Tag Archives: hasselblad

The return of contrast – film talk

I guess my plans to write a blog post every week is an illusion. However, I’ll try harder (lol). My Lightroom library is full with edited and unedited photos. I still have a couple of undeveloped films waiting to be soaked. At least I can keep up better with the scanning. Maybe I post some of the images under the “places” category with less text. Also, I enjoy writing these … but it’s all about time.

Today, I share some images I took recently. A couple of years ago I purchased ten rolls of Rollei RPX 25 at a very much discounted price on macodirect.de. I admit I didn’t know what to do with them. I’m not a shooter of slow film. Sometimes, I shoot a roll of Ilford PanF just to realize that I should shoot it more often but then I seldom find the right moment. 

Finally, the right developer got me to take out the RPX 25 out of the fridge. Spur Speed Major allows me to shoot from box speed up to ISO 200. The first two rolls I shot at ISO 100 expecting some pretty high contrast, loss of detail in the shadows and missing mid tones. To my surprise the contrast is punchy while neither the mid tones nor shadow detail go away which isn’t common for pushing two stops. 

The ISO 25 film has pretty much no grain which isn’t helping for the “digitally felt” sharpness. However, I would assume a darkroom print would look quite fine as usual I didn’t sharpen the scanned image anyway. The images were taken with my 6×6 work horse, the Hasselblad 500c/m with the 80mm/2.8 standard lens. 

I’m usual looking for “anti-contrast” and the rich greys. High contrast as seen in all these pseudo street pics annoys me incredibly. But here it perfectly works. Blacks are deep and whites are shinning but all the tones in between are present as well which makes the film and developer a perfect couple.

 

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Fomapan 100 is the new Acros

After ranting about the digital camera manufactures and their pixel dreams of growth, i’m going to talk about …

Baumkuchen

Thinking about it there isn’t a cake being more German than Baumkuchen. Somehow it’s complicated to make since it’s built later by layer with some filling in between. It might come with chocolate or other frosting. But most importantly the pride of German baking tradition tastes mostly dry. If there wasn’t the Japanese. I found a Japanese bakery in the takashimaya department store in Singapore that makes the most delicious Baumkuchen on earth. I quickly got addicted to the Kuchen and the long queues told me I wasn’t alone.

So, what’s the point?

There was someone Japanese who took on this dull German thing and made it a modern and great tasting desert. It’s still the same old thing conceptionally but at the same time it’s something brand new and exciting attracting new customers and markets

Let’s talk about Fuji Acros

I think Fuji did a similar thing with developing Fuji Acros 100. Technically, it’s a black&white film. It even has the feel and touch of one. However, looking at the scanned image it doesn’t look like analog anymore. However, it doesn’t look like a digital picture either. The dynamic range is way bigger than a digital sensor could handle but the absence of grain let’s one wonder. The film handles underexposure quite well. The contrast is rather high but shadows are still beautifully detailed. To make it short, the film is perfect just like the Baumkuchen I was talking about. And while I liked the Baumkuchen a lot, I never shot a roll of Acros in my life. It is interesting to observe that the ingredients that make the perfect desert don’t interest me in a photographic film. While the perfect taste seems to be an achievable goal, the perfect look is not and needs to be placed one step ahead, permanently.

Now that Fuji Acros won’t be around much longer

many are trying to build a little stock. Prices for the remaining material in the market are going up already. Here in Germany the medium format seems already sold out. I admit I also got some rolls right after Fuji’s announcement to discontinue the film. Finally, I can try knowing all perfection has an ending. I also haven’t eaten the Japanese Baumkuchen for over five years now. However, I’m glad to find Juchheim’s Baumkuchen still around. The company was founded by the German Karl Juchheim in Tsingtao, China in 1909. Later the company moved to Japan and after WWII the Japanese employees took over the company and have run it since. 

