Fine Art Photography
4x5, 120, and 35mm Film

Category: Film

Guide to Developing Black and White Film with XTol Now Available!

Following up on the C-41 Flexicolor Guide, I’m pleased to announce that my guide to developing black and white film with XTol is now available here: https://www.kabbottphoto.com/developing-black-and-white-film-with-kodak-xtol/ Feel free to review and leave any comments! I hope that you find this useful.

North Carolina Winter

Late February seems awfully late for a first snowfall, but that is where we are this year in Wake Forest, North Carolina. I hope that you enjoy these tranquil scenes of the sun starting to shine through the snowy trees after 3 inches fell the night before.

The Warming of the Day – Fuji Pro 400H – Mamiya 7 – 80mm f/4
The Sun Rises – Fuji Pro 400H – Mamiya 7 – 80mm f/4

New Mexico Gallery Added!

I am pleased to announce that I have put a gallery on this site showcasing recent film work done in New Mexico. The films represented are Kodak Tri-X, Kodak Ektar, and Kodak Portra 800. The images have been made on either 4×5 film or 120 film in a 6x6cm format.

Visiting Northern New Mexico again for the first time in six years was an excellent experience! We flew into Albuquerque, spent some time there, and then relocated to the little town of El Rito, New Mexico, to spend a week exploring the area. If you ever find yourself anywhere near El Rito, New Mexico, you should take the time to visit El Farolito Restaurant. Hands down, this is the best New Mexican food that I have ever eaten. We had planned to go out to Rancho de Chimayo (which is also good), but once we got a taste of El Farolito, canceled that plan and went back for a second night. Yes, it’s that good!

Locations photographed from this past trip that have made the New Mexico Gallery include:

  • El Rito
  • Petroglyph National Monument
  • Santa Rosa de Lima de Abiquiu
  • Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
  • San Francisco de Asis Mission
  • Rio Grande Gorge
  • Plaza Blanca
  • Chimney Rock, Ghost Ranch

I hope that you enjoy looking through the images in this gallery!

Best of 2019

Culling down a selection of images for 2019 that represent the best has been a difficult task this time around. As such, there’s more here than I presented in the Best of 2018 post from last year.

All 3 formats that I shoot in are represented here, but with most of the work being made with the Minolta Autocord in the 6×6 format.

Having gotten to visit Northern New Mexico, Charleston, South Carolina, and the North Carolina Mountains and Coast this past year, there was a lot of material to go through. I hope you enjoy the images in this post!

Santa Rosa de Lima de Abiquiu
Tent Rocks Slot Canyon – New Mexico
San Francisco de Asis – New Mexico
San Francisco de Asis – New Mexico
Rio Grande Gorge – US 64 in New Mexico
Chimney Rock – Ghost Ranch – New Mexico
Plaza Blanca – Abiquiu, New Mexico
Stolls Alley, Charleston, South Carolina
Rainbow Row, Charleston, South Carolina
Magnolia Gardens – Charleston, South Carolina
Davidson Building, Charleston, South Carolina
Fort Worth, Texas
Irving, Texas
C W Design – Wilson, North Carolina
Whirligig Park – Wilson, North Carolina
Northern New Mexico
Dill Falls, North Carolina
Blue Ridge Parkway Sunset – North Carolina
West Fork of the Pigeon River – North Carolina
TWA Hotel – JFK Airport
TWA Hotel – JFK Airport
Howard Street – Ocracoke, North Carolina

Appalachian Summer

Summer in the North Carolina Mountains can be a fascinating time. It usually gets muggy, the wildflowers are typically done, but the waterfalls have good flow and there is greenery everywhere.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to make some large format images in this region and wanted to share those here in that post:

West Fork of the Pigeon River – Delta 100 – 4×5
Mill Shoals – Delta 100 – 4×5
Dill Falls – Delta 100 – 4×5
Blue Ridge Parkway Sunset – Kodak Ektar – 4×5
Blue Ridge Parkway Sunset #2 – Kodak Ektar – 4×5

Further Adventures with the Kodak Tourist: Adding a Walz Rangefinder

Three rolls of film through the Kodak Tourist and I still don’t have the camera working to my liking. But that said, I now have a plan for the fourth roll — and it’s already loaded!

