My Old Kentucky Home

My old Kentucky home
Nikon FA, 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 AI-s Zoom Nikkor
Arista EDU 200
2019

At first, I thought this little cabin was the original My Old Kentucky Home and the big house up the hill came later to replace it. But it turns out that the cabin is only a spring house, built to keep the water supply clean.

It also turns out that the song My Old Kentucky Home isn’t actually about this place, even though that’s what this place is called. The song is about a failing farm and a slave who knows he’s going to be sold to help cover expenses. The song shines a light on the slave’s plight.

This home belonged to Stephen Foster, who co-wrote the song. It and its expansive grounds are now My Old Kentucky Home State Park in Bardstown.

I continue to be deeply impressed with this film, Arista EDU 200, which is the same emulsion as Fomapan 200.

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Film Photography, History, Travel

single frame: My old Kentucky home

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22 thoughts on “single frame: My old Kentucky home

  1. I was just going to give this one a polite nod and move along with my day but have spent the intervening time hearing the long-ago voice of my mother as she played and sang My Old Kentucky Home at the piano. I wonder how many of your readers had any idea the song existed. Thanks for dredging up some sweet memories.

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    • Because of persistent rumors of quality-control issues I wouldn’t use it for something where the results matter. But it’s a fine film for testing a camera and when you just want to waste some film. When it hits it really hits. I did increase contrast over the original scans, which were fairly flat.

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      • P says:

        This is a great photo, Jim!

        Here’s what I can say about the Fomapan films based on my personal experiences with them, which is admittedly fairly limited. I haven’t shot dozens or hundreds of rolls of the stuff, but I’ve shot enough to learn a few things as well as spent a great deal of time reading about other’s experiences. My hope is this information will be useful for someone. I’ll try really hard to keep this fairly short, unlike what happened with my replies on the Nikon FA Operation Thin the Herd post from a few days ago. Sorry about that!

        The issues I’ve had with Fomapan films (only pertaining to 35mm as I haven’t used it in 120 or sheets) have basically been twofold: the presence of tiny specks of missing emulsion, or “pinholes,” as well as the film being very susceptible to scratching. While it certainly can’t be ruled out that I did something wrong since I’m by no means an expert, I do believe the first issue is a legitimate manufacturing defect. Although, it’s worth noting that if scanning is what you have in mind and you have no plans of making optical enlargements then really it’s no more difficult to fix these “pinholes” in software than it is cleaning up dust/fibers (the bane of shooting film it seems, alongside home scanning). And personally I’ve never seen just a huge number of them on a single roll, just a couple here and there, but I have heard of other people who had more severe problems with it. I’ve never had these pinholes with Kodak or Ilford films, so it is something to take into consideration as Jim already noted. The second “issue” is just how the Fomapan films are, and it’s not really a defect. The emulsions are, simply put, soft, and require a lot of extra care not to scratch or damage them compared to other films, especially when they’re wet. I assume this is because their origins dates back to when most films were not as rugged as they are today and their formula probably hasn’t changed as much over the years as others. That’s fine. I definitely recommend using a hardening fixer to help avoid damage though. Kodafix is relatively cheap and works perfectly well. I never shot any, but apparently Efke films were also incredibly soft and damage prone.

