Category Archives: Uncategorized

80 Year Old Camera Explores the World Again

This Voigtlander Bessa rangefinder accompanied me on a recent business trip to Sri Lanka, and although I didn’t have much opportunity to use it there I did get to take a few frames (on an overcast day..) which is better than nothing, and then took a few more back in Japan.

These old cameras are handy for travel due to their compact size- when folded and stowed away they are slimmer than your average 35mm slr.  Of course without automatic winding stops you have to watch the number in the window for each frame, and when framing be careful not to crop things out of the top when in close range due to parallax (like I almost did in the portrait of the three friends in below), but this is all part of the experience.  A speed camera it is not.

Slave Island Fellows

These two friendly guys were enjoying the afternoon in this narrow alley in Slave Island with their beautiful cat. They jokingly offered to give me the cat to take back with me to Japan (the cat went along with it for the sake of the joke, but wasn’t that keen on it I don’t think). 

I did ruin a frame due to the bag of lychees I was carrying in my left hand contacting the shutter tensioner while taking one exposure thus slowing it from 1/100th to probably around 1/15th and causing the camera to shake slightly. This is something I like to do with my thumb on my Superb as well.  It generally takes one frame of doing this I’ve found and then I am ok for the rest of the time using the camera:-)  Then I forget again when it is put away for a few months..

slave island alley lychee dream

Doh! Darned lychees. They were delicious though (and cost only about ¥100 for 20pcs).

The Voigtlander Bessa RF was made from 1936-1951 I understand (according to Camerapedia). They were fitted with Skopar, Heliar, Heliomar, Helomar, and Color-Heliar lenses.  I like the 5 element Heliar 3.5/10.5cm, but I have heard good things about any of them.  It does get soft in the extremeties below f8, and swirly opened all the way up. This can look pretty cool for portraits etc if that is what you are going for. It has a yellow filter attached which conveniently flips up and down.  I don’t have a lens shade for it yet so have to watch the flare though haven’t noticed anything too shocking yet.

This high contrast photo of an old Japanese farm building would have benefitted from the zone system (and a tripod) in order to get more detail in the shadows and some more depth of field, although I like all the shapes, textures and shadows as it is.  Probably around 1.5 more stops exposure and then n-1 development?  Next time..

japanese rustic

Film was Arista Edu 100 (Foma 100) shot at ei200 just to get a little more speed for better handheld use. Development was HC-110 E 8 minutes/20C (recommended was 6 min at 20c at box speed).

This camera also is able to shoot square format which would give 12 frames instead of 8, and centralise the image to the area where the lens performs best.

 

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Acros/HC-110/and the trusty FM2

I purchased this FM2 at a camera fair around 25 years ago and it has served me without fail ever since. It is my most “nostalgic” camera.  It hasn’t gotten as much use the last few years due to my growing collection of cameras, but I always take it out again eventually.

Usually I have the 50/1.8 attached which is compact and a wonderful portrait lens, however this time I grabbed the 55/3.5 macro, which is a great macro lens and a fine all rounder.

I used Acros pushed one stop to ei200 developed in HC-110 dilution E (1:47), developed for 7 minutes at 22 degrees C. For Acros at ei100 I would normally develop for 7 minutes at 20 C, and I saw on the Massive Dev Chart that someone recommended 7 minutes at 24 C for ei400 so this was a guess but it worked out fine I think.

I am cognisant that since getting this bottle of HC-110 my use of caffenol has nearly stopped.  I also have the ingredients for D-23 waiting in the wings but alas, the corruption of convenience.  I think some of it has to do with my concern about the HC-110 expiring before I get through it.  Due to the dilutions this stuff goes a long ways!

 

 

 

Caffenol Stand Development

Stand development, or developing film without agitation by just letting it “stand” is generally considered a foolproof (and lazy) way to fully develop film without worring too much about blowing highlights. Caffenol works well for stand development and is one of my favourites.  Below is the recipe I use.

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Caffenol Stand – makes 50oml

  1. 500 ml fresh water (I use filtered tap water)
  2. 8g washing soda
  3. 5g Vitamin C powder
  4. 0.5g Kbr (Pot. Bromide) to restrict fogging, too much will restrict development as well..
  5. 20g instant coffee

Equipment needed: A thermometer, a scale, and a mixing container (don’t use your significant other’s ice coffee/tea pitcher).

Add in the order listed mixing well at each addition and let coffee bubbles settle before adding to film tank.  Presoak film for 5 minutes. 10 gentle turns to start then 60 minutes stand @20 degrees C for any film shot at box speed (I dont worry about the temperature too much after I start unless it is mid summer and it might rise more than a couple degrees over the course of the development).

Pushing and pulling, toing and froing..

You can push film one stop by simply increasing the development time out to 70 minutes and maybe adding another 10 sec agitation the second minute. Another stop increase the time a bit more and add a couple turns agitation as follows: 1 min, 2 min, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 (this is called Semi Stand).  I might reduce time to around 45-50 minutes for Kentmere or Acros shot at 80 or less.. Experiment to find out what works best for you. The interesting thing is in my unscientific opinion I don’t think there is anything gained really by pulling the film when you are using Caffenol in terms of grain at least.

