Film Photography Tips

Film Beginner Series with @theanalogbook: Part 1

Beginner Series with @theanalogbook

Part 1: Starting out shooting film

Part 2: Picking the right camera for you

Part 3: Learning to develop

Part 4: Embracing analog in a digital world

Part 5: My process


Part 1: Starting out shooting film

"For me, this all started in the summer of 2007, just a few weeks before I began my last year of highschool. The deadline to pick my courses was coming up fast, and I knew I had to pick something. I remember not caring at all about what courses I ended up with, so, without giving it much thought, I quickly selected a few that I knew would fit my schedule. Photography was one of them. Though I did not know it at the time, selecting Photography was one of the best decisions I ever made.

 2008 “Lonely” - Springbank Park, London, On, Canada. Working on framing but forgetting to focus.

2008 “Lonely” - Springbank Park, London, On, Canada. Working on framing but forgetting to focus.

Back then, I was one of only a handful of ‘kids’ with a cellphone. Of course, it was only  supposed to be used for “emergencies”. Yeah right. After starting school in September, I got a job at Blockbuster. Eventually, I was able to earn enough money and upgrade to a phone with a top-of-the-line 2.0 mp camera! Wooo! These days, it is easy to grab an amazing photo using just your phone; I am currently using an iPhone 6S and its camera constantly blows me away! But at the time, the 2.0 mp camera did just fine. 

My dad majored in Photography in college and made a short career of it in the late 80s and early 90s. Because of this, he had some “old stuff” to get me started for my own Photography class. Growing up, I remember my dad always shooting, but I never thought much of it until recently. The first piece of gear he gave me was his beloved Pentax K1000 with a 50mm lens. Even today, I will still shoot a roll with this simple setup. 

On our first day of class, we were presented with a table full of Pentax K1000’s and Canon AE-1s. My friend Joe and I were the only two students in the class that already had our own cameras, so we did not have to borrow one of the school’s. This caught the attention of our teacher, who seemed very pleased that two 17-year-old boys were already so engaged in his class.

 2008 “Red Feather” - Oakridge High school, London, On, Canada. Poorly shot and over developed.

2008 “Red Feather” - Oakridge High school, London, On, Canada. Poorly shot and over developed.

The first few lessons focused on artists like Ansel Adams, May Ray, and Annie Leibovitz. Later in the course, we moved on to discuss technical concepts, such as learning about aperture, film speed, light metering, and shutter speed. From there, we learnt how to build pinhole cameras and photograms. There is no doubt, I learned a lot in that class. But there was one particular lesson that changed everything for me.

After about a month, our teacher taught us how to load film into our cameras, and forced us to delve deeper into how photography theory really worked. After several failed attempts, and many lost frames, I was finally able to get the film loaded. I set the aperture, matched up my shutter until the little line was perfectly centered, advanced the film, and then... ‘CLICK’. Oh man, what a glorious sound. I quickly finished the roll.

After exposing our first rolls (ilford hp5+), we were taught how to develop. In the classroom was a table covered in changing bags, reels, containers, and chemical bottles. It was time - we were finally going to see what our images looked like. Joe and I loaded up our changing bags, popped the top of the film canister, loaded up the reel, and put everything in the light-proof container. We then proceeded to develop, first adding in the developer, followed by the stop, and then the fix. After a quick rinse, it was time to see if it worked.

Staring back at us were a ton of poorly exposed frames and some under fixing. We knew we had successfully developed our first rolls of film. We were hooked. Later, when we started printing in the darkroom, I knew for sure that photography would always be a part of my life.

I spent the rest of that year shooting school events, family get togethers, scenes in nature, my walks home, and anything else that I found interesting. I was lucky enough to be able to use the darkroom and all the chemicals at school until I finally bought my own. I shot for a few more months, but when I eventually ran out of film, chemicals, and money, everything started to slow down. Life got busy, and for years, photography was nothing more than a distant memory.

 2017 “Caged” - Toronto On, Canada. Working on exposure and framing.

2017 “Caged” - Toronto On, Canada. Working on exposure and framing.

This changed about one year ago, when I pulled out that dusty K1000, loaded up a roll of HP5+, and heard that first ‘CLICK’. What a glorious sound. I was hooked once again.

Josh Hillman

Toronto, On, Canada

@theanalogbook"

 

First and foremost I would like to thank Josh for writing this article and more to come. We often get into things by accident, realising that this was the thing we were always looking for. It's great to see that a high school offers such courses, introducing people at a decisive age to art and photography. I wish our school had offered something similar, but I guess they were just too focused on classic education and had no space neither resources left for such offerings. We hope you're really looking forward to the second part in which Josh will show you how to pick the right camera for you!

