Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Improving My DSLR Scanning

 A few blogs ago I spoke of scanning film on a budget using my trusty Ion Slides2PC 5mp 35mm scanner. In that blog I also mentioned I can scan film with my DSLR using my 50mm f/1.8 and an extension tube. Whilst I can use this method I was never really satisfied with it. if I wanted to change from 35mm to medium format or vice versa I had to change to a different extension tube and adjust my tripod. I recently made a purchase that has taken that hassle away from my DSLR scanning workflow. I bought a Macro Converter.

"What the heck is a Macro Converter?" I hear you ask. It is an optical device that converts a 50mm prime into a macro lens, thus allowing me to take better quality images of my negatives without the hassle of swapping between different extension tubes. I found a Panagor branded one on ebay and decided to give it a try.

Panagor was a brand used in the UK, Europe and Asia by Jaca Corporation, a Japanese distributor of photographic gear that operated along the same lines as Vivitar. They bought photographic gear already in production at various Japanese companies and got their brand printed on it. The Panagor Macro Converter was one such item.

I had been looking for a Nikon F mount macro lens for a while and they were always just out of my financial reach. I saw this macro converter and noticed it was an M42 mount. I have a couple of M42 to Nikon F adapters and
I also have a Pentacon 50mm f/1.8 M42 mount prime. I figured it was worth a try and hit the buy button.

When it arrived I knew I had bought an excellent item as it looked virtually unused. The macro converter was originally sold in the 70's and 80's during the hey day of film and I decided to fit it to my Nikon D700 full frame to take advantage of its 1:1 macro. It is also adjustable to 1:10 and with the focus of the 50mm lens I had a lot to play with. My Pixl-Latr and A5 led light pad held and illuminated my negs and I fitted my D700 to my Tripod with an arca swiss style L bracket.

It didn't take long to get the hang of using the macro converter, I just kept making small adjustments until I had the focus and frame size as good as my eyes allowed using the live view function on my Nikon D700. Patience is the key and once the first frame is right, the rest follow on pretty quickly. I edited my images using Affinity Photo.

Here's a few of my DSLR scans of various B&W films I have shot this year. The level of detail retained with a DSLR is far better than the cheap dedicated scanner and with practice I know I can produce images that I can enlarge to A4 and above with little to no problem. I have put the DSLR Scans in an album on Flickr that you can visit using the link below.

DSLR Scanning Test

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Pulling Ilford HP5 to 200 iso

I really enjoy shooting Ilford film, HP5 and FP4 are superb emulsions with a wide exposure latitude that produce great results and are very forgiving. HP5 has been pushed way beyond it's box speed but pulling it is something I have not seen a lot of online so, for lack of anything better to do, I figured why the heck not. I loaded a roll into my Olympus OM-1, set it at 200 iso and headed into town to see what I could find. I actually shot this film over the course of three days, two in town and the most recent an afternoon around the local farms.

I wasn't looking for any particular shots whilst out and about. I like to see what is in front of me and find a shot. I have always been less than impressed with my efforts when I do go looking for a particular shot, so I began reacting to my surroundings rather than hope my plans would come to fruition. It's good to see Wigan bustling with shoppers again, the last couple of years has been very stressfull for the retailers in town and not all of them have survived the lockdowns caused by the pandemic.

I finished the roll around the local farms, there's always a shot for me there and I found some half decent cloud scapes that go well with an orange filter, even when it's hazy. The trees are showing their autumn colours and I must get back there in the coming days with my FED 2 and a roll of ColorPlus. I left my Frugal Film Project colour film for autumn on purpose as it is probably the most colourful time of year. It's as though the trees have seen what the flowers have to offer through spring and summer and said "hold my beer!"

Here's a few of my images from this roll of HP5 shot at 200, I am quite pleased with how they turned out. As the days get shorter I will be going the other way and pushing a roll or two of HP5 before the year is out. I just have to decide how many stops I am brave enough to tackle. I have placed these images and more in an album on Flickr that you can access via the link below. I hope you enjoy them.

Ilford HP5 at 200 iso Flickr Album

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Frugal Film Project 2021 - September

September 2021 has been a busy month shooting colour film and learning the art of developing it. Also I seem to have become an Olympus shooter almost exclusively without consciously deciding to do so. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course, Olympus made damn good 35mm film camera's and they do the job exceedingly well. I think that making a repair to my OM-1 has made me appreciate it more, it was my dream camera when I was a kid, maybe it's the kid inside my mind having fun. Whilst enjoying using my OM-1 and OM-2, I also had my 35RC in my bag loaded with Kodak ColorPlus 200 for the Frugal Film Project.

One thing I have been glad to continue is shooting ColorPlus at 100 iso. It's a great happy snappers film at box speed for sunny summer holidays, but if you want to experiment, pull it to 100 and it comes alive. I think the colours become more saturated and it gains contrast making separation much easier to accomplish, which can only be a good thing. Thankfully we got a few sunny days during September and I was able to have a slow wander around town looking for compositions.

I tried to find compositions I haven't explored over the course of the project. It's easy to get caught up shooting the same things all the time and with each passing month that becomes increasingly difficult, particularly if you don't really know the area. Having lived in Wigan for 30 years I have a good idea of where things are, but there are a few little nooks left that surprise me. One shot in particular of a pretty non descript back street came alive with afternoon shadows.

As I spoke of in previous blogs, I definitely wanted to develop at least one roll of colour film
for the project. I made the most of my Film Photography Project Unicolor C41 kit and managed to shoot and develop 8 rolls over the course of September. I think I am confident enough in my skills at developing colour film now that I can produce decent negs worthy of the Project and developed this month's roll of Kodak ColorPlus with a roll of Kodak Gold. I think it has come out pretty decent.

For October I plan to change camera and maybe shoot a roll of Kodak ColorPlus at 400 iso in my FED 2 just to see how it turns out. The days are getting shorter so a little more light on my film has to be worth a try, if it works I will share them. Until then, here's a few of my photo's from September's roll of Kodak ColorPlus shot at 100 iso and developed and scanned at home. I have also placed them and more in the Frugal Film Project 2021 Colour album on my Flickr account, you can see them in full resolution by using the link below. I hope you enjoy them.

Frugal Film Project 2021 Colour

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Scanning Film On A Budget

 Last week I described my experience of learning to develop colour film and the ease at which I found the process to be. However, developing film at home is only half of the process. It's the wet part of the process and, for those of us without access to a dark room, the wet process ends with our film hanging up in the bathroom to dry. The dry end of processing our film begins when we scan our film into our computers.

There are several ways we can scan our film. You can ask your local friendly lab to scan it for you, use a flat bed scaner such as the Epson V800 with software and there's DSLR repro photography, commonly called "DSLR Scanning". All will produce high quality digital files. Or you can do it the way I did with a cheap Ion Slides2PC
35mm film and slides scanner I bought from a local electronics retailer in a half price sale a few years ago.

The Ion Slides2PC 35mm slide and roll film scanner is basically a phone camera in a box with a slot for a film mask that slips into the housing over a small led light box at the bottom. There's nothing fancy about it other than the electronics insde it that operates the camera and links to a basic user interface you download onto your computer. It's incredibly easy to use and has some basic adjustments to brightness and colour. I don't tend to make too many adjustments as the default image it produces is pretty good.

Once I am happy I press the button on the top and it takes a 5mp jpeg photo. The software can interpolate that to 10mp, but I don't do that. 5mp is enough for posting to social media and the interpolation process adds unwanted noise to the image. I then save the scans, 12 at a time, to the folder I created for the film. Easy peasy!

The next step is opening the jpegs in
Affinity Photo to begin the editing process. As I said, the default colour profile my scanner has is pretty good, but I do like to use the auto levels, contrast, colour and white balance in Affinity Photo to tweak my images. I have lab scanned files of Kodak ColorPlus and Gold to refer to and it seems to match up pretty well. Mostly the auto levels will fix exposure and the rest is fine.