In the meantime …

I ordered lots of Fomapan 100 for the summer. Developed in the correct chemicals the film can deliver awesome results. The grain is subtile, contrast is high, the image is sharp and shadow detail is there as well. So, it’s just like Acros at a fraction of the price. Although, this was kind of unexpected. Before I developed most ISO 100 films in Rodinal and results were ok. However, I’m always looking to find the perfect match of film and chemistry. I already decided that Fomapan 100 isn’t my cup of tea but I found the roll in the fridge and needed some slow film to go with sun and snow. I also just acquired a bottle of Spur SLD high speed developer and gave it a trial. The developer allows to shoot at nominal speed or even faster. Also an additive was developed to achieve even higher speeds and still keep the contrast increase and loss of shadow details under control. I’ve been trying quite some film and speed combinations and the developer has not let me down yet. My favorites are Ilford HP5+ rated at ISO 800-1600 and the Fomapan 100 at boxspeed. Getting to high sensitivities isn’t the only advantage of the developer. For some film contrast can be controlled by one or two stops. That’s pretty cool considering a very moderate loss in the shadow areas as it’s often the case for push developers.

Let the results speak for themselves …

Some links … the Juchheim company making the amazing Baumkuchen … Spur SLD developerFomapan website

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Film talk – HP5+ pulled to ISO100

It seems that in our digital age the concept of b&w photography is taken literally by the absence of grey tones in many monochrome images. To make matters worse a lot of the analog community also seems to love that “crunchy” look. Some “reinvented” film stock hit the market in the past year that just gathers to this market while I wonder whether these people would be better off using a mirrorless digital cam. I suppose running no around with a Leica Mx loaded with Ferrania P30 is a real hipster thing today. I wonder what was hip in my days and the only thing I can come up with is a stonewashed pair of jeans. You know what I’m trying to say? Yes, in a couple of years these guys will look like a sad bunch of losers. Like the guys who still wear stonewashed jeans.

Anyway, I guess I’m mostly kidding so far. But when it comes to gray and richness of tonality, I’m getting dead serious. I know what Ansel Adam is teaching us and I believe his book “the negative” is essential to film photography and processing. I might not be a big fan of his most famous images of NP Yosemite but I highly value his zone system theory. It’s still just a model with its limitation in the just impossibly high number of photographic situations but I think it just does fine in almost all situations.

Here is how it works for me and not just for sheet film but medium format. Let’s say you want to shoot a role on a sunny late autumn day with long deep shadows. I would guesstimate the range from the highlights to the darkest shadows to be seven stops. The film can maybe take five stops or a bit more. Now the decision needs to be made whether to have details in the shadows and burn out the highlights or have no detail in the shadows left. Or, you can compress the seven stops into the available range of five by exposing for the shadow detail and developing for the lights.

Ilford HP5+ rated at ISO 100 instead of its nominal speed of 400 and developing it for -2 stops drops even three stops in tonal range. I should easily be able to compress all seven stops onto the film. And as the images show, it worked quiet well. There is literally no dark shadow without detail and the highlights are far from being blown out. The tonal range is used without emphasizing on backs and white filling the images with lovely grays. The images show a nice range I‘m surprised the detail contrast is still quite good and that grain has almost disappeared. Also the images are still quite sharp.

I shot another roll on a similar day with the first snow at ISO 200 looking forward to share it here. This will also continue the Rolleiflex 6008 nightmare. In the meantime I’ll work on some images taken with the finally fully repaired Horizon, an old Russian panorama camera, and another “the last roll post since I sold my Mamiya 645 stuff.

stay tuned …

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One roll, one topic – autumn mood in b&w

All you need to catch the mood during fall is a film camera, some black and white film and a little bit of determination to find the spirit of autumn beyond the warm colors. Yes, you’ve heard right: black and white film and I’ll explain why.

There is more to autumn than its warm, yellow, red and brown colors. There is the low sun and the long shadows, the decay of last summer’s flowers, bushes and trees, the muddy smell in the woods. There are so many aspects b&w film can capture with exception of the smell of course. And I didn’t catch any fog yet which certainly belongs to autumn as well. 

