Category Archives: General

Cars, cars, cars

I don’t take the distagon c 40mm f/4 out very often. It’s a really nice wide angle lens but it’s bulky and heavy. The lens is sharp and looking through the waistlevel finder is amazing. The lens still has a small enough depth of field at f/5.6 to work with (compared to the 24mm equivalent for 35mm film). Another very nice feature is the close focus of 45cm: the lens gets close and is wide which is a very special way approaching photographic objects.

The images below were taken during a car show using Rollei Retro 400s developed in Rodinal (1:50, 20C, 22min, reduced agitation: 2x every two minutes). 

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How I feel about macro lenses – Yashica ML Macro 55mm 1:4

in the old days of film I went out there with my Nikkor 90mm/2.8 macro to shoot flowers and bugs. The slides are sitting now in the basement where they went from the unreachable top of the shelf and I always tell myself one of these days I will scan these beautiful slides. Although I guess I never will. I sold the Nikkor lens and honestly I never missed it. I could even argue to myself that a macro lens is pretty stupid.

Recently, I was thinking about getting a macro lens again because I wanted to get close and personal. The next step was choosing the camera system and the Contax RTS made the most sense. I have two RTS and a Yashica bodies with a couple of lenses going with it. Of course I was looking for a Carl Zeiss lens fitting the Contax mount but had to settle for the Yashica. I admit I’m a skeptic and would prefer to go for the “original”. However, the ratings for the Yashica 55mm/4 were very good and of course the cost is easier to digest than the price of a similar Carl Zeiss lens.

So I found a lens in beautiful condition with a sustainable price tag on ebay.de. The feeling of the lens built is quite nice. It’s all metal and makes a very solid impression. The focus ring runs really smooth while the aperture ring is quite “defined” and not loose at all. Maybe the maximum opening of 4 is a bit limiting but how much sense does shooting with an aperture of 2.8 really make. The ratings the lens gets drop down a bit at aperture 4 but are pretty much excellent thereafter. 

I mostly shoot anyway with an aperture of 4 or maybe 5.6 but hardly any more stepping down. I want to feel that small depth of field and really focus on the one feature. Only than getting close and personal makes sense to me as the two examples here show. I also tried taking portraits with a macro lens but I’m still failing just catching the essential and the images come out messy instead of very focused. I keep trying and maybe concentrating on just one feature is the answer.

The images here are taken on Kodak Portraits 160 rated at nominal speed. They are not sharpened for screen or anything else. What is shown is the scan with only minor modifications of color, contrast and brightness in LR. I think that’s really amazing for a 35mm film. Also since Portra is certainly not the sharpest kid on the block.

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India – the first roll

I came back from my trip to India with twenty two medium format and seven 35mm rolls of film shot with a Mamiya 645Pro and a Contax RTS. These are a maximum of five hundred eighty two images to scan, edit and select for presentation. I guess that doesn’t mean much when shooting digital but it’s a hell of a lot using film. Since the moment I touched down back home I’ve been thinking how to sort, condense and write about all the impressions I collected as images as well as thoughts during the sixteen days of my visit to Rajasthan, Agra and Delhi.

201506_India_MF1_Delta400_Mamiya645_002-Edita mughal time well in a village close to jhunjhunu, Ilford Delta 400, Mamiya 645Pro

The straight forward approach had seemed to do a couple of chronological blog entries with the places I visited as titles. I decided against it since it doesn’t really help to focus on the quintessence. I visited so many places, met so many people and took so many shots that there is more confusion than clearness in my thoughts. In addition, India’s stark differences don’t make traveling always easy for the stomach as well as one’s patience.

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201506_India_MF1_Delta400_Mamiya645_003-Edit30m deep mertani baori (stepwell) in jhunjhunu built in 1783, Ilford Delta 400, Mamiya 645Pro

Here is the plan. I’ll do four blog entries trying to concentrate or even just to find my message:

  1. the first roll – introduction and some the images from the very first roll
  2. the places – two images and two sentences with my personal impression in order of my preference
  3. the people – top ten portraits
  4. the urban and rural life – in the end I’m not sure if there was a difference

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201506_India_MF1_Delta400_Mamiya645_006-Editwalking through churi ajitghar village, Ilford Delta 400, Mamiya 645Pro

I’m in the middle of showing the images of the first roll already. The images were shot on the way from Delhi to Mandawa and in Churi Ajitghar village during the first two days of my visit. It wasn’t easy to shoot the first film as it isn’t easy to start this series of blog entries.

I find my first images rather dull and mediocre, a forced trial to find a way inside. Some images were out of focus and it took some frames getting used to the Mamiya’s waist level finder. I did miss my Hasselblad and the square frame. The gray sky of the first days didn’t encourage to take a lot of photos, either. The weather got better and worse again and somehow I think my photography took the same route.

201506_India_MF1_Delta400_Mamiya645_007-Editjohnny in churi ajitghar village, Ilford Delta 400, Mamiya 645Pro

During my trip I shot ten medium format and two 35mm rolls of Kodak Portra 160 for the film’s natural color, eight medium format  rolls of Ilford Delta 400 for its versatile ISO range as well as the rich gray, tones, four medium format Rollei RPX100 as my favorite ISO100 film right now, three 35mm rolls of Fomapan 400 and two 35mm rolls Agfa APX100.

I’ll start working now in parallel on the three (maybe four) remaining entries. From here on it’s all about choosing the right images …

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At the grave yard

I cycled by this grave yard in the woods the other day. I found it by accident and something made me go back with the camera the same afternoon. It’s a quiet place. It’s not a fancy place.

It’s a real quiet place and I realized, this is the first day of my life

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All images were taken with a Hasselblad 500C/M on Rollei Retro 80s and developed in Kodak HC100.

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Expired and exposed ORWO NP27 – The expired film page

Here is another ebay purchase: Seventeen old films made by ORWO. I looked through the films and found a NP27 (ISO400) that was exposed and expired in July 1981. I developed it in Kodak  HC110 1+100 for 2h. The film showed strong fogging but some images could be saved.

On the pictures I found a woman in the kitchen and a dog. I contacted the ebay seller and got the information that the guy who owned the films just passed away in his nineties in Grimma, Saxonia. Since the film expired in 1981, I guess it was shot in the seventies in East Germany. Apparently, the guy was an engineer. However, there is no more information.

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Svema 250 – The expired film page

I found these 3 svema 250 films on ebay, made an offer on the go and won the bid. The films expired in July 1991. The seller didn’t have much confidence to get anything out of the films. Of course I tried. I took an 6×9 Agfa Synchro Box, put one of the films in and tried.

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Svema (Свема, Светочувствительные Материалы) was founded in 1931 in the Ukraine and was the major photographic film manufacturer of the USSR. The company made b&w films and paper as well as cine films and magnetic tapes until 2000. Interestingly, color film was made with equipment that was dismantled from the Agfa factory in Wolfen, Germany after World War II.

According to info on Wikipedia, I have the late 1980s version of the Foto 250 film which is equivalent to ISO 250. The film speed is given in GOST a soviet film sensitivity scale similar to ASA. Infos about the different film speed scales can be found here.

Here is a link to a Svema group on Flickr showing images a little bit more successful than mine.

I threw my images in highly diluted Kodak HC110 (1+100) and let it soak for 2h. that worked just fine for other expired films as well. I agitated the film in the jobo drum for one minute and let it stand for the rest of the 2 hours.

The results were devastating. First I only saw dots, many of them. The light sensitive emulsion was gone in many places. Only two images were recognizable at all. I washed and tried the film anyway. I scanned the two images, imported them into Lightroom and exported them to jpg.

It’s really not much to look at. They are portraits of two of my neighbors in front of the house. I don’t think they’ll come and complain about privacy. Maybe I’ll use the other two films for some pattern project on an extremely sunny day.

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Guarding Chiang Kai Shek

What does this young Taiwanese soldier feel about guarding the statue of one of the most influential man of twentieth century: Chiang Kai Shek.

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I don’t want to make this a wikipedia entry. You can check it yourself and brush up on your history knowledge. When I moved to Taiwan in 2002, I found a young democracy practicing and trying to find its own way. Democracy also meant fist fights in front and inside the parliament between opposing groups. A deep cut seemed to go right through the Taiwanese, a cut too deep to heal easily. The DPP, a pro Taiwan party, was in power and Chen Shui Bian, a supporter of Taiwan’s independence, was president. He was later convicted on two bribery charges and has been serving a 19-year sentence since. Now the conservatives are back in power still on the course of “status quo” with regards to the China question.

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In 2002, when I arrived, the nation was split: one half believing in an independent Taiwan and the other half still seeing Taiwan as a province of Greater China under the rule of the KMT. While the groups are certainly more mixed today, it seemed at the time that the supporters of a Greater China are mostly from the families of the one million soldiers which came to the island in 1949 when the communists under Mao had beaten Chiang and his KMT army. Any kind of opposition against the leading KMT was suppressed with unbelievable violence. After an uprising starting on the  27th of February 1947, the KMT killed 10000 to 30000 Taiwanese wiping out a large part of the political and intellectual opposition. The 228 incident marked the beginning of the “white terror” period in Taiwan. During the 38 years of military rule 140000 Taiwanese were imprisoned and 3000-4000 were executed as “bandit spies”. Even after Chiang Kai Shek’s death in 1975 the terror against intellectuals and their families continued.The martial law in Taiwan was lifted only in 1987 and finally, the state of war with China was over in 1991.

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Taiwan is still not represented in the United Nations after the People’s Republic of China took the seat in 1971. Only 22 nations mainly from Africa, South and Latin America maintain diplomatic relations to Taiwan. During the Olympic Games athletes from Taiwan start under the name “Chinese Taipei”.

