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Photos from the opening of the David Burnett exhibition The Presidents: from JFK to Obama at the ACP, May 31. Holga with Tri-X, flash, Rodinal 1+50.

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Glass Neg Portrait

March 23, 2013

alex glass neg apug-3378

A recent portrait from a series I’ve been working on since mid 2009. This is a DSLR photo of a B&W contact print made from a 6.5x9cm glass negative. This is not wet plate, these are dry plates that were made by Agfa to be used in electron microscopes. The plates expired in 1985 which might explain the odd surface effects. I bought ten boxes from a guy in Hungary in 2008 so I don’t know how they were stored before then. The camera used was a 1920s era Voigtlander Avus that came with correct size plate holders. I treat the plates as being ISO 1.5 and this exposure was two seconds wide open (about f/4.5). I process in a Nebro cut plate tank with Rodinal 1+50 for twenty minutes. I add about 15ml of 1% benzotriazole to reduce fog – this makes a big difference.

Cyanotype testing

March 22, 2013

cyanotype stonehenge blog-3334

I’ve been trying some new papers for Cyanotype printing. I prefer a smooth rather than a rough paper so I bought a sheet of Canson Stonehenge because I liked the feel of it. The above was made using the classic Cyanotype formula, coated with a hake brush, about 1ml on a 6×7 inch piece of paper. The exposure was 45 minutes of end of the day sun, with a sheet of 4×5 HP5 in a contact printing frame.

Home Process C-41

November 3, 2012

C-41 is the process used to develop colour negative film. Traditionally this has been done by both minilabs and pro labs. It’s a simple process and not difficult to achieve consistent good quality with a bit of care. I’ve avoided minilabs for my C-41 processing as they use roller transport machines which can scratch the film if not kept clean. I know of three good pro labs in Sydney and I’d be happy to give my film to any of them, however I have recently had a go at processing my own C-41. I’m very experienced with black and white processing – I probably develop ten or so rolls per week, so processing colour film only required a slightly modified approach.

There were a few reasons why I decided to try processing colour myself rather than using the lab – 1: Convenience – the labs I use all require driving to areas where I don’t have any other reason to be. 2: Cost saving – the average lab price in Sydney is about $8 0r $9 per roll, whereas developing myself works out at about $3 or $4 each. Also, some of the rolls were from a Diana and I suspected they would have light leaks as well as the usual number of frames that are crooked or just not interesting and it is more palatable to be paying a few dollars per roll for this. 3: Just for the hell of it – to get a feel for how practical it will be as an ongoing system and also to find out if I could produce quality similar to a good lab.

I used a Tetenal powder kit that mixes to make one liter stock of the three solutions that are required. No retailer in Australia had stock, so I had to buy from overseas. I would have bought a liquid kit but I was purchasing from B&H in New York and they are not permitted to ship the liquid chemistry by air so I had no choice but to get the powder. Mixing the chemistry is easy and the kits come with clear instruction sheets. It’s as simple as mixing the powder with hot water in clean containers and then storing in clean jugs. I used plastic two liter milk containers that were rinsed with hot water first. I did all the processing in the standard Paterson tanks using the agitation method. I did half a dozen or so sheets of 4×5, a couple of rolls of 35mm and about eight rolls of 120.

As a control I had one roll of 120 and one sheet of 4×5 processed by a pro lab. These were selected from shoots where I had similar rolls and sheets that I could process myself. Above is a direct comparison of my processing next to the lab’s – you can click on this to see the full size image. Both sheets were exposed at the same time with Fuji Pro 160 S in my Crown Graphic. The exposures were slightly different – one sheet at f/11 and the other at f/8 both at one second. This was bracketing as I wasn’t sure about the reciprocity failure characteristics of this film. At that time I wasn’t planning to do this processing comparison or else I would have exposed them the same. Having said that, there is only a one stop difference which I think is not significant for such a comparison.

