Guest Post by Tristan Jud. Tristan is a husband, photographer, and the founder and editor of RAW and RAW Live on Facebook. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram.
My story starts over a year ago, back in April to be exact. At that stage we were posting one Interview with a photographer a day on RAW and I had come across Rachel and her film work. It didn’t take long to find “I Still Shoot Film” and my curiosity started to swirl inside me.
At that stage I was still reserved about shooting film. I had no idea and thought It would be a large expense, shooting and then getting the film developed and scanned, but more on that a little later.
About a month after we published the first interview with Rachel and I had started to follow her blog more closely, I got the opportunity to chat over skype with her. Her passion for film and “her babies” as she calls her film cameras, inspired me to perhaps delve in and give film photography ago.
Onto my earlier point, my concern was the ongoing cost of shooting film. I was still in the mind set of shooting in a digital medium where it was not uncommon for me to fire off 200-300 frames per shoot. Thinking like that and looking at the development and scanning costs, were proving that this little experience could be very costly.The monetary aspect was one thing but what about the extra time.
A few months had passed and I started to follow a few street photographers who all raved about shooting street with film and rangefinders. I had tried my hand at street photography before with both my phone and my dSLR, but the experience wasn’t there. The dSLR was too big and I didn’t feel like I could blend in. My experience with shooting street with my phone wasn’t too bad however I still wanted to shoot film and see what all the fuss was about.
I hopped on eBay to look at some rangefinders. I bid on a few and didn’t win, which was a pity, at the same time I was checking out vintage markets but I wasn’t finding anything special there. Then one day I came across a “new-old stock” Fed 5. I thought since it’s brand new I may as well grab it while it’s available.
At the same time I ordered 3 rolls of Ilford Pan 400 to test it out. I wanted the full experience, I had decided that I wanted to develop my own film and scan it myself.
The film arrived the same day as the Fed 5, I timed that right. It was time to load some film and head out. The first roll was purely trial and error. I had no idea what to expect and the whole shooting experience was completely foreign to what I was used to, everything seemed a lot slower.
I had been told that film was fairly forgiving when it came to exposure, well thats true. The funny thing is though, I found that I was thinking more about my shots. This is something that has been documented countless times.
After the first roll was shot, which actually took me about 3 days. It was time to develop. After reading the instructions getting everything together it was time. Shout out to Peter Bowdige for giving me a spare bag, spools and canister for developing. Anyway with great anticipation the film was drying. It looked good as negatives. They weren’t all completely white or black so I knew they weren’t over or underexposed.
The scanning was done and the photos were there in front of me. The photos were crap but the experience was amazing and since then I’ve been hooked. My developing is still hit and miss at the moment. Sometimes I nail it other times I’ve agitated it too much or something and the photos aren’t as clear as they should be, however I look at it completely different than digital. I look more at the photo and what is captured than the actual sharpness and level or grain. I think the unpredictability of film and the entire process of developing it gives you greater connection to the image. You actually feel like you are creating something more than just capturing it on a sensor and tweaking what you don’t like in Photoshop.
Since then I’ve been shooting lots of street photography, I published an article on how to get started which has been translated into Italian by Cultor College and has spurred a followup article with a few more things that I’ve picked up.
Where to from here, well I’ll continue to shoot street photography on my Fed 5 but I’m going to start moving into shooting landscapes and portraits with a Minolta SRT101 that I have. Eventually I’ll get myself a medium format, something that I have my eye for at the moment. I’m also going to look at how to incorporate some film into my portrait work, so there seems to be a place for film in my photography life after all.
Guest post written by Dave Kirby. A 28-year-old photographer from Preston, England, Dave has been photographing for two years using only film. His favorite things are developing and printing in the darkroom, and he loves shooting 6x6. Check out more of his work on his blog and Flickr stream, or follow him on Twitter.
*Disclaimer: This tutorial on lith printing covers the basics, but also assumes the reader has a minimum knowledge of darkroom printing. For some background info and help getting started in the darkroom, check out the Beginner’s Guide to Film Photography.
The Basics: What Is Lith Printing?
Lith printing is a process using traditional black and white photo paper combined with “lithographic” developer. This process results in very high contrast, black shadows, delicate highlights and coloured mid-tones. Lith prints tend to have a very gritty/grainy look in the lower mid-tones and shadows.
