Thursday, September 20, 2012

Found 1930's Glass Plates

Whilst out and about I came across some glass plates, all the same size and age (between 1932-34) they pre date ASA ratings so show the H&D (Hurter and Driffield) speed 1500 being roughly about 16 ASA.

Click on the image for a larger view
. What initially intrigued me was the boxes had the formulas for developers. The Ilford Double X Press plates have the formulas for several types of developer ID-1 ID-2 and ID4.

Click to enlarge

Similarly the Illingworth plates have formula's. Thomas Illingworth & Co were a British plate manufacturer, Thomas was from Halifax and had a photography business at 41 Crown Street in that town.
Later he moved to London and there he started his plate making business which he ran until his retirement in 1922. His eldest son Thomas Midgely Illingworth took over the business when his father resigned as Managing Director. (He died the following year.) Thomas Midgely Illingworth pursued a policy of co-operation with the larger firm of Ilford and became a Director of Ilford when the two companies amalgamated.
By the early 1930's they had been absorbed by the Ilford company, which is about the same time these plates were made.

Villages in Suffolk

The negatives are all of towns and villages in Suffolk, UK and mostly churches and large buildings  very few of the subjects have changed much in the 80 years and disappointingly there are not many images that have people or cars.

The condition of the plates is quite good

They have a feel of the era
Initially I thought I might take a trip to re-shoot some in this century, but as so little has changed I'm not sure it will be worth it. I will scan a few of the best ones ad add them later. I'm glad I bought them if not just for the developer formulas.

© Photo Utopia 2012

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Photokina 2012 news (analogue edition)

New Film Cameras and Film

Adox Silvermax

From the Adox website:
SILVERMAX contains about double the silver compared to regular films which enables it to build up higher DMAX and reproduce up to 14 zones in our dedicated SILVERMAX Developer.
This way SILVERMAX catches it all for you from the brightest highlights to the deepest shadows.
SILVERMAX is incredibly sharp due to the anti-halation layer between the emulsion and the base which also helps enhance detail contrast.
SILVERMAX features an extremely fine grain, comparable to tabular-crystal films.
The speed and covering effect comes from the high silver content.
SILVERMAX is coated onto clear triacetate and can be reversal processed. 

Made in Germany.

(Note: this film is made in a separate factory to the Adox branded EFKE films so is unaffected by the recent closure of Fotokemika)

The film will only be available in 35mm 135/36 format

New Rolleiflex TLR

The new Rolleiflex FX-N has a re-designed Heidosmat 2,8/80mm viewing lens coupled with a Rollei S-Apogon 2,8/80mm taking lens. 
Most of the specifications are the same as the old FX model; the N designating the new viewing lens which enables the camera to focus to a closer focus distance of 55cm.
Most of you who read this blog will know how much I like my Rolleiflex cameras, and it's really good news to hear the about the introduction of new cameras after the problems the company had a while back. 
They also introduced a new version of their Hy6 model

Although the image shows the digital back the camera can accept a roll film back giving studio photographers the option of shooting film as well as digital.

New 110 Films from Lomography

Lomography Tiger Colour & Orca Black and White 110 Films

All you 110 camera fans can now rejoice with the introduction of these new films from our favourite low-fi vendor, further info can be found on the Lomo website
Lomography also introduced several new cameras a 110 fisheye plus a LC-Wide compact camera with with a 17mm lens–Link here. Also interestingly a Lomokino movie camera:

 The camera will take a 144 frame move on any 35mm film link here

Impossible Project PX 70 film

The new PX 70 and PX 680 Colour Protection film Impossible takes a huge step in terms of ease of handling and image quality. An innovative colour protection formula improves the opacification process, finally allowing for easy shooting without the need for immediate shielding of the photos.

© Photo Utopia 2012

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Goodbye Fotokemika

A 1980's Roll and the current EFKE/Adox

With all the attention focussed on Kodak's recent decision to sell their film business, the news Fotokemika (EFKE and Adox film brands) have decided to cease production may have slipped under the radar for some people.

Fotokmika have been making a range of films and papers since the 1960's when they bought the machinery (but not the trade name) from Adox.
My previous post outlines the company history for those inclined here.
The coating machine was made in the 1950's and pretty much the film produced on it is unchanged from that period and made to the original Dr. Shleussner formula.

A box of 1957 R17
Recently Fotokemika made the distributor aware that they had problems with their coating machine which needed to be repaired, after consideration I think they decided although they could fix the machine, that their business margins were so thin they feel they have to cease all production.

Possibly the factory site is worth more money than they can hope to earn from film so they have decided to cash in their assets.

For most photographers that used these films that is a great shame, they were unique and has a very different look from modern films.

I have been using them various guises since the early 1980's anyone in the UK will surely remember Jessop pan in the plain white boxes for just a pound.

I particularly loved the 50 ISO version of this emulsion, which had smooth tones and  easier to tame and more forgiving than the 25 version.
I will miss the films very much, at the same time I'm grateful for being able to use them for the last 30 years.

©Photo Utopia 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

Keep it–with Kodak

This morning over breakfast I learned that Kodak's current management team are divesting themselves of their chief asset and for most people their most recognisable product–their film division.