Both sheets were scanned on the same Epson V700 scanner with the same basic settings. The results are close enough to identical and assured me that I could process C-41 to lab quality. The key factor in colour quality is the processing temperature which has to be at 38 C (about 102 F). This is trickier than B&W which is done at more or less room temperature, and where the time can be varied if the temperature is a bit hotter or colder. With colour you have to get the dev to the right temp and keep it there for the 3.5 min developing time. I used the rough and ready method of having a 20 liter container filled with water at the right temp and sitting the dev tank in this when not agitating. This worked OK but next I will research a cheap and simple heating method such as an aquarium heater or slow cooker to get more stable temperature. I found the info at this link useful when researching what products to buy and what approach to take, and recommend it to anyone considering processing their own colour negative film.

The processing was done two weeks ago and the number of rolls has slightly exceeded the given capacity of the chemistry with no deterioration in quality. Storage time will also have an effect on chemistry strength due to oxidation. I do intend to keep processing in this mix until the results are obviously unacceptable as a result of either exhaustion or deterioration. I won’t risk any important film and will do clip tests first. For my next purchase I will try some liquid chemistry which can be shipped from Europe and mixed from concentrate as required.

Diana, Pan F, Xtol

February 28, 2012



Feb 2012 went to the city around 2pm to see the Picasso exhibition at AGNSW. I was using a 1970s Diana plastic camera with Ilford Pan F 50 ISO film. I’ve had very little experience with Pan F and wanted to give it a trial. I assumed 50 ISO would expose OK in the Diana on a sunny day, based on Sunny 16. Sunny 16 says the exposure should be f/16 at 1/50. The Diana has three apertures, f/11, f/13 and f/19. I thought the shutter speed was 1/100, so I should have been alright at the widest aperture.

I exposed 3 or 4 rolls and processed one as a test in Xtol 1:1 for whatever time was given by the massive Dev Chart. On inspection the film was very thin, at least 2 stops under. I looked up the times for a 2 stop push and did the next roll for 15 minutes in Xtol 1:2. No particular reason for the different dilution. The shadows were still thin but the highlights had been recovered so this is how I processed the remaining rolls. The scans above are from the pushed rolls, essentially Pan F 50 at 200 ISO.

I’m now treating the Diana shutter speed as being 1/200 rather than 1/100. That is for my specific model – the speeds are known to vary between cameras. I have also used some Tri-X and Tmax 400 on sunny days at f/19 with good results.

Hand Colouring

September 30, 2011

The photo was made using a 90mm f/2.8 lens on a Pentax 67 camera. Film was 400, forget if it was Fuji or Kodak. Printed on Foma 123 velvet stipple type paper. This print was developed in Dektol and was made as a control print for lith developing. You find the correct print time for the paper in Dektol then open the enlarger lens up 3 stops at the same time to make the print that goes in the lith developer. Later I decided to hand colour the straight print. The colouring was done with the traditional Marshall’s Photo Oils. I like them because they have nice colours, are easy to apply and make corrections if necessary. The paint was applied with cotton buds and cotton wool balls. I think it took a few hours, but I wasn’t rushing.

Foma 112 lith print

July 4, 2011

I was in the darkroom testing various papers for lith printing with Rollei Vintage lith developer. Tried Foma 123, Emaks Varycon and Slavich grade 3. Foma 123 was best; Slavich was interesting but huge mushy grain, Varycon I didn’t much like as the grain had an exaggerated horizontal pattern. Ben had just bought some Foma 112 & kindly gave me a couple of sheets to try. I like the look it gives, the grain is prominent, but small and sharp. The blacks were a bit weak, perhaps I pulled the prints too soon. This one had a few minutes in Selenium toner, didn’t make a big difference, slightly deeper dark tones when compared to the untoned control print. However this Selenium might be a bit old and weak. Will try again later with a fresh batch.

Taken with an old Diana, Tri-X pushed one stop in Adonal 1:50