COVID-19

Coping with the stress

We all have to find ways to cope with the stress of our current situation. I’ve coped by leaning harder into film photography.

In the shadow of the fence
Pentax ME Super, 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M, Kodak T-Max 400, Rodinal 1+50, 2020

I take a lot of lunchtime walks to photograph things. Because I need to get back to work I can’t stray far from home. I’ve had to be creative in finding new ways to look at my suburban neighborhood. At first glance, there’s sameness everywhere. But there are still details to find and interesting light to experience.

I’ve also reached into my to-shoot queue of new-to-me old cameras. I don’t mind shooting the same old things as much when I’m learning the ways of an unfamiliar camera. It’s an advantage to shoot familiar scenes because I have a good idea of how other cameras and films have rendered it. I can compare the results as I evaluate the camera.

Lately I’ve shot my Polaroid SX-70 for the first time in years. I’ve also put film through a Pentax ME Super, a Kodak Retina Reflex III, and two Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye box cameras. I also have one more roll of film to try courtesy Analogue Wonderland, a roll of Adox HR-50 that I’ve put into my Olympus OM-1. If you follow me on Flickr you’ve already seen some of this work. Otherwise, hang tight, posts about it are coming.

Given these circumstances I’m very glad I can develop black-and-white film now. I didn’t foresee any of this coming when I learned that skill late last year. If I had to send all of this film out for processing it would be quite expensive. It would also be quite slow. The normal 1-2 week turnaround time at most labs has, by all accounts, become even longer because labs are limiting staff to maintain good social distancing.

I know I could just shoot digital during this time, but film is just more fun for me.

Photography is a great distraction from the world’s and my troubles. It’s also something I can control at a time when so much is beyond my control. Both of these things are good for my mental health during these difficult and worrisome times.

Other pandemic reports from Mark Evanier and fishyfisharcade.

Last updated on 23 April 2020 by Jim Grey

Standard

38 thoughts on “Coping with the stress

  1. Plus it’s a lot healthier than all the extra cooking and baking (and of course eating) that has been happening here.

    I look forward to seeing the results.

    • We’re doing more cooking here, too, but we’re focusing on eating more healthfully. Honestly, all I want to do is deep fry things and make mashed potatoes. Margaret is leading the way on better eating for us all!

  2. DougD says:

    I really need to get out more and walk. I’ve fallen out of my around the block walk to work habit. It doesn’t help that it was snowing (!!!) yesterday.

    A few weeks ago there was a nice weekend, and all the parks and walking trails were overrun with Toronto people. So they are all closed with $750 fine if you’re caught in a park. Makes it hard to find a good place to walk when I can’t use the rail trail that’s 5 minutes away :(

    • We had snow here last week, a little. This is an odd spring, to be sure.

      What a shame that they had to close the parks. Across Indiana, some of ours are closed and some are not, it’s a hodgepodge. I hope you’re able to find good walking.

  3. Thanks for the mention Jim.

    I’ve started going for walks before work when I can. It does mean dragging myself out of bed earlier, but it also allows a longer walk if I give myself enough time. The light tends to be nicer at that time of day and there are fewer people around too, which is a bonus.

  4. Next step is to buy a bulk loader and a 100′ roll of your favorite film. Leave long tails on the store-bought cassettes when you load your reels and you can then re-use those for rolling your own from bulk. Loading +/- 36 exposure rolls (to minimize leader loss), the math works out to a 30-35% savings on film cost (less savings for TriX though).

    • Someone gave me an old bulk loader with a bunch of Panatomic-X in it (stored in a basement for 20+ years). I dragged my feet for years on developing my own b/w, I’ll probably drag my feet for years on bulk loading.

      • Pan-X! you HAVE to shoot that up. I’d love to see and read your comparisons of Pan-X with other common and currently available “slow” B/W films (e.g. Fomapan and Kentmere 100, Ilford FP4, etc…). Sure it’s old, but it used to be legendary during my pre-hiatus B/W film phase in the ’70s.

        • What I’m going to do is send the bulk loader and the Pan-X to a buddy who adores the stuff. He’s salivating over getting it. He’ll load a couple rolls for me and send them back so I can try it. He’ll shoot the rest himself.

  5. My routine is all messed up! Handling internal and external communications for our company, I have been swamped with my job and taking on extra duties. And once simple chores, like visiting the grocery store or pharmacy have been become more time consuming as those places limit the number of customers allowed inside. My picture taking as suffered. My free time has been devoted to trying to get some exercise…I should take my camera… and to building out my home darkroom, which I now have some space for. I can’t wait to a return to a regular routine.

  6. The only effect the restrictions are having on me is when I have to interact with some other segment of society in the real world (e.g. shopping). Otherwise … not much change for an old retired guy.
    At last the snow is melting off and I can get around my yard more! I’ve been looking for bird to photograph, mostly.

    • My mom, who is retired and lives alone, reports something similar: not much has changed, except that she doesn’t have her friends in now, and she goes to the store far less. Otherwise, she keeps puttering in her garden and watching Netflix.

  7. You might want to think about bulk loading when it can cost nearly twice as much to get it in 36exp rolls. So don’t drag your feet too long on it, you could be saving a significant amount of money. If you can commit to shooting one type of film to shoot ~20 rolls of it!

    I’m glad there are labs operating and happy to support them when I can! I shot some film and sent it off to Pro8mm on Monday, it’ll be the first new footage I’ve seen in 3 years so I’m excited about that. And I’m finally finishing setting up my Mac to edit film and write music so I plan to make something positive out of all this downtime.

