One portrait of an author, four films


My dear friend Marcus Baram is coming out with a book shortly, and he asked me to take the obligatory author photo for the dustjacket. I was flattered of course and said “yes!” immediately. The book is Pieces of a Man, an autobiography of the brilliant Gil Scott-Heron.
As with any photography project of mine (including walking the dog), I practically had an anxiety attack over which cameras and films to use. I wanted to bring it all over to Marcus’s photogenic Brooklyn stoop on my bike, so my panicked “screw it, I’m taking everything!” didn’t ultimately work. I’m serious–I had the Hasselblad and three lenses, 40/80/150; two Leica M bodies and three lenses there: 25, 50, and 90; a shitload of film. And by that I mean way more film than I could shoot in a week, much less an hour.
The first piece of kit to go was the tripod. We were shooting in early evening light, before and during sunset, so I figured I could go handheld. I ditched one of the Leicas but kept those lenses. I also ditched the 40mm Distagon because it weighs almost as much as everything else put together.
In the end, I shot exactly four rolls of medium format film. I switched between the 80mm Planar and 150mm Sonnar on each roll. I also took a handful of shots with the Ricoh GR1 point-and-shoot, as I wanted to get a Platon-ish low angle shot on the stoop. I actually had the 25mm Voigtlander Skopar lens with me but stupidly forgot an adapter (it’s screwmount). So I shot the wide with my back-up back-up camera.

Marcus Baram. Hasselblad 500C/M, 150mm Sonnar, T-Max 100 @100, Diafine.

Marcus Baram. Hasselblad 500C/M, 150mm Sonnar, T-Max 100 @100, Diafine.

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Marcus Baram. Hasselblad 500C/M, 150mm Sonnar, T-Max 100 @100, Diafine.

I was a little bit surprised at the difference in contrast between the T-Max (above) and the Tri-X/320TXP (below). T-Max is truly a great film. I always forget about it.

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Marcus Baram. Hasselblad 500C/M, 150mm Sonnar, Tri-X 320 @1000, Diafine.

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Marcus Baram. Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Tri-X 320 @1000, Diafine.

320TXP was one of my very favorite films. My stash is dwindling, but this is exactly what it should be used for.

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Marcus Baram. Hasselblad 500C/M, 150mm Sonnar, Astia100F @100.

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Marcus Baram. Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm Planar, Astia100F @100.

The color is accurate. In the previous shot, I actually dialed it down a little bit. For most of the evening, the sun was behind a thin veil of clouds. Here it broke right through with that late-day color.

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Marcus Baram. Hasselblad 500C/M, 150mm Sonnar, Astia100F @100.

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Marcus Baram. Hasselblad 500C/M, 150mm Sonnar, Astia100F @100.

Speaking of dwindling supplies, I find it nearly impossible to shoot my remaining rolls of Astia100F because I’m going to miss it so much. I think it handles skin tones perfectly. I was relieved to find that I had a box of 120 left, hidden in a 35mm pro pack in the freezer. So I should just shoot it. No use dying with a freezer full of film.

I scanned all of these with my Nikon Coolscan 9000. It has no problem with black and white, but I always find my color scans to be too dark. The Astia looked better on the light table, to my eyes.

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Marcus Baram. Hasselblad 500C/M, 150mm Sonnar, Portra 400 @400.

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Marcus Baram. Hasselblad 500C/M, 150mm Sonnar, Portra 400 @400.

Portra 400 is a good film, but it’s kind of like Kodak Gold for me. It does a fine job at most things (and of course it pushes ridiculously well), but it doesn’t have a distinct character for me yet. Once I’ve run out of all the color films I love that have been discontinued, I’m sure I’ll find my groove with Portra. But maybe they’ll have to discontinue it first.

I wish I had shot some of the Ektar that I brought. I rarely shoot it, so I don’t have any consistent thoughts about it.

Marcus and his publisher are browsing these on Google+ (formerly PicasaWeb) as I write this. I’ll let you know which they choose.

