Sunday, December 11, 2011

Series - 8 days, 8 cameras, 8 films

(Supercolor 635 LM Program, Impossible PX600 Silver Shade UV+, ISO 600/29°)

diagonal shadows
(Retinette IA, Fuji Neopan 400, ISO 400/27°)

fitch [stranger 16/99]
(Flexaret VI, Ilford XP2 Super 400, ISO 400/27°)

day 29 - black and white
(Beltica I, Agfaphoto Vista 200, expired 2009, ISO 200/24°)

reading under the trees
(Ideal 250/3, Fuji Neopan 100 Acros, ISO 100/21°)

electrified fence in the middle of nowhere
(Vito I, Ilford FP4 Plus 125, ISO 125/22°)

(Hapo 66-E, Kodak T-MAX 400, ISO 400/27°)

grass and trees
(Praktica BMS, Prakticar 28mm 1:2.8, Fomapan Action 400, ISO 400/27°)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Happy Analogversary! :)

One year ago, I published my first film picture on flickr. In fact, I had already posted a couple of shots taken with the Diana Mini, but it was with this picture, taken with the Kodak Retinette IA, that I realized that film photography was truly something worth spending my energy and devoting myself to, that it could replace and multiply the joy that I got from digital photography. Film photography became, thus, a project on its own.

analogue makartsteg
(Retinette IA, Kodacolor 200, ISO 200/24°)

For me, this picture represents the beginning of an amazing year, photographically speaking, rich in surprises and full of fun and learning. In this year I published almost 300 film pictures to my flickr photostream, from them 120 on black and white film, 90 on color negative film and 90 on color slide film.

I exposed 86 films: 38 on 35mm format, 45 medium format, 2 film sheets and 1 instant film pack. The most used black and white film is tied between Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford FP4 Plus 125 (both 3 rolls). The most used color negative has been Kodak Portra 400 (4 rolls) and the most used color slide film Fujichrome Velvia 50 (9 rolls).

I used 12 cameras: six 35mm cameras, four medium format cameras, an (almost) large format camera (Ideal 250/3) and an instant film camera. The one that I used the most has been my beloved Flexaret VI, with which I exposed 25 films this year.

How much did I learn this year? Really a lot, but hopefully not half of what I am going to learn next year. Because my head is boiling with new challenges and exciting projects! :) Thanks for sharing this journey with me! :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fitch [stranger 16/99]

fitch [stranger 16/99]
(Flexaret VI, Ilford XP2 Super 400, ISO 400/27°)

My sixteenth stranger was really focused on his smartphone.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The old lady - Zeiss Ikon Ideal 250/3

The principle behind photography is fairly simple: you just need a dark space where light can enter through a hole in a controlled way and some kind of light-sensitive receptor material (silver halide salts or CMOS semiconductors). This dark space (or camera obscura) is, of course, the photographic camera. Every photographic device in the world, no matter how fancy, no matter how hi-tech, relies on this principle. My oldest camera (for now) is a Zeiss Ikon Ideal 250/3 UU and its design, operation and engineering bring my thoughts back to this principle every single time I hold it in my hands.

the old lady - zeiss ikon ideal 250/3 (+3)
(EOS 40D, Sigma EX DG 50mm f/2.8 macro, 0.8s, f/10, ISO 100)

The Ideal 250/3 is a folding bed plate camera that takes pictures on 6.5x9 sheet film. It sports an uncoated Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 120mm f/4.5 lens in a rim-set Compur shutter with a maximum speed of 1/250. It was made by Zeiss Ikon in Dresden, Germany some time around 1930, making it actually a proud more-than-80-year-old camera that still works and is able to take great pictures.

(EOS 40D, Sigma EX DG 50mm f/2.8 macro, 3.2s, f/11, ISO 100)

When closed, the Ideal is no bigger than a pocket book. It is first when you open it and the front standard (lens and shutter mount) snaps into place at the infinity stop that you realize that this is a camera built for a lifetime, and even longer.

Operating a plate camera is quite different than using other types of cameras, or at least it looks so. In fact, with a plate camera you have to take care of many operations that other cameras are able to do for you. To take a picture with the Ideal, you first open the shutter in the T setting to project the image going through the lens onto a ground glass screen that is attached to the camera back. This screen is used to adjust focus and framing. The projected image is quite dim and difficult to figure out, especially in broad daylight. That's why you need to block as much ambient light as you can for example with a dark cloth, the same dark cloth that the photographer uses to cover his head that is still a universally recognizable symbol for a photographer. In the Ideal, a black hood unfolds and allows to see the screen in its shade.

ground glass (+6)
(EOS 40D, Sigma EX DG 50mm f/2.8 macro, 1.3s, f/9, ISO 100)

The image projected onto the ground glass, like all images going through a photographic lens, is reversed upside-down and right-to-left. This makes framing and composing a picture a hard task, although I also think that precisely this reversed image puts enough distance between the reality that you are photographing and the reality that you see through the camera, making the casual snapshot virtually impossible but allowing for much more thoughtful and elaborated compositions. Reversed images and, in general, cameras that are hard to use, make you, I believe, a better photographer.

double extension bellows
(EOS 40D, Sigma EX DG 50mm f/2.8 macro, 1.3s, f/9, ISO 100)

The focus is adjusted by turning a knob that moves the front standard (that is, the plane where the lens and shutter stand) closer or farther away from the rear standard (the plane where the film or the ground glass focusing screen stands). A magnifying glass is of great help to accurately judge focus on the screen. The bellows can extend to double the length of the camera, allowing for really amazing close-up focusing. Another nice feature of the Ideal is that the front standard has the possibility to have shift and rise/fall movements, which are very useful to correct perspective. The bigger version of the Ideal (the 250/7 for 9x12 plates) can also tilt the rear standard to take full advantage of the Scheimpflug principle, but with my little 6.5x9 camera I can only make a "quasi-Scheimpflug" effect by partially folding the camera back.

(EOS 40D, Sigma EX DG 50mm f/2.8 macro, 1s, f/9, ISO 100)

Suppose we have found a pleasant framing, that focus is adjusted and that we like what we see on the screen. Without moving the camera, the ground glass screen must now be removed from the camera back and replaced by the film, in order to capture exactly the desired image on it. For that, a film holder is attached to the camera back, exactly in the same position where the ground glass screen was. This film holder is a light-tight cartridge containing one sheet of film, with a removable dark slide that must be taken off to take the picture. Of course, loading the film into the holder is something that must be done in absolute darkness. For that matter, I had to get myself a changing bag, which is basically a big light-tight black bag with holes for your arms, where you can load and unload film sheets even if you don't have a darkroom. After a little practice, your hands quickly learn to operate without the aid of your eyes.

Now the film holder is in place and it is time to evaluate and set exposure: shutter speed and aperture. Then, after double-checking that the holder is firmly attached to the camera back, carefully remove the dark slide, cock the shutter and take your picture. Then put the dark slide carefully back into place and you can remove the film holder from the camera. If you want to take more pictures, you need additional film holders loaded with unexposed film sheets. I got four film holders with my Ideal. That is the maximum number of pictures that I am able to take on sheet film on a photo walk with my Ideal... ;)

The format of sheet film that the Ideal takes, 6.5x9cm, was fairly common in 1930 but now there are no new cameras made to use it. Fortunately, some film manufacturers like Efke in Croatia and Spürsinn and Fotoimpex in Germany still cut film in this format. Only black and white, though. As I got the Ideal I also bought a package of 50 sheets of ADOX CHS 100. But I have only used 2 sheets so far, because at a proud 6€ lab development cost per sheet, this is something that clearly calls for home development. Some day...

roll film adapter 02
(EOS 40D, Sigma EX DG 50mm f/2.8 macro, 2s, f/11, ISO 100)

Fortunately, there is something called a roll film adapter, which is attached to the camera back like the film holders, but is designed to contain a standard roll of 120 film, the same medium format film that I use with other cameras. This roll film adapter allows taking pictures in 6x9 format, which is almost as big as the original sheet film. Roll film adapters were very common in the golden age of plate cameras (between the beginning of the 20th century and World War II) and there were adapters made for every camera in the market. Because the way holders attach to the camera back was by no means standardized: each camera maker, and even each camera model, had its own system and compatibility was rare, meaning that you have to use the film holders and roll film backs designed specifically for your camera model. I was lucky enough to get film holders that fit the Ideal when I got the camera, but the roll film adapter was a whole other story. Because the Ideal, to make things funnier, uses a very comfortable but at the same time extremely unusual snap-in system for attaching the film holders.

(EOS 40D, Sigma EX DG 50mm f/2.8 macro, 1/50, f/2.8, ISO 500)

On my last visit to Vienna, I asked the man in the Leica vintage shop if they would have a compatible roll film adapter and handed him the camera. He went inside and, after almost twenty minutes, he came out again with a couple of adapters that would more or less fit. The one that I eventually got was the only one that attached really firmly to the camera back, but it was not conceived for an Ideal back. It lacked a light trap on top, but unfortunately I had to ruin two rolls of film almost completely before noticing the light leak (*). A small felt strip wrapped in gaffer tape, attached at the right place on the roll film adapter with some more gaffer tape does the trick and makes the camera pretty much light-tight. This means that I am able to use any kind of 120 film I want with the Ideal. Even my beloved Velvia color slides!

To use the Ideal is really a joy. Its small size makes it easy to carry around and, once unfolded, it is for sure going to attract curious looks. This is not a camera for casual snapshots, and even less for quick action: other camera types are much more suited for such purposes. The Ideal is the perfect camera for slow photography, quite often using tripod, for taking your time to think about what you are doing before shooting. Because the process is complex and the steps must be done in the right order.

(EOS 40D, Sigma EX DG 50mm f/2.8 macro, 1/40, f/5.6, ISO 100)

Using the Ideal makes me strangely happy. I guess it is not only because of some masochistic fun in needing longer than one minute to take a picture, but because it conveys a sense of being doing real photography, focusing on the ground glass and then changing to the film back makes me feel that I am playing with the big boys now, it is almost large format photography with a view camera. It brings me close to the origins, it makes me feel like a photographic pioneer. But the main reason of this strange happiness is, I guess, being able to take pictures with a camera that is still working after more than 80 years. That's more than twice my age. None of my still living grandparents was even born as my Ideal left the Zeiss Ikon factory. Kind of the ultimate dream of every vintage camera lover.

Zeiss Ikon Ideal 250/3
My Ideal 250/3 flickr set

Maker Zeiss Ikon
Model Ideal 250/3 UU
Type folding bed plate camera
Lens Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 120mm f/4.5 (No. 1038494, 1930)
Shutter Compur, rim set, 1 - 1/250 + B + T (No. 1070662, 1930)
Film type sheet film 6.5x9
Year ~1930
Country Germany

(*) some of the pictures, though, look kind of dreamy, light leaks are not always bad!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Series - autumn on velvia

blinding autumn sun
(Flexaret VI, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

autumn silhouettes [lights and shadows] (+1)
(Flexaret VI, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

horizontal autumn
(Flexaret VI, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

autumn worm with people (+1)
(Flexaret VI, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

autumn worm with bike
(Flexaret VI, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

leaves and tree (+1)
(Flexaret VI, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

leaves and bicycles
(Flexaret VI, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

flare fence
(Flexaret VI, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Series - vanishing storefronts

carnes selectas maciá
(Super Ikonta A 531, Fomapan Creative 200, ISO 200/24°)

oedl (+1)
(Retinette Ia, Fuji Neopan 400, ISO 400/27°)

verarbeitung der bienenprodukte
(Praktica BMS, Prakticar 28mm 1:2.8, Kodak Elite Chrome Extra Color 100, ISO 100/21°)

f. flock (+1)
(Vito I, Profilm Tri-X 400, ISO 400/27°)

baeckerei flock
(Praktica BMS, Prakticar 50mm 1:1.8, Fujichrome Sensia 100, ISO 100/21°)

dom-drogerie (+1)
(Praktica BMS, Prakticar 50mm 1:1.8, Fuji Neopan 400, ISO 400/27°)

lederwaren stranner
(Praktica BMS, Prakticar 50mm 1:1.8, Fuji Neopan 400, ISO 400/27°)

knopferl jos. mayer (+1)
(Praktica BMS, Prakticar 50mm 1:1.8, Fuji Neopan 400, ISO 400/27°)

collins hüte
(Praktica BMS, Prakticar 50mm 1:1.8, Fuji Neopan 400, ISO 400/27°)

alles wird neu
(Praktica BMS, Prakticar 50mm 1:1.8, Fuji Neopan 400, ISO 400/27°)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chess [stranger 15/99]

chess stranger
(Hapo 66-E, Fujichrome Provia 400X, ISO 400/27°)

My fifteenth stranger was playing chess in the warm almost spring sun.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Time machine - Carrying the Vito

«However elegant it may be to carry the camera on a long strap hanging from the shoulder, this position is quite unsuitable for quick action. Many a good shot has been lost in this way. A better method is to carry the Vito on a strap around the neck, so that it lies on the chest. Opening the front and lifting the camera up to the eye is then a matter of a split second.»

(from the instruction manual of a 1940 Voigtländer Vito camera)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The 30 day photography challenge

Last weekend, as we were riding our bicycles on our way back home from a nice picnic, Mar told me that she wanted to take the 30 day photography challenge proposed by White Peach Photography for last June, but using film instead of digital, in fact using a single roll of 35mm film. She told me she was looking for some other photographers to take the challenge and, of course, I couldn't resist.

In October we are going to shoot a picture every day, matching the topic in White Peach Photography's proposed list. Since a 35mm film cartridge has 36 exposures, we have to be careful with the shutter, because there are only 6 additional frames for the 30 days in October.

the 30 day photography challenge
(EOS 40D, Sigma EX DG 50mm f/2.8 macro, 1/25, f/11, ISO 100)

But, since I wanted a little bit of extra "kick" on this challenge, I decided I'm going to use an Agfa Vista 200 film that expired in 2009 and, even more interesting, a Belca Beltica, a 1951 35mm folder camera that is completely unknown to me (I just got it last Wednesday!). This is going to be the first roll of film that I expose with the Beltica.

In fact, I think a film 30-day challenge is by far less time-demanding than a digital-based one, because the natural limits of the technology used (36 frames, all have to be developed at the same time, at the end) lets you concentrate exclusively on shooting.

In one month I hope I'll be able to share some of the results of this challenge! :)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Series - blinding summer sun

This series is my personal farewell to summer...

afternoon bridge (+1)
(Flexaret VI, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

morning ride
(Flexaret VI, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

(Flexaret VI, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

blinding reflection
(Flexaret VI, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

yellow in the sun
(Flexaret VI, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

[All pictures were made with the same camera (Flexaret VI), on the same roll of film (Velvia 50), on the same day (August 18th).]

Friday, September 23, 2011

Reading [stranger 14/99]

reading [stranger 14/99]
(Ideal 250/3, Ilford Pan F Plus 50, ISO 50/18°)

My fourteenth stranger kept reading as if she hadn't noticed the crazy guy that needed more than one minute to take her picture: unfold the camera, set shutter to T and open it, open the ground glass cover, try to focus in the bright sun (didn't get it too well :-/), close the shutter, set shutter speed and aperture, take down the ground glass, snap the roll film back in place, cock the shutter, remove the dark slide from the roll film back and use it to make shadow for the lens, release the shutter, place the dark slide again, remove the roll film back and advance the film until the next frame number appears in the red window, snap the ground glass back into place, fold the camera, and you're done!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Series - wide angle

full litter bin
(Praktica BMS, Kodak Elite Chrome Extra Color 100, ISO 100/21°)

(Praktica BMS, Kodak Elite Chrome Extra Color 100, ISO 100/21°)

wide angle street lamp
(Praktica BMS, Kodak Elite Chrome Extra Color 100, ISO 100/21°)

wolferl's shadow is long...
(Praktica BMS, Kodak Elite Chrome Extra Color 100, ISO 100/21°)

tabletop smile in the sun
(Praktica BMS, Kodak Elite Chrome Extra Color 100, ISO 100/21°)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

RVP50 - the Velvia fascination

If I had to choose my favorite black&white film I would really have a hard time, because there are so many near-favorites I can think of...(*) For the choice of my favorite color slide film, on the other hand, the answer would be almost immediate and an easy single word: Velvia.

Velvia is the contraction of the words "Velvet Media", a reference to the image smoothness this film made by Fuji renders. The original Fujichrome Velvia was introduced in 1990 and was quickly adopted as a favorite color slide film by many photographers until production ceased in 2005. The outcry of the photographic community around the world was so loud that Fuji was forced to host a Velvia comeback in 2007, featuring a new film base but retaining the look of the classic film.

velvia construction fence
(Hapo 66-E, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

One of the most celebrated features of this film is its almost unbelievable sharpness. The richness of detail on Velvia frames never ceases to strike and amaze me, especially when combined with a very sharp lens, like the one on my Hapo 66-E. Velvia is able to resolve 160 lines per mm, which allows for really huge prints without loss of detail. Projecting a medium format Velvia frame onto a wall must be something truly incredible...

puch motorscooter
(Flexaret VI, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

But the feature that strikes the most when looking at a Velvia picture is the high color saturation: a blue sky is deep blue, meadows are extra green and flowers are so vivid in color that they even seem unreal. This is no coincidence, since the engineers at Fuji designed a film on which the pictures of the last holiday looked even better than it really looked. Velvia makes everything look more intense, more vibrant. (**)

recess of the sk8er (+1)
(Hapo 66-E, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

The classic Velvia is an ISO 50 film, which might make it a little too slow for low light situations or overcast skies, but it is perfect for bright sunny days, when also the extra push in color saturation provides the most spectacular results. The code name for Velvia is RVP, which stands for Reversal/Velvia/Professional. The old Velvia was just RVP, the newly introduced is RVP50.

this is us [on velvia]
(Flexaret VI, Fujichrome Velvia 50, ISO 50/18°)

It was when I first starting using Velvia that I understood something important about image processing. At first, one might have the feeling that film is the purest form of photography, because there is no image processing going on, no change in colors, no double layers in Gimp, no color correction in Lightroom... But, in fact, almost all this clever tricks that we can apply digitally did not come to the world in bright and clean rooms in San José in the early 90s, but originated from a long darkroom tradition that started more than a century ago. A film, as a medium designed for holding an image, must transform it in some way, and presents it to the viewer not as it was in the reality, but as the designers of that medium decided it should be. This is what happens with Velvia, but also with each and every film that ever existed, and exactly the same thing that happens in Gimp, Photoshop or Lightroom. When doing it digitally, we just have more control over it. But the transformation happens so or so.

There is nothing new under the sun. But, thank goodness, we have RVP50 to photograph it.

Pictures taken on Velvia 50 in my flickr photostream

(*) for example, Kodak Tri-X 400, Rollei Retro 80S, Ilford Pan F Pus 50, Efke 25, Ilford HP5 Plus 400, just to mention a few...
(**) these highly saturated colors, though, are not suitable for portraits, since they tend to give a red cast to skin.