B+W developing & the curse of technology (Part 2)

In Part 1, I talked about developing my first roll of B+W film and all that it entailed. Part 2 is all about getting those negs onto a computer, which sounds easy, but was anything but. I will also include my results at the end in the hope that at least a couple of the shots may prove pleasing to someone.

Having no knowledge about scanners, I had a little look on Ebay to see what might be out there and in hope of finding a cheap used one. This was a mistake as there seemed to be a massive choice of old and new, cheap and expensive and I had no idea what I was really looking at. I posted the question Twitter to ask what everyone was using and this provided a good few answers. It seemed that a number of people were using Epson flatbed scanners so this is where I concentrated my search. I was even offered one a V200 for £50 but I had decided I wanted one that would take 120 film and that model did not. The Epson V500 seemed to be the model I needed, it had good reviews and did 35mm and 120 and I should be able to find a used one for under £100. After another trawl of Ebay I found one at slightly more than I was willing to pay but the seller was willing to accept offers, so I made one and waited his response. After a few mails were exchanged the seller was willing to do a deal if he could get the postage down but then disaster struck. Overnight after this exchange someone else with more money than me had got in there first and paid the asking price. With no other suitable V500’s on Ebay I was back to square one.

I should say at this point that I had not yet developed the roll of film and the botched scanner purchase was a few days before my developing kit arrived. It was only after the negs were processed that I decided to throw caution to the wind and buy a new scanner. Sod the cost, I was going to get some results even if I had to sell the cats and the kids (they are still for sale if anyone is interested, just don’t tell my wife) The Epson V600 fitted the bill and I promptly ordered one for delivery in a couple days.

When I got the printer it was in large shiny box, and on unpacking slightly larger than I was expecting but that surely meant it was the bees knees and would provide top of the trees performance. Having being overwhelmed by the size of the machine I was definitely underwhelmed by the instructions in the box. And this was the start of the problem. Even I could work out where the USB and power leads went without the folded A3 picture showing the flipping obvious. What I needed was a step by step set of instructions to show how the neg carriers should be placed and what settings to use when I had downloaded the software. The inculded disc will provide all these answers I thought. No. And No again.

I inserted the disc and installed the software to my iMac. The A3 idiots guide had indicated that the right hand button of the four on the front of the machine was the one to press. And press it I did with no response at all. I trawled the disc in search of a manual but there was none to be found. So, I went to the Epson website in search of a manual there, again, none was to be found. So I clicked the “speak to an advisor” button and was speedily connected to a helpful person, lets call him Dave. I explained my predicament to Dave and after a long pause he provided me with an online user manual for the V550 “its pretty much the same” he said  “goodbye helpful Dave” I said. Now this was just the ticket and I got the printer ready and loaded up with the first negs, pressed the button again and the computer opened up an image capture window that just scanned the whole A4 plate, neg carrier and all. Where the instructions were very good at showing me what to do with the scanner up until the scan button was pressed, they were useless in showing how the thing should operate after. No software instructions at all.

Luckily, dinner was a welcome interruption and I loaded myself up with brain food in the hope that this would be enough to defeat the stupid Epson V600. It wasn’t. I searched the internet and came across many people that had had issues very much like mine but never an answer. I went to the Apple app store and downloaded all the updates it recommended for my new Epson product. All this served to do was cause an error window to pop up when I pressed the now dreaded scan button. Great, it now worked worse than before. I went back to the Epson website and downloaded the recommended “Epson Software updater” finally, this should do the trick. On starting the program the “Epson software updater” found that one program did indeed need updating………..that’s right, it was the “Epson software updater” that was out of date.

In the end I did manage to get the right version of the software installed. I would love to say it was easy or that I was pointed in the right direction but that would not be true. I simply stumbled upon the answer when I downloaded a 2016 version from Epsons website. The whole process left a bad taste in the mouth and nearly ruined the lovely experience I had thus far enjoyed. But, in scanning the negs, joy and warm feelings returned.

I would like to thank all people on Twitter who gave me advice and helped me. I would even like to thank Dave. The film community is amazing and I love to see what you are all doing out there with film cameras, some of which I may have even helped be useful again.

