My First Rolls of Color Film!

I got my first four rolls of color film developed! I used thedarkroom.com for processing, I went with the enhanced scan option and I’m pretty happy with the results. The films I used are Kodak Gold 200Fuji Fujicolor 200 and Fuji Superia X-TRA 400

Rocky Shore Kodak Gold 200
Kodak Gold 200

I’ve been surprised with how slowly I go through film, unlike with digital I think about my shots much more critically before I take them and I only take one of each subject.

Swans Kodak Gold 200
Kodak Gold 200

While my keeper rate has been higher with film I do find I miss many shots with moving subjects, I think I just have to be ok with that for now while I develop the skills to quickly find the framing and settings I want, I find I hesitate more with film before I snap a photo.

Dakota Fujicolor 200
Fujicolor 200

There certainly is something about the look of film, all these photos are almost exactly how I got them back from the lab, granted they do some processing for you. The biggest adjustment I did was on the image of the sand pathway below, the foreground was much too dark so I just boosted it up.

Sand Path Kodak Gold 200
Kodak Gold 200

Film does give images a nice texture, if I take the same photo with my 6D it has a different feel to it, I’ll have to make a post with some examples when I get time.

Rose Fujicolor 200
Fujicolor 200

Swap meets are a great place to find colorful things all arranged and setup for you to take photos.

Cars Fuji Superia X-TRA 400
Fuji Superia X-TRA 400
Cloth Fuji Superia X-TRA 400
Fuji Superia X-TRA 400

Swap meets also have piles of stuff that can make an interesting shot, something you would not see normally.

Silverware Fuji Superia X-TRA 400
Fuji Superia X-TRA 400

Now that I have my first taste of color film I’m excited to shoot more, it is inspiring me to just pickup my camera and go for a walk.

Chicken Fujicolor 200
Fujicolor 200

Digital is of course still what I use 90% of the time and I don’t see that changing. When I’m not too concerned if I miss a shot and I want the focus film gives me on getting the composition, depth of field, and shutter speed right in my head then film really shines, film does not give me any crutches and when I get it right it delivers beautiful images.

Thanks for reading.

The Easy Way To Develop Black And White Film At Home

This process is based on my research of the stand method for film development, technically it is semi-stand because I agitate it in the middle to avoid an exposure gradient across the film. This is the most simple and easy way I am aware of to develop black and white film at home. Below I will outline what you need with links to all the specific products followed by simple step by step instructions. This guide is not designed to produce the perfect negatives in every situation, it is designed to be super simple and produce good negatives with minimal effort. I felt a bit intimidated when I started looking into developing my own film with all the different things to worry about like exact temperatures exact mixtures, exact time, this method does away with all that and is incredibly simple. I have intentionally left out options, there are lots of different ways to do things but if I wrote out all the different ways you could tweak this it would became vastly more complicated and difficult to follow, just know that developing film is as much an art as taking the photo, my intention here is to get you hooked with the easy way and I expect you will begin to explore the art.

What you need
  1. Developer
  2. Fixer
  3. Distilled water – find at your local grocery store
  4. Measuring cup
  5. Syringe
  6. Storage bottle
  7. Developing tank with spool
  8. Film changing bag – or just use a dark room
  9. Funnel
  10. Scissors – Any old scissors are fine but of you need some these are really good and cheap, the small one is nice for working in the dark bag
  11. Drying clips – I am using these ones I can hook over my shower rod
  12. Film Leader Retriever – If your leader is not exposed, here is a YouTube video I made showing how it works

With this method you only need 3 liquids, developer, fixer and water. The developer I chose is Rodinal because it seems to be the standard, others can be used and in the future I will do some testing and post an update about that. I selected TF-5 because it does not require a stop bath making this whole process much simpler. Distilled water is important because it does not contain minerals that can leave spots on the film.

Liquids for black and white film processing
It bothers me more than it probably should that Alhambra does not put their labels on straight…

The measuring is simple, for the purpose of this guide I will only talk about doing one roll of film at a time. You will need a measuring cup to measure water to mix with the developer, a syringe measure the developer, and a storage bottle with liter measurements to measure the fixer.

