I was bored. There was nothing on Netflix or Amazon Prime, Apple TV or Hulu, or HBO Max that I wanted to watch. To distract my mind from boredom, I rummage through a set of negatives from my early college days with 35mm film photography.
In college, the chemistry for developing a 35mm colour film was expensive. As a student on a limited budget, black-and-white photography was an attractive option. I had access to the darkroom at the Media Centre at Drew University, spending hours experimenting and developing Kodak Tri-X Pan, Ilford HP5 and Kodak T-Max.
Kodak T-MAX Professional is a black-and-white film known for its high resolution, sharpness, and fine grain for decades. It has a nominal sensitivity of ISO 100 or 400, making it a versatile choice for various lighting conditions.
One of the key features of T-MAX Professional is its T-Grain emulsion technology, which produces extremely fine grain and smooth tonal gradations. This makes it a popular choice among photographers who want to achieve a high level of detail and sharpness in their images.
T-MAX Professional also has a wide exposure latitude, allowing for greater flexibility in various lighting conditions. It can be pushed to higher ISOs without sacrificing image quality, making it a useful tool for low-light situations or for creating dramatic effects.
In addition to its technical features, T-MAX Professional is known for its classic black-and-white look, with deep blacks and bright whites that create a striking contrast. It has been popular among fine art photographers and documentary, portrait, and landscape photography.
One of the appeals of photography is the ability to capture fleeting moments. As photographers, we see a scene or even unfolding, and we desire to preserve that moment. It takes awareness of time and space (composition), attention to detail, practice and patience. It takes time to learn and master the camera and lens settings and the interactions of reflected light. The photographer must learn to work within the limitations of the equipment and their knowledge and experience. The photographer must learn to see how the camera sees. It can be rewarding and frustrating.
When my first child Shaan was born Bhavna, I tried to capture as many of these moments as possible. In 1999, we used my Pentax P3, a 35mm manual focus single-lens reflex (SLR) film camera I purchased in 1988 for a college photography course. Before our kids came along, I used that Pentax to document our college post-college experience, travel and events. There was no screen to check the photos, and only after the 35mm film roll had been processed and printed could we see what we had captured. As the parent who spent most of the time with Shaan, Bhavna used the camera more than I did. We developed a lot of rolls of 35mm film, and we caught a lot of memorable moments. But Bhavna was not as adept at using the Pentax as I was. There were a lot of missed moments, and it was an expensive endeavour to purchase, develop and print each roll. Our keeper rate was relatively low. We stopped getting prints and requested scans saved to a compact disk to reduce costs. But I wanted more.
Circa 2001, we bought our first digital camera, a Sony DSC-S70. The point-n-shoot was easier for Bhavna to use. Our keeper rate went up, and with autofocus, the 3.4-megapixel sensor produced images suitable enough for standard size prints1. I had very little control over aperture, exposure, no control over ISO, and no manual focus capability. All images were recorded as JPEG. I soon outgrew the limitations of that fully automatic camera. I wanted more.
In 2006, I bought a Nikon D40, my first APS-C digital single-lens reflex (DSLR). The Nikon D40 had double the pixel count of the Sony, used interchangeable lenses, a sensor with better dynamic range and colour, which could use larger memory cards. I took a lot of photographs with that camera. I was immediately able to check the screen to see the result. If I didn’t like the result, assuming the moment had not passed, a quick change in aperture, shutter speed, or ISO and a push of the shutter button allowed for correction. The instant feedback loop was encouraging. I learned quickly. My keeper rate went up. I wanted more.
I would take hundreds of photos on any given shooting day. The idea was to pay attention (via the LCD screen) to what was going on in the camera and the frame to have more “keepers” and less junk to sort through at the end of the day. Patience and the process of creating the image have always been essential to every legendary pro, notably nature photographers2 who are known to spend hours in the same place to capture a cherished moment. As I grew more confident in capturing those moments, I found myself snapping at the right time instead of all the time.
