While it was a dumpster fire in many ways, 2016 has been a pretty fine year for me as far as photography is concerned. I’d like to take a look back at it, if you don’t mind.
This year, I managed to shoot 76 rolls of film in 16 different cameras. As far as varieties of film goes, I used over thirty different types.
Years before, I’d fall into the trap of shooting only while traveling. Looks like that happened this year, but in a much more local way. Usually, I’d shoot most of my stuff while on a longer trip, usually taken in the summer. This year, we did the South West in the spring. I shot 32 rolls on that journey, which is a little less than half of this years total rolls.
That’s great, really. It means that I’ve been shooting more local stuff. While that doesn’t mean I’m suddenly Seattle’s darling, it does means that there are a lot more Washington-based images.
Prior to the South West trip, we took a few days trips through central and eastern Washington. There, I shot mostly black and white 35mm. A noticeable exception was the use of Kodak Vision 2 film and a bit of AgfaChrome.
Other than that, I shot a lot of Polypan F – a film whose origins seem completely unknown, but gives a strange, dreamy effect if you treat it right (or wrong, depending.
Like the previous year, I focused upon the Argus C3, but also played a bit with the Olympus Pen-FT, a half frame SLR that I thought I was going to enjoy a lot more than I actually did. I also began using my father-in-law’s Minolta X-370 until it developed the ol’ intermittent shutter problem.
Following the trip to the South West in May, I took the month of June off from shooting and traveling. But by early July, we were back on the road with a few new old cameras. I had recently acquired two working Ricoh KRs (a 5 and a 10, the latter of which has turned into my favorite modern-ish SLR).
I also got a Contaflex I for $4 at a thrift store, and an Argus/Cosina STL 1000 that ignited my interest in screw mount lenses. This brought the delivery of a Zenit 11 and two Soviet-ear M42 lenses, which I’ve hardly played with yet at all.
The travels of summer and fall took us to ghost towns, long abandoned roads, and desert wilderness. I finally got the chance to shoot Spokane, and hope to go back again next year. I packed for the forecast’d sunny weather, but with the unexpected clouds, was only able to shoot black and white.
We also treated ourselves to a tour of the B Reactor at the Hanford Site in central Washington. It was the first time I shot Ilford Delta 3200 (or anything in doors, really).
In all, we probably traveled some 15,000 miles. Not bad, really.
Discoveries and Changes
2016 was also a year of discoveries for me. I finally dropped the idea of finding one or two emulsions and sticking to them so that I might have some unified voice to my photography. For a lot of photographers, that’s a fine idea. For me, I enjoy exploring far too much for that.
I discovered a few different cameras, like the Yashica 635. But also discovered that they weren’t for me (the Yashica, specifically).
This year, I expanded my bulk loading of 35mm. I now roll three different color emulsions, as well as seven different black & whites. They are all expired but two, and all are used but one. I have changed bulk loaders (from the Watson to the Lloyd, if you’re curious).
My biggest change is moving from the Paterson development tanks to various stainless steel models. The reason for this is almost fully because of stand developing. Because the reels for the Paterson tanks have a large lip that touches the film edges, I was getting “chemical surge” when I’d stand develop anything. This gave streaks that looked like bromide drag or light leaks (and unless you know what you’re looking for, you really can’t tell the difference). The lips wouldn’t allow the developer to move freely enough, so it would get exhausted and slowly seep onto the exposed part of the film, leaving streaks. It looked awful and I’m glad I figured it out. No streaks when I stand develop in the stainless reels!
Another big change that I was hoping to explore in more depth is my introduction to Kodak’s Xtol developer. This marks my third developer, which gives me more choices.
I use Rodinal as a sort of default, especially for higher speed and newer (less-expired) films. HC-110 is my go-to developer for old film as it cuts fogging. I’ve been using Xtol in certain films that lean toward over-graininess in an attempt to cut it a bit. I’m going to experiment with it more, but so far I like it.
I had been using Rodinal for stand developing, but I think I’ve grown to like HC-110 more. At this point, I can’t really explain why, but everything just seems better (which is vague, I know). Rodinal gives a more vintage look, which is obviously not a bad thing. That said, it’s also a bit sharper due to the grain. HC-110 doesn’t automatically give a dreamy look to the negatives, but it doesn’t stifle the dreamy look if it’s there.
Mostly, I’ll use whatever developer I have on hand, defaulting to HC-110 more often than not.
The Sell Off
This was the first year that I sold cameras and even a bit of film. I finally understood that if I didn’t like a camera or wasn’t using it that I could sell it. I still have a few up on Etsy, and a few more to list at some point.
I got rid of both Holgas, a few Brownies, and am even contemplating ditching the Yashica and another TLR. We’ll see what the future holds for that. I don’t need or even want 70 some cameras.
It might seem like I’m a collector, but I’m really not (at least as far as cameras go). Everything I own works – that a good thing. But I’d like to get to the point that I actively shoot everything I own.
With the discontinuation of Fuji’s pack film for old Polaroid cameras, I’ve found myself with a slew of old paper weights. I don’t know what will come of them (and I’m really starting not to care). I might look into shooting 4×5 film in them, but probably won’t.
Which brings me to the last camera I picked up. It’s a 1905 Seneca Chautauqua, but I’ve only shot four photos with it.
Still, it’s my first dip into the world of 4×5 photography. I think that I enjoy it, but will wait until next year to figure it out for certain.
So far, I’ve shot Kodak Royal Pan film from 1970 through it, but will be branching out for the spring season.
Wrapping It Up
In all, I think this was a year of growing for me. I continued on the same path, but picked up a few new things, and learned a few new tricks. Hell, I even managed to talk the Sunny 16 Podcast into putting me on their otherwise stellar show!
The future, especially with a large format camera plopped in my lap, should be baskets of fun.