Then I set to work removing the blemishes and scratches that home developed film inevitably has. No matter how clean we are there's always dust and/or water spots or a scratch from handling the film. Some folk prefer to leave the spots and scratches alone to have that authentic film look, but not me. I like to tidy my shots up to present them as best as I can. Once I am happy with the image I save it and also save the affinity file in case I want to edit the image a little differently in the future.

That's my workflow with the gear I have available to me. It's an inexpensive way into home scanning for folks who may not have a DSLR or a flat bed scanner. It's even cheaper if you use any of the free photo editors that are available. I bought the Ion Slides2PC scanner before I bought my Nikon D90 in 2017 and even then it was cheaper than a macro lens. One day I will move to DSLR scanning, but this method has served me well and if it aint broke, why fix it?

Nothing will ever beat a high quality lab scan on a Fuji Frontier or a Noritsu scanner. Those machines are built to high standards and produce superb high definition film scans. You can even go crazy and have a lab drum scan your film, medium and large format users will tell you how great a drum scan is. For the budding home developer who doesn't have a lot of disosable income the system I have outlined here is a good a place to start as you learn to develop and scan film.

I can do DSLR scans using my Nikon D90 or D700, my 50mm f/1.8 and an extension tube over a Pixl-Latr and an A5 light pad, but for speed I will always reach for my Ion Slides2PC scanner.
I can get a higher quality image with the DSLR method if I want to print it, but for a long time I didn't have that option open to me. Photography doesn't have to be expensive, sometimes cheap and cheerful is all you need.

Next week I will be talking about my Frugal Film Project roll of Kodak ColorPlus that I developed and scanned at home. Until then here's a few shots from a roll of Kodak Gold I shot recently. I had fun going through the process of shooting, developing and scanning it
and I have placed the images in an album on Flickr for you to see in full resolution. I hope you enjoy them.

Flickr Kodak Gold Olympus OM-2


Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Learning A New Skill - Colour Film Developing

 In last weeks blog I mentioned that I learned a new skill, it's a skill I have wanted to try for a while but never had the nerve. Until now. Back in January 2020 I took a leap of faith and began my B&W odyssey and since then I have been building my knowledge and confidence with B&W film and developing it at home. Emboldened with that confidence, at the start of 2021 I set myself a goal I thought I could achieve this year of learning to develop colour film.

That goal was tied into my involvement with the Frugal Film Project 2021, a year long challenge to shoot cheap film in a cheap camera. The first half of 2021 I shot Fomapan 200 and developed it myself. Now the challenge has moved to colour film and I wanted to at least try to develop a couple of rolls for the project. July and August's rolls of Kodak ColorPlus 200 were developed by the folk at my local Max Spielmann photo store. My September roll was developed by me in my kitchen at home with a Film Photography Project Unicolor C41 kit I bought from Analogue Wonderland.

With encouragement and advice from the folk on the Negative Positives Film Photography Podcast and the Frugal Film Project facebook groups I was assured that developing colour film is relatively straight forward, but you do have to take certain steps in order to get it right. The Developer and Bleach/Fix (Blix) chemicals have to be at a higher temperature than those I use for my black and white film. This meant I had to invest in a Sous Vide water heater.

A Sous Vide water heater keeps water at a set temperature to cook food that is vacuum sealed in a bag and immersed in hot water. (Sous Vide is french for "under vacuum".) After a search online I found one that was at a price I could afford. I also needed some jugs for the chemicals, some storage bottles and a tub to use as my water tank. I got all those items for not a lot of cash at a local household goods store. Developing equipment doesn't need to be expensive, just buy what you can afford. It worked for me.

The C41 kit was a little harder to find as the global you know who caused supply chains to struggle and C41 kits were thin on the ground. I waited until Analogue Wonderland, my favourite retailer for all things film related, got some in stock and bought a Film Photography Project C41 kit in powder form. All I needed to do was shoot some colour film. I did this in early September with a roll of Kodak ColorPlus for the Frugal Film Project and a roll of Kodak Gold for the hell of it. As soon as I had everything together I got started.

