Silver Lining

I have long wanted to own a Nikon film body that would let me control my G (no aperture ring) lenses. The F6, lovely though it would be, is far too expensive for my budget, so I settled on a used F100. A example in good condition at the right price came along in time for my birthday.

New Toy

Shooting 35mm film is quite refreshing: no fancy software, no image preview, 36 exposures (at most) until you have to reload. Digital gives great control, but it can seduce the photographer into wasting time with irrelevant fiddling. Even in a digital workflow, film (especially color film) is almost fire-and-forget: you concentrate in the moment and the chemistry does the rest. Although some photographers object, I don’t have a problem with doing digital B&W conversions from color scans, especially because I don’t own the color filters I’d want for B&W film.

I’ve put five rolls through my F100 so far:

  • 1 Kodak Portra 400
  • 1 Kodak Ektar 100
  • 3 Fuji Superia X-tra 400

I bought the Portra and Ektar with my new camera, and processed them through North Coast in California. The Superia was an impulse buy for casual situations, and I’ve been processing it through the local Walgreens, just to see what kind of a job they do. There is great variability between individual locations. One local store has a Fuji Frontier minilab, and gave me low-res scans that cropped away about 10% of the frame:

Unguentum in Capite

Another has a Noritsu and gave me 6 MP scans of the whole frame:


Both of these images were rated at 200 and developed normally. The second also used my 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, which covers the 35mm frame with a pleasant little vignette in the corners. Superia has tons of latitude and looks better to my eye with overexposure, but I wouldn’t use it for work I care about.

The two Kodak films, on the other hand, are spectacular, and I’ll be devoting a separate post to each one.

Fall Fossils

Gingko Dreaming

One of the three large ginkgo trees next to the University-owned apartments at Goodwin and Green.



I had to meet my wife in downtown Champaign after work one afternoon in late September, and as I walked past the parking meters this picture popped into my head. A little laugh to tide the blog over while I wait for some film to come back from the lab.

Dark Side of the Moon

October 8’s total lunar eclipse caught me a bit flat-footed (“Wait — there’s an eclipse tomorrow?”) but I was determined to watch and photograph it.

Turning Dark

My nephew stayed over at our house the previous night, so we had to wrangle three boys into shoes, coats, and van, and thence a short way into the country. I did manage to pack my longest lens, which is not really long enough for this type of thing, but it’s the best I have. This image was made with an old slow 70-210mm zoom at full extension, f/5.6, high ISO, and manual focus via Live View.

The boys spent most of their time complaining about one thing or another, but they did see the eclipse, and I pointed out a few constellations too. Hopefully this won’t be our last celestial outing.

Visiting Warsaw (Sort Of)

When I posted about my thunderstorm picture, I said that I wanted to take more time to demonstrate that rural Illinois is not boring, and possesses rather a subtle beauty. Of course, you can always wait until blue hour to really amp things up.

Warszawa Sunset

The Warsaw family owns this land, right across the tracks from the church where my wife works. The church’s fall festival/potluck had just completed and we were on our way home, when I saw the moon rising over this barn and needed to turn back. The mosquitoes were fierce and I had not prepared with bug spray; I consider it a miracle that I brought back anything usable.

At the tail end of blue hour the full spectrum of white light can be seen painted across the sky, as it was when I photographed another crescent moon in a sunset two years ago. Back then, I discovered that the Cross Process 2 preset in Lightroom 4 did just the right magic to separate out the colors, and I used it again here. The image above is layered from three “prints” of two exposures:

  • First exposure for the grass and barn, tonal modifications only.
  • First exposure for the barn with the Cross Process 2 preset, to get a little bit of the wild sky colors into the white paint.
  • Second exposure for the sky, with the Cross Process 2 preset.

The Warsaw clan is numerous here, and the daughter-in-law of this farm’s owners, who is a photographer herself, asked for a print before she even saw the result. She still wants it having seen the result :) and I’ll be happy to oblige.

Wide Streets

Board Over Bike

Last week I carried my Nikon with me instead of my Fuji, and just to switch things up I used my ultra-wide instead of my normal lens. The experience strongly reinforced the received wisdom about wide-angle lenses: their function is to exaggerate perspective and emphasize something in the foreground, in this case, Mr. Skateboard. Using the ultra-wide also forces me to get in closer to my subject, and I’m often afraid to do so even when it will make a better picture. Gear doesn’t make you a better photographer, but accepting the limitations of a defined set of gear can push you to try different, and sometimes better, things.



In my college days, someone posted a graph on the wall of the ACM student chapter office which purported to show when and how much of both regular and diet Mountain Dew one should consume for maximum stimulant effectiveness while programming. I suppose CS students still drink Mountain Dew, but to my mind, nothing beats a good cup of coffee when you’ve been up all night and your homework still doesn’t compile. The young lady above would seem to agree. :)


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