China

Learn from this mistake... My adventure with Ilford PAN F and a jetlag. by Cristian Geelen

Happy new year to you all!

First blog post of 2019. And let me start off by saying that I appreciate every single one of you that takes the time to read my articles.

Thinking in soundtracks…

I was supposed to write this earlier in the day but I had a severe case of procrastination and I finally bought magnum contact sheets. Than my monkey mind got tricked in by looking at my scans again because if all the master could make it look that beautiful back in the day. I should’t have a problem with all this modern equipment!

Well…

I actually don’t have too much problems with scanning. Except of those pesky Vietnam negatives. Did some tweaks on my more recent scans I took on an estate close by. And my self confidence was restored.

Yes! I did not suck as hard as I was thinking I was!

So with those tweaks. Got my Vietnam negatives in the scanner again. And they still are the same…

That triggered a track from the band Down - Learn from this mistake

I always seem to think in lyrics or soundtracks or whatever if I do something. Don’t know why. But that is just how my brain works.

How it happened…

Everything went well actually! I found film in Ho Chi Minh. Got through customs with a hand check. In China as well as Vietnam. And got the film home safely.

Like I told you in the last blog post, the security officers treated me so nice. Hand checks were never that easy. So if you are a security agent at Chinese or Vietnamese customs. You are appreciated to treating this film photographer so nicely.

So I came home…

And being as excited as I always am I immediately got to work. Backed-Up all of my digital files. Threw the into Lightroom. And of I went.

Same goes for my analog shots…

I do all of the processing myself…

Processing yourself is way more fun than bringing it to a lab. And with the amount of rolls I have shot I am getting quite proficient in it.

You have so many advantages like, being more cost effective, in charge of your own quality, experimentation, magic. (Yes developing and printing analog film really is magic…)

But because I am so proficient my ego got the best of me…

I apparently had a jet-lag!

So that means I am human after all…

Into my dark bag I went…

I popped everything into my dark bag. Rolled the films on the spools. Got it in the Patterson tanks safely without light. That part… Went well… Like it should!

Than the developing started. Mixed my chemicals according to the massive dev chart.

BTW! I haven’t mentioned it in this article. But the film I just in Vietnam was Ilford PAN 400.

I love Ilford.

And unfortunately they did not have HP5+. Or at least I could’t find it…

Anyways. Back to the story…

What happened during developing is that because I was so tired and almost fell asleep I mixed up the order of the treatment. After I was done I have gotten in the fixer first and than the stop. It should be the other way around…

I still had and image but the grain was bigger and harsher, and there were some glows over the film. And weird other stuff.

I never would have have taken a risk normally. And especially not if it was work for a client. But somehow this one time I slipped up.

So why write about it?

So why write about it huh… Well. If everything went well in life we never would have gong any better. You need to indeed learn from your mistakes. Even if at the moment a situation doesn’t look import, in this case being tired. It would never make me a better developer. Or a photographer!

Also appreciation…

We are so lucky now with all the digital stuff. Writing this article with Magnum contact sheets next to me gives me the realization how much of a craftsman all of them were, and are.

We all hopefully know that a good photograph is not made by the camera. Even if you have the most advanced device ever. And that thing in your pocket is no slough either. You still need vision and creativity to make an image. Composition is everything…

But I am more trying to say is that everyone in that book, or even wasn’t in that book was so more aware of what they were doing. Craftsmanship and thinking things though were the order of the day. While the internet now is complaining about no dual memory card slots in the new Nikon Z1, they just had one roll. And for 36 exposures the same set ISO (ASA). And after that when it got send back, it was all in the hands of the gods. Than a lab technician came into play. The list goes on and on…

A bit more technical…

If you are curious how I developed it…

My recipe for this bunch was:

Rodinal 1 to 50.

Ilford Ilfostop 1 to 19.

Ilford Rapid Fixer 1 to 4.

Developing time 24 minutes since I pushed the Ilford PAN 400 to 1600. All of that on 20 degrees Celsius.

I always love to push my film. And this time I chose Rodinal. Other times I use Ilford DDX. Actually. That is now my preferred developer…

And now for the photographs…

Cris! They look like crap! Well… Yes, if they would have looked pretty this story would have been a lot shorter haha. They are shot on a Nikon FM2n with a 50mm f 1.6 AI. 50mm is totally not my focal length… But it is what it is. My 35mm was on my digital one. And I always travel minimal. But I immediately got my hands as soon as I got home on a new old 35mm AI that will replace the 50mm.

For comparison. There are some later developed photographs. Same method. Only not screwing up.

But now… A few minutes later when I am looking at them again they actually are not that bad. At least aesthetically. But you have to ignore the tint shifts and other weird spots you see haha. And I seem to have a memory they looked worse when they came out than they look now.

Here there Vietnam photographs. (Navigate by pressing the buttons on side).

As you can see there are spots and tint shifts. The inversion process was like always. Smooth. And right on time.

Same process. But not get the order wrong. Images are way more clearer and sharper.

Conclusion.

People say that black and white is the most forgiving format to develop. And is less prone to mistakes. Of course they are right in comparison to color film. But that does not mean they are bulletproof.

You still need to get your hours in and fine tune you whole process.

Take your time…

You only have one shot with your negatives. So give them the attention they need…