New roll of Tri-X 400 just developed

Today I finally finished shooting a roll of Kodak Tri-x 400 that took me about three weeks to finish. Nowadays spending that much time on one roll seems like too much. I know, I know… I should be patient, but what do you do. Sometimes I shoot one roll per week, which is pretty much an optimal time for me. I like to gather photos during the week and reward myself by developing the roll on weekend.

Anyways, this took me so long that I forgot what I shot. That’s fun too of course because I see the photos more objectively after forgetting them. This roll didn’t have any kind of specific theme. Just randomness.

Photos are shot at box speed ISO 400 with my Olympus OM-1 and developed in D-76 (20c, 1:1, 9min 45sec).

Out of 36 shots, there were about 10 keepers. Few of them I was really satisfied with. I managed to shoot couple of accidental blanks and the rest was just meh.

The best shot I’ve ever taken. This is such a bizarre image and so much going on here. There’s interesting relationship between the man and the skeleton with interesting invisible lines. It almost looks like the man is holding his hand by the skeleton’s shoulder. It looks like this could be shot on some other decade. No idea what is happening here, but I find it interesting — who is the man talking to? Who’s in the car? Why there’s a skeleton and what’s it’s relationship with the man in the hat?
Shot from the hip at Helsinki market square. Pre-metered (sunny 16, or in my case sunny 11) pre-focused at about 2m. She appeared all of a sudden I shot immediately. I think she looks beautiful and has a lot of character, which caught my eye.
This caught my eye because it almost looked like the coat was dancing in the air. Sort of like animated by the wind.
This one I like a lot. Nice light and setting. Shot at Kaivopuisto in Helsinki.
Nothing special, other than I’m just a nut about Vespas and anything like that. Really digging the tones and shiny textures.
Meh.
Kinda boring, but there are some interesting things happening here.
Mirror meh.
Aw yes, Helsinki at it’s best! I love buildings like this. Looks so stylish and… european. Of course Finland is in Europe, but somehow this looks just european, not finnish — if that makes any sense. Shot at the Helsinki railway station.
This is shot 1min after the previous photo, pretty much just turning my back. What a contrast. The romanian beggars came to the city some years ago and man did they change the street view. They usually don’t like being photographed. Also shot at the railway station.

Shooting digital with a vintage Canon 35mm f2.8 lens

Today I swiped the dust out from my mirrorless camera and took it for a spin. I mounted a vintage Canon FD 35mm f2.8 lens to it with an adapter. I try to avoid being a “film vs. digital” guy, but sometimes modern technology just bugs me and I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with my digital camera. Especially auto focusing (on Canon EOS M3) sometimes drives me crazy. I definitely prefer manual focusing.

Using digital camera with a vintage lens, kinda makes it feel and look more like film. The focusing rings are usually so smooth and intuitive to use. And I could swear the images have a pretty believable vintage look. I shot these straight on monochrome settings and the results are very film-like and pleasing.

EOS M3 with vintage Canon FD 35mm f2.8 — #1
EOS M3 with vintage Canon FD 35mm f2.8 — #2
EOS M3 with vintage Canon FD 35mm f2.8 — #3
EOS M3 with vintage Canon FD 35mm f2.8 — #4
EOS M3 with vintage Canon FD 35mm f2.8 — #5
EOS M3 with vintage Canon FD 35mm f2.8 — #6
EOS M3 with vintage Canon FD 35mm f2.8 — #7
EOS M3 with vintage Canon FD 35mm f2.8 — #8
EOS M3 with vintage Canon FD 35mm f2.8 — #9
EOS M3 with vintage Canon FD 35mm f2.8 — #10
EOS M3 with vintage Canon FD 35mm f2.8 — #11
EOS M3 with vintage Canon FD 35mm f2.8 — #12

Film is the ultimate preserving jar for memories

One of the many reasons I like film so much, is that it withstands time so well. Many film shooters will tell you the same. Negatives and darkroom prints last decades or even centuries. No matter how many hard drives you blow up, you’ll have your film photos somewhere at the back of your drawer forever.

