Tuesday, 31 January 2023

Kentmere Pan 400 - part 2

 

Kentmere Pan 400 in medium format

When I wrote my original post on Kentmere Pan 400 in 2019, it was then available in 35mm only; in December 2022, in a surprise announcement from Harman, the film's manufacturer, that the two black and white Kentmere emulsions were now to be available in medium format, having previously been available in 35mm only. I did write in my original post three years ago that "having been around for many years [Kentmere Pan 400] is unlikely to suddenly be offered in medium and large format, although this is not impossible: Ilford's Ortho Plus film, a niche sheet film emulsion for decades, has just been introduced in 35mm and 120." As described in the recent post on its slower-speed companion, Kentmere Pan 100, there's a logic to Harman complementing their Ilford brand with lower-priced films in medium format, to compete–in particular, it seems–with cheaper films such as Fomapan 100 and 400. The original post on Kentmere Pan 400 was written to compare the film with Ilford Pan 400, which I had been told was going to be discontinued (although at the time of writing, this film is still available), and one can see the logic in rationalising Harman's budget film lines. 

After the announcement of the film's new availability in medium format, I bought a couple of rolls and used the film, cut down, for last week's 127 Day (I used the 16mm off-cut in a subminiature camera, but this suffered from successive overlapping exposures due to issues with the film advance, and so not worth illustrating here); I shot the other roll on New Year's Day, with the Ica Icarette II/L. The reason for choosing this particular medium format camera was simply not having used it for a while. As with the comments in the last post on 127 Day, with overcast winter weather, a one-stop push might have improved the contrast of the negatives; the Icarette's Tessar lens–99 years old–is uncoated, and the somewhat hazy conditions were no doubt emphasised in the results thanks to the low-contrast of the uncoated lens.

Ica Icarette II with Kentmere Pan 400
The image above, directed towards the sun, just about discernible on the day through the clouds, shows this quite well (thanks to the weather conditions, there may also–just–have been some haze as a remainder of the fireworks a few hours before). In the original post on Kentmere Pan 400, I did test both pushing and pulling the film, and used Rodinal (or a Rodinal clone) and Ilfotec LC29 for developers, and in particular, having used Rodinal for many years, I was familiar with it and what to expect; with the medium format Kentmere Pan 400, I used Kodak HC-110 (at dilution B here), a developer new to me: with one or two rolls of film and a new developer, there wasn't the opportunity to work out how exactly to tailor the developer to exposure to get the particular result I wanted–or to use a different camera, which might have produced better results for these couple of rolls of Kentmere Pan 400 in medium format (as with the roll shot on 127 Day, the low contrast of the negatives was notable). As with my summary in the original post from just over three years ago, I feel there's nothing really distinctive about Kentmere Pan 400: I ended by writing then that the film is "a perfectly good, competitively priced, all-round 35mm black and white film with a certain flexibility in exposure and development"–which it is, but also now very welcome in medium format too.

Ica Icarette II with Kentmere Pan 400

Ica Icarette II with Kentmere Pan 400

Ica Icarette II with Kentmere Pan 400

Ica Icarette II with Kentmere Pan 400

Sunday, 29 January 2023

127 Day January 2023

Baby Ikonta with Kentmere Pan 400
Last Friday was the first of the year's calendrical 127 Days, and I had time during the early afternoon to expose a roll of cut-down Kentmere Pan 400 in the Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 520/18–the 'Baby Ikonta'–a favourite for its small size, relatively good Novar lens and Compur shutter. I used cut-down medium format Kentmere Pan 400. The weather was mostly overcast, and having a 400 ISO film certainly fitted the lighting conditions typical this time of year in the Northern hemisphere. Even then, in a few situations, such as under the dense branches of bare trees, the light levels were pretty low, and I didn't accurately guess-focus as accurately as I might in a few frames, with the aperture wider than I might have liked to provide little assistance in careless focussing. Developing the film in Kodak HC-110 (at dilution E, 1+47 from concentrate) provided low contrast negatives, no doubt compounded by the uncoated Novar lens of the Baby Ikonta, some flare in a few frames (such as in the second image below), on top of the lighting conditions. In retrospect, a one-stop push might have benefitted both the contrast, as well as being able to use a smaller aperture in some situations. However, regardless of the results of this one roll, having an inexpensive 400-speed film newly available in medium format is ideal for the purposes of being cut down to 127 size–a rather cheaper alternative to the few films currently available in the niche 127 rollfilm format, which, somehow, still survives in 2023.








