Monthly Archives: Mar 2016
The Wonderful World Of Rolleiflex TLR Photography: Loading Film By Dan Wagner For many photographers, one of the most daunting tasks is loading a Rolleiflex TLR camera. While not very difficult, when approached haphazardly, one can feel a bit like the proverbial one-armed wallpaper hanger. Photos by John R. Harris My method is to simply turn the camera upside down while it’s still hanging from its neck strap, open the rear door so it falls away from me, and begin the loading process. The advantage of this approach is that it may be employed while walking, without the need to set the camera on a flat surface. If there’s an exposed roll of film in the camera, I use one hand to prevent the film from unrolling, and my other hand to pull out the spring-loaded spool release. I then remove the roll, lick the adhesive-backed band to seal the roll tight, and secure the roll in my camera bag. Although the sealed roll is light-tight, one must still take precautions because the only thing preventing light from reaching the top and bottom edges of the film are the overhanging plastic ends of the spool and the slight overlap of the paper wrapped around the film. That’s why always keeping the roll tight is so important. Preparing to Load a Rolleiflex TLR In a Rolleiflex TLR, 120 film, also referred to as 2¼-film, provides 12 square-format exposures. 220 film is roughly twice as long as 120 film and doubles the number of exposures to 24. Unless your camera is equipped with a 12/24 switch, it will only accept 120 film. Furthermore, owing to the digital age, most manufacturers have discontinued making 220. Additionally, if you process your own film, you would need 220-size reels, as well. Rolls of film are manufactured with a length of film and lightproof paper sandwiched around a plastic spool. The leading edge of the film is taped to the lightproof paper. The inside of the paper is black to prevent light from reaching the film, and also to prevent any light inside the camera from potentially fogging the film during exposure. Numbers are printed on the outside of the paper for use with cameras that feature a round window covered with a dark red filter. With these types of cameras, users look through the window and advance the film until they see the number corresponding to the next exposure. Fortunately, later model Rolleiflex cameras have a sensor underneath the first film roller to automatically signal the transport mechanism when film passes over it. After the film is advanced to the first frame with the crank on the right side of the camera, the counter will display the number 1, and the crank will no longer rotate forward. With the film advanced to 1, the crank is wound one revolution backward to cock the shutter. The process is to shoot, then wind forward to the next exposure, and wind backward to cock the shutter. Rolleiflex transport mechanisms have a little play; so don’t worry if the spacing between the exposures on your negatives is slightly uneven. How to Load a Rolleiflex TLR Before the film can be advanced to the first frame, it has to be carefully loaded. When loading a Rolleiflex camera, one needs both a fresh roll of film and an empty film spool. Unlike a 35mm roll of film that is rewound back into its canister, a 120 roll of film is wound forward from the full roll onto the empty take-up spool. So, with the camera suspended upside down and the exposed roll of film removed: 1. Move the empty spool to the take-up chamber where the exposed roll of film recently resided. Once this is done, remove the paper band securing your new roll of unexposed film. Be sure to grasp the roll firmly so it doesn’t unroll or loosen. The paper band must be removed entirely, or leftover pieces may find their way on the inner side of the lens or film surface and result in ruined shots. 2. Insert the roll into the empty film chamber. This chamber will have a silver piece of curved metal, referred to as the brake. The brake helps maintain even pressure on the film as it unrolls. Take the paper film leader and slip it under the first metal roller and insert the tip into the slot in the empty take-up spool. Throughout this process, use a finger to maintain tension on the roll of film so it doesn’t loosen. The first metal roller is the only roller that the film goes under. And as mentioned previously, this is the roller that has the film-sensing mechanism beneath it. 3. With the tip of the paper leader in the take-up spool, wind the crank slowly forward. The goal is to make sure the leader doesn’t slip out. Should it slip out, simply repeat the process. It’s only necessary to get a single revolution on the take-up spool. 4. Once this is achieved, close the film door and lock it shut with the sliding mechanism. 5. Use the crank to advance to the first frame, take one reverse crank to cock the shutter, and you’re ready to shoot. The term “cock the shutter” refers to tensioning the shutter’s spring mechanism so it’s ready to release and open when you trip the shutter. Some photographers may wonder whether or not it’s okay to leave the shutter cocked and under tension for long periods of time. While on some cameras this may not be recommended, I have not found it to be a problem with Rolleiflex TLRs. You can even change the shutter speed with no ill effect. Underneath the shutter release is a sliding lock to prevent the shutter from tripping if you inadvertently bump it. The downside is that one may forget they locked the shutter and wind up missing shots. This happens to me several times per month. As some photographers may take days, weeks, or even longer to finish a roll of film, it’s a good idea to set the film speed on the dial on the lower left side of the camera as a reminder. This has the added benefit of communicating the film speed to the coupled exposure meter. The film speed dial reads ASA instead of ISO because at the