I Remember Why I Dream In Black And White

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Film 10 – Konica Infrared

Pergola infrared - 2003

Only a few shots on this one, but at least one real winner which is the one of the Pergola at Vale of Health, part of Hampstead Heath above. Was there taking some shots with Kirk which is how I can date it to 2003.

These were shot with Konica 750nm (750nm being the wavelength that the film is receptive to) infrared film – which strictly wasn’t compatible with the filter I had – that let in a much higher wavelength I think….but these shots proved it worked just the same, maybe not as dramatically as if I’d hada filter that went down to 750nm, but looks pretty ‘infrared’ to me:

Hampstead? Infrared

Pergola infrared - 2003

It also has a demonstration shot of the effect of infrared, which I might’ve taken for my City and Guilds Level 2 I was doing at the time…I did include some Infrared in my B&W book but not these, obviously. If you don’t know how infrared film works, you have to use a specially made IR purple/dark red filter to expose the red & infrared frequencies with it otherwise the film just works as normal.

I used a cheap Lee 87 Gel filter I modded onto a piece of perspex cos IR glass filters are really expensive. All I did was cut two pieces of thin perspex into the same sized squares – I got the thin sort you could actually cut with scissors – then I sandwiched the gel in between them and stuck it together with tape – you don’t really need to worry about it being perfectly optical because a) IR is fairly random and foggy anyway and b) it’s really close to the lens so any imperfections probably won’t be seen. There’s a DIY tip for you wanting cheap filters 😉

Firstly without filter:

Infrared - without filter

And with the filter:

With infrared Lee 87 filter

I’m not sure if all of these shots are using the filter – unless you have a lot of not-backlit greenery or sky it’s not always obvious. I suspect in the Pergola shots I didn’t, although they still have a slightly unearthly quality all the same. But judging on the lack of odd skin tones in this (skin tones in infrared make you look like an alien grey, translucent with strange eyes) shot of Kirk I’m sceptical I did use the IR filter for these shots:

Kirk at the Pergola, 2003

Film 9 – Thames Barrier Park / Ironbridge / Trafalgar Square

`Thames Barrier Park, 2003

OK back to that photo archaelogy – it was nice to scan some *clean* negatives for once, where I had to do very little spotting, rather than the blizzard which was the early photos (thankfully Digital ICE works for the 126, I shudder to think how much crud is on those – they even survived a house fire!).

Here’s shots from September 2003 from Thames Barrier Park (a modern architectural park a bit like Parc Citroen in Paris, opposite the Thames Barrier funnily enough) and a trip to my old stomping ground of Coalbrookdale & Ironbridge. Leaner pickings from this film, there are quite a few random shots of windows (!?), boring shots of the Ironbridge and railings. These shots work, though. Shot on Ilford FP4, Nikon F90.

Thames Barrier Park, 2003

Thames Barrier Park, 2003

Coalbrookdale, 2003

As you can see, I LOVE my shadows and diagonals, and especially if 03/04 is anything to go by it’s all I seemed to photograph. Well nearly all, I discovered this lone grab shot from Trafalgar Square, guessing September 2003 had one of those classic late Indian Summers which seem the norm now:

Trafalgar Square, 2003

Also aware that there is some barrel distortion in these off my old FX Nikon 28-105mm f3.5-4.5 AFD lens, but oddly can’t install the third party lens profiles I found for my lens (LCP files) in Lightroom, they never come up in the menu? Maybe they are for JPGs only, or won’t use those profiles on TIFFs. Annoying – I tried manually fiddling with them and gave up as I was doing more damage than good!

Oh that’s where that comes from!

Me at age 9 or 10, Boulougne Ferry

Your humble photographer, aged 9 on the ferry to Boulogne

Even further back into time, these are the first pictures I ever took – well not the one above, obv. My adapter from FilmScanUSA for 126/Instamatic film arrived a few days ago and been having fun scanning my old 126 films. As I said in the blurb I started taking pictures when I was given a camera I think about the age of 8. That plastic GALT camera leaked light, and was a strange sized film (127? Checked the film and it’s larger than 35mm but not as big as 120 as I thought). So I found a 1960s Kodak Instamatic camera for 25p at a jumble sale and off I went.

