Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thomasville Excursion

Thomasville is a historic town about 50 miles west of Valdosta. I have been there a few times in the past for various concert performances, but not recently. I didn't have anything important to do this past Sunday so I drove there with my girlfriend and spent the morning and afternoon exploring with the 4x5 and rangefinder.

It was a gorgeous day and was a real treat to shoot some of the historic buildings and locales out there, as well as some other interesting subjects. First up are a couple architecture shots from downtown. This first shot is looking across the street at the store "At Home in Thomasville." It was taken with a Schneider 150mm APO lens:

Next is a beautiful house (maybe antebellum?) near downtown as well as some condominiums, both shaded by a live oak tree. Both of these are also taken with a 150mm lens. They were also toned in Photoshop:

Here is a shot of the tower of the new courthouse that is still under construction. I used a Nikon 360mm lens:

Thomasville is also home to "The Big Oak," an historic live oak over 300 years old. It is gargantuan and has cables attached to various limbs to help hold itself up. This image was taken with a Schneider 58mm lens and cropped:

Finally, I have an interesting image that I am planning on retaking. I was wandering around Thomasville when I saw various old rusty items outside of a building. This turned out to be a shop called "Relic's," specializing in old architectural treasures. It was a fascinating place. The store wasn't even open but there was tons of stuff all over the place behind the building. I took a panoramic shot of the rear of the building but unfortunately had a light leak and didn't quite frame the shot correctly. This was taken with the 58mm again but I am going to do it again with a 47mm for even more dramatic effect:

For reference, all 4x5 images are with T-Max 100 film.

Some 35mm images after the break!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Albany Architecture

Last weekend I was in Albany, GA for the weekend playing in the symphony there. There is always a big gap between the final rehearsal Saturday morning and the concert that night, so I brought along the 4x5 to take some architectural photos.

This was the first time I tried using the Wista for architecture. The limited front rise can be frustrating but there are workarounds so you can get enough rise. My biggest problem was keeping the standards parallel and totally level parallel to the ground, as the Wista does not have any levels on it. I was using one I bought from the hardware store but it didn't work quite as well as I'd hoped due to it's size and such (I bought some small triple-axis levels for use from now on.

Here are some scans from the sheets of film that were good. Most of them needed a little bit of tweaking to fix the perspective in Photoshop, but so be it. All were on T-Max 100 film. This first one was my favorite: it is the arch that goes over the main entrance into town. I used the Schneider 58mm f/5.6 XL lens:

These next two are some local churches shot with the Schneider 150mm:

A couple more after the break.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Spook Bridge

Yesterday I shot two rolls of 35mm out at "Spook Bridge." This bridge is in between Valdosta and Quitman. It is the site of many local legends and is supposedly "haunted." I've been meaning to go over there for quite a while but was never quite sure where it was. I happened to find some better directions and decided I'd finally go.

When I got there I was a little freaked out, as right outside where I parked there was the massive carcass of a wild boar, including his cut-off face. But other than that, it was actually a really nice place. (I took a picture of the boar, and it is at the end of the post, so beware.)

I shot a roll of Tri-X 400 as well as one roll of Kodak Portra 160. I am really happy with how these turned out and have been working in the darkroom to make a series of 4-5 prints from this location.

Here are a variety of photos from the outing taken with my Nikon SP and the 28mm, 50mm, or 85mm lenses:

A few more photos after the break:

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Learning Opportunity

I learned a valuable lesson yesterday regarding film photography. I mixed up a fresh batch of developer (Pyrocat HD) and developed 4 sheets of film with it. It turns out I messed up my calculations and ruined all four sheets. I was lackadaisical with the calculations for the mixing of these chemicals and then to make matters worse developed all of my shots of the day at once.

I ruined some good photos, and one which I was really excited about. I took them at Langdale Park, which has become my new favorite place for nature photography. I went back today to retake some shots, and the one which I was excited about was gone - the lighting was flat and boring while yesterday it was really dynamic and exciting.

But I will chalk it up to experience and move on.

