I live in a modern vinyl village. It’s not my cup of tea, but it made practical sense when Margaret and I got married and so here we are. We both hope to move on from here when the nest empties.
While we’re all on stay-at-home orders during the global pandemic, my photography is limited to my house and, when I take a walk, my neighborhood.
The houses all present well from the front, but they paid zero attention to what the sides and back look like. Windows, when they exist, are stuck wherever it made sense from the inside, without regard to how that would look on the outside. Our house has windows on the front and back, but the sides are huge, unbroken slabs of vinyl. Some houses have windows inserted in random places. The pictured house has this one window on this side, in the extreme lower left corner. It just looks weird.
I’m shooting through all the film I’ve stockpiled, and a roll of Kosmo Foto Mono was next in the queue. I spooled it into my Nikon N2000 as I hadn’t shot it in a long while. My 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens is still new to me, so I mounted it to give it another spin. I developed this Kosmo Foto Mono in Rodinal 1+50 and I was overall happy with the results.
But first, let’s look at some photos I wasn’t too happy with. Several shots were lighter on the edges than in the middle like the one below.
Shadow detail wasn’t great in a few photos as well, as in the photo below. Can you see the runner on the path? He was much more obvious in real life as I made the photograph.
There’s so much that goes into what a photograph looks like when you see it here. I almost always let the camera meter the scene; did my N2000 favor the highlights here? Is its meter still accurate? It was great the last time I used it. But that was more than a year ago and old cameras — this one is from about 1985 — do fail sometimes.
I used my CanoScan 9000F Mark II and its bundled ScanGear software to scan these negatives. Better scanner software or a better scanner might have resolved these images better.
I’m still new to developing my own film, but I’ve built enough skill at it to get consistent results. That doesn’t mean consistently perfect results; perhaps something about this developing session wasn’t ideal. The temperature of my developer was higher than ideal: 22.8° C rather than 20° C, thanks to ambient temperature. That led me to reduce development time from 9 minutes to 7 minutes 10 seconds, as calculated using the converter at the Massive Dev Chart Web site. Maybe that played a role.
Who knows. The rest of the roll looked really good to me.
At the time I made these photos Indiana was on stay-at-home orders thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. So I shot the whole roll around the house and on walks I made around my neighborhood. This is what I like to call la-de-da photography — images of anything that strikes my fancy. None of this will ever hang in a museum. But I had fun shooting the roll, and that’s what matters.
I like Kosmo Foto Mono. But when I’ve sent this film out to my usual labs for developing and scanning I sometimes thought the results were a touch too contrasty. My usual labs use D76 or one of its clones. Rodinal managed the contrast better. There’s a slight muddiness in some images, but a good range of tones overall.
It was strange to walk around the deserted streets of my subdivision, so I walked over to the nearby strip mall and it was similarly deserted. We walk over to this Mexican restaurant a lot, or at least we did before they closed thanks to the pandemic.
Ah, vinyl village life. Our neighbor owns this funky Jeep with its white fenders. This shows Kosmo Foto Mono’s signature deep blacks.
That 35-105mm zoom lens has a macro mode. I love macro work! On a rainy day I put some small things on the kitchen windowsill and photographed them with the lens wide open (f/3.5).
I was with Margaret when we bought this little bird sculpture, but I can’t remember where that was. The focus is a little soft.
There you have it: Kosmo Foto Mono in Rodinal 1+50. It’s a fine combination.
My second try at processing film at home was an utter failure. I was overconfident and tried a roll of Verichrome Pan expired since the early 1980s. The stuff simply would not go onto the reel. After 45 minutes of trying, it got so hot and humid in my dark bag that the film stuck to itself and was ruined. In retrospect, I probably reached too far too fast.
So for my third try I used up my last roll of Kosmo Foto Mono in my Agfa Clack (review here). I probably should have used my Yashica-12 as last time for consistency’s sake, but the Clack takes 8 6×9 images vs. the Yashica’s 12 6×6 images and I wanted to get through the roll as fast as I could so I could get on with the developing.
I had better luck this time, but the results still weren’t perfect. I diluted Rodinal to 1+50, and used the time-temp converter at the Massive Dev Chart site here to adjust developing time to my developer’s actual temperature, which was 23°, not the recommended 20°.
I am surprised by the widely varying directions online for developing black-and-white film. Some of them call for rinsing the film first, and some say that step is wholly unnecessary. They all use the chemicals in the same order, but except for the developer stage the amount of time for each subsequent step is all over the map.
Last time I used the Massive Dev Chart Timer app, and it was great except that it calls for a Hypo Clear step. I’m not using Hypo Clear and I couldn’t figure out how to skip it in the app. So this time I found some instructions online and followed them using my iPhone timer. My stupid iPhone screen kept shutting off and my damp fingers had trouble unlocking the phone — frustrating, and I’m sure some of my timings were off as a result. So maybe I need to invest in an actual timer.
As I searched online to find those instructions again, I came upon a different article that talked about agitation techniques in film developing — and discovered that I’m agitating too much and too hard, and that the results I’m getting are consistent with that. So next time I’ll agitate much more gently.
Below are all eight photos from the roll, from first to last. I put the film into the reel end first, so the last shots on the roll were closest to the reel’s core.
The negatives came out dense and several of them were blotchy, consistent with overagitation. The images closer to the spool’s core appear to be more messed up than the ones farther away. I had to really work them over in Photoshop. I was able to breathe good life into only a few of them.
