Learning Journeys

Finding the digital bit more difficult – My first steps into Analogue – Part 1 – By Andrea Bevacqua

April 30, 2020

After some time, I am back into the world of photography. I’ve always been intrigued by analogue photography and especially by the dark room, but I have never attempted it. So, after a few years of digital, I thought it’s time to give it a go.

I am lucky enough to have a few vintage cameras in house, so all I needed was a starter kit for developing. I want to experiment with colour eventually, but for now, I am starting with B&W.

As I wanted to learn as much as possible, the starter kit I choose included also the bulk film loader, so I could make my rolls as well. My new equipment includes an Epson flatbed scanner as I also want to import the negatives on the computer.

My future step will be to approach the dark room for prints with an enlarger and complete the full analog process, but hey, one step at time!

After a bit of research, and thanks to Hamish who helped me to understand how the Leica M2 works, I loaded it with a roll of Ilford HP5+ and headed out in the estate where I live in order to do some trial shots and start developing.

In less than an hour I got my first roll completely exposed so I decided to continue and load the Ilford P3 400Iso Surveillance (bulk) I bought to do more shots, this time with a Diana+… yes, the toy camera!

It was then time to develop. To keep things easier, I decided to try the Monobath Cinestill Df96 which seems a decent compromise for home developing. I was very excited but, due to my lack of confidence, I thought I messed it up and I was pretty sure I was about to get a couple of black stripes of film. Thankfully, I actually obtained two rolls of negatives with some decent images!… I mean, decent, considering it was the very first attempt.

I was very surprised – I did not think it would be so easy.

Much more confident with the digital side of things, I thought it would be now really easy to scan the negatives and save them into my hard drive for saving online.

And here I got another surprise: the main difficulty was to understand all the settings of the software and then all the adjustments in order to scan a decent image. I did not think about the fact that you have so many different settings, all of which can result loads of different image outcomes, which in turn can tell different stories…

This thought brought me to the idea of making the minimum edits possible to the negatives. It is very easy to get lost between all the changes that a software can produce!

Leica M2 – Ilford HP5+ – Cinestill DF96

Leica M2 – Ilford HP5+ – Cinestill DF96

Leica M2 – Ilford HP5+ – Cinestill DF96

 

Diana F+ – Ilford P3 Surveillance + – Cinestill DF96 

 

Diana F+ – Ilford P3 Surveillance – Cinestill DF96

So my perceptions were exactly the opposite in the actual experience, developing was easier than expected, while scanning was much more difficult! I am not saying it is easy to have a good result. There are many of variables to consider, so it does require planning and some study but it was easy to obtain a result from film and home developing than I thought it might be.

However easy or hard any of it was, it all worked well enough for me. I was looking for a learning experience to keep building up on my pre-existing passion for photography – and that’s exactly what I got!

My journey into analogue has just begun, and I can’t wait for better days to go out and shoot without the limitations of the social distancing and the fear of contracting this awful virus.

I hope to be able to contribute with more quality images very soon and to learn as much as possible via your comments and tips.

Thanks,
Andrea

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13 Comments

  • Reply
    Huss
    April 30, 2020 at 7:02 pm

    Hi Andrea

    I too have been very happy with Cinestill Monobath DF96.
    If you have a digital camera you should try to use that to scan your film. It is very easy now to convert those images using NegativeLabPro.com
    I have been doing that for several years now and have been very happy with the process.

    Plenty of places online to find out Information how to scan film with a digital camera.

    Best regards
    Huss

    • Reply
      Andrea Bevacqua
      April 30, 2020 at 7:13 pm

      Hi Huss,
      Thanks for your tip. I’ve got a quite old digital camera (Canon 30d) which I don’t use since….I don’t even remember when…
      I watched some videos about scanning negatives with SLR, but you need also a structure to hold the camera and a macro lens, which both are not cheap. At the moment I would try to keep using the scanner and tomorrow who knows 😊

      Thanks,
      Andrea

      • Reply
        Huss
        April 30, 2020 at 7:42 pm

        If you are scanning 35mm film you just need a 1:1 macro lens and a film holder. I use a Nikon 60mm macro with their ES-2 film holder. For the camera, when the time comes a used Nikon D600/610/750 work great. These cameras are relatively affordable used.
        Instead of the ES-2 film holder you can get a copy stand from ebay for about $150, and use that with any macro lens or standard lens with extension tubes.

        Good luck and I enjoyed your photos!

        • Reply
          Andrea Bevacqua
          April 30, 2020 at 8:17 pm

          Thank you Huss,
          I will bear this in mind.

