Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Parade of Champions - Celebrating Three Division II National Championships at VSU

Today the city of Valdosta and VSU hosted a parade celebrating our VSU Blazer Football, Softball, and Tennis teams, all of which received the national championship in Division II in their respective sports.

I took out my Polaroid 900 / Xenotar 135/3.5 for this and shot 14 sheets of film in about an hour. That's probably about the fastest I've ever shot film. I shot mostly TMX100 and a couple sheets of C-41 color film.

Here are the results:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Real-world test of high dilutions of T-Max RS and TMX film (35mm)

I was off work today so I went out to Langdale Park to shoot a roll of 135. This was my first test shooting natural light and using very high dilutions of T-Max RS developer with TMX film.

I really like TMX film. It's a very high-resolution film, it reacts well with a variety of developers, and when you get the development right, the tonality is beautiful. Now that last one is important. TMX is a very tricky film to shoot, especially when you use Kodak's specially-formulated developer made for it. I use the "RS" version since I mostly use sheet film, so from here on out I'll refer to it simply as RS.

Supposedly, TMX is optimized for use with RS, or the regular T-Max developer. The problem is that you have to be very exacting with the time, temperature, and agitation. The problem of course is that no one agitates the same way, so even if you have a nice system to maintain temperature and are very exact with the time, you might have too much or too little contrast due to your agitation.

Through testing and shooting a lot, I got close to a generalized development strategy for TMX 4x5 sheets. I was still having trouble though - either my agitation was varying or I simply wasn't dead-on with my exposures (I found TMX to also not be very forgiving like most other b&w films). So I eventually switched to using Rodinal, which seemed to be a lot more forgiving in all aspects.

However Rodinal doesn't quite cut it for smaller formats for me. The grain is a little clumpy, and with the higher magnifications it becomes pretty apparent. So I started my quest for a better way to use RS, as you might have read in the previous post.

Today I shot my Nikon F2 and various lenses. I set the ASA to 64, and stand developed the roll of TMX for one hour in RS diluted 1:32. This is midway between my previous experiments at 1:19 and 1:39, but I'm still having problems with highlights. It seems that the developer just doesn't exhaust itself - it keeps going and going, despite the extremely high dilution (this is probably why RS is a very fast-acting developer at the standard dilutions of 1:4 or 1:9).

That said, I'm still getting very nice negatives, especially in high-contrast light. The shadows are nice and open, and the midtones are just beautiful. It's much different looking than what I used to get at the regular 1:4 dilution. However there is still work to do. As I mentioned, the developer was continuing to develop the higher values and many of the shots had some burned-out highlights. Surprisingly, the negatives aren't exactly dense - but the higher zones are simply too high. To combat this, I've used curves and virtual GND filters to help balance the negatives better.

For my next roll I am going to try an even more dilute solution of 1:50, which may or may not be enough to rein in those higher values, and an EI of 50. The shadows were plenty open, but I'm thinking that another 1/3 of a stop of exposure might help with such a dilution. It also might help exhaust the developer.

My hope is that once I have this process dialed in, I can get excellent negatives in mixed lighting conditions on the same roll. There are of course developers that may be more suited to this - Pyrocat HD comes to mind. But I also like the challenge of trying new things and making up my very own development recipe.

Keep an eye out for my continued tests! Also, I hope you enjoyed the photos interspersed in all this rambling...

Friday, January 25, 2013

New Experiments with T-Max film and T-Max RS Developer

When I first started to develop my own film I knew I wanted to shoot TMX, as I really liked the look of that film, so I naturally bought the T-Max RS developer recommended for developing TMX 4x5 sheets. The simplicity of the process drew me in.

However, as I began to work more seriously, I realized that this combo was really unforgiving with my technique, both shooting and developing (time, temperature, agitation, etc.). So I really buckled down and did some extensive film tests and reined in my development. That helped, but I was still not quite happy with the results. I decided to switch to Rodinal as it was giving me great results and I haven't looked back since.

I still have a brand-new bottle of T-Max RS in my cabinet, and I finally decided to try something I thought of a few months ago. I read that RS is technically a compensating developer. I figured that it might react a bit differently if I used some really dilute solutions. Normally, the developer is used at a 1:4 dilution. Many people also half that to a 1:9 dilution. I decided to take it a step further, to a 1:19 dilution and run a film test. I shot a simple product-type shot of some of my cameras and tried different EI's and stand developed the film at that 1:19 dilution for an hour, with a bit of agitation at the 30-minute mark. The negatives were a bit too dense - but here are a couple of the shots:

It was a good start, so next I tried a 1:39 dilution and stand-developed a single sheet of 4x5. I took the same type of photo with one of my microphones, using a Schneider 150mm G-Claron:

Success! Now this shot is slightly edited, but the results were impressive. I shot this at an EI of 100. I think it would've been a bit better at 50. Either way, I had really nice open shadows and smoothly compressed highlights. I think this will work wonders in the harsh southern sun that I often find myself shooting in. The detail and sharpness is also fantastic. The film that I develop with Rodinal always has clumpy grain that is sharp but not great; the T-Max RS is on a whole other level. It is really tight, beautiful grain that gives a really high acuity to the image.

I still need to do more tests in a less controlled environment, but this process is looking very promising.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Big Shoals State Park and White Springs, FL

Meagan and I went hiking over the MLK weekend down in White Springs, FL. I shot mostly 4x5 and some 120. The light wasn't great but it was still fun.

Here's my 4x5 b&w images:


In White Springs was a really cool store that looks transplanted right out of the old west. I used one of my last precious sheets of Velvia 50 - I'm really happy with the results:

Here is one more b&w shot of Big Shoals, with the Kodak E100VS color shot I took right after. You can see the huge difference in color rendition between the Kodak film and Velvia. Both are good, but the Velvia is just special (some may say over-the-top, but not me!).

Medium format images after the break...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Banks Lake and some extra stuff

A couple of days ago I went to Banks Lake for a little bit since I was nearby. I hadn't tried Velvia with my new E6 development process so I wanted to shoot a couple of sheets just for testing purposes.

Here are the two shots I did on 4x5 (I also shot some 120 Astia to test but it isn't developed yet):

The first was shot with the Nikkor-M 300mm f/9, the second with the Nikkor 90mm f/8.

Also, later that night, I tested my freshly cleaned and revamped studio space with Meagan. Here is a quick portrait I did with my D800E and 85mm f/1.4, with one SB-800 on a stand with a fill card on the other side:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Extraneous 35mm photos from the 2012 holidays

I only recently developed a couple of extant rolls from back in 2012 that I shot in my Nikon F2 and F4. I thought I'd share them now.

First, some shots from the mountains of north GA, from my F2, on T-Max 100, developed normally in Rodinal:

Here are a couple color photos, on Fuji Sensia, taken with the F4:

More photos from around Christmas after the break: