Darkroomist Photographic culture of the analog variety from the fresh coast.


Got my last printed FreeStyle catalog.

W00t! I got mine. It's and end of one era as we transition to more and more e-commerce. I enjoyed the ride and FreeStyle's catalogs. I can understand why we are where we are today and no doubt Freestyle will remain my go-to company for all things analog photography.

Last printed freestyle photography catalog

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Kickass new patch from Tap & Dye

Just got in a new film photography related patch from Tap & Dye. It's super cool and reminds me of Motorcycle Club artwork. I mean, it's got a skull, lightning bolts, script fonts, we're talkin' bad ass here! 3" diameter circle with an iron on backing make it easy to flaunt.

The only catch is that it was $12.75 to my door. The price might not be for everyone, but then again, neither is looking this good!

Tap and Dye legacy shooters patch
Tweet this bomb ass patch!

The patch is still available at Tap & Dye's website.

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How to keep your negatives organized.

I was talking with a fellow film photographer one time and the subject of maintaining a growing base of work in terms of negatives came up. I told him what I do and he said "Wow, you're really organized! I should do that." I thought this was a little odd because most people wouldn't describe me as organized. I decided years ago, sifting through boxes of prints from labs for that one frame I wanted to print that there had to be a better way. I developed a system of archiving negatives that work for me. Having my negatives organized makes my time in the darkroom more fun and productive. It has evolved over time and is its own work in progress. I rarely if ever can't find a negative provided it was shot after 2005.

I have three planes of negative existence in my house:

  • Pre-sorted
  • Filed
  • The Abyss
  • Pre-sorted
    Pre-Sorted is pretty much like it sounds, before sorting. Once a negative strip is dried, I cut it and put it in a PrintFiles available at FreeStyle Photo. PrintFiles are transparent holders with holes for a three ring binder and a place for notes. No glassine sleeves, no wax paper envelopes, PrintFile or trashcan. PrintFile holders are not that expensive and honestly I've received a lot that were previously owned in auction lots of other photography equipment.

    PrintFile holders are available in a range of sizes and formats: from 35mm to 8x10.

    Where PrintFiles run into problems is with single frames. Single frames need to be near the opening. Getting a single frame negative out of a PrintFile is a serious pain in the butt. Most all of your 35mm or 120 film will need to be cut into strips of 3, 5, 7, etc frames to use PrintFiles.

    From there it goes and sits in a pile in my darkroom. The Pre-Sorted stage is a mess. I don't often print negatives from here unless I see something I'm super excited about. This part isn't the most glamorous but the key is to get your negatives into PrintFiles because then they'll want to be sorted!

    Pre-Sorted  Negatives
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    Once I have an embarrassingly large pile of negatives like this, it's time to get down to business. One of the nice things about PrintFile holders is that you can contact print with the film still in the holder. This is exactly what I did for quite some time. I'd put the contact print in a family album style holder with the PrintFile holder right next to it in a three ring binder.

    My first large binder got really full and really fast.

    I thought "Why am I babying these contact prints? They're not valuable and you're supposed to work off them!" So I ditched the album holders and three hole punched the contact prints directly. This bought me a little bit of time. Eventually finding negatives became a pain again.

    I further divided my negatives by subject: Pinups and everything else. I do have a color binder but that's for random color work I really, really like. I also collect vintage negatives and have binder for some of those.

    With a little looking you can find three ring binders pretty cheap. There's a thrift store right down the road from me that sells them for $.50ea. You can also slide a print that was too light or too dark in the cover to even more easily identify the contents. Labeling the spine is also a good call.

    Within a binder things are roughly chronological. In the Pinup binders I try to group all a model's sets together chronologically. This has cut down my searching a lot. As soon as I had to start a second binder for a subject I write the years on the first and the starting year on the second.

    I also stopped contact printing and bought a Tamron Fotovix. Fotovix is an oddball tool, made by Tamron, for photographers that can come in really handy. It allows you to view negatives and positives on a TV. You can find them on eBay relatively reasonably priced. I bought one for 35mm and one for Medium format and saved their cost in paper easily.

