OK. Confession time. So obsessed was I with my new lens and frustrated with the weather that when it came time for me to get out and make some photographs, well, I just hit the trail running. Persistently bemused, ok frustrated, by some of the results I never slowed down to really rethink through every aspect of the process, until last night. I had what one my refer to as an “are you friggin kidding me!” moment.
You see, I went back out yesterday with storm clouds brewing and the forecast supporting their suggestion. I had decided to just go photograph and leave the lens and film obsession behind. So, 8×10 in hand, celor mounted and holders full of Ortho Litho, I headed out. I had a wonderful time. It was when I returned home and developed the film, viewed the results, that the head scratching started.
Now, for sure some of the results exemplify the lens and the wonders of Ortho Litho, but, some of the results just struck me as a bit much in terms of unpredictability and variety for my taste. Why, why why!!?? Well let’s take a quick look and then I’ll get into my “ah haaaaa” moment.
WARNING WARNING WARNING WARNING WARNING WARNING
“WHAT THE ….” Alert!!
So, no doubt you can understand what might have forced me to grab a drink, plop down into my comfy old leather armchair and begin to rethink every single thing I was doing. What did I learn? Let me tell you, a couple things.
First, the weirdness of the last two photographs was down to my development process. I’m pretty sure I chickened out on these, the first two I developed, pulling them out of development much sooner than I should have. I think the incredibly overcast day and surprising levels of contrast just freaked me out a bit and I pulled them quickly. However, it was when I put them into the fixer and the negative all but cleared that I really realized there was an issue. On the spot, I diluted the fixer by half. This combined with growing a backbone in the developer immediately yielded solid negs. So the swirly weirdness went away. You can see that on the first two photographs above which actually followed the last two in the development process.
Second, and this is a big one. As I thought through it all, I stopped and then had a momentary dose of, well to quote Bob Marley, my “mind was confused with confusion.” I had a Goerz Celor f5.5 lens, but, the aperture settings started at f2! Can you say “WTF” with me? Probably not right! You got it. I’d totally failed to recognize the fact that my aperture markings were the old US System, the “Uniform Scale System,” which faded from use I believe by the 1920s.
If you look down the U.S. system column, you’ll note the markings on my Celor. The only time I’d have been correct was at f16 I could not believe that I’d overlooked this. I was very familiar with this reality and the fact that there were various systems for a long time. I’d just been so overjoyed with the lens that in practice I’d payed no mind to this. The very page which had turned me onto this lens, Jim Galli’s excellent outing with a new to him Celor, clearly commented on the scale! The net result was that I was underexposing on the speedy side and over exposing on everything beyond f16! Arghhh…..
So while the outcomes above, the sheer weirdness factor, had more to do with my development process, the fact that it made me sit down and think through my entire process did lead me to this error. Did I feel stupid? Incredibly so. For the record, the best discussion around these historical scales can be found in an article on Through A Vintage Lens. The take-away? Well, it does not hurt, especially when you run into a frustrating situation, to just take pause, grab a drink of your choice, sit down, relax and walk through every aspect and every step of your process; end to end. The pony’s in the pile somewhere.