 

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Scanner Comparison: Pakon F135+ vs Epson V600 Photo Scanner

The Pakon F135+ vs the Epson V600

"Hi there,
First of all, I want to thank Tim for letting me share this on his blog. My name is Lorenz Gohlke and I am a documentary photographer and I only shoot film #believeinfilm. Todays topic will be the comparison of one of the most popular flatbed scanners currently available and an old, almost ancient dedicated 35mm scanner. Let's see how the Epson V600 and the Kodak Pakon F135+ compare.

ease of use

The V600 is your traditional flatbed. Dust is your worst enemy and scanning a whole roll of 35mm takes ages. Furthermore you have to cut your film before the scanning process. The included filmholders are quite clumsy and don't usually flatten out the film enough. Because of this, you have to wait a while after developing, before you're able to properly scan your film. The included EPSON Scan software is quite easy to use and isn't too prone to crashing.

The Pakon is a different beast! It requires using Windows XP, which might bring back some memories (oh shutdown sound...I've missed you) but still is an incredibly outdated operating system. I use mine with my MacBook, by using the free software VirtualBox to run XP. This setup works incredibly well and hasn't failed me once! The Pakon Scanning Interface (PSI) has definitely seen better days! For me personally, it works quite well. Crashes are rare and after watching Matt Day's very informative video on how to use the Pakon, I feel very comfortable with the interface. I would also recommend the Facebook group Kodak/Pakon F135 Scanner, the members are friendly and always happy to help out. With the software out of the way, we can focus on what the Pakon does best: Scanning a whole roll of 35mm in under 2 minutes, which is simply put amazing! Not having to worry about film flatness, not having to cut the roll into single strips and not having to be present whilst the Pakon is doing it's job is great and safes a lot of time. This also means that you can scan your film shortly after it finished drying, which allows you to develop, scan and archive in about 3-4 hours (2 hours for the drying process).

what you need

I would recommend buying a pair of cotton gloves, to prevent getting fingerprints all over your negs. When scanning with the V600, compressed air is a necessity! At least, as long as you don't want to spend hours for cleaning up your scans. Which btw, will still take you a while. I personally also use the graphic arts cleaner by Tetanal, which has antistatic properties and helps removing drying spots and other junk from your negs.

quality

The highest resolution I would ever use on the V600 is 2400 dpi, because it's the closest option to it's optical resolution. Increasing it any more will actually worsen the quality of the scans.

The Pakon offers a max resolution of 3000x2000 which roughly equals 2100 dpi. This enables you to print 8x10" at 300 dpi.

You might now think that the Epson offers better quality scans, due to it's slightly larger file sizes, I would have to disagree strongly. I prepared some examples from both scanners to highlight the differences between the two.

testing methodology

The black and white scan test was done with Ilford HP5+ pushed to 1600, a very demanding film to scan, due to the high contrast and somewhat large grain. I also chose a difficult film to test the scanners color capabilities. The film scanned was Cinestill's 800T, which is Kodak Vision 3 film with the remjet removed and should technically go easy on the scanners, because it's made specifically for scanning. But, the slight push to 800 and the difficult light, I used the film in, makes it a challenge for the two scanners.

I exported all the scans as JPGs, due to there being almost no benefit in exporting as Tiff files. Both scanners were used in "auto" mode for the first test. Auto mode, for me, means that I didn't make any adjustments and let the scanners do all the work. The second test involved adjusting the settings to save the as much detail as possible, which basically means producing a very flat scan. I also edited the scans to show what they would look like as a finished product.

 

auto bw scans

The sepia tint of the Pakon scan probably jumped right in your face. The scanner was never intended to scan traditional bw film and only has a setting for bw C41 film which is why normal bw film turns out sepia. The Pakon definitely struggles with the high contrast and intense grain of the film and blows out most of the highlights. The sharpness is amazing and the shadow detail is also very good.

The V600 does a better job choosing the right settings for an automatic scan, but the sharpness is definitely disappointing. I would accredit the superior auto mode to the more up to date scanning software.

On another note, it seems as if the Epson cuts of a good amount of the longer sides of the negative, the Pakon does a way better job at scanning the whole frame, which is likely due to it being a dedicated 35mm scanner. Just compare the left edges of the two scans.

