We are around the end of the second Covid lockdown here in Austria. It is hard to even think about any in-person social interaction nowadays. But at least we can recall the times when we still met up with friends. Maybe just for a cup of good coffee or even to shoot with exotic cameras. This post is a memory of such a cool event that took place in between lockdown 1 and 2 in Graz. I went out with my friend Thomas to test-drive his large-format Intrepid 4×5 camera with some Ilford HP5+. To spice things up, I brought along my new medium format beast, the Fujifilm GW690III, as well as my beloved Leica M2. To complete the format wars, Thomas has hidden a Pentax auto 110 in one of his pockets. In the end, we had cameras with four different film sizes ranging from 110 film cartridge up to 4×5 large format.
What did we do with all this gear? Well, first of all, we got some excellent coffee and talked about cameras, film photography, art, geeky IT stuff, and life in general. We also went to a local camera shop to pick up some film for the Leica. We ended up with some Agfa branded B&W stock. Thomas has got the Leica to bring and shoot while I received the privilege to carry the Intrepid with the tripod. Honestly, it was a lot lighter than I expected, but I also wouldn’t have minded twice the weight. I was happy indeed just by holding the thing.
Needless to say that such gear is a great conversation starter. Walking with a large-format camera draws attention like crazy and curious people may even ask to take a photograph of them. This attention could be a good thing if you pursue street portraits, but it could be a course because film is not cheap nowadays. It is funny that most street photographers try to be stealthy in our personal-right-aware world and uses gear such as a Leica or a Fuji X100 to stay under the radar. But the other extreme of the size spectrum might work on the streets just as well. You can even combine the formats. Start conversations based on the big camera and snap a portrait with the Leica.
In the end, we took portraits of each other and some random people we encountered during our walk through the city.
One of which was a girl in a park who happened to also shoot film with a gorgeous Olympus OM1. I got the chance to shoot a picture with that camera too which brought back great memories of my long-deceased OM4 Ti. I am still waiting to see the results of that shoot.
For the last sheet of 4×5 film, I composed an architecture shoot. I did not play with camera movements, partly because the lens had a limited image circle and because I simply forgot about the possibility. Oh well, I guess there will be something to play with the next time.
It was a great experience to try the large format way of shooting. Looking through the ground glass, sliding in the film holder, removing the dark-slide, and operating the shutter is a greatly meditative process. It has higher stakes too, which makes it even more exciting. All that said, such a slow methodical, and expensive process might not be ideal for everyone or at least not in all situations.
Will I personally go for the path of large-format photography? I think in the long run it will be inevitable (hope that Mrs. Camerajunky is not reading this). I am successfully infected. But for my current life and shooting style, the GW690III is the biggest camera I can justify. It produces massive extremely high-quality images and I can shoot it handheld, quick, and dirty on the go. But the negative size and image quality are only part of the picture (pun intended). Large format is at least as much about the process itself as about the quality of the result. I highly recommend it for everybody interested to give it a shot. Affordable cameras like the Intrepid 4×5 makes the entry into this wonderful world if not cheap but within reach for more people than ever.
Thomas A. Galli-Magerl is a Graz based photographer who loves to shoot with his LC-A, a camera that he carries at all times. But he is also experimenting with other formats ranging from half-frame to 4×5 large format. He is a full-stack film photographer who is not only taking pictures but also feels at home in the darkroom. He is interested in documentary photography of the LGBTQ community, street portraits, studio portraiture, and the list is growing.
My goal is to inspire those who see my work to feel and see beyond the outlines of the world around them.
Dear fellow photographers. As you have noticed I was not very active on the blog for quite some time now. Unfortunately it was not only the case with the blog but with my film photography in general. This had many reasons including shifting priorities, too much stress and work and the need for a creative break.