Miles jumping off a swing (detail)

Miles jumping off a swing (detail)

I was 9 or 10, I knew not yet who this Lartigue bloke was but I was trying to capture my friend jumping off a swing.

o.O

It’s hard to describe the sense of discovery since I assumed most of the the 126 pictures were low-res and pretty cack and it turns out from the shots I’m finding on the first ever films I was a complete natural. Framing, composition, movement, the decisive moment (no idea who that Bresson bloke was either at that stage)….it’s all there. All my previous assumptions about taking a long time to get good are total bollocks – although I did spend far too much time trying to shoot tiny pictures of fighter planes which on a little fixed focus Instamatic with Sunny 16 and Cloudy settings (woo!) wasn’t really going to fly. I can now see the genesis of the whole movement style I have already in place. WTF?

I’ve not seen this or most of the 126 negs properly since taking them, not sure I even have a good print of this…part of the problem was the fact that the prints were terrible, so I assumed *I* was terrible. The scans reveal otherwise – all I am doing is restoring the fading, some cropping and sharpening, contrast etc. Nothing more, and most need almost no tweaking. It’s like a view into a past world…

Girls on the Boulougne Ferry, 1982/3

Girls on the Boulougne Ferry, 1982/3

Steam Engine Girl, Guildford Steam Fair (?) 83?

Steam Engine Girl, Guildford Steam Fair (?) 83?

And the colours on the Kodak Instamatic film are just jaw-droppingly beautiful. You can keep Instagram, this is the real shit. Sadly 126 is not being made anymore although amazingly survived til 2007 as Eastern Europe still used it! It’s the height of 35mm film so you can still easily process it – prints are not usually possible cos of the different square frame size.

You can see the full gallery here, I will add to it as I scan more.

As regards the Nikon 126 adapter – hmm it does the job but it’s very flimsy and plastic, thus a bit overpriced as not metal as suggested by the pics – already managed to break one and a half of the struts! /not happy. Also, with all of the scanner holders I have bending of the film is an issue especially with this holder, you can get a Newton glass version but given the build quality – or lack of it – I think I’ll invest in a glass holder for 120 then do a DIY card mask as per this blog.

Everybody starts somewhere: my first black and white film

Kirk, 1992 Godalming College

Kirk, 1992 Godalming College

Just to show you that you don’t just pick up a camera and become good – nor is it the camera that’s doing it (both big misconceptions, the amount of times I’ve shown people pictures and they’ve damned me with faint praise by saying ‘You must have a good camera!’ – grr. It’s not the camera but the person holding it, within limits as I’ll explain) here is scans from the first film I shot in black and white, and the first film I developed. And seemingly the first film I covered in talcum powder then ran a chisel over by the quality of the negs, if you zoom in it’s like snow…but I hadn’t a clue then how to handle neagtives, and also I think underdeveloped them and there were several accidents, and I suspect contamination during drying or developing since they looked pretty crappy back then too.

I am aware people pay loads of money for apps to create this out of focus / halation / grunge effect and here I am spending ages in Lightroom spotting the galaxy!

Anyway here is my shots from Godalming College, circa early 1992. Above is the first proper shot of Kirk, and probably the first portrait shot I was proud of. All of these are shot on Ilford FP4 ‘Safety Film’ (!!!) I think bulk loaded at the college. Camera – well hence the limits I was talking about, I was using a rather strange second hand Russian or German 35mm camera, I forget the make but those who like Holgas or toy cameras probably would love it. It had a square aperture, and the lens seemed to be falling off…it was almost impossible to focus or work out how to focus it, I obviously worked it out towards the end of the film as I do have some in focus shots, but it seemed rather shallow depth of field – and also using 125 ISO film in those dark classrooms was also not easy.

