Film Photography

First results: developing black-and-white film at home

I’m an experiential learner. I can read about a topic all I want, but until I actually do something with the information it doesn’t stick in my brain.

I had promised myself I’d develop my first roll of film at home before autumn. And then lots of life happened and I kept not getting to it.

My son and I had plans to meet in Martinsville the other day for coffee and conversation. The weather was good so I loaded a roll of Kosmo Foto Mono into my Yashica-12 and brought it along. After coffee we walked the town square and I exposed all 12 frames.

When I got home I had a couple hours to spare. I decided to just plunge in and develop the roll. I mixed up all of my chemicals, most notably diluting Rodinal to 1+25. Then I consulted the Massive Dev Chart, where I made my first mistake: I used Fomapan 100’s developing time, assuming it’s the same stock as Kosmo Foto Mono. The Massive Dev Chart called for four minutes of development, so that’s what I did. Had I looked closer, I would have found a separate entry for Kosmo Foto Mono and a 3½-minute development time.

My second mistake was in not regulating temperature. Ambient temperature was 72 degrees; the development times were geared for 68 degrees. I didn’t realize I’d made this mistake until it was too late, so I just rolled with it to see how it would turn out. What turned out was dense, overdeveloped negatives.

City of Mineral Water

Something else went wrong that I can’t explain: the last four images on the roll, the ones that were closest to the developing reel’s core, were heavily and uniformly fogged. You could see faint images through the fogging, which suggests to me it was a fault in my developing and not a fault in the camera.

Court House Annex

The negatives were so dense that my CanoScan 9000F Mark II scanner couldn’t discern most of the images. It successfully scanned only these three.

City Hall

I brought them into Photoshop, where I reduced exposure by half a stop. Otherwise, these are just how they came off the scanner.

I lamented my challenges briefly when I posted these on Flickr. I got some advice there that Rodinal doesn’t do well with development times less than four minutes anyway, so I might try a 1+50 dilution next time for the longer development time it gives, which would give me latitude to adjust developing time for the ambient temperature. Or I can stand develop in Rodinal, as temperature isn’t so important.

I admire people who can read or hear about how to do a thing, internalize it well, and then do it well the first time. I’ve never been that person. I always have to bumble and stumble my way through until I figure it out. So here’s my first bumble. Next time I’ll stumble, I’m sure. After that I’ll start to get the hang of it.

Here’s hoping I can try again soon. I really like it that I can shoot a roll of film in an afternoon, and have scans ready to share with you by the next morning.

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Film Photography

Film photography blogs you should follow (New for 2019)

A great joy of film photography is the community of people who enjoy everything about it: the gear, the films, getting out and shooting, and looking at the resulting photographs. Lots of us share our adventures on our blogs.

Side mirror selfie
A portrait of the blogger

I’m going to list all of the photo blogs I follow. If you don’t see your blog here, I hope you won’t feel put out. Maybe I just don’t know about it. Let me know which blogs I’m missing in the comments!

This year I’m just going to list the blogs alphabetically. When you see ✨ next to a blog, it’s new to this year’s list. When you see ❤ next to a blog, it’s one I look forward to most. When you see 📷 next to a blog, its author or owner is a member of a little kaffeeklatsch I belong to where we talk about photography and photo blogging — and share each others’ posts around the Internet.

Also, this year I’m limiting the list to blogs that have posted recently and post regularly.

