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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

The last 3 or 4 software updates to Gutenberg, WordPress’ content editor, has made it far harder to know how to use. It is demonstrably worse. I may actually revert to the 6.x branch for a while. Ouch.

Indoor Voices

Remember when I opined that blogging may see a surge with all of this quarantine stuff?

Indoor Voices – a new blog (on blogspot!) from over 80 quarantined writers. Kottke covers it far better than I can here.

A few weeks ago, writer Kyle Chayka Tweeted “I predict a great Blogging Renaissance,” to which also writer Kevin Nguyen responded, “i kinda wanna do a weird free-for-all quarantine blog.”

I’ll set aside some time to dive into the archives this week.

My 2020 avatar

Shot on 35mm film retro fitted into an Ansco Rediflex

Quarantine has me trying all sorts of experiments. One of which is retro fitting 35mm film into an old Ansco Rediflex medium format camera. It produces some interesting results (I’ll post a few in the coming days).

But I’ve wanted my 2020 avatar to be on taken on film. Thanks to my wife Eliza for taking this photo with this crazy set up. Turned out pretty neat.

Canon Rebel G, expired Kodak Color Gold 400
Canon Rebel G, expired Kodak Color Gold 400

Talking gear and settings for shooting film – December 2019

Recorded December 24, 2019.

In this episode of the podcast I discuss the gear I took on this trip, why I have them, the settings I use, how I use my bag, etc. It is just a ramble really I wouldn’t listen if I were you.

Oh and I talk about scanning old negatives as well. Hope you enjoy it. I did.

Konica Autoreflex T, expired Kodak Pan X film

Truck @ 40mph – March 2020

Like all of my photos, there is a story behind this one. My boss gave me a camera as a gift. And I shot some really old expired film through it. This was one of my favorites from the roll. More on the podcast in the future.

I had no idea Kenny Rogers was a large format film photographer. Even in the Hall of Fame for it. Gorgeous work. Talented man.

In case you were too busy washing your hands, I recently released an episode of my photography podcast about shooting film.

So many App version update notes are canned junk lately. Not Wolfram’s.

You can now ask Siri “Do I have the Coronavirus?” Apple is keeping it up-to-date with the latest CDC protocol.

NetNewsWire is the best RSS workflow on any platform

John Gruber:

It’s exactly what I want in an RSS reader, and it has changed my daily reading habits significantly.

It is, in a way, a return to what NetNewsWire was before the NewsGator acquisition of it and FeedDemon. Both NNW and FD were my go-to ways of subscribing to every interest, person, web site I had in the web in the early 2000s.

I’m so very happy to be back on the Mac and using NetNewsWire on both desktop and iOS. Even though I enjoyed using Feedly, it cannot hold a candle to the NetNewsWire workflow.

I have one request of the NNW team that would make my life a lot better. But it appears I may not get it. Perhaps I can find some workaround.

I’m looking for more film photographers with blogs. If you know any please leave a comment.

Canon Rebel G, expired Kodak Color Gold 400
Canon Rebel G, expired Kodak Color Gold 400
Canon Rebel G, expired Kodak Color Gold 400

My first day shooting only film – December 2019

Recorded on December 23, 2019.

This episode is packed with nostalgia for me – even though it was only 3 months ago. It was my first day shooting film. I was using expired film so that I didn’t mind making mistakes. And I made a ton of them on this day.

I also developed this film myself. It was my very first roll of color film that I had developed on my own at home. In fact, up until this writing I have never sent any film out to be processed. I’ve done it all myself. At least so far. Once I start shooting more expensive films (which I’ve just received this week as of his writing) I may change my tune.

I’m satisfied with the photos. Knowing what I know today, I realize the film was definitely bad. The fact that it exposed at all is a miracle really. If these photos were taken with new film they would have been poppin. The silo image was metered properly, but I could have done a bit better on that one with the exposure. But I had a lot to learn at this point.

So many of the topics I covered in the episode show how new I was to this whole film photography journey. I still am. I’m looking forward to upcoming episodes to relive the moments I learned over the last 3 months of shooting only film. And I’m looking forward to looking back at these episodes in the years to come.

Here are a few photos taken with the point-and-shoot Kodak Snappy EL also using expired film from this same day.

Kodak Snappy EL, expired Kodak Color Gold 400
Kodak Snappy EL, expired Kodak Color Gold 400

The Snappy EL that I have is junk and is going in the garbage. I had to force it to forward the film by squeezing the case and that made it skip frames and be wholly unreliable.

Thanks for listening.

