Stinky Fingers

Six rolls of Delta 400 @ ISO 800, Xtol 1+1 15:30. Three rolls of TMax 100, Xtol 1+1 9:30. One roll Fortepan 400, Rodinal 1+25 7:30. One roll Acros, Rodinal 1+25 7 minutes. Everything at 20°C, everything spot on. Rodinal and Acros — snappy! Funny that I couldn't find a recommended time until I checked with fujifilm.de...

After running a bit of Rodinal a few days ago, I'm all enamoured with it again, after a long hiatus. The Acros was particularly impressive for the short range and high contrast that the combination delivers, but the TriX had a look that's also hard for any other combo to beat — even with digital hackery.

Scanning all the negs as soon as they're dry has both good and bad aspects. The good ones are that if I'm happy with the Photoshopable result, I can be churning out 8×10's in less than an hour, or blasting them off via the net to all parts worldwide. The biggest downside is storage.

Before I started scanning regularly, I would always make a contact sheet, and store the contacts in three-ring binders. I'd page through them regularly, looking for photos I might have not been interested in one upon a time.

Photoshop can make what it calls "contact sheets," but they are a very poor substitute for a real, silver-paper contact proof. They just don't carry anywhere near the detail of the old-style contact, making photo assesment for the sheet near-impossible.

Yeah, sure, you could open all the original scans — but that doesn't let you see a whole roll at a time, and it takes forever to load all those photos. It's even worse when the scans have been archived to CD or DVD. I've tried slideshows, Extensis Pro, Powerpoint, browsers of all kinds... I'm just about ready to go buy a big honkin' box of 8½×11 photo paper and start getting my fingers full of fixer small, making contact sheets for these scanned rolls in bulk.

If anyone has a better idea for how to manage the digital "contact problem," please let me know.

Posted September 28, 2003 | Comments (4)

Slow News Day

A few days ago, documentary photographer Rob Appleby opined that for him, the photo essay was a dead form, that he's busy looking into something a bit more meaningful, to Rob himself and hopefully to his audience, whoever they may ultimately be.

Personally, I think there's rarely such a thing as a truly dead form, not in a general sense. Individual veins may tap out, but the mine stays open.

Schönberg commented, even as he developed his own tonal scale, that there were still many masterpieces yet to be written in the key of C major — what's true for piano works is surely also true for image-making. A form may feel exhausted to individual practitioners, or perhaps has grown tired from extended rehashing of its own best successes — but there is always the potential for something new, fresh, and meaningful to be drawn from existing forms.

I thought about replying to him with a pointer to the work of shooters like Simon Roberts or Simon Norfolk — imagine my dismay when I discovered that despite their apparent successes (even in black & white!), their shared agency, growbag, is closing. I'd like to think it's closing because its members have grown too successful — please tell me it's so!

Then the September PDN shows up, with their annual photo-j issue. More photo essay — Stanley Greene in Grozny, Jeun Gaumy on the Atlantic, dead-on classical form, black and white with strong, sure hands.

In the emailed conversation that followed Rob's remark, the subject of Gene Smith came along (gee, who'd'a thunk?), and it was lamented that none of the photography we've seen in recent months from the Iraqi invasion had the passion of Smith's WWII pictures.

This thought has been bothering me for days now. Is it true? Is it not? And if it is, why?

I can only imagine, if it really is so, that it's due to the usual culprit implicated in the collapse of the great PJ magazines like LOOK — the culprit, of course, is television. If you are good, they stick you in television, from journalism school onward. TV has the money, the audience, the staff. So where are those passionate video essays?

Dumped onto a hard disk and backed-up somewhere perhaps, but not on the TV. Sadly, TV has succumbed to the Cult of the Standup — no matter how gripping the images, nothing seems to be shown on TV without having a voiceover, or more likely a dull shot of some Important Personality standing up in front of the shot and yakking into a handheld microphone, preferably with a network logo and the word "LIVE" blinking over the other open portions of the frame.

