Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Class from the Past

Occasionally, I like to browse through my old negatives to see if anything catches my eye. It's interesting to compare what I printed then to what I like now. I think my camera eye was very good, but my "final product" tastes were sometimes lacking. I may say the same thing 20 years from now about what I scan today (I already do that with stuff from two years ago). But I do find that I have some nice and interesting shots that I didn't even give a second glance then. And the nifty thing about having a scanner today (yesterday's future) is that I can get a closer look at all of those old, funky negs that I didn't care about or didn't want to waste paper on. In 1990, I was working through my second and last year of photography classes. In February, we had a day to shoot with a nude model. I'm pretty sure I was the only person not only shooting the model, but also the class shooting and working with the model. If not, I'm probably the only person posting the shots almost 20 years later! I find these photos to be as interesting, if not more so, that some of the shots I took of the model. It's something I still like to do today, to shoot photos of the moment as well as the "target".
Before class begins, let's see what we are working with. Here, a portrait of the sensitive artist:


Classy? Indeed. Now begins the busy day...













Makes me want to pull out my 35mm again! When I finish my (second) degree, I'm going to continue taking art and photography classes, for fun and experience. Take my $2 Baby Brownie and stand alongside all of the $600 SLRs. Anyway, just a little "flash" from the past. Get it, flash, photography. Ha. I start school again in about a month, so I'm trying to get all of my blog entries in early...Expect another, soon!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Color...DIY Style

One of the reasons I haven't shot a lot of color in the past is the processing costs. I don't like paying $4-$6 just to have a roll of film developed. I develop my own black and white (my half a darkroom), and this article by Alspix opened my eyes to new worlds of possibilities for color film. I have bunches of expired color 120 (C-41 and E-6), and what better film to experiment with than already "possibly" messed up film?! So I purchased the Nova Prospeed C-41 kit from Nova Darkroom, a UK photography supplier. This is advertised as a 1 litre "press" kit for the traveling photographer.
I received it, followed the directions for mixing...you end up with two bottles: color developer and blix (a bleach/fix chemical).
Before I go any further...yes, I know I'm not going to get color accurate prints from this developer. I'm not looking for Walgreen's prints. I'm looking for whatever the hell I can get out of this stuff and to have a little fun! If the color is waaay off, more power to it. And, don't look to this article if you want to know how well it develops your Kodak Gold 35mm film, because all the film I use is outdated and usually has odd ISO ratings...cheap ebay film, in other words. And, I also use odd cameras.
Okay, so a few "rules". Temperature. The toughest part, or at least the part that scares of most folks, is the temp requirements for developing color. The optimum temperature is between 34 and 41 celsius. For those like me, that means between 93.2 and 105.8 fahrenheit. In comparison, BW developer is usually at 66 to 72 degrees fahrenheit. That is hot water...or hot chemicals. Here, where it is hot most of the time, my chemicals sit at around 84F, so I don't have all that far to go for optimum temps. For my BW developer, I add refrigerated water. This color developer has to be used straight out of the bottle. Easy solution: I throw the bottles in the bathtub under the hot tap while I roll my film onto the reel. By the time I'm done, the chemicals sit at around 36-38 celsius, or around 98 fahrenheit. The rest is really easy. I mean REALLY easy. Easier than BW developing. It's like Diafine for color. You just use the appropriate time for the developer according to the chart, usually from 3 to 4 minutes, then 3 minutes in the blix, then wash with water. That's it! I use a photoflo, too, to avoid spots. Hang and dry. You are done. It's really that simple.
I vaguely remember developing color when I worked for a newspaper back around 1990, but I think I just stuck it in a machine. I was getting suspicious about color developing when, about six months ago, I was getting some rolls developed at a family-owned store and they told me it would be a few days. When I went to pick it up they said they hadn't started it yet, but to come back in 15 minutes. Uhhh...I thought it was more complicated than that. Nope. So now I just do it myself.
Is there a catch? Of course, but it depends on what kind of photographer you are. If you like everything perfect, perfect color, perfect whatever, you might have some difficulty with this part, as it could get very expensive. If you are like me and wing it and push things to the limit, you'll love this part: The shelf life of open chemicals is two weeks and develops 12 rolls. Uhhh...for 20 bucks plus overseas shipping, and you have to have 12 rolls to develop in that time limit. Not cheap. But...they lie. That may be optimal, but how optimal is this kit, anyway? The stuff lasts a long, long time. Mine is going on three months. Alspix developed a roll from chemicals that were a year old. Check his blog for the results. Looks pretty good to me. BW developer doesn't last that long.
Okay, enough talk, right? Let's see some results. I mixed the chemicals on May 3, 2007. I developed my first roll right away, as the water was already hot. The film was Kodak Ektar 25, expired June 1993, shot through my Snappy. So the ISO was 25, which is probably the reason why contrast is so high. I guess. Not too good with all that ISO stuff, actually. This is C-41 film, so it's the correct film for the developer.




Looks good! High contrast and grain, but who know how it would have looked if it had been professionally developed.
I didn't touch it for a couple weeks, and the next roll was developed on May 23, 2007. So we are at 20 days, past the expire date of the developer, but it's only the second roll. This film was Kodak Ektachrome 200, expired September 1994, shot through a Fujipet. This is E-6 film, so it is being cross-processed in the developer.




Not bad at all. Some are kind of red-orange. Alspix talked about a yellow cast to his film. I haven't really gotten that. Don't know how much of the color shift is from the old slightly outdated chemicals and how much is the xpro.
I didn't shoot any more color rolls until July. The first was a roll of Kodak Ektachrome 50, expired July 1991. This is slide film, so I was cross processing this roll on July 14, 2007. So the developer is a little over two months old, and this is the third roll through the chemicals.




Seriously? This stuff is supposed to last two weeks? This look mighty sweet, I think. And I'm not doing any color adjusting in Photoshop at all. But wait, it gets even better. The next day I developed a roll of Kodacolor II that expired date unknown. This was 127 film I ran through my Kodak Brownie Holiday (my first roll of color through this camera). It has a slow shutter, so the shots are usually blurry. But check out that color!



Leans towards the blue, but that's pretty common with expired Kodacolor. I don't think a professional film processor could do a better job! Expired film and expired developer. Magic.
I'll keep using this developer until it actually dies...oh yeah, did I mention you don't have to throw it out like BW chemicals (well, technically within 2 weeks). Let's see how many rolls/years I can get out of this stuff. I'll keep you posted.

INCOMING: Dude, it's totally like the future and stuff! The year is like 2056. We don't use months anymore, so it's like just a year, man! I (I mean 'we'...woah!) still use that color developer! This is my 3459 roll through it! The aliens came over last night, I shot this snap of Bob. He's so gnarly. Check it out, broham. He's totally high on life. Smell me later, dude!


Okay, I'm an idiot. No probs. Until next time.

Friday, July 13, 2007

My life in Polaroid

Nope, it's not recent. I've been 'exposed' (har har) to Polaroids my whole life. Here, we see my fetus being exposed to Polaroid rays in the womb, way back in 1970 on a beach in Florida. Lucky state.



Who knows what that does to a kid? Oh, besides making him addicted to Polaroid cameras 37 years later.
Our next shot was taken on December 25, 1973. That funny day we call Christmas. I'm not the girl. That means the one in the white shirt. Can't believe I'm, like, three. Seems like I should be smaller.


This is probably 1975 or 1976, with another cousin.


And Christmas must have been official Polaroid day, because here we are again in 1976. We totally played house with that plastic tree using woolly bears and spring peepers (look 'em up).



Not confined to peel-aparts, here are some integral shots. Not sure if they are SX-70 or 600. Probably 600. I think I remember something that looked like one of the Job Pro cameras. But I also remember the old rainbow-striped camera, so it may be a mix. I'm pretty sure that's a Boy Scouts shirt. Nope, not me...it's called Goodwill.



And a great shot of me as a vampire. Not for Halloween, I was just a vampire. My mom put Vaseline in my hair to slick it back. Really. Long story short, it doesn't wash out for a long time.


A few more peel-aparts of my goofy smile and one kick-ass shirt.You can see that it was all coater film. And, yes, I was cursed with a bowl cut for faaar too many years.



Ahhh, but, in 1977, I received my very own Polaroid camera! I believe it was a Super Shooter. Definitely a hard case. My very first Polaroid shot, while not exciting, is important, because they are the givers of the holy grail.


And, really, how 'sign of the times' is that shot? So, I went on to shoot nonsense photos until I used up probably the two film packs I owned. And, being 7 or 8, I certainly couldn't afford more Polaroid film. So that was about it.





Obviously all the important things in my life at the time. My cat, gerbils, stuffed bunny rabbits and cute friend. Sigh. Anyway, that was pretty much the end of my modeling career in Polaroid film. Uh oh...wait. Look at this. The story continues, via the magic of 'paying for Polaroids of embarrassing situations'. Dude, seriously, what's with the really bad buzz cut? That works so much better today now that my hair doesn't look like a monkey's ass.


Actually, more like Eddie Munster. And sitting on Santa's lap at like 16 or 17? Why even ask questions like that. Just look at that Santa face. Classic.
This one looks like a mullet, but it's actually post-mohawk, pre-halfway down my back. 19th birthday here at some Teppanyaki place with x-gf of many, many years ago.


And one last idiot shot. The guy in the bunny suit, not me. It's kind of random, but not. I knew the guy, some radio DJ that I worked with at his second job. So a few years later, there he was dressed like that in a sports clothing store. Worth the 3 bucks for the shot. Definitely a Spectra shot, maybe my only, ever! Need to pick one up someday, as the film can be found for cheap.


