Film Photography

Experimenting with LegacyPro L110 developer

I thought I’d use Rodinal for some time before trying other developers, but I’ve just tried an HC-110 clone, LegacyPro L110. It didn’t go as well as I hoped, but all was not lost.


I was looking for a developer to use with a roll of Adox HR-50 that the kind folks at Analogue Wonderland sent me to try. It’s a specialty film modified for use in regular photography. The roll is in my Olympus OM-1 now.

The Massive Dev Chart has timings for HR-50 with only a few developers, and my go-to, Rodinal, isn’t one of them. Adox mades a developer especially for this film, HR-DEV, and it’s allegedly great for all black-and-white films. I probably should have just bought it. I might yet.

But my first thought was to use HC-110. The Massive Dev Chart has timings for HR-50 in Ilfotec HC, which is said to be an HC-110 clone. HC-110 is less expensive than Ilfotec HC. But L110 is less expensive still than HC-110, and I could get it in a smaller quantity than HC-110. So that’s what I bought.

I put a roll of Arista EDU 200 into my Pentax ME with the 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M lens attached. I shot the roll over a couple days around the house and neighborhood and then developed it in L110 Dilution E, which is 1:47.

The popular dilutions appear to be B at 1:31 and H at 1:63. But Dilution B gives a development time of just 3:30 at 20° C, which gives no margin for timing error. Dilution H gives some margin at 7 minutes of development time at 20°. But you need at least 6 ml of L110 or the developer will exhaust before the film is developed. At Dilution H, that would mean a far greater volume of diluted developer than would fit into my 290 ml tank. I didn’t want to use my 500 ml tank, so I compromised on Dilution E. I always round up to 300 ml in my 290 ml tank, which led to 6.2 ml L110 and 293.8 ml water. HC-110/L110 development times scale linearly with dilution, so I calculated 5:15 at 20°. The diluted developer was 21.2° thanks to room temperature, which would have reduced development time to less than 5 minutes. So I chilled it in tap water until it reached 20° and plunged in.

I gave all that detail to show how careful I was. Yet I got thinnish, slightly underdeveloped negatives. When I scanned them on my CanoScan 9000F Mark II using the bundled ScanGear software, only a few images looked truly good. Most needed heavy rescuing in Photoshop and even then many of those turned out marginal. A few images could not be salvaged.

I’ve had growing thoughts for a while now that ScanGear isn’t giving me the best from my negatives. So I bought VueScan (thanks to your Buy Me a Coffee donations!) and rescanned the whole roll. VueScan gave me far better scans from these negatives, though it did take far longer to scan the roll than with ScanGear. Quality takes time. Still, VueScan couldn’t overcome all of the underdevelopment. Shadows are blocked up in several shots.

Callery pear

I think next time I’ll just use Dilution H and my larger tank, to give myself more development time and therefore more margin for error.

I shot a series of things on my coffee table with the camera on a tripod, and many of those turned out well.

Rosenthal china

Most of my outdoors photos turned out well.

Shed window
Villager at Lowe's

These two photos led me to try VueScan. Using ScanGear, the first was muddy and dark beyond saving, and the second had blocked-up shadows everywhere. VueScan let me make them usable.

El Rodeo
Chrysler snout

One last photo from the roll. I shot this one at noon, sunlight streaming in through a nearby window. It looks like I shot it at night.


I’ve popped another roll of Arista EDU 200 into the Pentax ME. I love using that camera anyway, and I want to have another go with L110. This time I’ll just use Dilution H in my larger tank.

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South Bend Motel

South Bend Motel
Kodak EasyShare Z730

I grew up a mile or so away from this motel and its neon sign. I saw it a lot while I was growing up, and its neon was usually in disrepair. It made me happy to find it lit and fully working when I visited my hometown this day.

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single frame: South Bend Motel

The South Bend Motel sign, lit.


Shifting stressors during the pandemic

The big project at work wrapped last Wednesday. I was essentially lead project manager on it, directing a gaggle of engineers and managing expectations with executives. It was a lot of work on a “you’ve got to be kidding me” deadline. Planning and executing it consumed me, especially in the last week or so as things heated up. But we delivered it just a few days past the deadline (on a project like this, that’s considered successful) and everything worked.

I was spent by the time it ended, so I took Thursday and Friday off. I thought I’d sleep late, make some photographs, write a little in this blog, and putter around the house. It was going to be five luxurious days of restorative downtime, and I was so ready.

Instead on Thursday I found myself power washing the deck so we could stain it. I guess I didn’t know that this project, which my wife and I had been talking about, was going to be this weekend.

On Friday I ran a frustrating and unsuccessful errand for my wife’s upcoming birthday that ate up my morning. But in the afternoon I developed and scanned some film, and I aired up my bike’s tires and went for the first ride of the season. That was great.

I couldn’t sleep late. In the last few weeks of the project, enough tension and stress built up that I struggled to let go and sleep. I managed five or six hours most nights, always interrupted by up to an hour and a half awake somewhere in the middle. I thought when the project ended I’d sleep deeply for a couple nights and be back on track, but instead my messed-up sleep pattern continued. I couldn’t shed the accumulated stress.