I found the above images about a year ago. I took them sometime in 2000—2002. I made the prints in a darkroom myself back in the day. They are close-ups of my girlfriend. (We are still together after all there years, by the way.) I made the prints small (approx 9x5cm) so they’d fit my wallet. I didn’t remember that they existed and I was pleasantly surprised to find them last year, after all these years. That’s when I slowly started to think about shooting on film again. I realised how well film photos will withstand the test of time.

Having three “things” in the photo to give strength to the center of interest + avoiding to make copies of objects in space

One thing I’ve tried to incorporate in my photography lately, is combining two or  three key elements or aspects into the image. I find John Free’s YouTube videos very compelling and he often stresses the importance of including three “things” into the image, to give strength to the center of interest. I think my weakest images usually have one thing in common. They have just one thing in them. The images that works the best on the other hand, have at least two things in some kind of decisive relation to each other. Check out this video by John free, where he shows 86 of his own photos. Listen how many times he tells what are the three things in the photos.

I’ve noticed that Joel Meyerowitz talks about a mentality that reminds me of a similar kind of philosophy. He explains that he’s intention is not to “identify a one singular thing, but photographing the relationship between two unrelated things.” He uses a very interesting way of describing shooting singular subjects as making “copies of objects in space.”  He wants to find “connections between unrelated things”, which immediately adds a ton of interest and artistic value in photography. Have a listen to his talk on this video. (Jump to 2:45min to get straight into this topic)

I love this shot by Joel Meyerowitz. There are two important elements in the photo that are combined to each other to create the center of interest. Either one of the elements would not make an interesting image by themselves, but their relationship to each other, and how they are framed together, does. (Image copyright Joel Meyerowitz)
Here’s an opposite example. This is the worst photo I’ve taken recently. It is a picture of a pigeon standing on a floor. Just one thing with no relation to anything else that would make the image interesting. It is just a photo of a pigeon. A copy of an object in space. (Image copyright Pekka Keskinen)
This is one of my own photos too and it’s a much better one. It isn’t as strong as anything by Joel Meyerowitz or John Free, of course, but it has a center of interest that comes from two key elements: the woman and the window and their relation to each other. There is something happening in this image and it is not just a copy of an object in space. This is a documentation of something that took place, which cannot be replicated. (Image copyright Pekka Keskinen)

Can’t think of anything to photograph?

You know the feeling when you just can’t think of anything to take pictures of? A really good way to find meaningful stuff to shoot is to combine your photography to some other hobby that you enjoy. Or if you have an interesting life-style or job, maybe you could start documenting that? Some people who are for example into hiking, and happen to be photographers as well, take really interesting outdoors and nature photos, because they have their own thing that they like to shoot. They have a theme. Just being into photography alone, seem to produce really boring photos, with very little vision and enthusiasm in them. Photography for just photography’s sake doesn’t work as well. You need to have something to take photos of. What else you are interested in? Combine photography to that and you should have a good base for producing interesting photos.

So called street photography, without any further angle or plan behind it, seem to (imho) produce mostly pretty boring pictures by people who just walk around aimlessly, waiting something miraculous to happen while they snap a shot of it. I see very often middle aged men with their Canon DSRL’s on a “photowalk”, taking pictures of ducks in the park, because they just cannot find anything more interesting than that. That to me looks like that they are having a hard time figuring out anything to shoot, and that photography is their main hobby. Maybe photography should be their secondary hobby, that you just use to document the primary one? I think that is a really good way to produce organically interesting pictures. Let’s say you’re into kayaking. That would be a great topic for photography and if you’re enthusiastic towards paddling, the enthusiasm will be visible in the photos more than in the duck photos.

I am an outdoors person and most of my photos from the past few years are from my camping trips (I didn’t shoot film though, during those days). At some point I really really loved all sorts of outdoors hobbies (including paddling and hiking) and I took, quite passively, without even noticing, super good photos of my adventures. That was a really organic way to find subjects and an entire theme to my photography. Nowadays I’m more interested in street photography etc, which is a completely different approach compared to my previous methodology as an outdoors photographer. I know from experience that street photography style wandering is so much harder than having something else where to combine your photography. Finding single subjects is a complete lottery, but having an umbrella theme makes finding those single subjects easier.