But I am not here today to be negative, in fact quite the contrary. There are many things to share and many things which made me super excited. There is new software which I love, new cameras to review, awesome youtube channels I have discovered and more. Essentially I have got motivated again and I hope this new energy will revive the blog as well. There were some not so positive events to talk about as well, but eventually I think they all collectively pushed me to shoot more and hopefully vitalize this blog.
So let’s get started and see what made me enthusiastic about film photography again.
Negative Lab Pro
The software I needed to get control over my scans. https://www.negativelabpro.com/ For a long time I was set on the journey to find a consistent high quality home scanning and processing pipeline. I was testing and tinkering with a lot of software and I ended up using Vuescan with an Epson V700. This is a great combo which I would recommend to anyone, but I was never truly satisfied with the result. The TIFF files I was getting were not very flexible compared to RAW files from digital cameras. Many things like curve settings were baked in the files at the time of scanning. It was very difficult to color match multiple images as bigger changes required re-scans which takes a lot of time. I am aware that my skills are probably the main issue here, but I always lusted for a scan once edit freely type of solution.
Negative Lab pro gives me what I needed. It is a Lightroom plugin which converts the negative images itself by generating a Ligtroom settings which can be reverted or adjusted non destructively. Essentially taking away the responsibility of the inversion of the negative image from the scanner software and bringing it into Lightroom. Not only that but it works fantastically simulating popular lab scanner profiles and giving me colors that I absolutely love. Now I can match series of images together more easily and I can even benefit from new versions of the software later as I can reconvert any negative at any time.
The only catch is that the software is not exactly cheap with a 99$ one time charge. But if I factor in how much money I burn on film, chemicals and how much time I invest into my photos it is actually quite fair. I would also mention that Negative Lab Pro is a creation of a single person. He is actively maintaining the software and working together with the community to develop it further. There is a dedicated Forum and a Facebook page where support can be found for any related issues in no time. As a software developer myself I deeply sympathize with the project which was yet another reason to support it. I find it very motivating that a single person can have such a massive and positive impact and bring new life into (certainly into my) film photography.
The king is dead, long live the king!
Unfortunately my old trusted Pentacon Six TL has stuck on a single shutter speed. I asked some local camera shops if a repair would be possible. But I got very little hope after my survey. At one place they told me that they don’t service such low quality cameras because it is impossible to adjust their shutter speeds anyways. At the end, I attempted to open the camera myself to see if, by any chance the issue is something so obvious that I could spot it. Needless to say that I managed to do more harm than good and currently the P6 sits in a box partially disassembled. Since then I have got a repair manual and I hope that one day I can get it back together and use it again. To put more salt to the wound, most of my Pentacon Six lenses got stuck aperture syndrome including the 50mm, 120mm and 180mm lenses. So, I would need a full CLA on pretty much everything I own in the system except the 80mm standard lens.
After many said months of not shooting any medium format film, I decided that I look for a replacement camera. Something totally different, something reliable and simple. It also had to be relatively manageable in size because I like to carry my cameras everywhere and shoot hand held. I was eyeballing the 645 system cameras for quite some time but then I ran into a wonderful Fuji GW 690 III which had recently a fully CLA. Needless to say that I could not resist. Best of all the seller is a really nice guy with a freezer full with film and with a really cool portfolio . You can check out his work here.
I love rangefinders for many reasons, mainly because I can manage precise focus with them. The camera is a beast, it shoots 6×9 frames yet it fits into my messenger bag. It feels lighter to carry than the P6 kit. The built in lens makes it even more rugged plus I will not be tempted to get additional lenses to satisfy my GAS. Last but not least the lack of the mirror means I can still confidently use it handheld for the kind of pictures I usually take.
Needless to say that I am very excited because of this new addition to my collection. I have already shot 3,5 rolls with it although only 1 is developed and scanned so far.
I am really curious if it will be such a good fit as I think now. But in any case, it motivates me to shoot and develop more and brings new impulses into the game.
