September 10, 2018

Analog Moods

I haven't blogged in a while, because people don't really do that anymore I guess.  Twitter and other social media is a bit more ephemeral I guess.

Over the past few years I've been shooting film as much as possible.  I can't claim to be some sort of purist, as I shoot a ton of digital photos for my kid's sporting events and school activities.  Here are a few musings and tips.


  • There are no same day or 1 hour developing places within 25 miles of where I live now.  That is sad.
  • There are local bay area spots that will develop film and do a great job, but is not cost effective for a casual shooter like me.  Photoworks San Francisco is an amazing place, but I can't afford to use them all the time. (
  • My go-to place for developing is Dwayne's Photo in Kansas.  I use them for C41, Cross processing E6 to C41, Black and Black and White.  They charge about $10 USD for a process and scan.  I've used them for both 35mm and 120 and the quality is good.  I forget the exact resolution on their gear, but they come out around 8MP.  ( )
  • Thrift Stores and second hand shops have great deals.  I picked up a flawless 135mm f2.8 lens for my Pentax K1000 for $5 USD.  I even have an adapter to use it on my Canon DSLR too.  Great glass! 
  • You can get decently priced film online through BH Photo and Adorama, but sometimes you want to try something new.  Lance Rothstein's store spools up wacky old films that were used for radiography processes, surveillance, or slide reproduction for use to experiment.  Not cheap, but it is worth it!  ( )
Shooting film is fun.  People see you change the rolls and it starts conversations.  It makes you slow down and think about composing a shot.  It makes you strategize about how you can capture what you want in 20-36 frames.  By no means is it a religion or have rules, as it is just about exploring your gear and creating quality images over quantity.  Generally when I shoot a sporting event for my kids, I will generate 600 to 800 images in an hour.  Over half will go in the trash bin.  Trying to fit an event into one or two 36 exposure rolls can be challenging, but can be rewarding. 


April 02, 2013

1 Hour Photo

As you may have read in my blog, we recently moved.  In the past I would mix up my 35mm color film developing between mail order and local 1 hour photo labs that were located in major chain pharmacies.  I only moved six miles to the east and the lack of photo processing options is really unfortunate.  In the two zip codes that encompass the town that I live in, the Costco, Rite-Aid, CVS, Walgreens, Target and Walmart all send their film out to be processed.  I don't really understand how you can say that you are a one hour photo lab, if all you can do is make digital prints in under an hour. I can understand that where I live is a small town (a population of only 82,000 people), but you would figure that at least one place would still do developing at a premium.


Two weeks ago I decided that I would test out the photo department at the new Walgreens that just opened near my house.  I received my Photo CD like I requested, as well as prints, which I didn't request (and they were nice enough not to charge me for them.  The thing is: They Didn't Return My Negatives.  That is pretty ridiculous.   I'm not sure if this is the new thing for them to reduce the amount of physical shipping, but I cannot patronize an establishment that charges the same for less service and doesn't give you back something that is standard and customary to return.

This is somewhat of a useless rant, because I do understand that the market for chemical film and services will consolidate over the next decade, but in America it is still my right and privilege to complain. 



May 16, 2011

Film by mail

Lately I have been spending more time taking old fashioned non-digital pictures.  For most of my film it is pretty inexpensive to have the film processed at my local Walgreens.  If you ask them to process only and make a photo CD-ROM, it ends up being around USD $7.00 and if you have a coupon it can be as inexpensive as USD $4.00.  Depending on the location they use either an AGFA or Nortisu based film scanner to make the CD, so they are fairly low resolution (around 2MP), but the price is right.  The local Target and CVS Drug in my area will do a develop plus CD for a bit more money and the local Wal-mart does a develop only, but sends the film out to make a CD.  I am sure that there are a lot of other regional drugstores that have one hour photo services that are similar to what I am discussing.  If you are using normal color 35mm film that uses the C-41 developing process, you have a lot of options available to you, even if you are in a fairly rural area.


