I Remember Why I Dream In Black And White

Posts tagged “kodak

Quirang, 2001

2001 Isle of Skye On Top of the Quirang by Tim Baker

2001 Isle of Skye On Top of the Quirang by Tim Baker

While the world was going mad in September 2001, I was walking in the Isle of Skye taking pictures, mostly monochrome…seemed the safest place to be. This is shot of a rather disturbingly shot up PASSING sign on the top of the remote Quirang – well not so remote as it doesn’t have a road, but after 5pm there was no traffic, and I decided to walk across it in late afternoon which yes, meant walking at night by the time I got over the top….where there was only sheep (including spookily dead ones – that shot I used for KLF Dead Sheep show is from this walk) and remains of ancient huts for company.

I lost my Smith & Wesson cap up there, too – wearing it ironically, was doing a sort of Unabomber/Crazy Gunman Chic thing which really wouldn’t translate in the US and I wince thinking about that now (was trying to prove a point at work, freak them out, punk in a way…) a gust of wind took it off my head and I couldn’t find it even though I saw it go. Just vanished….the feeling of place on the top was, odd. Very strange vibes and felt very remote – I mean after 11 years I can still see and feel that place, where people used to live a long time ago.

This is scanned on my new 120 glass holder* for the Nikon Coolscan 8000 – one of the problems with the holders that are supplied is they don’t always keep the negative completely flat – not usually a problem but with curved or bent negatives that’s a real problem as those bits that curve drop out of focus.

I doubt any of you have noticed this, but it bugged the hell out of me that such an expensive scanner couldn’t do edge to edge sharpness – which it can now, even with 35mm. The glass holder just has special glass in it that sandwiches the negative flat…less scary than ‘wet mounting’ which is what it sounds, it’s applying a special alcohol based solution with a glass holder which keeps the negative flat in the same way that a piece of paper ‘sticks’ to the floor when wet. A lot of professionals use wet mounting, but the idea of putting liquids on my negatives and in my scanner, well, I don’t really like that.

* What’s the holder? Well negatives are held by a large plastic flat cartridge, which keeps the negatives from 35mm upto 120 size in place as the motor moves it around from negative to negative – probably different to scanners people have used, the idea the negative moves rather than the scanner head, rather than the other way round – but in professional scanners that’s usually what happens (drum scanners I think also rotate the negative in a drum around the ‘slit’ where the scanner is). It also means you can batch scan negatives, Upto 3/4 120 negatives, 12 35mm and 6 slides.

It’s a wonder of technology, anyway…

And thanks to Jeb 50poundnote for helping me ship it here, the taxes and shipping cost MORE than the holder, and of course you can’t get it here, or if you can it’s actually more than even direct $ = £ conversion which is crazy. Or Cray-Cray as the song goes.

Anyway planning to scan all my 2001 Skye pics, as I think the prints really didn’t do them justice, and also my early 2000s shots of East London in protest of the Olympics.

A few more scans…Kirk & Me 2003 Cross Process

2003 Kirk Cross Process by Tim Baker

2003 Kirk Cross Process by Tim Baker

(yes I know but Doctor Who copied me, this shot was made in 2003 and online WELL before the David Tennant shot :-P)

Here are some of my recent scans – in 2003 I reckon this was my first photo studio session with Flash, or one of them…I kind of snook in (with permission, although the teacher wasn’t too keen) to the studio after waiting WEEKS to ‘introduced’ like some odd genteel dating game. As soon as me and the studio were ‘introduced’ I ran off intp a torrid love affair and got married at Gretna Green, or something.

I think for my first session with Flash I did really well…although I think the first actual studio session was a black and white one I did with Kirk, or John…I suspect so, I remember inflicting the Tungsten Lamp of Death on them, very hot! Obviously you can’t use tungsten lamps with colour film because of colour casts (although I suspect I did some lamp work with this because of the cross process) and I can see the softbox in Kirk’s eyes!

Here it is then…cross processed Kodak EL-2 (Elite Chrome! OMG!) even with a few shots of yours truly:

Kirk and Tim, 2003

I seemed to be obsessed with eyes at this point…

The real challenge with cross process is colour…whether to leave the green ‘cast’ in – partly that gives cross-process it’s character but green skin tones aren’t really that nice to look at – and the fact that all the colours go crazy, so when you get an accurate skin tone, the others colours go completely haywire. Interesting however ‘normal’ you try to make a cross process shot, it always looks a little odd, especially in the shadows. I like that creeping oddness 😉 And the highlights blow, the contrast and grain ups, and colours tend to get luminescent if you turn up the saturation in a way that normal process doesn’t.