On the first roll through the camera, I guessed the distances and did not achieve my desired results most of the time. Given this, I decided to purchase a Walz rangefinder as I figured that knowing the distance to the subject would effectively eliminate the problem of guessing the focus. When I got the rangefinder, it wasn’t calibrated and there is very little on the internet about calibrating these Walz rangefinders. As I have now figured that out, I’d like to share how to calibrate a Walz rangefinder. It’s really quite easy. You remove the endcaps by unscrewing them. The only one you need to remove is the one to the right of the focus ring. Then there is a hole and you can take a 1/16″ screwdriver, insert it into the hole, and then do the calibration that way. Both vertical and horizontal calibration are done this way with one single hole. That is because this hole is merely the back of the mirror assembly on this side of the rangefinder. Do not treat this hole as a screw as it is NOT a screw. It is simply a divot on the backside of a mirror to move that mirror around. If you go here: https://www.rangefinderforum.com/classics/forum/messages/6900/5189.html?1126483174 you will see where two others have done this before. Dan Mitchell posted this picture, which is the Walz rangefinder disassembled:

Parts of a Walz Rangefinder. (Taken by Dan Mitchell) From left, there is the cap that holds the mirror in place (it has two holes for screws that are just above it) and to the right of that cap is the actual mirror. The hole that you see when you unscrew the end cap is the hole on the back of that mirror piece. That mirror slots into a circular slot in the rangefinder that allows it some movement and the cap holds it in place. Moving the mirror around with a screwdriver is how you do the calibration. If you are unable to get any movement, you may have to take the whole thing apart and loosen the screws on the cap that holds the mirror in place.
Picture of the adjustment hole. Yes — that’s the backside of the mirror piece. (Taken By Dan Mitchell)

So to take the whole thing apart, we need to look at the last diagram that Dan Mitchell posted as you have to start by removing the black plastic piece on the center of the focus knob. Once this is removed, you have to get a spanner screwdriver with two point bars connected by a bar across the top to be able to actually get enough torque to unscrew this knob. Once you have this unscrewed, you can slide the whole rangefinder assembly out and access everything.

The initial stages of disassembly (Taken by Dan Mitchell)

If you do take it all apart, you have to get it back together in much the same way and you still have to calibrate it. Calibrating takes time as you have to move the mirror piece in the opposite directions of where you want the alignment to go. Further, it moves both the vertical and horizontal alignment and you want to get them both right.

So with all that out of the way, I happily loaded my second roll of film into the camera and went off to shoot 8 more photos! About mid-roll, I became concerned that I had the rangefinder mounted at the back of the camera and the focus must be off the front of the camera and so I need to add another 4-5″ or so to my focusing distance. Well, in hindsight, I should have thought that one through a little better. The focus is always the distance between the subject and the film plane, not the lens opening. The results of the second role, even the first half where I was focusing correctly, were not promising. The items that I had thought were in focus were not and so perhaps I had not calibrated the rangefinder correctly.

After calibrating the rangefinder again, I shot a third role and this role was better, but I was not entirely happy with the two shots that were shot at f/5.6. (Most of the role was f/11 or higher).

The rangefinder is focusing on the leaves in the very front. As you can see, the actual focus is further back from those leaves.
This one is in focus due to the greater depth of field.

After seeing these shots, I knew that I needed to do more work to find out why my camera wasn’t working the way I needed it to. In order to do this, I knew that I could either continue to burn rolls of film and try and compare results to figure this out or come up with a way of actually seeing the image on the film plane in real time. Surprisingly enough, you can use scotch tape to make a makeshift “ground glass” on the film plane and accomplish seeing the image in real time! Within two minutes of having built my makeshift “ground glass”, I had measured a subject with the rangefinder, transferred the measurement to the camera, and then on the “ground glass”, I could see that the image wasn’t in focus. I focused the image on the tape and saw that the camera was quite different in where it was in focus versus what the rangefinder said. To figure out which was accurate, I measured the distance from the film plane to the subject and determined that the lens on the Tourist was not accurate! When I had thought I had been focusing on an object that was actually 6 feet away and set the camera’s focus on 6 feet, it was actually focusing roughly 8 feet away. This explains why the objects in focus were always behind where I was focusing.