PS – funny story: when I picked up the color film from Vista CRC, I snapped a shot of the films on the light table (top of the post). I texted the pic (does that even make sense?) to Marcus to get him excited about the new photos. He literally cropped the crappy iPhone photo and used a tiny bit of it to be his new Twitter profile photo. You can see it here (until he switches it): . What’s funny about it is that I had the film on the light table upside-down. You can tell because the light’s coming from his left instead of his right. O.k., maybe this was all just funny to me.


TMZ – it’s not just for celebrity meltdowns

T-Max P3200, also known as TMZ (on the rebate, or edge of the film), is a film I only very occasionally love. Pushing Tri-X is usually a better solution for me when I’m shooting in low light. But every once in a while I look at the pile of TMZ I still have, shrug my shoulders, and let ‘er rip.


I took this with a Ricoh GR1 and developed it in Rodinal (my first time developing TMZ in Rodinal). It’s perfect.


Aires Viscount (old Japanese fixed-lens rangefinder).


Focus group. Canon L1 rangefinder. I don’t recall the lens. 


Total dish. This bar was my spot to experiment with low-light photography. Tower Type 3 and Cosina-Voigtlander Ultron 28mm f/1.9. Probably developed in Xtol.

The more combinations of film, developer, lens, and camera that I try, the more I realize it’s just about the picture. Would I love the photo at the top of this post had I taken it with Superia 800? Maybe not quite as much, but yeah, I would still love it.

Checking out APH09 with Tri-X and Plus-X

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Black Slim Devil (22mm lens, fixed shutter) and Arista Premium 400 (Tri-X) developed in APH 09

Our friend at Cooking Film turned me on to Adox’s APH 09 developer via some forgotten post. Supposedly it’s the “old” formulation of Rodinal, thought it’s thought to have been tweaked a couple of years ago so that the old standard dilution of 1+40 is now 1+50. I assume that’s so you can reference contemporary Rodinal development times more easily, as the standards are in multiples of 25.

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Yashica T4 Super (35mm lens) and Arista Premium 100 (Plus-X) developed in APH 09

Anyway, we had a family vacation that gave me occasion to take quite a few rolls of film, and I developed two rolls of Tri-X and one roll of Plus-X (actually Arista Premium 400 and 100, respectively, which is rebadged Kodak film) in APH 09 to see what’s what.

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Yashica T4 Super (35mm lens) and Arista Premium 100 (Plus-X) developed in APH 09

I liked what I saw, but then again, I’m easy. I really need to do more of a controlled shoot-out between my standards and some outliers: Diafine, Rodinal, HC-110, and maybe throw in Dektol, D-76, Atomal 49 (note to self).

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Ricoh GR1 (28mm lens) and Arista Premium 400 (Tri-X) developed in APH 09

Adox recommends the film for sheet films for accutance and edge effects, fine-grain miniature and roll film for the same, and for zone system work. So my use wasn’t the developer’s strong suit (according to the manufacturer) anyway. Oh well. Dektol’s a paper developer, and I’ve used that to develop Tri-X.

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Yashica T4 Super (35mm lens) and Arista Premium 100 (Plus-X) developed in APH 09

I’ve got whole bottle of this stuff, so I’ll do some more work with this. My initial results are promising, but I would love to print some of this in a darkroom as well to really see what these negatives can do.

Adox APH 09 Arista Premium 100 & 400 developed together, using Rodinal times
1+50 dilution at 68F and 13 minutes
30 seconds initial agitation
4 inversions per minute subsequent agitation
1 minute water rinse (instead of stop bath)
Photographer’s Formulary TF-5  fixer, 5 minutes (based on strip test clearing in 2 minutes)
15 minute water rinse
1 minute Kodak Photo-Flo stir agitation
Hang to dry 2 hours, then scan

I bought the chemistry and film from this recipe from Freestyle Photographic. I don’t get any compensation from them, but if you can recommend this blog to one million of your closest friends, maybe someday they’ll give me a discount. In all seriousness, they support film photography, and I support them back.


