just like the other one

Toronto. Well, we held our second executive meeting via ZOOM and co-ordinated by Celio (great work!). The PHSC will continue using ZOOM at least until the pandemic restrictions are lifted.

Screen Grab May 6 2020

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making the grade

curve mapping exposure to various grades of paper. from Basic Photography by M J Langford 1965

Toronto. This post refers to film (black and white)  printing. Once you choose the huge number of variables for a photographic paper choice, you are left with one last factor – paper grade.

Ideally, the chart shown at left (3 grades, but some papers go to 5 or even 6 grades) shows how the negative printing exposure (exp.) maps to the paper using different grades. If it was only that simple a choice! Paper surface type, illumination type, grade, etc. all affect the final contrast on the paper. Ilford and other big manufacturers came up with double coated papers. One coating was very low contrast, the other very high contrast. Filters gave an exposure in various ratios of the two emulsions allowing one package of paper to cover a full range of paper grades from soft to hard.

The dynamic range from dark (shadow) to light (highlight) in the eye is very great. This range must be compressed in the film and crunched even further in the print. Film sensitivity and developing process affect the scene contrast. Basically the slower the film, the greater the contrast (and finer the grain). If a film is under-exposed or developed, the result is a very thin scene (flat). A contrasty paper grade may help a bit but shadow detail must exist for the print to show it. Alternatively, an over-exposed or developed film (negative) makes for a very dense scene. A softer paper grade (lower number) may help but once again detail must be in the negative or the highlights just block up on the print and show a flat tone.

Lots of books were available in the latter half of the last century to show how to properly expose and develop a film and the properly print each scene so there is some detail in both shadows and highlights and the over all contrast is from very light detail to very black (dark) detail. Not an easy task. It takes hours of study and experiment to get it right technically. Then you are stuck with the real artistic effort entailed – lighting, scene, framing, mood, etc., etc.

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paper doll

Portrait by David Hamilton on Ilford Ilfomar A117 paper c1970

Toronto. To convert a film negative into a positive image, a second piece of the sensitive medium was usually used. Most commonly this was a photographic (light sensitive) paper. And there stood the dilemma for the average beginning photographer.

There was a mind blowing number of factors to consider: manufacturer (Kodak, Ansco, Ilford, Agfa, etc.), sensitivity (fast for enlarging, slow for contact printing, P.O.P. for temporary samples), weight (DW or double weight was thicker and easier to handle, SW or single weight was cheaper), size (8×10 inches, 11×14, 16×20, 4×5, etc. – bigger was cheaper and could be cut to smaller sizes), tone ( a toner bath could vary the print colour a bit).

And texture! Whole booklets were devoted to the wide variety of textures offered for monochrome printing. With colour, the choice was far less. At one time a geometric texture was used on commercial colour paper to mask the poor resolution inherent in 1950s colour media.

With colour, you were usually limited to one grade – your exposure and development were  spot on, or not. For monochrome, a series of grades were offered to determine the contrast of the print (or make it a high key print). Dodging and burning could adjust contrast for some parts of the print such as adding shadow or highlight detail (if this existed in the negative, of course).

The title of this post is an homage to a 1915 song, of the same name made popular during the second war by the Mills Brothers.

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use da fixer

Sir John Herschel by J M Cameron. Restored by MM of A in NYC

Toronto. The first successful photographic processes used a weak salt solution as a fixer. Earlier experiments showed silver nitrate solutions reacted to light and could record scenes, BUT the silver nitrates quietly turned the whole medium dark. There was no way to turn off the silver salt (transparent) to metallic silver (opaque) process!

Shortly after the 1839 photographic processes were announced, Sir John Herschel suggested using Hyposulphite of Soda (Hypo) as a fixer.  Sir John had discovered its property two decades earlier! The actual chemical turned out to be sodium thiosulphate, but the name HYPO stuck for many, many decades. When I turned to photography in the 1950s, the terms hypo and fixer were interchangeable and in common use.

Hypo or fixer had one simple job to do: wash out the remaining silver halides in the medium so they could not slowly convert to metallic silver and destroy the image. A lengthy water wash in turn removed the fixer.

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as time goes by

Darkroom Timer by Kodak. Well built. Well used.

Toronto. The first T in the TNT film processing method  stands for Time. Using a darkroom tank or a daylight tank, it was necessary to use this method of processing a film.

Many companies offered a decent timer. This one (about 70 years old) was manufactured in Rochester and sold by Canadian Kodak in Toronto.

Another timer was the massive GrayLab gizmo also made in the States. If you chose to use a film by one maker and a developer by another, books like the Photo-Lab-Index helped convert the Time/Temperature data to save experimentation.

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stop already!

traditional octagon shaped red top sign

Toronto. We know how to begin film or paper developing – just pour in the developer. But how do we stop the process? The sensitive media absorbs the developer so even draining it off or removing the media won’t stop development promptly.

