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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Film Photography

Ferrania P30 Alpha in Rodinal

I’m starting to develop 35mm black-and-white film now. It was my goal all along — I started with 120 because it let me shoot a roll fast so I could get to the developing. I shoot way more 35mm than 120 normally.

Last week I shared a roll of Arista EDU 200 I shot, developed, and scanned. I thought surely it and my whole box of to-shoot film was damaged by a space heater I kept too close by. But a commenter said “hey, maybe your Rodinal has gone weak.” I did open a new bottle of Rodinal to process some Eastman Double-X 5222 and, spoiler alert, it turned out perfect. So it was the Rodinal. Maybe I didn’t get the cap on right last time, and for the little bit left in the bottle the air scotched it.

I didn’t get that comment before I used that potentially compromised bottle of Rodinal to process this P30. Several photos turned out reasonably well. They might have looked better in fresh Rodinal. But they show P30’s signature characteristics: nearly undetectable grain, rich blacks, strong contrast, and a reasonable tonal range.

Barber Shop
Garage
All locked up
Monon Coffee Co.
The Bungalow
Mpozi mural

I shot this roll in my Pentax Spotmatic F with the 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens attached. I developed it in Rodinal 1+50 at 21° C for 12 minutes, 40 seconds. Ferrania advises 20° C for 14 minutes, but the ambient temperature led to 21° developer and I had to adjust development time. I used the Massive Dev Chart’s converter. The first two shots are from downtown Carmel, and the next four are from Broad Ripple.

Some photos didn’t fare as well. Anything with significant amounts of sky in it suffered. I shot all of these around Broad Ripple.

Monon bridge
The Bungalow
Bridge to Fresh Thyme

Interestingly, the film closest to the outside of the roll fared the worst. This is one of the first photos I made on this roll. It still shows P30’s signature rich blacks, despite being so mottled overall.

Meijer

One last photo, just because I like it. That’s my wedding ring on the ring holder thing we keep near the kitchen sink. It’s Belleek pottery; we bought it at the Belleek factory in Northern Ireland when we visited a few years ago.

Ring holder

I have one last roll of P30 Alpha, which I just retrieved from my freezer. I’ll shoot it soon and I expect far better results from it, developed with fresh Rodinal 1+50.

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Film Photography

Developing 35mm black-and-white film and why you should keep your film in a cool place

I’ve built enough skill developing black-and-white film that I finally made the move from 120 to 35mm. I started with 120 because I could shoot the eight or 12 frames quickly and get to the developing tank. While I was learning I didn’t want to spend the time to shoot 24 or 36 exposures of 35mm film only to bugger up the developing.

I loaded a roll of Arista EDU 200 into my Nikon F2AS, mounted my 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens, and took it around with me for a couple days while I was on vacation last week. The film went onto the developing reel with great ease. I used my 290 ml tank instead of the 500 ml tank I had been using for 120 film. I calculated my ratios of developer, fixer, etc., and mixed them all up. I don’t think I’ll ever think of developing as anything other than tedious, but it went without a hitch. But the negatives were mighty thin, and when I scanned them most of them looked like this.

Hobnob Corner, Nashville

I’ve seen results like this only with very expired film with an unknown storage history, such as this roll of Tri-X. I wondered at first if my chemicals were to blame. I used fresh fixer. My Rodinal is less than a year old and has always been capped tightly, so it should be fine.

I used 6 ml Rodinal and 294 ml water for a 1+49 dilution. That’s 300 ml in a 290 ml tank but I chose to do it for easier calculating of the ratio. I developed for the 1+50 time as per the Massive Dev Chart, but that slight difference shouldn’t have mattered. I even researched online whether I’d used too little Rodinal and it exhausted before the film was fully developed. I found plenty of people using an amount of Rodinal similar to mine and getting fine results.

Then it hit me. The space heater.

The fridge in our garage died last summer. I kept my shoot-soon film in the fridge and the rest in the freezer. The kitchen fridge was mighty full, but I did find room in the freezer for my already frozen film. The shoot-soon film went into a plastic box and then onto the floor under my desk. Until a few years ago I always stored my film at room temperature, sometimes for years at a time. I wasn’t worried about my film.

But it’s cold at my desk in the winter. I got out my space heater in January and turned it on every time I sat at my desk until the weather warmed up the first of March. I didn’t notice it at the time, but that heater was less than two feet from my film.

