Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hand-developing C-41 at home for the first time/Week 4

As I mentioned in my last post, I made the leap and invested in C-41 and HC-110 chemistry so I could start developing all of my own film myself at home. The chemistry arrived in the mail today and after spending the evening with my family at my brother's house to celebrate my nephew's 1st birthday, I came home so excited and anxious to try it out that I've spent the past three hours mixing chemicals, shooting off a test roll of film, and developing it just to make sure I did everything right.

I realized that the HC-110 developer I bought was the concentrate, and the directions recommend making stock solution and then diluting to a working solution and it was just way too much to think about at 10pm, so I went ahead and put together the C-41 chemicals, which is what I was really itching to test anyway.

The process was far more labor-intensive than that of HC-110. Even when mixing the chemicals, the water has to be at just the right temperature for endothermic reactions and blahblahblah. I had to buy a couple more jugs tonight from B&H because it didn't even occur to me that I'd need a jug specifically for tempering water to the correct temperature for mixing or even just for each rinse during the developing process. I also bought some PhotoFlo, for reasons that I'll explain after I post the photos.

So I mixed up the chemicals and all at once, I decided I was going to shoot a test roll just to make sure I mixed everything correctly. I took a bunch of boring shots of the chemical bottles and jugs, the sink, etc. Nothing special at all, just something to test.

I am still a wizard in a black bag. I had that film on the reel in no time.

I ran through the process and it actually wasn't too bad. There were a few surprises in there; for example, the kit I used integrates the bleach and fix steps into what is known as "Blix" so that you have one less step during development. I poured that into my tank and it was wine red, which I was not expecting at all, since fixer for B&W film is clear or light brown. Also, my stabilizer poured in clear, but came out pink. I frantically Googled to make sure I didn't do anything wrong and it's apparently normal, so that was a relief.

I pulled my film out when it was all finished and was a little worried; it was a little dark and the film looked a little flat, like I had perhaps underdeveloped somehow. I let the film dry and scanned it in, and surprisingly, it actually looks pretty darn good, especially for my first time.

This was shot on expired Fujicolor Press 800, one of my least favorite films. It never gets good colors and the grain is always outrageous, even for a higher speed film. I'm guessing perhaps the negatives were a little worrisome because this just isn't a very high-quality film.

Anyway, here are the shots of me documenting my first step into C-41 development :)

I ordered PhotoFlo tonight because the stabilizer in the kit I used apparently doesn't have a wetting agent, which is why there are drying spots all over all of the photos. Everyone online says to put just a tiny bit of PhotoFlo into the stabilizer and drying spots shouldn't happen.

I was anxious all weekend to see how this would turn out and I am so pleased to say that I am capable of developing all of my own film. I had developed my own B&W for years in high school and I had always wanted to try doing color, and this is an extremely fulfilling moment for me. I think this is a very big step as a photographer. I am now completely, 100% responsible for every single aspect of my film, from what kind I buy to the shooting to the development to the scanning. It is all entirely me and I think that's pretty darn cool.

This is not my 52 weeks film so I'll be posting again later this week :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Affordability of My Film 52 Weeks Project

I just spent about $100 on B&H's website buying film chemistry/development equipment so that I can start developing all of my film myself at home.

I had always been deterred by my local lab; not verbally, but by the prices of the chemicals. I attended an art school for one semester and still have a bunch of the equipment, but never wanted to invest all the money in the chemicals. Logically, it made sense that doing it myself would be more cost effective, but looking at the price tags on developer and fixer just pushed me back into contentment with dropping my film off at bargain labs in drug stores.

Lately, however, I've been thinking more and more about developing on my own. I started photography with B&W film in high school, where we developed and printed all of our film ourselves. For a short while after I graduated, I was still able to return to my high school to continue using the chemistry and the darkroom, but I then moved on to almost exclusively digital shooting.

Recently, however, I started to love film again, and thus my film 52 weeks project was born. Just three weeks in, I've already reconsidered the affordability of this project. About 68 rolls of film sit in the trunk at the foot of my bed, so chances are, I will not need to buy any more film this year (though I undoubtedly will anyway.) Even then, spending around $7/week for just one roll of film was going to quickly add up.

This, along with the fact that my favorite local lab filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy early this month, closing my local branch, left me looking for new, affordable places to get my film developed. I had a few suggestions but I was drawn back to the idea of developing my own film by hand. I checked a couple of my regular suppliers online and realized that the chemistry for film is actually much more affordable than I had previously believed.

So, this afternoon, I bought all of the chemistry necessary to do both HC-110 and C-41 film processing at home, as well as a brand new tank and two reels, and all the new opaque plastic jugs in which to store the chemicals.

This got me thinking even farther into the economic standing of analog photography, especially when considering that Kodak is filing bankruptcy as well, and I realized that all this time, even with my past experience with film, I had been under the impression that shooting film is a much more expensive process than it really is.

