I’ve been experimenting with Kodak’s ultra-fast T-Max P3200 black-and-white film. I know it’s great for handheld night shots (here are some), and I’ve had some luck using it for candid family photos indoors. But does it work as a general-purpose film? I mounted my 50mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor macro lens to my Nikon FA, screwed it onto a tripod, and photographed some household objects on a table. I developed these in HC-110, Dilution B.
The P3200’s heavy grain creates a certain creaminess to these images, and it’s an interesting look. I’m glad I tried it. But I think I prefer a smoother look. Because I had the Nikon FA on a tripod, I could have used a much slower film and accepted the slower shutter speeds I would have gotten.
After Rana died, my company gave me some time off to grieve. Believe it or not, I wavered on whether I’d take it. I worked straight through after my dad died and it was a wonderful distraction. But Dad’s death was expected, and I was as ready as anyone could be. Rana’s death was a deep shock, and it knocked the stuffing out of me. I wasn’t able to focus on anything. So I took the time off. (I go back to work Tuesday, after the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday.)
My old friend Michael reached out just so I could talk. Michael and I go way back, to 1985, and he and I attended the church where I met my first wife and Rana. He knows the whole story of my first marriage, including how both of us contributed to its destruction. He mentioned he was off work the next day, and I asked if I could drive out to see him. Both the drive and the company would do me good. We had lunch at a favorite place near his home, and lingered.
I had a roll of Kodak T-Max P3200 in my Nikon FA, which I’d brought along. I’d always used this film for night photography and inside available-light work. But there I was on a cold, sunny day shooting this fast film at tiny apertures.
I stopped by Headstone Friends first, and was sad to find them closed on a long New Year’s break. Headstone’s is a music shop, a throwback to a long-ago era. I was shocked to see the condition of their sign and mural. It’s long overdue for a repaint. Check out this post to see what it looked like in 2017 and 2008.
I’m sure I’ve seen Headstone’s door closed before, but I can’t remember the last time. They’re open Monday through Saturday noon to 8. Those have been their hours since before my first visit there in 1985! Headstone’s was founded in 1970 — it’s still 1970 when you step inside.
Headstone’s has always tacked notices of new releases to this bulletin board. I was surprised to find that Neil Young, Santana, and the Doobie Brothers all have recent releases! Visiting Headstone’s really is like stepping into a time machine!
Since Rana’s death, I’ve slept a lot. I’m not normally a great sleeper, but I’ve easily slept nine or ten hours a night since she died, and sometimes have needed a nap in the afternoon. I felt a little sleepy after Headstone’s, so I went downtown looking for a coffee shop. I found one right at the Crossroads of America, 7th Street (former US 41) and Wabash Avenue (former US 40 and the National Road).
I was a little sad to see Federal here, as it displaced the Crossroads Cafe, a favorite spot of mine from long ago. Sadly, the Crossroads Cafe didn’t survive the pandemic. The good black coffee and gluten-free blueberry muffin went a long way to soothe my disappointment, however.
Across the street from Federal is this historic marker. Old timers in Terre Haute can tell you: this intersection used to be constantly choked with traffic. US 40 connected the west and east coasts, and US 41 connected the top of Michigan with the southern tip of Florida. Before the Interstates opened, these highways were critical.
I had just a few more frames left on the roll, so I walked a little to shoot familiar scenes. I’ve always liked the entrance to the old Terre Haute First National Bank building.
The old Indiana Theater is a block south on 7th Street. When I lived in Terre Haute it showed second-run movies for a dollar. I saw a whole bunch of movies in here!
Now that I’ve shot T-Max P3200 on a sunny day, I never need to again. As you can see, it works; I got usable images. But as I suspected, the grain is obtrusive. It’s obtrusive for the night and indoor photography I normally use it for, too, but that’s a reasonable tradeoff for the ability to get those shots at all. I developed this film in HC-110, Dilution B — I’ve seen other developers, namely T-Max and Xtol, get far less grain from this film. But I don’t use those developers and don’t intend to start. There’s no reason to accept this kind of grain when smooth T-Max 100 would have worked just fine on this full-sun day. I have 10 rolls of that stuff in the freezer.
Well-known film photo blogger Andrew Morang (Kodachromeguy) sent me one of his last rolls of GAF 125 film to try. This film is the same stuff as Ansco Versapan (Ansco rebranded as GAF in 1967). My roll expired in June, 1972. Dig that red film canister!
Little information is available online about Versapan. I turned to my secret research weapon, Google Books, where I found a Nov., 1963 issue of Popular Science. There I found a single paragraph this then-new film. It said that the film features a “tight” grain pattern, and contrast increases with development time.
I shot this roll in my trusty Nikon N90s with my 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor lens attached. Andrew advised shooting it at EI 80 or even 64; I went with 80.
Where Andrew sent his rolls out to be professionally developed (see his results here), I developed mine myself. Because so very little info was available online, and the data sheet in the film box specified only Ansco developers no longer made, I used the Mike Eckman Method: HC-110, Dilution B (1+31), for 6 minutes. Any film Mike’s not sure about, that’s how he develops it. He gets great results almost every time.
Developed, the GAF 125 suffered from moderate base fog. You expect that from film this old. The images themselves have good density.
I figured my scanner (Minolta ScanDual II) could cut through the base fog to get usable images, and I was right. It was challenging to load the negatives into the holder, however, because after 50 years tight in the canister they curl like crazy.
At snapshot size, these images look surprisingly good. Grain ranges from smooth to slight, and there’s a good range of tones, but the dark areas are very dark. At 100%, the grain really pops out and you see a distinct loss of shadow detail.
I got a ton of dust on these; spotting the negatives in Photoshop took forever. A few were so bad that I gave up. But beyond that and a little sharpening, these scans needed very little post-processing.
I brought the N90s with me when I made a trip along the old Brookville Road in southeastern Indiana. That road is US 52 today. I stopped in the small town of Morristown and photographed its main street in the full sun. Here are several of the photos. Among them are photos of the Kopper Kettle restaurant, which I visited and reviewed as part of the Indiana Fried Chicken Tour many years ago; read that review here.
This was a successful roll overall, and I’ll share more photos from it in upcoming posts.