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TMax Dev

“Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate”

The above sentence translates to “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
That sums up my 2016 regarding film photography.

I can’t remember being so long without using film cameras and shooting film and that fact is, of course, tied down to having changed my income activity from graphic design to  photography.

Back in 2014 I was shooting and developing two rolls a day, yes, every single day!
(Those who follow this little blog know that the goal was to feed Cooking Film with experiments and examples of films/developers combinations.)

Changing my main income activity makes me shoot a loot more and to edit a lot more. My clients don’t care about the “visual poetry of film”. They care about the result and, many times, the result is not a photograph, it’s a visual product.

That is fine, those are the rules. The clients play the tune and I dance to it. I know my way around the digital tools and I have no problem in meeting the clients desire. I don’t aim to be like Paolo Roversi, or Dan Winters, or Anton Corbjin… I don’t have their talent and I’m just starting to build a name for myself and I’m already too late at it.

I know it will not be a name connected to talent but, I hope, very much connected to competence.

The bottom line is getting home too tired to even think about photography. I don’t have the mental energy to pick up a film camera. I need to reboot. My 9 to 5 is what it is but I need to find that extra bit of energy to keep shooting film.

Many of you know the following story but I’ll write it anyway because it means a lot to me and I often go back to it when I need to restart.

A few years ago I sold my Leica D-Lux 3 (amazing camera) and bought the Leica X1. It was such a bad, bad decision. I hated everything about it and instead of making me want to shoot more, it almost made me give up the whole photography thing.

Luckily I came across the work of two amazing pinhole users on Flickr (thank you Nhung and thank you Wayne). Everything changed! I discovered new possibilities and also a new camera, the Zero Image 2000.

And that was a (photographic) life changing event!

I never use the Zero on a tripod and, as you can guess, exposing for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 seconds, hand held, can produce some pretty… abstract stuff. To me that was magical. I couldn’t care less about the results, I was enjoying the process.

In a couple of weeks I’ll take a few days off. I’m planning a little road trip with my son and I will take the Zero 2000 along.

Zero 2000 means fun, means letting light do the whole thing. Means I can just relax, enjoy and uncover/cover the pinhole from time to time.

 

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I’ve never been a great fan of the Hp5+.

I mean, I’ve had some decent results with it but I always feel that it’s too cold. It lacks the depth and the spirit of the Delta 400 or Trix.

Kodak Trix 400 is like a sprinkle of cinnamon on a hot apple pie slice. It’s smooth, warm. It has depth.

Ilford HP5+ is like a lemon slush on a cold afternoon.

(I’m no photographer as you all know and I don’t know how to express myself using technical terms however, I use the films, I develop them, I scan them and I print them in the darkroom, and these are the therms I know to share my thoughts.)

On the other hand I absolutely love using HP5+ pushed to 1600 or 3200 or 6400! That’s when those blacks really start to show up. Well it all depends, of course, of what we want from our pictures.

I’m just saying that the HP5+ is not my favorite 400 ISO film, to use at 400, and despite being very good when pushed it is not, still, my favorite film to push.

Trix is still my favorite film and choosing from the two Ilford offers I like the Delta 400 more than the HP5+.

Please do take all of the above stated with a huge grain of salt!

Here are the samples.

Gear:
Hasselblad 500CM
Recipe:
Ilford HP5+, Tmax Dev, 1+4, 7 min

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Gear:
Hasselblad 500CM
Recipe:
Ilford HP5+ @1600, Tmax Dev, 1+4, 11 min

 

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Every time I go out with a friend for a photo session the last of my concerns is the amount of “good” photographs I will get from that session.

I only ask the Gods of Photography for one. Just one decent shot and I am a happy man.

Okay, that’s my mind set but how about the model’s thoughts on this?

The question I hear the most is: You toke about 4 rolls of film and are you saying that this shot, or couple of shots, are it?

Well… most of the times, yes, that’s it.

Let’s face it, it’s not hard to take a decent shot of a beautiful woman, but it’s very hard to take one that we feel it stands apart from all others.

When I say “the shot that stands apart”, I’m saying it in a total selfish way. It is “the one” for me, the one that makes ME happy. It can be a crappy shot for everyone else, including the model, but it is MY favorite shot and I fell happy when I think I got it.

Of course I want my friends to like them all, I want them to enjoy the day, enjoy us being together, to enjoy the session and yes, I want them to look at the results with a smile of satisfaction for a day well spent.

That’s why I only do it with friends.
(Friends are also much more forgiving and they usually lie about my skills, which is very cool)

Seriously, when I’m with a friend, photography means very little.

I know Carolina for about 20 years. We played in the same band, back in the days. She was the lead singer and I was one of the guitar players. We used to play Risk, the strategy game, with a group of friends, until the break of dawn every single Saturday night. We both have kids about the same age…

Having the chance of spending a whole day with Carolina, and the kids, renewing our friendship is far more important than any “special” shot however, my poor shots are also my way of saying… thank you.

