Monday, October 31, 2011

Banks Lake Sunrise in Lakeland, GA - and some older digital photos

Lakeland, GA, as its name suggests, boasts one of the biggest lakes in south GA. Banks Lake is a popular spot for fishing, birding, and hiking. It is located just west of downtown Lakeland and is definitely a place to visit if you are in the area and enjoy nature.

Banks Lake has been a favorite of mine for photographs for quite a while. One of my first forays into astrophotography was done there (see photos below). A few days ago I was up early and decided to go see the sunrise there as I had not shot anything there on 4x5 yet.

This photo was made just as the sun rose to the left of the frame (I am looking roughly south). I took a couple b&w shots and a couple color shots that have to be developed still. This image was taken with the Schneider 90mm f/8 at f/16 for 8 seconds:

This image illustrates one of my frustrations with large format. The density range of the negative far exceeds the capability of the scanner. While the negative could be printed optically with some work I really should have used a graduated neutral density filter to get a good scan-able negative. In situations like this though, time is of the essence and I did not have time for setting up a GND.

The sunrise was not particularly colorful that morning but I have seen some spectacular sunrises at Banks Lake before. Here is an image taken with a Pentax 67 medium-format camera with a 200mm lens. Exposure data is unknown, but the film is Velvia 100 (not 100f):

I haven't posted any digital photographs (other than informational ones) on this blog thus far, but I thought these next ones would be appropriate. They are a couple of my long-exposure pictures from Banks Lake that I have taken in the last couple of years:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Downtown Valdosta Architecture Part 3

Only one 4x5 image today. I saw that the weather was good so I went out to shoot the First Baptist church one last time. With large format, you sometimes have to be persistent to get the results you want. I also used a different lens, a Nikon 90mm f/8 SW instead of the Schneider. I got this Nikon as a deal but I didn't like the 5-bladed aperture, but after using it and seeing the benefit of the larger image circle I think I'm going to keep it and get rid of the Schneider.

Here is the church at f/22 with a CPL and a 1/8 second exposure. You might notice a couple of streaks on the left and middle of the image - this is unfortunately an artifact from scanning. I believe it is dust on the sensor. I will be cleaning out the scanner some day.

To give you an idea of the setup, here is a picture of the Toyo-View GII I use for architecture right before I took this picture. I used a short step ladder to get a better vantage point.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Downtown Valdosta Architecture Part 2

The weather was not working with me when I returned to First Baptist downtown, so I took another shot at the church but did not include the sky. I am still trying to get the shot I want of the church but it can be difficult with the ever-changing weather. I actually had a completely different composition and was removing my darkslide to take the photo when the sun dipped into a cloud bank, messing up my exposure settings and causing me to completely reconsider my shot right before this image was made.

Here is a direct frontal shot, cropped to a square format. The Schneider 90mm f/8 lens was used at f/22 for 2 seconds:

With the sun set, I decided to take a shot I have taken before on medium format, but had not had a chance to redo with 4x5. I quite like this image that most Valdostans will recognize if they go downtown for First Fridays. This is right in front of City Market looking north down Patterson Street. I used the Schneider 210mm f/5.6 at f/32 for 1 minute:

Here are a couple of shots from exactly one year ago using medium format - specifically a Pentax 67 camera with a 55mm lens. In web-sized photos it is hard to see much of a difference, but the subtle gradations of tone is better in 4x5 images to my eye, mostly due to development factors I believe. These were shot on T-Max 400 film, though I don't remember the exposure:

Also note in picture two the converging verticals of the buildings. I think it works in this photo, but many times wide-angle lenses pointed up make buildings look like they are falling over. This is one of the big benefits of a view camera - being able to use front rise to have parallel lines in architectural photography.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Images from Carabelle, FL and St. George Island

A few weeks ago I visited St. George Island in Florida for a few days with family. The weather was not particularly conducive to photography and I did not take many images on film. However, on the way home right outside of Carabelle, FL, was a wonderful beach full of driftwood and old remains of trees. I had to stop to take a few photos.