It's grotesque. One station here in the Bay Area can't resist the lure of the blinking LIVE stamp, going to ridiculous lengths to always ensure a maximum number of such stories are included in their late-evening broadcast. Of course there's no news going on at the time — so we're treated to a simple camera-lit shot of the same reporter as the night before, standing in front of a locked-up courthouse or along the shoulder on Interstate 880 or some equally nondescript dark location, talking about a news story that occured earlier in the day. "LIVE"? They might as well have broadcast a taped radio show.

TV has the advertising money, but they fail to get the real story. As long as this is true, there's an opportunity for PJs, whether it be on the other end of the world or their own back yards.

Posted September 26, 2003 | Comments (0)

Leaks

Three rolls of Delta 400, 15:30 in Xtol 1+1 for ISO 800. One roll of new Tri-X TX400 in Rodinal 1+25, 7 mins. All @ 20C.

You've got dust leaks on the CCD, you've got wet leaks on the darkroom floor. My friend Joel was knocked flat on his back one morning when ammonia leaked through an aluminum pipe in our movie-film-processor, creating a dizzying gas leak.

You've got light leaks in the camera, light leaks in the scanner, light leaks in the drum, light leaks in the film can. I label all my re-useable cans, and if I see a light leak on the negs the can gets tossed.

Had one this morning:

"Sep03v - D@800 - 9/5/03"
"Shibuya/Hachiko",9/5/2003,Auto,f8.0,"Delta 400 Pro","G2","28mm Biogon"

Leaks around the last three frames, leaks along one edge across the roll. One frame ruined, the rest fine — but no more. Sorry, can "D" — "D" is for "Doom."

The worst leak of all, though, is a leaky pocket, like the one in my green jacket.

"Aug03z - S@800 - 8/31/03"
"Sincheon Food Street, Seoul - Night",8/31/2003,Auto,f4.5,"Delta 400 Pro","G2","45mm Planar"
"Hacker Membership Discoteque",8/31/2003,Auto,f4.5,"Delta 400 Pro","G2","45mm Planar"

Somewhere in Korea, on the floor of New Hacker or Lotte World or somewhere in the gutter along Chamsil-dong, my jacket leaked out completed roll "S" in the wee hours of a Sunday night. The notes and the memories are all I have left. Grrr.

At least it wasn't a memory card — then again, I might have noticed earlier.

Posted September 25, 2003 | Comments (0)

The Big(ger) Picture


After some late-night MT tweaking, I'm moving to larger photos on the front journal pages — though as before, all journal photos are probably clickable.

At this point in its history, Botzilla has become something of an archeological museum of trends in web design and software, wiith layers of material from different eras and projects. There are still snips here and there from the original National Pixel Products site, back when I had NatPix hosted on rahul.net (one of the earliest companies to offer hosting for individuals) — amazingly it was even listed on the NCSA's Cool Site of the Day, back in those dark, pre-Yahoo days. Then came photo stuff, then the House o' Props n Bots for my old housemate Jim's little project, aka The Palace; then new layers of photos galleries and digicam info and more galleries and the journal and another gallery associated with that.

I've considered gutting the whole thing — considered adding a cool kartoo-like site map — but for now I think I like it as-is, a rambling Mystery House of a site. Just listen to those hammers.


As a side note, for an extra site wing I'd love to build some day (if I thought I could withstand the liability risk): CNN reports today on the latest way that corporations and cops are preserving photographers' right to be senselessly harassed.

Posted September 24, 2003 | Comments (0)

Steve LeHuray

Steve LeHuray passed away suddenly last week, apparently from a heart attack. In addition to his love of a very 1950's-traditional style of street photography, Steve was also a media entrepreneur and founder of the magazine ICOM.

Steve was very much an old-school style of flaneur photographer, one who saw his shooting as a means to approach everyday theatre and through it try to glimpse something of the essence of humanity. It's no surprise he was very involved in the Leicaphile collective "Family of Man 2" project of a couple of years ago. I didn't always buy his theories or his photos, but he certainly did, they meant a lot to him and gave his effort a sense of personal meaning. Sometimes I think that might be the best one can hope for.

Let me rip him off here, from this posting, date 19 Sept 2001:

...with the upcoming WTO/IMF protests a couple weeks away in Washington I posted for my wk36 PAW this protest picture, "Convert the War Machine":

http://www.streetphoto.net/photo_of_the_week/wk36.jpg

Then four days later came the World Trade Center/Pentagon attack. I felt devastated and helpless. So I needed some time to think.

