Friday, May 31, 2013

Pink Door, Blue Door

Eastham, Massachusetts

The Eden Drive-in Theater

Eden, North Carolina

This was the first active theater I reached on my Southern Loop of the Great American Drive-in Theater road trip last October. I got home from that trip just in time for a monster storm and an eight day power outage. By the time the power came back it was too late in the season to keep my darkroom open, so my 8x10 and 7x17 film has been on ice ever since. Now that I've got the digital negative workflow going satisfactorily, this morning I began to develop the large format film, running the first eight sheets of 8x10 from the trip. I'll be doing one set of negatives each morning. We're having a heat wave (after all the cold) and I can't run the air conditioner with wet negatives hanging on the line, so a single run is all I'll get to do each morning.

My scanner, barely a year old, managed to grow mold on the inside of the lower glass platen last summer, while I was away and unaware of the problem. Of course it isn't "user-serviceable," but with hints from friends and some online research I found out how to access the four hidden hold-down screws and then remove the lid to clean the underside of the glass. The whole operation took about four minutes. The Epson V750 Pro is easily the best scanner I've owned, and I've been using them since 1992. The Epson software for this machine is the first I've used that can "understand" a b&w negative. Previous ones have been too dumb to realize that b&w negatives have vastly more density range than color negs. I always had to scan as a positive (color transparencies have even more density range than b&w negs), set manual curves in the scanning software, then invert the file later in Photoshop. With the 750, the scanner on its own delivers a "pale, but all there" 16-bit grayscale file that doesn't clip either highlights or shadows of my rather dense PMK-pyro-developed negatives intended for Pt/Pd printing. All I have to do is use a Curves Adjustment Layer to move from 'pale' to a full range of tones for either web viewing or printing.

The Eden is a classic, a rare old theater with its original enclosed screen tower clad in corrugated metal. Most old theaters have lost their original screens or towers, usually to storms, but this one survives. Which presented problems for my digital cameras. There may well be moiré patterns in the corrugated metal in the vastly reduced .jpg file presented on Blogger, but with a sufficiently high resolution scan (only 720 ppi seems to have done fine) the digitized film rendition is perfectly clean. My Lumix cameras have, I'm quite sure, very weak AA filters (which is, I think, why they punch way above their weight class in resolution) but they are much more susceptible to moiré than dslr cameras I've used. When I encountered corrugated metal towers or screens, for digital capture I'd bracket the f/stop from an ideal f/7.1 by .3 EV intervals (at least it's free film) down to f/11, where sufficient diffraction sets in to eliminate the moiré, without losing so much resolution that it would be noticed in a moderate sized print or reproduction. But of course the real answer is a nice big sheet of film.

Also, the look of digitally "corrected" convergence is NOT the same as the look of the same subject photographed with a perfectly plumb view camera and substantial rise of the front standard.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bike Rack

Cape Cod National Seashore Park

Spring at the Salt Pond

Cape Cod National Seashore Park, Massachusetts

Taking a break from the Pt/Pd darkroom, I've been making some large, 17x22, color prints today, including these two shots from Cape Cod. I continue to be amazed at the quality of prints this size from m-4/3s format captures.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More Spring in the Woods

 Truro, Massachusetts

Truro, Massachusetts

Spring on the Dunes

 Eastham, Massachusetts

Last Tuesday morning, at The Cape Cod National Seashore Park. The beach access is closed because of storm damage, while information at their web site says that the across the board federal budget cuts have forced them to drop many of their ranger-guided tours of the area. The observation platform you see at the upper left is accessible, but the beach and many hiking trails are closed. Since this appears to have the biggest parking lot of any place on the Outer Cape, there has to be a severe impact on tourism. The municipally owned beaches are mostly open, with ramps or stairs from the cliff top to the beaches restored, but their parking lots are tiny, only suitable for local residents and the vacationers who take (expensive!) weekly rentals. I don't know how the majority of potential high season tourists will get to spend a day at the beach.

Eastham, Massachusetts

Monday, May 27, 2013

Display, Marconi Beach

Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Part of the National Park, Marconi Beach is where the inventor Marconi successfully completed the first transatlantic wireless communication between the U.S. and England in 1903.

Gone Fishin'

 Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Not me, him.

Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Saturday, May 25, 2013

By George, I think we've got it...

After returning from the Cape, Thursday and Friday tests confirmed how the Magnani/Revere Platinum paper likes to be handled. It needs "more than enough" sensitizer coating. The number of drops that seems to do a fine job of physically coating the paper isn't enough to get an optimum print. What's needed is about 20% more, which then takes about five minutes of brushing to work into the sheet. It also likes moisture, plain water as well as coating. Even in a workroom at about 60% Rh, a short misting of the sheet with an ultrasonic humidifier, just before coating, improves the results. After the coated sheet has set up, fifteen minutes in the film dryer with unheated forced air gets the sheet ready for printing.

It also turned out that even a good spring-back printing frame was not giving adequate contact. So first thing this morning I re-established the vacuum frame setup.

The OHP negative and oversize sheet of 1 mil mylar are held in perfect contact by the vac frame.

The exposed sheet shows quite a bit of print-out image in the fully exposed border area around the picture and in the shadow areas of the image itself. Just as it should.

The vac frame glass is thick and heavy, and the unit sits farther from the tubes of the light source than a spring frame with the box in "pizza oven" configuration, so as expected about 50% longer exposure was needed than tests with the other setup. A print from the first negative looked right in the developer, as near as you can tell from a print sitting in brown liquid.

After two minutes development the first clearing step is multiple changes of warm water for five minutes.

Second test negative coming along nicely. All four printed well, and all the resolution brought back by the vac frame was clearly visible.