Cameron Moll “returns” to his site

Cameron Moll:

BUT. But, my dear friends. After years of neglect, what a rush of joy seeing this site breathing again! What a privilege to be back in the author’s seat! Why did I ever leave in the first place? Oh that’s right, I been busy with life.

Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps the blogosphere is simply waiting in the wings. Ready to pounce. Maybe we’ll see a resurgence as people come home and remember they have a website. I certainly hope that is true.

Btw, Moll really has been here for years. The “est. in 1999” tells us enough that, like me, he’s an OG. If you look through my blog’s archives you’ll see links that date back well over 10 years to his blog – and, in some ways, Dribbble was born on his blog.

Come on blogosphere wake up!

I fully expect social distancing to continue through 2020 and perhaps into 2021. From everything I’ve read we’re in for the long haul. To that end I ordered a big batch of film yesterday. Should hold me over a few months.

Interactions in the blogosphere seems very, very low. I’d think the current situation would have created the opposite.

Ansco Speedex • Ilford HP5+ 400

Penn Yan, New York – March 2020

This is a frame from my very first roll of new black and white film. It was taken on Ilford HP5+ 120 film stock. This is very forgiving film from my newbie perspective.

Eliza and I enjoyed a sunny weekend in the Finger Lakes isolating ourselves to some degree from the outside world. It was so sunny, in fact, that the Ansco Speedex didn’t really have a quick enough shutter speed to keep up. I’m limited to 1/100 being the quickest speed on the camera.

I look forward to shooting more Ilford and hopefully in the 6×7 and 6×9 ratios as well.

Studebaker – March 2020

A few more medium format film exposures. These were also taken with the Ansco Speedex.

This old Studebaker sits a stone’s throw away from a river that runs directly in front of our place. From the stories I’ve gathered it was sitting across the street for a few decades before being moved into this area and it has sat here now for a number of years.

My goal with this first expired roll of medium format film was to see the different tones I could create so I thought this white car would be a good subject for that.

Magic Leap of faith

I’ve covered some news regarding Magic Leap a few times here on the blog. You can skim the posts here. I’ll pull a quote from something I wrote in the summer of 2018:

But I do think Magic Leap is playing a dangerous game with the hype machine. They should try to lower expectations before their consumer or business devices hit the market. This way when the press covers them the reviews will be glowing rather than lukewarm.

Rather than try to lower expectations they went nearly completely silent. And everything they’ve uploaded to YouTube was confusing, boring, and showed almost nothing. So odd.

Well, now they are trying to sell after trying to have a big exit to Facebook.

Just a quick rant regarding valuations, raising a bunch of money, and hype… if I may.

Magic Leap played this wrong from the jump. Yes, VR is an issue that has taken, and will take a lot more, money to solve. There is no way around it. However, you don’t need to blow the money into the wind either. You can get a core team, even a well paid team, and iterate. Oculus seems to have done that to some degree – even though they were able to secure a large exit to Facebook.

Second, if you raise a huge amount of money you very quickly eliminate the possible acquisition targets for your company (if you want to exit in that way). There are a lot of companies in the world that can afford to acquire a company for $10M-$100M. There are relatively few that can for $10B+.

Third, if you hype up your technology as much as Magic Leap has, almost any demonstration they were able to do would lead to a “this is what you’ve spent billions on?” type of reaction.

If Magic Leap has solved any big technical hurdles for VR I sincerely hope those solutions make it into the market in some way – either through a fire sale, open source, whatever. But I do hope the company itself goes belly up to show others this isn’t how you do this.

VR-OS

VR-OS:

A new operating system beyond the limits of your monitor

Impressive concept. But far from being a reality.

I would like something like this but in AR, so I can still see the world around me. I’d rather the “windows” of the OS to be able to be anywhere “in the room” such as the wall, floor, ceiling, floating in mid-air etc.

What I saw somewhat recently #60: March 11, 2020

Here are some links I’ve found interesting lately. By the way, you can find the entire archives for this fits-and-starts series of posts.

  • Interview with Director of CIDRAP – If you’d like to have the straight facts (so far) regarding COVID-19 I cannot recommend this video enough.
  • Pluralistic – Cory Doctorow’s new daily link lists. Which spurred me to publish this post. I just subscribed, so I don’t have much of an opinion on it yet. /via Andy Baio.
  • Photo Stream – A simple, open source, Jekyll-based photography stream created by Tim Van Damme.
  • John Margolies’ Photo Archive – 11,700 photos. Self taught photographer to preserve amazing roadside art.
  • Gabe Rivera on Instagram – His Stories are works of art every day.
  • Comet Coma – A comet is generally smaller than 50 miles across. Its coma, or tail, can be much larger. Want to see how large? Read the second paragraph on Wikipedia.