Given this predicament, I have two ways forward for this particular problem. The first way would require a significant outlay of time and is something I’m not interested in at the moment. That would be disassembling the lens and shutter and resetting the lens with an accurate focus into the shutter mechanism. A detailed take down of this lens (The Kodak 105mm f/4.5 Anaston lens) is available on flickr at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/149070754@N07/albums/72157695098524481 . The benefit of going through all of this work is that hyperfocal focusing would be accurate (It seems ok above f/11.) and I’d be able to use the camera without the rangefinder.

The second way forward and the one that I am choosing at the moment is to calibrate the rangefinder to the camera. For this, I have basically placed the camera in front of a subject and have the rangefinder patch on the subject. I then use a loupe on the “ground glass” and focus on the subject. I then took the focus reading from the camera, set it on the rangefinder and then calibrated the range finder to be “right” at that distance. I have since tested the camera with its “ground glass” on a number of different objects and at this point I have the setup accurate to a few inches, which doesn’t seem too bad given the rangefinder and the camera are completely wrong, tape buckles, and focusing on tape is nowhere near as luxurious as a real ground glass. 🙂 I also probably won’t use this camera under f/5.6 and at f/5.6 and close distances, you can get 3.5-4 ft in focus at the same time. Of course, this range of focus increases as the distance gets further.

What’s surprising is this actually works!

So at this point, it’s on to the 4th roll of film, which is almost finished and ready to be developed! Here’s to hoping that I’ve overcome this problem.

First Shots with a Kodak Tourist

I recently purchased a Kodak Tourist camera at an antique shop largely because it was in excellent condition and I’ve always been interested in medium format folders.

The Kodak Tourist that I have is the version 1, which was manufactured between 1948 and 1951. The lens is a Kodak Angston 105mm f/4.5 lens in a Flash Kodamatic Shutter that goes from 1/10s to 1/200s and features a bulb and timer mode.

Kodak Tourist

It’s a great camera that’s not too large (considering the size of the film), but it does bring with it some difficulties that other medium format cameras simply do not have. Specifically, here are those difficulties:

  • Takes 620 film.
  • No rangefinder or focusing aid.
  • Heavy enough to require significant effort in not shaking the camera while shooting.

The first difficulty, takes 620 film (which is discontinued as a format), is actually not too difficult to overcome. You can purchase hand rolled 620 film directly from B&H or the Film Photography Project Store. 620 film is 120 film rolled onto a spool that is a little shorter and skinnier. As such, it’s not too hard to find, but it does cost a bit more than 120 film, even though they are the same film as you are paying for someone’s time and effort in re-rolling the film. Another option that you have is rolling 120 film onto 620 spools yourself. Once you get the 620 film, the camera takes 8 beautiful 6cm x 9cm images, which are in a 2×3 format, or the same aspect ratio of 35mm film.

The second difficulty, no rangefinder or focusing aid, is actually quite a difficulty. Because of the lack of anything to tell you how far objects are from your camera, you have to guess this yourself. Hyperfocal focusing becomes important here (where you set the focus ring to have infinity at the f/stop you desire to shoot at). On the Tourist, hyperfocal focusing at f/5.6 is 25ft to infinity, at f/8 about 18 ft to infinity, f/11 gets you 14 feet, f/16 gets you 9 feet, and f/22 gets you 7 feet. But what happens if you need to photograph something that’s 5 feet in front of you and due to light need to stop down to f/5.6? At this point, you can dial in 5 feet on the middle of the focus dial and you’ll have a small area less and slightly greater than 5 feet in focus. But what if you miscalculated the distance to your subject? There is a great chance at that point, the image will be out of focus and you are out of luck. You can see how this actually poses quite a difficulty.

The third difficulty is one that I encountered when learning to use a Minolta Autocord as well and it simply requires that you train your muscles to be able to hold the camera steady while tripping the shutter. I’ve done some work with this on the Tourist and think I’ll have better luck on my next outing.