As usual, please forgive the rough English.

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“A man was crossing the road and all of a sudden he started to see things as they really are.”

Italo Calvino is one of my favorite writers. It’s hard for me explain why, in English, but let me just say that he creates magical worlds through the poetry that he sees in the mundane of everyday living.

So, how do things really look like?

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I don’t have a clue but it’s easy to understand that, despite being tied to the laws of physics, many living creatures, perceive the world in a very different way.

We don’t see things the same way as a fly does, or a bee, or a chameleon, or a fish… and yet the same laws of Nature apply to those creatures as well. But we don’t share the same “needs”.

We all know that we perceive the world within a certain range of the vast spectrum of light and color.

Our eyes are brilliant lenses with their lighting fast “auto-focus” and perfect depth of field. Our brain is the perfect film or sensor, always adjusting itself to a huge set of situations, delivering the best image possible however… do we see things the way they really are?

Will we ever be able to define how things “really are”? 
I don’t think so and it does not matter.

Like everything in Nature we move in this Natural world where adaptation is the key word and, for adapting, we all must evolve.

We see things the way we do because this is the best way we found to connect visually to the world adjusted, of course, to our limitations and potential as biological creatures.

 

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Using a camera is like enjoying our visual connection to the world. We can master it in some ways so let’s have fun with it.

Using a pinhole camera is like having sex with the visual world.
Let me explain why.

It’s not always totally clear and some parts can become very blurry.
It’s the perfect medium to experiment with fantasies but sometimes they can go right or they can go wrong.
Different sizes can give a whole new perspective of things.
It’s important not to shake it too much but also not to be too static (at least for me).
Finishing too soon or too late can lead to frustrating results.
Surprises always happen an sometimes I just look at the results and think… “I don’t remember doing this” or “what was I thinking about” or… “Damn… which way is up and which way is down?”

 

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As I’m finishing to write this I can’t help to think how the hell did I start with Italo Calvino and ended up comparing pinhole photography with having sex…

I didn’t plan the post to come out like this but the idea is to be funny. Don’t want to offend anyone.

PS: I was temporarily banned from Facebook. Yeap. I don’t know why but it all started with the Cooking Film Facebook page. I don’t post pornography or nudity, I post beauty and what I feel like posting, respecting the guidelines. Basically the same stuff I post here.

Maybe someone felt offended by something and let me tell that you sir/lady are a winner at life. Keep up the good work.
That being sad, I terminated all my pages and my personal account and I will make my new personal profile much more photography related.

A couple of months ago I did something very stupid or, being gentle on myself, something very unwise. I toke a camera which I’ve never used before to a somehow important photo session.

I bought the camera from a friend and, despite being pristine, I like to try my new gear before using it on something important no matter if it is for work or for personal pleasure. The light meter could be off, something could not be working properly, etc…

During the session the F3 felt amazing. So solid, perfect weight, good viewfinder displaying both speed and aperture (sweet!), aperture priority and a top speed of 1/2000, great for using big apertures in daylight with a 400 ISO film. It’s so simple to operate and it really allows me to concentrate only on choosing the right aperture and getting the framing right.

On the other hand it was my first time using a lens that opens at f1.4. I like fast lenses not because they are “fast” but because they allow a much shorter depth of field. To me, on a very personal level, having a lens that opens at f1.4, is not about getting that extra stop in low light. It’s about having the chance of isolating the “subject” even more.

Look at this example. Focus on the lips at f1.4.

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Now look at this one. Also at f1.4. Notice that the shot is so “soft” it looks like almost out of focus.
With the lens “fastness” comes a price and the price is softness.

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Some shots left me wondering exactly that. I couldn’t even tell if they are in focus or not. I needed to be sure of what to expect from this lens at f1.4. Was the camera focusing right? Are my eyes too tired for manual focus? Was it my plain lack of skill?

There is a simple trick using Photoshop to see if a picture is in focus and finding out exactly what’s in focus.

Please click to see it big.

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See how the focused areas pop out? We can even see the decrease of focus on the different parts of the image. Look at it this way:

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The lips are not the most “in focus” part of the image. Look how the hair on area 1 pops out. That was my focus distance. I was front focusing and that’s why the tip of Joana’s nose is “more in focus” than the lips, because the tip of the nose is closer to the lens. Than yes, the lips and area 4 seem to have the same level of softness. For last area 5, where focus breaks completely.

Verdict? My fault! Missed focus.

Let’s move on to the other shot and do the same.

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Sandra is in focus, overall, but if we look closer we can see that the focus was exactly on her lips. Can you see it? Lower lip and tip of the nose.

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It is clearly visible that Sandra’s upper lip and eyes don’t have the same “sharpness” of the lower lip and the nose.

