Film Photography  

Posted by The Simple Layman


It has been a while since I used my film cameras to shoot any pictures. I used them last spring and was disappointed because local labs who processed film really didn't care to process it anymore. This attitude showed in ways of poor developing resulting in thin negatives caused from turning on film developing machines and not letting them get up to full temperature before developing the film, or in exhausted developers and a unwillingness to change expensive, exhausted chemistry. My last six rolls of film were ruined to three local labs as a result. In all honesty, I understand the demand for film developing is almost none so why should labs even keep developing film at all, let alone replace expensive chemistry for a few rolls a month, or waste time waiting for machines to warm up when they have other things to do in a lab? With lab employment turn-over, because it pays so little, few people are even properly trained to handle the film let alone know why it didn't turn out. Try to explain why the numbering on the edge of a film being faded, instead of bold and distinct, is a result of poor developing, not poor photography skills, and they are at a loss to understand it. Having developed my own films in the past and actually running a photo lab back when all my adjustments were manually made instead of automatic I think qualifies me to know the difference.

So why do I bother if digital is the way to go?

Well, because I love film photography, more than I like digital, and I do like digital for many things. Digital is fun, has quick results you can see, and provides more ease of use in low light and difficult situations, not to mention easy white balance and other color balance without the use of filters. For me though, it doesn't provide the satisfaction or the involvement mentally that film does, nor the therapeutic benefits of spending time with, well, an old friend. Shooting good pictures on a camera with manual focus, aperture settings and shutter speeds while having to deal with contrast and time in a darkroom is different in many respects from digital. I suppose if all you want is a digital outcome, that is, a digital file you can view on a computer or send off to a local lab for quick prints, then yes, the average person is quite happy with the results. Why then shoot film if the only result desired is to get a quick scan of them you can view on a computer? In this case, buying a digital camera has saved you many steps and at a greater advantage.

I love the look of film, even when scanned into a digital file. That's why I still keep using film, although that has been hampered by the lack of money from being out of work for a couple of years. When I recently began looking at film for my camera I was really shocked to learn how little film stock is being produced. I knew this was happening, and last I heard, Kodak had stopped offering any processing of Kodachrome film, (the last lab to process it stopped developing it a couple of Christmas's ago). What really surprises me is people are still selling old Kodachrome stock on the internet hoping people will buy it and take it off their hands, which is ridiculous since there is no one in the world that can develop it.

Now I see that during my financial sabbatical from film photography, Kodak has stopped making all the other best all around films I used to love, (Kodak 100/200 Gold, and Kodak Elite slide film, and others). Some old stock is available from a few distributors until it is gone, but the big 'K' no longer exists for all intents and purposes. I am thankful that black and white is still available, but the companies now making color film are the ones I only ever played around with and I always ended up going back to Kodak films for best color and archival properties. I knew Kodak had sold off some of it's patents and I hoped some small, independent company who had an interest in renewing the sale of it's formulations would market them. Sadly, this has not happened. Also, finding a 200 ASA color or black and white film is near impossible because most manufacturers are only making 100 and 400 films. I preferred 200 ASA speed for all around film shooting.

It's a little late to say it I guess, and so many articles have been written about it already, but film photography will be missed when if it does finally die. Right now, for me, it is like watching an old friend just fade away from old age until he takes his final breath.

Think Back Thursday - Williamsburg Vacation  

Posted by The Simple Layman

My wife recently changed her Friday blog post called "Blast From The Past" to "Think Back Thursday."  The old blog was designed to get people to think back to things of the past in their lives.  The new blog is theme oriented, which I think is much better.  Last week her theme was "water" and anyone could post events envolving water such as visits to theme parks, the ocean, or even faulcets and running water, (like kids playing in a in the yard with a hose).  This weeks theme is "visiting historical sites."

To help her out, I decided to post pictures taken with a stereo camera of our visit to Williamsburg Virgina in 2000.  The stereo camera was built in the 1940's by a company called "David White" and was a popular camera.  Many movie stars and famous people actually owned one so mine may have been owned by a famous person.   Who knows?  The camera is designed to take side by side pictures on 35mm slide film.  It is more difficult to use because it is a manual camera, (manual focus, manual f/stops and shutter speed), but I love to use it.  Slide processing is expensive however, so I have not used it for a while.   The lens does not compare to modern lenses but seems quite sharp when used for the purpose for which it is designed.  Pictures are two 1/2 frame shots, meaning they use 1/2 of the normal full 35mm frame, one for the left eye to view and one for the right eye.

I include two enlargements, (at the end of the post), of the full stereo images so you can get an idea of what I mean.  The two pictures taken side by side are then mounted into a cardboard frame and viewed in a viewer, (similar to a viewmaster set only larger).  The two side by side picture scans I included can be viewed on a computer screen by slightly crossing one's eyes, similar to those "magic stereo images" seen in books and posters.  If you have seen those and know what I am talking about you may be able to master seeing these in stereo by focusing your mind on the center image between the two when your eyes are crossed.  It is best accomplished by viewing the image smaller then enlarging it until you can view it bigger.  To reduce and enlarge the image in your browser all is necessary, (usually), is to roll your scroll button back and forth.

