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Processing 120 film with excessive curl

Processing 120 film with excessive curl in the film base

When you have just 5 or 6cm of film unrolled from the backing, pinch the very top centre leading edge of the film with finger and thumb of one hand and with the other holding the film reel and film roll, pull the leading edge of film under the entrance lips into the very first reel track. (Do not cut the corners of the leading film edge as this will make loading in this reel more difficult with a curling film).Processing 120 film with excessive curling can cause the film to jam or be damaged when loading into spiral reels for tank development. The following is a description of how I load 120 film with excessive curl into a daylight film tank for processing. Obviously all the steps shown must be completed in total darkness, ie in a darkroom or using a changing bag. I suggest you try this on a practice film before you try loading an important film.

I have been processing 120 films for several decades. In that time I have used stainless steel reels, Paterson reels and my current favourites, the Jobo duo reels shown here. These “newer” Jobo reels are made of white plastic rather than the earlier clear plastic reels. Unlike Paterson, Jobo reels do not have any ball bearings at the film loading mouth to engage the film edges. Unlike other reels, Jobo have two indented reel edges, one on opposite sides of the reel, where my finger is pointing. This is important as it allows the films edge to be contacted by your fingers within that small range of indent.

In a darkroom or change bag collect all the items necessary to start film loading. You will need daylight film tank and top, the white plastic film reel with its black central column and of course the roll of film.

Processing 120 film with excessive curl in the film base

In total darkness, tear the thin paper tab securing the exposed roll and begin to unroll the backing paper away from the film spool.

In total darkness, tear the thin paper tab securing the exposed roll and begin to unroll the backing paper from the film spool.

After about 10 to 15cm of backing paper is unrolled, the loose end of film will begin to curl into a small tight roll. The film is thicker than the paper backing and is firmer, so you will feel the difference between the two. Unless touching the very first of last 2cm of film, always handle the film at its edges.

After about 10 to 15cm of backing paper is unrolled, the loose end of film will begin to curl into a small roll. The film is thicker than the paper backing and is firmer, so you will feel the difference between the two. Unless touching the very first of last 2cm of film, always handle the film at its edges. (Yes what you see below is the pink emulsion of real, undeveloped film)

Notice how the film below is already curling in on itself to form a tight shiny roll. This action can make 120 and thinner 220 films particularly troublesome to load at times without scratching or jamming in the reels. The degree of curl will vary from film to film, brand to brand,  and manufacturers may change the polymer base without notice.

Notice how the film below is already curling in on itself to form a tight shiny roll. This action can make 120 and thinner 220 films particularly troublesome to load at times without scratching. The degree of curl will vary from film to film, brand to brand, and manufacturers may change the polymer base without notice.

When you have just 5 or 6cm of film unrolled from the backing, pinch the very top centre leading edge of the film with the finger and thumb of one hand and with the other holding the film reel and film roll,  pull the leading edge of film under the entrance lips into the very first reel track. (I do not recommend cutting the corners of the leading film edge as this will make loading in this reel more difficult with a curling film).

When you have just 5 or 6cm of film unrolled from the backing, pinch the very top centre leading edge of the film with finger and thumb of one hand and with the other holding the film reel and film roll, pull the leading edge of film under the entrance lips into the very first reel track. (Do not cut the corners of the leading film edge as this will make loading in this reel more difficult with a curling film).

Again using finger and thumb to grab the leading centre edge of film and pull the film into the reel past the indents, whilst holding the main film body and backing in place with the other hand.


Continue pulling the film around as far as you can. You will have to unroll some of the backing paper from time to time to free up the film so it will enter the reel freely.  You can let go of the main film roll once you have a good 10 to 15cm of film in the reel  as this should be sufficient to hold it.

Continue pulling the film around as far as you can. You will have to unroll some of the backing paper from time to time to free up the film so it will enter the reel freely. You can let go of the main film roll once you have a good 10 to 15cm of film in the reel as this should be sufficient to hold it.
Paterson reel users will be familiar with the backwards and forwards ratcheting movement of the reel halves to load film. A similar affect on the Jobo reels can be achieved using index fingers on each side of the reel at the indent points, as you alternatively advance and then hold the film.