Needless to say I didn’t use the camera again, but quickly got a cheap Praktica SLR rather than borrowing my Dad’s old trusty yet heavy Zenit and the rest is history.

Language Block, 1992

Language Block, 1992

Mr Stevens class, 1992

Mr Stevens class, 1992

In the art room, 1992

In the art room, 1992

In the art room, 1992

In the art room, 1992

What was your first b&w, or indeed first film like?

Black and white film thoughts

Wrote this on another blog of mine but it bears repeating here – It’s obvious I have a very different style with film and black and white…I remember skulking around looking for textures and shadows, and of course colour means nothing, it’s all about the contrast – what usually looks to you as being contrast is quite often different intense colours and looks completely limp in black and white.

I miss that considered approach…just flicking ‘black and white’ switch isn’t really it (why I’ve never used the ‘Black and White’ function in Lightroom til now) because the visual thinking is different. The approach is different. The headspace is different. You need to be in the right mindset, and it usually shows if you do it after the fact.

Also there seems to be loads of diagonals, but hey, I’m an ex-art student. That’s what they get taught 😉

And many pictures of plane trees for some reason…

El Escorial by Tim Baker

Film 8 – El Escorial and a mystery

El Escorial by Tim Baker

As part of another film I’ve not indentified John had mentioned we went to El Escorial – and it turns out with a little help from Google Image Search this is what this film is from – took me a long time to identify this film, I thought it might be from Barcelona or Rome, but it turns out to be the Basilica and the palace of El Escorial!

El Escorial by Tim Baker

El Escorial by Tim Baker

El Escorial by Tim Baker

El Escorial by Tim Baker

El Escorial by Tim Baker

El Escorial by Tim Baker

There is a still a mystery with this film though, and the other – it also contains images from Berwick, well near Berwick, a tudor house/fortress (!) that was along the border we visited there…I have the digital pics so confirmed that…I remembered the day immediately when I saw the scan, and that I went to to the top and took pictures but Johnn stayed at the bottom, and the house had been much raided over the centuries and I think was English Heritage (?) but no idea where this is:

Northumberland by Tim baker

Ditto this image, which I’m guessing is also in the area or somewhere near Lindisfarne, because I have a colour version of this taken on the previous film (7):

Northumberland Tree by Tim Baker

All images taken on Ilford Delta with Nikon F90.

Film 7 – Lindisfarne colour

OK obviously I took more than Infrared at Lindisfarne (there is one plain black and white which will have to wait since I’m out of canned air) and also some colour…this is the fading I mentioned earlier in a previous post. Looking at other Kodak 160NC (NC stands for Neutral Colour) photos I’ve taken it probably wasn’t the best choice for landscapes as it does tend to come out looking rather limp, and it was usually used for portraits anyway but it was all I had. Even then there’s something odd going on with the colour in these pictures? Not sure if that’s the film, the odd lighting or more likely the 8 years in my fridge…

CNV00123 Lindisfarne by Tim Baker

 CNV00137 Lindisfarne by Tim Baker

It’s more like these were taken in 1964 not 2004…very strange. It was a rather overcast white sky day, and obviously a lot of the paintwork has faded – but doesn’t explain the blue/green grass? And the odd looking blues…

CNV00133  Lindisfarne by Tim Baker

CNV00124 Lindisfarne by Tim Baker

CNV00126 Lindisfarne by Tim Baker

CNV00130 Lindisfarne by Tim Baker

Maybe a rescan will fix these – obviously unlike the other scans these were done at process time, and rather than tweak the fairly low-res JPGs it’s probably better to rescan the ones I like. Neutral Colour does create pastel shades, but in none of the other that I processed at the time and printed do have greens that faded. Or weird pink gravestones?:

CNV00151 by Tim Baker

CNV00151 by Tim Baker

CNV00152 Park bench by Tim Baker

CNV00143 Lindisfarne by Tim Baker

Kodachrome

John, May 2001 on Kodachrome

John, May 2001 on Kodachrome

As I’ve heard that Kodachrome was a nightmare to scan (and pre the hassles of the black and white) I thought I’d run some of my old K-chrome slides through it.

