Thorntown Library

Thorntown Library
Nikon N90s, 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor
GAF 125 Versapan x/7-72 @ EI 80
2021

I made a few photos on the expired GAF 125 film in Thorntown, a small town here in Boone County, Indiana. This is Thorntown’s library. This is the original building, one of the hundreds of libraries industrialist Andrew Carnegie build around the country. I documented several other Indiana Carnegie libraries here.

I’ve now shared the best of my photos on this roll of very expired film.

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Photographs, Preservation

single frame: Thorntown Library

The library in Thorntown, Indiana, on film expired since 1972.

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Photographs

Indianapolis’s Pyramids on expired GAF 125 film

While I had that 1972 GAF 125 (Ansco Versapan) film in the Nikon N90s, I visited the Pyramids, office buildings in northwest Indianapolis, to make some photos. I had the 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor lens attached. The Pyramids are so large, and the 50mm is narrow enough, that I struggled to fit all of the Pyramids in the frame. I wished I had mounted a 35mm lens! But when you’re out photographing, you make the most of the gear you have on you. I filled the frame with Pyramids, and walked a good distance back from them in their office park for some across-the-retention-pond photos. These images show some streaking, which isn’t surprising for film that’s pushing 50 years old. I did my best to clean dust and debris off these scans but they’re not perfectly clean.

The Pyramids
The Pyramids
The Pyramids
The Pyramids
The Pyramids

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Film Photography

Shooting GAF 125 (Ansco Versapan) black-and-white film

GAF 125 film

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.

Nikon N90s

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.

Morristown, IN
Morristown, IN
Morristown, IN
Morristown, IN
Read Box
Bluebird, Morristown
Morristown, IN
Kopper Kettle
Kopper Kettle

This was a successful roll overall, and I’ll share more photos from it in upcoming posts.

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Film Photography

Ilford HP5 Plus at EI 1600

My kids came over for my birthday in August, so I loaded some Ilford HP5 Plus into the Nikon N90s and mounted my 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor lens. So I could shoot comfortably indoors, I set the camera’s ISO to 1600. I developed the film in HC-110, Dilution B, at the time for 1600. I scanned them on the Minolta ScanDual II. The images needed next to no post-processing, which was nice.

Here’s my son Damion, VRing.

Damion VRing

Here’s our granddaughter having her lunch.

Arya lunching

I didn’t upload most of the family photos to Flickr because I generally consider family photos to be private. I finished the roll around the house, though, and got some nice images. Our rosebush survived the late-summer drought okay and kept flowering.

Rose
Rose

I just love this ceramic pot and photograph it often.

Thing

Who needs T-Max P3200 or Delta 3200 when you can shoot much-less-expensive HP5 this fast, and get results this good?

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Film Photography, Photography

Family Christmas photographs

I shot my family’s 2020 Christmas celebration on film. I decided to do it when I stumbled across a roll of Kodak T-Max P3200 I forgot I had. I shot it in my Nikon N90s with the 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G AF Nikkor lens attached. I developed it in LegacyPro L110, Dilution B, but I misread the Massive Dev Chart and developed it for a few minutes less time than specified. The negatives looked plenty dense, but when I scanned them on my flatbed, the grain was pronounced.

I decided to print them. I don’t have a darkroom; I just sent the scans to my nearby CVS pharmacy’s photo department. The paper they use in their machines is thin, nowhere near as sturdy as the stuff they used as recently as 10 years ago. But the prints looked all right. I laid them on the dining table with the Christmas tablecloth still on and photographed a few of them with my Canon PowerShot S95. Even rendered this way, you can see the huge, ugly grain in these photos.

These scans are straight off the scanner. No amount of Photoshopping made them look any better, so I quickly gave up. I did tweak VueScan’s settings to bring out shadow detail, however.

When that roll was done I wanted to keep going, but I was out of P3200. Then it hit me: I develop my own film now and can easily push process it. I had some Ilford Delta 400 in the freezer, so I thawed a roll, loaded it into the N90s, mounted my 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor lens, and set the camera to ISO 1600. I knew this stuff would push well because fellow photoblogger Alyssa Chiarello did it recently and got great results.

