An errand took me back to the town in which I was raised, and I brought a Pentax LX loaded with my next to last roll of Kodak HIE. It was almost 3 years out of date, but even under a gloomy sky the IR effect was noticeable. Here’s a shot of a memorable memorial (click on the picture for a larger image):
Last week I spent a day wandering along the Lake Michigan shore. It was windy and I stopped in South Haven and took a few snapshots of the South Haven lighthouse in the gale. I didn’t bring a digital camera, so I shot with the Pentax 6x7 - just two rolls - and then several rolls of 35mm B&W film in the Mz-S. I wanted a grainy look, and I needed fast shutter speeds, so I pushed Fuji Neopan two stops to ISO 1600.
Haven’t developed the 120 film yet, but here’s one of the better 35mm shots. The Neopan was developed in HC-110, Dilution B, 12 minutes for the 2 stop push. The grain came out real nice - smooth and not clumpy - it was a good combo.
Click on the image for a larger picture.
It’s late August and the sun is already hanging low in the sky… In the wee hours crickets chirp and the morning chorus of songbirds is gone for another year.
And the red dragons fly around in the grass, as if they owned the place:
Earlier this month I received news that one of my photos had been accepted into the West Michigan Area Show at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art. Frequent visitors will recognize In Indiana - a digital infrared shot taken last summer just outside of Tipton, Indiana. I dropped off the piece last Thursday, and plan to attend the opening reception next Friday, May 6. More about the Area Show and the KIA can be found here.
What to do on a rainy Saturday? Like a bored kindergartner, I contemplated my options yesterday… The answer I came up with was to try developing film in coffee - caffenol - something I had read about but never tried.
Great - I grabbed my old film camera, Pentax MZ-S - and found that it had a roll of Fuji Neopan SS 100 already in it. Hmmm - 10 exposures taken, I had no idea when or where. Where, they obviously weren’t important and if coffee development could make Neopan SS acceptable, I was all for it.
I drove off to the local grocery store and bought some Arm and Hammer Washing power. Then I went to Walgreens and bought some Walgreen’s instant coffee, and then I went to the health food store and bought some pure powder vitamin C. There we have it - everything needed for caffenol C.
I then drove around for a while in the cold wind blown rain. The day was gloomy and dark. I finally drove through the graveyard just around the corner from my house and snapped out the remainder of the film roll there.
Here’s a shot of a monument from the graveyard, developed in the caffenol.
So, talking about developer, let’s talk a little about the philosophy behind making photos….
Photography is an endeavor that is marked by many scientific and technical aspirations. Over the centuries people have strived for the precisely correct exposure and the precisely correct development time. Oddly enough, for all this desire for precision photography itself is a very messy and imprecise business. For instance, the basic unit of measure - the Stop - is based on full orders of magnitude of difference. Imaging if you were a carpenter and you could only cut boards that were one foot, two feet, four, eight or sixteen feet in length and had no way to even tell that what length of board was really precisely right, and no way to actually cut something to a precise size. That 10 foot 3.5 inch board - ain’t gonna happen. Similary for the photographer, that exact exposure, down to the fraction of a stop, seldom happens and when it does it is by luck or the grace of God and not skill…
Developing film is the one and only area where some degree of precision is possible. You can indeed precisely control the concentration of developer and the starting temperature of your developer solution. You can control the time spent in development. And you can greatly influence the effects of agitation, though the actual action of the fluid in the canister is chaotic and subject to randomness. Since the effects of development are conditional on the exposure of the film, over which one has limited control, the degree of control exercised in the development phase is similarly limited.
So - when it comes to caffenol - am I doing this to try to create another very precise developer solution, or is this an exercise in injecting controlled randomness into film processing? Being a level head, non delusion type; I decided it was clearly the latter. I mean, if I really want to control the process why not just use Rodinol, HC 110, D76, or some other commercial developer?
Ok - so I followed the caffenol recipe on the massive developer chart, which you can find here. I varied the recipe a bit and used leftover coffee the morning’s pot as a base and added 1/2 tsp of table salt to the mix to reduce the grain in the Neopan SS. (I am not a big fan of the grain in this film - it is pronounced and uneven in most developers, and comes across as clumpy and uneven…)
The mixture smelled pretty bad, but then I have actually drunk coffee that smelt worse, so what the heck. No starting time for caffenol C was given on the website, so I went with 20 minutes at 20 C. I was a little surprised to find that the negs were a bit over developed, and iwll probably cut back on that time in the future.
Regarding tonal quality - the stain produced by the coffee is notable in the film. Thankfully, it offsets the magenta tint that Neopan SS is infamous for. The contrast is rather flat in the mid range but more pronounced at the ends of the spectrum - resulting in both the highlights being a little too bright and the shadows a little too dark. The grain is OK but not great.
