Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Silver (Gelatin) Lining

When I was a boy, possibly around when I was in fourth grade, Uncle Jonesy gave Kelley and me an unusual but highly treasured Christmas present:  a Yankee 18 Piece Developing and Printing Kit. Inside the box was everything needed to make photographs at home, such as a film tank with a plastic reel, three developing trays, tongs, squeegee, graduated pitcher, a Kodak Tri-Chem Pack, thermometer, photo paper, and a 4"x5" light box for contact printing. What a Christmas that was! As soon as we could, we commandeered our family's old Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash camera and loaded it with a roll a film that Jonesy also had provided. It didn't take us long to shoot the twelve frames, remove the film from the camera, and head straight to the bathroom to mix the powdered chemistry from the Tri-Chem Pack. Later that night when it was dark, we made the bathroom as light tight as we could, loaded the film onto the reel, place the reel in the tank and close the lid. After carefully following the enclosed instructions, we pulled the film from the reel and rejoiced over seeing real negative images on it. "Wow!," we thought "We're becoming real photographers!"

We probably had to wait until the next night for the next step in the process:  printing. Once again, we hung towels in from of the door and windowsand turned the lights off, then we poured our developer, stop bath, and fixer into the three trays. The contact printer had it's own safelight, so we could see what we were doing. To use the contact printer, you opened up both both the left and right lid of the contact printer and place your negative on the glass emulsion side up. Next, you put a sheet of photo paper on top of the negative, emulsion side down. To hold the two in alignment, you closed the left lid first, then you closed the right lid and pressed down, which would turn on the lamp beneath the glass. There was no timer. so you had to count your seconds yourself. Exposure times were complete estimates, and we probably wasted a lot of paper. After exposure, you placed the paper in the developing tray, then the stop bath tray, then the fixer tray, all according to directions. Finally the print had to be washed for thirty minutes! However, I will never forget the thrill of seeing a positive image slowly appear in the developing tray. "Wow!," we thought, "We were real photographers. I distinctly remember thinking, "Who else in our school is doing this?!"

In the early 1980's I attended a small Bible college in the Atlanta area and learned that they needed a yearbook photographer. I happily signed on and was shown how to use the darkroom. The professor told me that, as long as I supplied the yearbook with lots of photos, I could use the darkroom as much as I wanted for my own photographs. Needless to say, I spent many happy hours there. But there were frustrating times, too, as I no formal training and made lots of mistakes. My professor never made test prints, simply using his own experience for exposure. Once again, I wasted lots of paper. However, I made some prints I was proud of and still have today.

A few years later I left that school, and I did not see the inside of a darkroom again for over thirty years. Meanwhile, I shot nothing but Kodachrome slides, documenting my life and family over that time. When I made the decision to return to film photography in a big way almost three years ago, I made the adjust to the hybrid analog/digital workflow that so many of my fellow film photographers use. However, I soon harbored hopes of being able to make darkroom prints someday. And thanks to some enterprising young Chattanoogans, I am happy to announce that this has happened!

Safelight District opened its doors on February 22, 2019. Kelley and I recorded a podcast show with the founders, Tori Fyfe and Jet Smith, and I wrote a blog post as well. Since then, Tori has found a new business partner in Mike Wann, and the community darkroom is alive and well. Since my move the the downtown area, I have been able to work in the darkroom several times, and the experience has been a game changer for me. Here is some of what I have learned:

1.  I still have much to learn about contrast filters and techniques like dodging, burning, and split-grade printing.

2. I can never fully trust my scanner again.

3. The "fun" factor cannot be fully calculated.

4. I am completely and totally hooked.

I now have a backlog of negatives waiting to get the darkroom printing treatment, and going forward, darkroom printing will be my main method of printing my work. I recently pledged to print at least one photograph from ever roll I shoot, but now it won't be my inkjet printer doing the job.