Ilford still prints developing instructions inside their film boxes. They listed a developing time in Ilfotec HC (their HC-110 equivalent, also equivalent to the L110 I use) for the film at 1600! I followed their instructions and got gorgeous negatives and the best scans my flatbed can deliver (which still aren’t great). They look better than the P3200 photos — the grain is smaller and much more pleasing. Delta 400 is a darn sight less expensive than T-Max P3200, too. I think I need never buy P3200 again — I’ll push an ISO 400 black-and-white film to 1600 instead. I had CVS print these scans, too.

This was fun, but I don’t see this experience leading me to print my work more often. I get it that a photograph is meant to be printed, a physical object. But I’m an online kind of guy and that’s the way I show 99% of my work. My wife prints family photographs all the time, and I figured she’d like to add these to her collection, so I gave them to her.

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Film Photography

Eastman Double-X 5222 in Rodinal

The conventional wisdom on the Internet is that Rodinal isn’t the best developer for Eastman Double-X 5222. But I’ve now used this combination and it’s fine.

Vee dub grille

When I loaded this roll into my Nikon N90s, Indiana’s governor had not yet shut everything down to slow the spread of the coronavirus. We were just starting to talk about isolation and social distancing. Many companies, including mine, were asking people who could work from home to do so. I can, so I did. I decided to take a midafternoon walk around the area just to stretch my legs. I live right by a strip mall so I walked over there. The Lowe’s parking lot was packed.

Old Chevy truck in front of Lowe's

I didn’t encounter a soul outside while I walked, however. A few storage barns were on display at Lowe’s; here’s the window of one of them. My past experience with Double-X 5222 has been of high contrast images. But those were in full sun. I’m sure the overcast day helped manage the contrast. But could the Rodinal also have helped show more grays in the film? I really like the tones in the shutters and flower box.

Window

The Thai restaurant was still open. The Mexican restaurant next door had a sign in the window saying they’d be doing carryout orders only, and asking everyone to stay safe and healthy. They were ahead of the curve.

Sidewalk chalkboard

This being a modern subdivision, retention ponds are everywhere. They provide opportunities to photograph reflections.

Lowe's

I shot this film at EI 250 and diluted my Rodinal to my usual 1+50. I normally shoot this film at EI 200, but the Massive Dev Chart had a 1+50 recipe for EI 250 and not EI 200. The Rodinal resulted in reasonable grain and okay smoothness in the details in most shots. The photo below is an exception — when you look at it at full scan resolution, the vinyl siding looks all mottled. But at blog size it’s fine.

Vinyl village reflection

Walking back toward home, I saw that one of my neighbors had his beater Jeep parked out front. It’s black with white fenders, and sports aluminum wheels. I wondered how the Double-X would render that, so I shot it. The wheels turned out to be more of a dull gray than their real-life low-sheen silver.

Jeep wheel

This whole subdivision used to be someone’s farm. I remember driving out this way 20 or more years ago and finding acre after acre of cornfields. The farmhouse survives, a lonely little petunia in this onion patch. (Can you tell I’m not much of a fan of these vinyl-village subdivisions? We will move from here one day and I hope never to live in one again.)

Steps to the old house

I came inside for the last few shots on the roll. Again I photographed the Belleek ring holder that’s on our kitchen windowsill. That’s my wedding ring.

Belleek ring holder

Finally, here’s the window in our back door with a stained-glass ornament my wife’s mother made. The outer petals of this flower are bright orange. I always think it’s interesting to know when a black-and-white photo is of a colorful subject, and what colors are in the subject.

The stained glass thing is orange and white in real life

It’s interesting to see how Rodinal handled the Eastman Double-X 5222. It worked, and for my normal blog purposes it was fine. But it wasn’t spectacular. I’ve used Old School Photo Lab to develop most of my black-and-white film and they use Clayton F76 developer, which is an analog to Kodak D76. These developers are known for finer grain and better shadow detail. The scans I got back from Old School please me somewhat more than these in terms of sharpness, detail, and tonality.

I shot this film because I’m shooting up my old film, and I had a roll of it left from a purchase several years ago. If I come upon some again and I wasn’t shooting something that mattered, I’d use Rodinal again to develop it. But ultimately, I want to find some films that pair excellently with Rodinal and make those my go-to black-and-white films.

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