Film Photography

Kosmo Foto Mono in Rodinal

Reeds

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.

Lowe's reflected

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.

Suburban living at its best

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.

Fence and shadow

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.

Film

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.

Pine needles

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.

El Rodeo

Ah, vinyl village life. Our neighbor owns this funky Jeep with its white fenders. This shows Kosmo Foto Mono’s signature deep blacks.

Jeeeeeeep

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).

Rocks

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.

Birb

There you have it: Kosmo Foto Mono in Rodinal 1+50. It’s a fine combination.

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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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Garrett at the bridge

My son at the old railroad bridge
Minolta XG 1, 50mm f/1.7 Minolta MD
Agfa Vista 200 at EI 100
2018

A lot of abandoned railroad infrastructure remains across our nation. As railroads consolidated and shed lines through the 20th century, they left a lot behind.

Some of those lines have been converted to rail-trails. The best-known one in central Indiana is the Monon, named for its former rail line. But there are others.

A short rail-trail in Zionsville ends/begins at this bridge over Eagle Creek. A ramp leads down into Starkey Nature Park below, where there are great hiking trails. I like to go over there with my sons when they visit. Hence this photo.

This line was originally part of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway, also known as the Big Four Railroad. The New York Central took it over in 1906; they built this bridge. In 1968 New York Central merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad to form Penn Central, which went bankrupt in 1970. When Conrail was formed in 1976 it took over this line. I don’t know when it was abandoned.

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Film Photography

single frame: My son at the old railroad bridge

My son near an old railroad bridge in Zionsville, Indiana.

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Film Photography

Shooting Kosmo Foto Mono in 120

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.

Flowers

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.

One Nine Five

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.

Bus

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.

Brick street

Moving in close, as close as my TLR would let me anyway, Mono shows good resolving power.

Chickens on the wall

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.

Winery

It’s not a photowalk in Zionsville unless I photograph the great Black Dog Books sign.

Black Dog Books

Rich blacks, reasonable midtones, good contrast, barely detectable grain. What’s not to like about Kosmo Foto Mono in 120?

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All week I’m sharing single-subject photo series I’ve made.

I love used bookstores, especially small ones with carefully selected offerings. If you do, too, then please visit Zionsville and step into Black Dog Books. Be sure to greet the genuine black dog that snoozes on the floor.

Black Dog Books

Konica Autoreflex T3, 50mm f/1.7 Hexanon AR, Fujicolor 200

Black Dog Books

Ansco B2 Speedex, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros

Black Dog Books

Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujicolor 200

Black Dog Books

Nikon N8008, 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6 AF Nikkor, Kodak Tri-X 400

Black Dog Books

Pentax Spotmatic F, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Kodak Plus-X

Black dog

Pentax Spotmatic F, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Konica Chrome Centuria 200 (x-12-2003)

Black Dog Books

Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f/3.5-5/6 SMC Pentax DA-AL

Black Dog Books

Olympus XA, Kosmo Foto Mono

Black Dog Books

Yashica Electro 35 GSN, Kodak Tri-X 400

Black Dog Books

Nikon N90s, 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6G AF Nikkor, Agfa CT Precisa (expired 1/2006), processed C41

Black Dog Books

Argus A-Four, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros

Around Zionsville

Pentax Spotmatic F, 35mm f/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar, Kodak Ektar 100

Around Zionsville

Pentax Spotmatic F, 35mm f/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar, Kodak Ektar 100

Black Dog Books

Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, Agfa Vista 200

Black Dog Books

Olympus Stylus, Kodak Tri-X 400

Black Dog Books

Nikon Nikomat FTn, 50mm f/2 Nikkor H-C, Fujicolor 200

Black Dog Books

Nikon Nikomat FTn, 50mm f/2 Nikkor H-C, Fujicolor 200

Black Dog Books

Olympus Trip 35, Kodak ColorPlus

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Photography

Black Dog Books

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Essay

Safety and diversity

When I lived in Indianapolis I felt safe. I lived in a part of town that had little or no crime. I was never the victim of a crime and I was never under threat. Indianapolis has bad neighborhoods; the church I attend is in one of them. I just stayed out of there at night and all was well.

I moved to Zionsville, an Indianapolis suburb, a couple years ago. I feel ultra safe here.

Around Zionsville

I think now that I merely didn’t feel unsafe when I lived in Indianapolis. I recently started working in Downtown Indianapolis, a place I used to visit frequently when I lived in the city. As I walk those streets now I realize I’m always lightly vigilant, always generally aware of my surroundings.

Because my guard is completely down in Zionsville, I can see now that I was always this watchful when I lived in Indianapolis.

Parked by the blue door

I think I feel safe enough to be this relaxed and trusting because in Zionsville, everyone looks and behaves like me, or like someone obviously in a higher station in life than me. In Indianapolis, I encountered people of many backgrounds, people who didn’t look like me.

I don’t like to think of myself as prejudiced, but perhaps I am in this way. If nothing else, living in Zionsville has certainly taught me that it’s easy to feel safe in a homogeneous community.

Down a Zionsville sidewalk

Yet I miss the diversity of Indianapolis. When I moved there in 1994, my first wife and I chose a home in an area of mixed race so we and our children would have friends of many colors and backgrounds. It worked!

Yet when we went out on the town — infrequently, as our children kept us busy — we never felt a part of a community. We were just two people out among strangers. I used to think that was largely on me, as I’m a keep-to-myself introvert. But now I’m not so sure.

Around Zionsville

When my current wife and I go out in Zionsville, there’s a feeling that we’re among our people. We have random conversations with strangers. My wife always starts them (see above, re: keep-to-myself introvert), but I always participate in them. Heartily.

In Zionsville when I see someone who is not white or is not wearing clothes that suggest at least an upper-middle-class background, I immediately assume they’re not from here. And then I’m startled by my own prejudice.

This is just an experience report. I can’t draw any hard conclusions. But I wonder: does choosing diversity lead to a reduced feeling of safety, and does choosing homogeneity lead to an increased feeling of safety? Am I objectively safer in Zionsville than in even my nearly-no-crime neighborhood in Indianapolis? I’m not sure.

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