I have to conclude this post by saying that I have relied heavily on information gathered from YouTube videos and by questions answered by online friends in the film photography community. Their collective advice has been quite helpful.

Happy Shooting (and Happy Printing!)

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Three Films - One Monobath

I recently blogged about my first experience with Cinestill's Df96 Monobath (you can read that post here). In case you do not know, a monobath is a processing chemistry that combines developer, stop bath, and fixer into a single liquid. Such a processing workflow is important for me when I want to process black and white negatives at home in my small condo, where storage for chemistry and tools is limited. However, I didn't want to sacrifice image quality, so it also was important for me to find out which of the black and white films I shoot the most work best with monobath processing. To that end, I now have tested three emulsions and am ready to share some observations.

The three films I have tested with Cinestill Df96 Monobath are (in order of use):

1.  Ultrafine Extreme 100
2.  Kodak Tri-X 400
3.  Fomapan 100

All three were shot at box speed. The first two rolls were processed per Cinestill's instructions at 70ºF (sis minutes with "minimal" agitation). The Fomapan 100 was processed at 75ºF for four minutes with "intermittent" agitation. Now, you probably are thinking, "Wait a minute. Why didn't you process all three rolls the same way to get a true "controlled" experiment?" The reason I changed the workflow will be given below, but I must say that it was never my purpose to conduct a proper scientific experiment. Rather, I was striving to end up with good images, and after the first two rolls, I was ready to make a change.

Now to the results.

Ultrafine Extreme 100

I was very pleased generally with the results I got with the Ultrafine Extreme 100, but I was a bi surprised at the higher amount of contrast. I also go more grain than I usually get with this film and Kodak D-76 1:1. Nevertheless less, it was a start, and I now knew that the monobath had big possibilities for use in small living spaces.

Kodak Tri-X 400

Since returning to film photography in the spring of 2017, I probably have shot more Tri-X 400 than any other black and white film. I think that Tri-X 400 and D-76 1:1 are a match made in heaven. Of course, you always will get a little grain with Tri-X, but that's one of the reasons I shoot film. It's that look. The film just glows with light. So, I was anxious to see what it would look like in the monobath. The answer? No bad at all. Quite good, actually. I got several "keepers from this roll. Again, there was a bit more grain than with D-76 1:1, and the contrast was high as well. But negatives looked great and the scans were very exciting to me. I made a number of prints from this roll and sent them out with my Christmas cards.

Fomapan 100

Before I processed this third roll, I sought some advice from an online friend who had posted some photographs he had processed with the Cinestill monobath that had impressed me very much. He had processed his film at 75ºF, the middle of the three recommended temperatures (the highest being 80ºF), so I gave that a try with this roll of Fomapan 100. As stated above, Cinestill recommends 4 minutes with "intermittent" agitation for 75ºF. The results? While I can't claim scientific certainty because I didn't keep the workflow the same as the first two rolls, the scans looked really good - less contrast and almost no grain. In fact, this roll of Fomapan 100 looked better than any I had done previously in D-76.


The first takeaway for me (as stated in my previous post) is the Cinestill Df96 Monobath is a legitimate option for film developing and remains the perfect small living space chemistry when developing black and white film shot at box speed. I do not have any experience in pushing or pulling with Df96, but I will be testing this in the future. Nevertheless, if you have hesitated in trying out a monobath developer thinking that you might be sacrificing quality, I would urge you to give it a try. Simply put, it works great for me.

A second takeaway is that, from now on, I will be using Df96 at 75ºF for four minutes. Although I haven't tried the highest recommended temperature (80ºF) yet and probably shouldn't draw conclusions until I do, I really liked the results I got with the Fomapan 100 at 75ºF.