To help address the second difficulty, I’ve purchased on eBay a Walz Rangefinder that fits into the cold shoe. If this device is in good working condition as advertised, I’ll be able to use the rangefinder to accurately measure the distance to the subject and then (as the rangefinder will be uncoupled) dial that in on the focus ring. It was difficult to find information on auxiliary rangefinders in 2019 as these days, most models are laser rangefinders. For a good source on vintage auxiliary rangefinders, please take a look at Mercury Camera’s Range Finder Roundup.

And now, as promised by the title, here are 3 shots from that first roll of 8 images on Kodak Tri-X (developed in XTol) through this camera:

A Fitting First Image for a Kodak “Tourist” – A Delta Advertisement at RDU. There is some slight camera shake in this image.
Street Scene in Lowell, Massachusetts – I missed the focus on this f/5.6 image ever so slightly.
“The Sun” building in Lowell, Massachusetts

Best of 2018

As 2018 has come to a close, I have decided to take a look back at my favorite images of the year. Most of my work this past year has been making pictures of the family and of that, there is a good bit of work. But this post is not about those images but rather about my landscapes and cityscapes. All of the images that I’ve picked for this year save for one are from North Carolina. The other image is from Dallas, Texas and is the only sheet of Cinestill 800T in 4×5 that I’ve shot so far. I suppose I should really shoot the rest of that box.

In looking at the work, I’ve learned that I really do tend to prefer color but I still love to work in black and white. Also, large format photography dominates this selection, with 35mm coming up next, followed by medium format. I picked up my first medium format camera, a Minolta Autocord, in August and have definitely loved the images that it’s created. Given that I’ve only had it for the last few months of the year, I’m not surprised that it’s a bit under-represented in this selection of images.

Kodak Ektar remains my color film of choice for all color work that isn’t focused on people or where a higher speed than 100 ISO is needed. This past year has seen the end of my Fuji Natura 1600 supply as well as my Fuji Superia 1600 supply and as they have been discontinued, I no longer have any more high speed color film. Given this, I started working with Kodak Portra 800 and pushing it two stops to 3200. This is rather finicky, but when it works, the results are amazing and the Deco sign at night in this collection is indeed this 800 pushed to 3200 combination. When it comes to 400 speed film, I’m still undecided between Kodak Portra 400 and Fuji Pro 400H. I’m also developing a real fondness for Kodak Portra 160, which does make an appearance in this collection as well.

I attended the Film Photography Project’s Workshop in Findlay, Ohio this past August and had an absolute blast while learning a few new things. The smell of Ether from Joseph Brunjes’ wet plate photography demo for one, but also that a sous vide makes an excellent temperature control mechanism for C-41. Post this workshop, I bought a sous vide and also switched from the Unicolor kit to Kodak Flexicolor chemistry for C-41. That has made a major difference in my home processed color film and I hope to have that process written up in the near future and on this website.

Moving from the technical to the artistic, I believe that my images from this year represent solitude. Maybe my work all along has been about solitude, but it’s a theme that definitely comes through in this 2018 set. The quiet places that recharge us and give us much needed rest are well represented, but also, those moments of quiet among the bustle of urban environments. These are the moments that I live for and the ones that I get the most enjoyment out of capturing. Every one of these images takes me right back to the place that I was at the time of capture. Every one of those places holds a special meaning for me personally. I hope that some of that comes through these images for anyone else who may view them.

Here are my top 12 from 2018 in no particular order:

Deco at Night, Raleigh, NC – Kodak Portra 800 at 3200 – 6x6cm

 

Patterns in Downtown Raleigh – Kodak Tri-X 400 – 6x6cm

 

Sunset on the Pamlico Sound – Ilford Delta 100 – 4×5

 

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and Dallas – Cinestill 800T – 4×5

 

The Start of Fall – Fuji Superia 400 – 35mm

 

Wiseman’s View – Ferrania P30 – 35mm

 

Kitty Hawk Waves – Kodak Portra 160 – 35mm

 

Lifeguard Beach Sunrise #2 – Kodak Ektar 100 – 4×5

 

Ocracoke Lighthouse – Kodak Ektar 100 – 4×5

 

Linville Falls – Ilford Delta 100 – 4×5

 

Sunset at Big Laurel Gap Overlook – Kodak Ektar 100 – 4×5

 

Deerlick Gap Overlook Sunset – Kodak Ektar 100 – 4×5

North Carolina’s Outer Banks – April 2018

I had a lot of fun visiting the Outer Banks of North Carolina in April 2018 and even had the chance for a little bit of photography! I absolutely love the seemingly unspoiled nature of these beeches, the fresh seafood, and the remoteness of it all as you head south of Nags Head.