I probably cooked the whole box of film. Here’s what’s in the box. In 120, three rolls of T-Max 100, a roll of Pan-F Plus 50, two rolls of Tri-X expired since 1981, and (most upsettingly) a roll of Verichrome Pan expired since 1983. In 35mm, one roll each of T-Max P3200, T-Max 400, Double-X 5222, Arista Premium 100, Lomography Red Scale, Lomography Purple, and Adox HR-50. There were also two rolls of 35mm Kodak Gold 400 and two Fujifilm single-use cameras in there, all very expired.

I feel 90% sure I’ve found the root cause. But I’ll test this theory anyway with some fresh film. I found a roll of Kosmo Foto Mono and my last roll of Ferrania P30 Alpha in the freezer, both 35mm. I’ll shoot and develop them soon and then we’ll know for sure.

But back to this roll of film. While none of the images looked as good as Arista EDU 200 normally does, many of them looked okay enough to share. Here’s my favorite shot on the roll, of a little statue in a shop window in Nashville, Indiana.

Blow your horn

I shot more than half the roll around Nashville and, later in the day, in Bloomington. But most of those images looked terrible. I finished the roll in Zionsville later that week on a lovely sunny day. Many of those images turned out okay.

Window
Sale

The Zionsville skies all looked post-apocalyptic, though.

House
Houseq

The film’s qualities look pretty good on this tight shot of an old Chevy that parks every day in front of a particular Zionsville house. It’s not a look I strive for, but it’s interesting.

Citation
Citation

Overall I’m disappointed that this roll turned out this way. I was so looking forward to excellent results.

Chairs

I also shot and developed a roll of Ferrania P30 that was in the ill-fated box. It turned out somewhat better. I’ll share those images soon.

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Film Photography

Further adventures in home film developing: documenting a day of errands

As I continue to build skill in developing my own black-and-white film, I need film to develop. So a few Saturdays ago I loaded my circa-1914 Kodak No. 2 Brownie, Model D (review here) with Kodak T-Max 100, and took it along as I ran my weekend errands. I photographed every place I stopped, and a few places I didn’t stop along the way. I finally made the time to develop and scan the film last weekend. As usual, I used Rodinal diluted 1+50, and scanned on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II.

I started the day by climbing into my VW. This may well be the most competent automobile I’ve ever owned. Its five-cylinder engine delivers gobs of power, its stiff chassis and tight suspension yield confident handling, its brakes are outstanding, it has plenty of interior room (especially rear-seat legroom), its trunk is enormous, and to my surprise and delight it gets way better gas mileage than the economy car it replaced. It’s not perfect — interior trim bits break easily, the driver’s door easily freezes shut, and I didn’t figure out that the gas door won’t open when the doors are locked until I broke it trying to open it one day. Argh.

My Vee Dub

My first stop was Costco. It’s hard to hold a box camera level, especially one with viewfinders as tiny as these. This image was probably 20 degrees off level until I fixed it in Photoshop.

Costco

Next I drove over to Walmart to do the weekly shopping. I usually shop at a Meijer that’s across the road from my subdivision, but this Walmart is right by the Costco so it was convenient.

Wally World

I needed to stop by the bank, but on the way I passed this Big Lots. If you’re a student of the history of commercial architecture, you might recognize this as a former Cub Foods. That’s where my family always used to shop before the chain pulled out of Indiana, which is going on 25 years ago now. Big Lots moved in after a few years.

Big Lots

The day grew gloomier and dimmer as I kept on with my errands. The less light there was, the more difficult it was to see anything through the Brownie’s viewfinders. For this photo, I pulled up in my car, rolled down the window, leveled the Brownie on the sill, aimed it as best I could, and flipped the shutter lever.

Fifth Third

Walmart didn’t have a couple things my family needed, so on the way home I swung by the Kroger nearest my house. This True Value store is next door to Kroger. I have no idea what caused that light leak or ghosting or whatever it is on the image.

True Value

Here’s the Kroger, or some of it, anyway. It used to be a Marsh supermarket until that local chain went out of business. Kroger scooped up this property. By this time, it was nearly impossible to see through the viewfinders. I aimed the camera in the general direction of my subject and hoped it turned out okay.

K-Roger

Finally, I picked up our mail. In our neighborhood all mail is delivered to this central mail station and we all have locked mailboxes here. We forget to pick up the mail for days at a time, and they just cram it all in there. We’re used to crumpled mail now. I never, ever want to live in a neighborhood with a central mail station ever again.

Mailboxes

The darker images I got toward the end of my trip speak to the diminishing quality and quantity of available light.