Reciprocity Redemption

Construction time again. Tri-X 4x5/320TXP @1000, Diafine, Orbitar 4x5 Wide Angle, Uper-Angulon 1:8/65, 50 seconds, f27

Construction time again. Tri-X 4×5/320TXP @1000, Diafine, Orbitar 4×5 Wide Angle, Super-Angulon 1:8/65, 50 seconds, f27

Undaunted by the previous night’s debacle, I jumped into last night’s shoot with purpose. Tripod issues? Use a different camera (the very small Orbitar 4×5 Wide Angle). Film holders jiggling the camera? Use the Grafmatic. You get the idea. I wanted success, even if modest.

They say “write what you know,” and last night I shot what was in front of me, my five-year-old son building a helicopter and garage/garden/house with Lego bricks.

A flurry of activity. Tri-X 4x5/320TXP @1000, Diafine, Orbitar 4x5 Wide Angle, Uper-Angulon 1:8/65

A flurry of activity. Tri-X 4×5/320TXP @1000, Diafine, Orbitar 4×5 Wide Angle, Super-Angulon 1:8/65, 50 seconds, f27

I’ve not had super results with the Orbitar hand-held. I had thought it might be neat as a large format street camera; I’ll keep working on that. In the meantime, mounting it to a tripod for long exposures worked very well.

A wider view. Tri-X 4x5/320TXP @1000, Diafine, Orbitar 4x5 Wide Angle, Uper-Angulon 1:8/65

A wider view. Tri-X 4×5/320TXP @1000, Diafine, Orbitar 4×5 Wide Angle, Super-Angulon 1:8/65, 50 seconds, f27

Again I metered with my Sekonic L-308S in incident mode. My exposure read 10 seconds, which turns into 50 seconds when taking the long exposure into account.

The following table is taken from Kodak’s data sheet for all versions of Tri-X:

Kodak Tri-X: Exposure and development adjustments for long and short exposures
If indicated exposure time is (seconds) Use this lens-aperture adjustment OR This adjusted exposure time (seconds) AND use this development adjustment
1/100,000 +1 stop Adjust aperture +20%
1/10,000 +1/2 stop Adjust aperture +15%
1/1,000 None None +10%
1/100 None None None
1/10 None None None
1 +1 stop 2 -10%
10 +2 stops 50 -20%
100 +3 stops 1200 -30%

I think the results were excellent. Click on any of the photos to see the full-size scan. If you’ve developed with Diafine before, you know that the concept of adjusting development is kind of beside the point, so I did not do that. In fact, I lengthened development time because my chemicals were below 70F and I didn’t feel like warming them up.

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Twice as many Davids to screw this up. Tri-X 4×5/320TXP @1000, Diafine, Orbitar 4×5 Wide Angle, Super-Angulon 1:8/65, 50 seconds, f27. Note that the bright spots at the top of the shot are bathroom lights–when I pulled the negative, I couldn’t imagine why 4×5 film had bromide drag from sprocket holes!

Development recipe:

No pre-soak
Diafine: 5 minutes in bath A, 4 minutes in bath B, 3 gentle inversions every minute
Water stop bath, 1 minute
4 minutes in TF-5 fixer, 7 inversions in 5 seconds every 30 seconds
10 minute rinse (5 minutes is all that’s necessary per TF-5 documentation, but I wondered if my last batch wasn’t washed long enough)
Photo-Flo 1 minute, stir agitation

Negatives scanned with Epson V700 scanner, inverted in Photoshop and black/white points set. No other adjustments or retouching whatsoever.


I am a (reciprocity) failure

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This seems to be me when it comes to reciprocity failure. “La la la I’m not listening…”

The dinner table was cleared and we got down on the floor to put the finishing touches on various Lego constructions. When I told my 5-year-old son we would be putting them all back in the box before he went to bed he was aghast. “No!” he cried. I decided that he could keep the completed designs (various trucks and one building, a police department) intact, I would photograph them all, and we would put the rest of the bits away. We get a clean living room floor and Daddy gets to play with cameras.

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This is an alligator truck. That’s an alligator on top. My wife designed it. It’s pretty rad.

