Home Again

August 17th, 2013

I am home and editing photos, some of which will be up in the next few days.

Travel Jitters

July 26th, 2013

I am not a big fan of travelling. I like going to interesting places and taking photos there, but when I like being able to go home after one or two days to get back to my routine. One of my friends has had to deal with me after being away from home for more than a few days and it’s never pretty. So when I say that I am travelling to Africa to spend almost two weeks travelling around the continent in the wild, I say it with a mixture of excitement and dread.

I am excited to think about what kind of landscapes, people and animals I’m going to come across, and what kin of photographs I am going to come home with. I am, however, dreading the inevitable homesickness that is going to come along with being so far away from home.

I’m going to be passing through South Africa, Nairobi, Kenya, and Zimbabwe, which covers some amazing scenery and, if we’re lucky, I will be there in time to see the bird migration.

I’m travelling fairly light in terms of photo gear: My 500D with 24-70mm f/2.8 and a Samyang 14mm f/2.8, My C-POL and ND8 filters, my laptop, and my trusty Yashica Electro 35 with a dozen rolls of film.

I am not sure what internet arrangements will be available during the trip, but assuming I come across a decent connection I will be updating Pants-Man with posts (hopefully) full of photos as I go.

This is only a quick post while I am charging my laptop up, but hopefully I will be updating the page here again soon.

Ashford Power Station

May 9th, 2013

A location I’ve wanted to visit for quite a long time is the location of the former Ashford Power Station. After doing some research online and speaking with friends who knew the area it sounded like an interesting place to check out. Power stations are rarely small and simple, and the fact that it had been decommissioned for quite a long time it sounded like a neat place to check out.

Sadly, out of all the people I spoke to none knew the current state of the plant, and when we found our way out there we were disappointed to find that a majority of the plant had since been demolished, with only a small substation and a water processing facility remaining.

Not to be disheartened by this development, we ended up exploring most of what was left of the plant, and it still turned out to be a pretty interesting place to check out. Within 5 minutes of arriving we nearly walked onto a red-belly black snake, that was fun, and the rest of the day was relatively uneventful. This was my first time shooting with some unusual film I picked up from another APUG user, who was selling dozens of rolls of the stuff: Agfa Cinerex IC1N. Originally used as an x-ray film by dentists, it turned out to be a lovely low-speed black-and-white film that I am now rationing until I can find somewhere to buy more of it.

The Travelling Camera

April 27th, 2013

I spend a fair (unhealthy) amount of time on 4chan, in particular the photography board: /p/. Most of the time it’s just people harshly judging each other, making too many threads about gear and not spending enough time out actually shooting. It’s not a place you go to see well constructed posts filled with good information, or people who will jump at the chance to help a new photographer out. Despite this there have been, and still are, many talented and photographers on the site who make it worth wading through all the terrible crap to find.

Every now and then the community will rally around someone who organises some sort of interesting project that they can participate in, whether they be weekly photo challenges, Photobooks or the most recent that I participated in: A Travelling Camera.

The premise is simple: Take a cheap camera, a handful of film and send it around the world for members of the community to shoot with. With everyone shooting with the same camera means everyone is going to be more or less even in terms of gear and makes the differences in talent more apparent. It’s also kind of neat to be shooting with the same camera that everyone else is. There are a few things that can bring the project to a grinding halt, mostly involving the camera being either stolen or broken, but one of the benefits of using such a cheap camera is that (hopefully) the results of the project will be worth more to the participants than the camera itself.

The camera that was selected was an Olympus µ[mju:]-II, a neat little autofocus point and shoot that I was sad to see leave when I was done with it. In all of my wisdom, I decided that because it was only a simple point and shoot there was no need for me to read the manual. I worked out how to load the battery and the film easily, however the mju has a few quirks that caught me out. For example, when you open the lens door, turning the camera on, it will default to turning your flash on even in the middle of the day. The autofocus does not work through any sort of glass, as I found out several times.

