more self promotion!
in Hasselblad XPan , Wednesday, October 01, 2014
I’m please to announce that a set of my Antarctic XPan panoramas is featured in the latest issue of Landscape Photography Magazine.
It’s something of a coincidence to hear about this now, as I’ve been revisiting these over the past few days, and making new scans with the Plustek Opticfilm 120. I found that my initial interpretations, from which this set in Landscape Photography is drawn, were a little overwrought and the colour was inconsistent.
It’s always a difficult decision whether to stick exactly to the colours as recorded by (in this case) Ekctachrome, or to rebalance a bit. I’m tending now to stick more closely to the film. You can see the difference between the version as published and my latest interpretation below. The film itself has a slight magenta cast - not sure where that comes from - which I’ve chosen to tone down. But I haven’t tried to go for a “digital” white balance as in my initial attempt.
ducks totally unaligned
A photographic post with a return to the topic of street photography (which I don’t do). Here I line up all sorts of obstacles for myself by first trying to do street photography, second using a camera which really is at it’s best on a tripod and used slowly, and third, using what was always an unconventional choice of film, and now is just plain flat-out eccentric, Agfa Scala monochrome E6 slide film (or indeed using film at all).
Agfa Scala is nominally rated at ISO200, but is designed to be used from 100 to 1600 depending on circumstances. The canisters are not DX-coded, so you need to set the speed yourself. I ran this roll at ISO800, as the XPan’s 45mm lens is relatively slow at f/4. Note, 45mm on an Xpan corresponds to a horizontal field of view around 28mm for a normal 35mm frame, so you need to get close.
It’s pretty easy to scan in Silverfast, using 16bit greyscale settings and auto-levels.
The results are, well, at best tentative, but it was an interesting experiment.
I don’t know about the rest of the world, but you can still buy the allegedly withdrawn Agfa Scala film from Fotomedia in Switzerland, who will also process it.
absolutely nothing at all
in Hasselblad XPan , Wednesday, November 27, 2013
And finally, Patagonia. El fin del mundo. The wide, but wide, open spaces of the Argentinian Patagonian pampas seem to be heaven sent to the panoramic photographer. Every direction has “designed for XPan” stamped in the corner. And yet as soon as you point a camera at it, it slides away, dissolves into nothingness. It’s the pampas. There’s nothing there. Nothing to see, nothing to photograph, except that it just draws you back, teasing and insisting that you capture it.
I have several rolls from Patagonia where there isn’t one image worthy of the name out of the 21 precious Kodak Ektachrome frames. And yet at the time, totally immersed in the empty immensity of it all, I was convinced that every shot was a masterpiece.
But how do you photograph emptiness ? This one example, 80km from nowhere in all directions, maybe, more by luck than any skill, hints at something. The texture and direction of the grasses in the foreground mirrors the higher, darker clouds, and the sliver of lake in the distance gives some depth.
I just remember the wind, and the silence. Oh, and the cookies.
a refreshing perspective
in Hasselblad XPan , Thursday, August 29, 2013
I’m besides myself with excitement as I announce that snowhenge.net has just had a minor facelift. A few little twirls here and there, but mainly I’ve rebuilt the photo gallery part to improve the display of photos, and in particular, the XPan panoramic photos which are closest to my heart.
At the same time I’ve updated all the panoramic galleries with higher resolution versions, perfect for pirating. Well, for pirates with low standards, anyway. I’ve also revised the selections for the Iceland and Antarctic galleries, and added a brand new 13 year retrospective set, featuring an ad hoc selection from my archive.
Oh, and it won’t work in antique versions of Internet Explorer anymore. At last.
I hope you can spend a few minutes exploring these new and revised galleries. Do let me know what you think.
Phantom of the Opera ?
in Film , Monday, June 17, 2013
I’ve always been aware of the existence of Agfa Scala film, but never got around to using it. I even had a few rolls, with prepaid processing at Joe’s Basement in Soho, London. Both are now gone. Well, at least that’s what the internet says. Joe’s, certainly, sadly shut up shop quite a while ago, and Agfa-Gevaert discontinued Scala around 2004, I think, shortly before parachuting out of the photography business altogether. There are still a few rolls floating around on eBay or elsewhere with a process by data of 2009. So that’s it … or is it ? Because, strangely, I have in front of me a 5 pack of Agfa Scala 200X, produced, apparently, by AgfaPhoto, in Leverkussen, Germany, and with a quite healthy expiry date of October 2014.
So what’s so special about this film ? Well, first, it is one of the very, very few black & white reversal films (“slide films” to you & me) ever produced. It is nominally rated at ISO 200, but can be used up to 1600 with no problem (although apparently not if it is expired). Second, it produces smooth, crisp photos with a very wide tonal range and a sensitivity that touches on the infrared. Third, and most important, it a niche within a niche on an obscure periphery, and totally and utterly pointless in 2013. And its provenance is a little mysterious. Therefore, irresistible.
I was a little bit nervous about using it - I’m a complete novice when it comes to black & white film, but then on the other hand, it is essentially a slide film, which I’m quite familiar with. Anyway, I loaded the first roll into my XPan, rated it a 400 ISO and just trusted it’s ever reliable meter, and tweaking it up by half a stop, just so that I felt in control. And I wandered around the upper part of Colle di Val d’Elsa in Tuscany and took a few photos. Twenty one, to be precise.
My first 18 Agfa Scala panoramic shots, including 2 fantastic shots of the inside of a lens cap. Aren’t rangefinders great ?
Scanning Agfa Scala is easy, just so long as you don’t use any kind of infra-red cleaning (like Digital ICE or LIDE). I discovered this to my cost after about 15 time consuming HDR scans. And HDR scanning (in Silverfast terminology) is also not really necessary in this case. Also, don’t trust auto focus. Otherwise, no problem. I scanned at 16 bit grayscale - there might be some advantage to 48 bit RGB, but I haven’t had time to experiment. Here are a few examples:
Of course, these are reduced down to 590 pixels wide. The scans are 12500 pixels wide, and the detail is pretty amazing.
So, although I’m very, very late to the party, it’s not over yet, and I’m discovering that Scala 200X is fun to use. What its status or future is, I really don’t know, and neither, it seems, does the internet. Although it carries AgfaPhoto branding, and AgfaPhoto acquire trademark and marketing rights over a range of Agfa Films (see here, although word has it that Agfa CT Precisa 100 is none other than my old friend Fuji Provia 100F in disguise), Scala 200XT is not mentioned on the website
. So, I’m going to buy a few more rolls while I can. You can too, but only if you email me to ask for the details, I’m not making that mistake again! Processing is still carried out by a number of labs in Europe at least, including Studio 13 in Zürich