  • 35 millimetre — Film photographs by Charlotte Davis in the UK.
  • 35mm Chronicle — The fellow who writes this blog never shares his name, but he does some lovely work in black and white.
  • 35mm Film Shootist — Black and whites from Martin Smith’s Leica.
  • 📷 35mmc — Hamish Gill and his crew write about cameras and films and photographic skills
  • 📷 Alex Luyckx — A dedicated film photographer shares his work. His film reviews are the most useful on the Internet.
  • Alex Yates Photography — Pinholes, Polaroids, and 35mm.
  • All My Cameras — Christoph in Germany and his growing collection. In German and in English.
  • Analog Cafe — A group blog of photo essays, reviews, and stories.
  • Analogue Wonderland — The blog of Analogue Wonderland, a film store in the UK.
  • Andrew Bartram — Film landscapes of the Cambridgeshire Fenlands in eastern England.
  • Aragon’s Eye — Chris shares photographs and film-camera reviews.
  • Attempts at 35mm — Pekka waxes philosophical about cameras and street photography.
  • Barnaby Nutt — Barnaby documents his life with his film camera.
  • Bernard Prunesquallor — Essays on many topics, illustrated with film photographs.
  • ✨ 📷 Bill Smith’s Photography — Bill shoots 35mm and medium format, and shares in a visual diary format.
  • Broken Camera . Club — Mostly reviews of mostly obscure gear.
  • ❤ 📷 Camera Go Camera — Peggy reviews lots and lots of gear, some of it off-the-wall stuff she bought while living in Japan.
  • Camera Legend — Sam collects legendary cameras and writes about using them.
  • Canny Cameras — Gear reviews and photographs by Alan D. This site explained why the Lomography 110 film I use sometimes leaves light spots on some images. A tip of the hat for that.
  • 📷 Casual Photophile — This site written by James and his crew sets the Internet standard for vintage gear reviews. Excellent writing, excellent images, great cameras. I read every post, from beginning to end.
  • coronet66 — Photos from lots of great film gear from this UK blogger.
  • Curating Cuteness — Katie shoots film with a small stable of cameras.
  • 📷 EMULSIVE — A place for film photographers of all backgrounds to share their knowledge, experience, and thoughts about everything related to film photography.
  • Field Photographer — A group blog about gear and adventure with that gear.
  • Filling the Time — Karen explores photography and film cameras.
  • Film Advance — Gary shares images from his eclectic collection of film cameras.
  • Film Based Traveler — Nicole works in a biomedical research lab by day and shoots film in her spare time.
  • Film is Back! — Wayne in New Zealand shares his film and film-camera adventures.
  • Film Photography Blog — A straightforwardly named blog from the Film Shooters Collective.
  • Film Photography.Blog — Film photographs from northeast England.
  • Film Photography Project — You gotta include the blog of the FPP gang.
  • Fogdog Blog — John takes his Nikons and his Pentaxes (and sometimes his Leicas) along the northern California coast.
  • For the easily distracted… — Rhianne in the UK shoots film, and lots of it.
  • I Still Shoot Film — A group blog about all things film.
  • I dream of sumac and milkweed — Personal essays and film photographs.
  • Ivan Pilov Photography — Film photographs, mostly from Israel.
  • 📷 Japan Camera Hunter — Bellamy lives in Tokyo and finds lovely old cameras for you. And writes about film photography.
  • John’s Cameras — If it can make an image, John Margetts will give it a try and share his experience here.
  • 📷 Johnny Martyr — Photographing portraits and live music on film.
  • 📷 Kosmo Foto — Stephen dispels the myths about film: that it’s too hard and too expensive, and breaks film-photography news.
  • Mere Film Photography — Shooting film, printing digitally, thinking and writing about the craft.
  • 📷 mike eckman dot com — Long form histories and reviews, from common cameras to wacky stuff you’ve never heard of.
  • Mostly Monochrome — A photo-a-day blog with a surprising number of color photos given its title.
  • myvintagecamerasblog — Experiments with cameras and film.
  • Natalie Smart Film Photography — A film photographer in Brighton, UK, who shoots 35mm, 120, and instant.
  • North East Liberties — Michael shares scenes from the region of Northern Ireland his blog is named after. His specialty is printing.
  • Olli Thomson Photography — A career ex-pat who lives all over the world, shooting his film gear and sharing his work.
  • Photo A Day — Daily film photos shared more or less weekly.
  • Photo-Analogue – Nicholas shares photos from his 20 film cameras and discusses tech and technique.
  • Photo Jottings — A lot of film camera tests and reviews.
  • Photography and Vintage Cameras – Mike does great work with his old cameras, especially in black and white. He can make an old folder or box camera really sing.
  • ✨ 📷 Photo Thinking — Theo Panagopolous writes a friendly and informative blog on photography, photo processes and the wonderful and varied cameras used to create pictures.
  • Physical Grain — Personal essays, illustrated with film photographs by the authors.
  • Random Camera Blog – Mark shoots frequently with his old cameras and shares the results here.
  • reCap — Gear and photographs. A German blog in English.
  • Richard Haw’s Classic Nikon Repair and Review — What it says on the tin. Extremely informative.
  • Seeing Wide — Photo walks and street photography, on film.
  • short stories — Gerald, amateur photographer, professional misfit.
  • shot on film — New images from old cameras.
  • Slow Photography — Jordi shares his experiences with gear and technique.
  • Steel City Snapper — Medium format and 35mm photography from Sheffield, UK.
  • the6millionpman — Lots of medium format.
  • TAZM Pictures — Tom films everything, and often on actual film.
  • The Resurrected Camera — Joe proves that film photography doesn’t have to be expensive.
  • The Unrecovering Photography Addict — Sam loves everything about photography, from the gear to the process to the result.
  • The Vintage Lens — Photos with cameras at least 50 years old.
  • Utah Film Photography — Shaun Nelson with vintage gear photographs and reviews.
  • View from the Carrot Room — SilverFox moved from the UK to the US and records his life on film.
  • Why Use Film Cameras? — Frank in Luxembourg shoots film, proving every day that it’s not as expensive as you think.
  • Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic Photos of gear from his extensive collection, mostly Yashicas.