I bought more lenses, and in 2011, I upgraded my camera body to a Nikon D5100, a 16 mega-pixel DSLR with a faster frame capture rate, better dynamic range, and live view. Live view allowed me to see the scene or subject as the sensor saw. It allowed me to adjust camera and lens settings dynamically. My actions became more deliberate. I experimented with different types of photography - macro, high dynamic range, landscape, portraits, nature, action, etc. I learned faster. My keeper rate went up, and my confidence increased. I wanted more.
In 2018, I accidentally dropped my Nikon, breaking the mirror box. I sold all my lenses and bought into the Fuji X camera system. More megapixels, an even higher dynamic range, because it’s mirror-less, the Natural Live View inside the viewfinder allows me to see what the camera sensor sees. The Fuji system camera controls (shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation) and lens controls (aperture) are right at hand. As I adjust the settings on the camera, the viewfinder dynamically changes to show the scene exactly the way the camera’s sensor would record it. I no longer had to guess, imagine, or be concerned about how the photography would be recorded. I took fewer shots. My keeper rate went up. I wanted more.
In 2020 I bought an old Minolta 35mm film camera and lens, and I tried shooting 35mm film alongside my Fujifilm. I am not good at it. I once again have to learn to imagine what the camera sees. What I see through the viewfinder bears no resemblance to what will be recorded onto the frame of 35mm film. My vision is worth nothing. It is still an expensive endeavour to purchase ($8-$10), develop ($5-$7), and (now) scan ($4-$5) one roll of 35mm film. That doesn’t include shipping. My keeper rate is low.
I know how I learn. I learn best with feedback. Instant feedback. My photography improved rapidly when I switched from 35mm film photography to digital photography. The improvement encouraged me to learn more. Once the equipment is purchased, there is no cost to expose a frame in digital photography. One-shot or 100 shots. The price is the same. I learned faster because I could look at the result on the screen, adjust the settings and try again. Rinse later repeat. With Fuji's Natural Live View feature, I can see the results in real-time BEFORE I push the shutter button. I am more deliberate with my photography. The results encourage me to continue to learn and grow. My keeper rate is higher.
With 35mm film, none of this is possible. This is frustrating to me. I am re-learning at a snail's pace, and with each roll of 35mm film I develop, I think to myself, “what a f**king waste of money”. The photos below are from a 36 exposure roll of Kodak Professional T-MAX 400 35mm film. One of three 35mm film rolls (the other are FPP and New Classic EZ400) that I exposed between January and February. By the time I finished telling the roll of film, shipped it for development, got the negative back and scanned them, I had forgotten “why”, “how”, and “when” I took each frame. I know I used my XD-11 and MD Rokkor-X 45mm lens, but I know nothing else. These photographs are like the little bits of odd and ends of cloth used to make ill-fitting clothing.
I need to reset my expectations. I think I’ll put the 35mm film photography on the shelf for a bit. I’ll continue to shoot 35mm film but at a slower pace, maybe expose a few rolls over a month; My Fujifilm digital mirror-less camera makes me feel like “I can do it”. The 35mm film camera makes me feel like an idiot.
In the 1990s, that would be either 4"x6" or 5"x7" prints. ↩
The new version of the Fuji XF 27mm ƒ/2.8 R is 22.7 mm shorter than the Nikon SE and about the same diameter. It's also considerably lighter at 84g / 3 oz.
It also sports about the tiniest lens hood ever...almost comical-looking. And yet, who wants a giant hood on a small lens?
There are a few more differences. The Nikon SE has nine elements, and the Fujinon has seven. The XF 27mm has an aperture ring, and the 28mm SE doesn't (neither did the original Fuji 27mm). The Fuji costs $399 (although, as Fujiphiles know, Fuji has periodic sales), and Nikon says the SE will cost $299 when available.
I keep reading good things about the XF27mmF2.8 R LM WR lens, which makes me smile, but then I am reminded that the lens is sold out everywhere, and the smile turns to a frown. It's good that I didn't sell my XF27mmF2.8 lens and place my order when the XF27mmF2.8 R LM WR was announced.