Hiking in Lapland september 2016. Having a camera around on hiking trips is a bullet proof way for me to naturally find awesome stuff to shoot.
Brewing some coffee on a wood burning stove. Again, I was really happy to had camera with me, because I saw a really good image in this.
Long exposure testing on a camping trip.

Stylistic plans and keywords for the upcoming summer

I have a pretty clear vision on what kind of black and white photos I’d like to take during the summer of 2017 and I’d like to share some of these artistic ambitions. I’ve put together a small list of keywords to describe my stylistic goals and visions. These aren’t ideas for projects or intended subjects etc. but just something to paint the picture of the visual style and undertone I’m after. I also added some rad vintage photos that I find inspiring.

Very inspirational classic photo by Harold Feinstein: Coney Island Teenagers, 1949

Lighting

  • Smooth
  • Creamy
  • Cotton candy
  • Dreamy

Mood

  • Fun
  • Jazzy
  • Cinematic
  • Hint of David Lynch
  • Light hearted
  • Something to drink espresso to

Setting and environmental look and feel

  • Mediterraneanish
  • 1950’s riviera
  • La Strada
  • Classic italian movies
  • Americana

Style

  • Artsy
  • Candid
  • Documentary
  • Strong composition

Subject matters

  • People in places
  • Summer
  • Smiles
  • Timelessness
  • Black-and-whiteness
  • Classicism
  • Retro
  • Environments
Brian Duffy, Beach Shadow, 1963
(Unknown)
French street photography from 1950’s by Rene Maltete.

 

Canon QL17 GIII review

Ah yes — Canon Canonet QL17 GIII. The poor man’s Leica. You know what? I really would like to have a Leica. While waiting to get my hands on one of those some day, I decided to try out this entire rangefinder thing with something a bit cheaper.

There are many reviews of this camera. Most of them go through pretty much the same specs, so I’m going to focus on some of the rarely mentioned aspects and the things I’ve personally found noteworthy.

I wouldn’t characterise this camera as a poor man’s Leica. It is a rangefinder, just like an M-series Leica and maybe the QL17 is a semi-well built camera, but it is a way crappier camera. Sorry to say. I somewhat like it though, and I think the Leica comparison comes pretty much just from the sharp optics, but otherwise it isn’t a fair comparison at all.

Some black & white porn with Tri-x 400 at box speed. Developed in Rodinal 1:50.
Some attempts at street photography. Tri-x 400 @ 400. Dev in Rodinal 1:50.

The nicest thing about QL17 GIII is that it’s a very cool camera. It has a certain charm and character. I don’t know why, but it just looks cool. It is just a metal box with a lens, but every time someone always asks about it and complements on it. It is cute and non-threatening as opposed to a big SLR or DSLR. It doesn’t try to look so damn important or pro. It is nice to carry around because it looks neat and almost acts as a clothing accessory. I wouldn’t care to throw a Canon DSRL around my neck just for the looks. It’s also compact, so it is just awesomely nice thing to carry around and to have with you when you need it. I simply always WANT to take it with me.

The lens and image quality are really good, which is worth mentioning. But I think that sharpness in itself is overrated so I don’t want to get into that any more than that.

Check out the insane sharpness of the lens! Shot on Kodak Ektar 100.
Again… just behold the sharpness. Shot on Kodak Ektar 100.
You can get somewhat nice bokeh with the f 1.7 aperture. Shot on Ektar 100.
Some times the film winder jams or doesn’t advance the film enough. This has happened few times and you’ll get overlapping frames.

There are few things that drive me nuts. First of all, the whole rangefinder thing isn’t very intuitive for me, and after a few months of shooting with this thing, I still have to check every time that I remember to focus. As an SLR guy, I’m used to a through-the-lens focusing. Half of my pics are out of focus because my brain simply assumes the picture is going to be sharp after seeing a clear image from the viewfinder (which is a separate image from what the lens sees).

And speaking about focusing. The focusing patch inside the viewfinder is tiny. If you’re not aware how the focusing works, there’s basically two images that you have to align using the focusing ring. The problem is that the ghost image patch is just too small and sometimes hard to even see. But that probably isn’t even how you’re supposed to focus primarily. I’m assuming that you’re required to have mad zone-focusing skills, which I definitely just yet don’t have. So focusing is definitely a fiddly job with this thing.