The result was wonderful, and you can see why people loved Kodachrome so – shame I didn’t shoot as much as I thought on it. These slides are from 2001, from London and Scotland.

Kodachrome, Paddington May 2001

Kodachrome, Paddington May 2001

Kodachrome, Isle of Skye 2001

Kodachrome, Isle of Skye 2001

Kodachrome, Isle of Skye Sept 2001

Kodachrome, Isle of Skye Sept 2001

Kodachrome, John Sept 2001

Kodachrome, John Sept 2001

Film 6 – Lindisfarne infrared

Lindisfarne Infrared August 2004 by Tim Baker

One of the mystery films was Kodak HIE infrared – I was really surprised there was something left on the film after all those years, and even more surprised by the subject, I’d completely forgotten I’d taken film pictures on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne – which we visited when staying in Berwick for a weekend in August 2004.

Lindisfarne infrared - Crab by Tim Baker

Infrared is a strange beast – not only easy to fog with a lot of cameras using infrared to check where you are in the film, and handling meaning it has to be developed in complete darkness and loaded in such (although I never did the latter, probably why some of the early shots are fogged) – but also HIE was a very old style emulsion, something closer to early film than the modern films of today, grainy and lacking an anti-halation layer. I forgot the physics but to put it basically halation is caused by the bouncing around of light after it hits the silver particles – you might think light is all nice and orderered and direct, but not at all. It likes to bounce around like it’s on the bumper cars at the fair, including light that has missed hitting any silver returning backwards through the film. This causes the glow effect.

Lindisfarne infrared by Tim Baker

Lindisfarne infrared by Tim Baker

Also strange about the film is that greenery turns white, and sky turns black giving it an eerie feel, this was bright sunshine but it doesn’t look like it.

Lindisfarne infrared by Tim Baker

Lindisfarne infrared by Tim Baker

These shots have been a total headache to scan – not just the grain and the contrast issues (trying to get anything from the grass other tham white is fun) but also I fell foul of the Nikon Scan software issue with black and white negatives – it clips the highlights on some negatives. Slide and colour neg doesn’t have this problem, and annoyingly they fixed it on the next scanner, the Coolscan 9000 but not mine. I’d love to have the 9000 with it’s Digital ICE Pro working on negatives other than colour slide & colour process films, but it is more than double what I paid for this second hand! So I switched to using new software Vuescan eventually – I preferred the contrast from the Nikon Scan though (you can see one of the NS in the infrared of the ferns above), much sharper and easier to tweak, but you at least kept detail such as on the white crab, which on the Nikon Scan was almost totally blocked out white.

Lindisfarne infrared by Tim Baker

On Flickr is the full Lindisfarne set.

First medium format scan – Steve

Steve Medium Format portrait, 2009

And here is the medium format scan I was doing in the last post tarted up slightly in Lightroom. It’s a 6×6 Bronica shot of Steve from 2009. Fuji colour neg film (RDPW? I wish there was a list of the codes on negatives cos sadly Fuji never uses the proper names!), crossprocessed.

Compare this with the frankly not very good prints from 2009 printed at West End Cameras. No idea where the blue/green tint comes from, or more damningly the foggy under detailed prints (can you say ‘halation’?). I liked the colour cast at the time but it’s not on the negs even at the ‘natural’ unadjusted settings or on my old crappy Plustek flatbed (RIP) even! There is a greenish tinge, you can see that from the purpleness of the negs, but it’s a lot more magenta/red biased than that lurid yellow/green?

It does seem no place can print cross-process correctly, best I’ve got is contact prints and some hand printing I’ve done (yes I used to do colour printing, complete faff in total darkness and an expensive hobby) so I know this scan is the closest I’ve gotten to what seems to be on the negatives!

I didn’t use the ‘super CCD’ on this and there’s no banding, and no colour noise and plenty of detail even in the dark areas. I think that banding issue purely a contrasty positive/transparency problem.

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