So, this is a simple trick to check focus.

1 – Open you image.
2 – Duplicate the background or layer where the image is.
3 – Go to the menu Filter > Other > High Pass.
These files are about 25MB each and I’ve used a radius of 5 pixels on the filter.

That’s it.

The next examples were all taken at f1.4 and as you can see the camera is focusing right and the lens performs very well wide open. Click to see large.

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After finishing up the film on the Holga I picked up my Hexar AF to shoot a couple more rolls. I knew that the Holga shots would come out… Holga looking, and God only knows what kind of surprises that camera can deliver so why not playing on the safe side by using the Hexar too?

And what’s “safer” than the Konica Hexar AF and Trix? Perfect match!

It was not a bright day. No wind, the sky had some beautiful clouds and there was a bit of mist coming from the sea so, everything was flat looking. However this first location was great for trying out the Trix. Garrett was siting on the balcony of the lighthouse and he had a metal structure behind him.

The Trix behaved brilliantly. Just the right amount of grain, the usual latitude of exposure, great detail. It’s really a film that can take any “abuse”. The Hexar AF is… well… most of you know what I feel about this little camera. It’s my favorite camera.

Konica Hexar AF
Kodak Trix 400
TMax Dev.
1+7
7 min.

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Let me share with you some thoughts about the previous situation.
These were taken while the magazine’s professional photographer was setting up his gear.
My friend and journalist Costa Dias was doing the interview and I was just fooling around with my cameras doing what I love, taking pictures for my selfish pleasure.

At some point the photographer asked Garret to stand up to do a light test and I had to move back a little.

 

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As you can see the sky was cloudy but it was not “dramatic” enough. I really wanted to capture a… “majestic” pose of Garret against a raging sky with big waves at the distance. Well, Kenton Thatcher had the same idea, so he asked Garrett to put on his wet suit and to stand against the sky despite the lack of waves.

My film choices were Trix or Kentmere 400. I thought about using Trix at 1600 or 3200 ISO but I was afraid that the 1/250 top speed of the Hexar was not enough so I went for the Kentmere, which is much grainier and contrasted than the Trix, and I pushed it to 800.
The idea right from the start was to push it yes, but to develop it at box speed, for even more… “harshness”.

Konica Hexar AF
Kentmere 400@800 ISO (developed at box speed)
TMax Dev.
1+7
7 min.

 

Without exposure compensation.

Without exposure compensation.

 

Without exposure compensation.

Without exposure compensation.

 

+1 exposure compensation.

+1 exposure compensation.

 

And that’s pretty much it.

It was a wonderful day around good people, surrounded by the sea and the sky.
I got to use the Holga and the Hexar and managed some experiments for Cooking Film.

Thank you a million times, Garrett, for putting up with my silly experiments and thank you Kenton, it’s always a pleasure working with you.

PS: I most apologize for my limited English.
As time goes by I try to write a bit more, and to be more detailed in my posts, and that calls for language and grammatical I still don’t have.

PS2: All of these shots were Brightness and Contrast adjusted in Photoshop and cleaned using the Clone Stamp tool.
The goal is to print them in the darkroom as a gift for Garrett. I’m doing it next Monday.

Some years ago I fell in love with a small digital camera, a Leica D-Lux 3. After using it, on a daily basis, for a long time I started to covet something… different and better.

I was tired of the D-Lux 3 so, as soon as they were available, I got a brand new Leica X1. What a gorgeous design object!

At the end of the first day with the X1 I felt like… okay… new camera, I must learn how to work with it… tomorrow will be better.

By the end of the second day I felt like… okay… must sell the X1.

I felt sad because I really wanted to love the X1 as I did the D-Lux 3.

It’s one of those things, we just didn’t connect.

There was nothing wrong with the X1, despite being a slow camera, it delivered amazing, and I mean amazing image quality, gorgeous colors, manual controls and it is a beautiful camera.

The files were indeed great raw material to work with in Lightroom or Photoshop but… that was the problem. The X1 was a cool camera, and I was not tired of the D-Lux, I was tired of the medium itself. I was tired of a routine that made me spend more time editing the images than taking pictures.

Sold the X1 and got a Zero Image 2000 6×6 pinhole camera. Red wood and golden knobs!

At the end of the first day, I developed the film and got a great set of… black stains that slightly resembled… something. Even up to this day, my ex-wife calls my pinhole images “stains”.

I absolutely loved that mess. I traveled back to the days of my first pinhole images using photo paper.
A mix of nostalgia and visual delight toke over and I never looked back.

Today, like before, I’m not tired of a certain digital camera. I’m tired of the routine imposed by the medium.

If home is where one’s heart is, than film, certainly, feels like home.

Gear:
Zero Image 2000

Recipe:
Ilford HP5+
TMax Dev.
1+9
14 min.

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