It’s for these reasons I spit on the ‘cross process’ presets on digital cameras…or Photoshop Infrared or Cross Process curves. They look OK, but nothing like the real thing (also see Hipstamatic etc.) – partly because both processes have elements of *randomness* – based around old expired and possibly faded slide film vs exhausted C41 chemistry, or halation and different frequencies of light zinging around the place and colliding with the grains or film, fogging and loose developing times (HIE at 1:1 D76 is between 7-11 minutes, take your pick!). It’s hard to get truly random from a computer – impossible in fact.

It’s new! It’s now! It’s flashcube!

I have one of these Instamatic cameras – in that box! No flashcubes, though. Maybe they were used by groovy people in square garb and music (just like the flashcubes I guess) ?

Oh did I mention the Flashcubes? Yes? Radical man, radical.

And what you were always missing wasn’t a jetpac and a hoverboard, not it was a gyrocopter and a super 8 camera:


Oh in a galaxy far far away a young Jedi takes pictures with a ‘Tele Instamatic’ 110 camera and amazingly unlike the real thing you can actually see what you take rather than odd-shaped blur you’d most likely get (gawd, 126 was remarkably sharp if scanned/printed properly but I doubt even my scanner could get much out of 110)…must be that ol’ Blade Runner technology.

No to see a proper old-skool advert and how I think modern Cillit Bang type advertisers could learn a thing or two, is Kodak’s infamous ‘Turn Around’ advert.

Not a dry eye in the house? So this style doesn’t work anymore, huh? Love the ‘…and thoughfulness’ at the end.

Oh that’s where that comes from!

Me at age 9 or 10, Boulougne Ferry
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.


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.

Film 2 and 3: Madrid again

CNV00160 libreria perez galdos in Madrid, Tim Baker

Had to google it, but this is Libreria Perez Galdos, a very old bookshop in Madrid:

CNV00160 libreria perez galdos in Madrid, Tim Baker

Keeping up the Libreria link, here’s my partner John in his bull tshirt – this didn’t identify totally Film 3, but the bag he’s holding probably full of maps is from Madrid, so can be pretty sure this is also Madrid.

CNV00081 John in Madrid, by Tim Baker

CNV00083 Madrid by Tim Baker

This again is Fuji Superia – 200 this time. Of all the C41 films this has held up the best, only slightly strange green/blue cast sometimes, not sure if that’s the film (Fuji films do have a green/blue bias) or some fading in the reds? Check out this Spanish flag picture…not sure yet if it’s the processor/scanner (again a Fuji process lab so should match well) but the fact the yellows look a little odd probably suggests some magenta fading?

CNV00113 Madrid by Tim Baker

But all in all, a good advert from Fuji, I doubt they’d expect their films to be left in a tupperware box for 8 years after exposure, but the Superia 200 has held up really well, strangely better than the 100, although that could be exposure on my end. Kodak’s Royal Supra 200 film did less well as we shall see, which given it’s bargain-basement cheery nature not that surprising, but the real shock was the professional Kodak 160NC didn’t really survive that well either.

These were all taken with a Nikon F80 with a 28-105mm 3.5-4.5D lens.

Welcome to my lab

Welcome to my lab!
Welcome to my lab!

Yes I know my shower looks terrible. And storing chemicals in drink bottles - don't do this kids!


So that left the black and white (silver) photographs…what to do with those? Like E6 the prices for processing B&W film are usually pricey, unlike E6 there wasn’t a place that would do it at basic cost – cheapest was Peak at £4.44 and that had to be sent off, and probably postage extra. So I decided to get out the ol’ Paterson tank that I’d kept, and all the other gear which is still in serviceable nick. I used to regularly develop film, especially during my C&G days – I had a leaky old secondhand tank before then, but got a nice 2 roll tank when I was doing my C&G and needed to cheaply develop a lot of film, and a changing bag. Weirdly the newer spiral sticks, the older one is fine…

Milk thermometer

Milk thermometer...developuccino anyone?