I watched the most recent episode of Apple's TV series, Home Before Dark. The episode is titled "Dark Rooms". During an emotional outburst, the main character, Hilde, breaks the lens on her camera and borrows her grandpa's old-school film camera. There is a great learning moment with the whole family huddled around Hilde holding the film camera. Her dad, Matt, explains that with 35mm film, you take pictures by exposing the roll of film, then when the roll is finished, you drop the film off at the drug store, and two weeks later, you get photographic prints by which time you've forgotten why you took them. Later in the episode, her dad helps her develop the images in the darkroom he set up in the basement of their home.
I have not developed a 35mm colour film since 1989. I'm inspired by nostalgia to develop a roll of 35mm film myself. I've got a kit from Film Photography Project in my shopping cart, but I'm nervous about completing the purchase.
I'm worried about failing.
Wednesday, 7 July 2021
"The discussion was 'what are we doing in the future in terms of engine', because we want to save costs, so we don't want to reinvent the wheel," [Toto] Wolff, who did not attend the summit but is protecting vested interests, told the FIA conference on Monday.
"We also want to have a relevant engine from 2025 to 2030, and we can't be old petrolheads with screaming engines when everybody expects us to be going electric.
"So these engines are still going to be fuelled [by zero-carbon fuels]. We are staying with the current V6 format, but the electric component is going to massively increase."
The FIA are increasingly aware that a sport primarily based on burning gas station amounts of fuel on a single weekend needs to adjust expectations for a world where the phrase internal combustion engine is increasingly seen in a negative light.
One of the things I love about my Fuji X-T2 is how easy manual focusing can be when using the focus peaking feature. On the Fuji, focus peaking detects the edges of the highest contrast in the scene and highlights them in bright colours (red, blue, or white).
I can adapt almost any manual focus 35mm film-era lens to my Fuji X and never worry about focusing. The ability to use decades-old 35mm film lenses on my Fuji X-T2 brought me back to 35mm film photography after a nearly thirty-year hiatus.
The digital Fujinon lenses for the Fuji X-series also have a focus ring with an instant manual focus feature. Just grab the focus ring and turn. In the viewfinder (or LCD), a manual focus indicator shows the distance to the subject (in meters or feet ), which is useful when zone-focusing. There is also a manual focus assist feature. When activated, the camera zooms in digitally, filling the viewfinder/LCD with a section of the scene for more accurate focusing. There is a digital split image focusing feature, but I have never used it. When using manual 35mm lenses at their largest aperture, I tend to use focus peaking and the "move the body forward-back" technique.
I enjoy using manual and autofocus lenses, but I prefer autofocus.
Saturday 10 July 2021
Inspired by Steve Schwartzman's horsemint portraits post, I grabbed my Fuji X-T2, FotodioX adapter, and a 1980's era manual film lens, my Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm F1.7 and headed outside to my garden.
I love this lens. It creates a beautiful buttery soft cinematic look perfect for a portrait photograph. My lens was part of a Minolta X-700 bundle I bought from a local amateur who had owned the lens and kit for over three decades.
The MD Rokkor-X 50mm F1.7 is constructed almost entirely of metal1. It feels hefty compared to my Fujinon XF27mmF2.8 lens, especially with the weight of the FotodioX MD-FX adapter, but it was a reasonably lightweight lens (165g) for its time. My X-T2 has a crop factor of 1.52, so the 50mm is roughly a 76mm full-frame equivalent when adapted to my Fuji.
Extirpation is when a plant or animal species ceases to exist in a chosen geographic area of study, though it still exists elsewhere. In densely populated areas like New Jersey, all the large native predators like the wolf, bear, wolverine, and cougar have suffered extirpation, allowing herbivores such as white-tailed deer to reproduce unchecked except by hunting. White-tailed deer are a problem in New Jersey.
Several years ago, I planted some Hosta, which I translated from my brother's garden in Stamford, Connecticut. Over the years, the Hosta have colonised a good section of the tiny garden and provided a short-lived burst of flowers in the summer. They are short-lived because deer find them tasty. This year I used Deer Out to keep the deer at bay; however, I still lost some flowers. But I had enough left over for this experiment.