I have been always developing my black and white work because it gives me full control over the process, allows quick results because I don’t have to wait for the lab and last but not least it is a lot of fun. On the other hand I have never done color film development myself. I was conditioned to believe that it is extremely difficult and best to leave it to professionals.
But recent events have made me to take a deeper look on the C41 process and as it turns out it might not be that difficult after all.
But what pushed me over the fence on this matter? I brought 4 rolls of color film to my preferred camera shop in Graz. They told me that development will take about 2 weeks because of COVID . I had no problem with this as it usually takes 1-2 weeks anyways. I have received 3 out of the 4 rolls relatively quickly (in 10 days), cut up and flattened nicely, ready to be scanned. But the 4th roll was not there. In fact it was not there after a month despite my repeated calls. It seemed that no one knew where it was and I started to be worried that it really got lost. To make it worse, that roll was the most important in the bunch. A friend of mine asked me to take some photos of his family before his kids leave the house for the first university year.
In the end, the lab found the film and the story ends without big harm. The camera shop says that there is only 1 lab available and I was not the only one who went through the same torment. The timestamp on the index print was 3 weeks old when I got the film.
I know that the low demand and the current situation does not support film labs. I have no problem to wait even several weeks if I know that my film is in good hands, tracked and I will get it in the end. But my trust is shattered.
I will develop my color film myself. You will surely see some posts about my journey with color process. I am also very open for suggestions. I need to figure out how to do this economically. Batch sizes, shelf life and similar topics are all on my research list.
I am quite addicted to YouTube which I need to get into check somehow. But at least I discover from time to time a channel which inspires my film photography. I am not sharing my full list of photography channel subscriptions at once, but here are some of my top pics without any particular ranking or ordering among them.
The guy who runs the channel is completely crazy in the best possible way. If it is strange for the first time keep watching he has a special humor, a big punch of self irony and great photos. I like especially his night shoots.
Kyle has fantastic camera reviews and I really enjoy his medium format architectural work. He is not only showing his work but also his way of working including, scanning, archiving and behind of scenes of his videos.
Great moody videos with beautiful pictures and a lot of info about film stocks. She also makes great essays about photographers, film and art in general.
Very informative educational videos mostly about digital photography and editing. But also very well thought through and intelligent video essays about art and photography.
This is all I had in mind for now. I hope you find this new type of post interesting and perhaps my enthusiasm makes some of you go out to shoot some film too. If so, please wear a mask and I wish you all good light.
I have brought 2 types of film Las Vegas trip. CineStill for the night and Portra 160 for the day. The big mistake, however, was that I only had 1 camera. I planned to shoot the Portra first and then switch to the more sensitive tungsten-balanced film as it gets darker. Well planed I thought and loaded up the daylight film. I shoot only a few frames on the first day on the way between venues.
I had to quickly realize that I had very limited time during the day and I would better off by shooting at night. The though the decision was made and I winded back the film and made careful notes how many frames I have gone through. I switched to CinceStill for the rest of the trip. Needless to say that I’ve put back the roll of Portra into the camera as soon as I got back home and finished not much later. But the adventures of these photos were not over yet as the Covid-19 lock-down hit before I could get back the film from the lab which delayed this post with an extra 2 months. But at the end of the day, I have got back the developed film and I was able to scan it. The rewind seemingly had no negative effect and you can now see my little collection of Las Vegas street photos shoot on Kodak Portra 160.
Ever since I have started to take photographs I was always chasing a cinematic look. In fact, this is one of the reasons I shoot film. While it is undoubtedly possible to achieve film look with digital cameras I find it easier by using film. Also, it is a lot of fun to experiment with different film stocks. Discover the characteristics of each individual film types. Under which circumstances to use one over another and what artistic effects can be achieved by abusing a particular type of film.
One of my holy grail films I desperately wanted to put my hands on is CineStill. It is a tungsten-balanced motion picture film converted to be developed in a regular C41 process and thus more accessible for still photographers. In theory, this film can provide that cinematic look in terms of color, tonality, grain as it is, in fact, an emulsion used by Hollywood. Of course, the cinematic look is a product of many other factors than the film stock such as lens, subject, lighting, but it is one of the main contributors.