This first image was the only 4x5 image I took. I finally developed it last night after putting it off. I realized later that I had underexposed it somewhat because I had messed up the filter factor when calculating exposure. It was taken on T-Max 100 film. I had tried pushing this film in development once and was very dissatisfied, so I decided to just develop it normally and work with what I got. It turned out okay with a little bit of blocked-up shadows - I will have to return sometime to retake this. The lens used was the Schneider 150mm APO. The image was at f/16 for 8 seconds I believe:

Here are a couple more from the beach shot on 35mm. I was using a Nikon S2 and a 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/8 on Kodak Portra 160 film and converted to b&w:

I took some impromptu shots around St. George with the S2 as well. Here are a selection of shots from around the island, all on Kodak Portra again but not converted:

These last four shots were taken in Apalachicola, but on a roll of Kodak CN-400 b&w film. This film is a chromogenic b&w film, so it is developed using the standard C-41 color process. It can be a very good film in certain situations, and a speed of 400 allows for either a large depth-of-field or easy handheld shots indoors:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Roll of 35mm Tri-X 400

I had some free time while waiting around a few days ago to shoot a roll of Tri-X 400 film in 35mm size. I have generally shot Tri-X in extreme low-light situations and pushed it to an ISO of 1600, but for this roll I shot it at the box speed of 400 and was very pleasantly surprised at the extremely smooth grain structure and tonality.

I have for a while been stuck on 100-speed film on 35mm for the finest grain but if I want fine grain these days I prefer to shoot digital. Nothing beats film for b&w, but while my favorite film in 4x5 is T-Max 100 I find it to be limiting in 35mm rolls. After this roll of Tri-X I think I will be buying a lot more.

Here are a couple snaps from around the Valdosta State campus. The images showcase the lovely tonality and excellent acuity of Tri-X. I developed it in Kodak Xtol undiluted. Kodak D-76 is a standard developer for Tri-X in all varieties but I've found that I really like the way Xtol handles the grain with Tri-X.

This first image was shot at the Internet Cafe with a 50mm f/1.4 lens on the Nikon SP at f/2. The quality of this lens at such a large aperture is quite exceptional for a 60-year-old design:

This one was shot in the 3rd-floor stacks, wide-open at f/1.4. The lens is not quite up to modern designs at 1.4 but it still performs admirably:

These next two images were taken on the 28mm f/3.5 lens. This tiny lens is definitely not up to par with modern lenses but with some careful use it is capable of making fine images. At f/3.5 through about 5.6, it is soft, especially in the corners. f/8-11 are definitely an improvement, with f/11 being optimal. I have not shot it at f/16 to test it, but diffraction might limit the performance. This first image was at f/5.6 handheld at a very slow shutter speed with a double stack of an orange filter and CPL to take the sky (which would be totally blown out otherwise). This caused some vignetting that I kind of liked:

This one was at f/11 handheld with no filters right before sunset:

There is a little bit of a dust problem on some of these images. One serious downside with shooting film, especially b&w, is dust when scanning. I recently discovered that reusing film fixer after using it for fiber paper is a bad idea, as small fibers end up on the film and become almost ingrained in the finished negatives. Newer scanners have dust removal features ("Digital ICE") using infrared dust-detection, but this system does not work with b&w, and regardless I do not have a scanner that utilizes it so I must be especially careful. This roll was especially affected, and I have stopped using paper fixer for film.

Speaking of scanning, for 35mm I am currently using a Minolta Dimage Scan Dual IV to scan negatives. I had an amazing Nikon Coolscan LS-8000 for 35mm and medium format 120/220 film, but after ditching MF it was too expensive of a scanner to keep. The Minolta does an admirable job but I do miss the Nikon on occasion! I have not tried the Minolta with slides.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

35mm at Langdale Park

I blogged a couple days ago about Langdale Park and posted a couple 4x5 images. While there I also shot a roll of 35mm film and have just finished scanning the images.

Shooting 35mm for me is an exercise in the joy of film photography. The process is not as arduous as 4x5 and the ability to shoot 36 shots per roll (I never shoot 24 exposure rolls) gives me the ability to experiment and try different things. Furthermore, the speed and versatility of 35mm allows me to take a camera and a few lenses in just my pockets and do almost anything.

My first real 35mm camera was a Nikon F5, probably still the king of 35mm cameras. It was a wonderful camera, but not portable - I would rather shoot digital most days. Sadly, it died in an unfortunate boating accident. This is actually what prompted my switch to medium format. After forgoing 35mm for quite a while I have recently starting shooting it again with vigor.