Business as usual. I forgot to focus and the film winder jammed.

The shutter speed dial and aperture are all around the lens and they are hard to use. The entire build quality of the lens area doesn’t feel as solid as the rest of the camera.

The shutter sound is a very unsatisfying little “click”. I’m a sucker for smooth and mechanical shutter sounds, which QL17 definitely doesn’t provide. Well at least it’s quiet, so you can sneak in pretty close to the subject and the shutter noise won’t give you away.

Bathroom selfie with the QL17 GIII. Shot on Ektar 100 in semi low light.

All in all, I’d say that the biggest problem is that the actual shooting experience isn’t the most satisfying, but other than that, it is a sweet and charismatic little camera. I paid 50€ for mine and that’s about 1000€ less than getting a Leica. Or even just a Leica body.

There are many more less annoying quirks as well… but hey, I think most old cameras have their own quirks as well. Sometimes I cannot say whether I don’t like some feature or is that feature just one of things that give it’s charm. QL17 GIII is a very popular item and it has a somewhat of a cult following, which is something that appealed to me too. Behind all the hype though, lied many less appealing features, that often are not mentioned in the reviews. Definitely don’t expect to get a Leica if you’re thinking about buying one.

As you can probably detect, I have pretty mixed feelings about QL17 GIII. It has many awesome aspects and some annoying features. I don’t use it as my main film camera for that reason. I think it is a good second camera or a backup. Or just something fun that you can grab with you when you run out of the door. If you can find one, definitely get one and try it out!

 

My current choice of b/w films and developers

At the moment my favourite film and developer combo is Kodak Tri-x 400 and Kodak D-76. So far Tri-x seems to tickle me the most because it has such a nice grain structure. I’ve tried a bunch of others b/w films too that are readily available in stores at the moment but I just seem to get back to Tri-x all the time. I like T-Max too, but it doesn’t have as nice grain.

I’ve just recently started to develop my own negatives so I am a total newbie with developers. When something is classified as a traditional product, I usually go with that, because I am a sucker for traditions and old timey products. So I ended up with Rodinal (R09), which I kiiiinda liked, but ended up switching to D-76 after all. The recipe for Rodinal is said to be over 100 years old and that appeals to me a lot. I’d like to like Rodinal even more, but after souping about ten rolls in it, I had to admit that I didn’t always like the look of it. I’d still like use it more and I’ve been thinking about how to achieve different kind of grain looks with it. I haven’t tried stand development, which basically means leaving the film in the developing tank for an hour without agitations. I’ve done just the regular development with 1:50 dilution and agitating every 30sec. Pretty much by the book. I’ve tried different kind of agitation techniques without any significant differences in the grain look. I don’t necessarily mind having a lot of grain, but instead, I’ve just like to be able to manipulate the grain look, not just the amount.

When Rodinal works, it works really well. Tri-x 400 @ 800 developed in 1:50 Rodinal. One of my best results with this combo. I absolutely love the classic feel!
On a perfect sunny day Tri-x + Rodinal combo looks just awesome! Those white surfaces looks amazing.

With very good lighting, I’ve got some really nice images with Rodinal + Tri-x, like for example the image above, but when the lighting gods are not your side, the look of the image very quickly turns unsatisfactory. Especially the mid-tones on a cloudy day just looks horrible.

When Rodinal sucks, it sucks hard. On flat light, it makes (imho) the ligh look even worse. Shot on Tri-x, developed in 1:50, Rodinal (R09).
The nicest grain I’ve ever got with Rodinal. This is shot Tri-x 400 pushed to 1600 in a very limited light, so you’d expect the graininess to be unbearable, but sometimes film throws surprises at you and gives results like these.

