bookmark_borderThe FG-20 must go

Another week, another series of tests with film.

Regardless of their questionable compositions, these pictures are rather good for being shot on expired film. They result from following the development instructions to the letter. Three and a half minutes in the developer chemical at exactly 38°C, as confirmed by three calibrated thermometers. Vigorous inversion instead of twirl agitation. And most importantly, no fingerprints on the film. The bleach, fix, and stabiliser stages were just as carefully performed.

My photography still sucks, though.

But now that I am confident with development, I can take time to improve on the elements of making good photos, namely composing and finding good light. I think a film camera is the right tool for learning, primarily because the limited number of shots per film roll encourages slowing down and paying attention.

But the Nikon FG-20 is not suitable for this purpose. Although it’s cute, it’s prone to mishandling: its shutter speed wheel can easily be knocked to the wrong setting by accident (and I suspect that caused the bad exposures from a few posts ago). Also its viewfinder isn’t as clear and informative as that of the Nikon FM2 or of the Minolta X300. Perhaps this realisation of a camera’s limitations is an encouraging sign of improvement.

bookmark_borderHit and miss

The results of my film development are still hit and miss.

Here are samples from yet another roll that was started in 2018 and finished just this month.

I set the camera to ISO 400 for the Agfa Vista 200 film. This mistake not only caused the pictures to come out dark but also revealed what I thought to be light leaks when I increased the exposure in Gimp. Comments in online film photography forums, however, suggest that they could also be caused by under- or over- development, too high or too low developer temperatures, too little or too much agitation… In other words, any thing that I did during development might have been wrong.

Still, I spent an hour yesterday evening to replace the light seals on the Nikon FM2. This simple maintenance job eliminates one possible source of future problems. My next adjustments are to pay more attention to the temperatures of chemicals and to twirl – yes, this is jargon – the right amount when agitating the contents of the development tank.

I make it sound like I am completely unaware, but I actually know what went wrong. It’s just easier to ascribe this failture to randomness. The truth is—

I am quite sure that the camera did not let light in. But the film was loaded in 2018, was expired, and is not known for quality. I mishandled it in the changing bag, touching it with my fingers many times. And the chemicals were poured into the tank when they were at 40°C instead of the prescribed 38°C. In other words, I screwed up. And those are mistakes that could be avoided with more care and patience.

To end this post, let’s look at the mobile phone version of that last picture from the series above. Why bother with film photography when the digital image can be made so conveniently and gives such quality? Film is just more fun.

bookmark_borderNot quite what I expected

The pictures from my photo walk to the local park aren’t great. But here they are anyway.

I developed the film with the Bellini Foto C-41 kit yesterday and scanned the negatives as soon as they were dry. The process was a little stressful, because I had to maintain the chemicals at a precise 38⁰C whilst keeping time and agitating the development tank the correct amount for each stage. But at least, the good pictures below (from 2018) tell me that the development was successful and is not the cause of the bad ones.

As I said, the FG-20 held an unfinished roll of film from around 2018. In addition, it was a film that expired in 2005. Its age is a factor in the poor quality of the pictures, but I am mostly at fault for not setting the correct exposure on the camera when taking the shots.

bookmark_borderTrying film photography again

I finally visited the park that opened near my house in 2020 amidst COVID lockdown. It is a former golf course that has been rehabilitated as a green area. I carried a Nikon FG-20 camera with an unfinished roll of film on my walk and took pictures of the trees and wild grass that have grown all over.

Back at home, I pulled out old negatives that I had never bothered to scan until now. Going through the photos, I feel my interest in film photography being rekindled.

I don’t have pictures of the park because I am still waiting for delivery of new chemicals to develop the film. In the meantime, here are photos from over a decade ago that I scanned just today.

bookmark_borderA slightly more successful job

I finished the last post by describing my plan to cover the shed roof with a tarpaulin. Dissatisfied and impatient, I executed it two days later. The task was much easier than I had expected.

I was well prepared, having run the procedure in my head many times, even at the beginning when I was considering which of felt and tarp to use for the roof. So, when Amazon delivered the 3m x 4m tarp, I already knew that I had to use holdfasts to secure it against the wind whilst I worked, that I had to fold the slack so that it fit on the 2.5m x 3m roof, that I had to fasten it with washers and screws, and that I definitely had to stand on a thick board when I was on the roof. Starting the repair as soon as I signed off work, I finished in just about one hour.

Later that evening, the rain that was forecast arrived, and I could assess whether the job was good enough. I was pleased to see that water did not leak into the shed—everything inside remained dry. But I was concerned by water puddles remaining on the roof for a few days after the rain stopped.

My other worry is about the quality of the tarp. With a weight of 90 grams per square metre (gsm), it is noticeably thinner than my other 150 gsm tarp used to collect garden rubbish. I am not confident that it will last long against exposure to the weather, foxes, and the neighbourhood cats. This said, I console myself with the thought that the tarp is cheap and easy to replace.

bookmark_borderBodged job

I put a hole in the roof of the garden shed. It happened when I was working on the shed, replacing the old felt. Distracted, I stepped on an area of rotted wood between two beams. My foot went right through it.