In fact, my third takeaway is that, thanks to Df96, Fomapan 100 may now be my favorite medium speed black and white film. Previously, I have used Ultrafine Extreme 100 because it is quite inexpensive and looks pretty good. But the Fomapan 100 in Df96 looked great, as least to my eyes. Moreover, I have in my refrigerator several rolls of Kosmo Foto Mono 100, which is rebranded Fomapan 100 from Stephen Dowling in the UK. I like what he is doing with the packaging and marketing, and his efforts (I think) have helped increase the interest in shooting film. Thanks to Df96, there is going to be a lot more of this film in my cameras this year.

Lastly, I still have a lot of testing to do. First, the Ultrafine Extreme 100 and the Tri-X 400 have to be tested at 75ºF. Next, I will try pushing film - something I like to do with Tri-X particularly. Finally, I will see just how far I can take a single liter bottle of Df96 before the quality begins to decline. After that, I am planning to give the FPP Super Monobath from the Film Photography Store a try. It comes as a pre-mixed liquid, so you don't have to mix it up yourself (Cinestill also sells their Df96 Monobath in pre-mixed liquid form).

Happy Shooting!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

UJC Podcast #19: We're Baaaaaaack!

Well, it took us long enough, but the Shutter Brothers (Kelley and Kevin Lane) are back with a brand new Uncle Jonesy's Cameras Podcast episode (#19), and we really had fun making it. We love to talk about our adventures in film photography, and we hope you listeners enjoy the show when you hear it. You are why there is a podcast in the first place!

Kevin is up first with an update regarding the Woodstation Photography Club, which is his effort to engage and excite elementary school students in the art, craft, and fun of shooting and developing film. Thanks to some very nice and generous listeners, the club has a number of cameras for the students to use. However, the students need a supply of film and developing tools. Kevin created a DonorsChoose project for this, and once again our listeners came through big time. A growing number of students are being issued a camera and a roll of film, and soon they will get to see there results. Kevin is hoping to put on a show with the students' work in the spring, so stay tuned for updates.

Next, Kelley discusses his favorite lens focal lengths and why he prefers to use wide angle lenses most of the time. Of course, he brought a collection of lenses the show to discuss why he likes each one and why you might as well.

Then Kevin comes back with a review of the Cinestill Df96 Monobath. In case you don't know, a monobath is a chemistry that combines developer, stop bath, and fixer into a single easy to use and store one liter bottle. Why would Kevin need a monobath these days? The answer is that he recently has moved into a small (685 square feet) condo in downtown Chattanooga (he loves it, by the way!) Storage space is very limited, so a monobath may by the perfect B&W chemistry for anyone who lives in an apartment or other small space. And the results were quite nice!

The Shutter Brothers wrap the show up with a couple of listener letters (which we love to get!) If you would like to be a part of a future show, you can send us an email or even a voice memo to unclejonesyscamers@gmail.com. You also can go to our Facebook page and post your comments, questions, and stories there. Once again, you are the reason we make this show, so let us know what you want to hear on future shows.

In the meantime, let us say to listeners out there how thankful we are for each and every one of you. We wish you peace, love, and the happiest of Thanksgiving Days. And don't forget to load your camera with film and capture those fleeting moments with family and friends. You won't regret it.

Happy Shooting!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Monobath: The Perfect Condo Developer

My wife, Debbie, and I are into our second month of downtown Chattanooga condo life and enjoying every minute of it. Gone are the responsibilities and worries of maintaining an older home, yard work, cleaning unused parts of a large house, and owning endless amounts of needless stuff. We have streamlined our possessions to what we really need and value, and now they fit into 685 square feet of living space. With all of the city just outside our door, we have endless possibilities for walking (one of our favorite pastimes), and I have endless possibilities for photography. I couldn't be happier.

As we anticipated our move, I give much thought about how I would continue to develop film in our new place. Previously in our old house, I developed my film in the upstairs bathroom that was largely unused. I kept film tanks, beakers, funnels, various tools, and all the chemistry for B&W, C-41, and E-6 in the cabinet below the sink. I was careful to keep the room clean so as to not annoy my wife. Nevertheless, I still managed to drip some E-6 chemistry on the cabinet doors, and the resulting stains had to be repainted.