Thursday, 29 December 2022

Kentmere Pan 100

Kentmere Pan 100 35mm film

It's become something of a commonplace to describe how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has altered the perception of time, simultaneously stretching and squashing it, making everything from 'before' feel unusually distant, separated. I wrote a post in November 2019 about Kentmere Pan 400 after its rebranding, with the prominent 'pan' added to the name, and in it I compared this to the Ilford Pan 400 film I'd written about previously (being one of two cheaper Ilford films which had only recently then become more widely available in the UK, while the point of comparison being that the Kentmere films are made by Harman, Ilford's parent company at a similar lower price than Ilford's other films); having heard that these-the Ilford Pan films-were to be discontinued, naturally, I then wanted to write about Kentmere Pan 100 as a logical comparison to Ilford Pan 100 and as a companion to the Kentmere Pan 400 post. I hadn't used the slower Kentmere film as much as the 400 previously, and I began as I would with any other film new to me, by exposing a roll for a latitude test. This was done on the day (check) that my work announced that they were moving from being face to face to online for the forseeable future, a week before the UK government issued its general 'stay at home' order.

Subsequently, I used Kentmere Pan 100 quite a bit over the next year and a half, in early autumn 2020, as the initial restrictions were eased and I went back to working face to face, as part of my plan to use the Olympus Pen EE3 half frame camera for the year leading up to the tenth anniversary of this blog, then at the start of 2021 when restrictions were back and I was recovering from my first Covid infection, taking allowed walks for exercise, and taking a camera with me. I had long planned to write this post after having used the film as much as I had; I had thought I should do so as the second anniversary of the pandemic and my first test of the film came around in March this year, but that came and went. 

Kentmere Pan 100 in medium format

Then, at the start of this month, on December 1st, Ilford announced that the Kentmere films were being produced in medium format, having only been previously available in 35mm. This provided the motivation to finish this post, and to add the medium format results to it, and, although I have so far only shot a single roll in medium format, all the tests made so far on 35mm film obviously are still relevant.

Kentmere Pan 100 latitude test contact sheet

I made the latitude test using the Canon A-1; compared to Ilford Pan 100, Kentmere Pan 100 does appear to show greater latitude, although the test was slightly marred by one set of frames being double exposed somehow. The top row of frames on the contact sheet above were exposed at 12-25-50-100-200-400 and developed in Ilfotec LC29 diluted 1+19 for 7 minutes at 20ºC. The lower three rows were rated at box speed, but with some bracketing. One stop either side of box speed scanned well; at 400, the shadow detail starts to look lacking, while at 25, two stops overexposed, the midtones and highlights start to look less separated, making scanning a little more difficult, but probably still printable with some care. In comparison with Kentmere Pan 400, the 100-speed version has less latitude, which is probably in part a function of its contrast, with higher speed films generally being lower in contrast by their nature.

As part of my usual testing of film stocks, I pushed–and pulled–Kentmere Pan 100. I used the film quite a bit during the winter months of 2020-21, and as a result, pushing the film often made sense in terms of working with available light. My first attempts at pushing one stop to 200 and used Ilfotec LC29, which appeared to provide a little more contrast, although most of the photographs taken on that first pushed film were in autumn sunshine, with bright light but relatively low, against deeper shadows. This did suit some of the subjects, as in the second image below.

Canon A-1 with Kentmere Pan 100, rated 200, Ilfotec LC29 1+19, 8m 20ºC

Canon A-1 with Kentmere Pan 100, rated 200, Ilfotec LC29 1+19, 8m 20ºC

The second roll of Kentmere Pan 100 at a rating of 200 was developed in exactly the same way, but using the Voigtländer Vito B, with an older lens from the Canon A-1's standard FD-fit 50mm f1.8 lens gave a different feel to the images. These photographs were taken on a couple of bright days in very early January, with very low sunlight, and it might have been more appropriate to pull the film to lower the contrast for many of these images (the top image being of a lower-contrast subject perhaps demonstrates this), but I'd decided to push the film without considering what the weather conditions might be: the results were not unsympathetic however.