Sweeney’s Bench – Scranton, PA – March 2020

This being my very first “serious” medium format film exposure using the Ansco Speedex 6.3 – a camera from the 1930s that is fully manual.

I’m extremely happy with this image. Even though I was using Kodak Tri-X 400 film that expired in the early 1980s, the exposure is decent. The number of grays are vast. And the exposure I was looking for is right on.

The interesting thing about the Ansco Speedex is that I have to pace out my subject’s distance from the film’s surface. In other words, I had to walk over to that bench and walk back to the camera and take a guess at how far away it was for focus. For this entire roll, save 1 frame, I got the focus just right.

I’ve now purchased some brand-new Ilford HP5+ for this camera. I couldn’t be more excited to see the results of new black and white film for the first time.

NetNewsWire for iOS is now available

NetNewsWire:

You can go get it on the App Store! It runs on iPhones and iPads and requires iOS 13.

Got it.

Gus Mueller on YouTube Premium

Gus Mueller:

It made such a difference in the way I experienced YouTube, I can’t imagine ever letting my subscription lapse. And in fact while I knew that YouTube was super important, its value just increased ten times over for me and I would easily put YT at the top of the list of the most important sites on the internet.

Me, in 2016:

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube lately. More specifically, I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube on my TV lately.

That same year:

I’ve been loving YouTube lately. I watch much more YouTube than traditional TV. I find a lot more value in YouTube.

Me, in 2019:

I love watching YouTube videos to learn from people that have thousands of hours more experience than I do. I often find it isn’t what they are saying or explaining that I learn from the most – it is from watching what they are doing.

YouTube Premium, as Gus notes, is terrific. But even if you don’t have Premium you can get an enormous amount of value out of it just from watching a 5 second ad here and there and hit the skip button.

This is a great use of YouTube. Vintage film cameras in exotic locations just looking pretty. Not even taking photos.

The film photography journey continues.

Experiments in light metering

As a follow-up to my previous post regarding my journey to-date in film photography – here is an example of how I’ve approached learning the light metering of a scene.

Here are several exposures, taken fairly close in time to one another, using several different camera settings (and in the case of a few, a different lens) on the Canon AE-1 Program and an expired roll of Kodak Color Gold 400.

50mm f/22 1/125
50mm f/22 1/250
50mm f/22 1/500
50mm f/22 1/60
~80mm f/22 1/25
~80mm f/22 1/60
~80mm f/22 1/30 – metered for shadow

As you can see, the last image was taken after a fair amount of time had past and so likely could be excluded from this test. However, I’ve included it to show how metering for shadows really can blow out the hightlights on such a well-lit subject.

I’ve taken tons of photos for the express purpose of learning how they will come out first hand. I use Simplenote to write down all of my settings on the camera and a short description of the photo so that I can remember (because, unlike digital no EXIF information travels with the negative or digital file unless you write it yourself).

Why I’m shooting with film

Nearly a decade ago Eliza and I began to make our own wine and beer. We started out making quick batches in buckets, carboys, or other small containers. It allowed us to get more familiar with the process of fermenting fruit or barley into one of our favorite drinks.

Pressing grapes, 2013

Eventually we graduated to making a more serious batch of wine that started as grapes still on the vine that were shipped by boat from Chile and ending up as 80 gallons of a Cabernet Sauvignon / Carménère blend that – to this day – is the best wine we’ve ever made or had.

When we began to learn this process it gave us a deeper appreciation for other wines and beers we had. We started to understand what each ingredient, what each stage, the temperature, and many other factors played into the end result. We also honed our tastes in so far as to know, without ever having a sip, what beverages we liked and didn’t like.

The process of learning to make wine feels very similar to the process of learning film photography.

San Francisco, July 2007
One of the first photos I took with the original iPhone

I’ve been shooting digital images for many years. I’ve always had an interest in making photographs as memories of our experiences, as well as an outlet for my creativity. But it wasn’t until the iPhone debuted that I began to explore photography as an art medium. Or as a documentary medium for that matter. With the iPhone I would have a camera with me everywhere I went and I ended up taking tons of photographs with my mobile phone for the next decade. Which led to me taking photographs with other digital gadgets like GoPros and drones.

A few years ago though I began to study photography. Looking up its history, looking at examples from the last hundred or so years, and trying to learn different techniques. Prior to this time period I only had very surface knowledge of the photographic process – digital or film. I knew the basics of composition and how an image sensor worked. Apart from that I had no idea.

For whatever reason, the desire to try film – like the desire to make our own wine – became stronger and stronger. I started to follow film photographers on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. People like Dan Rubin, Bijan Sabet and a few others were nearly daily reminders that I should give it a try. Which ate at me for over a year. Then, about 6 months ago or so, I stumbled across Nick Carver on YouTube. What he was doing with film photography was much different than Dan or Bijan – he was trying to create the highest quality digital file and print he could from a scene. This interested me greatly.

My current digital cameras are already over 10 years old (not counting my current iPhone 11 Pro Max). So my ability to create high quality images on digital is non-existent. Looking at film it appeared to me (knowing almost nothing) that I’d be able to get a much higher quality result without the budget needs of upgrading my digital cameras. It turns out I was only part right on this.

So, as you may have listened to in this episode of my podcast, I decided to pick up a few inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras to get my journey started in film. That was four months ago. I figured I’d buy a camera or two, fire a few rolls, see what the results were and learn. Little did I know the rabbit hole or the ride I’d be on over the next several months – and likely for the rest of my life.

One of my first exposures
Canon AE-1 Program, Kodak Tri-X expired in 1982

Since then I’ve purchased, or been gifted, well over a dozen cameras ranging from point-and-shoot 35mm film cameras to 100-year old medium format cameras that no longer have film compatible with them. I’ve read a few books on the history of photography as well as the complete photographic development process. I’ve shot dozens of rolls of film and developed them on my own, either in my kitchen sink or in my bathroom tub. In fact, I never sent away a single roll to be processed by someone else. I’ve even modified existing film stock to fit into that 100-year old camera.

I went a little off the deep end in an effort to give myself a crash course in film photography.

Radisson Station, Scranton PA
Canon Rebel G, Kodak Color Gold 400 expired in 1982
Lake Lanier Georgia
Canon AE-1 Program, Kodak Color Gold 400 expired in 1983, converted to mono
Garden fence, South Carolina
Canon AE-1 Program, brand-new Kodak Color Gold 400
Garden path, South Carolina
Canon AE-1 Program, brand-new Kodak Color Gold 400
Reedy River, Greenville, South Carolina
Canon AE-1 Program, brand-new Kodak Color Gold 400

I still have a long way to go and a lot more to learn. I still haven’t created a high quality result that I’d be happy with for, say, a fine art print like Carver’s work. But I haven’t tried yet either. Most of the film I’ve shot, with the exception of 3 brand-new rolls of inexpensive Kodak Color Gold 400 (or Ultra Max) that I purchased in an Atlanta camera shop, has been film that is well past its expiration date. In fact, some of it didn’t work at all. Also, the cameras I’ve been using all have their little quirks. One doesn’t have a battery (so I have to meter for light using my iPhone or just guess). It also has moisture in the viewfinder so I can’t focus the image so again I’m left guessing. And the rest has been downright bad film.

Why go through all of this? Because it has cost me almost no money so far. All in I’ve spent less than $500 to shoot film for 4 months on many different setups with different speed films and process them all on my own. I consider this a very inexpensive education so far.

Tree, medium format
Ansco Rediflex 1920s, Kodak Tri-X 120 400 expired in 1982
Warming up C-41 chemicals in my kitchen sink to develop color film
Ansco Rediflex
I had to modify 120 film to fit
Canon AE-1 Program, gift from my brother-in-law
At a great brewery in Virginia

But I’m about to level up. I’m ready to move onto the next phase in my education and that is to use the skills I’ve learned so far to create high quality images using both 35mm and medium format film. I need to buy a bunch of brand-new film, which I’ll likely ruin or mess up in some way, and I still need to track down the medium format camera (maybe a Rolleiflex?) that I want at a price I can afford. But all that I’ve learned these last months will hopefully help to cut down on the mistakes I’m about to make. I’m on a budget after all!

I’ll check back in here in a few months time to see if, like the wine Eliza and I made, I’m making photographs that are now my favorite I’ve ever taken.

I’ll be publishing a lot more photos here on my site that I’ve taken over the last few months as well.

Cleaning up my blog subscriptions (in NNW). Adding some new ones (please send recommendations). Getting ready for a new push into blogging, mostly about photography, and getting some new podcast episodes out. Thinking of scaling back on Twitter and IG.

35mm • Canon AE-1 Program • Kodak CG 400

Rain over the Virginia Hills – 35mm – February 2020

Eliza and I pulled off the road to get this shot while we were driving north through a gorgeous area of Virginia a few weeks ago.

I have a lot to share here. A lot! Please stay subscribed. When I come up for air I’ll catch up.