Anyway, that's what happens. Like a grain of sand under your fingernail, it sits there, you know it's there, you can't get rid of the feeling. The sensation grows and grows until BAM! one day you have a box with 500+ Polaroids. Bad analogy, but it's bedtime. Just having a little fun with this post! Call me, I'm available for portraits. Of me. Burt Reynolds style. Minus all the extra hair. You know what I'm talking about.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Secret Society of Goop

Goop is all the rage! For about eight people...including me. What is goop? Well, when you develop a peel-apart Polaroid, you have leftover trash. On that trash is beautiful, wonderful...goop. Most people throw all that stuff away and keep the print. I keep the trash.
One of the interesting (meaning inconvenient) things about goop is that it doesn't dry as fast as the print. It can take 10 minutes, it can take hours, depending on heat and humidity. I saved some goops in Los Angeles. They took at least 6 hours to dry. Here in the desert, it takes 5 to 10 minutes for the goop negative to dry. Negative, you say? Why, yes, for the goop is actually the developer for the print, and it is actually a paper negative...actually. If you are out in the field shooting, you have to be willing to hold onto those wet negatives for quite a long time. I can carry at least three while they dry...but they dry quickly here. When I'm driving, I usually lay them out on the back seat to dry. To speed things up a bit, I use the paper tab (step 1 when pulling out the film) to scrape off the goop that is piled up on one end of the negative. It's off of the image, so it doesn't hurt to remove it, and you reduce the chance of getting the crap all over you. Oh yeah, that negative image...you can't touch it until it dries. You can touch it, but you can also wipe it right off of the paper. In theory, you could manipulate the image to some degree, but I haven't tried. Remember! This stuff is probably not all that good for you, as in toxic, so keep the skin contact to a minimum (says the guy who ends up with it all over his hands and pants).
There is a big secret concerning goop, though. I hope I'm not killed for letting the cat out of the bag, but goop photography is part manual photography (using the Polaroid) and part (GASP!) digital manipulation. Not that kind of digital manipulation, pervs. I'm talking Photoshop. These images wouldn't be possible without the use of a computer. So is it 'real' photography? I think so. Heck, I scan all my negatives, anyway, and adjust them in photoshop as needed. I only have half a darkroom. If we did have a full darkroom, we manipulate as we print with exposure time, dodging, etc., when we print on paper. This is just more futuristic than all that. And we use the future to make images that look quite old. Or maybe it's not legitimate photography. Can't we all just get along? Digital and manual, long walks on the beach, candlelight dinners, rose petals leading to the bedroom...*slap* snap out of it!
Okay, so how do we make a nice image from a paper goop negative? Let's use this picture that I took out in nowheresville in northern Arizona


So the opposite of that print is the dried paper negative. I've already removed the big extra paper tab from the left side. If you use Polaroids, you know what I'm talking about. If not, then you won't be making any goop images. I've scanned the negative in Photoshop. As you can see, the image is very dull and gray.


That blobby yellow stuff on the right side is what you scrape off to expedite drying times. This image has no text, but if it did, you would see it is reversed, as it is the negative to the positive. So I usually flip the image, though in this case it's not all that important.


Next I crop all the extra out, leaving the interesting stuff around the edges.


I invert the image, making the negative into a positive. Still very gray, isn't it?


Now comes the magic one step that brings out the picture. You can do it manually, but I just use "Auto Contrast" in Photoshop.


You can leave it all purple if you want, but I usually make it grayscale to lose the weird colors.


Then I convert it back to RGB, and for this shot I want a little bit of sepia. I use color balance and then tweak the curves a bit to get the right balance in the tone and contrast, and touch up some random hairs and white spots. The final image! It's interesting to note that the image extends beyond what you see on your original print.


They have a nice, dirty, vintage, low-fi feel to them. Sometimes they are more interesting than the original print. Other times they aren't. I save them all just in case.
This really only works with Type 87 and Type 667, 3000 speed film. All of the 100 and 80 speed films don't seem to have any kind of image at all. Some color Polaroid negatives have an image, but it's faint and scans kind of funky. They require a lot of tweaking in Photoshop to bring the image out. Here you see before and after manipulation of Type 88.




Notice that upstairs is positive and downstairs is negative? Another neat trick of the goop. It sometimes leaves a negative image, sometimes positive, and sometimes it solarizes. I've found no reason for any of the different behaviors. It does what it wants to do regardless of exposure to light, drying time, contrast of print, etc. But you get some neat images.





To show how delicate the goop is before it dries, here is a negative I put in my pocket while it was still "soft". It was mostly dry, but still tacky.


And I leave you now with some vintage goop. This Type 107 (same as today's 667) expired in 1983. It behaves more as a straight negative, with no tricky solarization. It's also lower in contrast and very brown, compared to the gray of today's 3000 speed film. Still nice, though.



This won't last, as all of the 3000 speed film has been discontinued. Enjoy it while you can! For more goop, visit the Polaroid Goop group on flickr.
And I am addicted to Polaroids, as evidenced by the endless Polaroid posts!