My camera of choice these days is the Nikon SP, a rangefinder from the 1960's. While many people today are familiar with SLR cameras, the rangefinder was the standard camera back in the mid-20th century. The most famous RF camera was and still is the Leica M-series. I was casually shopping for a Leica when I discovered the Nikon S-series, and since I am already a big fan of Nikon gear I splurged on an S2 and then an SP. The S-series was made famous in the Korean War as a cheaper alternative to the Leica with superb optics.

The Nikon SP is small enough with a lens to fit in a side pocket of my pants. Carrying it, I can fit two lenses in my pockets along with a light meter and am set for most anything. I usually prefer a 50mm along with a 28mm and 85mm. The main benefit to the SP is built-in frame lines for lenses from 28mm-135mm, but on other S-models you might need viewfinders for the other lenses.

I shoot a variety of film with the SP. I prefer b&w film but I will occasionally shoot color. These images were shot on Fuji Superia 100. I got this color negative film very cheaply and it is mostly for fun, as the technical image quality isn't as high as slide film or b&w. The film is past expiration and has a significant orange cast on some shots. If it's particularly egregious I usually just convert the image to b&w (converting to b&w also allows control over colors as if you were using various colored filters, which can be very helpful in some situations).

These first two images showcase the wonderful "pastel" quality that the older Nikon glass gives to color images. I really like the way the Nikon S lenses render colors.

This next image was converted to b&w and is a similar exposure to the one I posted before that I took on 4x5, but with a slightly longer lens (equivalent). While internet-sized images do not show nearly enough detail to make accurate judgement on most things, I think it is pretty clear how superior the 4x5 version is:

Here are a two more images from the park shot on the Nikon SP and converted to b&w:

And finally, here is another 4x5 image shot this morning from Langdale Park. I wanted to go early in the morning to see the light at a different time of day. This image was shot on the Nikon 360mm f/8 telephoto at f/32 for 8 seconds shortly after sunrise. The film is T-Max 100 and was developed normally with T-Max RS.

I think the increase in resolution with 4x5 is apparent! But not every shot needs or can be shot on a large negative.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Downtown Valdosta Architecture Part 1

While not a huge city, Valdosta still sports a historic downtown area with many landmark buildings. There are several churches and other historic buildings that make for very nice architectural images. I have been meaning to shoot some of them at the proper time of day and finally got my chance.

These images were both shot around 4:30, when the sun was starting to get lower on the horizon. Earlier in the day the lighting would be harsher and the sky would be too light, and a little bit later the sun ends up behind trees and other obstructions making the buildings shadowed.

For this image of the First Baptist Church in downtown, two filters were used - a circular polarizer and a red filter. The CPL filter darkens the sky through polarization (similar to sunglasses) while the red filter removes a lot of blue. The CPL along with various color filters are essential for black & white film photography. Each color affects the contrast of the image by limiting the light which is transmitted to the film (such as the red filter taking out a lot of blue and green).

As you can see, the effect is dramatic. I think it was a little overdone, so I will be redoing this shot at a later date. The steeple seems to fade out to black from slight underexposure, so I will have to work on that next time as well. This image was shot with the Schneider 90mm f/8 lens at f/22 for 1/2 of a second.

Langdale Park - first 4x5 images

On Inner Perimeter Road, near Exit 22 on I-75, is little-known Langdale Park. This park is a massive preserve that straddles the banks of the Withlacoochee River. I discovered this park about two years ago, but due to rain it was mostly flooded for quite a while. I have finally started exploring it more recently and have a couple images to share.

The first image was shot with a Schneider 150mm APO Symmar f/5.6 lens on my Zone VI Wista field camera. This lens is similar to a 40mm lens on 35mm and is one of my favorite focal lengths. The camera was set to f/16 and the exposure was 1 second. The highlights were tamed by a circular polarizing filter. I used T-Max 100 film and developed normally in T-Max RS:

This next image was heavily back-lit from the sun reflecting off the water. Again using a CPL filter I was able to tame the high-contrast scene and get a usable negative. This image was shot with a Nikon 360mm f/8 telephoto lens. This lens is the longest I can focus on my field camera due to the limited bellows draw. The lens can also be used as a 500mm and 720mm by changing the rear element. The exposure was at f/32 for 2 seconds.

As you can tell I am a fan of "warm-toned" images. I feel the slight coloration enhances the image.