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Film Photography, Road Trips

Along the National Road in western Indiana, 2009

Another camera review I refreshed recently was of my Minolta X-700. I shot just two rolls with it before it succumbed to the common but dreaded Stuck Winder Problem. A certain capacitor fails, and the X-700 becomes a brick.

Minolta X-700
Brick.

That second roll (it was Fujicolor 200) was shot primarily on a road trip along Indiana’s National Road from Indianapolis to the Illinois state line. My goodness but do I miss taking to the old roads. I’ve made not a single road trip this year. Life just has presented higher priorities. I hope for next year.

It felt great, however, to look through these photos from my trip ten years ago and remember a great day alone on this old highway. You might know it as US 40. First, here’s an abandoned bridge just west of Plainfield. It carried US 40 from probably about 1925 until the road was rebuilt as a four-lane divided highway in about 1940. Two new bridges were built just to the south — I stood on one of them to make this photograph — and this one was left behind to molder.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

Here’s another view. You can park on a clearing just east of this bridge and walk out onto it.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

Just before the four-lane highway reaches Putnamville, a short older alignment branches off. This 1923 bridge is on it, and you can still drive across it.

Old US 40

The bridge feels narrow, and the railing feels heavy.

Old US 40

Near Reelsville you’ll find an old alignment of the road that never got paved.

Old National Road

For a long time I thought this was the National Road’s original alignment. But I learned that the National Road was moved to this alignment in 1875 when a bridge on the original alignment, to the south, washed out and was not replaced. Read about the history of these alignments here.

Old National Road

Near here I stopped to photograph some roadside flowers.

Roadside flowers

When I made it to Terre Haute, I walked along the road for several blocks downtown. It’s known as Wabash Avenue here. This is the entrance to Hulman and Company, which for many years made Clabber Girl Baking Powder.

Hulman & Co.

This building may once have housed the Terre Haute Trust Company, but for as long as I can remember — since I moved to Terre Haute in 1985 — it has housed the Merchant’s National Bank and, after a merger, the Old National Bank.

Former Tribune-Star building

I drove from there all the way to the end of the Indiana portion of the road. Then I turned around and went back to Terre Haute to catch dinner at the Saratoga, a longtime restaurant right on the road.

The Saratoga

It was a great day, and my Minolta X-700 helped me capture it — before it failed.

If you’d like to see more from this trip, via my digital camera, check it out on my old site, here.

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Film Photography

Car parts

I recently updated my 2012 review of the Pentax K1000; see it here. On my first ever roll in that camera I walked through the parking lot at work, photographing colorful everyday cars up close. I’ve always thought these photos were fun. A couple of these have been only on my hard drive all these years.

Jeep light

Over at Curbside Classic, the old-car blog to which I sometimes contribute, someone will occasionally post a parking-lot photo from 30 or 50 years ago. It’s always great fun to see the everyday cars of the era. The cars that get saved or restored tend to be the more noteworthy or upper-trim models.

Decklid

These photographs are far too close up to ever provide much of that feeling of nostalgia. But even seven years later, when was the last time you saw a Dodge Neon R/T (above)? Even the once-ubiquitous Chevy Malibu Maxx (below) is starting to be thin on the ground.

LT V6

Cars date photographs. I follow a group on Facebook for vintage photographs of Indiana. The posters are often left to guess when photos were made. Because I have good knowledge of American automobiles after World War II, I can frequently help narrow it down. “That had to be made no earlier than 1968 because there’s a 1968 Chevy in the photo.”

Sidewalk?

I made all of these photos with my 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M lens on Fujicolor 200.

It’s easy to make detail photos of old cars; there are so many details. I find newer cars to be more challenging. Revisiting these seven-year-old photographs makes me want to try more often now.

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Film Photography

At the zoo

As I’ve updated my camera reviews this year, on my oldest reviews I sometimes find myself returning to my original negative scans. I have better tools and skills now that frequently let me breathe deeper life into the images. Also, I find that in my early days of reviewing I didn’t always upload every usable photo from those rolls to Flickr, as I always do now. It’s been fun to revisit those photographs and share some of them for the first time.