For their color negative films, Cinestill Film modifies Kodak motion picture cinema film, allowing it to be developed with the C-41 process rather than the Eastman Color Negative process. Cinestill Film converts the Kodak motion picture cinema film by removing the Remjet backing, a separate Anti-halation backing used to protect the film in motion picture cameras. Due to the removal of this anti-halation backing, Cinestill Film exhibits a glowing effect on the image in areas with strong highlights.
It was clear that sooner or later I was going to try CineStill, but I needed an occasion or project to justify it. Thankfully at the end of 2019, I have got the chance to visit a conference in Las Vegas (AWS re:Invent 2019). I thought it was a brilliant opportunity to try this film so I bought 2 roles from eBay. It was a week-long conference so I hoped that I was going to have some possibility to explore the city and shoot film.
My camera of choice was the Leica M2 paired with a Voigtlander color skopar 35mm f/2.5 pancake lens. I also brought with me an 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar for the extra speed. But I ended up using the 35mm lens a lot more as it was easier to carry around and the wider field of view made a lot more sense too. The f/2.5 maximum aperture was bright enough because of the high speed of the film and because the city was brightly lit by the different advertisements at all times. My biggest problem during the night was not the amount of light but the ever-changing nature of it. Images on the screens were flashing, trucks were driving around with wall-sized LED light sources mounted on them. It was such chaos that I gave up on using a light-meter. Instead, I started to rely on gut feeling and intuition. I had to gamble on my exposure.
As expected halation is very evident when bright light sources are in focus. This is due to the removal of the anti-halation remjet layer. I personally find this effect very interesting and unique. For the most part, this glow gives an extra punch to the atmosphere.
Avoid using CineStill 800Tungsten (or expect a unique look) when photographing:
daylight overpowering tungsten
heavily backlit images
strong window light
ontent including intense points of light (christmas lights, chandeliers, neon signs, bright windows)
I have to say that this film did not disappoint me. I shot it under numerous recommended and not recommended situations and as the expected unique look was delivered in a big way. I had been caught off guard regarding the amount of halation, but I must admit I like this effect very much. It helps to smooth out the otherwise not so great bokeh of the little pancake lens. I expected more noise given the 800 ISO rating, but I was pleasantly surprised about how well the noise is controlled. The colors are fantastic and it was very easy to set the white balance on the files in Lightroom. Not sure if it has anything to do with the film though. The only situation which produced results that I did not like and/or was very hard to color correct was in open shade. Especially if people were in the frame. Skin tone reproduction in shade is not the best application for this film based on my limited experience with it. It is also #1 on the not recommended situation on the CineStill website.
All in all, it is a great film with absolutely unique characteristics. I think it is worth to try.
I have and always had a love-hate relationship with Velvia. It is a fantastic film stock for sure. When used for fitting subjects, it delivers results like no other film. It packs an extra punch in terms of color saturation, contrast, and resolution. My only problem is that I mostly shoot portraits and if anything this is not the best use for this film. Also, I am more careful with positive films as they need to be exposed very precisely, they cost more to buy and to get developed. That is why I kept a roll of Velvia 50 in my fridge for more than 10 years. I was waiting for the right moment to load it into a camera that moment has failed to come.
I think I became overly circumstantial with my precious film stash. So I decided to use up this roll of Velvia this summer. We have planned a holiday to visit friends next to Hamburg with plenty of opportunities to take pictures. I was especially excited about the seashore. In the end, we brought home many photos most of which were digital. Around the same time, we have got a nice telephoto zoom lens for our digital camera. We were eager to test the new lens and the little roll of Velvia got pushed back on the priority list once more.
