In Preparation for Black and White Film Development

One of the rules/goals of the Leica Year is to shoot black and white film, and another one is to develop it myself with constant monitored settings. So before starting on my Leica year, I need to get acquainted with this exciting world of home film development.

I spent a few weeks reading up on what to do, and what I need. Here is the summary of my research.

Links I used to learn about developing film (I am sure you will find lots of others on the web – I used these the most):
Developing your own film – a how to guide
How to Choose Black and White Film
How to start processing black and white film at home (I borrowed the sock hanger idea from here)

YouTube Videos which helped me (a lot!). Nothing like watching these videos (a lot!) to help internalize the process – that way, when you actually do it for the first time, it won’t be totally alien to your brain (kind of).

How To Load 35mm Film Into A Paterson Tank System 4 – This video is highly recommended if you are an absolute, total, green newbie (like me!)
Developing Black and White Film with Kodak D-76 – This video was very useful to me as well.

Equipment I bought:
– 1 Film Changing Bag off ebay – $18.99
Off Craigslist I bought for the following used for $35.00:
– 1 Paterson 600ml Graduat cylinder
– 4 1-quart size Darkroom Chemical Containers
Paterson Super System 4 Multi Reel tank with 2 reels (tank can hold 3 35mm reels)
Sock dryer / hanger (20 peg, all plastic, round, two sets of rings) off amazon to dry film in the bathroom shower stall – 11.95
Kodak D-76 powder to make 1 liter – $5.70
Kodak Liquid Rapid Fixer Part A & B – 15.117
Photographers Formulary FormaFlo wetting agent (4oz)- $4.30
Smartphone app to help with timers, tracking, and what to do next – Massive Dev Chart Timer App – $8.99
Total Cost – $100.1 (Camera, Lens, film rolls not counted)

My plan is to scan the developed film. For this I plan to use the scanner I already have – The Epson V300 flatbed scanner with film holder. I now need to look into the world of film scanning – of course, after I develop my first roll!

Tip: Watch the YouTube video, and read the links – many times – before trying to develop film for the first time

The Leica Year – Prelude

The LMMM challenge I set myself earlier this year was an attempt to figure out if I wanted to challenge myself with the Leica Year. Yes! I am ready (almost).

The source / inspiration for this challenge is a post by Mike Johnston in his TOP blog: ‘The Leica as Teacher’ post. Top make things harder for myself, I am combining this with the ‘Train your brain to guess exposure’ – exercise again set forth by Mike.

Here is a summary of rules / goals I plan to abide by:
1. Leica year is from March 24, 2014 to March 24, 2015.
2. Use one Leica Rangefinder for this one year- I bought myself a Leica M6 TTL.
2. Use the camera with only one lens, single focal length the whole year – Leica Summilux 35mm f1.4 is my choice.
3. Shoot only one type of black and white film – Tri-X 400
4. Develop my own film
5. Pick standard developer, standard time – Kodak D-76, (development time to be set later)
6. Do not use light meter for exposure – I will use my M6 with battery removed.
7. Carry camera everywhere.
8. Shoot 2-6 film rolls per week
9. In a notebook write down exposure settings , and maybe scene details for every shot
10. Proof roll films and file them in a notebook. File exposure notes as well.
11. Get 1-6 work prints per roll
12. Every 5-10 rolls or so, get a ‘nice print’ made

Another blog I found helped me formulate my goals and what I plan to do: Tripodplaces.

What do I get out of this?

Here is what Mike says:
“A year with a single Leica and a single lens, looking at light and ignoring color, will teach you as much about actually seeing photographs as three years in any photo school, and as much as ten or fifteen years (or more) of mucking about buying and selling and shopping for gear like the average hobbyist.”

and from here:

“If you’re a younger photographer, you may also have heard tales you found hard to believe, of grizzled old pros and hard-bitten photojournalists working in the days before light meters were common, guessing their exposures by looking at the light. If you’ve grown up with automatically-coupled, multi-segmented in-camera metering, letting the camera set itself and barely paying attention to what was going on, such feats may seem as unreal and unlikely as the exploits of Hercules.”


“What is it? Essentially, it’s a way to train yourself to guess exposures, just like those semi-mythical pros from days of yore. Don’t guffaw—read on. If you’re willing to do the work to train your brain, guessing can actually be an appropriate substitute for more technically precise methodologies.”