What made me choose Ilford PanF+? The easy answer is: I still had a roll in the fridge, winter is coming and I better use it before the really dark days come. I seldom shoot ISO 50 and when I do I ask myself afterwards why don’t I use it more often. I love shooting with a wide open aperture getting that limited DoF that makes images so much more exciting and I’m not yet talking about the lovely bokeh an open lens produces. At least the 80mm/2.8 Planar on my Hasselblad gives pleasing pentagonal shapes. In addition PanF+ performs excellently renditioning grey tones and the contrast is very pleasing. The grain is hardly visible which makes the film the perfect choice for nature shots and details.

The low ISO of the PanF+ as well as the high contrast call for a balanced development and I think a semi-stand in Rodinal works best. I developed the film for one hour in a highly diluted (1:100) solution. I usually agitate medium format film two times after the initial one minute of agitation after ten and thirty minutes. 

You might wonder why there are only eight frames instead of twelve here. The calculation is quite easy. Two images are of private nature since I never post images of family, friends or myself with the exception of having acquired a permission to do so. One frame I shot twice since I wasn’t sure about the framing. And last but not least, frame number twelve was never shot. That makes it eight frames you can see here.

Enjoy and don’t hesitate to comment. In my next post I’ll show some colorful fall images taken with a Rolleiflex 6008. However, it’s less about the colors but reasoning whether to keep the camera or sell it.


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A walk along the river Elbe with a Hasselblad, Rollei Retro 400s and a red filter

One of the largest man made park landscapes in Europe can be found close to Dessau in the German state of Sachsen-Anhalt. The area is great for hiking and cycling since it’s loaded with parks and their noble residences. Also 1919 The Bauhaus art and design school settled in Dessau and many typical Bauhaus landmarks can be found here. In my last post I wrote about the “Meisterhaeuser”, the houses of the Bauhaus masters. In my new post you can find some images of the Kornhaus designed and built by the Bauhaus architect Carl Fieger as an restaurant and event complex in 1930. In 2012 the restaurant was re-opened and I certainly enjoyed having lunch on the terrace. 

Ok, let me write about the photography now. The format 6×6: that’s something that was hard for me when I started taking images with the Hasselblad. However, soon enough I realized that the square is a great format and it doesn’t have the limitations of other “cuts”. The subject can as well be centered as off center. All that matters that the extra space is “filled” with something interesting compared to a portrait or landscape shot. 

The film Rollei Retro 400s: usually I’d use it for urban subjects but not for landscapes. The fine grain, the high contrast and the excellent sharpness work well for architectural  photos. I’m positively surprised that the film also has a wide range of grey tones and that the contrast can be tamed. 

The red filter: in short it darkens the blues, lightens the reds. A nice effect is the brighter greens as well. Although, it’s not that strong in summer compared with the fresh greens in spring time. I like how white clouds and bright buildings get this natural glow against the darker blue sky. The effect can certainly be driven to an extreme as  it’s done in infrared photography. Here I appreciate the filter’s subtleness. My favorite is the last image. The sun was setting against a cloudy sky. The llight green of the trees and all these nice grey tones work harmonically together. I didn’t know the red filter would work this well in the evening.

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One roll, one topic – the Bauhaus Meisterhaeuser in Dessau

I think I tried several times to take decent images of the Bauhaus Meisterhaeuser in Dessau and I’m not sure I succeeded this time. The three double houses for the Bauhaus masters and the single house for the director were built in a small pine forest between 1925 and 1926. The architect Walter Gropius assembled cubic shapes of different sizes and envisioned an industrial Lego to build the houses. The houses have spacious patios and balconies as well as large windows on the sides illuminating the stairways. The    street side of the houses are mostly shaped by the large atelier windows. 

Now let me talk about the challenges of shooting these houses. There is trees allover the place. They are everywhere and really ruin the light as well as an unblocked view. On the other hand, these tall parallel pine trees somehow underline the cubic architecture and sometimes a tree cleverly breaks the parallelism. I guess I was rather luck with the light and the sun even broke through the clouds. I took this as a chance to use a dark red filter and together with the Rollei Retro 400s film it lightened the greens which looks quite fresh compared to the expected heavy dark above the white buildings.

