Plustek

Andante - Portrait series of the soul. No 2. - Reham

Andante…

Or in other words… Slow…

A musical term that means slow. And also the name of my portrait series.

I found it on the cover of an vinyl LP record I inherited from my father and the music on it was exactly how I felt. And even represents a side of me. Of course I have a happy side. But my other one is full of romance, love, sadness and melancholy. I embraced it and love it very much.

The name: Symphonie Espagnole, Op. 21 IV. Andante.

I wrote about it in an earlier blog post which you can find here.

Time…

For me it represents time… When you are doing something you like or love and are having a good time it flies by, and when you are going through hardship or have to wait for something it goes as slow as it can be. But time is only to spend once…

That’s why it is so valuable.

Reham…

This portrait series I just want to do by gut feeling. And that is how I choose the person I ask to photograph. I was thinking for a long time about whom I could make my second part of the series with. Than at one moment, I woke up in the morning I was thinking about Reham. I knew I wanted to photograph her for a long time but the puzzle pieces never connected until now.

Reham is a beautiful young soul of Palestinian descent that was born in Syria as a refugee but was unable to reuturn home. From Syria she went to Dubai, Lebanon, Egypt, and Turkey, before eventually ending up here in the Netherlands. Now studying computer science at one of the best universities of our country.

She is one smart cookie.

I’ve met her during a diner named “Diner voor gelukzoekers“ (Diner for fortune seekers) a couple of years a go hosted by Roos. The woman in the first version of this series. Everything is connected.

My process….

So how does that translate to my photography? Well… As you can see in the first one. It is full of people passing by as souls. And in this one… Trying to capture it. This through a medium of analog film instead of digital. A slower process of manual focusing and metering and developing it myself. Also, during that slowness I wanted to capture more…

I wanted to capture her power!

Her heart.

And eventually her soul…

A young powerful woman that is youthful and experienced at the same time. So after a couple of hours wandering through her hometown I think we succeeded. And during the editing process I ended up with four frames which I thought that would show everything perfectly.

What EI I shot it at or which film I used is not important. Except maybe that I always use Ilford for everything. With some exceptions of course. Other than that giving someone a safe space to open up is way more important.

The rest is not only film chemistry, but chemistry between you and the soul you are photographing.

So hereby…

So hereby. My second part of Andante - Portrait series of the soul.

- Cristian

Women's March 2019

Hey everyone!

Last Saturday I walked alongside thousands of inspirational women and men who support their cause for equal rights and so much more!

Of course I brought my camera’s and documented the day. Shot some digital. And shot some analog. And the scanning is still not done yet. But here is what I can share at this moment. And when the scanning is done I will either update this post or make a new one.

Hopefully my photographs can be of assistance to the path of equality…

- Cristian

A quick date with Kodak Tri-X.

Leftover rolls…

I thought it was a good idea to write more about some of my processes. And especially when I shoot something different than regular. Of course I would rather give you constant travel and adventure updates. But unlike the internet likes you to believe, real life is not always like that.

I shoot both digital and analog. But all of the experimenting you can do with film is just so much fun! Of course when I shoot with film I have my preferences. I just love Ilford and particular HP5+ 400. For me it is the perfect film. But sometimes I just have to try out new stuff.

And in that case, old stuff. Because when I was cleaning up my fridge I found out that I had two rolls of Kodak Tri-X 400 left.

Good excuse to go out and shoot.

Sidenote: I noticed afterwards that I even had some more. But those are expired. I will safe all the expired film for a later fun thing when I have plenty of time to spend.

Just doing random stuff…

I had no particular plan or anything. I just went out and shoot. First roll of Tri-X 400 on EI 1600 and than pushed two stops with developing. Same as I actually always do with my film. And the other one on box speed so I could screw around with long exposures.

The thing is. You do have to develop twice in that case. So don’t plan it when you are in a hurry and you want to see your results quickly. You can’t dump them in the same tank.

The first one which I have shot wasn’t all that different from every other film you eventually push two stops. So that was just walking around Amsterdam, Haarlem, and Utrecht and having fun.

For the second one I have brought along my tripod. I was trying to experiment with long exposures and multiple exposures at the same time.

The long exposures as a single shots turned out well. There was nothing wrong with those. But when you combine them with multiple exposures you miss the definition in the people. You only can get them when you are really quick with the “please don’t advance the film“ lever I think. I guess that is the whole reason why Titarenko was so good. Making good long exposures with people in it are just goddamn hard.