Lith printing can breathe a whole new life into an everyday image; I have a few shots which looked dull and boring with traditional printing, but that I really love when lithed. Colour is a natural by-product of the lith process. Different papers combined with different ratios of developer at different temperatures yield different colours. There is an almost endless combination of variables in the lith process that can produce different colours and textures. (This can be extended even further by toning the prints.)
When I first started looking into making lith prints I did a lot of research online, and noticed the two same names popping up over and over again - Wolfgang Moersch and Tim Rudman. Both of these men are (current) pioneers of lith printing - trying out every kind of paper and developer at every temperature and dilution to see how each print reacts to different toners. Tim Rudman’s book, ‘The Master Photographer’s Lith Printing Course’ provides a vast wealth of information and is a great place to get started if you are serious about lith printing. Wolfgang Moersch also provides some extensive articles about various lith procedures, including an area to purchase his own personal blends of lith chemicals and toners.
Besides standard darkroom materials, you’ll need lith developer and compatible paper. There are a variety of developers available; as already mentioned, Wolfgang Moersch makes and sells his own, but Rollei and Fotospeed also make them. Personally I use Fotospeed LD-20.
Papers are a bit trickier, as some papers work well with the lith process and others don’t. Foma is the primary brand still producing “lithable” photo papers which are available today. As a general rule of thumb, grade 3 papers and papers with a higher-than-average silver content work well with the lith process.
Some example brands of papers that work well:
- Fomatone (particularly 131)
- Fomabrom (gives a “grittier” feel to the print)
- Adox MMC
- Ilford Art 300
- Agfa MCC 118
- Fomaspeed N 313
The Process: Exposure & Development
Keep in mind: the two “Golden Rules” of lith printing (as stated by Tim Rudman) are as follows:
First, highlights are controlled by exposure, shadows are controlled by development.
Second, colour, texture and contrast are related to grain size in the emulsion - which is related to development.
On to the process:
- Mix your developer. Everyone has a different ratio they like to use, but your best bet is to start at 1:9. Developer comes in two parts: A and B. Mix a ratio of 1:9 of A and 1:9 of B with water. You can vary the ratio to make the solution stronger or weaker, which will affect print colour.
- Pour the mixed solution into the developing tray. Keep the temperature at 20 degrees Celcius. (Higher temperatures speed up the developing process, but this requires a bit of experience.)
- Set up the rest of your paper chemistry as usual.
- Expose your paper in the enlarger. Test strips are a good idea, as lith print exposures can require up to several minutes. Pick the exposure from the test strip that has the highlight detail desired. Exposure note:the more you overexpose a lith print, the lesser the contrast and the higher the highlight detail. Most lithable papers allow up to 5 stops of overexposure.
- Place your paper in the developer. Lith printing differs from standard printing in that your image appears over a very slow period of time through a process called ”infectious development.” The blackest points of the print appear first and will gradually get darker and darker. Second, the midtones will start to appear and get darker, followed finally by the highlights. Once the shadows hit black, development increases rapidly.
- Pull your paper out of the developer when the shadows reach your desired black and put in the stop bath. Note: There is no set amount of time for this - it depends on your developer strength, developer exhaustion and the paper. For example, my Fomaspeed N 313 takes about 8 minutes of developing before I get the print I want whereas my Agfa MCC 118 takes over an hour.
- Continue the fix and washing process as usual.
Let’s take a look at a print example to explain. This was made using Fomaspeed N 313:
The shadow on the left arm of the chair is totally blacked out with not much highlight detail in the snow at the bottom. Before the arm of the chair got this dark, there was lovely detail there but I delayed - clearly I kept the print too long in the developer. In order to get more detail in the highlights and midtones while retaining detail in the arm of the chair I would have to overexpose the paper more, such as 4 or 5 stops as opposed to the 2.5 stops used here. (Note: When over-exposing your paper it is best to extend your exposure time rather than alter the f-stop on your lens to maintain image sharpness.) Tim Rudman’s book is invaluable for this as he provides examples of how one print looks as exposure and development time are increased.
As mentioned earlier, different papers yield different colours - yellows, golds, browns, purples, blues etc (remember golden rule 2 - colour, texture and contrast are related to development).
Lith prints react very well to toners. For example, Selenium toner can give everything from golds and browns to blues and purples (depending on paper.) Gold toner turns prints a very soft blue. As a test, select a print you don’t love, drop it into the toner and leave it there for an hour or so. Watch how the print changes colour over time and make a note for future reference.
Hopefully this article has inspired you to makeyour own lith prints. Looking around on sites like Flickr really helps you find new things to try with lith. I haven’t looked back since starting - I absolutely love it and I’m sure you will too.