I decided to print the first image in my darkroom. After a few tests and such I was able to print it satisfactorily. It was still a very high-contrast negative so I ended up using a #0 filter on it as well as overexposing it and shortening the development to decrease the contrast. I was using up the last bit of some expired Ilford VC Fiber paper so it is a little curled. Here is the result (an 8x10):

Langdale Park is quite big so I look forward to further exploration in the future.

Drexel Park in the Fall

Today I went on a short walk at Drexel Park. Drexel is adjacent to the VSU/Valdosta High Stadium, and is often a venue for cookouts, college events, and recreation. It is not a huge park but it does have some nice scenery and plenty of greenery. It is also within the "Azalea Trail," a trail that goes through the Valdosta State campus and into a small paved path behind the parking lot on Sustella.

One of the interesting aspects of Drexel are these huge bushes of reeds. I have always found them interesting and decided to take two shots of them today:

First is this image. It was shot on my Zone VI Wista 4x5 camera with a 90mm lens (Schneider SA 90mm f/8). This lens is equivalent to about a 28mm lens on 35mm. The aperture was f/16 and the exposure was 10 seconds.

This next image was shot with the Schneider 58mm XL f/5.6 lens at f/16 for 8 seconds. It is cropped slightly.

Both images were shot on Kodak T-Max 100 film, a 100-speed film with superb resolution and tonality. It is my favorite black & white film, though it can be tricky to develop. I used an N-1 development on the second shot to try to tame the highlights (for info on the Zone System, read Ansel Adams' "The Negative").

You might notice they are both a bit brown colored. This is a split-toning effect done in Photoshop to simulate a darkroom toning. I have not yet acquired the materials to do darkroom toning but I would like to soon.

Both images (and all 4x5 images for the foreseeable future) were scanned on an Agfa T2500 pre-production scanner at 4000DPI and edited in CS5. I might discuss this gem of a scanner at a later date.

Finally, I would like to post two more images from Drexel Park that I took about a week ago. Both of these were taken as tests with a new lens, a Wollensak Verito 11.5-inch f/4 Diffuse Focus lens. This lens is from the early 20th century! It is a "diffuse" focus lens, meaning at wide apertures the lens is very soft and looks like it has gauze over the lens, a very interesting and beautiful effect. 

The lens has a rudimentary shutter that is operated by a pneumatic release. It basically goes as fast as I can squeeze the bulb - not scientific but it works! Both of these are wide-open at f/4 and about 1-second exposures. I developed them in Pyrocat-HD, a compensating developer that can tame a negative which has been overexposed, which is easy to do with such a basic shutter.

That's it for Drexel Park today, but I will probably be back soon.

First Post

Valdosta in Film
A Blog about film photography in and around Valdosta, GA.

I am starting this blog today as a creative outlet for my photography - specifically in the medium of film. I wanted to have a place that I could display images of and around the Valdosta / Lowndes County area of south GA, as I have traveled and photographed extensively in this area. I decided a blog focusing on film would allow an interesting perspective in this otherwise completely digital world today. I also will be focusing on the technical and creative aspects of film developing and darkroom printing.

While the blog will feature mostly film images from this area I might end up incorporating images from other places and from the digital medium if they are interesting.

Who I am / what I do
I have lived in Valdosta now for about 7.5 years - long enough that I have become very comfortable with the area and consider it my first "home" away from my childhood home. While I do sometimes yearn for various other locales, the area does have a rich history and a variety of places for photographic adventures. I started taking photography seriously sometime about 2 years ago, but I have always been very interested in cameras since I was very young. Back then all I shot was film, so I consider my current love affair with it a "return" to my roots. I quickly moved from 35mm to medium format and now "large format," generally regarded as film at least 4x5 inches in size. Shooting large format sheet film is a completely different beast from the smaller formats - each shot is individually loaded into holders and shot one at a time, unlike roll film. What it affords is a greatly enhanced feeling of "purpose" to each shot, as well as the creative ability to adjust development on each shot as well as a massive negative to use. It is like nothing you've ever done before, and is a real joy to shoot!

My "day job" is as a freelance recording engineer and musician, with various other activities and jobs filling in the holes. I also do professional photography as well when I am able (mostly events, portraiture, and fine art).

Well I will leave that as an "introduction" of sorts, and now I will start on a post that will actually feature photos!