I spent time thinking (maybe I do that to much) and in particular about my photography, my kind of photography which by now most people who have been following my PAW realize that what I mostly do is Street Photography. And I asked myself, why do I do Street Photography for many years now? I knew what the answer would be. Because of the confusing state, to me, of world affairs, I know that I take pictures of complete strangers because somewhere in those pictures there is an answer, if only for me, as to why we all are what we are.

Working through those particualr mysteries engaged him to the end — as witnessed by Steve's final PAW Photo.

So long, sl.

Posted September 23, 2003 | Comments (0)

Caught Up!

430+ strobe trigger voltages, measured and indexed with the help of a few hundred of my closest personal friends..... oy!

Posted September 21, 2003 | Comments (0)

The Lesson

When we were in Japan we switched hotels, from a western-styled business hotel to a Japanese-styled urban ryokan. After settling-in I thought to run out around the corner to the local Family Mart for a soda. For the first time in days I left my camera behind with Courtney – I'd only be gone for five minutes, right?

No sooner do I turn that corner outdoors, than a lone guy comes running down the street toward me — black suit, tie, and a horse's head. He's shouting and waving at people in an upper-story window across the street as he runs by. Me: no camera.

Today, I think to leave the Contax at home... I've got my little Canonet in the desk at work anyway, right? At lunchtime, I jot down to the cafeteria — at the door there's a guy in a giant furry Shark suit (from the local hockey team). Me: no camera.

I feel an ominous trend developing.

Posted September 18, 2003 | Comments (1)

Flash Uses This Site

I keep trying to keep up with the many submissions for the strobe listing page, but it's not as easy as it might look — they come in pretty steadily (one or two a day), and I transcribe them pretty haphazardly. Fits and starts, but I'm still about 100 listings behind. For those of you who've posted measurements since about mid-May, please be patient... I've got a lot of writing and coding to do on other work besides this website.

Let that be a lesson to me... pages like that one, or the search dada page, that need regular labor-intensive management, can be a pain. I'm thankful for the help, and glad to put up public service sites like the strobe listing... but it's still a pain.

I've thought about further-automating the input process, but fear that it would get filled with vandalism and spam, as have the various guestbooks on other parts of Botzilla. Annoyingly, some "clever fella," apparently in Germany, has written a robot that goes around to website guestlogs and writes little compliments in them, like "love your site!"

What's wrong with this, you might ask? Well, for one, it's dishonest — the robot never really looks at the site, it's just prowling for web forms that follow a known pattern of controls. Second, and more importantly, those little compliments are loaded-up with advertising URLs for German car-financing companies. Feh. So I've had to run around cleaning up those cheery little turds, too — and re-writing my guestbook scripts to deter the robots.

Posted September 16, 2003 | Comments (0)

Score One for Digital

Two rolls Neopan Super Presto 1600, Xtol 1+1, 7.5 mins. One roll Neopan Acros 7.5 mins, ISO ~70. One roll Neopan Super Presto at ISO ~900, 7 minutes.

One subtle advantage of digital — no dumbass can come along and mistake one green film can for another green film can, mislabel them all as Neopan 1600, and underdevelop the results by a half-stop. Now I'm not naming names, but....

Posted September 14, 2003 | Comments (0)

Lazy Day

Skipped the dark & wet stuff and had 16 rolls of color neg done at the local lab.

Lazy indeed — jet lag is really clobbering me for some reason, much worse even than when I used to regularly do longer time shifts back and forth to France. Grrr, slept until almost noon today, then fell asleep in my chair — twice — during the afternoon. Hrrrm.


Who'd'a thunk? Before this last trip I stocked up at CostCo on color negative, grabbing some big packs of Kodak Max 200 and Kodak Max 800 — yeah, I know, I know, "consumer-grade point-n-shoot junk," for those of you willing to pay $9 a pop for every roll of Porta. We're talking a dozen rolls here for $20, and probably worth every penny... right?