I had pretty good luck developing this roll. I had less trouble than usual getting the film to take up onto the reel. My brother called while I was doing these tasks and I managed to talk to him and do all the processing steps, so I must be building good muscle memory. The results are decent, with the exception of the True Value Hardware shot.

I’m grateful for Photoshop, which let me correct a lot of challenges with these images. Nearly every image needed some level of straightening, and I increased exposure on the last few. I also, of course, had to spot-remove specks from the scans. That’s just a fact of scanner life.

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Film Photography

Living room still lifes

Not long ago I had an unexpected day off, so I shot, developed, scanned, and uploaded a roll of Kodak Tri-X. I shot stuff I found around the house, on my coffee table. My Yashica-12 was on my tripod, and I attached my Spiratone close-up lens kit. The available light led me to slow shutter speeds, around 1/4 sec. at f/5.6, so I screwed a cable release into the socket to prevent shake.

I wanted a pleasant day of photography more than I cared about making images for the ages, and I succeeded. I’d been thinking about doing some available-light still lifes for a while, I suppose to channel my inner Edward Weston. I found no gnarled green peppers in the fridge, so I worked with whatever I found lying around. That included my favorite coffee mug, the little pot we keep paper clips in, and a geode given to me by a dear old friend.

Random stuff I found in the living room

I used the Yashica-12 because it was out and because it has an accurate onboard light meter. When you use that meter, the 12 limits you to films of up to ISO 400. This was fine, because Tri-X 400 was the fastest film I had on hand anyway.

Lidded bowl

The Spiratone kit comes with two lenses, one for each of the TLR’s lenses. The viewing lens promises that it corrects for parallax, but it also magnifies the scene more than the taking lens does. I made every one of these subjects fill the frame, but had to crop them all in post. In this photo of the lidded bowl I wish I had managed to get the entire lid in focus.

Belleek pitcher

The photo above of a Belleek china pitcher came out a little dim, and I couldn’t fix it in Photoshop without overcooking. The photo below of a duck decoy did too. The duck is painted in dark and muted colors, which might have led to muddy middle grays. My mom’s grandfather made the decoy by hand, by the way.

Decoy

I had greater luck photographing a couple bottles of whiskey Margaret and I brought back from our tour of the Old Forester Distillery. We sampled both of these whiskeys at the end of the tour and they’re delicious. The 1920 whiskey is a whopping 115 proof! We’re saving the bottles for a special occasion.

Old Forester

Conventional wisdom is that Tri-X in Rodinal results in pronounced grain. Yet I don’t mind the grain in these. Perhaps that’s in part because I didn’t have any particular look in mind as I shot these. I just wanted to have some fun and see what turned out. But as I think about doing more still-life work, I feel sure that T-Max 400 or Ilford Delta 400 would yield sharper, smoother results with richer blacks. I think that would be a nicer look for subjects such as these, so I’ll use T-Max or Delta next time.

Old Forester

I’ll also dig through my stuff for a much longer shutter-release cable, as the one I found was too short for me to stand out of the way. Look closely, and you’ll see me (and the Yashica-12) reflected in the bottles.

Of the 12 exposures I shot, only nine were scannable. Something I did wrong in developing partially fogged my first three shots. My scanner’s bundled scanning software thought there was nothing on those frames and threw an error. I wish it would simply scan whatever it finds, as I might have been able to do something with the partial images that are clearly visible on those frames.

Also, the Tri-X curled enough during drying that I struggled at first to lay it flat into the scanner mask. My scanner came with a little card the width of 120 film that you lay onto the end of the film to hold it flat in the mask, and then pull out after you close the mask. It worked brilliantly.

Despite all these challenges, I had a lovely morning of photography. It was wonderful to go from concept to uploaded scans in just a few hours!

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Statue

Squinting statue
Yashica-12
Kodak T-Max 100
2019

Here’s another photo from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. I used to drive over here all the time when testing new-to-me old cameras. There’s all sorts of interesting scenes to photograph here, and it was five minutes from my old house. When I had some business not too far from here the other day I made sure to bring my Yashica-12 along, as I was finishing up a roll of T-Max 100 I’d spooled inside.

I have no idea who this statuesque fellow is, but I’ve always wondered what he’s squinting at.

I developed this at home in Rodinal, at 1+50 dilution. My bathroom was a perfect 68 degrees so I didn’t have to adjust developing time for temperature.

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Film Photography

single frame: Squinting statue

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