Here is that first eventful film, the good the bad and the fugly.

 

If you are wondering about the tree and why there are 3 shots of it, all I can say is we have a long relationship and one day I will get him, one day.

 

 

 

 

B+W developing & the curse of technology (Part 1)

Last time I enthralled you with my tales of being on a podcast and actually going out and using a film camera in anger. (You can read it here) Well this is the follow up, my experience developing my first roll of B&W film (part 1) and the process of getting it onto a computer (part 2)

I have to thank my friend and fellow dealer, Jonathan from Student Photo Store, for his help supplying me with the basic kit to get me started. He supplies a good range of equipment and his website is well worth a visit www.studentphotostore.co.uk . He kindly sent me the following at discounted mates rates.

  • 1x Paterson Super System 4 Universal Developing Tank with 2x 35mm reels.
  • 1x Digital thermometer
  • 1x Digital timer
  • 4x Film neg clips
  • 3x Chemical storage bottles
  • 1x Measuring jug
  • 1x Funnel
  • 1x Ilford Ifosol 3 500ml
  • 1x Ilford Rapid fixer 500ml

I was very excited when the parcel arrived and pleased with the contents. I already had a large film changing bag so was all set the delve into this new world. All I had to do was work out which chemicals went where and when, easy right?

Ilford chemicals have a handy peel back label that shows the dilution ratios, which was great, but I still needed the the development times for the film I was using. On the inside of the Tmax 400 box there was a lot of information about dev times but only with Kodak chemicals so I was slightly stumped at first. But, it did give me the agitation info (every 30 seconds) so no all bad. Next stop the Ilford website and their really useful technical information sheets for Ilfosol and Rapid. I printed them both off and they included the dev times, temperature and fixing times so now I had all the information to hand.

Paterson Single Developing Tank with 1x Reels

The Patterson tank shows on the bottom the volume of chemicals needed depending on whether you are doing 1 reel, 2 reels or 120 film. In my case 290ml so all I needed to do was divide this by dilution ratio. Maths is not my strong point and I struggle with the simplest of tasks but I did notice in the Ilford tech sheets that they have a handy table to take the pain away. It shows tank size in ml and the nearest one to mine was 300 (whats 10ml between friends) so the dilution was 30ml dev to 270ml water, easy peasy lemon squeezy, and no mathematical gymnastics needed.

30ml is quite a small amount of liquid to measure and the jug I had only went down to 50ml. I really wanted to get this film done that day and the thought of ordering a small graduate and waiting for it arrive in the post was too much, I needed another plan.  I then remembered my wife weighing liquid on some digital scales when she was baking. This was the answer! A quick root around in the kitchen located them and they had a ml setting. All I had to do was put the jug on reset the thing and add 30ml of dev and top up to 300ml with water. I did the same for the fixer (with a fresh jug) and had both sets of chemicals ready for action.

Back when I was working in camera shops I had plenty of practise using a dark bag. Many times a customer would come in with a broken camera that a film was stuck in or snapped. It was great fun to pop the camera in a bag with a few utensils and minutes later hand them back their film, all safe and ready to develop. I felt like a magician making a rabbit appear out of a hat. So, the prospect of removing the film from its canister and getting it on the Patterson reel was not daunting in the least, in fact I was rather looking forward to it. (However if anyone  reading this is thinking of doing it for the first time, I would recommend getting a scrap film and practising the whole process in daylight a few times before attempting it. You don’t want to find yourself with a film floating about in the bag with your arms trapped and no way to get out of it without ruining the film). The Patterson tank also comes with a good set of instructions and is well worth a read. Also, Ilford has as a really good video on YouTube showing all the steps you need to develop a film which I also looked at before taking the plunge.

So, the film was in the tank, chemicals were mixed and ready for action. However I decided that given my aging memory  I better make a quick list of what I had to do and when.

  1. Pour in the dev.
  2. Start the timer (6 minutes)
  3. Insert agitator and twist sharply back and forth 3-4 times. Lightly tap the bottom of the tank on the worktop. Push on the lid tightly.
  4. Agitate the tank every 30 seconds (Tmax 400)
  5. Once the time is up pour the dev away and rinse out the tank.
  6. Add the fix, start the timer again (5 minutes) and agitate as before (every 30 secs)
  7. Pour out fix into a storage bottle for later use.
  8. Wash the tank. Fill and invert 5 times, drain and fill invert 10 times, drain and refill invert 20 times.