Guest post written by Stephen Dowling. A New Zealander based in London, he is devoted to film photography. He also writes about music, current affairs and anything else that takes his fancy, and he’s never happer than when he has a film camera in his hands. See more of his work on his website, Flickr stream and Facebook Page.
One advantage for film photographers since the majority of the photo-taking world has gone digital is that there are some unbelievable film camera bargains to be had - with one of the biggest bargains being the Zenit E.
The Zenit E is a no-frills SLR, manufactured in the Soviet Union from 1965 to 1982. Millions of models were made and widely exported, giving the USSR much-needed hard cash while at the same time giving a new generation of photographers a cost-effective way to get into 35mm SLR photography.
In Europe, you’d be hard pressed to find a flea market or second-hand camera store that doesn’t have one of these on its shelves. Many photographers ditched their dirt-cheap Zenits as soon as they could afford something more sophisticated, making them surprisingly easy to find. When you bear in mind up to eight million of these sturdy beasts were made, that’s a lot of spare Zenits to go around.
Using the Zenit-E
Bells and whistles won’t be found on this heavy, roughly-finished camera. With a body made from a one-piece block of aluminium, the Zenit is much heaver than its contemporary counterparts. At the front is the meter window - the Zenit E doesn’t need batteries, instead taking its light readings using a selenium cell. Selenium cells die over time, and are very difficult to replace once they do. The shutter and advance are all mechanical, which means you’ll never have to worry about running out of batteries with one of these.
So how easy is it to use? Pretty easy, though to someone raised in a digital world, a few of the features might appear a little mysterious.
Opening the back is simple; pull up a latch on the back-left of the camera (from behind), and it swings open. Put the film into the left hand side chamber and pull the film leader out until the film sprocket holes catch on the teeth of the film transport on the right hand side (one on top, and one on the bottom), and tuck the end of the film leader under the metal strip which wraps around the take-up spool. Wind on, and if the film is loaded properly you’ll see the film start wrapping around the take up spool. Don’t worry if it takes a few goes. Practice is practice.
Once the film is loaded and wound (don’t forget to close the back!), you’re ready to shoot. Looking at the top plate from above, the meter readout is on the left hand side . Point the Zenit towards a light source and a needle will move in a little readout window - if your selenium cell is working. Next to it is a dial which allows you to set the film speed and turn the dial – this moves another needle with a circular head. When the two needles meet, they will then match a range of shutter/aperture combinations. There’s no exposure info in the viewfinder, which has the feel of an old TV screen – if the light changes drastically you have to recheck the meter and change the lens/shutter settings if need be. If your selenium meter is dead, consider purchasing an external light meter (always a good investment) or trying out the Sunny 16 Rule.
The shutter speeds on the right hand side of the top plate are pretty basic – 1/30th to 1/500th of a second, plus B – and you have to pull the speed selector up before you can select a different speed. The shutter button sits on the right hand side, inside the frame counter/wind on dial. When you’ve finished the film the camera won’t advance anymore. Pop the rewind knob up (it’s inside the exposure calculating dial) and press the button in between the shutter speed selector and frame counter. Turn the rewind knob in the direction of the helpful black arrow, and you should feel the film being returned to the cassette. There’s a definite “bite” when you reach the end.
Most Zenit Es came with a version of the Helio-44 58/2 lens – which is capable of truly excellent results. (link to this pic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephendowling/5289827285/). The earliest version are preset – meaning you have to open the aperture up to the maximum to focus, then stop down to expose correctly. This can take a lot of getting used to, so it’s best to go with a later version, which doesn’t close the aperture down until you take the pic. Most Zenit E’s take the M42 mount, which means other excellent lenses for the likes of Pentax, Praktica, Fujica and Chinon cameras can also be used.
When I mentioned at the start of the post that the Zenit was a bargain, I wasn’t joking. My model – inscribed with the logo of the 1980 Moscow Olympics – was picked up at London’s Greenwich Market nearly a decade ago, for only £4. Simply putting a roll of slide film in it doubled its value. The camera’s is great nick – no dents, dings or bits missing. Paired up with a lens like a Pentax Takumar 55/1.8, this is an inexpensive intro into film photography which can still deliver decent results. Even the selenium meter is working perfectly – check out the shot of the scooter, taken in Amalfi last year on Fuji Velvia. That’s four pounds well spent.
Check out Stephen’s blog, Zorki Photo!