Since I shoot mostly B&W film these day, I decided that I would not use C-41 and E-6 chemistry in my new condo. They just get too messy and smelly. I I really want to develop color film here, I probably could do it in the first floor dog spa room, where there are large steel sinks and running water. The other issue I have with having color chemistry here is that storage space for multiple bottles is very limited. And it is this that led me to my decision to give a B&W monobath a try.

In case you don't know, a monobath is a single liquid chemistry that contains developer, stop bath, and fixer all in one bottle. Several online retailers sell a monobath, and for my first try I chose the Cinestill Df96 monobath, primarily because it ships as a powder that you mix at home (less shipping cost). The package contains two powders that you mix together in 600 ml of distilled water and top off with more distilled water to make one liter. According to the well-written and very useful instructions that come with the package, one liter of Df96 can process 16+ rolls of film.

Anyone who has ever developed B&W film and stressed about getting the right developer, the right developing time, the right developing temperature, and the right agitation will be surprised at the simplicity of the monobath process. For most films, you simply follow the developing time and agitation directions according to what temperature your monobath is, and the three different temperature levels used in the directions are all considered "room temperatures."

70º F (21ºC) - 6 minutes - Minimal Agitation
75ºF (24ºC) - 4 minutes - Intermittent Agitation
80ºF (27ºC) - 3 nimbuses - Constant Agitation

The instructions make clear what is considered "minimal, intermittent, and constant" agitation. They also state that some films  (such at T-grain films like Kodak Tmax films) require longer (2X) times to ensure full clearing. It also is possible to develop films that have been pushed or pulled one or two stops. The directions include a list of thirty films with possible EI numbers to guide your choice of developing times. I would say that the folks at Cinestill have done a lot of work behind the scenes to help users of their monobath get the best results possible, and I commend them for this.

So, recently one evening I loaded my tank with a roll of Ultrafine Extreme 100, which I had shot at box speed in my Minolta X-700, and set about developing film in my new kitchen. My temperature was 70º F (21ºC), my time was 6 minutes, and my agitation was minimal (ten seconds gentle agitation, then five seconds every minute). When the developing time was up, I opened the tank and began washing with running water. Here the instructions are a bit unclear. They clearly state that "no more than five minutes is needed for a wash to archival standards." However, the next sentence states that "a longer final rinse and rinse aid will help ensure archival negatives." So which is it? I decided that, since space allows me to keep a small bottle of Kodak Hypo-Clear, and I would follow my normal procedure of :30 rinse, 2:00 Hypo-Clear, and 5:00 rinse.

So what were my results? I would say that I was quite impressed with my negatives. They were fully developed and fully cleared. If anything, their were a little on the contrasty side with maybe a little more grain that I usually get with Ultrafine Extreme 100. I would call the experiment a success, but when this bottle is exhausted, I may try the monobath from the Film Photography Store just for the sake of comparison.

At any rate, my home developing workflow is back in business. Now it's time to go for a walk and look for some "pitchas!"

Happy Shooting!

Looking down from the Walnut Street Bridge to Collidge Park on the North Shore of Chattanooga.

Looking at the Market Street and Walnut Steel Bridges from the Tennessee Riverwalk. 

Reproductions of the Niña and the Pinta docked in Chattanooga for Columbus Day/Indigenous People Day.

A part of the Passages monument to honor the indigenous Cherokee nature, who sadly were forced to begin their "Trail of Tears" journey from this spot.

Lovers Leap, Rock City Gardens, atop Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga.

Oktoberfest dancers, Rock City Gardens, Lookout Mountain.

Sculpture, Chattanooga Public Library.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Fostering the Next Generation of Film Photographers - One 4th Grader at a Time

By Kevin Lane

As most of you know, I am the music teacher at an elementary school in northwest Georgia, not too far away from my hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Back in the fall of 2016, I agreed to join the school's yearbook team, since I like to take photographs. At the time, I was not shooting film at all; I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 point and shoot digital camera and my iPhone 6s for all my yearbook photography. In the spring of 2017, I was photographing the students at a jumping gym (there were being rewarded for a year of good behavior) and found my Lumix to be almost completely useless in capturing action shots of the children. It's a great camera for what it was meant to be. However, I hated the shutter lag, and the tiny on-camera flash was ineffective for the distances I needed to cover. It was at that moment when I realized that, if I was using my film cameras, I would know exactly how to get these photographs. This realization led me to getting my Nikon FE and FM2 cameras out of the closet and begin using them again. I also began developing the film with Unicolor C-41 kits from the Film Photography Store. Although it cost me money for film and chemistry, it was so much fun shooting and developing film again. And that fun continues to this day . . .

It wasn't long before students began asking questions about my film cameras, as most of them had never seen one. I would show them how the camera worked and what film looked like before and after it was processed. Soon, students were bringing film cameras from their grandparents house to school and asking for film. I spent time with them before and after school teaching them exposure and compositional basics, and then gave them film to shoot. Some of the photographs they shot as school eventually were used in the school yearbook, and the idea for the Woodstation Photography Club was born. I would teach fourth and fifth graders how to use a camera, give them film, and then give them assignments for the yearbook. As word of this got out via the Uncle Jonesy's Camera Podcast and Facebook page, some kind people began sending us cameras to give to children who were interested but did not have one. This meant two things:  1) Our club could grow to include more students, and 2) I could no longer afford to give them all film and pay for the chemistry.

So, I decided to go public and ask for your help. I created a project on DonorsChoose.org called "Film for the Woodstation Photography Club." I made a list of items we needed, including two 100 ft. rolls of black and white film, a developing tank, a thermometer, a changing bag, an LED light table, and some negative sleeves. for the chemistry, I have chosen to use the Cinestill Df96 Monobath, which will make the developing process much easier for the children. I am providing this myself and also a bulk film loader. When our project reaches it's goal, DonorsChoose will purchase the items from Amazon to be shipped them to the school.  I never see any of the donated funds.

My goal is for the students to shoot the black and white film when they are away from school, looking for subjects that interest them and capturing them in creative ways. Then, I will show them how to develop and scan the negatives (I will use my own scanner for now), and we will make inkjet prints of their best work. In the spring, we will create a gallery show at the school and invite parents and family. We will sell their prints and perhaps a zine of the prints in the show. The money we make from this will be used to purchase film and chemistry for next year's club. This way, the club can sustain itself in the future.

The idea of teaching children analog photography and fostering a love of creating photographic art excites me to no end. If it excites you also, then please consider donating to our project page. Even the smallest donations will help us reach our goal, so that the project get fully funded and the supplies ordered and delivered. My students and I will be sincerely grateful for your generosity and interest, and I will make it a point to keep everyone informed of the clubs activities and work that resulted from your donation. I love this "return to film" journey I am on, and I want film photography not just to survive but also to thrive. That is why I endeavor to pass it on to my students. I know you love it, too. Now you can help "pass it on."

Thank you!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Zorki Update (and Life Update)

First of all, I'm not dead. I'm still alive and breathing (Kelley, too). I know, it's been almost two and a half months since my last post on this blog, and we haven't recorded a podcast show in just as long. You deserve an explanation, so here it is.

My wife, Debbie, and I have had a dream for many years of living a more urban life, and two weeks ago that dream came true. We sold our suburban house of eighteen years and moved to a condo in downtown Chattanooga, my hometown. We absolutely love our new home, but it took a gigantic effort to get here. We had much to do to get our old house ready to sell, and we had some major downsizing to do. It was hard, hard work, and it was painful at times. From the last week of July to now, there was little or no time for anything else in my life (not to mention that Debbie and I, both school teachers, began a new school year while this was going on). I am a "one-project" guy, and moving out and moving in became my one project. Everything else was put on hold.