Paterson reel users will be familiar with the backwards and forwards ratcheting movement reel halves to load film. A similar affect can be achieved using index fingers on each side of the Jobo reel at the indent points to alternatively advance and then hold the film.

I do not recommend this method with excessively curly 120 film as it is likely to pop the film edge out of the film guide channel, causing the film to jam.

I do not recommend this method with excessively curly 120 film as it is likely top pop the film edge out of the correct chanel in the spiral, causing the film to jam.

Instead, hold the reel perfectly still. With a finger and thumb placed at opposite sides of the film indent, push/feed  the film with light pressure in the circular direction of the film guide channels. You can only push/feed  the film the circular length of the indent at any one time.

With a finger and thumb placed at opposite sides of the film indent, push the film with light pressure in the circular direction of the reel channels.
Keep repeating this pushing /feeding action, it is surprising quick to load a whole film. The even pressure on both side of the indent prevent the film from popping out of the guide channels.

You can only move a small amount of film the length of the indent at any one time, but it is surprising quick to load a whole film. The even pressure on both side of the indent prevent the film from popping out of the guide channels.

From time to time release more backing paper away from the film and reel to make it easier to push / feed the film into the reel. You can feel the film edge traveling deeper into the reel at the indent.

Keep push / feeding the film until you come to the end of the film where it is taped to the backing paper. Carefully tear the backing paper from the film, taking care not to kink the film or dislodge it from the reel.


Leave the sticky tape on the film and fold its sticky edge down onto the under side of the film.

Push/feed the remainder of the film right into the reel so that the taped edge is under the guide lips.

You are just about done. Load the film reel and central column into the daylight tank. Place the lid on top and secure. Turn on the lights or remove the tank from the change bag. You are now ready for processing 120 film in the tank under normal room light.

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Cape to Cape Spring time ramble

Cape to Cape Spring time ramble

Cape to Cape Spring time ramble. Spent the last week in the south west and Spring is definitely out. I was doing a few coastal walks, the weather was wonderfully changeable, rainy and blustery one day, then calm, fine mornings with light wisps of high cloud the next. Just the sort of conditions I like most as it offers a wide range of photographic opportunities, from different light qualities to varying subject matter. On my way back one fine morning I sheltered for a while under these peppermint trees which were laden with white trails of bloom. There was the added bonus of a small brook and the sound of running water. So nice to see some water flowing in the brooks and streams this year compared to the dryness of last year. It’s a great time of the year to get out and do a bush walk, ramble, hike or what ever you choose to call it.

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Don’t overthink it Ignore the desire to control

Don't overthink it

Don’t overthink it. I have been playing around with my 35mm film camera lately, taking it with me on my daily travels. It’s an activity which I have found both challenging and rejuvenating. Unlike using the 4×5 where everything is slower, more contemplated and on a tripod, finding images on the move pushes me to the other extreme. I fumble as I try to control all the variables that rapidly present themselves, and then, in a leap of faith,  I ignore this desire to control and let go. Fluid moments form and disintegrate before your eyes. There is so little time to process in your mind what you are seeing before another image appears. I think that’s part of the buzz I get after developing the film, finding those little surprises on the contact sheets. For a split second did I really see that?

 

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Fire on the Landscape Canning River Perth

Fire on the Landscape

Fire on the Landscape. Last week, with strong gusting winds,  fire has once again touched the landscape in several locations around Perth. Whilst helicopter water bombers battled the severe fire at Roleystone, where tragically over 70 homes were lost, fixed wing aircraft dropped water on a blaze in the Canning Regional Park. Thanks to the firefighting crews, the fire was contained by the evening.  Logic would have it that fire should travel in the same direction as the prevailing winds, but when I took a walk through the burnt area it became clear that the fire had not only jumped the river, but traveled backwards on itself, upwind against the gusting easterly winds, to ignite unexpected areas. That gives an idea of the ferocity of the winds created locally by the fire’s intensity. It’s a sobering reminder that fire continues to be a major force in shaping our landscape, evidenced by our highly flammable vegetation, the charred bark remains on mature trees and the fire dependent reproduction cycles of native plants.  Has the reduced use of fire on the landscape over the past 200 years had the unintended consequence of increasing fire severity and therefore greater risk of destruction of homes and environment? This image was made in an area of the park which I regularly visit as part of a longer term photographic project exploring the seasonal changes and activity within the urbanised setting of the Canning River Regional Park, and was made several days after the fire.