Voigtländer Vito B with Kentmere Pan 100 rated 200, Ilfotec LC 29 1+19, 8m 20ºC

Voigtländer Vito B with Kentmere Pan 100 rated 200, Ilfotec LC 29 1+19, 8m 20ºC

As I used the Kentmere Pan 100 over quite a number of months, as well as the different tests, I also used a few different developers, not with the intention of comparing the results, but more simply being the case that I was using whichever black and white developer I currently had in use. It would have been instructive to have been more programmatic in this regard, but I hadn't thought that my testing of the film would have occurred over quite such a long period of time. Harman's own data sheet for Kentmere Pan 100 does not provide any timings for a two-stop push to 400 (the metal 35mm canister does have a box next to that 100 and 200 to mark an exposure rating, logically for 400), but this would be a good comparison to the Ilford Pan 100 film. For that particular film, I estimated an extended development time using Ilfotec LC29, with what I felt at the time were rather mixed results. I tried a different approach then with semi-stand development. I used R09 One Shot diluted to 1+150 for 3 hours, agitating on each hour interval (a method used previously with Ilford HP5 Plus: the theory behind using such a high dilution of Rodinal is to reduce the contrast that accompanies push-processing; no doubt most of the development has occurred by the one-hour stage, but I wanted to give the shadow areas as much opportunity to develop as possible). I did the same with Kentmere Pan 100.

Canon A-1 with Kentmere Pan 100, rated 400, 3 hours semi-stand development Adox Rodinal 1+150

Canon A-1 with Kentmere Pan 100, rated 400, 3 hours semi-stand development Adox Rodinal 1+150

The results (above) were comparable to the approach with the Ilford Pan 100 film, and there's a smoothness to the grain which suggests this to be sympathetic to rating the film at 400, given all the caveats one would want to make in relation to push processing. However, I've not tried a more conventional development regime for a two-stop push with this film to see what the difference might be against this extended semi-stand development.

There are probably more conditions under which one might push a film, compared to pull-processing, but I did also try this with Kentmere Pan 100. As regards the comments above with the one-stop push with the Vito B camera, the roll which I rated at 50 might have been better with higher contrast subjects–as pulling a film reduces its contrast–most of this roll of the film was shot under overcast conditions in January. I used the Kiev-4 rangefinder for this, and it may be a fortuitous combination of lighting conditions, reduced development, and the lens used (the Helios-103), but the results pulled one stop in Rodinal appeared to me to be both smooth and sharp, and possibly represents an achievable look of Kentmere Pan 100 that, of all the different exposure/development combinations I've tried while testing the film, I liked the most (the real test would be to print in the darkroom of course).

Kiev-4 with Kentmere Pan 100 rated 50, Rodinal 1+50, 9m 20ºC

Kiev-4 with Kentmere Pan 100 rated 50, Rodinal 1+50, 9m 20ºC

I also used the film with a couple of 35mm half-frame cameras, and the relatively fine grain made the film sympathetic to the smaller frame size, although the film used in the Olympus Pen EE3 coincided with that camera's lens becoming loose and providing slightly-out-of-focus images. This was part of my year-long re-engagement, an ultimately frustrating one, with the Pen EE3, with the Kentmere Pan 100 film being one that I had in my camera through the summer of 2020.

Olympus Pen EE3 with Kentmere Pan 100, Ilfotec LC29 1+19, 9m 18ºC

Agat 18K with Kentmere Pan 100, Ilfotec LC29 1+19, 7m 20ºC

As written about at the start of this post, what made me finally gather all the images together and write this post was the introduction of Kentmere Pan 100 in medium format rollfilm. As with the 35mm version of the film, this is clearly intended to compete with other lower priced films currently available, and no doubt it makes sense for Harman to be part of that market for medium format. Just over a week ago, on the shortest day of the year, I shot a roll of medium format Kentmere Pan 100 with the Voigtländer Bessa rangefinder. If it hadn't been for this particular post, a 400-speed film would have been better for the lighting conditions, as, on an overcast day in the middle of winter, I found I was having to use a slower shutter speed or wider aperture than I might have liked, and was using the camera hand-held too. 