The lens, camera and FotodioX adapter's overall weight make precise manual focusing extremely tough to nail at f/1.7. I was also kneeling on the concrete in the driveway. I used focus peaking to get the image to where things appeared sharp and then rocked my body back and forth to hit the right spot, but this made the kneeling even more painful. I need to invest in some garden knee pads. I gave up and went inside for my RRS L-bracket and Manfrotto tripod.
With the camera firmly placed to frame the flowers, I used the focus peaking and focus-check features on my Fuji to dial in focus. I captured three frames, one each at f/1.7, f/2.8 and f/4.
Bokeh was nice and circular at f/1.7, but highlights in the background became hexagonal once I stopped the lens down. This lens has six non-rounded blades. Here are three examples of how the bokeh looks at f/1.7, f/2.8, and f/4. I skipped f/3.32.
The flower at f/1.7 has a dreamy look that I love, but the DOF is too shallow. The bokeh of the f/4 image is less soft and feels a bit muddy, but the DOF is better. That f/2.8 is the sweet spot with pleasing bokeh and just enough DOF.
While I prefer the f/1.7, I think I'll experiment using this lens at f/2.8 for a while.
I practised using the Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm F1.7 at f/2.8. First, at the Brick Farm Tavern and Sourland Mountain Spirits.
After cocktails, we drove to East Broad Street to order takeout at Tomatello's Latin Cuisine, a clever assemble of the word tomatillo and the owner's last name, Tello. We had a large order for Bhavna, Shaan and myself. While the restaurant prepared our food, we walked around East Broad Street and Seminary Avenue.
East Broad Street is a popular location for showing off cars and motorbikes.
I love the colour of colour photography. The colour reminds me of the vibrancy of life. In the West Indies, where I grew up, colour is everywhere. People paint their homes and shops in bright reds, greens, blues, pinks, yellow etc. When I was a child, the mode of public transportation was a large diesel truck with a wood cab mounted to the flatbed with the body painted in whimsical colours of the owner's choosing. The local fishing boats were similarly painted in a multitude of colours.
Bhavna is from India, and the women of that country wear vibrantly coloured saris and kurta pyjamas. There is even a festival, Holi, that celebrates colour.
I don't often photograph in black and white. Except for winter, almost all of my photography is colour photography. Why winter? It seems that people in the United States must dislike colour. How else to explain the drab colours of the cities and suburbs? How else to explain the beige and grey cookie-cutter homes that pepper the suburbs of the North Eastern United States? When I drive around New Jersey, especially in the winter, I often wonder why so very few think to paint some colour to their homes and shops front so that we could enjoy a break from the seemingly depressing days of winter when the trees have no leaves, the ground is covered in a mixture of dirt and snow, and the skies are cloudy all day.
I have included examples of my black and white photographs from my early days as a student photographer to more recent ones photographed on my Fuji X-T2 and Minolta and Pentax 35mm film cameras. I remember back in the days shooting Ilford HP5 400, Kodak Tri-X Pan 400, and Kodak T-Max 400, but in the last two years, I have tried using film again after nearly a 30-year hiatus. The original Tri-X, T-MAX and Ilford are no longer available, but I could shoot modern versions of these films. I love Ilford HP5+ 400, but I have also exposed rolls of RPX 25 and RPX 100.
When I process digital images to black and white, I use some of the same tools Anne uses, but most often, it's a mixture of things. Sometimes, I use Silver EFX Pro, and sometimes I use in-camera film simulation recipes. Sometimes, I apply an Adobe Lightroom preset and tweak the image to my liking. I don't use one set method. I use whatever works to create the image I want. However, I get the best results when I shoot in B&W on my Fuji X-T2 using the ACROS film simulation, or I flip to B&W in Adobe Lightroom and edit the images using the Lightroom histogram exposure, shadows, highlight and whites slider.
Full click stops are at f/1.7, f/2.8, f/16 and f/22. Half-stop clicks are from f/2.8 through f/16. ↩