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Wisconsin trip photos, film version

The photos below are in what is chronologically the second roll I’ve taken with the Pentax. They were all taken on the Wisconsin vacation I took last month.

The film is Arista Ultra 400. ISO 400 film is particularly suited to “street” photgraphy, and so all of these have a photojournalistic appearance that I’m loving more the more I see it.

If you look close, you can still see dust spots here and here. I’ll do a better cleaning job when I make prints, but for now it adds a nice authenticity to the images.

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Developing my technique

Today, for the first time in my life, I developed photographic film.

Some backstory first: for a long time I’ve wanted to make true optical photo prints. Those would be pretty much any photograph on photo paper made any time before the late 80s. Those prints have a resolution and vintage-ness that I find appealing, and that digital photography just can’t do.

All this means I have to take old-school film photos and enlarge them, and all with purely optical equipment. This used to be the only way to do it, but since circa 1990, so-called minilabs have dominated consumer film processing. These have a digital intermediate step (the film is scanned, and the print made from that), which is  un-vintage and therefore unacceptable. I have it on good authority that minilab scans are also at the bare minimum acceptable resolution, which is typically less than the film can do.

In any case, the minilab one-hour-photo era started putting traditional photo labs—and their full-optical processing pipeline—out of business. Traditional prints became a premium service that only pro labs did. Then, with the widespread uptake of full digital photography, even these labs lost their market and began to shut down. Finding this service is hard today outside a few major cities with art scenes, and it’s expensive.

Knowing all this, I decided to do it myself. I picked up a reasonably complete darkroom equipment set, and a Pentax K1000 manual SLR camera. Eventually, I’ll be able to make my own prints, but for now, I need to perfect (i.e., “develop”) my film processing technique. That’s what I did for the first time today.

Here’s the basics for those who don’t know. Photographic film is a piece of plastic with photosensitive chemicals on it. After being properly exposed in a camera, the film then has a latent image that not only can’t be seen with the naked eye, but would get overexposed and destroyed if you tried. To correct this, the film needs to be processed by dunking it in a sequence of chemical baths, all without exposing it to light until the very end. The end result is the visual image you took in the camera, possibly with inverted colors (a negative).

Step one was loading the film onto a film spool and from there into a developing can. I did this in a light-tight changing bag.

A light-tight developing can.
A light-tight developing can.
The lightproof chemical pour opened.
The lightproof chemical pour opened.

With the film safely in the can, I could then do the actual chemical development. This involves filling the can, doing some kind of timed agitation, dumping out, then repeating the process for the next chemical.

Processing chemicals: developer, stop bath, fixer, wetting agent.
Processing chemicals: developer, stop bath, fixer, wetting agent.
DSC_6662
The chemicals, mixed in 2-gallon buckets, bathing in 68 degree water.

Today, for the first time in my life, I developed photographic film.

Some backstory first: for a long time I’ve wanted to make true optical photo prints. Those would be pretty much any photograph on photo paper made any time before the late 80s. Those prints have a resolution and vintage-ness that I find appealing, and that digital photography just can’t do.

All this means I have to take old-school film photos and enlarge them, and all with purely optical equipment. This used to be the only way to do it, but since circa 1990, so-called minilabs have dominated consumer film processing. These have a digital intermediate step (the film is scanned, and the print made from that), which is  un-vintage and therefore unacceptable. I have it on good authority that minilab scans are also at the bare minimum acceptable resolution, which is typically less than the film can do.

In any case, the minilab one-hour-photo era started putting traditional photo labs—and their full-optical processing pipeline—out of business. Traditional prints became a premium service that only pro labs did. Then, with the widespread uptake of full digital photography, even these labs lost their market and began to shut down. Finding this service is hard today outside a few major cities with art scenes, and it’s expensive.

Knowing all this, I decided to do it myself. I picked up a reasonably complete darkroom equipment set a few months ago. Eventually, I’ll be able to make my own prints, but for now, I need to perfect (i.e., “develop”) my film processing technique. That’s what I did for the first time today.

Here’s the basics for those who don’t know. Photographic film is a piece of plastic with photosensitive chemicals on it. After being properly exposed in a camera, the film then has a latent image that not only can’t be seen with the naked eye, but would get overexposed and destroyed if you tried. To correct this, the film needs to be processed by dunking it in a sequence of chemical baths, all without exposing it to light until the very end. The end result is the visual image you took in the camera, possibly with inverted colors (a negative).

Step one was loading the film onto a film spool and from there into a developing can. I did this in a light-tight changing bag.

A light-tight developing can.
A light-tight developing can.
The lightproof chemical pour opened.
The lightproof chemical pour opened.

With the film safely in the can, I could then do the actual chemical development. This involves filling the can, doing some kind of timed agitation, dumping out, then repeating the process for the next chemical. Between the third and fourth chemicals was a 10-minute washing step.

Processing chemicals: developer, stop bath, fixer, wetting agent.
Processing chemicals: developer, stop bath, fixer, wetting agent.
DSC_6662
The chemicals, mixed in 2-gallon buckets, bathing in 68 degree water.
The film washer in action. Note the yellow crap in the hose.
The film washer in action. Note the yellow crap in the hose.

After all that, I got to see the results! My camera worked!

Images!
Images!

It turned out that the film was covered in yellow debris that broke off from the inside of the film washer hose. Fortunately, it was just surface dirt.

Quick and dirty film cleaner.
Quick and dirty film cleaner.

I didn’t have bona fide film cleaner, but some quick research told me that denatured alcohol would work just fine for now.

Post-cleaning, hanging up in my kitchen.
Post-cleaning, hanging up in my kitchen.

The kitchen light turned out to be better for cleaning. The alcohol worked fine.

I had fully expected to screw up my first neg roll, so you can imagine how surprised I was to see the final result. The images are gorgeous, at least for me.

Another recent acquisition was an Epson Perfection V600 flatbed scanner, that has a transparency unit. See my next post for some of the images.

 

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Amateur Radio Field Day 2014

Every year, the Amateur Radio Relay League coordinates Field Day across the United States. Hams meet at some location that is not their residence, and over a 24-hour period, attempt to contact as many other stations as possible. The objective is to simulate emergency communications from a deployment location, so radios are powered off the grid with generators, solar panels, and batteries.

The Arctic Amateur Radio club held their Field Day at the Chena Lake Recreation Area east of Fairbanks. I spent about 12 of the 24 hours out there. Highlights included working the lower 48 on AL7ID’s high-frequency radio, helping KL1R with satellite contacts, cooking food on the grill, and introducing members of the public to ham radio and giving them information on the club.