Eventually, I have finished shooting this roll even though it has taken me months biting into the autumn. Despite the traditional wisdom, I have shot a lot of portraits on it besides the well-expected landscapes. I have used it for everything and I am glad I did. Most of the photos turned out just right. To be said, I had to dial back the reds in post-processing on all portraits. In this post, I would like to share some of these randomly captured moments. If you have any thoughts about them or about using Velvia, please leave me a comment.
During the Christmas holiday, I have managed to find the time to develop a few rolls of film. I am very happy about it because lately, I have struggled with my developing process. I have encountered many trivial issues including the use of an exhausted developer, air bubbles and the list goes on. This time I have tried everything to get better results. I have purchased a new developer tank so I could turn it over without pouring liquids out. I have also reverted to my trusted ID-11 developer which meant that I had to wait until enough rolls had been finished to make it worth to mix the chemicals. All in all, I am pleased with the results even though there is plenty of room for improvement. My plan is to share some of the shots during the course of 2-3 posts depending on the themes I can find. Hopefully, I can get some feedback on from you.
This first set is from a family visit where I could take some portraits of my sister Zsuki. The color pictures are depicting me on the same occasion. I was having fun taking pictures of branches and other random objects at first. These digital shoots were taken by my lovely wife. I think they complement the analog pictures nicely as they show the camera and lens I used.
I am not sure why I am drawn to photograph branches like these. They are very rarely keepers. Still, it seems to be a good idea from time to time.
Finally, here are the portraits of Zsuki. Thankfully she is very relaxed at the front of the camera which made it very easy to photograph her.
I have used my C Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 lens on my favorite f/2 setting which results in a fantastic creamy bokeh. I find it challenging to focus with this lens wide open and the bokeh starts to fall into crazy territory at f/1.5. So f/2 is my sweet spot.
As for the development, I have used 1+1 dilution for the ID-11. Developed for 10,5 minutes on 20° Celsius with agitation in every 30 seconds. The film was Ilford FP-4 Plus and I shot it at stock speed. I have expected a bit less grain from the film, but I am almost certain that this is because I have slightly underexposed and pushed too hard during post-processing.
If you see anything obviously faulty in the description of my development method please let me know in the comments.
The second half of the Fuji Superia 400 in the Yashica had been shot during a wonderful family trip at the south of Austria. We have picked an easy trail close to Arnfels this time but one packed with nice scenery and experiences. We have passed by beautifully taken care of wine yards and a forest filled with life and with the colors of the autumn. We have picked some chestnuts, had a closer look of a variety of strange mushrooms and met with all sorts of wild and domestic animals including a little deer.
I was equipped with the Yashica TL Super with the Pancolar 80 attached to it plus I had my old Weimar Lux Cds light-meter with me. Eszter was shooting with her Nex 6, and of course we shared the duty of carrying the little one (who did not get lighter), but at least he could also run around a bit on his own due to the easy terrain.
The lights were initially quite harsh but inside the woods we were rewarded with some nice beams of light filtered through the branches of the trees. I find it very difficult to capture the delicate atmosphere created by such light conditions on any medium, but this small format film has done a decent job.
As we moved out from the forest, I started to look for details. This pole of an electronic fence seemed to be a good idea to take a picture of. Now, I find it quite boring unless I use it to evaluate the creamy background blur of the mighty Pancolar even slightly stopped down to around f/2.2. Notice the orange blob at the top left quarter of the frame. It is obviously my 2 years old running around.
Portraits of feeding animals are essential for any family photo book.
Not sure what happened with the top part of the cabbage photo. I think I must have overexposed so much that the film decided to make some color shift. In any case, I was indeed pushing the boundaries of the film because I tried to shoot as wide open as possible despite the abundance of light.
All in all it was a great trip with a handful of shoots we like both analog and digital. The Yashica served well once again, but I cannot deny that this camera especially with a bigger lens is not easy to carry all day. The weight can become a real problem if the camera is not the only extra weight one needs to take care of. Would I take it once again for a hike now that the much lighter Leica came back from service? I think will still take it occasionally, but more because of the lens not so much for the sake of camera.
