Monthly Archives: January 2011

A Shot in the Dark

I made a perfect picture tonight but no one will get to see it. I was out shooting with my Koni-Omega, with two backs, one loaded with Fuji 400H and the other with Acros. I was walking around the neighborhood, starting with the 400H. I ended up over by the river just at sunset, and there was a nice glow on the water under the Longfellow bridge, so I took a couple of shots there, one on each side. Then I walked around over to the MIT campus, thinking I might see something to do with the Stata Center, the Frank Gehry monstrosity that replaced the legendary Building 20.

So I’m looking around the backside, and a security guard walking by asks me if I was getting any good pictures. I said, eh, and he started going on about the moon and how it would nice to have a picture of the moon with the trees there. Now this in itself is sort of an odd response; normal security guard procedure is to hassle anyone with a camera. But this guy actually offers to let me in and find a good place to shoot from. As we’re heading to the door, I see a good shot. There’s a sort of round chrome structure with a pylonish thing behind it, and the moon is over them. It’s getting dark but there’s nice reflections from the chrome. So I decide to set up right there.

Now comes the fatal mistake. I decide to switch backs. Acros is good for long exposures, hardly any reciprocity failure. The guy is chatting about how he’d taken this nice panoramic sunset photo with his cell phone, and was surprised at how good it came out. I’ve got my tripod with me, explaining to the guy that the camera is old and requires some mechanical operation, but meanwhile I’ve skipped one key step. After switching the backs, I forget to pull the dark slide.

Now, as long as there have been cameras with dark slides, there have been photographers forgetting to pull them out. One of the reasons I like to use mechanical nonautomated equipment is that I have to rely on my brain, to make all the decisions about how the shot is going to come out. The downside to this is that I have to rely on my brain, to remember all the steps. As my wife knows, I’m especially prone to being distracted if I’m trying to do something while someone is talking to me. So Mr. Chatty is not actually doing me any favors here.

When I make a mistake like this I tend to curse a lot. It annoys me. I go and walk around for a couple of hours and come back with less than I’d set out to. Hardly a crisis, and neither the first or last time I’ll do something like that. Shoot without film in the camera? Done that. Switch the fixer and developer in the tank? Yep. Hit the light switch before shutting the box of paper? Check. And on and on. The only consolation I have in this case is that the K-O is supposed to have a interlock the prevents the shutter firing if the dark slide is in place (the designers knew about people like me 50 years ago). It would seem that this is not completely failsafe. If the dark slide is out even a tiny bit, it doesn’t lock.

Maybe I need to make a checklist and tape it to my camera bag. I mean, if checklists can work for pilots and doctors and nurses, in situations that really matter, then surely the help me avoid stupid errors. I know we’re supposed to learn from our mistakes, but I don’t necessarily want to have that sort of learning experience every time I go out.


Waiting for Kodot

Just before Christmas I sent off my last four rolls of Kodachrome to Dwayne’s for processing. If you are one of the exceedingly tiny percentage of the population who cares about such things then you may be aware that last week was the deadline for Dwayne’s to accept orders for Kodachrome processing. When Kodak officially discontinued the film, they also stopped making the chemistry to process it, leaving Dwayne’s with a year’s supply.

What this meant was that everyone who had any rushed to use up whatever they were holding and get it to Kansas. I’d been using it up about one roll a month or so, and I held the last four because the return postage is cheaper than sending them one at a time. I sent mine in by express mail, thinking of the deadline and the holidays. I’d hoped that by now I’d have a post up about those last rolls, but I’m still waiting. In the past, I’d get my order back in about a week, including transit time to and from Parsons. But by Christmas there was already 10-day backlog at Dwayne’s.

This is a little nerve-wracking, since once the existing chemical stock is exhausted, there is no more. If some of the film doesn’t get processed now, it never will, at least not in color (it can be done as black & white). As I write this, a week after the deadline, a photographer at Dwayne’s is reporting that they still have another 10,000 rolls to go, but it looks like the chemistry will hold out.

I’ll be sad to see Kodachrome go, but not completely crushed. There really is nothing like it, but today the remaining color negative and slide films are very good. In Kodachrome’s heyday nothing else was even close. And of course, the film I used to like, Kodachrome 25, has been gone for some years now. I don’t even get the film in slide mounts any more. No projector. I’m either going to view them on a light box or put them in the scanner. So it’s easier to just get uncut rolls back. That’s just the way it’s going to be from now on, more and more of our favorite films being discontinued until all that’s left is Tri-X. Or maybe Adox.

Polaroid on Kodachrome: