Film Photography Podcast – Episode 137 – December 15th, 2015
Show Notes By: Alex Luyckx
It’s the Internet radio show for people who love to shoot film, joining Michael Raso in studio for our final episode of 2015 is Mat Marrash, Leslie Lazenby, and Mark O’Brien! On the table today we have some darkroom tips, the Chicago Crappy Cameras, the great chemical debate (Stop Baths and Fixers), listener letters, and more! Grab your cup of holiday cheer and stay tuned in.
Darkroom Tip – What’s on Mat’s Wish list?
Taking a cue from Alan Ross, Mat is working on digitizing his darkroom, no not in that way, but getting what’s called a compensating timer. That is a piece of software that based on the temperature of your developer when printing will adjust the time so that you get properly developed prints every time! This is especially handy when you’re in a really warm or really cold environment. The timer is two parts, the first is the software the second is a temperature probe that connects to your machine via a USB connection. But wait, you’re thinking using a laptop in the darkroom won’t that ruin your prints, well as Mat explains you place a safe filter over your laptop screen and you’re in the clear. This neat little system was designed by both Alan Ross and Curt Palm, and if you want to get it for yourself, you can head on over to Curt’s site and get the full kit, probe, tray clamp, software, and the safety filter for only 195$!
The Chicago Cluster – Crappy Cameras from the Midwest
Mark O’Brien, being from the Ann Arbor Area Crappy Camera Club knows a thing or two about trashy cameras and has a bunch of interesting ones that originated from the Chicago area. Built between the 1930s and 1960s these often plastic, cheaply made, simple cameras often times where the same camera as the next but with each camera getting a different name and manufacturer. These streamlined often art-deco or mid-century modern styled cameras seemed to have gained some level of collectability going for big bucks these days on ebay. Such cameras as the Falcon Press Flash (Mentioned on a previous show), the Foldex, Click-O-Flex, Sabre, Valiant, and much more. Probably the closest thing to a modern version is the Lomography Sprocket Rocket. These cameras often produced a very Holgaesque style image, shooting a mix of 120, 620, and 127 film. Collectively these cameras were known as the Chicago Cluster, and both Camera Wiki and the McKeown’s guide has plenty of information on them. If you want to shoot one of the 127 cameras, Michael suggests finding an old roll of 127 film, stripping it for the spool and the paper and putting 35mm in place of the film and shooting sprockets!
The Big Chemical Debate
As photographers we often get stuck in our ways of how we develop our film, and it can be pretty polarizing. Some of the biggest debates come from stop baths and fixers. To start it off the stop bath, there are two types, a chemical or acid stop bath or just using straight water. Michael has a small tech tip from the 1990 January edition of American photo that states that you should always use an acid stop bath as it prevents staining, reduces dichromatic fog, and extends the life of your fixer. The whole split comes from the early days of photography Leslie explains where photographers had to mix up their own stop bath from a very strong acid, one wrong move and you could end up ruining your film. So many photographers rather than shock the developer into stopping they went with a much more gentle method of diluting and slowing down the developer using just plain water. And that’s exactly how Leslie does it, with water, the reason because she was taught that way. As was her professor Chris Walker, who much preferred the gentle method using water. Of course if you do use a chemical stop bath it’s best to use one that has an indicator function, so it will change colour when it’s no longer effective. And sometimes you should use a chemical stop, especially if you’re development time is under five minutes and when doing prints. If you don’t have a chemical stop available, just mix in some plain white vinegar. So where does the rest of the gang stand, well Michael always uses water, despite learning with a chemical stop and Mark uses water and chemical depending on the situation at hand.
Next up is the fixer, and again like stop bath it can be pretty polarizing. There are two different types of fixer, each performing the same process of removing unexposed silver and fixing the image to the paper or film base and making it no longer light sensitive. Sodium thiosulfate or hypo is an older formula often takes longer to fix opposed to ammonium thiosulfate which is a modern rapid fixer. Most fixers you get today are rapid fixer such as Ilford Rapid Fixer and Kodak Rapid Fixer. Then you can add in a hardening agent which increases the durability of the film and image reducing scratching, while not really needed with modern films but if you’re shooting old Efke stock or X-Ray film it would be best to have a fixer with a hardening agent. No matter what fixer you use you will need to reduce the amount of fixer on your film or paper to reduce water consumption by reducing washing time. There are several different chemicals out there, Leslie uses Permawash, but there’s also Kodak Hypoclear and Ilford Washaid. These will cut down washing time from 30-60 minutes down to 3 or less. So what are your preferences? Let us know at: firstname.lastname@example.org
above: Michael Raso and John Fedele's Meadowlands Showcase 1988 Holiday TV Special featuring The Hungry Dutchmen.
That’s it for us for this year! But don’t worry it’s only a short two weeks before we enter our seventh year. So to everyone a happy holidays, and thank you for your continued support. If you need a last minute gift for a photographer on your list, check out the store, and as always you can shoot us a line at: email@example.com or by the regular post: Film Photography Podcast PO Box 152, Butler, NJ, 07405, USA.
Music on today’s show has been from the band Low and The Hungry Dutchmen!