Technical details…

As far as the technical details of the developing process. I have used Ilford DD-X developer, Ilfostop, and Ilford Rapid Fixer. All of them on 20 degrees Celsius. So nothing fancy actually.

Deja Vu…

No philosophical message this time. Except for maybe just have fun and try new stuff… But what I did remembered is why I don’t like Tri-X! And that is it is curly as hell! And the film also damages quite easy I think. And it is not that I am a ruffian with the medium.

No dust magnet though. So that is a plus…

On aesthetics. I think that is just a matter of taste. I just like the way Ilford looks more. It is more me… Although Tri-X also has that classic look that all of the legends had. Sometimes you get that whole Garry Winogrand or Bruce Gilden vibe.

Speaking of legends!

What I always get reminded about how much shooting analog differs from digital. Especially mirror-less… You get instant feedback how your image looks. Particularly with those electronic viewfinder… Oh boy. I get why people like it. And than to think of it what kind of amazing work all of my heroes produced with all of the equipment from that age.

No auto focus…

No electronic viewfinder…

No feedback…

I mean, you have to visualize the entire image. And your feedback how it looks can take from hours to days. No fancy gadget makes you a better photographer. But it sure makes life easier.

But I digress!

Like always!

My damn monkey mind…

Not the longest post this time. But in the end it is just about sharing work and words, and hopefully that it reaches someones heart somehow.

Have a good one….

- Cristian

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

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…

Going to Vietnam, Listening to an old lady singing Celine Dion songs, and freezing in China

Bags are packed…

I started writing this post in a stuffy hotel room in China. Meanwhile in the background the television was on, and a lady with a mustache singing Celine Dion songs. All of this together in a perfectly choreographed dance with her partner. Gotto love Chinese television…

So what the hell was I doing in a stuffy hotel room in China?

Well… I was on my way back from a trip I never would have expected to take this year. Vietnam!

I didn’t have that much time…

It was a short trip. I only had two weeks, and I had to make a short detour through China. Not that I was complaining, but China was freezing my balls of so cold was it! The downside was that having a long layover is that it will eat your time up at your final destination.

But with everything in life. You need to see the positives of it. And that gave me some thing to do some sightseeing in China itself. Despite I didn’t bring winter clothes. Silly me…

I just checked the weather in Ho Chi Minh and that is it!

The start of my adventure…

My adventure started about two weeks earlier give or take. Hopped on the plane in the middle of the day. Got all my baggage checked by security. And off I went.

In my research I looked for stores in Ho Chi Minh that sell Ilford film, and maybe some other analog stuff. This, because I was trying to minimize the chances of film going through an X-Ray scanner. Those scanners say they are film safe. But most of the time only to 800 ASA and I guess when you value your work you just don’t take the chance. It can leave some ugly glow across your film or some even more ugly lines. X-Ray is also light. Just very strong. The security personal did noticed my camera gear btw, and treated it with all of the care it needed. But more on that in the conclusion of my story.

The lady with the sign…

Anyways! After about and eleven hours I arrived in Beijing. And my whole plan for the layover was to do some sightseeing and maybe rent an sleeping pod for a couple of hours somewhere. But to my surprise there were two lovely Chinese ladies with a sign and my name on it! Also the name of some other travelers.

There was a little confusion because of the language barrier. But after a lot of talking with hand and feet the end conclusion was: Free hotel room!

Woohoo!

I like free stuff! But maybe that is because I am Dutch haha.

It turns out that you get a free hotel room with your plane ticket when you fly with China Southern airlines. Who would have known…

So got my 72 hour visa. Everyone got a sticker except for me. :( And took a long shower in the hotel room.

Sightseeing time!

My fellow companions of fate were a Dutch couple, a dude with a Roomba, and a German couple. We exchanged numbers during checking, because when you encounter these kind of surprises it is always smart to sort of have a line to each other in case something is the matter. And we all wanted to see the great wall of China.

So here we went! In the taxi, of to the great wall. And getting some Chinese money in the process. I called them Yen, but that is Japan. Sorry Japan! haha.

Because it was so freaking cold the great wall there were no crowds there. So for me that meant great photo opportunities!

Time for some noodles and onward with my journey…

And so I did…

After another six hour flight I arrived at Ho Chi Minh airport. We all split up to our final destination but the German couple was looking for a place to stay. And told them I was not staying in the party district, but in hostel at a district that was more easy going. I am not much of a party person, and my main goal was to photograph and chill out.

2019 is going to be a busy year for my with some hard to photograph places. So this was my sort of work / vacation trip.

They liked the sound of that and decided to join me.

I am so they did because they turned out to be this trips amazing souls.