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I return to Taiwan several times each year. I meet very polite, friendly and professional people. It’s really easy to get around and travel in Taiwan. It’s a safe place. The food’s great. The economy of the country is doing well. When my curious eye looks around, I see construction and the development of infrastructure all over the place. Taiwan developed itself from a world leader in manufacturing into a stronghold of high-tec designs. I just can’t figure out what the young soldier guarding the Chiang Kai Shek memorial is thinking.

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All images were taken with a Fuji GS645S on Fomapan 400 at ISO1600 and developed in Kodak HC110. A good reference to find out more about Taiwanese history is Denny Roy’s: “Taiwan: A Political History”

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Taking pictures at home

My home has all one needs to take pictures: Tables, a sofa, even curious cats.So, I took my Hasselblad 500C/M, an Ilford Delta 400 film and set the meter to ISO 1600 with the plan to develop the film in Spuersinn’s HCDnew. I metered the darkest and and set the camera two stops below the reading. I noted down the brightest spot as well but decided to develop with the nominal time since that seemed average for all shots.

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I’m lucky that the cats didn’t run into this one. They are always around when I take pictures and observe. I’m not sure whether or not they come to conclusions but they are always checking things out. However, they also make good subjects since my cats are relaxed and patient fellows.

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Moving on to the darker hallway, I tried a shot setting the aperture to 2.8. Maybe the shadows aren’t exposed perfectly but there wasn’t much information in there anyway. The painting behind the candle shows a man standing in the middle of the Yellow river. I got it in Beijing in 2004. I met the painter some years later by coincidence discussing a very similar painting on rice paper and oil.

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Ok, living room is next. First Victim: the bookshelf since it can’t move without me moving it. I got the shelf back in Singapore. It served as a divider of living area and kitchen/eating zone in my studio apartment right behind Orchard Road. Now it’s standing against the wall overflowing with books. I store some framed pictures and paintings in the gap between the shelf an the wine fridge. Not sure if I’m going to hang them up one day. It’s kind of the place they belong to now. Sometimes I flip through the frames and get lost in memories. Unfortunately, it’s also a place where all the cat hair collects in big fluffy balls …

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Meet Maxi, the big hairy tomcat of the house. I put him in a bad spot here interrogating the dog. He just walked in the scene I set up and he didn’t do anything. Hahaha. But he really doesn’t like dogs.

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The bedroom has a  bed and a big ass closet which is a mess in spite of the fact that it’s half empty. The bed room door is closed during the day and open at night. When the door is closed, Maya will scratch until the door is open. She doesn’t reason at all. Maxi makes it a sport to get i the bedroom during the day. He sneaks when I go in and out to get some clothes or my kindle. Before I can catch him and kick him out, he hides under the bed and awaits further action.

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It’s Octoberfest again

It’s Octoberfest again and so far I could avoid coming even close to Theresian Wiese. Next Saturday I’ll go in with a couple of friends, shoot some rolls of film and have a beer. Yes, only one.

Last year I went twice, took two cameras and all kind of film with me. The monochrome images were all taken with a Hassleblad 500C/M on Ilford HP5+ and Delta 400. All the color images were taken with a Pentax 645 starting with a Fuji NPH 400 followed by cross-processed Fuji Provia 400 and finally a roll cross-processed Kodak VS100.

Fuji NPH 400:

FUJI Provia 400:

Kodak VS100:

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Caffenol workshop wrap-up

Here is the complete album of images taken during the Caffenol workshop weekend in Salzburg. I shot 3 films with my Praktica MTL5b. Unfortunately the camera had some issues with film transport. I guess I got to try and check what’s wrong with it

Anyway i had a fun weekend, met nice people and shot some cool frames. I know it’s a bit nerdy to test three films. I haven’t really found my favorite combinations yet. You might think I have a structured approach. Believe me, I don’t … I use whatever film is in the fridge and whatever I feel like.

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Here again the links to the organizers: Dirk Essl and Marco Spalluto with lots of images and info about developing film in coffee. Many thanks to Lisa from the Leica Galerie Salzburg as well. They do have an Elliott Erwitt exhibition which is worthwhile a visit until the 12th of October.

About the results: I like the Fomapan 400 for the smooth grain. I guess it only works for motives that have not much fine and sharp detail and open up into some blur. Contrast isn’t really high but pleasant in my opinion. I know people who say it’s a bit flat but maybe our eyes are trained to see digital photos. The Kodak TMAX 100 is quite the opposite: strong in contrast, no visible grain and still enough sharpness in the details. However, lots of the tonality in the middle of the gray scale is lost. The Delta 400 is somewhere in between: nice grain, good sharpness and good contrast.

Ilford Delta 400:

Kodak TMAX 100:

Fomapan 400:

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