        All that said, I do still really like Fomapan 200 as well as the 100 variety. But if the price gap between them and their superior (in my opinion) competition narrows any more, I’m probably just going to shoot Kodak and Ilford. I consider Fomapan a good budget film, but if it’s no longer “budget” then there’s really no point, in my view. Fomapan has seen a couple of recent (probably within the last 7-8 months) price hikes. In roughly the last year alone, Fomapan 100, under the Arista.EDU label (which is typically the cheapest way to get it in the US), has increased from $3.19/$3.59/$37.99 per 24-exposure/36-exposure/100-ft rolls to $3.99/$4.49/$49.99 (from Freestyle, the US distributor). That’s roughly a 25/25/32 percent increase. Both Fomapan 200 and 400, again under the Arista.EDU label, have increased from $3.39/$3.89/$39.99 to $3.99/$4.49/$53.49, a roughly 18/15/34 percent increase. Somebody correct me if I managed to mess up the simple math. Actual Foma branded rolls, not under the Arista.EDU label, are even more expensive, by $0.50 across the board for factory-loaded cassettes, and $1.50 (200 and 400) to $5 (100) for bulk rolls. For factory-loaded 24-exposure rolls, under the Arista.EDU label, we’re now in the territory of Fomapan only being between $0.50 and $0.80 less per roll than what T-MAX 100, TRI-X, and FP4 PLUS sell for right now at the major film retailers. The price gap is a little better for 36-exposure rolls, thankfully. Hopefully it stays that way. But if you’re buying Fomapan factory-loaded cassettes under the Foma label right now, at the current Freestyle prices, you should realize that you either are, or basically are (depending on which stock and the number of exposures), paying the same price as what T-MAX 100, TRI-X, HP5 PLUS, or FP4 PLUS would cost you — food for thought. As such, the aforementioned increases are not insubstantial for serious amateur film enthusiasts trying to shoot on a budget. If a person only shoots a roll every once in a blue moon it’s not a big deal, but for those very dedicated hobbyists who want/need to shoot a lot in order to continually learn, advance their abilities, and really master the ins-and-outs of film as a medium, it is. A person has to shoot film regularly to learn it properly, just like anything else. And if virtually nobody is able to do that anymore due to the cost, I honestly don’t think film’s future looks very bright, despite all the recent fervor surrounding it. And that’s very upsetting. Truly budget options have very nearly disappeared altogether, which is not only bad for us amateur film shooters, it ultimately is going to be bad for the industry as a whole because as more and more people are alienated due to the expense, less volume of everything across the board is going to be sold, and in turn manufacturers profits are going to go down. [Note to film manufacturers: Increasing film prices is not a solution to this problem. It is the problem. I’m aware raw materials go up in cost occasionally, which effects you. I get that. Just don’t get greedy and please work to ensure affordable options are always available, or a huge portion of your customer base will undoubtedly disappear. Thanks.]

        So in summary, for those who prefer shooting shorter 24-exposure rolls and who don’t bulk load, I can’t recommend Fomapan 100/200/400 (regardless of branding) at all over TMX/FP4 PLUS/TRI-X with prices as they currently stand. If you prefer 36-exposure rolls and stick to the Arista.EDU label at their current prices, then you’re saving a little money versus the competition, but not a ton and quality concerns may nullify the savings. Even for those who bulk load, the price difference has shrunk dramatically, and there are other, better quality films out there available at lower prices in bulk rolls, namely Ultrafine 100/400 and Kentmere 100, which have all also seen recent price increases, unfortunately, but are still cheaper than Fomapan is. Of course, this discussion pertains to the US. I can’t speak to prices in other parts of the world. Anyways, maybe all of that will help some people with their film buying decisions.

        Jim, if you’re scans were flat then I would definitely say they were under-developed (or under-exposed, depending on how you look at it) as Fomapan 200 is definitely not a low contrast film. It borders on being high contrast. Fomapan 100 is even higher contrast, in my experience. Of course, this is entirely dependent upon how it’s shot and developed, but knowing that you shot it at box speed and assuming no special processing was requested, my experience with Fomapan 200 and Noritsus tells me that your unedited scans should have been roughly normal contrast, if not slightly higher than normal out of the gate, if the negatives had good density. And to be clear, if you’re negatives are thin and under-developed, neither the lab (at least, probably) or you is to blame. It really comes down to the fact that Fomapan 200 is not actually a 200 speed film in most developers, only in some speed increasing ones. In most general purpose developers it’s true speed is probably somewhere between 125-160, as stated previously. It would be interesting to see the histogram of the original unedited scan for this image.