“What’s so great about training your brain to guess exposures is, rather, the way it heightens your conscious awareness of what you’re doing, and your intuitive feeling for light. You’ve made yourself into a sort of servo-mechanism. As you go back and forth from guessing the light to inspecting your negs, guessing the light to inspecting your negs, you quickly perceive—visually, not based on numbers in a book or computer—what exposure each type of light requires. You acquire a real sense of how to handle difficult scenes. Your confidence grows and grows. ”

and finally,

“What’s really required is awareness. Either by taking notes or just remembering, you have to be fully mindful of what you’ve done—and then, of what you get”.

I like that. I would love to become one of those ‘semi-mythical pros’ who’s not mythical, and who’s not a pro! But I will settle for learning to be a better photographer – however much the ‘better’ might be compared to my skill now.

LMMM completion

My self imposed LMMM challenge is over as of yesterday Feb 16.

I was looking back and I made approximately 600 or so images over a span of 8 weeks. Not great, but not lousy either. And most of them are photos of my daughter! The other ‘topic’ I photographed the most, if I can call that is what I see on my commute. I have been intentionally intently looking around when driving, especially when stopped at traffic lights – and now I am amazed that what I thought was a dead subject where I could not make any photos at all – now there are some very nice photos I can see. It is still very very tough to try to make a lyrical, beautiful image out of a bunch of cars waiting in front of me…but sometimes, the way the evening sun falls partially on yellow bins in the middle of the road (what are they? I never saw them before!) making some of their yellows so bright and beautiful juxtaposed with the dark somber almost grey, but sometimes chocolatey asphalt, beautiful!

I was supposed to be shooting in black and white only for the past 8 weeks, and that is what I did – except for two occasions where I had to take color photographs. I think this exercise is supposed to help with seeing luminosity. Now I do seem to see light, glorious light almost all the time, a split second before evaluating the subject – because of Black and White or because I am trying hard to make this into a habit…I am not sure. And I see beautiful color, subtle pastels, glowing bright amazing colors. I wonder how I will fare for one year of no color. I used to think I loved black and white – now I know that I love color too!

I was supposed to use only one lens throughout this 8 week period. And I mostly did – for 6 weeks. I have fallen even more in love with my Konica Hexanon 50mm f1.7 – and I cannot express in words wht I like about the pictures that lens draws…it just talks to me (like my EP5). However I switched my lens out to a newly acquired Leica M Summilux 35mm f1.4 for Week 7 and Week 8. I bought this lens in preparation for my Leica year. I am getting better at using manual lenses. Somewhere halfway, I came across the idea of “zone focusing” manual lenses – link from Ming Thein. And this is what I am practicing now. A method to how to focus manually – without having to look at the focus ring!

During this challenge, I did not use the light meter on the camera, and I tried to manually calculate the correct exposure (in my head). This is still very very hard for me. I wa sinitially almost randomly bracketing – but then over the last two weeks, I have been using the ‘Sunny 16″ rule and its variants. This is still a project for the future, and I have this link on – learning ‘GSOTPANWASTOTZSS’ to help me out.

Over this time, I have come to enjoy using my Olympus E-P5 even more. Thsi is teh first camera I have ever owned which feels special. The fact that I had to use the EVF which was bulky was annoying. And the olympus menu system is annoying (sometimes). But overall, I look upon this cameras flaws fondly! And despite its flaws and issues, I really love using it and cant think of using any other camera. I made a purse insert for it and now my camera is with me almost always, incognito in my purse..

Overall, a successful challenge for me – for it served its purpose. I learnt a lot – and am learning a lot. What next? Well, just take more photos and get ready for the Leica year.

Mesh on Leaf

Mesh on leaf

Mesh on leaf, Kotetsu Ramen, Santa Clara, CA

Day One of LMMM. The reflection of the mesh screen on the plant next to my table at lunch.

Technical Details:

Camera: Olympus E-P5
Exposure: 1/400s at f/?
Focal Length: 50mm (35mm conversion – 100mm)
Lens: Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 with Konica AR to Micro 4/3rds adaptor
ISO: 1000
Date: Dec 23, 2013

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Cow, Mission peak Reginal Preserve, Fremont, CA

Hiking on a Saturday morning just after sunrise, at Mission peak Regional Preserve. Test drive of my LMMM setup.

Technical Details:

Camera: Olympus E-P5
Exposure: 1/400s at f/?
Focal Length: 50mm (35mm conversion – 100mm)
Lens: Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 with Konica AR to Micro 4/3rds adaptor
ISO: 1000
Date: Dec 21, 2013

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Recording Aperture when using Legacy lens

As a part of my LMMM challenge, I am using a legacy Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 lens via adapter with my Olympus Pen E-P5. This lens has a manual aperture ring on the lens barrel. The camera, also does not recognize the lens – because of which the EXIF information in the photographs do not contain aperture information.