Here is an actual pixel crop of the scan - this is the hand on the crutch - the scan was made on a Nikon 8000 ED and a little sharpening has been applied. It clearly is not a high acutance developer…
This was an interesting experiment, and I might try some other plant based developers in the future. I view the use of caffenol as injecting a degree of randomness into the photographic process - not that there isn’t a lot of randomness in it already. But when you embrace the chaos and relinquish illusions of being in control, you get to have more fun…
At any rate, at least this gave me something to do yesterday…
Here it is, late November, and the first snows of the year are wisping in the air. Last year at this time, in a very late and warm spring, I was still finding the very last Autumn Meadowhawks. This year we’ve had a few days of below freezing temperatures, and the dragonflies are surely finished (at least till next spring.)
Here are a couple shots, leftovers from summer past.
First – the only mature male Blue Dasher that I was able to get a shot of – as you can see, he is a bit past his prime and worse for wear and tear. Well, we all have those days.
Second, a couple shots of a male Eastern Pondhawk, a species I don’t see as often as I use to.
A male Widow Skimmer -
And lastly, a Hairsteak Butterfly -
Well, here we are in late October. I’ve had little time to visit the fields, but fall is well under way and things are going to brown. Here’s a little essay from this July that never made it onto this blog:
There is an interesting place in the Allegan Forest. It is off 44th street, a ways south of 115th avenue. When you drive by on the dirt road you can catch a glimpse of a small parking lot at the end of a little drive, carved out of the forest. If you look closely as you pull in you’ll see a small log wedged in the branches of a pine tree near the entrance, with a moldering orange ball the size of a softball, or a grape fruit, fixed to it.
The parking lot is maybe big enough to accommodate 10 vehicles. It is dry gravel with the scrubby woods pressed close in on the north and the south. Someone dumped a bunch of garbage there, so plastic bottles, cans, scraps of tin foil and shreds of plastic bags adore the edge of the forest. If you look down and it is summer, you will see ants on the gravel. Lots of ants.
There is a small red gate, the kind typically installed by the DNR to close off two tracks and service roads. Behind the gate is a long disused two track, just two parallel bands of gravel with weeds in the center strip growing up 6 feet or more. Near the gate is an old cast iron pipe with a slot cut in the side. Similar pipes are used to this day at state parks and campgrounds - you drop your self-registration paperwork and fees into them.
The abandoned two track runs straight as an arrow into the woods. The trees have been cleared 20 or 30 feet to either side, though here and there a midsized tree has taken hold and is growing right beside the road.
The cleared areas along the side of the road are knee high with grass, knapweed, poison ivy, patches of milkweed and other plants. Huge anthills – domes 8 or 10 feet in diameter – rise up out of the grass. No plants grow on these nests, instead they are perforated with dozens of holes and millions of ants scurry in and out of them. The road extends for over 300 years, and the ant hills rise up every few feet for that entire distance. I imagine it is a huge single colony of ants – but maybe it is a federation of separate ant states. Either way, it pays to walk gingerly and not to stand around idle. Even on the road or the parking lot, you will get the stray ant tickling its way up you leg until it realizes it is stuck, and then the pinprick of its bite.
Thankfully, the ants here in Michigan are all pretty mild. Though it’s not a good idea to walk on the ant mounds and it is a very bad idea to jab a monopod into the soft sand of the ant domes. Take it from me.
Where the two track ends there is a break into a large field on one side. It is open and green and lush this time of year. Visiting it on Saturday, a white tail leapt out of the brush and bounded away gracefully. A moment later two young deer – still with their spotted coats but almost the size of a full-grown adult – bounded off in the other direction.
A couple of small concrete slabs are carved out of the vegetation – foundations form some now long gone buildings – and in a copse of scruffy trees a large sewer pipe stands on end – at least 6 feet in diameter and towering 20 feet or more into the air. I once spoke with a hunter here who referenced “the silo” – but it is a sewer pipe. How it got in this place and on its end is anyone’s guess. Someone – no doubt mystified by its presence here – chipped a hole in the side of it. Too small for a person to get through, you could peer into the inky darkness inside the pipe, if you wanted to.
If you keep going along the path that continues from the two track you’ll go 30 or 40 feet with large trees pressing in on either side, and then come upon a huge field, a few hundred yards long and wide. It is a regular square, carved out of the forest, and this time of year is full of knapweed, prairie grass, and lots of wild strawberries – acres of wild strawberries.
And all along the way there are dragonflies – lots of dragonflies – and their images are recorded here in this post.
I haven’t had much time to experiment with the infrared converted Pentax K10D, but did manage to take a few snapshots while in central Indiana earlier this week. Here’s a semi driving by a row of trees, as seen from the far end of a soybean field: