X’d

As usual I’m late to the party when it comes to seeing the Big Release films. No, I’m not about to talk about The Matrix but the latest XMen movie, X2, which we watched yesterday. Since the movie has been out for weeks I’ll be quite happy to issue a single

Spoiler Alert

and get on with things.

7 min read

Gated Community

Golden Gate, May 2003 (C)2003 Kevin Bjorke Three rolls Delta 400, 11.5 mins @ 20C Xtol 1::1. Mixed at 24C, brought the temperature down by tossing some ice cubes in a baggie and floating it in the already-diluted Xtol.

Yesterday afternoon I spooled about 20 rolls of Delta from a 100’ bulkroll — as I was cranking along, I read the Ilford label for the box, which recommended Xtol 1::1 for Delta 400 at no speed slower than ISO 500… 13 mins @ 20C. Hmmm, wonder why they don’t like Xtol?</i>

When I was living in Marin, I started work on a collection of photos of the Golden Gate bridge. Shot quite a few. My thought was to do something faintly echoing Hiroshige’s 36 Views of Fuji. One or two “straight” shots of the bridge itself, and all the rest photos of the city and countryside surrounding it, with the bridge merely a constant presence. The I moved to Hawaii and had to set this project aside.

In the meantime, what appears in the bookstores but Golden Gate by Richard Misrach. For a while, I feared that his book (and show) were exactly what I had planned — I’ve since discovered differently, even as I’ve returned to Northern California.

It’s natural to want to complete this project, though my photography is now in a very different ideological place. The greatest change w.r.t. my initial charter has been the growth of a deeper understanding (or belief that I have one, anyway) in the way Hiroshige was able to use Fuji-yama as a universal symbol of Japanese-ness. I began to see, in a less-than-superficial way, that Hiroshige’s illustrations were not of Fuji, but under the eye of Fuji.

I also came to question the role the Gate has. While physically imposing, a common iconographic symbol for the bay, what does the Gate represent? A tourist attraction, a real estate boon to Southern Marin, a tax harbor and absurd privilege to members of the bridge commission, tempting terrorist target? Is that what I want to accomplish, to celebrate, to reveal?

I’m still interested in the idea of this project, but even as the questions become sharper the answers recede.

1 min read

Eliminate the Negative

Two rolls Kodak 100 dropped at the lab. Start to cut one up for scanning when I realize that I’m in the shot… hey, this is Kodak 200! Courtney….! Ah, she’s got the right one.

I’ve had no luck finding good C-41 lab services here in the Santa Clara area. In Hawaii, the Kailua Long’s Drugs would run C-41 process-only for 99 cents. I knew the lady at the counter and talked to her a bit about her beloved shiny new Noritsu print machine. The negs I got from Long’s were as good as the ones I could get from the $7 pro lab downtown in Honolulu. I could even leave her my 6x7 negative-sleeve pages and she’d use them in place of the drugstore 4x sleeves they normally used.

Here in the glamorous South Bay, no one I’ve found will do a process-only for less than $2.99 and they all seem to be equally miserable, even the local pro labs. Whose idea was it to roll-up the negs and shove them back into a plastic 35mm can after processing, ensuring that there are cinch-mark scratches on every negative? It’s always that or cut into odd shapes with scratches and (worse yet) little plastic tabs taped-onto the strips. This practice seems nearly universal, and no local lab seems gracious as my Long’s Drug lady, who would cut negs to my specification for free.

The first roll today is socked-in with dust — not the casual sort of dust you get while handling or sleeving or scanning, but dust that’s glued-onto the neg, big clumps that adhered when the negs were drying. Pec-12 and air blasts are helpless against this sort of thing. sigh No wonder I still like doing B&W myself. It’s just too hard to get C-41 films like XP-2 processed in a way that’s as clean as my kitchen or bathroom.

1 min read

Threes

G1 Stillife (C)2003 Kevin Bjorke Three rolls TMax100, 9.5 mins @ 20C. They all look a wee bit thin, though the occasional dMax peeps through. Left in the fixer far too long (like by a factor of 3)? Hmmm.

I’ve realized that over the past two years, I have purchased, in order: a Canon G1, a Contax G2, and a Canon G-III. Ironically, each camera is older than the previous. I guess the next cameras in this pattern would be a 4x5 and a 6x7, if I can find any that start with the letter “G” (thank goodness for Fuji Medium-format cameras, heh). Or does my highschool-vintage 124G already count?

Shot about six rolls yesterday, trying to make the most of the three-day weekend by running up to San Francisco to visit an ill friend, his family, and other friends. We then jotted up to Marin for a bit of nostalgia around Mill Valley and the forests flanking Mount Tam and Bolinas.

The G-III is light and fast, easy and quiet, though I fear that it’s autoexposure may be reading a little bit too hot. Fine by me, since my initial belief when I bought it was that the meter would be inoperable due to a lack of discontinued mercury batteries.

One negative surprise: On my second G-III roll I had a misfeed about eight frames into the roll. Once processed it showed a krinkle, and I had to stop and rewind the mustly-unused roll. Subsequent rolls went on without a hitch though. I actually suspect I may have cut the leader in the wrong way.

The mountain was deep in fog and I felt apprehensive about shooting there, knowing perhaps too well how the photos would look. Then again, I shot them for myself, not for my ever-present imaginary art critic. The fog is beautiful. It was in a place that I love and rarely visit any more. Sometimes that is enough, as long as the photos aren’t posed, neighborhood art-fair fashion, to pretend that the simple presence of fog is enough to make the photos mysteriously meaningful.

1 min read