After getting a bit frustrated with Rodinal I switched to D-76, which is pretty much spot on for me. Combined with Tri-x — I think it’s my favourite combination so far. I think the grain amount is slightly more acceptable and over all it looks a bit cleaner. I’ve only done few rolls with it, but now that I’ve found a good combo, I don’t think I want to try another film or developer any time soon. I’d like to know Tri-x and D-76 really well and just make a lot images with them to really get to know their characteristics. I still feel kinda bad for Rodinal because for some reason I would have liked it to be my product of choice. Even though I didn’t like it 100%, I still like the idea of Rodinal.

Tri-x 400 @ 400 developed in D-76. Smooth as a baby’s butt. Just the perfect amount of grain. Looks like a classic film photo, not a piece of sand paper.
Another fine example of D-76 at it’s best.

Film helps you to accept your mistakes and learn from them

Shooting on film allows you to accept mistakes, because you don’t get a handy RAW-file to tweak in Lightroom. I’ve learned to accept the mistakes and embrace them via film. Not every photo need to tack sharp. Or so what if it’s a bit grainy? It is just a natural part of it. Mistakes are ok and they don’t necessarily ruin the photo.

Pretty far from a perfect focus or composition, but this photo still makes me smile. I’m willing to accept the mistakes, bearing in mind, that this was a pre-metered, zone focused hip shot with a lightning fast reaction to the approaching subject, with a fully mechanical camera… by a rookie. Considering that I was able to pull even this off, in 2 second notice, is something to be proud of.

Shifting away from technical perfection may give you some space to focus more on your content, which is always more important. How many times have you looked at your photo (assuming it’s a digital photo) and kind of realising that it sucks. But you insist of making something out of it and desperately try to hammer it in Lightroom or Photoshop. The foundation of the image needs to be usable in order to make post processing worth while. You just can’t turn a shit photo into a good photo in Lightroom.

Film is in this sense remorseless. You get what you get and there is only few options that you can make to enhance it. You can adjust tones, contrast, crop, do a bit of vignetting and basic darkroomish stuff like that. When you are being removed from the luxury of hard core post editing, you have pretty much just couple of options left: learning from your mistakes and embracing them. By embracing I mean that, not only you’ll accept the mistakes, but you may even start to see a certain kind of tactile beauty in them. Besides, the mistake might give it some unexpected character as well. Be grateful that you managed to capture the photo in the first place. Maybe next time you just remember to pay closer attention to exposure, lighting or whatever, and actually learn from your previous mistakes.

Instagram mentality

Is it ok to change your Instagram direction over and over again? I’ve changed my username and thematics many times, which some people probably have found strange.  Can you do that, or will you just make Instagram gods angry?

Do people have nightmares about losing followers?

My hobbies and interest change over time and I usually tend to take photos related to those things. Most people seem to get hung up on one thing and build their account around one theme. I find that very restricting. What if lose interest in your subject and find new things to get exited about? Do you still just press on with your theme? Doesn’t it at that point become forced and fake? I realise that it happens easily. If you’ve established a following of likeminded people, they will start unfollowing you when you post photos not related to your theme. BUT! Why should you let that dictate? Are the number of followers and likes really that important to us? Well of course they are. Everyone knows that. We are living in a “like” culture at the moment. Social media isn’t as social as the name applies. It is a game of collecting likes (as you know). Likes and followers are what (sadly) we care about. That pretty often dictates and restricts what we post. That becomes a problem when your content becomes repetitive shit because of it.

Just let go this kind of mentality. It is so okay to change your mind about things and find new things to get excited about. I was a outdoor fanatic for many years and posted only outdoor photos until I lost interest towards it. I still like to go hiking etc. but just some times. Now that I think about it, sometimes I went camping just to get cool photos — cool photos for more likes and followers. Isn’t that pretty backwards?

Now I rarely post outdoor photos simply because I don’t go out that much. I don’t feel like it. It would feel very pretentious to keep it up against my true will, just because followers are expecting a certain kind of content. It doesn’t feel right to desperately hold on to it.

I lost about 500 followers during a short period of time after deviating from my so called theme and I was pretty startled about it at first. “Oh no! My precious followers — I’m a nobody!” Yeah right! Now I’m interested in different kind of photography and different kind of subject matters. I don’t want to resist a change, but to just go with the flow. You know… where ever life is taking you — is it really wise trying to swim against the current?

Let it go.