The secret is to use a  chemical process. Development occurs only when the pH factor of the developer is slightly alkaline. Dropping it below seven by adding a bit of acid stops the process on a dime. Traditionally a diluted solution of Acetic Acid (Glacial Acetic Acid is 37 percent) is used. Never heard of the stuff? Try calling it vinegar (11 percent acetic acid in water) and don’t dilute it so much:-)

I know, I know, lazier folk just wash the medium in water.

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doin’ it in the dark

dial thermometers for photography

Toronto, When light sensitive media were very slow and insensitive to the lower end of the spectrum (reds, oranges), the photographer’s eye could judge a fully developed image by subdued light or reddish illumination. About a century ago, flexible roll film made alternative means more practical. As sensitivity increased, and especially when film went panchromatic, and then colour, development HAD to be done in total darkness and another means had to be found to replace the educated eye.

This was the tried and true “Temperature and Time” method. Film began to be sold with a small bit of paper specifying the ideal time, temperature (usually 68 degrees Fahrenheit), and agitation (usually a slow spin of the spool once each minute). The trouble was, that the developers listed were only those sold by the film maker. This opened the door for books like the Photo-Lab Index which listed many formulae and the time/temperature to be used for a variety of film materials.

Under-developed film tended to be flat, lacking in contrast, and possibly with little or no shadow detail. On the other hand, over-developed film was very contrasty with the risk of little or no highlight detail. Developer too hot or too cold affected the film as did the development duration and agitation. Thermometers gave decent temperature settings, Timers (or watches with big second hands) allowed for good timing while attention to agitation kept that variable in line too.

NB. The post title is a takeoff on a Beatles songWhy Don’t We Do It in the Road“. The post photo is my two dial thermometers taken at 8mp hand held with my iPod Touch camera and cropped a bit. AirDrop transferred the image to my computer painlessly – no chemicals, no long delays, no sweat …

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tanks for de memories …

Agfa Daylight Tank

Toronto. In the days of film, exposure created a latent image, invisible to the eye. A chemical reaction to a hand full of chemicals, including at least one which converted and clumped silver halide molecules exposed to light into metallic silver brought out a visible image.

Since the light exposed areas turned black and vice versa, the result was a negative image that had to be exposed once again to another sensitive medium to make a right way around or positive image.

This second sensitive media was usually on the surface of a special paper. It was insensitive to red/orange light leading to the common red light lit darkroom of the day. Film was usually red insensitive too (or orthochromatic to use the correct name) and could   be developed under a red light too. Until flexible rolls became common, tanks were long (deep), Weighted film could later be immersed in the tank in a developer solution.

Once panchromatic film became common, so called daylight loading tanks became popular. Some tanks were loaded in the dark, then processed in daylight. A special rubber lined bag held the film and tank while the photographer could stand outside the bag in subdued daylight and carefully load the exposed film on to a reel before cutting off the cassette and adding the tank lid to block daylight exposure. A baffle allowed chemicals to enter and exit the tank without light exposure.

NB. The title of this post is a parody that comes from a song by The Fall Out Boy.


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ad for speed and innovation c1964

Polaroid Color Pack 101 Camera ad

Toronto. This is another ad for the film world’s maverick, Polaroid. The company down plays the COST of its film and paper combination by emphasizing the technology and simplicity of its cameras, the tonal and colour fidelity of its materials, and the speed of its products (near instant gratification – before the instantaneous gratification of cell phone cameras).

A LIFE magazine advertisement on page 2 of the December 18, 1964 issue touts the virtues of Polaroid Color Pack Cameras and materials. While the cameras’ technology and low cost are mentioned, only the speed and fidelity of the media (Color Pack) is noted.

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Cássio Vasconcellos exhibition in France

A Picturesque Voyage Through Brazil by Vasconcellos

Toronto. Our favourite gallery, Galerie GADCOLLECTION in Paris has extended its exhibition of Brazilian photographer Câssio Vasconcellos’s work to June 7th. Take a look here for a preview.

The galerie says, “Cássio Vasconcellos (1965-) is a Brazilian photographer from São Paulo. He studied photography at Imagem-Ação school in São Paulo before starting a photojournalist career. In parallel with reports and advertising orders, he conducts personal work.

“Recognized by both his peers and critics, his photographs explore the themes of travel and displacement. Thus, his series of nocturnal photographs are like intriguing urban strolls, punctuated by multi-colored lighting.

“Cássio Vasconcellos also immerses us in the lush vegetation of the Amazon in his series A picturesque voyage through Brazil. Displacement can also be illustrated through the modes of locomotion: roads, planes, cars… that Vasconcellos photographs from the sky. Their repetition gives them the appearance of very simple motives, nested in a logic that goes beyond them.”

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take a shot for t-dot

Tdot Shots Photo Contest

Toronto. Mike Simpson over at Tdot in the GTA sends this note along about a photo contest  held from May 15 to July 1 of this year (2020).

If you like to show off your photos, then consider entering this contest. What better way to enjoy the constraints imposed to fight this nasty pandemic?

You can learn more about Tdot by visiting the website for tdotshots.

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