 

adjusted flat bw scans

Now we can see the Pakon shine, I adjusted the contrast and exposure of the scan to achieve a flat scan. This means that as much highlight and shadow detail as possible is saved. I am actually very happy with this scan, because it offers a good balance between dynamic range and contrast.

The Epson scan is also very good when it comes to dynamic range, I would consider saying that it actually provides a better dynamic range than the Pakon. I could probably have made the Pakon scan even more flat, but liked the way it looked. Sharpness is still horrible.

This comparison truly illustrates the huge difference between the two scans. Whilst the Epson scan has the upper hand when it comes to flatness, the Pakon absolutely destroys it in terms of sharpness. This becomes especially evident in the thin railing.

 

edited bw scans
At first, I edited the Pakon scan to my liking, mainly because I am more used to working with it's files in Lightroom. Afterwards, I tried to even out the differences between the two scans, by adjusting the V600 scan to match the two.

8.jpg

I am actually quite surprised about how close I got them, but the superior sharpness of the Pakon still make a significant difference. This is very noticeable when looking at the grain of the HP5 scans. Whilst the V600 looks more grainy and muddy, the Pakon offers beautiful sharp and detailed grain, almost resembling a silver gelatin print. I also prefer the contrast of the Pakon.

 

auto color scans

The auto Pakon scan looks quite usable, actually. I dislike the intense blue tint, but that could be attributed to the Cinestill's tendency to render shadows as blueish.

10.jpg

The V600 is flatter, but renders the whole scene in a gross green tint. I also have to bring up the intense cropping again! Well, I think we can forget about the sharpness, can't we...

 

adjusted flat color scans

This flat scan is almost perfect, at least in my eye. I appreciate the dynamic range and as far as I remember, this comes quite close to how the scene looked when I witnessed it, maybe a little too blue.

I still dislike the V600's color scan. Green just looks ugly in night scenes.

The differences are exaggerated when comparing the scans at 2:1 magnification. The poor sharpness and large grain is very noticeable in the V600 scan, whilst the Pakon is already quite useable. I also noticed the greater amount of color noise in the V600 file.

 

edited color scans

I used the same methodology to edit these scans and have to say that I prefer the Pakon file (again). It's more detailed, sharper and offers a greater dynamic range. The colors look more natural and more vibrant. Scanning color truly puts the Pakon in front. I mean that's exactly what that scanner was made for and it is perfect for doing exactly that.

 

the conclusion
Did anyone here question the Pakon destroying the V600? Probably not, but I was actually surprised about how close you can get the two scans. Nevertheless, the Pakon is the better scanner for 35mm, because of the way superior sharpness, color scans and speed. The V600, being a flatbed, is also able to scan 120, which it does quite well. I've kept that scanner mainly because I also need to scan my Medium Format film.

The biggest problems with the Pakon is the high price point of about 700-850$/€ and the horrible availability, especially in Europe. The V600 is still available new and it costs about a third of the Pakon. I would actually recommend going for the V550 instead of the V600, mainly because it's technically the same scanner and a bit cheaper.

I hope that you enjoyed reading this article and hope that some of you learned something. I will provide all the scans as a download link and if any of you have any further questions, you can hit me up on my Instagram @enzogohlke or on my website.

Download Link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/x72rng0netbylwq/AADjNPmtFj1WCS1l7X3m6IMYa?dl=0"

 

Support the blog

Please consider supporting this blog, my photography and also the YouTube channel by either getting my new book or some stickers through the wasteoffilm shop or by using my Amazon Affiliate links. ( US / UK / DE )

How To: Travel with Film

Traveling with film is a topic I get often asked about and there naturally seems to be a lot of insecurity related to it. Nobody wants to come home from a trip and realize all the negatives are ruined, right? So I wanted to dedicate this blog entry to this topic and share the experiences that I have gained over the years. During the article there is an insight of what both Kodak and the TSA think of this topic and what advice they give.

The question centers around one topic: X-ray. There are pretty much two basic options: checked or hand luggage.