I have really gotten a lot of enjoyment out of Caffenol.  It works well for push processing so I like to use it with Acros shot at 200 or 400 since Tri-x is so expensive over here in Japan.

The above recipe is from Rhinehold’s site one of the innovators and responsible for a lot of great research given free to all of us- fantastic resource!  Also check out the Caffenol Cookbook for some inspiration!

 

morning plant

Just before dawn, Tri-x ei1600 / Caffenol semi stand 85 minutes

This frame captured the early morning peace and solitude I felt when I awoke early and finished off the roll so I could start developing.  A handheld snap really, possible due to the iso of 1600.  Sometimes the discounted frames taken towards the end of the roll hold something when you happen to look at them a few months later.

Short excursion down Shinjuku’s backside

Unfortunately no backsides were recorded on my camera partially due no doubt to my inebriated condition, but that is no excuse,  I promise to do better next time.  “Don’t apologise just improve yourself” as my crazy old boss used to say..

Don’t worry, nothing as gritty or seedy as you might expect or even hope for (like from someone like Moriyama), I’ll save that for the next time perhaps..

The Tri-x pushed to 2200 in HC-110 worked well (16 minutes development), and next time I might give 3200 a shot to see how it holds up.

Tri-x ei2200 / HC-110 B / Summicron 50, Summaron 35

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FM2 Yoshidamachi 02

Old town, Yokohama.  Nikon FM2 50/1.8 Nikkor / Tri-x / HC-110 E (and fixer that looks like it probably should have been replaced a couple rolls back- doh!)

The wires on the side of the building look like vines to me.  I like how the shapes and patterns attract the eye amongst the jumble and worn disarray of human life- somehow more comforting to me, and definitely more interesting to look at than our new modern sterility.

Wet Plate Collodion Workshop

Earlier this year I was able to take a wet plate collodion workshop with Ray Bidegain.  I got to use Ray’s 8×10 Calumet (with a 4×5 converted for wet plates).  It started at about 9 in the morning and we didn’t finish with the dried plates until around 4pm.  Ray’s darkroom was cool and we had plenty of good conversations to boot. It was great fun.

The wet plate collodion process, also commonly called Tin Type, was invented around 150 years ago and uses a metal or glass plate as the base for the emulsion to create a positive. It is capable of incredibly fine detail and I understand, from wiki:-), it was used for special applications right up through the 1960’s. Today it has become very popular again in the US, particularly with portrait photography.  In Japan almost nobody knows about it, however I did meet one photographer here named Hiroshi Homma that does brilliant work with it.

It takes a bit of skill to pour the collodion onto the plates properly, and you have to be careful not to let it run back over the plate making run lines  when you carry it and put it in the camera.  Furthermore, the chemicals can make you pass out, and they can blow up your house if you don’t take adequate precautions. If you do take the right precautions however, and aren’t in a hurry I’m sure you will have a great time doing wet plates. I really enjoyed it.  It is hard to think of anything more custom than making the “film” yourself before taking the photograph.

Here are a few plates I really like from that day. I didn’t get to do any portraits unfortunately as I didn’t have anyone available, and I didn’t think to ask Ray at the time darn it:-)

You can see some of Ray Bidegain’s amazing work here.  I think his photographs have a quiet peaceful quality. His speciality is platinum printing which is another quite involved process.  He holds large format and studio photography workshops as well. I highly recommend him!

Izu Road Trip- or now better known as, the “How much longer?”, and “Not yet??” Trip

We recently took a road trip down to the Izu Peninsula, which is a beautiful place about 180km from Yokohama in Shizuoka Prefecture.  It took about 4 hours by car but for the kids it must have felt like 4 days I imagine since all I heard from them was “when are we gonna get there?”, and “how much longer?”…”Not yet??”. It reminded me of that scene in that Shrek movie with Donkey, Shrek and the Princess on the journey to Never Never Land.  No Donkey!  NO!!  Well, it didn’t help I suppose that I stopped a couple times to take photos along the way.  Ok, it was a couple dozen times.. Izu has a lot of old wood houses and shrines, and I can’t seem to go past them without taking a picture.

Japan has some fantastically beautiful places, sometimes right in the ordinary.

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Shrine near Shimoda. Nikko 24mm / HP5+

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Old farmstead, Izu.  Olympus 35sp / Acros

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The beach, finally! Macro Nikkor 55mm / HP5+

farm implement

Farm Implement, Shimoda. Macro Nikkor 55mm / HP5+

How do you like dem unyuns?!

How do you like dem onions? Pool table at Ernest House, inn near Shimoda. 35SP / Superia converted to BW.

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Photographer trap, Izu. Rolleicord V / Fomapan 100

bus stop izu

Bus Stop, Izu. Rolleicord V / Fomapan 100