Voigtländer Bessa with Kentmere Pan 100, Kodak HC-110, 1+31, 5m45s at 22ºC

However, medium format can be quite forgiving and returning to the film in that new format, the results of which were very promising–the film dried flat, and was easy to scan, and I suspect as a choice of emulsions, I'd be more likely to choose Kentmere Pan 100 in medium format perhaps more so than in 35mm in future. As a lower-priced film stock, Kentmere Pan 100 fits a gap, especially given the current circumstances as I write, but I generally feel it's relatively unremarkable–it doesn't compare to Ilford FP4 Plus or Delta 100 as Harman's similar speed films–but as I've written above in relation to pulling it to a rating of 50 with the Kiev-4, with judicious exposure and development the results can be better than one might expect for a 'budget' black and white film, which makes its introduction into medium format (as with Kentmere Pan 400) all the more welcome.

Kiev-4 with Kentmere Pan 100 rated 50, Rodinal 1+50, 9m 20ºC

Siluet Elektro with Kentmere Pan 100, rated 80, Rodinal 1+50 15m 20ºC

Olympus Pen EE3 with Kentmere Pan 100, Ilfotec LC29 1+19, 9m 18ºC

Agat 18K with Kentmere Pan 100, Ilfotec LC29 1+19, 7m 20ºC

Canon A-1 with Kentmere Pan 100, Ilfotec LC29 1+19, 7m 20ºC

Kodak Retina IIa with Kentmere Pan 100, Ars-Imago #9 (Rodinal formula) 1+50, 15m 20ºC

Voigtländer Vito B with Kentmere Pan 100 rated 200, Ilfotec LC 29 1+19, 8m 20ºC

Canon A-1 with Kentmere Pan 100, rated 200, Ilfotec LC29 1+19, 8m 20ºC

Canon A-1 with Kentmere Pan 100, rated 400, 3 hours semi-stand development Adox Rodinal 1+150

Voigtländer Bessa with Kentmere Pan 100, Kodak HC-110, 1+31, 5m45s at 22ºC







Saturday, 17 December 2022

'After Vermeer'



For many years, it was known that Vermeer's painting Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window originally had a large painting on its far wall parallel to the picture plane which had been painted over. It was believed that  this had been done during the artist's lifetime, with the inevitable conclusion that this act was by the artist himself; more recent analysis had determined that a layer of dirt underneath the overpainted area must have taken decades to accumulate, and therefore the painting–or the version of it as had become familiar since the mid-nineteenth century ‘rediscovery’ of the artist–did not in fact reflect Vermeer’s intention for the work. The painting, held in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden was painstakingly restored, with the later overpaint removed, revealing a framed picture of Cupid holding up a playing card, which appears in two other works by Vermeer. The radically restored painting was the centrepiece of an exhibition, 'Johannes Vermeer: Vom Innenhalten (On Reflection)', at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, housed in the Dresden Zwinger late last year. 

A couple of years ago I wrote about my interest in the art of Vermeer in two posts, Cameras Obscura and A View of Delft. These were written after a trip to Delft, Amsterdam, and the Hague, and the work which I had made there, referencing the long-speculated upon use of optical technology–the camera obscura–by Vermeer, and by another Delft painter, Carel Fabritius, the evidence of which appears to be present in their paintings to a greater or lesser degree. This ‘pre-history’ of the photographic has long been an interest of mine, in relation to my own paintings and their relationship to photographic source material, and I had, in the past, made work with specific references to the paintings of Vermeer. As part of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden’s accompanying programme to 'Johannes Vermeer: Vom Innenhalten', there was a small display in the Zwinger’s Café Algarotti. This showed three photographic works in dialogue with Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window: Alfred Stieglitz’s Sun Rays—Paula, Berlin (1899), which depicts the photographer’s sister writing a letter by an open window, strikingly illuminated through slatted blinds; Tom Hunter’s Woman reading a Possession Order (1997), more directly referencing Vermeer’s painting; and my own After Vermeer. In the Zwinger’s display, this was a digital print, a composite image constructed from a number of photographs which had originated on film. 