With felt already laid on half of the roof and without any material available to fix the damage, I carried on despite the sour mood, pretending that the hole wasn’t there. The rest of the job was easy, as I had the brilliant idea, albeit a late one, of using a large board to support my weight. Had I thought of that before, the repair would not be bodged. And I would be confident that the roof will keep out the rain that is forecast for this week.

After this experience, felt and bitumen annoy me. The felt dug into the skin as I knelt to hammer nails, and the bitumen was difficult to spread, smelled foul, and stained body and clothes. Because I don’t want to handle them again, which I will have to if I replace the roof boards, I plan to instead cover the shed with a large tarpaulin. Tarp blows noisily in the wind and doesn’t look pretty, but it will make an easier repair, will keep out water better, and will last longer.

bookmark_border2010 FIFA World Cup

I am reminded by Facebook of my time at 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. I was there to deploy a software that my employer had sold to FIFA. The plan was for me to be in Johannesburg for five days, but technical difficulties forced me to extend my stay to two weeks.

Having to get the system running before the opening ceremony, I worked day and night. This meant room service dinners at midnight and power naps in the hotel room, followed by countless hours in the FIFA administration block in Sandton. It also meant missing the World Cup opening ceremony, Shakira’s concert and football matches to which I had courtesy tickets.

Eventually, the death march ended, and the system was operational. I could now return home, but before leaving, I managed to see the Group G match between Brazil and North Korea.

bookmark_borderA short trip to Bordeaux

We made a short trip to Bordeaux. On the first day and the second day, we had to shelter indoors from the heatwave. With the temperature reaching 42 degrees Celcius, walking and carrying a heavy DSLR under the harsh midday sun was going to be unpleasant. So we took our promenades in the evenings, when it was cooler, and used our mobile phones for snapshots. Here are pictures of things and places we liked.

bookmark_borderChanging habits is hard

After using the Dvorak keyboard layout for more than 15 years, I am returning to the QWERTY layout. The switch seems more difficult than learning to touch-type for the first time, given how arduous it feels.

As I write this post, when I think of a word, my fingers immediately hit the Dvorak keys for the letters, as if of their own will. But with the QWERTY layout, what comes out on the screen is gibberish. To avoid mistakes, I have to stay alert and be conscious of every single keystroke; only thus can I overcome the power of muscle memory and slowly form the new habit. Writing is thinking has never sounded so true as I try hard to separate the typing from the thinking.

But why do I endure this hardship? I think that, when I adopted Dvorak, disruption of my previous typing patterns relieved me of the pain in my left arm. Now that my right arm hurts in that familiar way after much typing, I hope that another change will have the same positive effect.

bookmark_borderBack from a well deserved break

After taking last week off, I resumed work today. Because I still had 26 days of leave remaining for the year and had to use all of them before it ends, I booked a week of holidays without any planning. The break from work, especially after the recent hectic weeks, was a welcome change. And although I wasted the first few days on Discord and reddit, I eventually relaxed in the more pleasurable activities of reading books and watching films.

I saw Passengers yet again. I am not equipped to review films objectively, and so at the risk of being ridiculed I admit to loving Passengers. I am fascinated by how the film depicts the despair of people who are condemned to a prison of time and solitude. Also, the characters of Chris Pratt – who “used to be chubby”, P reminds me – and Jennifer Lawrence – “she’s not all that”, P also says – had me completely engrossed. I disagree with the reddit opinion that the plot should have been darker—but I also admit my bias for romance.

Amazon Prime then started suggesting to me the Hunger Games films. I had watched the first one a long time ago and had not been impressed. After seeing Jennifer Lawrence in Passengers, however, I gave Hunger Games a chance. They were entertaining, yet not deserving of all the hype. Still Lawrence retains my new found appreciation.

Over the last couple of months, I had been reading three books: Line by Line, a book on English grammar; Writing Solid Code, a book on programming; and Crossing to Safety, a novel by Wallace Stagner. I wanted to finish Line by Line quickly because it is the type of book that easily falls to the wayside if it loses the reader’s attention; I am glad I completed this goal. I also finished Writing Solid Code, which was always going to be a slower read, the ideas in it requiring careful reflection.

Crossing to Safety gets special treatment. I am deliberately taking my time to read it—I might actually have been at it for longer than two months. Although it is a short book, it tells a great story, has interesting characters, and is very well written. I continue to savour it a few pages at a time every night in bed.

This week, I also made some small lifestyle adjustments. I removed the company’s Outlook and Teams apps from my phone. Without those, I have to start the work laptop if I need to see my work calendar. But I think setting boundaries in this way is good, especially now that home is also the office. I uninstalled the reddit and Discord apps, realising how much of my time they had taken. I then subscribed to several long-read blogs, which – goes the theory – should fill my freed time with more reading.

Altogether it was a decent holiday. I disregarded work, ate out, ordered take-aways, read books, watched films, and made life adjustments. I am now filled with new vitality to tackle the last few weeks of this long year.