The current state
Kodak over the last 10 years have consolidated the production plant, it is now the most efficient film coating facility in the world–it can't downsize any more because only building 38 is left as far as I know they have two coating lines–the film division is profitable.
Edit: Kodak are still making film, they haven't 'killed it off' like some people in digital camera forums have suggested, production continues while they look for a buyer.

So what next? 
This situation is a make or break one for Kodak Film, the positive being the fracture between top board members who have been hammering the giant into the ground pursuing the consumer ink-jet market and those on the ground who passionately believe in their great product. Once these two have parted company those who run the film division and actually believe in film should be able to reach consumers, meet their needs and hopefully develop the niche.
The negative being that the economy is bad, costs of raw materials like silver are rising pushing up the cost of the end product in a time where people have less disposable income.

Who could buy the division?
It is hard to see another film based company buying the plant with rising costs and sale.
In the current climate no one is going to want to expand, so that leaves us with a venture capitalist possibly backed by money from business or some party with a large interest.
But remember how GM nearly collapsed, yet people are buying cars sad fact is people aren't buying so much film–the one player with the best quality product is profitable but not well managed.
The next six months will tell us how it will 'pan' out. (intended pun in quotes) 

© Photo Utopia 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Artist Zacron

The following text and images are a tribute to the artist Zacron whose best known work is the Album cover for Led Zeppelin III.
© Zacron
I recently discovered that my friend the artist died in January of this year, his death wasn't announced until this August which is why I'm only now posting this tribute to him.
I first met him at an artists exhibition about ten years ago, a larger than life character in a white suit and hat. We chatted briefly about art and photography both of which he was notably passionate, about the changes that were happening in the world of photography, digital cameras, photoshop and how this had caused a change in my work.
Later that year we met again at a party where I offered to help him set up a digital workstation in his studio, I still remember his flamboyant 'that would be marvellous' answer to my offer of help in teaching him Adobe Photoshop.
   I spent many hours with him at his studio discussing art and photography as well as helping him learn Photoshop, something he took to like a duck to water. 
He was a very talented guy who worked with all types of media, never shy of learning new methods or mixing them with old ones. He had a keen interest in all sorts of subjects from the artistic education of students through to music and film (he had a fantastic cinema in his house).
He was a kind and thoughtful man, great artist and friend, I will miss him very much–god bless you Richard.

The devil is in the detail
© Photo Utopia 2008
In the workshop
© Photo Utopia 2008

With the famous 'rotator' in the background
© Photo Utopia 2008
Rock & Roll Soul
© Photo Utopia 2008

I took these images back in October 2008 with my Rolleiflex loaded with Neopan 400. 

© Photo's and text Photo Utopia

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

In Praise of Rodinal part II

In my previous Rodinal worshipping post I discussed some of the history and properties of the ancient liquid formula.
In this post I hope to describe some of the harder to define reasons why Rodinal is my developer of choice.

The characteristics of Rodinal
Rodinal is not the finest grained developer in the world, if minimising grain at all costs is your goal then there are better options available. That is not to say it is 'grainy' with care it can give fine grained results similar to developers such as D76/ID11.
 I have heard many photographers over years that have been disparaging of Rodinal based upon it being a 'grainy' developer, I'n not sure this is the case my tests show a more 'tell it like it is' rather than having too many solvents or other grain blunting properties.

My Personal Rodinal Journey
In truth my first impressions weren't that great, not bad but certainly not good enough to displace the Ilfotec HC and Paterson Acutol products that had become my standard.
So what changed my mind?

In the late 1980's UK Photographic firm Jessops started supplying their 'own brand' B&W films which were made by Fotokemika (EFKE) these films were cheap (one pound for a 120 roll).
I really struggled to find a good developer combination, Acutol was about the best but I seemed to get inconsistent results the contrast seemed too high, lowering ASA ratings and times didn't work as I'd hoped.
One day I ran out of Acutol and had to do a shoot of a band on a Sunday afternoon, the only 35mm mono film I had was Jessops KB21, looking in my darkroom cabinet I saw a little 125ml bottle of Rodinal and in a that'll have to do attitude I decided to use the stuff.

I wasn't prepared for the results I obtained, smooth tones, sharp edge definition-surely this couldn't be the cheap 'quid' film I'd been struggling with?
Here are the shots....

With all the other developers I'd got good sharp negatives but I'd never seen mid tones quite as attractive, the combination worked and I'd stumbled upon it.

Rodinal works very well indeed with the traditional cubic type flms like Adox/EFKE especially those in the 25-200 ISO speed group, characterised with high accutance and smooth tones.

Dilutions and their effects on image results

Delta 3200 'pushed' to EI6400 

One of the greatest properties is how well it works at different dilutions, 1:25 which I only use for faster films like Ilford Delta 3200 I feel that this dilution although OK doesn't fulfil the potential and can give slightly grainy results, in fact it might make some users ask 'whats the fuss about this developer".

