Sunday, August 15, 2010

settling in

I've spent the past couple weeks moving from one space to another, considerably larger, space. As a housewarming present to myself, I decided to purchase a small, dedicated film fridge. I had grown really tired of not being able to fit groceries in my fridge and vowed that if/when I moved to a bigger space, this would be among the first purchases I would make for the new place.

The other nice thing about the new space is that even though it lacks most of the storage/closet space the old place had (yes, the living space proper was quite tiny but it had three 4x5 storage closets and a larger attic space), it has a fairly good-sized pantry. Given that this place has much, much higher ceilings than my old attic apartment did, I can get more stuff in the pantry than I could in either of the other old 4x5 storage spaces. At this point, I've dedicated the whole of the middle shelf to photo stuff: chemicals, reels, clips, etc. Everything but film and cameras. I might adjust things a bit as time goes on--only 1/2 the space of the top shelf is taken up, but I wanted to make sure that I could reach the things I need. As it is, the middle shelf might prove a little trying in this respect. Unless things are located at the front of the shelf, I need a footstool to reach them.

I have to say, the desire to develop a roll of film--never mind being able to do so, to work out my new process in a new place--has become quite pronounced over the past few days. Prior to beginning to move stuff from one place to another I had loaded up my zero image 135 pinhole and shot half a roll of tmax 3200 film. My plan was to finish up the rest of the roll once the new place was set up and good to go. I ended up finishing up the roll last Thursday. Cognizant that this would be the first roll of film I'd be developing in the new place (this, was/is, for some reason, a big deal to me) I thought long and hard about which chemicals/process I'd use for this roll of film. Problem was, I guess with all the long and hard thinking I did, I forgot to think sensibly about things. I had ruled out using the pyro pmk I bought right before the move, reasoning that I didn't want to try something brand new and risk messing it up. I still hadn't had time to mix up a new batch of Diafine, so I decided to go with a Rodinal stand. This would allow me to continue moving stuff in, cleaning stuff up, organizing it, etc. while the film developed. So far, so good. Where the plan began to fall apart was in my thinking that it made sense to use the last of a small bottle of Rodinal. My first sign that maybe something wasn't right was when I rinsed the film after the development--the color was strange. The second sign had to do with realizing that the fixer had become quite pink when I poured it back in the container. I checked the film and it was blank, clear. It looked just like the films did back a couple months ago when I used (and for some reason continued to use) the expired Diafine. I was frustrated, in part, because the pinhole shots take much longer to set up and take. I had also tried a new exposure technique--one that I hoped would make up for not having sprung for the accessory shutter release on the 135. What bummed me out the most, however, was that this was the first roll of film I'd be developing in my new space. That it turned out so horribly seemed to me to be a really bad sign. I briefly thought about springing for the snazzy red Pentax K-x I've had my eye on lately and just shooting mainly/only digital, doing film now and again, as a special treat. This thought (i.e., shooting only/mainly digital), in turn, made me feel really sad (and somewhat hostile) so I rejected it fairly quickly.

I ended up deciding to run another roll of film through the zero 135, but it seems that I wasn't finished with my run of less-than-fortunate photo luck in this new place. At a certain point, the film refused to advance in the camera, leading me to believe that there were no more exposures left to make on the roll. I ended up with 16 exposures on the roll. Not sure what the deal was with the film advance but it once again brought to mind the similarities between my experiences with Diana cameras and my Zero Image cameras. I've had similar problems with the film advance mechanism on the Diana mini--my sense in both instances is that I'm surely not finished with the roll of film but I worry about breaking the film or the camera by forcing the advance. Another irksome similarity between the Zero 135 and the Diana+ is the tendency for both cameras to scratch the film plane. With the Diana+, the problem seems to have to do with the tension and position of the film during the initial wind-on. Not sure what the deal is with the Zero 135. In most instances where scratching is (or might be) involved (i.e., when I'm using a Holga without the mask inserts), I've put electric tape along the sides of the camera where the film passes from one spool/cartridge to the other. This is especially helpful if the plastic of the camera seems rough. Problem is, the inside of the Zero seems pretty smooth.

Despite the advancing/scratching problems, I was relieved to see that the 16 exposures I had made all came out. This time around, I decided to use the newer bottle of Rodinal for the stand and I had also mixed up some new fixer after the last batch went all pink. I had been tempted to try out the new batch of Diafine I had (finally) gotten around to mixing the day after the failed Rodinal stand but since I'd not been having the best photo luck in the new place, I decided not to tempt fate. While on the subject of teh new place and my less-than-great photo luck, get this: I open the new box of Diafine and see that each can is marked with a paper tag. Fine. Nothing new or surprising here. Each tag has a letter and series of numbers. The letter on each paper tag identifies whether the can is the powder for the A solution or the B solution. (It's crucial that none of the B solution mixes with, or gets into, the A solution.) Where things get confusing for me is that I happen to notice that the can with the paper tag marked B has two A's embossed in the metal of the can. The can with the paper tag marked A has (you guessed it) two B's on the can. Sigh. Noting that one can is much heavier than the other, I attempt an online search to determine whether the A or B can of Diafine is typically heavier. I find nothing. So I call freestyle and try to explain the problem. The woman I spoke to there was extremely helpful. She pulled some Diafine from the shelf there and said that the product she was looking at was, in fact, properly marked. That is to say, the can embossed with the A's had the A sticker and the B can had the B sticker. She also confirmed for me that the B can was the heavier of the two. In the end, I decided to trust the paper tags. I mixed the new batch but, still not convinced that my run of less-than-great photo luck has run its course, I have not yet tested it.

Here's to hoping that things that begin in such a wacky way actually end up working out really well. I'd really hate to have to move again.

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