time the camera was manufactured, film speeds conformed to the American Standards Association and not the International Organization for Standardization. No matter—although the name changed, the numerical setting remains the same. To help remember what type of film is loaded, many photographers tape the film band or packaging, which has the film type written on it, to the camera. Selecting a Type of Film This brings us to choice of film. Rolleiflex TLRs render both color and black-and-white quite well, so it’s really a matter of personal preference and practical considerations. Personally, I like shooting Kodak T-Max 400 or Tri-X 400 and developing in T-Max developer. And for color, which I seldom shoot, I use Kodak Portra 400. I shoot mostly black-and-white because one of my goals is to build a body of work with an aesthetic consistency. The reason I shoot primarily 400-speed film is that it helps me get a usable negative at 1/30-second and f/2.8 in many low–light situations. It also gives me 1/125-second at f/8.0 in shade or overcast light. In sunny scenes with black-and-white, I use a 1.5 yellow filter (darkens the sky), for an exposure of 1/250-second at f/11.5, and with color I use a 2.0 neutral density filter at 1/250 and f/11.0. The great thing about a Rolleiflex TLR is that, at distances of 10 feet or closer, one can use smaller apertures such as f/11.5 and still achieve pleasing out-of-focus areas and subject-background separation. By using the same film speed, knowing the correct exposure is easier. With only 12 shots on a roll of 120, photographers are forced to not only economize, but to pre-edit by deciding if a shot is even worth taking. Before shooting an event, such as a race or wedding that can’t be repeated, it’s important to take note of how many shots are left on a roll. If the roll is almost finished, then a photographer needs to decide whether or not to blow through the remaining frames in order to have a fresh roll loaded for when the action begins. Film management and loading can be made more efficient by: • Saving time by removing foil film wrappers in advance. • Remembering to completely remove the paper band when loading a fresh roll of film, lest part of it becomes lodged between the lens and film and interferes with light reaching the film. • Keeping a bendable drinking straw in your camera bag in case part of the adhesive paper strip at the end of a roll breaks off and gets stuck behind the film pressure plate. Blowing through the straw will make it possible to retrieve the paper. • For fast and convenient film loading, the easiest method is to turn the camera upside down while it hangs from the neck strap; open the rear door away from one’s body; remove the exposed film; move the empty spool to the take-up side; and then reload. • Worth noting is that when using an Ever-Ready case, the neck strap is disconnected from the camera and attached to metal strap lugs on the case. The downside to this is that when removing the camera from the case, it won’t have the added security of being attached to a strap. “The Wonderful World of Rolleiflex TLR Photography” is a three-part series. Please click here for “Part I: Buying a Used Rolleiflex TLR” and “Part 3: Street Photography "
Scanning and Editing Color Negative Film By Alex Burke A lot of people have come to me over the various online photo sharing sites - especially flickr - asking me how I get the colors the way I do on my scanning and editing colour negative film. People have been most curious about my color negative film shots, particularly the ones taken on Kodak Ektar film. For an overview of the various film types I use, see my blog post here. I've been wanting to do this for a long time to help everyone out and here it finally is! There will be a lot of photos and a lot of text, and if everything goes right I will help a few people out. At the very end I will have a Photoshop file with all the layers for you to play around with and learn! Disclaimer: This is not necessarily the right or only way to do anything, this is just an outline of the general workflow I use. The photograph - This image was taken in rural Pennsylvania last month about an hour after sunrise. The light filtering through the trees was still very warm and pleasant, and there was a hint of haze in the air making for a wonderful sense of atmosphere. The leaves had just sprouted on the trees and were very green in person. I planned on cropping the image to a panorama while framing it, but I don't crop an image until the very last step. All of these things are important to keep in mind as you scan and edit the film. The image was shot on Kodak Ektar 4x5" film, and the exposure was 1 second at f32. The film was developed at home with a C-41 press kit. Scanning - First off, I want to say that scanners don't really seem to care how your film looks. They don't know where you were, what you were photographing, or what your vision is. They just want to turn that sheet of film into data and they do it well enough. For those of you who don't know, I photograph primarily with a large format 4x5 inch camera that produces wonderfully large negatives with incredible detail. The film records all the details and rich colors, but it's up to us to pull those colors back out of the image after it is scanned. Epson Scan with no color corrections I use an Epson V700 flatbed scanner for all of my scans. Of course it is not as good as a high-end drum scanner, but it is a fairly popular home-use scanner among large format photographers and great results can be had from it. I start by using the Epson Scan software that comes with the scanner in "professional mode," which just means that you have more access to features and color correction options while scanning. I make a preview scan with the film type set to "Color Negative Film." You will end up with some very cyan colored rough scans. This is more or