But now, as I sit here typing in our new condo while enjoying how we have furnished and decorated it, I am thankful to be on the other side of this transition; the project is complete. Now, there is time for music, writing, walking, and photography. As far as the Uncle Jonesy's Cameras Podcast is concerned, Kelley and I are making plans to record more shows. We have to work out some scheduling issues, as I live about thirty minutes farther away from Kelley as I did before. We've always recorded our shows together in the same room, and we do not plan to change that. So thank you for your patience, and please don't give up on us. We'll be back.

I have another update to give you, and it concerns my Zorki 1, which, as you may remember, was the mystery camera Kelley gave me for Christmas last year. The Zorki 1 is a Russian copy of a Leica ii, and I was quite please to get it. I once owned a Leica iii, but it was stolen in a house break-in years ago. I love using such a compact camera. I may slow me down some, but it also makes me think about what I am doing. However. my first few attempts to use the Zorki did not work out so well. First, there were pinholes in the shutter curtain, which I repaired with fabric paint. Second, I suspected that the rangefinder was out of adjustment. I considered sending it to a repair person to get everything put aright, but then came the move. Third, I questioned the quality of the Russian Industry 22 50mm f3.5 lens. Nevertheless, hungering for a chance to do some photography in the midst of the chaos around me, I put some Kodak Tri-X 400 in it and shot it at EI 800, so I could do some interior photography inside some restaurants and breweries in downtown and also in some classrooms at school.

When I pulled the negatives out of the tank, they looked good. And when I saw the scans, I was excited. Finally, the Zorki came through with usable results. The only post-processing I did (I HATE post-processing, by the way) was de-dusting all the photos and a little exposure adjusting on a couple of shots. The lens, while certainly not Leica-sharp, produced good images that I liked. Below are the shots I can show you; I can't show you photographs of my students, but I can tell you that there are some real keepers.

Happy Shooting!

Brewery Behind Glass. Market South, Chattanooga

Beer Choices, Oddstory Brewing Company, Chattanooga

Brew Reflections, Market South, Chattanooga

Street Festival, Oddstory Brewing Company, Chattanooga

Green Room, Market South, Chattanooga

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

UJC #18: We Project a Winner!

Who doesn't love vacation photography, especially when you go "old school" like the Shutter Brothers, Kelley and Kevin Lane. Kelley talks about his success with Kodak's new Ektachrome E100 Super 8 movie film, which was a lot of fun to do and even more fun to watch, especially when projected on a screen. Watching his movie is like going back in time - except that it happened just a month ago. The film and processing/scanning are a bit on the expensive side, but the experience is totally cool!

Kelley shot his movies on his Argus/Cosina 708 Super 8 movie camera using Kodak's new Ektachrome E100 super 8 film. After shooting the three-minute roll, Kelley sent his film to the Film Photography Store to have it developed and scanned. Three weeks later, his developed reel of movie arrived along with a video file of the scan. While it certainly can be projected on a screen using a super 8 movie projector, the scans make it possible to post movies online. Keep watching this blog, as Kelley will post an edited version of his vacation movie to our new Uncle Jonesy's Cameras YouTube channel very soon.

Meanwhile, Kevin talks about the fun he has been having shooting slide film on vacation and the even more fun he has been having developing, mounting, and projecting the slides, thanks to a workflow tip from fellow podcaster Andre Domingues of the Negative Positives Film Photography Podcast. With a slide mounter, a supply of empty slide mounts, and a working slide projector, you can make vacation slide shows come alive on the big screen.

The Shutter Bros wrap the show up with a great listener letter and a question about shooting in areas of high humidity.

You can find the Uncle Jonesy's Podcast in your favorite podcast directory or by clicking here.