Now I know Max 200 has been widely diss'ed as repackaged Gold 200 (a lineage the edge numbering makes amply clear) but despite the poor grain I figured it had to be at least as good-looking as the Max 800. So before leaving I ran a roll of Max 800 as a worst-case test, processed and scanned it, just to see if it was worth taking on the plane. I ran a single subject (two boys against a white wall), bracketed exposures ranging + or - seven stops in one-stop intervals, and snapped-off a couple of extras in shaded and direct sunlight. The results, despite the naysayers, looked great to my eye — a soft desaturated color that I really like.

The rolls of Max 800 I processed today have that same look — grainy in the blacks but with lots of latitude for the scanner to chew upon. So you'd expect Max 200 to look even better, right? More latitude and stronger colors?

Wrong! Add Max 200 to my "Never Effin' Again" list. The Max/Gold 200 has less latitude than its much-faster cousin, and almost as much grain. The only reason I can imagine for Kodak to even market this turkey is that it must be incredibly cheap to manufacture.

Max 800, good. Max 200, burn.


Just now scanning some shots (on Max 800) made around Harajuku last weekend.

After than massive success of Fruits, Harajuku has become a real photographer's magnet — I saw at least one American toting her 645 around at the corner of Yoyogi Park, along with a trio of tan-photo-vested Japanese guys using a tripoded Canon with a 400mm and a printed pad of model releases, which the cos-play zoku kids seemed happy to sign.

At the intersection of Omote-Sando and Meiji-dori (in front of the Gap store) I saw no less than six guys sitting around holding medium-format cameras, two of them heavy Fuji's with bellows and all, just (apparently) hanging out waiting for the next Great Discovery to go wandering by.

It's hard to say if the fashion kids are drawn there by the photographers or the photographers by the kids. Or more likely the shooters are just hangers-on, and the kids are the real draw for one another. Other than hamming it up for tourists, the most common activity amongst the many Elegant Gothic Lolitas was shooting each other with their celphone cams, presumably sending the photos back and forth between them or to their admiring fanpals at home.

Posted September 13, 2003 | Comments (0)

Tonjoubi Omedetou

Three rolls of Delta 400, 15:30 Xtol 1+1 for ISO 800. Two rolls of E-6 back from Calypso, one the new Velvia 100F (bought to try as an alternative to Ektachrome 100G). The slides look luscious but as in the past my scanner has a hard time getting detail from the shadows... though it's in there!

The APUG turned one year old on the seventh of September — this past Sunday. To commemorate, members were to each shoot something that day and post to a shared community gallery, a little "Day in the Life" approach. While I haven't processed or scanned everything I shot that day, I sent along the frame at right, from the first Sept 7th roll to be finished.

For the analog purist police, here's the shot data: Shot at close range on TMax 100, Contax G2, 28mm, AE f/5.6 at around 1 in the afternoon Tokyo time.

Posted September 12, 2003 | Comments (0)

Numbers Game

Three rolls TMX, 9.5 mins Xtol 1+1 @ 20C. That leaves 42 rolls of black & white unprocessed, and a color lab backlog of an additional 18 rolls — I'm guessing almost 2000 frames shot over the past couple of weeks.

Big bursts like this seem to make a compelling argument for digital. As I type this I can look over C's shoulder and see her downloading color frame after color frame from her Elph. Fast and (once the gear is paid for) free.

By comparison, the film cost is... well, let's run the numbers. Two and a half 100' spools of B&W film, about $60. Two Costco special packs of Kodak color neg, $18. About $50 of film from Yodobashi Camera (Neopan Super Presto for $3 a roll... couldn't resist!). Two five-liter bags of Xtol, about $16. I changed batteries, about $9. Some stop bath ($0.50). Sixty negative-sleeve pages, about $5. Process-only at the color lab, another $55. Total: about $165. Or to put it another way — If I shot at this rate (around 5 rolls per day) for a year, it would be about half the cost of a Canon EOD 1Ds body (and I'd need new batteries, storage, and EOS lenses from 20mm to 85mm — or 15mm to 70mm for a camera with a smaller sensor, like the EOS 1D).