less just an inverse view of the orange-brown colored sheet of film. Not very pretty to look at. I click the "Configuration" box (marked above with the red arrow) and then go to the color tab and click on the "Continuous Auto Exposure" checkbox, set the slider to low (see image below) and click "OK". All I want at this point is to get the image looking a little more color-correct without the scanner messing up my image by stealing precious details. Epson Scan with auto color correct Unfortunately, even with the slider set to low, it still manages to clip some of the highlights and shadows. I still use the auto exposure feature because it typically does a good job of getting the colors somewhat right. Now we need to bring back those details that Epson Scan wants to take from us. Click on the levels adjustment button on the left of the screen (see below). Epson Scan Levels Adjustment Now you'll see the histogram and will be able to tell where Epson Scan has clipped the shadows and highlights. We're going to want to make some adjustments to this to make sure we aren't missing any details in the shot. A small adjustment goes a long way (see image below). As a warning, the histogram displayed in Epson Scan does not seem very accurate, and you may decide to not move the right marker all the way to the edge of the graph. If you do, the image will become incredibly dark, and the software will quite often really mess up the colors. For this reason I leave it a little bit away from the edge but the highlights are still safe and not blown out. I move the shadows marker quite a ways past the end of the histogram, I want to be able to set the black point later on. See the image below to get an idea of the adjustments I made on this image. Epson Scan Levels Before and After This image had fairly accurate colors so I didn't mess with them in Epson Scan, but if you need to you can select the various color channels and move them around a bit. Quite often, Epson Scan will add a lot of red to the image when you mess around with the levels adjustment. This can be fixed by sliding the right slider in the red channel just a couple of numbers to the right. No need to get anything perfect yet, we'll save that for Photoshop when we can see the image in full size. Right now we just want a flat, low contrast image with all the highlights and shadows still intact. Go ahead and scan as a *.tiff file. Editing - Now comes the part where we make the image look the way we want. You need to picture the scene as it was and remember how you wanted it to look. With color negative film, there really is no "correct" color. If you were to make an exact inversion of the film it would just be a cyan colored mess. You need to choose the way you want the colors to look, just as someone would when making traditional darkroom prints. A few years ago, I borrowed a digital camera from someone and really enjoyed the easy adjustments that Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) has to offer, especially for simple global color correction. It got me to start opening up my scans in ACR by going to file>open as and selecting "Camera Raw" from the drop down list and then opening the tiff file. If you have Lightroom, it's probably a much better program than ACR. I just use ACR because it's what I have. Use whichever you prefer here. Adobe Camera Raw Before and After There isn't really much rocket science to what I do in ACR. I use the tint and color sliders to help get the colors close. The scene as I remember it was very warm and there was no need to have any blue in the road, so I moved the slider towards the warmer colors and the tint slightly towards the green. Other very handy features in ACR are the "recovery" slider to help with overly bright highlights, "fill light" to bring up the shadows, and the "Graduated filter" button up top. The graduated filter lets you easily adjust parts of an image that need extra contrast, more exposure, or maybe have a slight color cast. Play around with every button in this program. I also use the "vignette" slider in the lens correction tab to help get rid of the the vignette that happens on most wide large format lenses. This image was taken with a longer lens so it didn't really need it. As you can see above, the image is still not very contrasty and I haven't adjusted the saturation at all. Now it's time to open the image into Photoshop and make the final adjustments. Photoshop - The very first thing I do in Photoshop is make a copy of the background layer. I use this layer to remove any dust and scratches using the healing brush tool. After that is done, I move onto luminosity masks. You may or may not be familiar with luminosity masks, but they are a very handy feature in Photoshop. I will only explain them briefly for now, there are many other resources on the internet that can explain them in greater detail for you. Please let me know if I lose you here, I'd be glad to re-word or explain things for you. Luminosity Masks - an important tool for editing Luminosity Masks - By pressing Ctrl+Alt+2, Photoshop will create a selection similar to what you see above. Pixels will be selected based on their brightness, with a pure white pixel being selected 100% and a pure black pixel not being selected at all. Everything in between is selected proportionally based on its brightness. Once you have this selection, I like to start by making a curves layer with it by going to Layer>New adjustment Layer>Curves on the top menu. Now you have a curves layer that will mostly just adjust the highlights in the image. I then Ctrl+Click on the curves Layer to get the same selection again and inverse the selection by going to Select>Inverse on the menu at the top. I then make another curves layer just as I did before with this selection, only now it will mostly adjust the shadows. When you Alt+Click on the image for this new layer, you will see something