After Vermeer, digital composite

As an artwork in its own right, this particular version of After Vermeer had only ever existed as an image on a website many years ago–it was made as a reference image for a painting, one component among others, a working image for part of a trompe l’oeil painting: the painting as a whole had the conceit that it shows a section of an artist’s studio wall. The photograph was paired with a photocopy of the two-page page spread showing the reproduction of Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window from Arthur J. Wheelock’s book on Vermeer. In the painting, my version of the Vermeer composition appears as a photograph that the artist is working from to make a painting: in the trompe l’oeil, this image has a grid drawn (painted) onto it for the purpose of transferring the image, usually with an element of scaling up, to this notional painting’s surface.

The Artist's Studio I, oil on board, 56x72cm

I had initially planned four trompe l’oeil paintings in the series of the studio wall. The painting with the photocopy of Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window was selected for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2001; a second painting, in the same format, with a photocopy of Edward Hopper’s Automat and my own composition based on it, wasn’t selected. I completed a third painting, with a composition of my own which was a more oblique referencing to one of Artemisia Gentilischi’s paintings of Susanna and the Elders, included within. The fourth painting in the series was started but never finished. All four paintings were designed to join together horizontally, with elements spanning from the edge of one painting to the next (that the compositions are cut off at the edges points to the paintings being ‘about’ or using the approach of trompe l’oeil, rather than being true trompe l’oeil works). I kept the board for the fourth painting for many years afterwards. It had a slight bit of painting of the overlapping newspaper clipping. Eventually this got damaged and the board was cut up to be re-used. 

At the time I made this series, in early 2001, I had no intention of making singular paintings of my own compositions within them which refer to the historical paintings that were their inspiration. This was partly that I (then) had a resistance to making paintings that appeared as if (based on) a single photograph, a resistance I relinquished a year or so later. From the other trompe l’oeil paintings completed in the series I used the digital images of my compositions for two back-lit transparencies mounted on lightboxes which were exhibited a couple of times; my version of Vermeer's Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window was never made into a lightbox, partly a result of being dissatisfied with the quality of the images, mainly as a result of being made relatively cheaply. I began an etching of the image from the composition based on Edward Hopper’s Automat but this was never finished; the other composition I had made as a postcard before eventually using it, with a number of changes, as the basis for a larger painting.

After Vermeer, oil on canvas, 80x50cm

I returned to the Vermeer composition five years later to make a single painting. This was shown in an exhibition at a gallery specialising in photography and subsequently sold. When I received an email from the Dresden museum, my initial supposition was that they wanted to shown my painting in the accompanying programme; this has had a handful of enquiries in the years since I sold it and is now no longer accessible. However, they were interested in the photograph of After Vermeer, which had never been made into a physical version, only ever existing as a digital image on my website, on a page long since orphaned from the site itself, but still online (for a time, there were in fact two digital versions of the composition on my website, the first with a different position to the model’s head). I didn’t ask how the curator stumbled across this, but was relieved that I could show the photographic After Vermeer: as well as the rather low-resolution jpeg online, I still had the original working Photoshop file on a disk. 

A number of things came together to provoke me to make After Vermeer. The initial spark came from receiving a photograph of Tom Hunter’s picture from a teacher that I was still in touch with. This must have been after Woman reading a Possession Order was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, receiving a certain amount of exposure. I happened to be living in the London Borough of Hackney at the time, from the very end of the 1990s into the 2000s and, as a result, many of Tom Hunter's locations became very familiar to me, with just a faint, occasional sense of our paths crossing, with Hunter, no doubt completely unaware, several, many steps ahead. At the time I was still working out what kind of artist I wanted to be, but very quickly painting became predominant, although in 2000 this wasn’t entirely clear, and in recent years photographic processes in their own right have become more important once again. I hadn’t studied painting at degree level, studying printmaking instead; after art college I pursued painting as this seemed the easiest route at the time, something I could do in my rented room with the minimum amount of equipment (and cost), not needing a workshop, making do without a studio. 