I spent only $20 for a C-41 development kit that will process 12-16 rolls of film, meaning each roll will only cost between $1.25 and $1.67 to develop.

Not only can you save money by developing film yourself, but you can save a ton of money by buying bargain/expired film as well. I sat down and compared the cost of a passive film 52 weeks project and a more aggressive, cost-conscious approach.

The less involved path:

  • $4/roll for a standard, 24-exposure roll of film from a drug store like Walgreens or Rite-Aid
  • $7/roll for developing and scanning, or anywhere between $12-15/roll for developing, scanning, and printing from a drug store (those prices reflect my local CVS where I've been getting film developed for months)
Assuming you do this project the same exact way as me, one roll of film per week, developing and scans only, you'll be paying around $11/week for one roll of 24 exposures. In one year, this would add up to $572 and 1,248 frames. That's about 2 exposures per dollar.

If you become a little more active in trying to find deals and save money:

  • $2/roll for my absolute favorite 36-exposure expired Agfa film from Lomograpy's website (when you buy ten at once)
  • $1.50/roll to develop at home using a Tetenal C-41 Press Kit from B&H
  • I also have a film scanner so scanning is free for me
Again, shooting one roll per week, but buying discounted film and developing and scanning it myself, I'll pay $3.50/week for one roll of 36 exposures. In one year, that's $182 for 1,872 exposures. I'm spending less than 1/3 of the money and I'm even getting more exposures; about 10 exposures per dollar.

And all of this isn't even touching the HC-110 chemicals for black & white film! They're even more cost effective. The film is a couple more dollars per roll, but you can develop tons of film with the same chemistry before it goes bad, and replenisher is pretty cheap too.

What it comes down to is that film is nowhere near as cost-effective as digital, but it's not nearly as bad as some people think, myself included until today. If you love shooting film or have always wanted to venture into the realm of analog photography, give it a try! It can be terribly intimidating but once you get the hang of it, there is nothing as rewarding as pulling a roll of film out of the fix and seeing that it looks perfect.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Week 3

Hannah and I had been trying to get together for a few weeks now. It had been a while since we were able to hang out and shoot together, and we finally got a chance yesterday.

She came up with her boyfriend, Scott, whom I met for the first time. He fit perfectly into the group with Hannah, Katie and me.

We spent the afternoon in Ellicott City, where I've shot countless times before.

We ate lunch outside on a picnic table behind the shops since Bean Hollow was packed.

None of us were particularly enthralled with any of the shops that day. I had shot there so many times and Hannah seemed a little uninterested, so we only poked through a few places in town before heading home, including that infamous Native American shop

(which also sells candy)

and then moved on to another of my favorite shops that sells a lot of kitschy vintage stuff and some really nice jewelry.

Hannah and Scott had to get back home to Vienna at a certain time so we headed home and shot a few more photos in the back yard before they left.

This week's film:
  • 1 roll of expired Agfa Vista 200
  • Shot with a Canon EOS 630 and a Canon 50mm f/1.4

Friday, January 13, 2012

Week 2

Kara and I spent the afternoon today in downtown DC at the US Botanic Garden in SW.

We took the metro and walked a few blocks and as the building came into view, we both realized we had seen it a hundred times before but never knew what it was. It's a big, half glass building almost directly in front of the Capitol building, with a nice little courtyard outside.

We walked in and the controlled climate was staggering; my glasses and camera lens actually fogged up for a few minutes. It was warm and comfortable when today's high was in the upper 30s.

We walked around and read about different endangered plants and all that good stuff, but let me tell you, Christ almighty, I have never seen so many attractive men in one place. Kara and I were both overwhelmed at each turn haha.

The main entrance hall is home to two small pools and a bunch of more common flowers

And there was a couple actually kind of inappropriately intimate on one of the benches. They started necking at one point and Kara and I both looked away in discomfort, and they eventually started watching us walk around like they wanted some privacy. Too bad.

There was one room dedicated to desert vegetation

This room had a fountain, and I think Kara and I would have spent more time here but a couple came in and seemed like they wanted us to leave too. We stood our ground for a few minutes but they kind of started breathing down our necks so we just moved on.

And my personal favorite room had colorful flowers and vines hanging from the ceiling everywhere

There's also the main room, called "The Jungle," which homes the plants native to rainforests. There's fog and mist everywhere, it's really cool.

You can also climb a couple flights of stairs and walk along the balcony that surrounds The Jungle and get a view from above.

And here are a few other photos from the day :)

I will likely be posting again tomorrow night, I'm visiting family for dinner and will probably be taking photos of them, so I'll have done two rolls this week like last week.