First, I want to talk about checked luggage and the X-ray machines which gets used there. There is one consensus among the people in the film community: do not leave your film in the checked luggage. As the TSA states on their website “the equipment used to screen checked baggage may damage undeveloped film“. Eventually the X-ray there is much stronger and more intense. This will most likely ruin your film and all your precious photographs. Most likely it will result in fogging or cause characteristic wave patterns. My brother once accidentally left a couple of packs of instant film in the checked luggage, which luckily turned out just fine. Never do this though!! Here is an example of what effects X-ray can have on your film and in which ways it can be damaged.

travelwithfilm6.jpg

The solution is pretty simple in my opinion though and this is were we come to the second option for carrying film with you on an airplane: hand luggage. Of course, you will also have to pass your film through a X-Ray machine. But the intensity is much lower and won’t damage film up to a certain speed. This largely depends on the machine they are using. In my experience film up to 400 ISO has never shown any effects. The staff at London Heathrow told me last time, that theirs were even safe for film up to 3200 ISO (cannot confirm that is valid information though). As I am a big fan of pushing 400 speed film to 1600 or 3200, I also needed to test it out. But there have never been any issues, because the film still has a sensitivity of 400 in the end. By pushing you are of course not increasing the sensitivity of the film, you're just underexposing the film and then compensating it with a longer development time.

ncsqaurespace-3-2.jpg

Handcheck are also a often quoted solution. I personally don’t bother with them anymore. Eventually in the US you have a right to get your film hand checked, but this does not go for anywhere out of the US unfortunately. This is the TSA’s take on it: “If you are transporting high speed (800 ISO and higher) or specialty film, you may request to have it physically inspected when presented at the screening checkpoint instead of undergoing x-ray screening. You may also request that all of your undeveloped film be physically inspected instead of undergoing x-ray, particularly if your film has or may be screened by x-ray more than five times. To facilitate physical inspection, remove your undeveloped film from the canister and pack it in a clear plastic bag. We recommend leaving your film in the unopened manufacturer’s packaging.“ Handchecks take time, so if you really don't want to risk anything, make sure to plan in some extra time. I vividly remember getting over 100 rolls handchecked flying home from Japan. Please be always polite when asking for a handcheck (especially outside the US) and sometimes, even if you have been as politely asking as possible, they will refuse to carry one out.

Now that I have shared my personal experience, here is some of the advice that Kodak shared with us:
"Don’t place single-use cameras or unprocessed film in any luggage or baggage that will be checked. This includes cameras that still have film in them. If an attendant or security personnel informs you that your carry-on baggage must be stowed with the checked luggage or go through a second scan, remove your unprocessed film.Have your exposed film processed locally before passing through airport security on your return trip. If you're going to be traveling through multiple X-ray examinations (more than 5 times), request a hand search of your carry-on baggage. FAA regulations in the U.S. allow for a hand search of photographic film and equipment if requested. (See below for further FAA information.) However, non-US airports may not honor this request. If you're asked to step aside for a more thorough scan of your carry-on baggage, the film could be harmed if they use the more intense X-ray equipment.You should take your unprocessed film out of your luggage. Consider shipping unprocessed, unexposed or exposed film through an expedited carrier, but first check with the carrier to determine what package examination procedures they are using.Be polite, helpful and patient. Please remember that security personnel are trying to protect the traveling public."

I really see where Kodak is going with their points and can fully agree to them. Buying and getting the film processed locally also seems like a good choice. Just make sure to check availability of both film and development beforehand. Not that you won’t find any there and no possibility for getting it processed. This depends largely on the country and region you are going to. For example in Japan (the image below was taken at Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku, Tokyo) it obviously won't be a problem to find film and a possibility for development. Depending on where you are from, film may be more expensive though.

Finally, I want to touch on lead X-ray bags. First here is Kodak’s take on them: “Lead-lined bags, available from photo retailers, will weaken the X-radiation on film and reduce potential harm. However, the effectiveness of any particular lead bag depends on the intensity and electric potential of the X-ray generator, the lead's thickness, and the film speed. If you use a lead bag, check with the manufacturer for the effectiveness of their products with airport X-ray devices. The inspection process may be triggered by a lead bag on the scanner screen. In a typical airport surveillance situation, the baggage may be pulled aside for additional inspection.“
And I can agree, a lot depends on which bag you are using and if it is in fact able to protect your film from the X-ray waves or not. Personally, if you are carrying film with a maximum speed of 400, I wouldn’t bother buying and using these bags.

Thank you for reading this article! I really hope it helped and could take some of the fear away. Make sure to comment down below if you want to share your experiences or have any questions on this topic.
If you want to contribute to this blog, please write an email with your idea to info@wasteoffilm.com .

Sources (for images and text):
TSA
Kodak
Photo Jojo

 

Support the blog

Please consider supporting this blog, my photography and also the YouTube channel by either getting my new book or some stickers through the wasteoffilm shop or by using my Amazon Affiliate links. ( US / UK / DE )