1600 (and perhaps beyond) without pushing means that it’s not really a necessity at the moment.

For the second roll I decided to put it through its paces a bit more.  My goal was to try using this film the way I’d use Fuji Superia, which is to say I wanted to take a few shots here and there, leave it in my camera for weeks at a time, shoot in all lighting conditions, and take the opportunity to use it outdoors with a filter.  While I think it’s important to take risks in photography, I think I took a bit too many this time around and led to some unpredictable results (I talked a bit about that last week).  Here’s what I think I did wrong:
-Too many variables, including the fact that I used a camera for the first time (Pentax SF-1 with an SMC Pentax-A 50mm 1.7 lens) and didn’t understand what the eyepiece diopter did (it wasn’t quite set correctly I think).  This led to some focusing errors.
-I didn’t use a proper Wratten-85 filter when outdoors.  What I have is a Kenko YA-3 orange filter which works great for black & white photography but I have no idea what its Wratten number is, and I spent about an hour trying to find out.  It did lead to some interesting-looking colors (I’ve included one of the results below)
-I forgot to tape over that little window on the back of the camera and it might be the reason for a blue cast on many of my shots, even those later indoors.  I think this is the big one myself, but I’ll have to shoot another roll to be sure.
-I also might have forgotten to take into account the color temperature of different lights.  Evidently daylight-balanced electric lights are a thing now, so I’m going to need to pay attention to that as well; this is the other possibility to why so many of my indoor shots turned out so blue.

Now that all being said, I’m reserving all the “before” images for a later post I want to write, on what I’ve learned to do in Photoshop.  I think it’s a credit to Kodak and the design of this film that it is so easily manipulated in the digital realm.  However much I’d prefer to see a 35mm print from an optical source, I’ll admit that digital intermediates do indeed have their advantages!  This really is a forgiving film and the colors I was able to get out of it are indeed wonderful:

For the record, there is only one photo in that set that didn’t have digital adjustments to contrast or color curves.  It’s orange.  I found that it was easier to adjust colors and the results were better when I didn’t use my filter.  If I were a cinematographer, I would absolutely insist on using Kodak film for every project, when it looks like this, after all I did to it; I’m sure it’s even better when properly exposed.  The Pentax SF-1 was given to me by a friend about a year ago, and thankfully it took the same battery that I bought for my Minolta Weathermatic.  I feel so blessed to be gifted items like this.  If you have a camera that you don’t use anymore, don’t let it collect dust forever, please give it to someone who will enjoy using it; who knows, you might inspire and cultivate the interest of a budding photographer!  The camera itself, despite being quite modern by my standards, was essentially easy to use.  The LCD menu wasn’t at all hard to navigate and changing ASA on the fly took less time than it does with the dial on a manual camera (not sure the same can be said for shutter speed).  It’s an autofocus camera and came with a Sigma zoom lens which I put aside in favor of an older manual-focus K-mount SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/1.7 lens.  It was easy to use in aperture priority mode, thankfully.  I’m not as familiar with the K-mount variety as I am with the older Takumar lenses but they seem to be just as worthy (I’ve read that the A-series is actually sharper).  While I hardly need another camera system, if a Pentax LX falls into my lap someday I might just have to get a full set of K-mount lenses.

Things to remember about Cinestill film:
-Cinestill recommends shooting it within 6 months of purchase (or cold-storing it), and also suggest that it is processed “promptly.”  Remember that a movie production will buy several 400-foot rolls to shoot in a single day, use it all up at once, then send it out to be processed the next day.  Don’t leave it on a shelf at room temperature for a few years and expect anything amazing.
-Tungsten-balanced to 3200K, but won’t get the same results in all incandescent lights.
-If you have a plastic window on the back of your camera’s film door to remind you what film you’re shooting, cover it up with black electrical tape.
-You might find yourself in a situation where you wish you still had the remjet layer.
-It’s designed for post-processing with a digital intermediate.  Your photos might not look the best right back from the lab, even if you scan yourself.  You’re probably going to have to do some work in Photoshop or a similar program.

Now I remarked earlier that I’d rather be photoshopping than doing homework.  I of course would rather do anything than homework.  While I’m extremely happy with the results I got, I wouldn’t say that I enjoy having to manipulate photographs in the first place.  If you already do a lot of digital post-processing in your work, I’m sure Cinestill 800T will not faze you and I’d heartily recommend it to you.  In that case you could probably shoot it in all environments and lighting conditions without having to worry about color temperature or filters because this film is easily correctable in post.  I personally would rather get things right in camera, get the negatives scanned, and have done with it.  I’d rather spend my computer time killing Nazis and my photography time out in the real world.  If you’re more to my way of thinking, this film will be more for special occasions when you’re willing to spend time to make the images look correct.  Make sure you’re willing to put in the time to actually learn how to get the most out of this film with Photoshop/Lightroom/whatever, because there is a learning curve.  If you can get past that, then the results are well worth the effort.

one more note: The Film Photography Podcast also cuts down motion picture film stock and packages it in still photography canisters, evidently a lot of companies like Adorama, B&H, etc. used to offer repackaged short ends back in the day (to my knowledge FPP isn’t selling short ends).  They have several choices available in black & white that I’d like to try one of these days (like Eastman High Contrast copy film), but their rolls are 24-exposure and when one works out the math it is actually cheaper buying Cinestill’s 36-exposure Double-X rolls (when available).  FPP has Vision 3 stocks but they still have the remjet and must be processed in ECN-2 chemistry or by hand.  Who knows, maybe one day after all the drugstore minilabs close down ECN-2 processing will become the standard for us all, but for now I’m grateful for Cinestill making this film available to all C-41 shooters and so happy in general to see these film stocks available now to still photographers.  It seems like we really have more choices than ever, so get out there and shoot more film.

This review of Cinestill 800T is continued here.