For this trip, we went all the way down to Ocracoke and stayed for a few days. It does take a little bit of time to get to Ocracoke, but once you are there, it’s very relaxing because there isn’t much to do! In Ocracoke, you can go to the beach, hang out on Silver Lake, stroll around in the village, or a handful of other related activities, but that’s pretty much it. If you like the hustle and bustle of the city, Ocracoke may not be for you. If you need flashy yellow buildings that sell all the latest beach knick knacks, Ocracoke may not be for you.

But….if you want to get away from it all and you find doing nothing relaxing, then Ocrcacoke may just be for you.

Here are a couple of my favorite images from this past trip to the Outer Banks:

Bodie Island Fresnel – Minolta XD-11 – Portra 400

 

Bodie Island Fresnel – Minolta XD-11 – Portra 400

On this trip, I actually got to climb the Bodie Island Lighthouse for the first time and owing to having two film cameras around my neck and looking extra interested in photographing all of the details, the park ranger gave me a quick look inside the actual fresnel! Enjoy the above two frames. That was certainly an exciting experience!

But on to Ocracoke…. Here’s the sunset over the Pamlico Sound:

Sunset over the Pamlico Sound – Ocracoke – 4×5 – Ektar 100

The Ocracoke Lighthouse at dusk is a beautiful place to be, but also overrun with mosquitoes. Everything was going well and then they all came out. I honestly don’t believe that I’ve ever swat at so many mosquitoes before!

Ocracoke Lighthouse at Dusk – 4×5 Ektar 100

And finally, not one, but two spectacularly peaceful sunrises at the Lifeguard beach:

Lifeguard Beach Sunrise #1 – 4×5 – Ektar 100

 

Lifeguard Beach Sunrise #2 – 4×5 Ektar 100

I hope you’ve enjoyed these as much as I enjoyed making them.

Silberra Ultima 200

Silberra Ultima 200 is a panchromatic black and white film from Silberra in Russia. You can find more information on this film from their website at: https://silberra.com/films/silberra-ultima .

I picked up a roll of Ultima 200 and Pan 200 as rewards for backing them on their recent Indiegogo campaign and these shipped promptly. This was the only reward from the campaign that shipped promptly and all other rewards are supposedly still on the way. Such is the way with crowdfunding campaigns though.

I was excited to put this roll through my camera as I tend to really like medium speed (200 ISO) black and white film, with a special soft spot for Eastman XX (5222). When it came time to load the film in the tank though, I was shocked at how thin the film was. On the aforementioned page, they give you the actual number 0.06mm thick, but I glossed over that little detail. I had a very difficult time loading this roll and almost gave up on it. I developed it in Kodak XTol and was not disappointed at all. Even though I thought I had buckled this film in multiple places, there were no obvious issues with the developed negatives.

While I was loading that film, I was thinking about how to give away the Pan 200, but after seeing the results that I got with the Ultima 200, I think this film is well worth shooting, even as thin as it is.

Here are some of my results from an early evening of walking around Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina.

Welcome to Raleigh – Silberra Ultima 200 – XTol – Minolta XD-11

Happy and Hale – Silberra Ultima 200 – Kodak XTol – Minolta XD-11

Raleigh Post Office – Silberra Ultima 200 – Kodak XTol – Minolta XD-11

Downtown Lines – Silberra Ultima 200 – Kodak XTol – Minolta XD-11

No Turn on Red – Silberra Ultima 200 – Kodak XTol – Minolta XD-11

About Me

About me

I'm Karl Abbott and this is my blog. I'll share images, the story behind them, and any unique technical details about how I achieved my results.