On opening the tank at the end I was horrified to see that the negs looked black but when I undid the reel all the pictures had come out and they looked quite good to my eye. They were a bit dark around the rebates and my twitter followers recommended I fix the film for a bit longer which I did, and they did lighten a little. But due to the film being 15 years out of date it seemed to have affected the film this way but the pics are still usable.

I felt a real sense of achievement and whole experience was a delight from start to finish and would recommend home developing to anyone wanting to have some fun with film.

Next in Part 2 I will talk about scanning the negs.

 

 

 

 

Podcasts & Pentax Spotmatics.

 

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be approached by the Sunny16 Podcast who asked if I would be willing to be on their show and talk about camera repairs. Having fixed one or two in my time and after a little encouragement from Graeme (one 3rd of the Sunnies team) I decided to take the plunge, throw caution to the wind and go for it. So on a Monday night the show was recorded, beers were drunk and I somehow made my way through it without too much embarrassment or making a complete idiot of myself. At least that’s how I choose to remember it. I will never listen to the podcast, even the thought of walking into a room where the thing is playing fills me with dread. But if anyone out there wants to hear how things went then you can follow this link to the Sunny16 Podcast and make up your own mind. Even if you don’t fancy my appearance I can wholeheartedly recommend you listen to the many others great shows they have made.

Whilst on the show I was asked if I shoot any film cameras and I had to admit that I rarely take any pictures on any format, film or digital. Yes, I had shot a few films back before Digital ruled the waves but not in many years and never had I personally developed a film. I rashly promised both the hosts that I would indeed go out and shoot some film in one of the many cameras I have at home. But having made that promise  in font of all their many listeners I suddenly realised that I would actually have to go through with it.

The next day I dug out a long expired (2002) roll of Kodak Tmax 400, all I needed was a camera to shoot it in. A few years ago I had taken pity on an old battered Pentax SP that had been languishing on a fellow dealers shelf. It was a black version that someone in its past had decided to vigorously touch up with thick black paint. But it was mechanically sound and needed little work to get up and running. I spent a day cleaning the paint off it, converting the battery compartment and circuit to take a modern 1.5v battery and gave it a good service. I found a standard lens that was too battered to sell but was the perfect partner to the SP and the camera was put on a shelf on display in my office. This is the camera I decided to use.

Its been pretty hot here recently and I’m no fan of standing out in the sun and getting hot and bothered so I decided a walk in a woods was called for. My wife had the day off and my children were away for a week with their grandparents so we took a trip to the nearby village of Dulverton which is on the outskirts of Exmoor. There is nice shady forest walk which was cool and provided some good photo opportunities. For those of you that may not be aware the Pentax SP is a fully manual camera with stop down metering. Nice and simple but it still gave me a few problems, the biggest of which was of my own doing. The way I was using the camera was meter, focus, fire as the meter switch knocks off when the shutter fires. Which makes sense until you realise that its difficult to focus with the lens stopped down (which I didn’t work out until nearly the last shot) At first I put this down to the shady conditions and the fact that its an older camera with a dim viewfinder. I also wear glasses and that makes using the viewfinder difficult. Next time I will knock the meter off and then focus or I may just try another camera with open aperture metering. I may even take a 35mm lens as I like a slightly wider angle.

Taken by my wife on an iphone (sorry)

I must admit it was great fun getting back to basics and shooting totally manually with nothing but a 50mm lens. I ended up in a few bushes trying to get a bit more in frame but the whole experience was excellent fun and I now have an insight into why analogue is so popular again. It doesn’t bother me that I don’t have the results instantly to see as I would with a digital camera. I can remember most of the shots I took much more so than had I gone out with a Digital SLR. It made me take my time with each shot and think about the exposure and how the light would effect it. And being limited to 24/36 pictures makes you choose each shot much more carefully rather than just shooting anything and everything you come across.

My next post will include the results (if there are any) and my thoughts on home film developing.