I’m working on an update to my 2011 review of the Olympus OM-1. That camera came to me in a big kit with several lenses, some Olympus and some not. One of them was a hulking Vivitar 70-150 mm f/3.8 Close Focusing Auto Zoom, pictured below.

Olympus OM-1

My dear friend Debbie had come to visit. We’ve known each other since the fifth grade; she’s my oldest friend. We both love the zoo, so we went. The OM-1 had only recently joined my collection and I figured this big, ugly zoom lens would be useful there. I loaded some Fujicolor 200 and off we went.

At the Indianapolis Zoo

Eight years is a long time ago but I remember the big Vivitar making the OM-1 heavy and unwieldy. But as these photos attest, it did the job for which it was made.

At the Indianapolis Zoo

I’m happy with this lens’s resolving power, but feel that it muted the saturated colors for which Fujicolor 200 is known.

At the Indianapolis Zoo

The overcast day could have played into these muted colors, too. Also, in these days I was sending my film off to Snapfish for processing and scanning. Looking back, I think there were better lab choices even then.

At the Indianapolis Zoo

You never know what you’re going to get with some third-party lens you get with an old camera. But this Vivitar did a decent job. You can almost count the hairs at the tip of this tiger’s tail.

At the Indianapolis Zoo

That said, I’m not sure I’d shoot that lens again. I have a very good long Pentax-branded zoom for my Pentax K-mount bodies that I’d turn to first.

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Film Photography

Using Sunny 16 to check your camera’s meter

Something might not be right with the meter on my black Olympus OM-1. I’ve taken it out lately on some bright days and the exposure settings that give me that horizontal needle in the viewfinder aren’t agreeing with the Sunny 16 rule.

Olympus OM-1

I’ve said for years that I want to get better at reading the light with my eyes and setting exposure manually. It would let me shoot any non-metered camera in my collection without having to fumble with an external meter. But it also alerts me when one of my old cameras’ meters might not be accurate anymore.

I expect most photographers who learn this skill start with Sunny 16. I did, and I have it down well enough. I’ve even occasionally adapted it down to f/8 as the resulting faster shutter speeds are sometimes useful. (See Mike Eckman’s useful article on his “Outdoor Eight Rule” here for a dead-simple related technique.)

My OM-1’s meter doesn’t appear to be so far off that the good exposure latitude of the Kodak ColorPlus film inside shouldn’t cover it. I’m relying on the meter to see what happens.

But it’s very nice to know that I can sanity check any camera’s meter against Sunny 16 and adjust my shooting accordingly — even “go commando” and ignore the meter if I must.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Sunny 16 rule, here it is. Most negative films, both black and white and color, have enough margin to give you a usable image with these settings.

First, set the shutter to about the inverse of your film’s ISO. So for ISO 100, set the shutter to 1/100 or 1/125, whichever one your camera has. For ISO 200, it’s 1/200 or 1/250. For ISO 400, I don’t know a camera that has 1/400 so go with 1/500. Close enough is good enough.

On a normal sunny day where you see distinct shadows, set the aperture to f/16. On a cloudy day when the shadows soften, go with f/11. On a heavily cloudy day when the shadows are barely visible, use f/8. When it’s overcast enough there are no visible shadows, use f/5.6. A final tip: if the sun is blazingly bright and glaring, go with f/22 if you have it.

If you learn this well enough, you too can easily sanity check the meter on any camera you own. Set the ISO to 100, gauge the light and guess the shutter speed you should use at f/16, and then:

  • On a full manual camera, set the aperture to f/16 and the shutter speed according to the Sunny 16 rule and see where the exposure indicator lines up. If all’s well it should indicate close to proper exposure.
  • On an aperture priority camera, set the aperture to f/16 and see what shutter speed the camera chooses. If all’s well it should choose something close to 1/100 on a sunny day, 1/50 on a cloudy day, 1/25 on a heavily cloudy day, and down from there.
  • On a shutter priority camera, set the shutter according to the Sunny 16 rule and see what aperture the camera chooses. If all’s well it should choose something close to f/16 on a sunny day, f/11 on a cloudy day, and on from there.

Sunny 16 isn’t exact science. When I say “close” above, I mean within a stop or maybe even two of correct exposure. But if you set your camera to 1/100 and f/16 on a sunny day and the camera indicates strong over- or under-exposure, either you have a bad battery or your meter is faulty.

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