Saturday I crashed, and hard. I felt terrible all day. I managed the weekly grocery shopping and my laundry, but I was extremely irritable and my body ached all over. I needed to stop. My wife was staining the deck, and I know she hoped I’d join her, but I told her I couldn’t. I spent the rest of the day in bed reading a book. I dozed off a few times. That night I finally managed about seven hours of sleep.

Feeling partially restored, on Sunday I worked my ass off staining that deck. By the end of the day we had two coats on the railing and one on the deck surface. We also discovered that the structure under the steps up to the deck was rotting. Our son dismantled it and will rebuild it for us today. It’s nice to have someone with those skills in the family.

I thought a day of honest physical labor might do me some good and let me sleep deeply. Nope. Last night, once again, crap sleep.

I’m deeply tired, and I’m a little depressed. I think I’ll take tomorrow off, too, a day just for me. I need to press my inner reset button and this weekend really hasn’t done it for me yet. Everybody else will be back at work so I will be alone. I love being alone.

I forget that the pandemic itself is stressful. We’ve all had to adapt to a lot of change in a short time, and that’s never easy. The big work project was a great distraction. It started before the lockdown, so from the first day of working from home I could throw myself fully into it all day. Then all evening I could focus on my family. I seldom went out among people — Saturday morning to the grocery store, and usually once a week to pick up carryout, but that was it. I sometimes read the news so I’d have some idea about the pandemic’s progress. Otherwise, I could shut it out.

I also forgot that the pandemic is stressful for my entire family. Our children who no longer live with us have their own troubles but I’ll focus on the three that still live with us. All of them spent several weeks unemployed. I’ve said before that they were okay because we were able to provide them a roof and food. But they were also stuck here at home with no in-person contact with any of their friends. I’m good with being at home for long stretches. So is one of our sons. We’re both people with considerable inner worlds and we’re thrilled to live in them.

But our other son and our daughter are not built for this and it was very hard on them. That son, we learned, was sneaking out to spend time with his girlfriend, exposing us all to risk. I was furious at first. But after a long conversation with my wife I was able to see what isolation was doing to our son and daughter. I was no longer sure what was right. I’m still not.

Since Indiana started reopening, all three of these adult children spend some time with friends now. I’m a little frightened of it. Margaret and I are in the age group that has had the most cases of COVID-19 in Indiana. I do not want this disease. I also know that I fall on the very conservative side of reasonable responses to the virus. Other reasonable responses include some social contact.

I empathize with our children, who need that social contact. I’m conflicted about whether to draw a line, or allow this. I just don’t know what’s right. So I’m doing nothing, which tacitly allows this, and I just feel stuck.

I expect things to be more normal at work when I return. Stressful, tight-timeline projects like this one are not typical. We normally work in two-week chunks, or sprints, as we call them. Most software companies want some ability to predict when projects will finish. This system of sprints gives us good enough predictability with a lot less pressure. Engineers feel like they have the time to do good work. I like that.

It’s also a lot less stressful for me. In traditional project management, like I just finished doing, I’m sort of the captain of the ship directing everything that’s happening from my chair on the bridge. In our system of sprints, we set up two weeks of work and I then trust the teams to deliver it. They mostly do. I coach the engineers along the way and when they get stuck help them through it. It’s real work, but a lot less pressure.

That pressure was part of what allowed me to be distracted from everything else. I’m going to have to face it now. I don’t know what that means yet. I’m going to find out this week.

Other pandemic reports from Yuri Rasin, Owain Shaw, and brandib.


Briefly back on the “radio”

I got to be on the “radio” briefly recently.

My alma mater’s radio station, WMHD, gave up its broadcast license several years ago. But it continued streaming online, fully automated, with a skeleton crew.

On WMHD in 1989

In the last couple years a new generation of students realized they could make something much more of their online stream. They’ve revitalized the online “station” with new studios and office space. It’s down the hall from the original space. The original studios and office have been removed and that space repurposed. The school also repainted the entire floor, which means the giant WMHD logo I painted on the wall in 1988 is finally gone.

About a year ago, current General Manager Katana Colledge found my posts about WMHD here and reached out via my contact form. We’ve corresponded ever since, me telling my old WMHD stories and Katana telling me all the great stuff the station is working on.

They’ve continued their stream, but have improved the software that runs it for better sound quality. They have also returned to having some DJs, but rather than them being live as back in my day they all prerecord their shows and queue them up in the stream for the right time. They also upload those shows to Mixcloud; see them here. You’ll also find several shows from the old days there, including all of my shows that I recorded.

WMHD has also added a podcast recording room, offers guitar lessons, and holds jam sessions for students, staff, and faculty. They also bring their DJ equipment to campus events and provide music. Or at least they did before COVID-19 paused it all; they’re finding creative ways to stay connected with students online now.

As Katana told me all about it, I could feel the same level of excitement and commitment as students had in my time. That energy has waxed and waned over the years. It’s great to see it back.