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Fremantle Bridge Pipes film test exposure index 4×5 sheet film

Film tests Pipes Fremantle

Fremantle Bridge pipes as a film test subject to experiment with film speed and contrast. Film tests can be time consuming and generally bore me to tears, but every now and then they are a necessary evil. So to make it a little more interesting I tried to find some local subject matter that had some visual appeal.This image is quite industrial and not my regular subject matter, but was quite suitable for the test I had in mind, and I found the silvery curve of the pipes created an intriguing juxtaposition against the background of formal straight lines.

The scene is high in contrast, from the deep shadows under the bridge to the brightness of the sunlit wall. To retain the bright detail in the far left wall I cut the development, so that I did not have to perform darkroom gymnastics to obtain detail in the final print.  Normally with such a cut to development I would increase the exposure to compensate for film speed loss, but I didn’t do this in this case. On inspection of the contact proof, the negative still held plenty of printable shadow detail, however in making the print it looked  better when I printed these low values down further.

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Liquid Light

south coast western australia

Liquid Light: I was walking back to my campsite late one evening. The clear blue skies of the day had slipped away into a dull metal grey with a light but steady rain of an approaching cold front.

It had been a strenuous day’s walking on the south coast, but otherwise it was uneventful from an image making perspective. Although I usually find plenty of subject matter for my camera, on this day I just couldn’t get the photographic elements to come together in some manageable way. Not to mention that the coastal vegetation was full of ticks, for which I had to check myself continuously, and was one reason why I didn’t stand still long enough to set up my tripod!

Away from the onslaught of ticks I stood for a few minutes near the edge of high granite cliffs. Below me there was the loud sound of air under pressure being rapidly released, punctuated by a spout of water vapour, followed by a long inhaling breath. A few seconds later a humpback whale swam leisurely by,  just a few metres out from the cliff’s edge. As it passed underneath me I watched it follow the cliff line and then disappear.

Braving the ticks, I made my way across the low bush towards a four wheel drive track used by local fisherman. The rain, now pooling along the track, caught my attention as it reflected the glow of the evening sky. It was if the light was seeping out of the ground. I quickly set up my camera and made the exposure, the light fading rapidly, before a deluge of rain hit.

That night in my tent I heard the whales calling to each other as they swam into the bay.

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Groundhogs Day

Jarrah blossom and seed pods, Western Australia

Jarrah tree blossoms Urban Landscape Perth Polaroid Type 55.  I often rise early before sunrise. I like to think its because I am a dedicated landscape photographer, but truth is this: the cat has me trained so well to let her out at that time in the morning it has become a habit. When I am at home the morning starts with a brewed cup of coffee. As the predawn light softly filters through the kitchen window I survey the sky for a whisp of cloud or any other clues as to what the day is bringing. At this time of year, Perth summer weather can be very predictable, just like in Groundhogs Day. Today was no different, the cloudless grey sky was slowly turning blue and a gentle but persistent easterly breeze was coming off the scarp, just like yesterday.

I went into the backyard and stood under the jarrah and marri trees with my cup of coffee. Above me in the trees I could hear the industrious sound of insects buzzing. Looking up, the jarrah tree was heavy with tiny yellow blossoms, which stood out in the soft predawn light. With the extent of its flowering I wondered why I had not noticed earlier? During the day when the sun is blazing in the cloudless summers skies, these soft yellow flowers become almost invisible, lost amongst the bright light and glare.

I got out the 4×5, and focused in tight on the tiny flowers and a cluster of seed pods. The magnification was life size on the film and with every breath of wind the pods and flowers jumped in and out of my ground glass viewing frame. Working at this magnification depth of focus is very shallow and I used some back tilt on the camera to help bring the foreground seed pods into the plane of focus. For just a moment the breeze stopped. In a rush I placed a single sheet of Polaroid Type 55 PN film into the camera back, set the shutter for 1/2 second at f8. Both these settings were a compromise to sharpness, but it was all I could get. To make matters worse I could hear the leaves in the tops of the trees rustle in the breeze as I pressed the cable release to make the exposure.