Measuring and storge of chemicals

A film developing tank with at least one spool (note: for this method you need a tank that can hold a minimum of 2 spools because it uses a larger volume of developer mix). A changing bag where you can pop open your film canisters and roll them onto the spool, this could also be done in a completely dark room.

Developing tank and film changing bag

This method only works for black and while film, but it will work for any standard black and white film of any speed. It makes things a lot easier if you leave the film leader hanging out a little when you rewind, you can do this on a manual rewind camera if you are careful and some auto rewind cameras can be set to leave the leader hanging out automatically. This guide will assume you left the leader out but here is a YouTube video I made showing how to get it out with a leader retrieval tool.

Practice

You should practice all the steps you will perform in the changing bag/dark room, make sure you know how loading the reel works. If you can, get an expired roll of film you can sacrifice to practice, if not watch YouTube videos till you feel you are comfortable doing it by feel. At the very least close your eyes and feel all your parts, practice finding the opening to the reel and inserting into the developing tank then sealing the tank.

Chemical Preparation

With this method preparing chemicals is easy. Fill your Storage container with three liters of distilled water, the one I have linked has a measurement directly on the side so it is very convenient. Next, pour the fixer into the storage container, the bottle I linked to is one liter so just pour the whole thing in this will give us a 3:1 mix ratio. Put the cap on the container and slosh it around to mix up the contents. This mix can be used repeatedly, and should be enough for 20 rolls of film. You will know the fixer is used up when it turns milky, as long as it is clear it is fine. If your fixer is coming out of your storage bottle milky you can probably still get the job done by repeating the fixer step but instead of putting it back in the tank just pour it down the drain* and when it is all gone mix another batch. Next, fill your measuring cup with 350 ml of distilled water and use the syringe to measure out 3.5 ml of developer, squirt the developer into the measuring cup with the 350 ml of water, use the tip of the syringe to mix it up. This 100:1 mix of developer will be a one time use and only used for one roll of film but the bottle contains enough to make 140 batches. We now have all our chemicals ready, note that we are not bothering with specific temperatures, we simply mix and are ready.

The Process
  1. Use scissors to cut the tapered section of the film leader off leaving a square end.
  2. Place your developing tank, spool, and film in your changing bag along with scissors if you wish to use them to cut the film off from the canister, it can also be torn by hand but scissors are easier.
  3. Make sure the bag is sealed, insert your arms and make sure there is a good seal around your arms.
  4. Load the film onto the spool.
  5. When the film is fully wound onto the spool cut it off from the canister being extremely careful not to cut the bag or your fingers and wind the film on until the end is flush with the start of the spool.
  6. Place the spool in your developing tank and seal it.
  7. You can now open the changing bag and you are ready to start developing
  8. Make sure you have all your chemicals ready, you should have your measuring cup with 100:1 developer (350 ml distilled water, 3.5 ml Rodinal) and your 3:1 fixer in its storage bottle (3 liters distilled water, 1 liter TF-5 fixer)
  9. Fill the developing tank with enough water to cover the film, you wont be able to see but you should have some idea of how full the tank is, error on the side of more than you need.
  10. Seal the tank and slosh the water around for about thirty seconds, let it sit for about five minutes, then slosh it around for another 30 seconds and drain it.
  11. Fill it with water one more time slosh it around and drain it out.
  12. Now pour in the developer mix you have in the measuring cup.
  13. Seal the tank and do 3 inversions (gently turn the tank upside down then back right side up).
  14. Tap the tank firmly on the table a few times to dislodge air bubbles from the film.
  15. Let the tank sit for 30 minutes.
  16. Do 2 slow inversions and tap the tank on the table to dislodge air bubbles.
  17. Let the tank sit for 30 minutes.
  18. Drain the tank down the sink.*
  19. Fill tank with distilled water and agitate for 1 minute to rinse the film then pour the water down the sink.
  20. Slosh around the fixer storage tank to mix it up.
  21. Pour enough fixer from the storage bottle into the tank to fully submerge the film, you can just fill the tank if you are unsure.
  22. Do slow inversions for about 1 minute then pour the fixer from the developing tank back into the storage bottle (use a funnel).
  23. Fill developing tank with distilled water, agitate, and pour down the drain, repeat until water comes out clear, the water may come out clear on the first rinse, in that case just rinse twice.
  24.  You can now take your developed film out the tank, remove it from the spool and hang it up to dry. It can be handy to put an extra clip on the hanging end of the film so it hangs strait down.
Results

Here are a few photos from my first two rolls of film! They were scanned using this scanner, it’s a low end one but produces reasonable results. I have ordered an Epson Perfection V550 so once I’ve spent some time with the two I’ll write up a comparison.

