Film

Happy Birthday Blog - November Desktop Image

It has been a year since I started this blog (a little longer for the website), so flowers are in order: Happy B-Day blog!

I hope all readers have enjoyed the occasional musings and the desktop images. True to that, here is an image of flowers for this month's desktop image. Rather that the firey sky of last year's November image, this is more subdued. It was actually taken with my Leica M4 on Ektar 100, scanned, and underwent a little tweaking in Photoshop (mostly color). I used a 50mm lens wide open - the shallow depth of field is clearly visible, and yet the image is very sharp where focused, thanks to the great Leica optics.

So here is the deal: for the occasion, I feel like in a spending mood. Refer one person to my mailing list and receive a 5x7 print of your choice. Refer three and receive an 8x10. Maximum is one print per person (you won't get four 5x7 for four people, you'd get one 8x10) and you have to be already on my list... These people should obviously be willing to participate - I'd hate to get back messages telling me that I am spamming Happy. Among those who give me referals, I'll raffle off a voucher for a portraits session (provided you live locally or I'll see you soon). I am fully aware that I am not pro, so caveat emptor! The deal is on to the end of the year.

Bests,

BMS

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Large Format - Gotta love it!

I recently have been doing more developing in the darkroom. I am still a newbie at it, but it is more satisfying than downloading files. Even more recently, I dusted of my Crown Graphic. This type of camera, and its cousin, the more famous Speed Graphic, are pieces art. Speed graphic is a misnomer - nothing here is fast. The camera takes pictures on sheet film, and focusing is slow, although one can use scale focusing, a rangefinder or the ground glass in the back. The Crown graphic has a shutter in the lens, the Speed also adds a focal plane shutter. These cameras, not Leicas or the like, were the standard issue of press photographers until the 1960’s. They are currently undergoing little revival, e.g. in 2004 David Burnett shot the Kerry campaign with a Speed. My camera uses a 152 mm “normal” lens (the equivalent of a ~ 45mm focal length on a 35mm camera). The lens is interchangeable, but everything (focusing scale, rangefinder) is calibrated to it so I won’t bother.
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I am just starting out. My first attempt at WeeGee like pictures at a party failed - somewhat. I miscalculated the flash and the focus was off on half the shots (I since then have adjusted the rangefinder). However, when it works, results are priceless:



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TMAX 400, f/16 1/100 with Metz CL-4 flash, handheld, developed in X-Tol

The film this camera uses is 4x5 inches, which is ~ 10.2 by 12.7 cm, or 12,900 square mm - 15 times larger than a standard 35mm film. This means not only incredible detail (see below, whole picture and dtail), but also that the most I can develop at one time are 6 sheets, costing each half the price of a roll of 35mm film. Certainly, I won’t come back from an event with 400 shots!

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A Wedding - as a guest

My dear friends Dirk and Ling had their church wedding in Germany. Professional wedding photographers often lament the presence of “Uncle Bob”, snapping away pictures with his own camera right in front of the pro. Having been the photographer at the most recent wedding, this time I took the opportunity to relax and bring a film camera along (Mamiya 7) for some more “contemplative” shots, and tried to not get in the way (not sure if I succeeded at that.....) Unfortunately, there were some problems with development with the black and white (TMAX 400) as well as a light leak on the most crucial roll of film (shot on Ektar 100, a film I truly like). Alas, I am still such a bloody film amateur. I pushed the TMAX to 1600 (two stops), it is amazing how little grain there is, despite using TMAX developer, which produced more grain than some other developers. Anyway, here are some samples.



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This was shot in color, but I combined two scanned images and could not get the whites to match, so I “saved” it by converting to black and white.


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This was also a color image, from the roll with the light leak. I was trying to change a roll quickly (the Mamiya only gives you 10 shots) and must not have wrapped the roll tightly. I tried to salvage this image, which was the only half usable one.


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The church with white walls, and quite a lot of natural light, posed some problems for dynamic range, which the TMAX mastered quite well. I do not know how a DSLR would have done (I am yet to see the pro photographers pictures, which he shot with a high end Canon).
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Too Early for an Eulogy

Is film dead? If you go to online forums like photo.net, you get very different, and passionate opinions. The digital revolution has been amazing, and new cameras like the Nikon D3X or Canon 5D Mark II, even the D700 and the like, beat 35mm film by far - not only in resolution but also in light sensitivity. There are still some that will dispute that, but at least in my hands that is true. Furthermore, they approach the dynamic range of black and white film. But I sure hope film stick around. For one, unless you have $10,000 to $50,000 to spend on a digital medium format camera, taking 120 roll film and scanning it will still give you quality unsurpassed by digital any SLRs. You can get a professional medium format camera and a few lenses for $500, and for the remaining $9,500 you do not spend on a modest Mamiya 654ZD with a 22 MPix back, you can get and develop 1300 rolls of film, that is ~ 15,000 pictures, which a roll of film every day for the next 4 years. If you were to compare it to the $39,995 Hasselblad H3D, you probably could not shoot enough film in your lifetime.... Sure, the Digitals will get cheaper. But then there is Large Format. A 4x5 negative, scanned at 4800 dpi (that is what mot modern flatbed scanners are capable of) would give you a 460 (fourhundredandsixty) MPix image that you can print at high quailty over 6 by 7 feet! Good luck trying to prcess it on your home computer though...
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Holiday Hiatus


Those if you who thought this will be another dead blog...there! Here is my entry for the new year. Happy New Year, belated, to everyone! The holidays have been busy and I have had a few things happen on the photo-front. First, a new addition to my stable, the Leica D-Lux 4, bought on a trip to New York, as “my old lady”, which should have come with me , unfortunately had her Rangefinder adjusted. The D-Lux is a little gem with superb image quality (for a point and shoot), and it shoots RAW images, which was important to me and limited my choice in camera. I took it to the city for some street photography (something I have to get used to, and any P&S will not be ideal for that). Here are a few examples:
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City Island, New York


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Grand Central, New York Now mind you, any P&S is not going to get good quality images beyond ISO 200 or ISO 400, but noise levels are very very good at ISO 80 or 100, as seen here:

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JFK, Terminal 3, NY at ISO 80
And the same image “pushed” 5 stops in Photoshop (mind you these are JPGs):

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