Here are a few shots from today. These were taken with the Wollensak Verito 11.5" lens, which I have been meaning to use more. Unfortunately it is a pain to use because it's so big and must be used on my Toyo GII monorail. Hiking with this 20-pound camera and lens is a chore and I am seriously considering looking for an 8.75" Verito to replace it. These were taken on T-Max 100 and developed in T-Max RS or Pyrocat HD:

Another important lesson is to remember to bring a loupe! These were focused by eye. The second is slightly back-focused. I need to redo that one anyway if I can go when the lighting is good again.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Shots around campus

Sometimes it's nice to just load a roll of 35mm film and walk around. Valdosta isn't a huge city with a lot going on at all hours, but the VSU campus can be nice sometimes. It was right at dusk that I went shooting with some Kentmere 400 film that I pushed to 800 in development. I used D-76 stock, but I think I like XTOL better when I've used this film at 800 before. It's not a great film (it is the same as Ilford Delta 400) but it's still fun to shoot.

Here are a couple of frames that came out okay. All with the 28mm f/3.5 lens except the first, which was with the 50mm f/1.4 with the front element removed (I was curious as it came unscrewed while I was removing a filter, and it gave it an interesting blur on the edges of the frame. Neat effect):

I also was running an errand later that night and stopped at Freedom Park near the air force base to finish the roll. This is a long-exposure of about 30 seconds at f/11 with the full moon illuminating the landscape. Freedom Park is a nice place to visit - there is a frisbee-golf course that winds through some woods that are very pretty. I need to return and take some 4x5 images there at a better time of day.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Great Smoky Mountain National Park, etc.

I really wanted to post some photos I took in July from a roadtrip I took across much of the southeastern US. I visited the Great Smoky Mountain National Park as well as various other parks and places in West Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C.. Here are a few 4x5 images from the trip.

First is my favorite shot of the trip. This is Blackwater Falls, located in West Virginia. Taken with a Schneider 150mm APO f/5.6 at f/16 with a 1/2 second shutter speed I believe on T-Max 100 film:

This next image is a view from the highest point in the Smoky Mountains. Shot on Velvia 100 with the 150mm again:

Here is a shot in Cade's Cove, taken with the Schneider 90mm f/8 lens:

Finally, here is another shot in Cade's Cove on T-Max 100 and cropped from a negative taken with the 150mm lens:

Some more images from digital below after the break!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Savannah in 4x5

I haven't had a chance to shoot much these last few days due to other obligations. However, I wanted to post a few photos I took over Labor Day a couple months ago in Savannah, GA. Many of these are color, a welcome change to all the b&w on this blog I'm sure.

These first two images were taken on Velvia 50 transparency film. The photo of the door was taken with the Schneider 90mm f/8 lens while the street scene was taken with a super-wide Schneider 47mm f/5.6 XL lens, the equivalent of a 13mm lens or so on 35mm!

This next image was taken on Fuji 160S and converted to b&w with the Schneider 58mm XL:

Finally, here is an image of the Westin hotel on the other side of the river taken with the 90mm again and cropped to a panoramic format. Taken just as the sun was setting:

These were the best 4x5 photos from the trip. I unfortunately forgot my whole bag of black & white film on this trip which is why I took so many color photos.

More photos on 35mm below.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

High-Speed Shooting with 4x5 for First Friday in Valdosta

Shooting 4x5, you are normally restricted to a tripod and oftentimes long exposures. Not one to ever accept limitations, I decided a couple months ago that I wanted to try shooting 4x5 handheld. And not just handheld, but handheld at night. Most anyone would call that crazy, and rightfully so. With most large format lenses having maximum apertures of f/5.6 (or slower at f/9) exposures in dim environments with "fast" 400-speed film are nigh impossible, with shutter speeds in the range of 1-second range or longer.

But there are some little-known lenses capable of super-speed. The most famous one is the Kodak Aero-Ektar 7" f/2.5 lens. This lens was used by American planes to photograph bombing missions during World War II. This lens, coupled to a Speed Graphic for use with the focal-plane shutter was popularized by David Burnett and has been copied by various photographers. I was able to acquire an Aero-Ektar lens and a Speed Graphic and had a local machinist make a mounting ring for me. I was halfway to my dream...

Next was figuring out a film and development process. The fastest production 4x5 film is ISO 400, which in dim environments would require a 1/2 second exposure - still too long to handhold. I bought some Kodak Tri-X 320 film and after some experimenting am able to push the film to the insane speed of 3200 pretty easily and 5000 if the conditions are right. At this point I was able to shoot at 1/50 - slow but doable!

To give you an idea of the massive size of this rig, here is a picture of the Aero/Speed camera and my little Nikon SP. Quite a difference!

