Sunday, August 29, 2010

well, that's more like it!

Meet the new Kowa. In light (no pun intended) of the problems I had been having with the first Kowa I bought--the Kowa/Six--I decided to return that one for a refund and purchased the Kowa Super 66 instead. It wasn't that I necessarily preferred the Super 66 over the Six or SixMM, it was more a matter of price, availability, and whether or not the seller had a return option.

As soon as the new Kowa arrived, I did a black and white test roll and I tried, best as I could, to switch up the lighting conditions. The test roll looked pretty good. I'm thinking this is a keeper. I still need to do a color test roll with the 85mm lens--the sampling below was taken with a 55 mm wide angle lens.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

when it was good, it happened to be very good. . .

. . .problem is, my recently acquired Kowa/Six was not always (or at least not consistently enough) good. Later today I will be sending it back to the seller.

To be sure, I'm bumming about having to return the camera, but after running two test rolls through it, what I was seeing is that the camera worked fine, quite wonderfully, in fact, so long as I was using it indoors or outdoors in low-light or shady areas. Problem was taking it outdoors. More specifically so, taking it outdoors and using it when the sun was out.

In those instances, this tended to happen. Blah. What a hot, hot mess.

But I suppose I should backtrack a bit. I bought the Kowa/Six after learning about it and its potentials from a flickr contact. I was drawn to this particular camera because it had a Model II exposure finder. (This meant that I didn't receive the regular hood with the item, but that's fine--I'd rather have the meter.) My first problem with the camera had to do with the fact that while the meter was, indeed, sensitive to light, its readings were wildly off. Holy cow. For instance, if a correct-ish reading was f2.8 @ 1/60, this was coming up f22 at 500. Just nuts. I even tried swapping out the battery it came with and trying a new one. The readings were still wildly off. I was bummed about having to find other ways of metering the shots, but I was--at least at that point--determined to make it work with the camera. I shot my first test roll and, as I said to start, the indoor shots and/or shots taken in indirect/low light--a sampling of which appear below--were okay, pretty good, in fact. What I noticed, however, with the first roll was a kind of banded light-leak formation that appeared toward the center and top of each image taken outside, in direct sunlight. I did a little research on Kowa light leaks (and, while I was at it, on exposure finders) and learned that in cases where the seals on backs aren't well maintained there can be light leaks. As far as the meter situation went, I read of at least one other person whose readings were as wildly off as mine were. Yet by that time, I had pretty much decided to write off (or work around) the exposure finder's quirks.

But back to the light leaks. My sense was that my problem had less to do with light seeping in through the sides, top and bottom of the back than with perhaps a shutter issue (i.e., that was the only way I could account for the center banding marks--side/top/bottom light leaks would leave a different kind of mark on the negs), but I went ahead and taped up the top and sides of the camera anyway and took it out again. Could taping the camera have intensified the light leaks? Of course not, but that's how I felt. The banding problem was much worse this time around. To be fair, the day I headed out to test the taped-up camera was a pretty sunny day.

My sense was that this would make for a really great indoor or low-light camera. Problem was, I want a camera that I can use both indoors and out. Between the banding problem (something that's clearly beyond my knowledge, talent and patience to remedy) and the wacky-ass meter, well, it just wasn't, I didn't think, a camera worth hanging onto. So it will be heading back to the seller later today. To be clear: I am not at all suggesting that the seller mis-represented anything about the camera--everything seems to look and sound like it's working as it should be. The only way you would know that things are off would be to shoot a test roll or two of film.

In the meantime, I've found a listing for another Kowa (this one is a Super 66) and I think I'll give that a go, keeping my fingers crossed that this one will respond to the outdoors and to sunlight better than the last one did. Thank goodness for return policies, huh?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

a tale of two films

I guess I've been on something of an infrared kick. This all began because I was bound and determined to shoot a roll of IR in the Holga before the semester began. That said, there's something highly (and I mean highly) addictive about infrared--about what it reveals, what it allows one to see. I didn't want to use up another roll of 120, so I loaded the Canon AE1 Program with a roll of Ilford SFX 200, setting my camera's iso at 25. I was eager to see what difference, if any, it would make to shoot infrared indoors. This worked out fairly well as the first day of shooting was an overcast, rainy-ish day--not the best day for shooting outdoors. I was also eager to see what impact (if any) infrared film would have on skin.

I was really pretty pleased with the flower shots and the soft, almost retro look I was able to achieve here.

I think I shot about half of the roll indoors. The next day was a much better weather day, so I took things outdoors. My primary goal with the outdoor shots was to compare the Ilford SFX 200 (which, according to one poster on flickr is not a "true IR film, but a film with extended red sensitivity [meaning that] the IR effect will be less than 'real' infrared films") with Rollei 400 IR. What appears left and below is a sampling of the outdoor shots I took with the SFX 200.

Here, by way of a visual comparison then, is a sampling of the images shot on Rollei 400 IR film, beginning with the image left, titled "Ruin," which is one of my favorite images from this shoot. It may be important to note that the day got increasingly nice (i.e., clear and sunny) as it went on. In this way, there were far more opportunities to shoot in direct sunlight later in the day (after I had loaded the camera with the Rollei film) than when I first headed out with the SFX still in the camera. This being the case, I can't offer as accurate a comparison as I'd like to have offered. Perhaps the fact that I was shooting indoors combined with the fact that many of the outdoor shots I took with the SFX were not taken in direct sunlight makes SFX seem, indeed, less infrared-y than the Rollei 400 film. I'd also note that I kept the camera set at an iso of 25 while working with the Rollei 400 film. Both rolls were developed with Diafine. For both rolls, I used my Visico 720 IR filter.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

infra-ready (already!)

Finally. After spending the whole summer prepping for this event (perhaps I exaggerate? could it have only been 1/2 of the summer?), I finally got to take some Holga infrared shots! My plans were delayed by my inability to find and successfully purchase a Holga camera that was compatible with the cable/shutter release I had. [Long story short, I ended up buying a new Holga and a new cable release attachment.]

So yesterday, I reviewed my print out of this handy Holga/IR guide once again, loaded up the Holga with a roll of Efke IR 820 (non-aura version), my Visico IR 720 filter and headed to the park. As an aside: I am deeply bummed to learn that B & H has discontinued this film. They still carry the aura at 10 bucks a roll, but I liked the regular 820--it could be had when it could be had for about 6-7 bucks a roll if I recall. I had been tempted to develop these images with PMK Pyro but decided that I'd rather not confuse things. In other words, as this would be my first time using this film, using the Holga for infrared shots, etc. I wanted a kind of base-line for things. (Of course this was all before I realized that the film had been discontinued.) Instead, I used Diafine, using these guidelines for developing infrared--see entry to posting from eye of wally. The last (or first or only other) time I shot infrared, I did a Rodinal stand.

I was pretty pleased with the results--a sampling of which appears below. [I was super-duper pleased that the trip resulted in my finding a portion of the park I'd not visited before--yeah!]

As anyone will tell you, determining exposure times for infrared can be tough, so for most of these I went about 4 seconds, 2 seconds if the sun happened to be directly shining on the scene. (In so doing, I counted "1-2-3-4" and not "1-one thousand, 2-one thousand," etc. so my exposures might not have been true 4 second ones.) Generally speaking, the sky was bright with direct sun appearing only occasionally. Again, overall, I was pretty pleased with the results. I was very, very pleased, on the other hand, that I was finally able to get out and take IR images with the Holga before the summer ended. The only kinda quirky-annoying thing that happened--and it happened with most of the images on the roll--was that a light band appeared at the top left of each image. This band of lightness can be seen in the first image below. In some cases, the band didn't bother me, in other cases (as with the second image below), I felt the image was much improved when the section of the image was cropped out. Not sure what caused this, but it doesn't strike me as a typical Holga light leak--the banding seems to consistent and uniform for that. I had the camera taped pretty well but forgot to remove the 6x6 mask inside. I mention the mask, not because I think it played a role in this, but because I prefer to use the Holga without the mask--I like the rougher edges.

