My love/hate relationship with color

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Sometimes I just really can’t stand my color work. Then other times I like it.

I’ve been working on some recent color films. Things like these shots just wouldn’t be the same in black and white I think.

MKT Mural

Civil War Mural


24 exposures

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Thirty-five millimeter film commonly comes in rolls of 12, 24 or 36 exposures.

The “professional” thing is to use rolls containing 36 frames. For me however they are really a pain in the butt. I’ve been shooting the 24 exposure rolls for a while now simply because they’re available locally. But I’ve really come to prefer them, and here’s why.

Negative pages for 36 exposure rolls which are made to fit in regular binders don’t hold the entire roll. You end up either throwing away a couple frames, or double sleeving (usually scratching them in the process). They do make pages which will hold the entire roll, but they are oversized and require specially-sized binders.

I recently found that PrintFile makes negative pages which hold seven strips of four frames each, which is an entire 24 frame roll of film. And they fit into a standard binder.

Secondly, since finding the pages holding strips of four frames I simply allow the labs to cut and sleeve the negatives in their normal manner. Many times I’ve asked a lab not to cut the negatives (so I could cut them in six frame strips later) only to pick up my film scratched all to hell because of poor handling.

I’ve had labs stuff the uncut film into one of their photo envelopes. I’ve found my film tightly rolled up inside a film can. I’ve found my film wound up with a rubber band around it. Fixing scratches on my negs rates very high on my “un-fun” list.

Letting the lab to cut it in their usual four-frames-per-strip minimizes confusion and the chance the film will be damaged.

Pentax ZX-M

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Pentax ZX-M sporting the M 135mm f/3.5 lens

I’ve long joked that the greatest thing about digital photography is that it has pushed the price of old film gear way low. And it’s true, the Pentax PZ-1p I paid $700 for 10 years ago, can now be had in excellent condition for around $100.

Another case in point is this camera. A fellow PDML member found a lens he wanted to buy which came with this camera. The price was low enough he bought the entire package then asked the list “who wants this camera?” He got the lens he wanted and I got a neat older camera in perfect working order for the price of shipping.

While the other camera companies were adding buttons and dials like there was no tomorrow, Pentax simplified this system giving it a very retro look. I think the idea was outstanding, but I don’t think it ever really caught on. Most folks seem to like their bells and whistles, even when those bells and whistles detract from the actual experience of photography. Oh well.

Anyway, the ZX-M was the lowest model of this line. No autofocus. Center-weighted meter only. Mostly plastic body. It was aimed at the beginner/student photographer. It does offer autoexposure modes.

I’ve been shooting with it a bit and it seems like a decent enough camera, especially when you consider how much I paid for it. The viewfinder strikes me as not being as nice as my Program Plus, but that may just be a matter of acclimation. I haven’t sent in any of the film yet so I’ll have to wait for a final verdict.

In regards to my joke about digital photography things appear to be changing though. Prices for old film gear (especially lenses) have been on the rise the last several months. I think this is for several reasons.

First of all, a lot of folks who jumped on the digital bandwagon right off are now switching back to film for some or all of their work. Second, lots of younger folks who grew up in the digital era are discovering the joys of working analog.

And thirdly (and maybe most importantly), some enterprising manufacturer saw all those old, classic, vintage lenses being sold for nothing and invented adapters allowing you to mount just about any lens you find on any interchangeable lens digital camera. Damn it anyway.

Pentax Program Plus

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Here’s the camera and lens I have been shooting almost exclusively for a little more than a year now.

I have an admission to make though. I chose this camera because it was the cheapest available at KEH when I went to place my order.

I have a nostalgic preference for Pentax. When I started my career as a photographer this is the brand I already I owned and I made the choice to stay with it for some time. When I came back around to shooting film I knew I had to get another one.

Yes I had my eye on some of the more well-known models like the MX, but it just wasn’t in the budget at the time. Nonetheless I’ve found the Program Plus a great camera which suits me fine.


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Today was the last day the legendary Kodachrome will ever be processed.

I’m disappointed.

I have to admit I’ve never shot a frame of Kodachrome.

By the time I got back around to film, its discontinuation had already been announced so I never bothered.

But Kodachrome is everything I want in a color film. Namely true-to-life colors and proven longevity.

I’m not shooting much color right now, but the little I do I wish it were Kodachrome.

Blog shuffle

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A couple weeks back, I completely scrapped my photoblog and began anew.

Tonight, I did it again.

Two reasons.

One, I don’t like my color work.

I’ve been shooting a lot of color because the only film available in my tiny little town are the Fuji packs at the Wal-Mart. They quit carrying the Kodak BW400CN a while back. Not even talking about real silver b&w film.

So I shoot the color film, then I post the color pictures and I’m not happy. Sure I can always hit the “b&w” button in photoshop, but I’ve never been pleased with that route either.

So I am making a (quasi-as-long-as-I-feel-like-it) commitment to shooting black and white. Which meant the color crap had to go.

Two, Blogger finally added a functionality to their design thingy which allowed me to create the blog I envisioned.

I’ve long preferred the single column blog format, especially ones which allow you to post your pictures wide. Blogger enabled that a while ago. But you could only have one column of widgets at the bottom, which just looked horrible.

I noticed just recently though they’d added the option to have one, two or three columns of widgets across the bottom. So I had to jump on it. Because now I can post my pictures at the delicious 900 pixels wide which looks so good on my laptop!

PS – My photoblog can be found at:

iPhoto vs Photoshop

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For the past several years, I’ve used iPhoto for nearly all of my personal photography editing needs.

I’ve tried out the various demos of Aperture and Lightroom and Photoshop. I simply have not been able to fully convince myself to spend the money for one.

I think one of the reasons I’ve never been able to persuade myself to purchase one of the “major” editors stems from my practice of striving to make my photo in-camera as much as possible and only using the editor for final, minute tweaks.

iPhoto is perfectly capable of giving a well-made exposure the final tuning it needs for printing. It cannot however salvage a poor image. The “I’ll fix it in Photoshop” attitude has always rubbed me the wrong way.

Ducking into Hastings last night, I was perusing B&W Magazine and was excited to find these sentiments mirrored somewhat by one of the authors expounding on the reasons he preferred film photography and silver gelatin printing.

One of the reasons was he felt Photoshop gave people too much control over the image.

For the time being, I am happy to shoot my film, scan the negs and print digitally. There is no possibility of me having a darkroom at this point in time, however I can definitely see the time coming when I will want to be able to make my own traditional, wet darkroom prints again.

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