Mixing the chemicals was a straightforward task as it involved getting water to the right temperature and mixing each powdered chemical stage according to the excellent instruction leaflet supplied with the kit. Word to the wise, wear gloves, a mask and make sure your kitchen is well ventilated. Colour developing chemicals are pretty nasty and can do you harm if you're not careful. After mixing my chemicals I placed them in my water tank so my sous vide could bring them to the correct operating temperature.

I loaded both films into a Paterson 2 reel tank and the first step was to give the colour film a pre soak in hot water to bring the film up to temperature. I just ran the hot tap into it for a minute whilst the water temperature rose to roughly the right temperature. My thermometer was definitely earning it's pay with colour film.

I measured out the volume I needed for developer and followed the instruction leaflet. 3 1/2 minutes flies by when your having fun and it was time to switch to the Blix stage. This is the stinkiest stage and the reason you need plenty of ventilation.
Oh my, that stuff stinks! Another 6 1/2 minutes sailed by and in theory my film was developed and fixed. I poured the blix back into it's storage bottle before the wash stage.

After a 3 minute wash under the hot tap I took a peek at my film. I wasn't sure if it had worked or not so I was apprehensive to say the least. I needn't have worried, by following the instructions I had successfully developed 2 rolls of colour film! I saw images and quickly moved to the stabiliser stage before hanging my film up to dry. Whilst that was drying I cleaned up my colour developing gear, emptied my water tub and dried it off to use it as a storage tub for my gear. The next step was to scan my dry film with my Ion Slides2PC scanner, put my negs into sleeves and file them for future use.

I will talk about the scanning process another time, but until then here are a few images from my home developed Kodak Gold film. I really enjoyed the developing process, despite the stinky blix stage, and will be doing a lot more of it in future. I have links to Analogue Wonderland and the Film Photography Project below and of course a link to my Flickr album with a selection of shots at full resolution. I hope you enjoy them.

Analogue Wonderland

Film Photography Project

Flickr Home Developed Kodak Gold

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

A couple of Swans and a roll of FP4

 Its seems like an age since I last shot Ilford FP4, April of this year to be precise. With a trip to visit my daughter on the cards I loaded a roll of FP4 into my OM-2, packed a couple of lenses and my trusty Nikon D90 and toddled off to Yorkshire on the train. I haven't seen my daughter for almost 2 years (courtesy of you know who) and I hoped for nice weather so I could take a walk around the town where she lives and see what photographic opportunities presented themselves. Let's just say I was pleasantly surprised.

I spoke of Bolton Brickyard Ponds in a previous blog where I shared my digital images and spoke about being blessed with getting close to a family of swans. I also took a few images on FP4 and used an orange filter to try to tame the bright highlights at mid day. That decision proved to be the right one and I got some belters from the half a roll I shot at the ponds that day.

I didn't get a chance to take any more photo's on my trip so I took advantage of the next bout of sunny weather to shoot the remainder of the roll and another one for good measure back home in Wigan. A walk around the local farm roads and nature trails or a wander around Wigan and our glorious park has been my way of coping during the last 18 months. You can't beat fresh air and sunshine to blow away the lockdown blues.

I have learned an awful lot about film photography in that time too as I have beaten a 3 decade mental block and began developing my own black and white film. Whilst I may not be a true darkroom wizard, I process and print my images digitally, I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing how my skills and my confidence as a photographer have progressed. As I write this I have taken another leap of faith and learned a new skill to add to my photography and will tell you more about it in the coming weeks.

Here's a few images from my walks with FP4 in my OM-2, they really do show the progress I have made with black and white film. My ability to read the light, choose the right filter and compose a shot is orders of magnitude better than when I first started my B&W odyssey. I feel I have finally shaken off the happy snapper tag and learned to appreciate the finer things photography has in store for me. As is now customary I have placed them in an album on Flickr for you to see them in full resolution. I hope you enjoy them.

Ilford FP4 and OM-2

Improving My DSLR Scanning

  A few blogs ago I spoke of scanning film on a budget using my trusty Ion Slides2PC 5mp 35mm scanner. In that blog I also mentioned I can s...