As a part of LMMM, I wanted to try to record the aperture information somehow, so I can embed that information in my photographs as a part of my post-processing workflow. Here is how the information is embedded in the photograph EXIF via Lightroom: Adding Legacy Lens EXIF Info for Lightroom metadata.

But the question remained on how to capture that information when taking photographs. The method of writing down the photograph number and corresponding aperture using pen/paper, for each photograph seemed too cumbersome. The other option recommended a lot is to use a voice-recorder (or teh voice recorder option in your phone) which also seemed cumbersome – this info is stored on another device! I found my answer on this forum thread:
Olympus cameras offer the option to embed audio when reviewing images.
* In playback mode, when reviewing the image,
* press \’OK\’,
* then press the \’microphone\’,
* and record voice.
This is stored as a .wav file with the same filename as the image being reviewed. When you review the image now, you can just play your recorded voice.

So my workflow is now like this:
At the beginning of the day
* Format memory Card (assuming you have downloaded all the images from your memory card)
* Take first photograph
* Review this photograph and voice-record aperture information.
* Continue to take photographs
* Every time aperture is changed, only then for that photograph, review that photograph and record aperture.

The aperture information of a photograph is the same as the aperture in the previous photograph unless it has a .wav file with aperture information in it.
And this system is working great for now!

Last Bench

Last Bench

Last Bench, Mission Peak Regional Preserve, Fremont, CA

The last bench on the trail. It was cold drizzly day and the trail was empty. And beautiful. Good to be with one\’s thoughts.

Technical Details:

Camera: Olympus E-P5
Exposure: 1/320s at f/9
Focal Length: 17mm (35mm conversion – 34mm)
Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8
ISO: 200
Date: Dec 7, 2013

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LMMM – Week 2 in review

I am now in week 3 of my LMMM challenge. 5 more weeks to go. Week 2 was a little better compared to week 1. I did take a lot of photos of my daughter – and took one I just love! And a few of my cat. But birds on lines – didn\’t happen in week 2. I feel my technical skills have also improved in week 2.

Here is a brief summary:
Total Photos: 102 photos, 3 videos
Out of Focus Photos: 26 photos
Underexposed: 55 photos
Overexposed: 2

What I learned from Week 2:
1. Taking photos of fast-moving toddlers in low light indoors is very challenging – especially with manual focus and manual exposure.
2. It is also a lot of fun!
3. It helps to think forward and decide on aperture for the entire possible scene. Basically it helps to think about what your aperture means. I am understanding aperture selections a lot more!
4. I can make photos I like without even stepping out of the house!

What to work on for week 3::
1. take more photos (try to take some everyday!)
2. Take photos of everything around.
3. Especially of the cat, and birds on lines
4. Work more on nailing desired exposure.
5. Take more photos.
6. Maybe take portraits of friends and colleagues? (I was not a portrait/people photographer – but am I mutating?)

Here are links to older posts:
Week 1 Review
LMMM Challenge

Self Portrait – 2

Self Portrait - 2

Self portrait – 2, Mission Peak Regional Preserve, Fremont, CA

What\’s this? Yet another self-portrait? 2013 is after all the year of the \’Selfie\’. And I am now shamelessly copying Vivian Maier\’s self portraits. Many many more of these to come. Be warned.

Technical Details:

Camera: Olympus E-P5
Exposure: 1/320s at f/9
Focal Length: 17mm (35mm conversion – 34mm)
Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8
ISO: 200
Date: Dec 7, 2013

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Dizzy Dried Grass

Dizzy Dried Grass

Dizzy Dried Grass, Mission Peak Regional Preserve, Fremont, CA

Playing with camera motion on the golden dried grass on Mission Peak just after sunrise.

Technical Details:

Camera: Olympus E-P5
Exposure: 1/20s at f/22
Focal Length: 17mm (35mm conversion – 35mm)
Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8
ISO: 200
Date: Dec 7, 2013

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LMMM – Week One in Review

One week up in my LMMM challenge. 7 more to go.
Overall rating for week one – I feel quite bad about my week one.

The ugly:
1. I shot about 160 photos – not enough.
2. More than 50% of these are out of focus – and that too with focus peaking enabled.
3. Even worse, 97% of my photos are underexposed.
4. And the other 3% are overexposed.
5. What to shoot has become very tough – and how to make nice (to-me) photos of everyday life.

