More From The Darkroom….

I never wanted this blog to become a narcissistic ‘look at my photographs” typical photoblog. I try to keep it informative. But here goes. These shots were taken at the Wachusett Reservoir, in Clinton, Massachusetts. Developed this weekend, I am thrilled with the results. Kodak D-76 is known as an “all-purpose” developer, with other, more exotic developers, such as T-Max, and Rodinal heralded for their sharpness. Is D-76 really “pedestrian” compared to these other formulas? I hesitate to try anything else. This stuff is magic.

The 1st shot was taken from the top of the dam itself. the second, along its walls. Texture and detail that simply cannot be captured digitally. I will leave “sharpness” for the pixel peepers-

Wachusett Reservoir, Clinton, Massachusetts

Wachusett Reservoir, Clinton, Massachusetts

The Walls Of The Dam, Wachusett Reservoir, Clinton, MA

The Walls Of The Dam, Wachusett Reservoir, Clinton, MA

Lessons Learned In The Darkroom – What Home Film Developing Taught Me

I have never been patient. All through high school and college, I skimmed mandatory reading material, always finding shortcuts and “angles”. Is it possible for a creature of habit to become patient? Start developing your own film. You may learn some patience. What I have learned so far-

  1. “No violence!” To borrow a Film Photography Podcast (FPP) motto, be gentle, don’t yank, and act slowly and methodically. Yesterday, in the darkroom, I had one reel that I just could not get a roll of Tri-X onto to save my life. I had the confidence to know I would eventually get it. There is no rush at all.
  2. This is easy. I was scared to death when I developed my 1st roll of film almost a month ago. It’s a process, a logical, step-by-step one. Like making an omelette. This is not hard. Don’t overengineer it.
  3. If you have a 2-roll developing tank, develop 2 rolls at a time. You save a little of developer per roll. This is how I have been conserving my D-76. Two rolls yesterday, two rolls this morning.
  4. You are in COMPLETE control of the traditional analog photographic process. I really started developing my own film out of curiosity, and because my local lab no longer sends B&W film out to be developed. When they did so, my negatives would sometimes come back scratched, poorly developed, and with dust. The care extended to even an average home developing process will blow away what you have sent out. Think hand care, versus “mass production”.
  5. It’s yours, soup to nuts. You own it, from the moment the shutter clicks, to when you are loading the tank, pouring your chemistry, and scanning the completed negative. This is unbelievable fun.

Here is some of what I developed this weekend. these were taken at The Old Stone Church, in West Boylston, Massachusetts, on the banks of the Wachusett Reservoir. This beautiful spot is on The National Register Of Historic Places. Well worth the effort-

The Old Stone Church, West Boylston, Massachusetts, As Seen From The Wachusett Reservoir

The Old Stone Church, West Boylston, Massachusetts, As Seen From The Wachusett Reservoir

The Old Stone Church, Up Close- A Very Popular Central Mass. Photographic Subject

The Old Stone Church, Up Close- A Very Popular Central Mass. Photographic Subject

Steeple And Roof

Steeple And Roof

The Best Glass In Your Bag – “The Nifty Fifty”

The Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 Ai

The Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 Ai

Despite having spent a small fortune on glass over the years, this one is the best one in any bag. The “normal” 50mm. Sharp, fast, it was looked down on when zooms became the rage. Now, 50’s are some of the most sought after lenses. They just are beautiful optically. I have this 50mm f/1.8 Ai, and the AF-D. Without a doubt, the Ai is the most gorgeous piece of glass I have ever used. Sharp and contrasty, the coating alone is awe-inspiring. Distortion is virtually non existent. On a digital “DX” Nikon body, they are the consummate small portrait lens. On an FE-2, or N80, they are a joy to use. Yes, the cliché “zoom with your feet” holds true here. But, you also have a neat little street photography kit when paired up with a film body.

The original “kit lens”, these little lenses can produce breathtaking results. Took this one with my Nikon FE-2, and the 50mm f/1.8 Ai, at Institute Park, Worcester, MA, with Kodak Ektar. The FE-2’s split prism focus screen makes it easy and fun-

Institute Park, Worcester, MA Nikon FE-2, Nikkor 50mm 1.8 Ai, Kodak Ektar

Institute Park, Worcester, MA Nikon FE-2, Nikkor 50mm 1.8 Ai, Kodak Ektar

Direct Current- Batteries And Cameras

My Nikon N80

So yesterday, Father’s Day, brought my son down to the playground, with his wagon. Wanted to pack light, so I brought the Nikon N80, with a 50mm f/1.8, and a roll of Tri-X. I haven’t shot with the camera for over a year. It takes (2) CR123A 3 volt batteries. The camera is packed with electronics and custom functions. Six shots into the day, the shutter stops firing, and the digital meter goes blank. Thankfully, I got the shots I need, and Walgreens right down the street had two-packs of batteries. But, carry an extra pack with you. You’ll be glad that you did. This camera was a blast to work with this weekend.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute – Ektar