The first pics are crops from the original stereo slides and are not viewed in stereo.  They are only the view from one eye.  Click on the pictures for a larger view.

The Windmill at Williamsburg.

Someone was naughty and ended up in the stocks!

The Governor's Palace - front gate.  No, we weren't invited for dinner.

The glass blowing shop in Jamestown, not far from Williamsburg.

Inside of a small church that was built at the settlement.


Not out of those stocks yet?

Governor's Palace - Front gate in stereo.

I hope you have enjoyed this short trip to Williamsburg.  There are many more images but these are some of my favorites.

Visit my wife's "Think Back Thursday" post by clicking on the button below.

2012 And The Demise Of The Compact Disc  

Posted by The Simple Layman

The coming of the new year will signify the demise of the Compact Disc.  Yes, you heard me right.  The music industry plans to kill off the CD sometime in 2012.  This was surprising to me as they have yet to kill off record albums which have existed since their inception and are less popular than CD's.  Evidently, people are just becoming too interested in music downloads, (Mp3 and such), and cd sales have dropped off.  I'ts hard to understand their thinking from my point of view.  The disc, which they probably pay pennies to produce, are not that unpopular and still hold quite a market.  It does however, not stand a chance against music downloads which cost almost nothing to reproduce and can be reproduced at a higher rate, can be digitally rights managed, (which cd's cannot), and have no packaging or package contents.  With downloads, shipping is not a cost factor either and companies can buy cheap computers that can spit out thousands of copies of songs by the hour with almost no human envolvement.  See the big picture?

Unfortunately what this usually means is lower quality and limited use from a consumer's perspective.  If paying for downloads becomes the exclusive future of music, then you can expect more control over what you listen to under digital rights management and cheaper sound quality, without cd's being a competitive player.  I can only lament the loss of the true audiophile who enjoyed simple yet clear stereo sound, and to my taste's, cd filled that need.  Don't get me wrong.  I love the wonderful quality of dvd audio and other hi-end surround sound, but already much of the music I grew up with is out of print and will probably never be in print again.  With the demise of the cd the chance of getting that stuff is getting even slimmer.  So with this post I want to praise the format I loved so much as well as lament it's loss by mentioning the time I first heard about CD's and my first experience with the format.

I can remember the first time I heard about compact disc.  I read it in a magazine and it sounded like the answer to all of my problems with static, noise, pops, and clicks when listening to albums. Cassette tapes were ok too, if you copied it yourself, but most of the mass produced copies were still full of hiss, bad highs, lows, or midrange or just over-modulated, and few companies were taking full advantage of it's capabilities.  Tapes made using the cheapest tape stock with the lowest quality plastic housings were the norm and sometimes these tapes didn't even play a week or so after buying them because they would bind and jam or the tape would deteriorate leaving oxide residue on tape heads causing constant cleaning.

Shortly after hearing about the new cd format I was in a music store in Dover Delaware in a sound room listening to a record album play on an expensive 1000.00 turntable hooked up to a Yamaha sound system.  I was drooling over how great the record sounded when one of the sales people who was in the room mentioned he had a copy on compact disc of the same album I was listening to.  I asked if it could sound that much different on cd?  He put the disc on but all I heard was silence.  Was something wrong?  No, it was just the lack of turntable and record noise I was used to at the beginning of playing a record.  Then the music started and it sounded like the orchestra was in the same room, only with no scratches, pops, clicks, or noise between tracks, and with much better range.  When he showed me the disc I was amazed so much sound came a disc about 1/6 the size of a record.  He told me it was more durable than a record too since nothing touched the disc surface when playing.  He then did something you would never do with a record.  He threw it on the floor, picked it up, wiped it off with his sleeve, and played it again in the cd player.  It played perfectly with no skips or clicks.  Needless to say, I wanted a cd player from that moment on, even though I recall there were probably only 5 cd compilations available in the U.S. at the time.

Some time later I purchased a cd player for about $80.00, (a bit of money back then), and my first disc.  It was a disc from Radio Shack and cost me around $10.00.  I still have that first disc and it still plays perfectly the same as the day I bought it.  I read so many complaints about how the sound of a compact disc isn't as good as an album.    Of course most of my discs are only 16 bit mastering instead of 24, but I will take a cd over a record album any day.  I have a good turntable and a reasonably good cartridge for it.  Even with the best record cleaners you still have to put the album away and go through the cleaning process over and over everytime you listen to it.  No matter how careful you are you will eventually get that scratch you are trying to avoid.  Besides this, the more you play it the more wear it gets.  You can of course record your albums and have a really great cleaning system, (and I do), but you still have that maintenance and care and you will never get away from it.

As with records, this probably won't end the use of the cd by all companies that use it.  It most likely will affect only the big hitters like Warner, Sony, and the major labels.  Smaller companies will probably still use cd's until at some point it may just become a fad like the revival of LP record albums and 45's from companies like “”  In any case, I will still buy them until I can no longer get a drive to play them in.