    • We shall see. I’m still trying to figure out which film/developer combo works best for me. I just bought some HC-110 to try, it should be here next week. Perhaps after I get all that down, it will make sense for me to bulk load because then I’ll be shooting a lot of whatever film I choose.

      I sent a roll of c41 off to Fulltone Photo, one of the labs I use, not long ago. I’m thinking I should shoot more and keep sending it to them. I have a bunch of Fujicolor 200 and Fuji Superia Xtra 400 in the freezer doing nothing.

      • tbm3fan says:

        While I have Rodinal and HC-110 which are easy to mix up for single shot use I still like D-76. Cut my teeth on it back in 1967, used it exclusively for 50 years, and those 45 year 35mm negatives still look great. Like my 52 year old Cougar neither has ever let me down.

        • The labs I use all use D-76 or a clone. That’s the look I think b/w should have. But I like one shot use so much I don’t know if I’ll ever try D76 here.

      • Liquid concentrates are known to be much more stable and keep for a very long time, as far as I know HC110 is kind of like Kodak’s answer to Rodinal. Interesting that you’ve gone that path, I don’t know if it was intentional or not.

        I also would recommend D-76! If you’re apprehensive about using it all up before it goes bad I don’t think that would be a problem, you have I think 6 months if not longer if you store it properly. And easy to use it as a one-shot developer if you dilute 1:1 if I remember correctly. Combine that with a 100ft roll of Tri-X and you’d have a winning combination! Considering that you’ve been going about things the hard way you’ll get some fantastic results with that combination, so it won’t be hard to start getting more advanced, like pushing film, pulling film, experimenting with different dilutions, temperatures, things like that. So much you can do and D-76 will make it a lot easier to learn! :)

        • Gosh, mixing Rodinal to 1+50 on the spot doesn’t feel hard at all! I dunno. I’m sure I’ll try D76 one day and then I’ll know better what you’re talking about. I chose to start with Rodinal for a bunch of reasons that still hold: limited storage space, not sure I’ll develop film often enough to use up some developers before they go bad, one shot appeals to me because no worries about air degrading the developer and no need to replenish.

  8. Hey, I am following the same game plan. Taking walks and visiting local parks (we are still allowed to drive to parks) and I always carry a camera. right now I am experimenting with some 100+ year old Kodak cameras, and preparing to do film test comparisons as my garden blooms….

  9. tbm3fan says:

    You know how I am getting into photography? I’m scanning all my negatives and slides taken since 1966. I can see light at the end of the tunnel for slides but the B&W negatives are another matter. It’s a long tunnel for them. You know there are many I don’t even remember and even more so since no prints were made.

    One thing I can tell you the Instamatic took crappy photos once I made a 126 adapter. Also Kodacolor wasn’t all that great when it came to sharpness. The shots in Plus-X with my Rokkor 55 f/1.7 are crisp while the color shots make me say how can f/11 and infinity not be sharp. Or, maybe the processing given what I’ve seen on close examination of well preserved negs.

    • I have scads of 126 negs that I “scanned” on a cheap negative digitizer. The digitizer wasn’t great, the negs were poorly treated, the camera I shot them on wasn’t great, I used Kodacolor II exclusively. It’s amazing those images look any good at all, but they do. Good enough to preserve a memory, anyway.

      • tbm3fan says:

        What you say and the color shifts. I don’t have photoshop so trying to get a blue aky to look blue is nearly impossible. Many of the negs have a violet tone to them.

  10. Great to hear how photography has been there for you once again Jim. And kudos to you for keeping your blog going as regularly as always, it’s helped this little online community seem like “business as usual” when so many other things aren’t. That’s really reassuring for people.

  11. “Photography is a great distraction from the world’s and my troubles. It’s also something I can control at a time when so much is beyond my control.” – Wow – that sums it up about perfectly! And a very nice picture too

  12. Usually, I take color film to a lab that’s about thirty miles away but still does processing in less than 2 hours. So, I save up rolls to go, then spend the two hours wondering through stores and having lunch. That’s no longer possible, so I bought everything needed to develop color at home. Will probably try a test roll next week.

    • Good luck! I might dip my toes into those waters one day. Only challenge is that my scanner is not great with 35mm color negs. I’d want to solve that problem first.

  13. Jim, you may already know of this, but when you process your film, you don’t have to scan each negative to see what you have. If you have a flatbed scanner, you can make a digital contact sheet. Just insert your negatives in a transparent negative file page such as those made by PrintFile https://printfile.com/product-category/film-slide-storage/negative-pages/ Place the page of negatives in the scanner and scan the whole thing at once. After you’ve scanned it, you can enlarge the page in Photoshop to get a better look at the individual frames to decide which ones you want to make larger scans of.

    • Yes! Because of the nature of what I do I generally want each image from my negatives anyway, but for whenever I can be choosy this is a useful approach.

  14. Christopher May says:

    I’ve been shooting mostly digitally but I hear the film bug calling again. Alas, my darkroom equipment is at my mom’s place so it’s out of the question for the time being. I might have to start sending stuff to open labs and paying the development premium. I think it might be therapeutic for me, too so this might be a worthy investment.

  15. As you know I am doing the same thing, reverting to my norm. I still have a few cameras to play with, but can’t leave the house or garden due to a cough. So I might start playing with flash. I would hate to be without hobbies right now.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.