What would a photographer do if he would suddenly need to carry an ever moving child on his back to every location he would take photos?
Of course he would use the new situation in order to justify a new purchase of a lens for the sake of portability to compensate the extra weight he now has to carry. This is how I ended up buying a Voigtlander Color-Skopar 35mm f/2.5 pancake II. It is tiny, extra light and being a wide lens, it is slightly less prone to the shaking introduced by the little one in the carrier. The price is not too steep neither for a native M mount lens plus I have found a quite handsome copy on a local trading site. It was literally no way out of this deal and so far I am very happy with my decision. Thanks to Ben (Flickr) for selling me the lens.
One of our first trips with the new gear lead us to the Grüner See. This is a temporary lake in the mountains which is filled by the water of melding snow every year for a short period of time. As the name suggests the lake has a beautiful green color even though the water is crystal clear. The bottom of a lake is essentially a meadow with grass and rocks and ordinary objects like a bench. The lake is surrounded with forest and mountains and it is truly spectacular. At the time of our (end of April) visit the level of the water has probably not yet reached the peak.
I have loaded a roll of slightly expired Fujicolor Pro 160NS from my stash, and even finished it on the very same day. Good weather, nice location, one of my favorite film stock and a new lens to test. I think it was a perfect start for the Voigtlander. I am actively fighting my G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), so I hope that I will value this lens on a long term. So far I am quite satisfied with the images I have got with it and honestly I think that there will always be place for a small good performing 35mm lens in my bag.
As you may have noticed I have never written a post about any camera shops or labs I visited. There are many reasons behind this starting from the fact that most of them are quite uninteresting and ending with my intention to not make advertisements on the blog (apart from the ones WordPress kindly places here and there).
But today, I am here to write about a quite special shop which cannot be farther from uninteresting. As for my other rule. I guess it was just naive and idealistic. I am writing camera and lens reviews and giving out my opinion about film stocks. Why not deal with shops as well? After all we film shooters are all in the same boat, we need services which are more and more scare every day. From now If there is a place I can recommend to the community, I will share it.
Why is John Gunn Camera Shop is special?
This is a small camera shop and lab in the heart of Dublin specialized itself on film photography materials and development services. It is a family business which occupies (as far as I know) three generations of the Gunn family.
“We pride ourselves on providing our customers with top quality products and first hand access to a wealth of Photographic knowledge gathered over the last 40 years.”
I had only 2 weeks in Dublin and since I have not had a chance to travel a long time ago, I was very much inspired by the new environment. I was shooting a roll after another and I was really eager to see my photos as soon as possible. I could not wait until I get home. Normally I need to wait a week for the development and spend about 2-3 nights of scanning. Thankfully I was pointed to the right direction and I have received one of the best service I ever had with my film.
They developed and scanned my negatives within 1 day. No scratches or dust on the films whatsoever, cut to stripes nicely and the scans were wonderful. I had so much disappointment when I asked scans at various labs, mainly because of the unbelievable levels of file compression. I even wrote about my struggle some time ago: scanner crisis. But finally these scans were satisfying.
But quick and precise work would not be enough to make me write this post. What really caught me was the treatment I have received. When I made a complement to Mr John Gunn about his shop, you could really see the pride and gratitude on his and on his daughters faces. This shop really means a lot to them, that is for sure. When I left he said goodbye and added a God Bless you at the end. It was really a lovely experience.
Oh and the shop is alive. There are other film photographers coming continuously, which was really good to see. In Graz, we have nice shops, but the feeling that film is still around and very much alive cannot be witnessed that obviously.
All in all, I have visited John Gunn Camera Shop 3 times and I am glad I did. If you are in Dublin, it is a safe lab to go. I will definitely stop by if I ever have a chance again to visit the city. Their website can be found here.