that looks like the image above-right. This is more or less a black-and-white negative of your image, where any curves adjustment you make will affect white areas the most and black areas the least. Red channel curves adjustment made to the shadows I find that a curves layer that adjusts the shadows is a great way to remove some of the unwanted shadow color casts that film scans tend to have. Ektar likes to have too much red in the shadows, while some of the slide films like Provia will quite often have way too much blue. This has been one of the main keys to getting the colors right on my scans. Once you get the hang of these selections, there are all sorts of things you can do with them. You can use the brush tool to cover part of the mask with black, or use a white brush to increase the area that will be affected by the adjustment layer. You can do a whole lot more that just curves adjustments, using the masks to apply contrast, levels, saturation, vibrance or whatever to a specific part of the image. I you want a particular patch of trees to be brighter, just mask it off and make your adjustment. Really feel free to bring the image back to the way you wanted it to look when you took the photo. Hue/Saturation Layer - I have found this to be a necessary adjustment for color negative films. This image didn't need it very badly because it didn't contain and blue sky but I have found that I typically need to remove a significant amount of cyan from skies to make them look natural. Color negative film really seems to have an excess of cyan, and to be honest it's not my favorite color. I will likely make another tutorial just about this with a different image just to show you what I'm talking about. It's not uncommon for me to adjust the cyan slightly towards blue with the hue slider, and then desaturate it as much as -50. For now, just go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation and play around with it. It is really easy to go over the top with saturation so I like to keep it subtle. Sometimes I will walk away from the screen and come back later to let my eyes re-adjust. Here's the final image! Pennsylvania County Road For now, I think I will turn you all loose with the Photoshop file that has all the layers in it so you can see exactly what I did. It might be the easiest way to illustrate my workflow. If you have any questions about what I did, feel free to ask me in the comments and I'll try to explain or add it to the tutorial. Click the button below to get the .psd file. Download Photoshop File Thanks for looking, I hope this helps some of you out there! Used with kind permission, check out Alex's website, click here. Since the time of writing, Adobe has updated Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop, the sliders in ADC have changed.
Family Portraiture Shoot - Meloney This was a fun impromptu family shoot of personal friends of mine. I have know Meloney and her family for many years and promised her a shoot. Family portraiture is fairly simple to do, those being photographed need to be themselves, relaxed and to simply have fun behind the camera. We are capturing a moment in time that can't be repeated, however, that moment can be returned to in the form of photographs and treasured forever. Meloney's children are very busy, active, excited and fun children to be around, that being said, kids should be kids and left to be who they are. I was able to capture some really special, natural moments that required no effort from my part to capture the very essence of who they are, that they can treasure for time to come. This is the part of photography that I really enjoy, when going to work is fun and not work! My gear I used for this shoot was a Nikon D800e which is great as a studio camera at 36.3mp, and my Nikon D4 which is a great action camera at 16mp, shot outdoors in natural light to achieve the results in the images below. There will be a follow up shoot to this soon, watch this space. Click on the images below to view an enlarged single image. All my images are available for purchase as prints. Digital images can be used under license agreement. Should you wish to purchase or license my images, please click here for more information, so I can assist you with your needs. Should you wish to book a Family Shoot, please click here.
Maternity Shoot - Jewanni It was a great pleasure to have done this maternity shoot in the comforts of my studio. Jewanni and I had a few ideas of how we were going to go about her shoot and what she wanted. Not all of what I suggested was going to work for her, and that didn't matter, as we still got some amazing results. She is a fun person to interact with, both in the studio and off set, which is a really good thing, as both the photographer and model can really express themselves and be themselves, without being a bundle of nerves. It makes the shoot more fun and less work. The best time to do a maternity shoot is from six months until term. I was really fortunate to have completed this shoot in Jewanni's last month, only to find that baby arrived sooner than expected! Jewanni gave birth 3 days later to a healthy baby girl, congrats, and look out for the follow up baby shoot in due course! She is already proving to be a great mom! My gear I used for this shoot was a Nikon D800e which is great as a studio camera at 36.3mp, 2x SB910 AF Speedlight Flash with some natural light filtering through into the studio and 2x Elinchrom Translucent Umbrellas against a white backdrop to achieve the results in the images below. Click on the images below to view an enlarged single image. All my images are available for purchase as prints. Digital images can be used under license agreement. Should you wish to purchase or license my images, please click here for more information, so I can assist you with your needs. Should you wish to book a Maternity Shoot, please click here.