Granger Car Show

The nearby small town of Granger, TX is a favorite place of mine to wander around on quiet strolls and casually snap a few photos. If you visit my blog with any regularity, chances are you've seen a few shots from Granger. The normally calm streets were bustling with activity due to a car show and arts & crafts festival going on this weekend. I couldn't resist stopping by to see what classic beauties and ratted out hot rods might be lining the streets.

I travelled light on this outing. This was one of several stops I'd be making with my wife and our little dog Lucy yesterday afternoon. As such, I didn't bother bringing any "real cameras." I didn't want to get too immersed in photography and neglect my family. It was just my iPhone and my favorite app, Blackie. That was plenty enough, as I've been impressed with the quality of images I get with that combination. My only complaint is the same I have with any camera lacking a viewfinder - the screen is very difficult to see in bright sunlight and I was virtually guessing at the composition of a lot of shots. I tried to shoot a little loose and crop later. 

The little details I see in some of the cars at shows like this are as much fun to capture as the vehicles themselves. Maybe more so. It's like an Easter egg hunt searching for little personal touches, exceptional fine details, or interesting reflections. Close-up photography is one area of photography in which the iPhone excels.

Taking a Ride with Ilford XP2 Super

It was a pleasant afternoon this past Labor Day and since I didn't have to go to work it was a perfect opportunity to take a ride down the Texas backroads through some of the nearby small towns. Riding my Harley-Davidson Sportster and snapping photos are two of my favorite things so of course I had a camera along. While I love photography, when I'm out for a ride I don't want to be encumbered by a bunch of gear. Part of why I ride is get away from the distractions and baggage of life. I want to keep things minimalist and a bulky bag of camera gear slung over my shoulder goes against that experience. On this little trip my recently acquired Olympus XA 2 came along in my jacket pocket, loaded with Ilford XP2 Super black and white C-41 film.

Ilford XP2 Super is a new film to me. This black and white film is developed in the C-41 process just like regular color negative film. I'd never tried it because we are lucky enough in the Austin area to have labs that still process traditional black and white film. I figured why shoot "fake" black and white film when the real stuff is easily handled by my lab. Then one day I was talking with Matt at Austin Camera about the scans I get from them. Black and white film scans can be a challenge to work with for me. I always have to do a good bit of adjustment with tone curves and spot out the inevitable dust specs. Matt suggested I give XP2 a try because it tends to scan better for them. 

After seeing the resulting scans of my negatives I can see why he said that. The histograms for the images looked a lot better than the compressed tonal range that I usually have to extensively tweak in my usual black and white film scans. I mostly just had to deepen the shadow range a bit for my liking and lightly burn here and there. The images were virtually free of dust specs. The dust removal software in scanners doesn't work on silver halide black and white film but it will on XP2 since it is C-41. Nice! That's a huge time saver for me. 

The images looked very different from the traditional black and white scans. They are super clean with no visible grain. If I was shooting TRI-X (also ISO 400 like the XP2) I'd see a good deal of grain, especially in highlights. The highlights are crystal clear with XP2. The look is so different that I was initially tempted to add some grain in post. I decided against it because I'd rather present the media as it is. Adding grain to make XP2 look like traditional black and white film would be like putting molded parts on a motorcycle to make it look like a classic (I'm looking at you and your faux carburetors Triumph.)

I did one other thing differently in this film experiment. C-41 is a little less expensive to process than black and white film and Austin Camera has a sweet deal where develop, scan, and print 4x6s for a roll of C-41 film for about $16. That's a a really good deal. The only problem is that the scans are small at that price - just enough for a quality 4x6 print and plenty for web site use. I usually have high resolution scans done but that gets costly. I've got another reason for wanting to try those smaller scans out and I'll talk about that some other time. 

Here are a few favorites from that first roll of XP2. I should mention that I rated the film at ISO 200 after reading a lot of posts on the Internet. There is a lot of latitude in this film for over exposure so opening it up that extra stop helps to pull in more shadow detail. It seemed to work. Enjoy a few sights along some Texas back roads.

CineStill 50 - A Small Town Test

I spent one recent Sunday afternoon testing a couple of new things - an Olympus XA 2 and a roll of CineStill 50 35mm color negative film. The CineStill film is something I've been wanting to try for a while now. This is Kodak Vision 3 motion picture film that is used to film movies, albeit the use of film is kind of a rarity these days in Hollywood. This type of film has an anti-halation backing layer called Remjet that would ordinarily make it very difficult to process. CineStill has had the Remjet removed so that it can be processed like any ordinary C-41 film. Very cool!

The 50 ISO rated daylight balanced CineStill is perfect for our bright sunny days in my part of Texas. I've read where people even recommend overexposing it at ISO 25. For my first outing I decided to keep it at box speed. I was a little nervous shooting it in the untested XA 2 since CineStill is a little expensive (I think I paid about $11 for a roll.) Since the camera seemed to be in good working order with what appeared to be new light seals I took the gamble and it paid off. I was hoping to have a combination that got me rich yet muted colors with minimal effort on my part. Shooting with the XA 2 I got exactly that. All I had to do was guesstimate distance to select one of 3 focus options on the XA 2 and frame my shot. The amazing latitude of the film took care of the rest.

As usual when testing new gear, I headed down the road into Taylor, TX then up into Granger to finish out the roll. Here are a few favorites. The only post processing of the film scans was a slight bump in contrast and clarity. Film processing and scanning was done by Austin Camera.

Granger, A Canon, and some Kodak

Earlier this year I tried out a couple of new to me things: a Canonet QL17 GIII and some Kodak 5222 black and white film. I was looking for a good compact 35mm camera that I could keep in my every day carry bag. To put the little Canon to the test, I headed to nearby Granger, TX for a short photo walk around the eerily quiet small town.

It was an overcast day and the 5222 film didn't give much contrast. I had to use some aggressive tone curves to get the scanned images more to my liking and they are still a little flat for my tastes. The little Canon and I didn't click (no pun intended) very well together either. The rangefinder patch was rather dim, making focusing difficult. There was a softness to most images and I'm not sure whether that was due to my difficulty in focusing or if the rangefinder mechanism was out of alignment.

Still, I came away with a few images I liked. I decided that the Canonet wasn't "the one" and returned it. Maybe I'm not cut out for rangefinders? It was a fun experiment and I'll be looking for the next small 35mm camera to audition.