I feel the best dilution is 1:50. At this dilution Rodinal excels at bringing out a beautiful mid range brilliance, tonally I find it hard to beat as if it somehow provides more separation.
The most amazing property is that at higher dilutions the highlights are without equal, the  way it seems to preserve highlight information as well as the shadow detail is uncanny.
With higher dilutions a compensating effect makes the diffuse highlight (last decernable detail on paper) and the specular highlights which are close to paper white never clash, giving a glow that often makes images look three dimensional.
All this is hard for me to put into words, I see it in the print the following images are an attempt to show this in the digital domain (although monitors may not give you the range, you might just get a rough idea)

Click on the images to get a higher resolution version

Both images on Ilford HP5 400

The images above don't really do the prints justice, but serve to show my points, the white wall and the girls hair are in full sun yet the hair (in the print at least) retains detail.
Likewise the beach scene which although not as bright still retains good highlight separation.

The final dilution I use is 1:100 which brings into play 'edge effects' especially when combined with less agitation, you get them to some degree at the 1:50 but 1:100 with agitation of one inversion per minute really makes them noticeable.

Agitation and the effect on the image
Rodinal has one other incredible property–low agitation causes few or no processing marks. I know of no other developer that lends itself to this technique better, most other developers will suffer from bromide drag (marks from the sprockets or film edges) Rodinal seems much less susceptible in this respect.
In fact I'd go further, it seems to have better highlights-shadow and certainly less grain at higher dilutions with less agitation. I have found a slow roll (rather than complete inversion) for 1 minute followed by a slow rolling 'inversion' every following minute is the sweet spot for me.

Pushing with Rodinal
Yes it can be done, although some feel it isn't suited to this task and may prefer speed increasing developers such as Microphen– Rodinal can actually be quite a surprise.

The secret is to expose for emerging shadow detail then stop down two stops (I'd do this with any negative film developer combo). Once you've exposed correctly a high dilution and low agitation will give good results here is Fuji Acros 100 exposed at EI800 and developed for twenty two minutes at 1:100 with my standard agitation.

The above was shot at 1/8 second with little or no light apart from the standard lamp n.b how the highlights have been retained. Yet you can still see the name of the beer on the glass and some shadow detail.
The most probable effect is one of highlight compensation from the high dilution coupled with low agitation allowing the highlights to exhaust the developer while the shadows 'catch up'

Rodinal is no panacea I don't wish to give that impression, some will decry its portrayal of grain in fast films (which I like) Just try HP5 or Tri-x in a diluted solution it will give superb tonality and a hint of graininess. 
Neopan 400 low light Rodinal 1:50

The developer has many strong points, long life, high dilution, compensating effect, edge effects etc.
Rodinal is a very capable developer, really works well with slow to medium speed films and gives a brilliance of tone in the upper highlight transition.

© Photo Utopia 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Photographers that inspire: August Sander

August Sander was a German portrait photographer in the early 20th century. His photos have always attracted me because of the stark and direct nature of his subjects beautiful and yet slightly uneasy viewing.
He seems to have a directness of connection with the subject which although gives intimacy at the same time, the sitter almost always has a steely reserved distance.
His photographs are a 'slice' of German society before the war, including country peasants, musicians, writers and aristocrats. Here are some of my personal favourites:

Police Officer

Country Girls

Circus Performer


Turkish mousetrap salesman
He published a book in 1929 called 'Face of  Our Time' (links to Amazon) which forms the basis of his an exhibition of his work 'People of the 20th Century' The book was not well recived by the Nazi's who destroyed some of the plates and negatives. Sanders images were probably too 'transparent' in the kind of society they showed, not exactly the modern image of Germany the Nazi's wanted.
August Sander's style has influenced many of his later 20th Century contempoaries such as Lissette Model and Diane Arbus the latter especially.
The Book Face of our time is a must for any portrait photographers bookshelf.

©Photo Utopia 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fuji Pro 400H

I've been using versions ( originally called Fuji NPH) of this film since the late 1980's when we used it for weddings and portraits and over the years the different versions have remained constant in their character, the latest version is Pro 400H.
The films main strengths has always been the fine grain and neutral colour rendition, albeit with slightly higher contrast than some rival companies emulsions.
One of the films particularly fine characteristic is it's rendition of light skin tones, where some might emphasise the red component 400H gives a 'creamy' skin tone almost similar to the old Ektachrome 64 Pro but without the coolness in blue/green areas. The Pro H is certainly less contrasty and smoother in tone than say Fuji Superia 400 or Kodak Gold similar to the old Agfa XPS 160.

sand, skin tone and sea all look very natural

Along with it's slightly constrained colour pallete the film has very fine grain for a 400 ISO emulsion, probably not quite as fine as Kodak's new Portra 400 but so close as to be considered equivalent in many uses. Double click on any of the images to open a larger sized photo.

Just a rough idea of the films grain structure

One of the benefits of being colour neutral and being able to record wide tonal ranges is that under certain lighting (early and end of day) you can get a almost three dimensional effect without excessive shadows or contrast although lighting and lens coatings will also play their part, in the above photo 400H clearly does help too.
In summation Fuji 400H is a fine emulsion, available in both 35mm and medium format, certainly one of my favourite colour films.

©Photo Utopia 2012