This week's film:
  • 1 roll of expired Agfa Vista 200
  • Shot with a Canon EOS 630 and a Canon 50mm f/1.4

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Week 1

2011 was a year of trials and tribulations for me. It was full of stress, confusion, and a great recession of my artistic inspiration. 2011 was, by far, the biggest year in my photographic purpose and style, a period of redefinition that came entirely unexpectedly. I moved away from conceptual, horror-based photography and into a more subtle, serene style which I have grown to love immensely.

Just this weekend, I had a conversation with a friend about purpose in art. He feels that art is nothing without purpose or relevance, which I argued. I think that sometimes, a lack of purpose in and of itself is a purpose; sometimes art doesn't need to have a meaning or a goal or a message, sometimes it's just meant to be aesthetically appealing. Regardless, "purpose" and "relevance" are fairly subjective terms. What is relevant to one may be irrelevant to another. You may not be able to relate to something, but it doesn't make the feeling any less real for someone else.

I've learned to take photos for myself. Photography morphed from a means of networking and socializing into a medium with which I could actually relate. You take film and expose it to its surroundings and it changes. It can be manipulated and altered, but ultimately, once that exposure is complete, there is no turning back. The emulsion cannot be re-bonded, it cannot be forgotten or redefined. It's something I've grown to understand; it's not always about purpose or relevance or even aesthetics. Sometimes it's just the fact that we're accepting change, that we're allowing ourselves to be shaped as we work and as we create. It's accepting that we are all ultimately products of everything around us, and that is a lesson I desperately needed to learn in 2011.

My film from week one was shot almost entirely on Friday, save for two frames for which I did not particularly care. Nicole came down to visit and arrived on Thursday evening. She brought her friend, John, whose company I greatly enjoyed this weekend.

We spent Thursday night with Arieyl and Natalie watching Jersey Shore as we are all intellectuals and obviously connect with the cast. Nicole, John and I stayed up until 5am talking, listening to music, and looking through art. Friday, we woke up early, John and I went into Bethesda to get us Georgetown Cupcake, and we met up with Kara and headed to one of my absolute favorite places in the world, Ellicott City.

Ellicott City is a city in Howard County, Maryland that is known mostly for its quaint historic district. You take a couple turns off of the major highway and are surrounded by historic buildings, antique stores, kitschy little vintage shops, and cafes. I've shot there so many times before, but it never fails to provide really fun opportunities for photos, so it was our first destination.

The first shop we went into was one that I had never really explored before. It's kind of difficult to describe; it's full of colorful trinkets and costumes and they seem to specialize in fairies. I had only been inside once before and we left almost immediately. It's kind of an overwhelming place, the walls are lined to the ceiling with obnoxiously playful novelty sunglasses, pirate costumes and "magic fairy dust." This time, we went up through all three floors.

It was actually very charming once you got past some of the overbearingness on the first floor. The whole shop reminds me of my first photography teacher from my sophomore year of high school, Ms. Blankenship. She sort of had that slightly nonchalant fairy attitude, the kind of woman who goes wherever she so desires and always follows her heart. Kind of a free spirit.

We continued into one of my favorite antique stores

And the Native American shop that sells dreamcatchers, mandelas, incense, and jewelry, among other things.

We finished off the afternoon in the historic district at Bean Hollow, a little coffee shop/cafe that I always go to when I'm in the area.

We met up with Katie, Ali, and their friend, Johnny, who also ended up playing a big role in the success of the weekend. We took photos in an abandoned house that we had visited one year ago when we met Kevin Mayer and Lindsay Anne Dransfield, but did a little more exploring in the area this time around.

From inside the house:

We ventured up into the property that sits above the house

And also across the street to the empty shell in the ground where a house once stood. I don't know for sure what happened to it, but from the looks of the other houses on the street, it most likely burned down.

Everyone came over later and we all hung out for a while, again just listening to music and chatting. Last night, Katie, Kara, Natalie, Arieyl, Johnny, and Kwesi came over. We spent the night laughing and talking, playing games and building bonds. John and Johnny, I can safely say, are very good friends of mine now. It's incredible to me how easy it really is for me to make friends when I'm not completely guarded and antisocial.

Today, Katie and Johnny came over again to see Nicole and John again before they left to go home to Pittsburgh. I'm currently at my brother's house dogsitting until Tuesday, so Katie and Johnny came out with me and spent a couple of hours with me. We got dinner and played with the dogs, and now I'm lying in bed, contemplating everything that has happened over the past several days.

I'll have a lot to think about tonight and over the next few days. Hopefully I can channel that into another interesting roll of film or two.

This week's film:
  • 1 roll of expired Fuji Superia CZ 800 which, for some reason, turned out very blue
  • 1 roll of expired Agfa Vista 200, one of my favorite films to shoot with
  • All shot with a Canon EOS 630 and a Canon 50mm f/1.4