Contact sheet, Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Ic with Ilford HP5 Plus

The architecture of the kitchen of the rented house in which I was living at the time allowed me to create a very similar composition to Hunter’s photograph, with a large window to the left over the sink providing just the right kind of diffused light, similar to Vermeer’s original and Tom Hunter’s version. There was space, under the stairs by the back door, to stand far enough back to take the photographs. I think I had planned to combine a number of photographs together to make the digital image to work from for the painting: this allowed me to select from different shots, and combine these to make something closer to Vermeer’s painting. At the time, I imagined this to be like working with photography as a painter works, but, perhaps, this was more to do with not having the confidence to achieve what I wanted in a single photograph itself (I had been much taken by Jeff Wall’s working processes at the time, with pieces such as The Flooded Grave impressing me, although it’s very clear, practically, as to why that work could not be made as a single photograph). Unable to ignore the fact that this was a kitchen, I chose to depict the mundane action of drying dishes, with the light itself standing in or conferring any sense of a moment of the sublime, a contrast to Tom Hunter’s understated photograph given a sense of affect through its title. I did originally call my work After Tom Hunter After Vermeer.

Contact sheet, 35mm Ilford XP2 Super

Returning to the original Photoshop file, I discovered that, on closer inspection, it wasn’t really finished: good enough to paint from, I hadn’t needed to ensure a level of finish as the digital file wasn’t to be the end result, but I was still surprised at the lack of care and attention to its editing. It had been made from scans of photographic prints rather than negatives: at the time, I had no access to negative scanning, nor a darkroom to make my own prints. The photographs were taken on medium format and 35mm negatives (from my Ikoflex twin-lens reflex and a Praktica BCA SLR: the strap for the Praktica can actually be seen in the final image, hanging down from being placed on the stovetop, just visible at the edge of the doorframe), but, working from small lab prints, the difference between the formats was probably negligible. This was still essentially a pre-digital world, photographically at least: the medium format film, Ilford HP5 Plus, was developed at a branch of Jessops that used to be in Moorgate; the 35mm XP2 Super went to Tesco on Bishopsgate, opposite Liverpool Street Station: the supermarket used a Kodak lab, and both were a convenient stop on my way to and from my part-time job on the other side of London Bridge. There was probably no consideration to use colour: black and white has a certain connotation of the ‘photographic’, historically situated of course, and a equivalence to the black and white photocopy from the book on Vermeer (with an incidental association to David Hockney’s approach in Secret Knowledge, reproducing paintings in black and white to emphasise their ‘optical’ look which the photocopy achieves). Opening the .psd file after twenty years, this had been saved with some separate layers (there were six layers, but with layers named Layer 8 and Layer 9, others had clearly been merged at the time), making it a little easier to edit the file to achieve what I hoped to be an acceptable a level of finish, neglected twenty years earlier. The original had been printed at 8x10 inches for the painting, smaller than A4 size; I was fortunate in that the curator found the image file to be sufficient in quality at double the size to include in the accompanying programme. Although I still had the original negatives I had been reluctant to remake the image from scratch–although I might have wanted to–and the re-edited digital file was printed for exhibition. I did scan the negatives later, and found that many of the frames were marred by motion blur or were poorly focused, possibly confirming my instinctive lack of confidence over getting it ‘right’ in a single shot.

The Vermeer exhibition opened around the start of the new academic year; I had hoped to go at the Christmas break (and was also hoping to be able to afford to do so too), which would have been around this time last year, to see the restored Vermeer, and to experience a work of mine on display in Dresden, reflecting on its afterlife as something made many years ago for quite different purposes. The emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus meant that the exhibition shut to the public in November, shortly followed by UK nationals being prevented from travelling to Germany. Although 'Johannes Vermeer: Vom Innenhalten' closed at the start of this year, as scheduled, the accompanying programme display was extended into April 2022. Conditions sufficiently improved for travel into Europe in the spring, and I booked to do so in April, just before the extended display was due to finish.