The Good:
1. I am back on track keeping my photos organized.
2. I am taking a lot more photos of my daughter. Underexposed, slightly out-of-focus – whatever – I got a few nice photos which I will treasure.
3. I now have a realistic view on how tough this is going to be
4. I\’m writing here more often!
5. I\’m getting to play with some nice plugins!

Looking forward to Week two, here is what I hope to do:

1. Take photos of my cat (Yes! The world needs more cat photos!)
2. Take more photos of my daughter.
3. Take photos of birds on hanging out on electric lines, traffic lights and telephone lines. (This project has been simmering in my head for quite some time)
4. Be more conscious of by aperture / depth of field – try to nail exposure more often.

So, on to week two. Time to find my cat…

Here is a list of all posts and photos from my LMMM challenge.

Adding Legacy Lens EXIF Info for Lightroom metadata

The LMMM challenge is introducing me to new problems. Lightroom is my go to tool for managing, organizing and editing my photographs. So this morning, I was trying to add the aperture information and lens information to the photograph’s metadata after importing them into Lightroom. And I could not figure out how to do this. A little bit of searching the internet – and the answer was obvious. You cannot do this in Lightroom…by itself…you need to use plugins. So here I am installing a software – Exif Tool and a Lightroom plugin: LensTagger.

The first ‘Exif Tool’ by Phil Harvey (freeware). Description excerpt from Phil’s website:“ExifTool is a platform-independent Perl library plus a command-line application for reading, writing and editing meta information in a wide variety of files.”

Lens Tagger is the plugin by Dirk Essel for Lightroom (freeware).Description excerpt: “LensTagger is a Lightroom plugin that adds EXIF data to photos directly out of Lightroom.”

Here is my image metadata just after importing:
Exif Info right after importing into Lightroom

Here is the screenshot of the Lens Tagger Window:
Lens Tagger Plugin Settings

And here is my metadata after.
Exif Info after Lens tagger

In the screenshot after Lens tagger, you can see that the ‘Exposure’ field now has the aperture value, the ‘focal length’ is filled and the Lens field now has the correct lens information. Very very cool.

I will be donating towards Lens Tagger and Exif Tool I’m thinking. They are totally worth two nice meals (at the minimum).

Mirrors and Windows (and a camera)

Mirrors and Windows (and a camera)

Mirrors and Windows (and a camera), Kotetsu Ramen, Santa Clara, CA

Never realized \’selfies\’ are this much fun! What fun eating ramen for lunch, good conversation with friends and taking photographs. This is from Day One of LMMM.

Technical Details:

Camera: Olympus E-P5
Exposure: 1/800s at f/?
Focal Length: 50mm (35mm conversion – 100mm)
Lens: Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 with Konica AR to Micro 4/3rds adaptor
ISO: 1000
Date: Dec 23, 2013

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Man checking phone

Man checking phone

Man checking phone, Outside a restaurant, Santa Clara, CA

Taken through a mesh screen at a Japanese restaurant – Kotetsu Ramen in Santa Clara, CA. The man in the photograph was sitting on a bench outside the restaurant while waiting for his table. I was, luckily, seated right by the window.

This was day one of the LMMMs. This is hard. I am realizing how much I don\’t know about dialing in the right shutter speed and focal length for a given ISO. I never knew I depended on the in-camera metering this much. Setting the ISO fixes to 1000 was a good idea.

Why did I choose 1000? Well, I know it is pretty high. But if I am to take photos every day, it will mostly be indoors, and I need a decent ISO to make low light photographs, and my camera can handle it. Day one has been very enjoyable so far. I am loving the look of my Konica Hexanon lens. It is not perfect – flares easily, soft wide-open….but so what! I love how the photos look. Someday I will have the vocabulary to describe what is so different, so nice about images from this lens.

What to change / add tomorrow? I need to start noting what aperture I\’m using for my photos somehow – for every frame. Is this going to be a phone app , or old-fashioned pen and paper? I am also using focus peaking a lot for manually focusing. However, after a couple of weeks, I am hoping I\’ll get the hang of manual focus without needing the focus-peaking crutch.

Technical Details:

Camera: Olympus E-P5
Exposure: 1/800s at f/?
Focal Length: 50mm (35mm conversion – 100mm)
Lens: Konica Hexanon AR 50mm f1.7 with Konica AR to Micro 4/3rds adaptor
ISO: 1000
Date: Dec 23, 2013

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