This is a first. Last Wednesday, early in the morning with a slowly clearing sky after a night of rain, I was fascinated by the patterns made by the incoming tide at Newcomb Hollow Beach. For the first time ever, I decided to make a digital capture intended from the outset to be converted to monochrome and printed in palladium. Last night after finishing in the wet darkroom, I selected a capture, worked it up in ACR, then ran it through my batch action to create a digital negative file to output from the 3880. This is the first print from it.

I won't know for certain until the prints are totally dry, but I think I've got everything where I want it. The negative/mylar packages with acid-free interleaf paper are filed away.

Prints look their worst when they are on the drying racks, half dry, but even so these look promising. If the black holds up after drying, it will be the strongest I've ever seen from a straight palladium print. Magnani was a pain to figure out, especially at the same time as establishing the digital negative workflow, but it looks as though it's worth the effort.

Eastham, Massachusetts

Most people are aware of the disastrous storm damage Sandy did last fall to the shorelines of New York and New Jersey. Cape Cod took a real beating as well.  Beaches and dunes were destroyed, beach facilities like stairways and access ramps from the cliff tops were demolished. Some of the municipally owned beaches are restored enough for access, along with Coast Guard beach, but a lot of the National Park Service areas are closed. Some show beginnings of restoration activity, others nothing at all. This will have a big impact on the area's summer economy.


No sign when they plan to get this beach and related facilities opened again. It has one of the largest parking lots in the area.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Spring Forest, Cape Cod

Truro, Massachusetts

This was the view from the car park earlier this week at the guest cottage we had access to. A productive four day trip, and as close to a vacation as we ever get.

Sorry Girls...

Provincetown, Massachusetts

Monday, May 20, 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

More Backlit Trees

Woodbury, Connecticut

On a technical note, at 100% view the detail in the bark of the triple group of trees and the definition of the small leaves is quite remarkable. The Lumix vario 45-200 was at 91mm, so equivalent to about 180 on 24x36, aperture at f/7.1 which seems to be optimum with a number of my lenses for m4/3s. The G3 was on my trusty old (30+years) Gitzo R4 tripod. I framed the picture using the EVF, then switched to the LCD so I could use touch focus. AF on a tripod used to be problematic, but with this feature all I had to do was touch the LCD exactly at the triple tree trunks and the camera put a single, fairly broad, AF patch right there. Touch the shutter release set to 2-second self-timer. I made a string of exposures because wind was blowing the leaves around and changing the pattern of distribution across the frame. The trees are crisp in every one.

Digital stuff can be frustrating. My big HP Z3200 is in deep do-do, after just three years. The main belt that drives the printheads is shedding its rubbery coating, making printing impossible. On-site service is required. HP wants $1,349 to replace the $60 belt. An independent firm wants a flat rate of $995 plus parts. And the main power supply is making bad noises that go away after several restarts (this is an always-on, self-maintaining unit). Online research shows that these are common weak points in the printer's design, though having them show up after barely more than three years is at the bad end of the luck curve. It's a wonderful printer capable of making the best digital prints I've ever seen, plus it's extremely fast and uses vastly less ink than the Epson 4800 it replaced, or my new Epson 3880. But if it needs $1,500-1,800 in repairs after a little over three years, that's one serious fly in the ointment. Anyone know of a good, reliable HP photo Designjet service person who can cover western Connecticut? For a professional printer in a home office?—one place I contacted said their insurance coverage doesn't allow them to enter non-commercial premises, even a professional home office. WTF?

But. While I haven't done it yet, too busy with the digital negative tests, my examination of this picture tells me it would make a wonderful large print. In fact, it would easily rival large prints of pictures in a similar style that I made in the color darkroom from color negative film with my Hasselblad and 250mm Sonnar. That's astonishing, and not just because it's coming from a 4/3s size sensor. The G3 at introduction cost something like $650, available now on close-out for a song, and the lens currently sells at $269. I suspect that a new copy of my Gitzo tripod and head would cost substantially more. That's amazing.


Woodbury, Connecticut

And a few of the late daffodils.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fireplug with Mulch

Southbury, Connecticut

Back Yard

Woodbury, Connecticut

Weird light last evening.

Backlit Trees

Woodbury, Connecticut

I used to love to do pictures in Spring, on Kodachrome, with my F-series Nikons and 180/2.8 lens. Otherwise I'm a short lens person, but there's this particular look I like as the once a year event of Spring comes around on the guitar.

The Lumix long varifocal 45-200 lens is interesting. It lets me also explore the look I got with a 300mm f/2.8 that I bought for a specific project, did personal work with while I had it, and then sold. But our standards have improved. The lens has IS, but when I look at 100% views of the results, it seems to be making plaid of my detail instead of resolving it. I've tested this several times, and keep finding the same result. So last evening, I went out to a nearby favorite spot thinking the clouds and sun effects looked promising, and set it up on a massive Gitzo level 4 tripod, IS turned off, of course, then set the 2 second self-timer for better than cable release actuation. This is Blogger, you can't see the actual file, so you'll just have to take my word for it, but the bark on the trees is resolved wonderfully at 100% view in ACR, which means that a print on 17x22 with one inch borders will be completely convincing. Cool. Why don't my hand-held shots with the same lens live up to this standard? Neither I, nor any IS system, is a match for a fifteen pound tripod.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Today's Tests

Woodbury, Connecticut (Shepaug at Steep Rock, CT; United African American Baptist Church, Iron Gate, VA; Strange Creek Independent Baptist Church, WV; M+F Drive-in Theater, Milton-Freewater, OR)

Three new pictures and a tweak (new negative) of one from yesterday.

The Pogues are keeping me company on the smart phone and external speakers.

I think it's working.