Elephant Seals Rock and Ocean Volvo 144 with headlight askew Bricks Beach and Pier Sand steps Fence Wood Grain
* Check local laws before pouring chemicals down the drain. The chemicals used here are minimal so it should not be a problem but better safe than sorry.

Sources

I got a lot of the info I used to create this guide from these two sources, they also provide more info on what happens when you change different parts of the process so if you are looking for more than my guide provides check these out.

http://jbhildebrand.com

http://theartofphotography.tv

Swap Meets Are Awesome For Finding Old Film Gear

I went to a local swap meet today, it’s one I’ve been to in the past and seen old cameras at so I thought I’d go see what I can find to play with. Swap meets are also a great place to take pictures of interesting things, I took the Pentax Spotmatic with the 50 mm 1.4 and snapped about half a roll. Using the Spotmatic was certainly a learning experience, it requires a much longer process to get everything setup than I am used to with my DSLRs or with the Elan 7ne. To take a photo I would open the aperture all the way which makes it easier to focus, once focused then I would turn on the meter and adjust my shutter and aperture, then make sure the composition looks good and release the shutter. I definitely spent more time thinking about composition knowing each frame was time and money and I only took one shot of every subject. Once I get the film processed I’ll be making a post to talk more about the results of my first few rolls of film.

I picked up five new cameras today and one lens, the first five cameras were only $1 each! I have no idea if they work but it is an interesting selection. I will be making a separate post for each one once I have used them and have photos to go along with my impressions. The one I am most excited about is this Canon Canonet QL17 rangefinder.

Canon Canonet QL17

I’ve been interested in getting a rangefinder to try the focusing system and I have read good things about this camera, I was actually looking to buy one on ebay but did not want to shell out what they go for on there so it was quite a lucky find. It features a 40mm f1.7 fixed lens that is supposed to be very high quality, the light seals have completely disintegrated so I am going to have to fix that before I can use it.

The next camera is Canon Rebel K2, I don’t really need it but I grabbed it for the purpose of this blog to show what can be done with a cheap SLR you can get for just about nothing. If you are already a Cannon DSLR shooter you can pick up a camera like this and use all your existing high quality lenses, this route is probably going to produce the best quality and the lowest cost for someone wanting to shoot on film. It has auto focus, exposure, shutter, aperture, etc. plus the modes we are used to on our DSLRs like Av, Tv, etc. which makes shooting much easier. Now on the other hand part of shooting film to me is the manual aspect, this camera absolutely can be shot manual but you have the option.

Canon EOS Rebel K2 I also picked up a point and shoot camera, this is one like my parents used in my childhood, I can’t remember exactly what cameras they had but I do remember they used point and shoots like this Ricoh F-33 AF Super.

Ricoh FF-3 AF Super

It has a fixed 35mm f3.2 lens, nothing super exciting but it is a nice compact package and the point and shoot aspect of it is something I wanted to have, I can just toss it in a backpack or leave it in my glove compartment, it will make a fun camera for shooting friends when a full SLR is just too much to carry around. I also like that it takes standard AA batteries unlike so many other cameras.

The oldest camera I got today is a Kodak Instamatic x-35, it was produced from 1970-1976. I picked it up thinking it was 35mm, it is not it uses 126 film which I had never heard of, it is sort of a reel to reel cartage and is not readily available anymore. But the camera was $1 and I like how it looks so I’ll find something to do with it if only for decoration.

Kodak Instamatic X-35

I got a Kodak Tele Ektralite 40 that takes 110 film which is smaller than 35mm and costs more but is still available and since the camera was $1 I figured why not, I’ll give it a shot, even if I only ever run a few rolls though it I’ll be happy. One interesting thing is it has a zoom by way of a switch that moves a magnifying lens in front of the regular lens.