Another quite annoying issue is that the space is very limited. Regardless of the lens used, lines will be falling and nothing is worse trying to portrait a design based on parallel lines and 90deg angles. Sometimes it seems beneficial to make the falling lines even stronger by using a wide angle lens or a low point of view but except using a large format camera or a tiltshift lens, we need to live with it. 

None of the images show the street side views of the houses. I tried one out of twelve and didn’t find it worthy to be shown here. The issues with the trees, the light and the falling lines just seem to be worse. However, maybe a good reason to return and focus on the street facing side.

Last but not least, I want to make some comments about the choice of film. Rollei Retro 400s is a fine grain emulsion that is also very sharp as well as high contrast. I think it’s a good pick to shoot architecture. However, I usually tame the contrast a bit by shooting at ISO 200 and reducing agitation during development. 

The last image doesn’t show one of the original houses. The homes of the directors were destroyed during the last days of WWII. In 2014 new houses were built but they do not resemble the originals. These two houses are new interpretations of the old without being the old.

i will continue with a bit more Bauhaus in a couple of days. Until then, enjoy.

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Umbrellas and reflection

Hey, it’s raining today. Let’s take the umbrella, load the hasselblad with fast film and play in the puddles outside. You don’t have to ask twice, your kids and most of the photographers will always follow the first call. My good friends from Tel Alviv, Victor and Sergio Bezrukov, accompanied me on this rainy September day to explore a different look of Munich. By the way, both make excellent  models as well.

A couple of hours in the city are always a good reason to get out the bulky and heavy 40mm distagon for the hasselblad. I also left the back with the TriX pushed to ISO 1600 on the camera to gain some freedom in exposure but also for the increased contrast by means of extended development. While TriX pushes well, the film starts to lose details in the shadows pushed to ISO 1600 adding to the already strong high “contrasty” feeling.

Next time you get out in the rain, find umbrellas that add pattern and shape to your images. Don’t forget to look out for the reflections in the puddles of rain water. 

Check out Victor Bezrukov’s images here. These were taken with a Fuji GA645 and Bergger Pancro pushed to ISO 800.

 

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the old factory

Old abundant factories always make a good target for photography. Most of them are locked up and access is really prohibited due to an increased risk of accidents. The gate of the old factory for photo chemicals and film in Berlin Koepenick was wide open just inviting me to step inside and have a look. I took some shots of the two buildings left and right but didn’t like the outcome with houses on each side and the big nothing in the center. To be honest, I do struggle with images of architecture and a wide angle lens on the camera.

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I took the much better shots inside even though I find it quite icky. I don’t like the feeling of garbage, broken glass and the rubble under my feet. However, the view from inside is worth the minor suffering. I walked about around on the first floor and got stuck on the stairways where I shot the rest of the role. I used an ISO 100 film and was a bit concerned about the low light. I just set the camera on aperture 4 and 1/60 speed … even though the meter was measuring at least one stop more in the darker areas.

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A relatively new warehouse behind the older building turned out to be a greenhouse. It’s amazing how fast nature takes over its old terrain again. The factory was just closed about 2 years ago and trees already started to grow inside the place.

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All images were taken with a Hasselblad 500C/M on Adox CHS 100. The film was developed in Agfa Rodinal.

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taking the hasselblad to a concert

A hasselblad isn’t really known for its use during a concert. Actually the camera isn’t known to be very versatile outside a photo studio. Although I like to take my hasselblad anywhere but the studio and I started to enjoy the results of images taken in low light. A film that is very versatile and push-able to the extreme is Kodak’s TriX. I’ve used the film at ISO 6400 and beyond developed in Spuersinn HCDnew.

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I have discussed the camera as well as the film. The next question is about the best lens. My thinking for a concert and low light is going wide. Focusing is a bit easier since the depth of field is increased and I have a better chance hitting the focus in dim lighting.

I also think I’m able to get interesting angles and a bit more drama using a wide lens. But this brings me to the next problem: location. Shooting wide means I gotta get close to the stage and that might be a problem in a tiny  crowded place.