        Regarding what I said the other day about Noritsu scanners creating a smeared/blurred effect for thin negatives, perhaps calling it a soft “painterly” effect is better terminology. Nonetheless, fine detail and edge definition suffer in a major way. In your photo, look at the sign in front of the house. I assume this is an in-focus area. The largest text is quite soft and lacks definition, and the smaller text beneath it is completely unreadable. You were using a zoom lens so it’s difficult to say for sure, but based on the composition and the lighting in the photo, I’m going to assume you were standing about 30-40 feet from the sign and that your aperture was about f/8. Given that and the resolution of this scan, if the negative had proper density (i.e. was not under-developed), then I would expect all the text on that sign to be easily read, even the small stuff, with clear and well defined edges. Again, this isn’t your fault and it most likely isn’t the lab’s fault either. The film just needs to be rated lower than the “200” the box has printed on it (which is easy enough), or it needs extended development (probably not going to happen unless you develop it yourself; but you could ask the lab how long they developed it and see if they’d be willing to develop the next roll with a different batch of film that requires ~15% more time, as a starting point, to see what that gets you), which would effectively be pushing the film to achieve good density despite shooting it at “box speed.” But, if you use the same lab again and they develop your future rolls exactly the same way as this one, I think once you shoot three test frames at EI 125, 160, and 200 (same image with identical lighting) you’ll immediately see the difference in the quality of each, particularly the greater level of fine detail retained, better textural qualities in wood/stone/brick/foliage/etcetera, and improved sharpness/definition at the lower two speeds. Then you’ll be able to dial in what’s best based on your preferences. I do hope that’s helpful. If you’re “jazzed” with the way this roll turned out (and rightfully so, these are great photos!), then I think you’ll be absolutely blown away once you get scans from a roll with improved overall negative density and closer-to-normal contrast.

        So, apparently I’m incapable of writing a short reply! Let me know if you have any questions or if something I said didn’t make sense. I really do hope this helps you, and anyone else who reads it that is experimenting with Fomapan 200. Stunning results can be had with it, for sure!

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        • I like Foma 200 enough to keep shooting it at its current price. If it surpasses T-Max I might have second thoughts!

          I’m not as big a fan of Foma 100. It’s too contrasty for me.

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        • P says:

          I know you like Fomapan 200 because it’s technically a 200 speed film (according to the box, at least). Have you ever tried shooting TMX at 200? I think you might be surprised by its latitude and what can still be achieved with it when under-exposed by a stop (as expected, it’ll fair better in some developers than others).

          Yeah, the contrast of Fomapan 100 can get out of hand in a hurry. Using a compensating developer and a minimum agitation scheme is probably the best plan. This isn’t what labs do though so sending Fomapan 100 to a lab is risky. Before I started exclusively developing all of my own B&W film I made the mistake of sending a roll out and it came back with so much contrast it almost looked like microfilm.

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        • I’ve not tried TMX at 200, maybe I should someday. I gather it has the latitude to take it.

          I’ve had mixed enough luck with Foma 100 (and Kentmere 100 for that matter) that I shy away from them. I’ve seen people get lovely results from these films but those people always process their own.

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        • P says:

          Yep, Kodak’s recommended developing times for TMX shot at 200 are actually identical to the times at box speed.

          Indeed. Kentmere 100 and Fomapan 100 are very risky films to send to a lab. In fact, the only 100 ASA film I think most labs won’t run the risk of messing up is TMX. Slower stocks tend to be higher contrast to begin with, have less latitude than faster emulsions, and overall just don’t handle abuse during development very well, at least not with the general purpose developers used at most labs. But once you start developing yourself, you may find you really like them.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Nancy Stewart says:

    I remember singing this in school, and anyone who watches the Kentucky Derby should be familiar with it also. I like the photo very much …. I have to get to Bardstown !!!

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