The station put together a show to relaunch WMHD, and asked a few alumni to choose three songs and introduce them. I was one of those alumni! Here is the entire launch show. My intro and three songs begin a few seconds before the 40 minute mark.

Go here to read my alma mater’s news story about the relaunch, in which I’m quoted!

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Recommended reading

💻 Daniel Miessler reminds us all why RSS is so awesome. What’s RSS? If you use Feedly to follow blogs, you use RSS. It lets you choose what information sources you follow, rather than whatever Facebook or Twitter push on you. Read It’s Time to Get Back Into RSS

Ferris wheel in the evening sky
Canon PowerShot S95, 2015

💻 M. B. Henry tells the story of the first Ferris wheel, and how George Ferris pushed past every roadblock to see his vision made real. Read The Ferris Wheel — A Guide to Dealing With Naysayers

💻 “One of the reasons I think we’re having such problems with the virus right now is that the economic contract is suspended. And, we haven’t decided about the social contract yet.” Johanna Rothman with a fascinating take on the societal issues around COVID-19. Read When Do We Choose the Social Contract & When Do We Choose the Economic Contract?

💻 Steve Mitchell‘s dad served in Korea — and shot some Kodachrome to prove it. Steve tells some of his dad’s story, and shares incredible scans of his dad’s slides. Read Remembering My Dad

📷 Kevin Lane has started sharing only scans of darkroom prints of his film photographs on his blog. Daggone it, his reasons are super compelling. I’m envious. Read Say “No” To the Scans (But “Yes” To the Prints!) Part One

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Essay, Personal

When your wife divorces you

I read a monthly e-mail newsletter called The Masculinist, written for Christian men living in the modern world. Its author, Aaron Renn, has some very well-reasoned positions on men in the church and in living the Christian life. He does a great job of explaining and building upon his positions in his newsletter. If you’re interested, you can sign up here.

In his most recent newsletter, he offers advice for men whose wives decide to divorce them. He points out that women file for 70% of all US divorces, and it is therefore wise as married men to think about how it will affect us should it happen to us. He then offers solid advice and perspective. Read it here.

His advice really resonated with me. My first wife divorced me. I won’t tell the story as I’m sure my ex wouldn’t like me telling stories on her, as I don’t appreciate her telling stories on me. But she was the one who decided the marriage was over, and filed.

At that time I got two pieces of excellent advice that line up well with Renn’s perspective. The first one came from an unlikely source: my attorney. He told me to find five trusted men who would take my call and who would pray with me. Many of us men don’t have five male friends, especially ones not married to our wives’ friends. If I couldn’t find five men, find as many as I could. My attorney warned me that they would probably not be able to offer me any real counsel or help, and I should let them know I understand that. Their purpose was simply to listen when I needed to talk, and to pray with me and for me.

My young sons on the suspension bridge at Turkey Run State Park. It was 2005, after the separation but before the divorce was final.

Second, do not date for three years. My mother gave me this advice. You are a mess, she said, and need time to recover and figure out who you are again. If you date now, you will choose a woman like the one who just rejected you, or a woman equally a mess for her own reasons. Either way, it won’t lead to a healthy relationship. That will be bad for you. But more importantly, you do not need to be that distracted from your sons, who are also hurting and need you.

I took both pieces of advice. The trusted male friends (and family members) I lined up really did take my call at any time, and really did pray for me and with me. True to my lawyer’s counsel, they seldom had any meaningful advice or material help to offer. But they did listen, and offered comforting words. Because of them I was never alone through any of what came. It was a long, dragged-out mess — after filing, my ex flatly refused to negotiate, our judge refused to order mediation, and we went to trial in a badly backlogged court. It was more than a year before we stood before the judge.

The second piece of advice was wicked hard at first. I was so starved for attention and affection! But not dating helped me keep my head in the right game: raising my two sons, with the time the court granted me to have with them. Three years became seven, with my sons in high school, before I dated at all. At ten years, I met the woman who would become my wife. Even then, we delayed until my youngest son was out of high school. We agreed that it made no sense to upend his life as he knew it with me, with a new house and stepsiblings, when he was so close to the finish line.

The stability I provided for my sons in my home became foundational for them — the oldest has acknowledged this openly without my prompting — as their mom went on to marry two more times, moving our sons with them each time.

The other thing that I did on my own was double down on my faith. I was furious with God for the failure of my marriage. I’d prayed daily, on my knees and in tears, that he intervene and save us. I felt that God had not kept his promises to me, the ones I felt he had made all through his Word. I could have easily walked away at that point.

But there was something in me that insisted on holding God to his promises, and I let him know it in no uncertain terms. I spent a lot of time searching the Scriptures like a lawyer poring over legal texts trying to find where God had made those promises. Instead, through this study I learned how my understanding of God’s nature was thin and inaccurate. I came to understand him far better — and built a feeling of closeness with him that I didn’t know was possible.

Even though the divorce has been final for 14 years, recalling it still brings up residual pain. That’s the other piece of advice I wish I had been given: this is a very serious loss, and you will find a new normal, a new peace, and hopefully a new happiness. You will eventually no longer think about your loss every day. But it will remain a sad, difficult memory for the rest of your life.

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