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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Mini Speed Graphic

Miniature Speed Graphic
Yashica-12 (with Spiratone close-up lens kit)
Kodak Tri-X 400
Rodinal 1+50

The Graflex Miniature Speed Graphic takes 2¼”x3¼” sheet film. Can you even get sheet film in that size anymore? Cursory Googling isn’t turning up any. Not that I could make time right now to learn this camera and the ins and outs of sheet film anyway. It and a short stack of sheet-film holders make a lovely display item on the fireplace mantel.

About three years ago a longtime camera collector contacted me to ask if I’d take a portion of his collection. He was preparing to close his studio and move halfway across the country as he retired. A year later, a giant box full of old gear arrived. This Speed Graphic was in it.

If you’re still out there reading, my generous benefactor, I apologize for not getting to your cameras sooner. I have shot the Kodak Retinette II (here) and the Kodak No. 2 Brownie, Model F (here). I’ll work through the rest in 2020, I hope.

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Film Photography

single frame: Miniature Speed Graphic

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Photography

Learning photography lessons with Fuifilm Velvia

Of the twelve images I made on that roll of original Fujifilm Velvia (expired 8/2006 but always stored frozen) at Crown Hill Cemetery, eight were stunning and four had exposure issues. I did what I could in Photoshop to rescue them.

I overexposed this one. Photoshop rescued the trees and sky, but the grave markers were simply too blown out thanks to reflecting sun. I did the best I could with them but I think they just look unnatural. Lesson learned: notice reflected light and consider its effect on the photo.

Herrington

I wanted to see how Velvia handled this tree’s deep, vibrant red. But the sun was off to my left rather than directly behind me, which created some haze in the image I couldn’t Photoshop away. Lesson learned: invest in a lens hood for my 12.

Red tree

Heavy contrast between light and shadow tripped up the Yashica-12 and the Velvia. As I stood at the top of Indianapolis’s highest hill and looked south toward the Indianapolis skyline, such as it is, a cloud partially obscured the sun. The rest of the sky was bright, but the shadowy ground took on a sickly pall. Lesson learned: when using slide film, wait for the sun to come out for even lighting.

Down the lane from Riley's rest

Finally, as I crested this hill on this side lane, Crown Hill opened up before me. I thought it would make a lovely image but I didn’t realize, I guess, how poor the light was right where I was standing. I don’t know much about the Yashica-12’s meter and the Internet isn’t much help. If I had to guess, I’d say it measures the center of the frame. The center of this frame was in the brightly lit distance, so the 12 underexposed the foreground. Lesson learned: meter for the shadows, because with Velvia you can often correct overexposure, but never underexposure, in Photoshop.

Out toward the land

There’s always one more thing to learn in film photography. Especially when shooting Fujifilm Velvia.

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A lane in the cemetery

A lane in the cemetery
Yashica-12
Fujifilm Velvia (expired 8-2006)

If you think I’m milking this roll of Velvia I shot at Crown Hill Cemetery, you’re right.

Since our pastor quit at church, I’ve been attending a lot more meetings, and I had to prepare for my sermon last Sunday. It went fine, by the way. But it takes time and energy away from the blog.

Just you wait: on Monday I’m going to share the images from this roll that didn’t work out. They’re interesting in their own right.

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Film Photography

single frame: A lane in the cemetery

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At the gate

At the gate
Yashica-12
Fujifilm Velvia (expired 8-2006)

The south entrance to Crown Hill Cemetery is down a side street off 38th Street in Indianapolis. The entrance is a giant concrete affair built in 1885, with several peaked arches and this blue-green gate. I like this gate and have photographed it many times.

I’ve put more rolls of film through my Yashica-12 this year than any other camera. As I’ve taught myself to develop black-and-white film this year, I reached for the 12 because of its excellent image quality. It’s been on my desk ever since, so it was a no-brainer to load this roll of Velvia into it.

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Film Photography

single frame: At the gate

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Autumn trees at Crown Hill

Autumn trees at Crown Hill
Yashica-12
Fujifilm Velvia (expired 8-2006)

I went to Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis to photograph autumn color. But most trees were still green; peak was two weeks away. That Saturday afternoon would be the only day I could get away for this photo trip, and I knew it, so I acted.

I used to live a couple miles from Crown Hill and visited it often for photography. I’ve lived in Zionsville, 15 miles away, for two years now and miss visiting the place. But that’s no excuse. My house and Crown Hill are both right by exits of Interstate 65. Especially in the light traffic of a Saturday afternoon I can be there in 20 minutes.

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Film Photography

single frame: Autumn trees at Crown Hill

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