My goals for developing my own film are to get scans fast and inexpensively. I’m not doing this because I want to fall in love with the process and be some film-processing fanboy. I’m mercenary; this is a means to an end, period. I’m not enjoying the learning curve. I will persist in hopes that I can soon get consistent and acceptable results.
I’m out of Kosmo Foto Mono now. I have a roll of Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros left so I’ll shoot it next. Looking around online, people seem to get great results with T-Max 100 in Rodinal. The Film Photography Store sells it for a good price, so a 5-pack is on its way to me now.
Here now, the photographs. All but the first two are from downtown Lebanon, IN.
I often like the medium-format version of a film better than its 35mm counterpart. The larger negative opens up the film and shows you what it can really do. This goes for the new 120 Mono film from Kosmo Foto.
When friend-of-the-blog Stephen Dowling, the man behind Kosmo Foto, announced this new film, I preordered immediately. My order arrived in due course, but it took me a couple months to find a day to spool a roll into my Yashica-D. I took both on a walk up and down the lovely Main Street in Zionsville.
Dowling makes no bones about it: this is an existing film, repackaged for Kosmo Foto. This classic emulsion features strong contrast and managed grain, much like black-and-white films of old. Best of all, it’s reasonably priced. If you’re curious, get yours here.
It was a full-sun summer day as I strolled Zionsville’s charming brick Main Street. A lot of classic emulsions struggle to keep highlights in check on days like this; no so Mono.
Moving in close, as close as my TLR would let me anyway, Mono shows good resolving power.
I don’t mind doing a little work in Photoshop to make my photos more presentable, but it sure is nice when I can use them right off the scanner. Such was largely the case with these images. The only thing I did consistently was rotate them slightly so the verticals were vertical and the horizontals were horizontal; I do struggle to hold a TLR level.
It’s not a photowalk in Zionsville unless I photograph the great Black Dog Books sign.
Rich blacks, reasonable midtones, good contrast, barely detectable grain. What’s not to like about Kosmo Foto Mono in 120?
Washington at Addison Olympus XA Kosmo Foto 100 2017
Even though I’ve driven the National Road from end to end and have visited the Indiana and Illinois segments more than once, I’ve yet to fully document the road through Indianapolis. I’ve made some photographs Downtown, but very little between there and the eastern and western city limits. It’s in some part because the neighborhoods are bad, and in some part because it can be difficult to find places to park.
But I go to church within sight of this location, the corner of Washington (the National Road) and Addison Streets on the Near Westside. I’d never noticed before that the corner building was originally a lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. It says so above the second-story windows. I’ve lost count of how many such lodges have I encountered as I’ve followed the old roads.
When Kosmo Foto announced its first film, Kosmo Foto Mono, last year I was among the first to preorder. Stephen Dowling, the man behind Kosmo Foto, has been a longtime friend to film photography and to this blog. I was very happy to support his venture and try his film!
This ISO 100 black-and-white negative film is an existing emulsion, repackaged for Kosmo Foto. Dowling hasn’t been forthcoming about what film this is, except to say that he’s shot it for years and loves it.
My Olympus XA was sitting on my desk when my order arrived, so I loaded a roll right into it. And then Margaret and I spent the following weekend in Chicago. The XA spent the whole weekend in my inside coat pocket — except when I got it out to shoot a scene.
I see why Dowling loves this film: it gives a wonderful classic black-and-white look.
This gray, dim weekend presented quite a challenge for the XA on ISO 100 film. I have a pretty steady hand and can dip down to around 1/15 sec. handheld without camera shake — but even at a shutter speed that slow the widest I opened that lens was f/4. My in-focus patches were correspondingly shallow. To compensate, I mostly chose distant subjects and focused at infinity. It worked out. Just look at all that great contrast! And while the film’s grain is detectable, it’s not pronounced.
I felt emboldened to try some street photography. I use that term loosely: I was on the street, there were people, I made some photographs. I focused on the built environment and waited until the arrangement of people on the street was not uninteresting.
This is my favorite Chicago street shot. I wanted the fabulous Oriental Theater sign in my frame, and aligned it roughly on a vertical rule-of-thirds line. Then I put the crowd’s faces on a horizontal rule-of-thirds line. It really worked out.
I shot about half of this 36-exposure roll in Chicago, and the rest closer to home. The grounds of the former Central State Hospital for the Insane in Indianapolis is near where I go to church. The Christel House Academy charter school was built on the grounds a few years ago. The mural on the wall reads LOVE, but the film had trouble picking up the V and especially the E.
Here’s my church, West Park Christian Church, in its context: an Indianapolis neighborhood built around the turn of the 20th century. The church building is steps off the National Road.
Looking out from the church building’s steps, here’s Addison Street. Indianapolis’s old neighborhoods all have names; this one’s is Hawthorne.
Where Hawthorne is a working-class neighborhood, you’ll find central Indiana’s well-to-do in the village of Zionsville. Its charming main street is lined with little shops and restaurants and even one little hotel.
Any time I’m in the village with a camera I photograph the Black Dog Books sign.
Shooting in poor light as I did, Kosmo Foto Mono rendered moderately lit areas well but tended to lose detail in the shadows. I’d like to shoot my next roll on a bright day to see how it behaves. Other old-school contrasty films I’ve shot, such as Fomapan 100 and Kentmere 100, have tended to blow out highlights in bright light. I’ve learned to meter for the highlights to compensate. That’s what I’ll try with Kosmo Foto Mono, too. I look forward to it.