Kodak Tele Ektralite 40

The last camera but certainly not least is this Nishika N8000 that takes 4 photos at once and can be used to create a 3D effect.

Nishika N8000

I’m not sure why it takes 4 photos, I would think two is all that’s needed but In a brief internet search I found that people take the four photos and create a GIF that has an interesting 3D effect so I plan to give that a shot. This camera was $10, I had hoped to get it for less but the lady would not go any lower and I am super curious to try it out so I went for it.

The one lens I got today is a Asanuma 90mm-230mm f4.5 M48 screw mount, cost me $10. I’m not really sure what I’ll shoot with it, it might make a good portrait lens but other normal things to shoot with a long lens like wildlife and sports would be very difficult with manual focus.

Asanuma 90-230mm f4.5

I’m going to work on a post talking about using old lenses on current DSLRs, I want to collect a few more first but this one will be part of the lineup.

To conclude: Go checkout your local swap meet, do some haggling and you will have what you need to start shooting on film for as little as $1 (film not included).

 

The Cameras I Am Starting With

I am starting with two very different cameras, a Canon Elan 7ne and  a Pentax Spotmatic. The 7ne is a big reason I am trying film, I picked it up years ago and it has been sitting on my shelf ever since, every time I see it I am reminded that I should get some film and give it a try. The 7ne is a modern camera by film standards, released in 2004 it takes current canon EF mount lenses, has auto focus with multiple focus points, different metering modes the same as a current DSLR, custom functions to control how the camera behaves, automatic film advance, bust shooting, etc. Really the 7ne is like your current DSLR but with film.

Canon EOS Elan 7ne SLR with Canon 50 mm f1.8
Canon EOS Elan 7ne SLR with Canon 50 mm f1.8

The Spotmatic on the other hand was introduced 40 years earlier than the 7ne in 1964. At some point my dad picked one up and when I mentioned to him i was going to try shooting some film he pulled it out of the drawer it’s been in possibly for my entire life and gave it to me. The Spotmatic is much more a “classic” SLR than the 7ne, it does have a light meter but everything is manual, focus, ISO, shutter speed, aperture, film advance, everything.

Pentax Spotmatic SLR with Super-Takumar 50mm f1.4
Pentax Spotmatic SLR with Super-Takumar 50mm f1.4

The Spotmatic uses screw mount M42 lenses that can be picked up for next to nothing. My dad gave me 2 lenses with the camera, a 5o mm f1.4 and a 135 mm f3.5 which even by today’s standards are impressive. As part of this process I will be trying these lenses on modern crop and full frame cameras using this adapter from amazon. I think using old manual lenses on current digital cameras will be a good way to experience a little bit of the old school photography feel, it will also help me get accustomed to the quirks of the older lenses and manual focusing with instant feedback and without burning through a lot of film. I’ll be working on a post showing my results in the weeks to come but i want to acquire a few more old lenses before I post it.

Super-Takumar M48 135mm f3.5
Super-Takumar M48 135mm f3.5

 

First Post – The Why

To start off this site I feel I should explain why I decided to try shooting on film. I have a few reasons for wanting to give film a try, the top two being I like the look and I feel it will make me a better photographer. As a photographer of the digital age I am not familiar with what shooting on film really means, I feel I have defaulted to digital and missed part of the art that used to be involved in photography. I am not suggesting that digital photography is inherently any less artistic, just that with digital some artistic areas of photography were lost (while others were gained) and I want to experience the areas film has to offer. The “look” film provides seems to be the biggest reason people give to still be shooting on it, I want to see what that “look” looks like in my hands, see if it is something tangible and learn from it to enhance all my work. I tend to be fast and loose with the shutter, I need to spend more time thinking before I snap a photo and I believe film will help me do that. With a financial cost to each click plus being limited to the number of frames I am carrying with me the “take a picture and see how it looks” method won’t work, I will have to form the image in my head, consider the composition and lighting, then judge if I have it right, judge if it is the best picture I can make with my subject before committing that light to a frame of film forever.

I am starting this website to document what I learn and  my experiences using film to help others who also wish to try shooting on film. We have a generation of photographers now who have never shot on film and I think I am not alone in wanting to experience the process of shooting on film. I am going to start with a focus on doing film easily and cheaply while still getting great results.