Living in the suburbs makes it more difficult to find a place to process other film types locally.  Black and white film, slide film and other formats like 110, 120 and 127 require a photo processing center that is a little more high end.  Many photo processing places will take the film from you, but they end up sending it out to another location to get it done, which adds time and expense.  I've tried a few mail order houses lately and figured that I would share my results.  All of these processing facilities are in the United States.  I have only processed 35mm film through these place, but they should all at least do 35mm and 120 at a minimum and the scan resolutions I am listing are for regular frame 35mm scans.
High Resolution Scans as TIFF 3000x2000

Notes: They are happy to cross process film and have the nicest outgoing cardboard mailers.  They will send you a free prepaid film mailer if you request one, but can also print out a free mailer from their website. They will also do custom requests for services like sprocket hole scanning if you e-mail them.  Their customer service is really amazing.
High Resolution Scans as JPEG - 3637x2433
Medium Resulution Scans as JPEG - 1818x1228

Notes: Their turnaround time is amazing.  

  • Dwayne's Photo - Parsons, Kansas (Famous for processing the last roll of Kodachrome)

Scans as JPEG - 2748x1830

Notes: Really fast turnaround on order
Scans as JPEG - 1544x1024

Notes: They will provide your photos to you via the web if you provide an email address.  They will cross process with the right forms.  They will send you a free prepaid film mailer if you request one.  These are the people also known as "The Darkroom"

Scans as JPEG - 3088x2048

Notes: They will send you a free prepaid film mailer if you request one.  Excellent photo-cd with thumbnails printed on it.  One con: you pay extra for 36 exposure rolls.  Most other labs charge you the same to develop and scan 24 or 36 exposure rolls, I assume since it is automated.

High Resolution Scans as JPEG - 4038x3028 

Notes: This place also processes Minox film.  They are not incredibly fast, but their quality is really amazing.  They took the time to compose a note on a manual typewriter.  Awesome!

Scans as JPEG - 1818x1228

Notes: Interesting model where you pay up front and receive a pre-paid mailer.  I tried them out when they were first ramping up their developing services in the US, so it took a while for my film to be processed.  The service has the easiest integration with the Lomography website (duh?) and the developing process is good.  You are able to download the pictures from their website before you get them in the mail, if you can't wait.
  • Local Drugstore 1-Hour Photo Comparison
Walgreens AGFA Minilab JPEG - JPEG @ 2400x1600
Walgreens Noritsu Minilab JPEG - JPEG @ 1545x1024
CVS Pakon Minilab #1 JPEG - JPEG @ 2218x1468
CVS Pakon Minilab #2 JPEG - JPEG @ 1484x984


Places that I have found but not tried:


March 19, 2011

Cat + Sweater

Cats on the internet are funny.  Add a sweater and the hilarity ensues. 

Here is my cat Oprah wearing a sweater. Guffaw.


I took this photo using a Powershovel Blackbird, Fly camera.

February 28, 2011

Experiments with houshold chemicals

Over the last year I have been messing around with different types of film to see how they react.  I've played with Redscale film, which is regular color negative film that is flipped backwards in the 35mm canister,  so that the opposite side of the film is exposed.  You can get some really striking effects if you expose it right.  I have also experimented with Cross processing, in which you take slide film that is supposed to be processed as E-6 slide, but instead you process it in C-41 chemicals.  For that you get some really neat colors that pop out at you.  You can do the reverse, but it isn't as dramatic. 


(Photo Courtesy of ffunyman on Flickr)

I started reading on some of the Flickr forums about people who are "film destroyers", in which they use household chemicals to change the film emulsions to obtain interesting effects.  Some people also use heat to expedite the film aging process.  My first attempt was to bake some expired film for about a minute in the oven.  I followed instructions I found online, but the film canister became warped and unusable.  My second attempt at this was to drop a cheap color 35mm canister into a pyrex container with boiling water for a minute.  That film snapped half way through exposing it and I ended up with a fully ruined roll.  So I devised a plan to try messing with a four pack of cheap 35mm ISO 400 film that was purchased at Rite-Aid.  

With this four pack I tried four different substances to change the emulsion characteristics.

I got some interesting results.  I'm not sure if I will do it again soon, but it is worth the effort to experiment if you like to try new things with film.  You get interesting and random distortions, rainbow effects and very confused photolab operators at the drugstore.  For the time being I think my experiments might go as far as getting some Revolog film to play with (BTW that stuff looks AWESOME), as I'll have way less time on my hands with a new baby arriving next week.