Luckily, the time when I had the camera coincided with a monster truck show coming through Inverell, not something that has happened here as long as I remember. I managed to catch a few shots while there but I tried to get a decent spread of shots from all around Inverell that were a bit different from what I normally shoot, and I think I did OK with a couple of shots that I can’t wait to print.

All up I ended up shooting seven rolls of film for the project, from which I got about a dozen shots that worked out OK. I’m looking forward to what other people come up with.

Big Fat Phony

April 23rd, 2012

I’m always on the lookout for deals on film, particularly with the recent troubles with Kodak. It’s amazing the deals you can find: I picked up a 100ft bulk roll of Portra 160 for $70 (around $3.50 per roll), a 100ft bulk roll of Ektachrome 64T for around $60 (around $3.00 per roll) and even a 400ft roll of Ektachrome slide duplication film which give some really neat results when cross-processed. Recently I came across some cheap Fujicolor Superia 200 rolls on eBay. I threw a minimum bid on them and forgot about it. A couple of weeks later I get an e-mail telling me I’d won the auction. Hooray!

I like my Superia just for walking around snapshooting or when I’m dicking around in development. It’s pretty forgiving, even in my old cameras that aren’t quite shooting at the right speeds and it’s cheap so I never feel too bad when things go bad. Fast forward about 3 weeks and I receive five of these:

Not in the best condition.

Fair enough, right? It was cheap (only $2.50 a roll!) so I can look past beat up boxes. I’ve seen worse things spat out of the postal network. And these came out of Hong Kong, so it’s only to be expected that the boxes will be covered in what I’m pretty sure is Chinese. However, on opening the boxes I was greeted with something peculiar:

The film recently arrived from eBay (left) alongside another Fujicolor Superia 200 roll I already had (right).

Strangely, the label on these new rolls are almost completely different to the rolls I already had, right down to the font on the label, the colour, everything. It’s a completely different design. This has never happened to me before, so I looked the eBay film a bit more and found that the labels on the eBay film were a different shape and appeared to have been stuck on pretty haphazardly. Then I noticed what appears to be a strip of yellow peeking out at the bottom:

eBay film (left) with a hint of yellow at the bottom of the cassette.

Well that sure was odd, as the labels are almost always a perfect fit on the cannister. I sat down and peeled the label back and found a little surprise:

Wait just a minute..

At this point I was quite confused. Were these guys just buying expired rolls of Kodak Gold, whacking a Superia sticker over the top and then selling them again at a higher price, or were they loading random cannisters with the cheapest colour film they could find and selling it as Superia or was it actually Fujicolor Superia wearing a Kodak Gold jumper? I loaded up one of my cameras and headed out to shoot on of them to see what came out.

Opening the cannisters in the darkroom to load them for development showed that, instead of being either taped to the film spool or hooked through the centre of the spool like Kodak and Fuji normally do, the film was taped to the protuding piece of film left hanging from a cannister when it is loaded for processing by a film house, and then wound back into the cannister.

This blows my mind.

Someone, somewhere, is somehow getting unexposed strips of Superia 200 without canisters; they’re getting discarded canisters from film developers; they are going into the darkroom and taping their Superia strips to the protruding film from these canisters and winding the film in, then they are printing their own labels and sticking them onto these Kodak Gold Superia canisters and then they’re boxing the lot up and flogging it on eBay for peanuts. I can’t see why they would go to all the trouble, especially with such a cheap film. Why not Velvia, Provia, Pro 400H or Reala?

After developing, the edge markings identified the film as Fujicolor Superia 200 (FUJI S-200 CA23). Instead of 36 exposures advertised I got only 33, and the frame numbers were severely misaligned in relation to the frames themselves. The film is also covered in light scratches, likely from excessive handling during it’s strange journey. But hey, if nothing else this film gave me a few laughs, and for the price I’m not behind at all.

This film was purchased from Delight Digital Silk Road, and as of writing I see two more auctions at the same price I paid that are currently active.

Finally, some shots from the roll I developed:

Canon EOS 1000F - Canon EF 50mm f1.4