Finally, I chose the 40mm/4 Distagon this time. I just got the lens on ebay and was really keen to try it out. I set it on f4 and 1/30 at and started shooting. I also measured and saw that I need a stop more to develop at ISO 6400. Anyway, the setting was the lowest anyway and I started shooting. Maybe I could get away with 1/15s with a 40mm lens but I didn’t want to risk it knowing the hasselblad doesn’t do really well with long shutter speeds.

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The concert took place in a small bar called Gabanyi, a cosy place with a long bar and a few tables while the stuff runs around in white aprons, the kind that people wear in labs. There was a little stage with the piano just lid by two old fashioned lamps on the wall.

The bar was getting pretty crowded. There were some tables right in front of the stage with all seats taken. When the concert started, I quickly finished my beer and squeezed myself between two tables standing right in front of the stage. I realized that the camera plus the lens are quite big and it needs a bit of juggling in a narrow space. I also needed to be careful where to put the camera when not shooting. A small digital point-and-shoot might be more practical. I just wonder if I even would look at the results. Part of the fun is the challenge to master all weird circumstances: the big medium format camera plus the monster 40mm lens, the narrow space, the low light and the film chosen for the task, the shooting location. Considering all this and a bit of luck will lead to some interesting images for sure. I always try to find a good balance between shooting and thinking before clicking. Shooting with film means every time you click the shutter you also use a frame of film. Thinking too much means you never get a full film.

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Finding a balance especially while shooting a band is important. Some out of focus frames will be lost as well as some due to unexpected movements. I tried to limit myself to one film since changing the film or back might have been too much trouble.

Observing the images I see that most are done from a low point of view. That can be explained with the usage of the hasselblad’s waistlevel finder which makes it easier to choose a low view point than a high one. I’ve tried over the head and upside down but I seldom hit the right focus. I also tried during this shoot and it was a wasted frame. Sometimes I get the finder very close to my face and try to stand on my toes to raise the camera as much as possible. Yet, a view from above is only possible from a raised position. These are the things you don’t even realize while shooting but when looking at the results much later.

20150115_theCapitols_TriX_Hasselblad_010-EditMaybe I shortly get back to the film used here: Kodak TriX. There were times I shot a lot of TriX but when I started analog photography again in 2012 I didn’t like it at first and I mostly used Ilford HP5+ and Delta 400. On a recent trips I started shooting TriX again and tried some different developers like Spur Ultraspeed Vario, the new Tetenal Ultrafin T-Plus and Spuersinn HCDnew for push development. After taming the high contrast, it’s now one of my most favorite films again.

I think I need to say some words about the band as well. Hey, they were the real heroes of the evening. “The Capitols” is a young band based in Munich, Germany which usually plays good and solid rock. In the relatively small Gabanyi Bar they tried to go “unplugged”. I think even the band wasn’t sure if this is going to work but it did. The acoustic versions of “Inhale/Exhale” and “Neon Ghetto” totally worked for me. There are three songs promoted on their webpage.

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The Tel Aviv Museum of Art

I went to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to see Ohad Matalon’s Photo Op exhibition. The idea of the exhibition is a constant change in the given space. There is no fixed theme, no defined way of editing and presentation which also opens all directions for interpretation. New peaces enter the exhibition while others or are being destroyed ensuring constant change.

The concept didn’t work for me since i realized that the timescale of the changes is too slow to catch up with the speed of changes in real life. Also, I didn’t like the art pieces which seemed to be the results of experimental accidents very much. It’s a matter of taste, i guess and it just wasn’t for me. The framed print of a piece of crumbled paper gave a good reflection for a photograph.

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I had a lot of fun walking through the museum after visiting  Photo Op. It’s a huge place with so many different exhibitions and they are not to be seen on just one day. I visited two more exhibitions and walked through the floors taking some images.

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I especially liked the library and reading room which I found just wandering around. To get a different point of view, I turned the Hasselblad with its waist level finer around and held it high above me. Focusing and framing isn’t easy and I’m quite surprised that the results are quite OK.

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