Below are a few of the most interesting ones:





Be careful when messing around with household chemicals.  Some people use various forms of Chlorine Bleach and other caustic chemicals, so be safe when you are playing mad scientist!



January 19, 2011

Back to Basics

I really enjoy photography.  For me it isn't about high end DSLRs and absolute precision, it is really just a really relaxing diversion and hobby.  There is something pretty magical about capturing a moment in time.  Over the last few years I have been taking snapshots with cheap digital point and shoot cameras, but recently I have been dabbling in film again.  When I was a freshman in college, I took a basic black and white photography class where I learned how to shoot properly with a 35mm SLR and learned darkroom skills like developing film, making and mounting prints.  That opened my eyes, as before this, my photography consisted of the family 110 camera and 35mm/APS disposables.

Over the past few years, I would run a roll of film through my trusty Pentax K1000, but not on a regular basis.  With a camera like that, you have a decent amount of control of shutter speed, aperture, focus and have a built in light meter that helps you determine your exposure based on the film speed.  It is far from automatic, but you have the ability to get the image you want based on those variables.

Enter the toy camera.  I had heard of Holga and Diana cameras in the past, but didn't start playing with one until recently.  For the uninitiated, these are cameras of shoddy quality that are manufactured in China out of injection molded plastic.  On the most part, these use plastic lenses instead of glass and are very simple in construction.  It turns out that the same shoddy design can make for some incredible pictures (as well as many horrible ones).  They operate as rangefinders, so you don't see through the same lens that the picture is taken through, so it is easy to leave the lens cap on (as well as bad parallax issues at close range).  On the Holga you have a limited amount of focus settings: 3 feet, 6 feet, 9 feet, and infinity as well as one as one shutter speed: 1/100th of a second.  Due to the lack of control, it takes a good manipulation of environment and the proper knowledge of film speed to get the effects you want.  The plastic lens lends itself to soft images that seem somewhat otherworldly.

With that lack of control, you really have to start thinking about how you will set up a shot.  You have to mentally focus on all the variables involved in capturing that moment.  I feel more comfortable with a camera like a SLR because you can see what you are focusing on and know that your exposure is going to be correct for your condition.  But sometimes when you move outside your comfort zone, you can take some excellent photos.  Even if your photos don't come out the way that you wanted, it is relaxing to focus on something and connect with it through a crappy plastic box.  Crappy cameras are not just for hipsters trying to be ironic or retro.  The most important thing is to have fun.

Here are a few pictures I've taken with this camera:




May 08, 2009

Polaroid is dead. Long live Poladroid

While the instant Polaroid film is becoming a thing of the past, a new application for Windows and Mac OSX called Poladroid allows you to process graphics files to get the look and feel of Polaroid film.  While you could have always done this using a host of image editing software such as Photoshop or The Gimp, this software has the sound and feel of a Polaroid.  You have the ability to watch the picture appear, to shake it, and to develop it early to get the effects that you want. 

It is prettty simple... you drag your file to the virtual camera and watch it develop.  There are a few variables you can adjust, but it is pretty basic.  As much as I like Web 2.0 applications, it is nice to have an app like this that can process images on your local machine.  The only thing that would be cooler is that if the application set the EXIF data on output file.


Step 1 - Drop it here:


Step 2 - Watch it develop.


Step 3 - All Done! (or Profit?!?!?)


The image before:


The image Poladroided:


It turns out that Fuji still manufactures compatible film in the Polaroid form factors and a version of the Holga camera, informally called the Polga or Holgaroid allow you to take pictures with the same dreamy feel as a Polaroid.



January 24, 2009

Sometimes analog just feels right.

Duke, JD, Ely.. all on the couch in our old house in Livermore 

In a world where everything has gone digital, most are choosing to eschew the old analog mediums.  While not dead, media such as Vinyl and chemically processed negative film still survive as a niche.  One such analog medium lost out to profit margins in mid-2008.  The Polaroid camera is one of those things that has an amazing feel to it.  You take the picture and watch the picture develop and appear right in the palm of your hand.  As much as I love digital media, there is nothing as palpable or basic as a Polaroid picture.  There is no negative, so each picture is a unique beast.  All of that was going to be lost when the film stock ran out, until the Impossible project started.  This group of people has banded together to restart production and redefine the future of a media.  Good luck!