First Impressions

I recently inherited a Yashica-Mat EM, one of the cameras used by my granddad in his days as a photographer. The first time I shot the Yashica was about a month ago. I took the exposed roll in to get developed, and returned three days later to pick up the developed results. I looked at the negatives on the light box, and though the results weren’t anything spectacular, they were a good sense of things to come. On my way out of the store, I passed by the film development supplies. It brought back a lot of memories. I was on the yearbook staff in my junior year of high school, and I spent a lot of time in the dark room developing black and white film and prints. Seeing the chemicals on the shelf in the store showed me that processing hasn’t changed at all since those yearbook days. I picked up a plastic basket and stuffed it with D-76, fixer, Photo-flo, a plastic adjustable reel, a canister, and two plastic bottles. My spare bathroom was about to become a dark room.

This was my second outing with the Yashica-Mat EM,  The first time out, I used the built-in light meter of my Nikon D200 to approximate exposure. It got me close, but it didn’t really prove to be a very good exposure tool. This time, I managed to dig out the Sekonic meter I used back in the day when I worked in film. It uses both a spot and incident attachments. And while the spot is fairly wide, I chose to use it so I could meter both the subject and the sky and set the right exposure make for a good subject without the sky blowing out.

So now that I had an exposed roll of film, it was time to develop. I mixed the D-76 and fixer and poured them into the plastic bottles. With a test roll, I practiced loading the film into the reel in the dark. All set. Well, except for one minor detail. When I removed the lid from the canister, I found that the reel is about one-eighth of an inch too large. Good thing this was discovered before the reel was loaded! It was Sunday night and I wasn’t about to wait for a trip to the camera store on Monday to do finish this. I searched around the kitchen and found that a 32oz. yogurt container can also double as a film canister (make sure to finish off the yogurt and wash it out first). The container is far from light-tight, but a ceramic vase works just fine. I had my dark room!

In the dark bathroom, I load the film into the reel, place it into the yogurt container, pour in the D-76, gently lower it into the vase, and then place a book on top. I sneak out of the bathroom and set the timer on the microwave. I’m supposed to agitate the film during this time, but the chance of exposure and spill is too risky. I return about 10 minutes later, retrieve the yogurt container from the vase and pour the D-76 into a cup while trying not to spill any since I can’t see a thing. I rinse the reel with water, and repeat the earlier step, only with fixer this time. When returning ten minutes later, I flip on the light switch and dig the reel out. The stretched-out roll reveals success!

Spicewood Winery Spicewood Winery Spicewood Winery

This was a valuable lesson. I made another trip to the camera store this weekend to buy a new canister. This time everything fits!


The Rebirth

Everybody’s shooting digital these days. How can you not? You can burn a lot of pixels really quickly and store an endless amount on the cheap. I got sucked into the digital game about 5 years ago and never really looked back. Well, until lately.

Back in the day, my grandpa was a photographer. By the time I rolled into the world, he was pretty much retired. As a kid, I really didn’t have much exposure to his photographic ways. I remember as a youngster being infatuated with a life-size black-and-white print of a little girl that hung on the wall in the stairwell of my grandparent’s home. It was a shot he took of one of my aunts when she was just a few years old. It was perfect. That shot will be forever engrained in my memory.

I got a Pentax K1000 when I was around 14 or so and ran through a lot of film, acting like I knew what I was doing. (Who knows where those prints are these days!) I think Grandpa may have given me some pointers at the time, but I can’t really recall anything he may have said. But then again, maybe it just stuck in the subconscious waiting to be developed.

Many years have passed, and so has Grandpa. But his spirit certainly lives on. I recently inherited some of his treasures; things that have become more inspiring than I ever would have thought. Pixel, meet Grain. Grain, meet Pixel. Play some backgammon. Go camping. Have a good time.

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