If you follow me and my projects and travels I always met a person or persons that will make everything worth while. India there was the Professor. Claire and Ricky always have a special place in my heart. Chana. And the list goes on and on… If I didn’t name you, believe me, I didn’t forget you.

And now Tino and Alina. Thank you so much for the wonderful time I had while I was in your company.

Time to kill…

We could’t check into the hostel yet because we had to wait until two ‘o clock. So that meant time to kill.

Btw, the hostel I was staying in was DaBlend hostel. It was the cleanest hostel I have ever stayed in. Everything was so well organized. And the personal, especially Khoa are the coolest. So if you are like me and just want to do some work while chilling out if you are in Ho Chi Minh go to this place. Here is a link.

It turned out Alina is a photographer too. So after we dropped our bags and had some ice coffees we went out to do some photography. Got some great shots in, and walked a lot and had loads of fun.

Dragon Ball Z hands and time for bed…

We ended the super lang day with some beers and some food and some more beers on the roof. Apparently after I have had some Saigon beers I get Dragon Ball Z hands. Who would have known…

Time to rest…

Getting my hands on some film…

Ah morning! Time to be productive. I do my best photography alone and I also needed to get my hands on analog film I went out not too late. During my research I found the croplab.

Croplab didn’t have the film I normally use. I am a big fan of Ilford HP5+. But all they had of the Ilford brand was PAN 400 and Ilford Delta. In the end I chose to ho with the PAN 400.

Never had that one before and had to make a decision on the spot. So PAN 400 it was!

After I bought it I did some research during my rest moments. And it turns out it is not that common that you can get it here in western Europe. So that made it even more exciting for me! It was one big surprise how everything was going to turn out.

More on the results of the developed Ilford PAN 400 photographs in the blog post after this one.

The upcoming days…

The upcoming days were filled with everything I have planned. Went to a monastery close to the Cambodian border. Altough it was very cliche, but a big part of the history of Vietnam went to the Cu Chi tunnels and also shot some guns, and of course, plenty of more photography.

It broke my heart…

I do have to say this. And this is a reprimand to all tourist and I am very serious about it. At a couple of places. And especially the the religious places. There were a crapload of people misbehaving. And no, not young people. People of all ages, but especially the “elder” crowd.

It broke my heart that at a place where people were performing these very old traditions the tourists treated it like it was the McDonald’s.

Behave! Don’t be a dick! And keep your mouth shut! And also put that selfie stick in a place, or selfies in general, at a place where the sun doesn’t shine.

I am not doing that at your home either!

So if you read this. And you have the feeling that I am addressing you, I probably am.

Observe. Don’t consume!

You should know better…

Back to the fun stuff!

We took public transportation to most of the locations. But it takes a while. So at one time we were completely beat, and also a little scared that we weren’t able to get into the city because Vietnam was in the finals of the AFF Suzuki cup (Soccer). Luckily we entered the city just in time before the final whistle. Had to make one stop. But when the final whistle blew the city exploded in joy!

Haha at one point we had to celebrate with a group of Vietnamese people who were so excited to see us. Can’s of beers! Lot’s of photos with the foreigners! And chanting and cheering!

Congratulations Vietnam on the cup!

Time to get home…

Of course I want to tell you every other bit of this adventure. But i will spread those across future stories. Or maybe when you see me in real life, you can buy me a beer and I will tell you anyway.

It was time time for me to pack and head home. Lot’s of photos. Digital as well as analog.

The route i was going to take was the same one as I took on my way towards Vietnam. But now with a crapload of analog film.

I told all of you earlier that film can’t really handle X-Ray scanners that well. So I asked everyone security officer if they were able to hand check my film by hand.

And they did!

I guess this also counts like everything in life. Just ask politely, put up a big smile, and tell passionate about the gear you have. And don’t feel entitled to anything.

All of the security officers treated my film with all the care they could give it. As they did with me. Some even got excited to see it. That gave me a comfortable feeling.

If you don’t want to risk it anyway. The alternative is to find a place that can process your film. Developed film can not be harmed by scanners.

The reason I bring undeveloped film home with me is because I want to be in complete control of the developing process.

A couple of days later…

Now I am back at home. Already thinking of the next adventures I will have in 2019…

Not listening to Chinese Celine Dion, but to the Doors on vinyl.

Having the daunting task to go trough all of my work. That is always quite the project by itself…

Alina and Tino thanks again!

Merry Christmas you all of your that have taken the time to read this blog post.

The next one will be about the analog photographs I took and the developing process.

And remember…

It is Christmas 365 days a year…

- Cristian