Problem was I accidentally smashed my thermometer years ago (no not in a fit of pique, just moving it) and so needed a new one…but it seems no-one actually sells mercury or spirit thermometers anymore. Yes you can get them online, but not actually in a shop…well you can pay £14-18 pounds for a gold-plated Paterson or ‘photographic’ one – why is it whenever the word ‘photography’ is added to anything the sellers eyes light up and wants to charge double for the same thing? Do they think all photogs are made of money? –  but seriously unless you are doing colour developing you don’t need that sort of accuracy. For black and white all you need is a cooking or propagation thermometer with the scale around 20 degree (that’s the hard bit).

So eventually I got a ‘Milk/Latte’ thermometer from Nisbets catering shop in Shaftesbury Avenue…works fine and makes a damn fine cup of coffee! No not tried it with coffee but it measures just fine. And was about 8 quid – there was an even cheaper one at 4 quid but there was only one so couldn’t check if they were usually consistent. Online there are loads of thermometers, just remember that the scale needs to go down to 20 degrees C or whatever temperature you usually develop – a lot of the cooking thermometers I found started at 50 – and I didn’t trust the fridge thermometers to withstand the chemicals! Also the latter thermometer has a long ‘stalk’ which is really convenient for mostly empty bottles or poking into the tank to check the temperature where the film is – I saw a cheaper stubby traditional thermometer at West End Cameras for a fiver but obviously you’d have to hold it all the time.

So after the palaver of finding a cheaper (if not really cheap) thermometer, I needed chemicals…not of that sort, although after spending far too much time in Robert Dyas and hardware shops a little recreation would have not gone amiss…no I needed developing chemicals, and fixer. I’m used to Ilford ID11 developer, and see there’s a newer one called Ilfosol S obviously designed for the lomography/small batch home developer. It’s expensive though, ID11 was reasonable but even at 1:1 wouldn’t cover 5 films and it’s really not recommended to reuse it especially dilute. There are all kinds of fancy developers out there, Rodinal etc but they tend to be specifically suited for certain films and as I had a motley mixture of makes I needed a general purpose developer.

So I went with Kodak D76 which is almost chemically the same as ID11 and about as old a formula and Agefix, Agfa’s fixer which is discontinued at Process Supplies where I also get my storage stuff from (more later about that) – I think the D76 which was more than enough at 3.8 litres cost around 4 pounds, and the fixer which again was far more than I’d ever need was 7 pounds. Slightly cheaper than Silverprint or West End Cameras, but not massively different.

So after all that…time to develop some film. After wrestling with the film and the bottle opener (hmm Kodak seem to weld their cannisters shut!) and finding out conveniently that my shower head screws off making a handy power washer, I start to develop my first films in years.

Photo archaeology

Like many people I stopped taking film pictures in the 00s – I found my digital compact far more convenient and when I bought my Nikon D70 in 2004 that sounded the death knell for 25 years of chemical photography.

Problem was, I had films with the odd few exposures on them, or finished but waiting to be processed. As it turned out they waited a LONG time – 8 years in fact…waiting in my fridge as relics from a lost time.

So I decided finally to do some photo archaeology and process them – which also meant some detective work as I had no idea of what photos were inside these little cannisters of metal…exciting, and something you miss from the instant digital age.

So what did we have in the little tupperware time capsule?

2 x E6 Slide films, both marked ‘fogged’ – one Ektachrome the other I forget.

8 x C41 (colour) process films, a combination of cheap (Kodak Gold! Woo! I won loads of this in Letter of the Week in Amateur Photographer…I used it for random stuff) to more expensive inc Kodak Portra (remember that?) which might have some portraits on it. Or not. Also a couple of rolls of C41 process chomogenic black and white film – I loved Kodak’s T400CN which survives in a different form.

9 x Black and White films…3 of these are self loading DIY cannisters – I still have the bulk loader (pictured) filled partly with Fuji Neopan, and these are Fuji Neopan 400. Also Ilford Pan-F, FP4 and Delta 100, Kodak Plus-X 125 (again, no more *sniff*)  and most interestingly 2 Infrared films – Konica 750nm and Kodak HIE – both of which aren’t made anymore. Remains to be seen if they’ve gotten fogged in the fridge (and in the case of the Konica at least twice I’ve accidentally opened the stupidly unmarked plastic cannister going ‘ooh what’s this?’ to then suddenly put it back in.

So what shall be done with these? More in a following post…