Was visiting the campus at Worcester Polytechnic Institute last month. Located on Boynton Hill in Worcester, Massachusetts, it is a private polytech university, which despite beling located in the city, has very much a suburban feel. Despite being private, it is not gated, and the public can walk through the campus. Took my Nikon FE-2, 50mm f/1.8 Ai Nikkor, and Kodak Ektar 100. Despite being late afternoon, with the bluish color temperature, managed to take some nice shots. This is Boynton Hall-

Boynton Hall, WPI, Worcester, MA

Boynton Hall, WPI, Worcester, MA

And this is Alden Memorial, where performances are held, as well as computer music laboratories-

Alden Memorial, WPI

Alden Memorial, WPI

Colleges and universities are great places to explore and photograph. This campus is incredible in the fall, and may call for another photowalk this September.

The Darkroom- My 1st Roll Of Home Developed Film

My Film Photography Podcast friends already know, but I recently built my 1st darkroom, to develop TriX, and eventually, other emulsions. As I have a tendency to overengineer everything, this was surprisingly easy, after drawing up a developing flowchart. I received wonderful tips and walkthroughs from my favorite FPP listener/contributor, Dan Domme. Dan was a tremendous help, as was Harry Pulley. While their methods differ, they were incredible resources. What I found reading online, and in library books, is there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of ways to do this. I won’t recap step-by-step how I developed, as someone is bound to say I was wrong, or someone else will say I did it perfectly. Anyways, I used Kodak D76 developer, which is an all around great all-purpose developer. Tricky to mix, as it is H2O temperature sensitive, and you have to make sure you dissolve all of the powder thoroughly.

Lesson learned :the most challenging part of the entire process is loading the developing tank in the darkroom. You cannot see a thing. But, if you sacrifice a “dummy roll’ or two in light, and practice, and then practice again in the darkroom, you will be very nicely prepared. I say darkroom here, because I converted an unused closed pantry area adjacent to my kitchen, and sealed off the door cracks with weather-stripping from The Home Depot. The two glass window panes on the back door were sealed off with Fuji instant film darkslides. Of course, a nod to my Polaroid obsession. The best test for the “does my darkroom pass the pitch black test” is to take a piece of white paper, hold it up in a dark area in the room, and wait for 5 minutes. If you can’t see the paper, you’re good to go. Kodak really does have excellent whitepapers on how to set up, mixing, agitation, etc on their website.

One note- I selected the Omega universal system for my developing tank. Others swear by Paterson tanks, while others opt for the stainless steel, and won’t use anything else. The Omega was fantastic. No leaks, and it can develop two rolls at once if you choose. If developing only one roll, as I did here, make sure you put the empty one back into the tank in the darkroom, so as to serve as a spacer when you begin inversions. I would have bought the Paterson, but my camera shop. LB Wheaton’s in Worcester, only had the 35mm tanks, not the universal. With the Omega, I can later develop 120 from the Hasselblad, and 127 for the Kodak Brownies. And, I goofed a bit. I had stop bath ready to go, but after receiving a phone call, forgot to use it. Stop bath, while I was told is not a must, I did have the presence of mind to use the fixer, a must if you want your developed film to last. Don’t answer the phone while doing this. It’s all about time and temperature.

I sincerely thank Mike Raso, cohost of The Film Photography Podcast, for the inspiration to do this, as well as FPP fans and contributors Dan and Harry for their assistance. No longer scary, this truly was one of the most gratifying experiences in my photographic journey. I posted some other shots on my Flickr Photostream, but here is one taken at Moore State Park in Paxton, Massachusetts, with the Argus C3 Colormatic, and 100mm Argus Tele-Sandmar lens-

Scary No More- From My 1st Roll Of Home Developed Film- Moore State Park, Paxton, MA Kodak TriX, D76, Argus C3, 100mm Tele-Sandmar

Scary No More- From My 1st Roll Of Home Developed Film- Moore State Park, Paxton, MA Kodak TriX, D76, Argus C3, 100mm Tele-Sandmar

Walker Evans Meets William Eggleston, And Thoughts On Digital

Taken At The Millyard, Manchester, NH, Nikon D300, 17-55mm f/2.8

There are so many things about digital photography that are annoying to no end. Silly, pointless rules, such as “you MUST shoot in RAW”, you must sharpen last, you have to bring up everything out of the shadows, you can’t have any blown highlights, the list goes on and on. Add to the list when you get novice photographers on Flickr taking the “rule of thirds” so literally that you can almost predict where they will position their subject in the shot, and you have one interesting main subject, and 2/3rds of virtual nothingness. High Dynamic Range photographs, over-processed, with wonky colors, continue to flood Flickr. I just don’t get it. Why anyone shooting sports photography, with the higher burst rates of jpg, would shoot in RAW, with its much slower capture, boggles the mind. And yes, the RAW files are massive. Sell more hard drives.

William Eggleston was recently interviewed on The Today Show by Ann Curry, who is a Nikon and Leica photographer. The pioneer of modern-day color photography, he is brash, arrogant, and yes, a genius. His name has been coming up a lot lately on the Flickr boards. Walker Evans- master of the vernacular, he made things like signs, subway people, and everyday things we take for granted, beautiful and relevant. He shots SX-70 exclusively in the later years of his life.

As a photographer, I love to be inspired by such masters, even if the quality of my work does not even come close. It doesn’t. Additionally, while I love looking at photography from David LaChapelle, and Annie Leibovitz, it just isn’t my style. Yet, I love their work.

Back to digital- the crazy “you must’s” go on and on. Model’s faces are post-processed and skin smoothed to a pulp, to the point where they look like rubber.  Artifacts which normally would make for interesting imperfections in a photograph are clone stamped out. The obsession that new photographers have with “tack sharp” images needs to stop. Millions upon millions of fantastic images were made before lens technology reached its current state. A softer, well composed image, is much more pleasing than a “tack sharp”, boring one.

Many lengthy diatribes have been done on the “film vs. digital” arguments. This is not one of them. I shoot film and digital. Different tools, for different purposes. But, I love film. The image featured here was shot with my Nikon D300, 17-55mm f/2.8, and the ISO was cranked down to “Lo-1”, the equivalent of ISO100/ Digital tends to shoot “hot”, leans towards overexposure, and provides very little exposure latitude, certainly much less than film. The base ISO of the camera is ISO200- if I had shot this at that speed, it likely would have had lots of overexposure. Guessing that the base was set at Nikon to 200 because digital photographers seem to compulsively want to lift everything out of the shadows. The dynamic range of digital is poor- you really have to nail your exposures, or else you have lots of blown highlights, darker than normal shadows, and a wonky looking image. “But wait”, Dave Digital says, ” I can fix it in post.” Photoshop is not photography. It is a tool. Sadly, digital photography has become a consumer electronics industry, not an art form. And, the “its digital, it’s free!” mantra needs to be put to rest. Adobe software prices really help end that, not to mention new camera models every 6 months. It truly is insanity.

Stepping off the soapbox. And, shadows can help to make a great shot. Keep them.

Libya

A Peaceful Protest In Boston By Libyian Nationals, Calling For An End To The Moammar Gadhafi Reign Of Terror

A Peaceful Protest In Boston By Libyian Nationals, Calling For An End To The Moammar Gadhafi Reign Of Terror

These peaceful, respectful Libyian people, now in America, were protesting in Boston, to call for an end to the Moammar Gadhafi regime. Across from Boston Public Library, they were receiving cheers from pedestrians and well wishers. They had no other agenda, other than wanting an end to 40 years of oppression, and the hope of freedom for their friends and loved ones still living there. With hope building that he may finally step down, let’s hope we see some much-needed change there.

The Original Shot - Polaroid 230, Fuji FP-100B Instant Film

The Original Shot - Polaroid 230, Fuji FP-100B Instant Film

Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library - Home Of Over 22 Million Items

Boston Public Library - Home Of Over 22 Million Items

Considered by many to be the 1st modern library opened in the United States, in 1848, the Boston Public Library in Boston, Massachusetts houses over 6 million books, and a total of 22 million items. A current exhibit there highlights the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The main staircase, pictured here, is made out of marble, and was crafted by Louis St. Gaudens. It is a tribute to Massachusetts Civil War infantry regiments the 2nd and the 12th. These Polaroids were taken with only available light, and with Fuji FP-100B 100 speed film.

No Flash Needed For This Lion!

No Flash Needed For This Lion!

Regatta Point

Regatta Point, Worcester, Massachusetts, Polaroid 240, Cloud Filter, Fuji FP100B

Regatta Point, Worcester, Massachusetts, Polaroid 240, Cloud Filter, Fuji FP-100B

Regatta Point is on Lake Quinsigamond, which is located in Worcester and Shrewsbury, MA. It is a lake used for crew racing and regattas with competitions between local colleges and universities. Regatta Point is a charitable organization on the lake that teaches boating. These boats kind of lined up nicely for the shot. Given the high contrast and clouds that day, very thankful for Fuji FP-100B film being loaded up into the 240, as well as the cloud filter in the case. This was a very enjoyable spot to photograph last week. Calm, peaceful, and quiet, for these lightning-paced, viral, smartphone digital times. A great place to “get into the zone” with film photography.