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    Now when I have a bunch of negatives waiting to be sorted I'll wait until the family goes to be, grab a beer, set up the Fotovix and start picking negatives. I'll write a checkmark on frames I like. Label, date, etc the Printfile with a sharpie and file it in a three ring binder.

    I learned about the Fotovix from watching the documentary Bill Cunningham New York. Cunningham is a fashion photographer in New York City. In the movie he previewed his images with a Fotovix. When I saw how that streamlined his workflow, I had to look into getting one. The movie is available on Netflix.

    There's another alternative to Fotovix-ing that I've played around with that seems to work best with 4x5 negatives. That's to take a camera phone picture of the negatives on a light box, invert it in an app, and print it on a laser printer. This sometimes doesn't work with smaller formats or thin negatives because the shutter speed will be too fast causing banding with my fluorescent lightbox. I'm not as fond of this as I am the Fotovix or traditional contact printing.

    If you have a very large body of work and/or a diverse range of subject it may be worth your while to keep a separate log book or spreadsheet of subjects, dates, films, etc. That way if you're thinking you'd like to print a picture of a stop sign and you know you have a couple, the log can serve as an index and direct you to the correct binder and even help you find it within the binder.

    Once a PrintFile holder is filed, I know what, if anything, I want to print off it or I can tell pretty quickly.

    Filed Negatives

    The Abyss
    The Abyss is what it is. It's boxes of mostly picked over pre-2005 work. The Abyss mostly sucks but on occasion there's some fun stuff or memories in there. More than once or twice I've gone through The Abyss looking for shots from this vacation or that photo walk.

    Anything that I'd want to print has been taken out and put into PrintFiles and filed. There's a few exceptions, probably less than 10 lab envelopes that are in Pre-Sort. More often than not The Abyss shows me how far I've come. Looking through that now I realize what it took to get where I am. And it's filled with a lot of mediocre, meh, work.

    Every once in a while I'll look through The Abyss and find a hidden gem. Once it was a negative of a shot the lab didn't print and I didn't know I had and it was the best and only useable one of Ithaca Falls. Mostly it's more like "Wow, I'm glad I didn't give up!" Generally I try to heed Neitzche's advice: when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.

    The Abyss of old work
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    In closing:

  • The whole reason for organizing negatives is to spend less time looking and more time printing.
  • Get your negatives in holders that make organizing easy.
  • Filed negatives should be labeled and dated as well as possible.
  • Filed negatives should have contact prints or frames selected for printing.
  • Binders of filed negatives can be categorized by subject and time.
  • Label your binders.
  • Even after organizing you may still have a pile of work that doesn't warrant further effort.
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    B&W’s lastest contest

    B&W is having an awesome photography contest for analog photographers. Everyone from wet plate enthusiasts to Lomo shooters can join in! Categories include alt process, toy camera/pinhole, vintage images, and smartphone.

    The important stuff:

  • Submissions will be accepted from 05/27/15 until 10/15/15.
  • Submissions must be made on CD and mailed in.
  • Cost is $30 for the entry of two images, each additional image is $10.
  • More information and details are available here: http://www.bandwmag.com/contest-info/11

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    First print off my new (to me) enlarger!

    First print of Omega D5 Enlarger

    Here it is, my first print off my Omega D5, which I picked up at Photostock 2015. It's of my grandfather in law. Printing with this is very different than my Beseler 23c. This uses a Dichro head instead of a condenser.

    Dichro heads use a diffuse light source, as apposed to columnated, which reduces contrast, increases exposure time, and has a different feel.

    It kind of feels like I'm doing something wrong and I'm not getting prints that look how I expect but that's ok. Part of it may be from printing images from a Kowa 6 that didn't last long before jamming. The optics may be a little soft and poorly coated compared to more modern ones. I think with a bit of time I'll get used to this new tool. I'm very grateful to the Bannows for bestowing such a fine enlarger upon me. Despite the differences (I'm not used to an enlarger that hums) I'm enjoying working with something different and changing things up. I believe it was Neitzche who said "Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

    Omega D5 Enlarger

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    Freestyle is sending out its last printed catalog.

    Freestyle Photo recently announced via email that its next catalog will be its last.

    I guess it's to be expected as it's been a trend across multiple industries. Keh ditched their print catalog a couple years ago. Anyone remember those ginormous Computer Shopper magazines of the 1980s and 90s? Now they're long gone. According to Eric Joseph, Senior Vice President:

    "We absolutely remain committed and dedicated to traditional photography and continue to find ways to not only keep products available, but also as affordable as possible. Producing a printed catalog is costly and the time has come to take those costs and pass the savings onto you, our loyal customers!"

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    Honestly I don't blame them at all. While I liked getting Freestyle catalogs they didn't really generate purchases from me. That seems to be the main reason for having a printed catalog these days. Catalogs used to be a yearly, or more, reference tool to know what products a company had to offer. All the major stores had them and I bet they kept the postal workers in great shape! Now catalogs are more for advertising. While there was definitely an advertising component in the past, now sales catalogs are what seem to predominantly arrive in the mail. Catalogs that have a limited time span and quantity that try to motivate buyers to purchase. I think Freestyle would be able to do that with a sales flier more easily than with a full catalog.

    I will be saving that last one
    Last printed Freestyle Photo Catalog

    Freestyle offers a walk down memory lane with a look back at past catalogs.

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    Filed under: Musings No Comments

    I feel sooo….

    Hmmmm….. What's the word? LUCKY! I just received brick of 35mm Luck SHD 100 ISO film via Hong Kong airmail. If this is the first time you've heard of Luck film you're not alone.

    Lucky film is manufactured in China by the China Lucky Film Corporation. Founded in 1958 this company now makes a variety of products besides film. Their film is mostly marketed to markets in Asia but have found a cult following here in the US.

    For a long time Lucky film had a stigma that it the QA was horrible. People would find pinholes in the emulsion or worse hairs and dust. In 2003 Kodak partnered with Lucky and the quality has gone up. Kodak later exited the agreement in 2007.

    One of the "features" of Lucky film has been that it lacked an anti-halation backing.

    See the film in the camera has to be flat. If it deviates from the intended film plane by even fractions of a millimeter the image won't be in focus at those points. Thus most cameras have a metal pressure plate that keeps the film flat. In cases of extreme contrast and over exposure light can bounce off this plate and cause blooming of the highlights in the emulsion. To avoid this modern films have an anti-halation backing. It's generally a dark blue or green dye that rinses off the film during pre-wet or development.

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    Lucky Film for a long time had no anti-halation layer so highlights would bloom easily. I've read that this has changed, likely since Kodak started helping, but their anti-halation layer is extremely weak. It's still possible to get the blooming highlights with Lucky film.

    Another feature that I like is the price. This whole brick cost me $33 shipped to my door. You can't find fresh 36 exposure rolls of black and white film for $3.30 shipped anywhere.

    Things I don't like about Lucky film:

  • Contrast
  • curl
  • end roll
  • On the Luck I've shot the contrast seems low. I've only printed at grade 5 twice. Once was for a high contrast effect, the other time was to get a Lucky negative to look normal. This may have been partly the camera's fault too, but in the end everything worked out. Curl, this base curls like a mother f@#&ker, which can make it a challenge to coax into printfiles or negative carriers. End roll only applies to 120 films. The end of the roll isn't labeled well and the sticky strip you lick to hold the roll together is useless. You might as well bring some tape or rubber bands. In any case label your exposed 120 film when shooting Lucky. It can be very tricky telling Luck from Arista EDU or Shanghai.

    Still the price is right. If you're willing to try some out I got mine on ebay here. Ebay links don't last forever. If you're searching ebay for Lucky film make sure you check the "Worldwide" box. The stock from Asia is cheaper than the stuff shipping from US addresses.

    Brick of 35mm Lucky SHD100 film

    Here's one of my shots on Lucky:
    moved we've

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    Without local artists…

    There would be no national artists!

    I made this some time ago based off a sticker I saw that saw a that said the same thing about musicians. I was thinking about it, and how many national (visual) artists can you name?

    I could name a couple dozen probably, but like art. I'm into it so I don't know if I'm representative of the general public much in that respect.