          Cheers

  • Reply
    Neal A Wellons
    April 30, 2020 at 9:30 pm

    I enjoyed your article Andrea. I have been using an Epson flatbed scanner for a number of years and like most everything else, the more you use it the easier it will be. You don’t have to use all the settings like exposure or color adjustments. I find that if I expose well enough, I just preview, scan and then do a little cropping and adjustments in Lightroom (or pretty much any editing program – or not. The scanner is really flexible in scanning B&W, color and film sizes from 16mm to 6X17 size 120 film. I have found I like the 35mm film holder that came with the scanner but usually use Lomo holders for 16mm and 120.

    You are in for a lot of fun.

    Neal

    I have also found using the C-41 color development chemicals are as easy as B&W, as long as you get your temperature stable (using a mop bucket for me as a water bath.)

    Good luck.

    • Reply
      Andrea Bevacqua
      April 30, 2020 at 9:46 pm

      Hi Neal,
      Thanks for your input. When I was reading about scanners reviews, the Epson’s seemed to be the best in terms of value for money, so I decided To go for it, also because I’m just a passionate who want to have fun and not a professional.
      Is going to come out others article where I describe my progress, anyway I can tell that I’m quite happy with it. The scanner I mean, the scanning process is just boring. I found the 120 holders not really the best.
      I will check out the Lomo’s. thanks for the tips!

      Yes, I started with the C41 as well. A part from the stinky blix, is a lot of fun 🙂

      Thanks fo reading

  • Reply
    Charlie Bierwirth
    April 30, 2020 at 9:42 pm

    Thanks for the article! I’ve been hesitant to develop my own, but hearing that it’s not too horribly hard will hopefully give me the courage to do so in the future.

    • Reply
      Andrea Bevacqua
      April 30, 2020 at 9:50 pm

      Hi Charlie,
      Absolutely! Try it and you will not regret!
      This is a great community and I am sure we will find great tips from the more experts.
      I am more than happy to share my experience.
      Is great fun.

      Ciao

  • Reply
    Rock
    May 1, 2020 at 12:15 am

    Welcome to film photography Andrea. Whether you use a Leica rangefinder or a plastic toy, I hope it brings you as much pleasure as it does for me. Keep sharing your results, Rock.

    • Reply
      Andrea Bevacqua
      May 1, 2020 at 7:39 am

      Hi Rock,
      Thanks for your reply.
      Absolutely, the idea behind of using a Leica and /or a Diana, was exactly as you said. The intent is having fun from the shooting, not from the gear.

      Cheers

  • Reply
    Aaron Gold
    May 1, 2020 at 1:36 am

    Hey Andrea, glad you had such a good experience! I’d say you’re ready to try “traditional” developing with separate developer, stop, fixer. As you’ve seen, this stuff is pretty easy. Kodak D-76 is a great all-rounder (a bit of a pain to mix but simple if you follow the directions) and I use Kodak stop and Ilford Rapid Fixer.

    For scanning, there shouldn’t be too many settings to fiddle with — I have an Epson V550 and I just set it for B&W negative and let ‘er rip. It always seems to get a nice balanced exposure. I load the picture into GIMP, crop if needed, maybe adjust the contrast a bit, and use the clone tool to clean up dust (all stuff we did in Ye Old Dayes in the darkroom) and that’s that.

    Welcome to the wonderful world of film!

    Aaron

    PS, I try to avoid the term “analog” for film/chemical photography…. it’s a pet peeve of mine. Not everything that isn’t digital is analog, and I’m not convinced that film is — I think it’s actually more of a digital medium, as there’s no real continuous tone, but rather the “bits” of metallic silver are either there and blocking light or absent and not blocking light. They just aren’t laid out in a predictable pattern as with a digital camera.

    • Reply
      Andrea Bevacqua
      May 1, 2020 at 7:59 am

      Hi Aaron,
      Thanks for your reply. I started using C41 developer and I used once (the Ilford simplicity kit) Ilfosol3. I am planning to finish the Cinestill (which I have to admit is very convenient) and start with traditional development. Probably buying some powder rather than liquid.

      The problem I found with the scanning is that Is very easy to loose time plying with all the adjustment you can do and is very easy to obtain a very different image every time..I think is very difficult to have just one basic `settings for the import, because every shooting is different (for weather conditions and for the errors you can do during the shooting, for instance) so every time I find myself adjusting these settings and is time consuming. Probably is just a matter confidence and experience.
      I want to try GIMP. I read about it.

      I kind of agree with you about the analog terminology. For sure is not analogue in the way we are doing it, as it is a mix (scanning, post production in Lightroom – or whatever – etc.). It could be a good topic to expand. There is quite a lot to read and keep us entertained about this subject.

      Thanks for reading.

      Andrea

  • Reply
    Honing in on areas for improvement - My First Steps into Analogue - Part 2 - By Andrea Bevacqua - 35mmc
    May 7, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    […] on from my first experiences, and having a lot of spare time, I was thinking how I could improve and enjoy more my journey. In […]

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