Today was First Friday in downtown Valdosta, so I shot a roll of Tri-X 400 pushed to 1600 on my Nikon SP and a few sheets of 4x5 with the Aero/Speed camera. The 3D quality of this lens and hyper-speed lens/film is unreal and like nothing else I've shot. Here are two images from this setup:

The subjects just pop out of the image due to the limited depth of field. For comparison, the equivalent DOF would only be attainable with a 35mm or full-frame digital camera with a non-existent 50mm f/0.7 lens (crazy cinema lenses for half-frame movie cameras don't count). The image quality is also unparalleled from the large sheet film. Of course, shooting sheet film can be very limiting due to time and cost.

Here are also a few of shots from the Nikon SP, with the 50mm f/1.4 lens or 28mm f/3.5:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Upsides and Downsides to 35mm

I had initially given up on 35mm film about a year ago, but I'm continually amazed at some of the images I get on such small film. Of course, there is always a major advantage to bigger film, but the advantage of a fast, lightweight system is obvious to me now, especially using such a compact rangefinder like the Nikon SP.

However, in an effort to possibly get a little more film real estate still with a hand-held system, I've decided to try a new camera. I used the Pentax 67 for a year and really liked it, but in the end it was very heavy, cumbersome, and didn't get me the image quality I was looking for. I wanted what I get from 4x5, which at the time I did not understand. But instead of the Pentax system, I am going to try out a Mamiya M645 Super. I found a great deal on one and am going to pick up the 80mm f/1.9 lens to compliment it and try some fast shooting with it. If I like it I might pick up a 45mm and a 200mm or something. The Mamiya system is really cheap right now for whatever reason so I was able to get the whole thing with a 110mm f/2.8 lens for under $300, quite a bit less than other medium format systems. I'm hoping with the smaller 6x4.5cm film area it will be smaller and have better film economy than the 6x7cm Pentax.

The biggest problem with medium format is digitizing images. Luckily, with an enlarger now I am less dependent on this, but for quality scans of this size film a scanner like the Nikon LS-8000 I had start at $1500 or so! It's easy to spend 4x as much for a scanner than the camera and lenses unfortunately.

Here are a couple of snaps I took while scouting a new area at Langdale Park (it is a really big place). I might have to take these on 4x5 sometime. They were taken on some old Ilford XP2 C-41 b&w film that I had around from last year:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

High-Speed 35mm Shooting (and comparison)

I have always been interested in high-speed photography. The ability to shoot in the dimmest environments handheld is one of the coolest things to me.

35mm film has a couple of very high-speed emulsions available, namely Kodak T-Max 3200 and Ilford Delta 3200. I have shot both and have found my best results to be with T-Max 3200 (or TMZ) developed with XTOL undiluted at the times listed in Kodak's technical publication.

TMZ is technically only a 1000 ISO film or so that is push-processed to get to higher speeds. The film can be pushed to extreme levels, up to 25,600 according to the literature. I have most frequently shot this film at 6400, which is usually the speed I need for shooting wide-open (f/2 usually) handheld at 1/60 of a second shutter speed or so (or 1/125 at f/1.4).

I shot a roll of TMZ last night at a Halloween event featuring 4 bands. The lighting at this bar is abysmal, with just a few bare-bulb lights in the ceiling providing all available light. In situations like this I usually shoot digital, but it is a lot of fun to use my Nikon SP as well, though there is a much better margin of error on digital. I currently use a Nikon D700 camera which is still really clean looking at 6400 and is even okay at 12,800.

First here is several images from the Nikon SP over the course of the evening. Almost all were taken with the 85mm f/2 lens wide-open at 1/60. Because push-processing increases the contrast of the negatives, the shadows are mostly pitch-black and the highlights get blown out easily, so an adjustment curve is often necessary to get a good range of tones (usually an inverse S-curve, with low values bumped up and high-values down.):

 The limitations in image quality is pretty clear, but at the same time the effect is dramatic and for this type of subject I think enhances the photo.

In digital, at 6400 ISO, I was able to get much cleaner files. Here are a couple for comparison. The Nikon D700 is probably the best performing camera at high ISO save for the Nikon D3S, making it especially good at this kind of photography. As with any digital camera though, colors get pretty ugly at high ISO (as well as with the terrible lighting at this bar) so I usually shoot these in b&w:

While the image quality is obviously better on digital, which one is subjectively "better" is entirely up to you.