    Culture, they call it; it distinguishes them from the goatherds. -Frederick Neitzche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

    Neitzche believed that culture was the combination of the best arts, architecture, writing, theater, music, painting, sculpture, etc of a nation. He believed that culture was the measuring stick by which you could compare nations.

    If culture is the measuring stick of nations and we can't name our cultural icons in entire mediums, it's hard to conclude that we value our culture. Sure we can name some actors, musicians, and authors, but what about current, living painters, photographers, sculptors, or architects?

    Part of the solution is education. Teaching kids not only how to participate in the arts but the history of art is important. Another part is appreciation. Appreciate the creative people who make things that make the world a more cultured place to live in. I'm not saying you have to spend tons of money on art, but hitting a like button on an artists Facebook page is easy as well as rewarding. You can curate your own stream on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, etc to show you really neat, cool stuff, from all over the world, that artists big and small are producing every day.

    You don't have to be an art geek, all you need is to enjoy looking a cool stuff.

    We make it to share it with you.

    Without local artist, there'd be no National Artists!

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    Photostock 2015 Report

    If you follow pretty much any of my profiles or this blog, you know I'm really big on Photostock, the annual Northern Michigan, mostly analog (chemical) photography meet up.

    This year's was awesome! I saw some great friends that I've met over the last 8 years and made some new ones all sharing the passion of film photography and alt process. Every year is different and this year was no exception. There were a range of great presenters, I got to see Bill Schwab's brand new mostly completed workshop facility, and do some shooting in beautiful Northern Michigan with great people. We had drinks by the fire and listened to some musically inclined photographers share their talents. It's a great way to expand your photographic horizons, learn about other processes, cameras, equipment, and subject matter.

    This year there was a freebie table which was new. New and awesome! I took a home made contraption that turns your 4x5 camera into a 4x5 projector/enlarger. I've only ever set it up to prove the concept that it worked and it did. Shortly after I obtained an old FED 4x5 enlarger much more suited to the task. In return I managed to grab a cokin fog filter (series A), 2 rolls of Panamatomic X, a roll of Plus X, a couple rolls of Tri-X 400 (all 35mm) and some enlarging lenses. I'd arranged with another attendee I've known for some time to pick up a free Omega D5, which I've been wrestling with and I finally think is ready to print. Also bought about 100 sheets of previously owned 16x20 FB paper and some odd sized 14x17 paper for $60. Next year I plan on taking the FED to the freebie table!

    Needless to say I'm brimming with inspiration from the event and I'm excited about some of the contacts I've made.

    The main venue for the event is The Birchwood Inn:
    Me at the Birchwood

    Andrew Moxom shows off his wet plate collodion skills.
    Andrew Moxom wet plate collodion

    DIY Pinhole Camera Display:
    DIY Pinhole Camera Display

    Norba Wide Camera:
    Norba Wide Large Format Camera

    Fancy Cameras and Bags!

    Reviewing prints with other artists:
    Photostock print reviews

    Things change so much since I started going to Photostock. I was once able to go in this house:

    So much more goes on than I can portray or describe. Get a 100 people who love photography, especially film and alt process, and have them rent out a motel for a long weekend, it's a crazy good time. On top of it Bill Schwab organizes a bunch of presentations and workshops around the event. It's one of a kind. I'd be surprised if anything like this occurs anywhere else in the country.

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    Useable Images from the Holga 120Pan!

    Woohoo! I got my first printable negatives out of my Holga 120Pan. I got this camera a couple of years ago. I've since run about 6-7 rolls through it, some iso 100, one 400, one roll of ilford Delta 3200. This is Tri-X 400, shot with the camera in B mode using a lazy click-click on the shutter release. The roll of 3200 shot at the same location but with the Holga's one shutter speed came out too thin. Still thicker than most rolls but definitely sub-optimal. I'm wondering if the spring on this shutter is on the strong side making the shutter speed a bit on the quick side. It's been so difficult to get this camera to work that I've been considering modding it with 90mm 4x5 lens that offers more exposure control as well as sharpness.

    1st good roll out of the Holga 120Pan

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