I like to process my Polaroid in the darkroom, preserving the negative and clearing it in sodium sulphite solution whilst in complete darkness. Most my Polaroid prints are overexposed as my aim is to obtain the negative, which I expose at the slower 32ISO rather than the recommended print speed of 50ISO.

The first rays of sunlight began hitting the blossoms, the sky turning a bright pale blue. It was going to be a fine summer’s day in Perth. What remained of my coffee had gone cold, but at least I had awakened my senses as to what was happening in my own backyard and saw something anew. Maybe it wasn’t going to be another Groundhogs day after all?

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Be tenacious.

Be tenacious Cape Naturaliste, Western Australia.

Be tenacious. These wind swept branches are an example of how tenacious life really is, even in adverse situations. With its roots wedged between massive granite boulders, the sheer force exerted by millions of minuscule living cells is sufficient, over a long period of time, to lift and displace these rocks just enough to allow this tree to grow. And given its size it has successfully adapted and overcome environmental extremes such as no soil, prevailing winds (sometimes at gale force), salt spray, diminishing rainfall and intense sun exposure.

I can only guess how old it is, but this is one of a few larger specimens that sprawl out for several metres over the boulders at Cape Naturaliste.

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Studio Gallery Yallingup

Studio Gallery Yallingup

The Studio Gallery Yallingup, has just opened this week with its official launch on Saturday  October 2nd, 2010, 6 to 8pm. If you would like to attend, RSVP to Lizzy – download the invite for details.

Amongst the artworks on display I was invited to exhibit several of my large format black and white prints as part of the gallery’s opening. The Studio Gallery is one of the region’s most modern purpose built galleries with a studio and an adjoining bistro. Located towards the Yallingup end of the Capes, it is well worth a visit if you are in the region.

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IRIS AWARDS Semi Finalists Carlo Margaret River

IRIS Awards Carlo Margaret River Bronica 645 Kodak Tri-X. Back in 1987, I started a personal photographic project: photographing some of my family members and relatives around Margaret River. I didn’t set out with any particular plan such as a start and finish date, or a wish list of images, as perhaps you would for a commercial project. It simply took shape as I visited the region, usually several times per year. It depended solely on what opportunities presented themselves, at the time of those visits, for photography. Naturally, at some point during my visit I would ask if they would mind if I made some photographs whilst we talked. In some instances, there was only ever one photographic session, the confluence of opportunities and circumstances never re-emerging. Luckily in those situations I got what I thought was a pleasing image, so mission accomplished.

When I first photographed Carlo, above, he was already 83 years of age. I would often find him out in the paddocks, fossicking around for wood burls or looking for field mushrooms when in season.  Before his passing, at nearly 90 years of age, I had the pleasure of making several memorable images.

Most times I used my 4×5 field camera for the portraits, even leaving 4×5 Polaroid prints with my subjects after my visit, which was always a nice way to say thank you. Other times I used my 645 medium format camera, such as in the image above, which was easier to handle in rapidly changing circumstances. I used Kodak Tri X for both roll and sheet film, metering was all hand held, both film and prints hand processed by me.

I entered this image in the recent Perth Centre of Photography 2010 IRIS Awards, a national photographic portrait prize, some months back, and then actually forgot all about it. Unfortunately it didn’t make the judges’ selection for the final exhibition, but it did apparently make it through as one of about 30 semi-finalist images, according to a PCP flicker posting. How many of these made the final show I don’t know.

I only became aware of the above posting quite by accident, I certainly wasn’t contacted by PCP. Whilst on the subject of the Perth Centre of Photography, isn’t it time some of the digital savvy members amongst the PCP brought the website up to a professional standard? These days it’s not hard, difficult or expensive. The current PCP website has been under construction for far too long, which is farcical if they are a “centre of photography” running “national” awards.  Given that Perth Centre of Photography receives funding from WA’s Department  of Arts & Culture to run two national awards (IRIS and CLIP Awards), it would be nice to see an up to date and informative web site about the awards’ results, both past and present. It certainly would be a more inclusive way, for people outside of Perth of staying informed of the results, after all it’s meant to be a national award.