I've currently got the Canon AE1 Program loaded with Ilford SFX 200 film (I'm metering it at 25--might be too high?) and after seeing these results on flickr, I'm thinking that maybe I'll try a PMK Pyro dev on the Ilford. I'm eager to see what the fall light has in store for my new, infrared-dedicated Holga. I'm also eager to try the efke aura film. I just can't decide whether I want to try that first in a 35mm camera or buy some 120 to test in the Holga.


I finally purchased and tried some PMK Pyro. Not sure where or when I first read about pyro developers, but I had promised myself (along with buying and mixing up a new batch of Diafine) that once I moved, I would purchase some pyro as well. Not sure why I decided on the PMK--it was between that or the WD2D+. Based on what I had read about the nastiness of this stuff (toxic-city), I had hoped to get the liquid version and avoid inhaling more of the stuff than I had to. And, of course, rubber gloves were a must. I've not done a whole lot of research on pyro--just enough to know: 1. that the stuff is pretty toxic; 2. that the solution stains the negatives--kinda like a caffenol dev, and 3. that there is debate over whether or not the pyro look is all that different from the look/s that can be had using other b/w developers.

I ordered the liquid pmk pyro from freestyle photo. For 32.49 I got enough of the A and B solutions for 50 liters. Importantly, with this one shot developer, you mix it when you need it and only as much as you need. Though the directions say that you should mix at least 500 ml of solution. Like Rodinal (or more specifically, like doing stand developing with Rodinal), you don't use much of the solutions at a time. It's 1 part A, 2 parts B for every 100 parts water. Unless, as I understand it, you are developing infrared film--in that case, it's 2:4:100. Still, it's easy to see that the solutions will last a good long time.

To be fair, it's a fairly time consuming and high-maintenance process. Especially when compared with Rodinal stands (low maintenance to the max) or color developing with Tetenal C41 (a fairly speedy dev process). Never mind that you're wearing (or should be wearing) gloves and a face mask and glasses or googles during the dev process. I couldn't find an exact dev time for the expired efke kb 400 film I was developing, so I went with 15 minutes, averaging out the times given for Ilford HP5+ and Agfa APX 400. The tricky part is that you have to do vigorous inversion agitation every 15 seconds (yikes) for the whole development time. Took some getting used to. . .though that said, I never invert. Too messy/leaky. My tank came with an agitator wand, so I use that instead. After the film has had its water stop bath and fixer, you put it back into the spent developer for another 2 minutes, agitating every 30 seconds. After that it's a 20-30 minute wash. It is, as I understand it, during the wash that the stain increases. So in addition to being a toxic process (at least to start. . .as I understand it, the chemicals weaken throughout the process, hence the reason why you mix only as much as you need when when you need it), it's not a process that is given to conserving water.

The jury (well, my jury, anyway) is still out on the results I've gotten from pmk pyro. I love the look of these images, the richness of the blacks, the grays, etc. but I'm not sure that I notice a huge, huge, difference here. Or maybe I just like the images themselves, the subject matter, etc. By the by, all the images featured here were taken with the Canon AE1 Program. Of late, it's really been my go-to camera--especially for all the "interiors" shots I've been doing lately.

I would really like to try infrared with pmk pyro. From what little I've read and seen, it's said to decrease a bit of the infrared effect but deepens shadows. Or something like that. In the end, I'm glad that I tried this, and will likely try it again. It definitely won't be my go-to process in that way Diafine or Rodinal stands are, but I think I like the results. Maybe even a lot.