Then let's add the time: if I do a run each night, I should have the B&W done in a week and a half. The color neg of course will be done almost instantly, and the slides are due tomorrow. Konica Impresa 50 Pro I ran through a lab in Japan while testing my dropped lens (everything was fine). Then of course I have to scan everything, at which point film pix and digital pix are on more-or-less an even footing, save for the potential hassle of spotting.

So between now and maybe two weeks from now, if I had a deadline, digital wins hands down, regardless of the cost. From that point onward, however, we enter the state where a viewer, seeing a photo, has essentially no interest whatsoever in how it was made or how long it took or what it cost. All they see is the picture.

So the question is then — could I have gotten the same shots with a digicam?

I don't think so, in the dense crowds of Tokyo. A digital compact could have gotten about 20% of the more static shots, but it wouldn't have had the quick response of my little Contax; a DSLR would have been quicker, but at three times the size and weight — and still probably unable to spontaneously shoot in quick succession. The film camera was instant-on, low-profile, and I could leave it ready all day and night. Seen in that light, film shooting still seems like a bargain.

Posted September 11, 2003 | Comments (3)

No tips for cabbies

Just a couple of rolls yesterday — broke out the mini tripod and forced myself to go through a roll of TMX, indoors, on a rainy day. Mostly two-second exposures. I'm just about out of the faster films, but have hardly shot any of the sackfull of TMX that I'd anticipated using most-often.

After dinner our driver impatiently grabs the bag off my shoulder while I'm trying to get in the van, and despite my protests turns the bag sideways — smack lens on the wet pavement. Everything looks okay — focus still seems smooth. Not sure if Zeiss makes the lens shell from brass or titanium, but I sure can't find a mark on it. Will try to push a short roll through at wide apertures just to check.

Should pick up some more film later today — considering the location I may be back on Neopan for a while. Considered picking up some Centuria in the special official commemorative package — Huby, tho photo mascot cartoon character of Incheon International Airport, who adorns special film boxes and also winks at you on signs that remind passengers that photography in certain secure areas is prohibited. Decided to wait for something faster than ISO 200.

Every airport is a crap shoot — Incheon doesn't hand-inspect film, they just shove it on through the xray machine. They want your shoes, too — but at least they're nice enough to provide sandals for wearing while you walk the 3-4 meters to the other side of the security check.

I can see the summit of Fuji-yama just now from my airplane window, poking up through the clouds — probably the last I'll see of Fuji for a while, considering the wet typhoon-season weather. Next stop on the ground will probably be Yodobashi Camera, for a lens check and some more film, if I can get settled at the hotel before Shinjuku retailers close for the day.

Posted September 03, 2003 | Comments (0)

Blind Eye

"Please Sir come down from there! No picture! No picture!"

Well what the heck did these guys think would happen? Next time they should consider these things first: If you park a motorized howitzer in the middle of the sidewalk in a busy city during morning rush hour, leave it unattended with the hatches open, and place a short run of portable steps next to it, what do you think will happen? People will walk up those steps and get a look-see.

Their surprise and paranoia was inexplicable. We are going to park a 20-ton K1A1 main battle tank in the middle of your street. Please do not look very closely.

That is, don't look at it unless we think we want you to look at it. The howitzer, the tank (the bottom of the table of specifications reads: "Hunter/Killer... Yes"), the motorized bridge section, the armored retrieval vehicle... all parked on the sidewalk and every one of them... for sale, today through Wednesday, a "show special price" no doubt, just during Defense Asia Week 2003. Preferably a large sale, volume pricing appropriate for one or two divisions.

No stickers on the windows, but a placard of specs in front of each, and decorated with large, festively-colored balloons to complete the used-car-lot theme. The black-suited salesmen are looking anxious as I step down. Who is this American guy, part of some industrial group, a customer, or a competitor?

"Please sir, no pictures." Yeah, whatever.

When I pass by again, three hours later, the suits from the hunter/killer marketing department have been reinforced with armed guards, wearing impressive brocades and polished helmets emblazoned with their section name. The helmets on some guards seem to be riding low — the guards are obviously still in their teens. Their faces display the typical teenaged disaffected ennui as they pace idly back and forth.

Suddenly I remember the Vietnamese VIPs from yesterday — ah, it's starting to make sense.

Posted September 01, 2003 | Comments (0)

 

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