I have an old Kodak 4×5 monorail that I have never used. The shutter was jammed and I finally was able to fix it a few months ago. I pulled that out and loaded up 3 holders with Tri-X 320. I improvised some lighting with a task light and an LED flashlight, metered with the Sekonic L-308, framed and composed, shifted the front standard up, etc. But then I couldn’t fit a cable release to the shutter. What the…? Apparently, Graphex shutters don’t use the standard tapered shutter release we all know and love from the last half century. The tip needs to be #5-44 straight thread. Thank you to APUG and user snederhiser for that information. I was going out of my mind, thinking “why can’t I seem to just pick up this camera and use it?”

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Little truck with a jacked-up front axle. Seriously. This was my son’s improvement on my wife’s original vehicle. Awesome.

I’ve already left out the part where when I was loading the film I came across an existing sheet. But hell, it’s all out on the table now. At this point I’m all ready to go. Piece one is posed. Adjusted. Insert holder into remarkably tight back and embrace the whole contraption in order to dull the shake and not screw up my composition entirely. Check that shutter is cocked and diaphragm is closed. Stopped down. Shutter speed, check. <click>. Oops, dark slide out! <click> Dark slide back in, black side out–I know it’s exposed, good, good. See? When I shoot 4×5 more than once in a calendar year, it gets a little easier. Next shot. Next shot. And three more–well, not quite. Shot number five I pulled out the dark slide and realized I still had the preview switch set so I was wide open. So that was a manual exposure. Waxy feathers are starting to make a mess of the floor.

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Let me just check the… OH SHIT I LEFT THE SHUTTER WIDE OPEN!

Into the darkroom bathroom: A remarkably easy time unloading the holders and loading the Mod54. In the darkroom kitchen: I deftly soak the film and measure out the Atomal 49 perfectly. Development is efficient and by the book. 14 minutes, stop, fix, rinse, Photo-Flo, hang ‘em up.

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Police station.

Boy oh boy are they underexposed. No time to think about it, though–a nice long walk for the dog on a brisk winter’s night and off to bed.

This morning I notice the coincidence that fellow film photographer and blogger Alex Luyckx has just posted about 320TX in large format as well. In the comments on his post someone mentions reciprocity failure. OF COURSE MY PHOTOS WERE UNDEREXPOSED. Why do I never remember reciprocity failure?

Guess what I’m doing tonight?

Keeping track of 2+ rolls of film

I received a very kind flickr mail from a reader of this blog, asking for more details about my indexing system. I wrote a post a while back called Developing Good Habits that was about how I keep track of my shooting experiences. I left out an important part of my process that accounts for multiple rolls developed at the same time.

My secret weapon

My secret weapon

Let’s say I’m loading a 5-roll Paterson tank. I have my reels, tank, unopened film cartridges, etc. in the changing bag or in the dark darkroom. I also have one of these nifty film boxes (see above). This particular one is a Fujichrome Professional Millennium 2000 case that I think I bought from Mijonju, who had filled it with Neopan 1600. Anyway, it’s not a great film case (somewhat fragile) but it’s perfect for this purpose:

  • Pop open your first cartridge
  • Put the empty cartridge into the first open position in the film box
  • Load the film onto the reel
  • Put the reel onto the post
  • Repeat 4x

Now your tank is full and your film box is full. When you develop your film, as you take off the films to dry, the first one you pull off will correspond to the last film in the box. So you can hang up your films right-to-left, or you can reverse the order of the cassettes in the box, or you can just do the mental work and realize that first one off the reel is the last one you loaded.

This is what I started to do once I had a five-roll tank, and it works flawlessly.

Instead of buying an overpriced commemorative film box, just tape a bunch of empty film canisters together and put a bit of gaffer or duct tape on the front so you know which side is the front.

Do you have your own techniques for keeping track of 2+ rolls of film?

Adox Orthochromatic 25 – completely screwed up

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Like a 100-year old negative I found at the bottom of a drawer. Montauk beach, Adox Ortho 25, ATM 49, Crown Graphic, 127mm Optar.

Click each photo to see it at full size. You may have to click it a second time once it loads.

In a previous post I documented a trip to the freezing beach with a Crown Graphic and some 4×5 film. I had issues with the Tri-X I shot (particularly with the shutter); but using the ortho film was a complete disaster. Read more…


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