The day before I left London for Dresden, I discovered that the accompanying exhibition in which my photograph had featured had already been taken down, short of the scheduled close its extended display, to clear the way for the accompanying programme for the next exhibition. This was 'Edward Hopper: Die inner und die äußere Welt (Inner and Outer Worlds)', opening a week after we were due to leave. In the Café Algarotti where the accompanying programme had been, I photographed my hand holding a mobile phone showing an image of this display–the image at the top of this post–no longer there by the time I had travelled to Dresden. The image within the image is too small to see my work, the framed picture on the right-hand side, disappearing behind the glare on the glass from the windows opposite, perhaps appropriate. Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window was absent, so I did not get to see the restored painting either; the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister did have his Procuress on display, an earlier painting, where aspects of Vermeer’s particular stylistic approaches remain yet to be worked through, but the still life element of the painting equals that of many of Vermeer’s paintings in his mature style. The blue-and-white Westerwald stoneware jug is painted in sharp focus, existing in an isolated plane in depth, while the figures appear just out of focus, painted with some passages of incredibly thick paint, with barely any sharp outlines, the edges diffused, suggestive of a shallow depth of field from a camera obscura. The foreground carpet and fur provide a means to push the rest of the composition back away from the picture plane as well as hiding any compositional problems of how to resolve exactly how the figures are spaced around the table that the jug and glass are resting upon.

Recalling the kitchen of twenty years earlier, and making of that picture, the architecture in the apartment where we were staying in Dresden had an incidental affinity to Vermeer’s space: a window at right angles to the  kitchen worktop, admitted perfectly diffused light, picking out a kettle, some bread, with a heavy curtain casting a chair and a table into foreground shadow, coming together in a composition, photographed on colour film this time.


'Dresden', Zodel Baldalux with Fuji Pro 400H


Sources/Further reading

Monday, 12 December 2022

127 Day December 2022

Baby Ikonta with cut-down Rollei Superpan

Despite neglecting this blog for a few months now, I couldn't not observe last week's 127 Day. I used the Baby Ikonta again, but had just a couple of rolls of Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film cut to 127 size, and a short off-cut from a previously-cut-down roll of Rollei Superpan 200 (when cutting down 120 film to 127, the length of the 120 roll is longer than that needed for 127, meaning that with every cut down roll of 120, there's a remainder of film long enough for 5-6 'half'-frames on the '16-on' format); the image above is from the beginning of the short roll which shows that I hadn't accurately lined up the cut end of the film with the start of the numbers on the backing paper. The frames on the Superpan film were hand-held; the Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film when used as a negative film has a workable ISO of 2. I took most of these photographs in the Victoria & Albert Museum, without a tripod, placing the camera on any level and stable surface I could find that might provide an interesting viewpoint, mostly parapets and benches. I did take one frame, handheld outside, at (I think) 1/10th at f3.5 (the image of Second World War bomb damage to the museum's exterior; another photograph taken outside with this film was made placing the camera on a brick wall).

Baby Ikonta with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film

On a winter's day, the light levels in the museum are often quite low: exposure times were between 8 seconds and approximately 1 minute. When I developed the film using PQ Universal, it was clear that I could have bracketed more, and, possibly at longer times, the film does exhibit some reciprocity law failure. Scanning the negatives, there was a lot of digital 'spotting' to do: the extremely clear shadow areas show up any specks of dust or dirt incredibly well. The blue-sensitive high-contrast nature of the film also shows how the daylight entering the galleries from skylights caused the floor appearing in some of the frames to appear very bright in comparison to almost everything else in the image, with the exception of some of the plaster casts (such as Michelangelo's David). 

Baby Ikonta with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film

There was also a denser band along one side of one roll of this film, which I haven't found the cause of, but this may be fogging due to cutting the film down by hand under safelights in an insufficiently-dark darkroom, with something partially shading the film. I did think that this could be due to not using enough chemistry when developing, but usually this would show up as a pattern with the image of bubbles from the surface of the developer. This line can be seen to the left of the cast of the architectural façade in the image below.

Baby Ikonta with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film

The Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film may also have benefitted from flashing before exposure to raise the shadow values, perhaps something to remember for January's 127 Day. The Rollei Superpan film was less problematic (despite not being taped at quite the right place to the backing paper), but I did use Kodak HC-110 to develop the film, having previously tested this with Rodinal, and worked out a time/temperature/dilution regime to get the best results for my own approach, which I haven't done with HC-110, merely taking the Massive Dev Chart's single recommendation: 6 minutes at dilution B, 1+31 from concentrate.

Baby Ikonta with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film

Baby Ikonta with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film

Baby Ikonta with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film

Baby Ikonta with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film

Baby Ikonta with Rollei Superpan 200

Baby Ikonta with Rollei Superpan 200

Baby Ikonta with Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film