5 Frames - Alpsee On CineStill B&W XX

The Alpsee is right next to the valley between castle Hohenschwangau and castle Neuschwanstein. Coming from Schwangau, if you drive through the touristy bits, avoid running over all the tourists, and reach the parking lot at the end of the street, you are right at the lake.

Most tourists are interested in visiting castle Neuschwanstein, which according to legend inspired the castle depicted on the company logo with the mouse head. Or the other castle. Hohenschwangau. I had a Sunday that I wanted to dedicate to running around with a camera hanging from the strap around my neck. It wasn’t my first time in the area, so I decided to start walking towards the lake.

I went further and further, catching the beautiful light on film, enjoying the gentle weather. From time to time there was a bit of rain. Nothing too serious at the beginning. At some point, I started wondering if there is a path around the Alpsee. I kept going, curious to see how far around I could go.

I went all the way and ended up at the parking lot where I started. For the last quarter, the rain had started to get heavier. I went from “slightly moist” to “wet” in about 15 minutes. When I reached the car, I had to dry myself with a towel. A bit of foresight goes a long way, but in hindsight I should have brought a raincoat.

I dragged my trusty Nikon F5 around, with a modern 50mm f/1.8 autofocus lens bolted to it. I had found a roll of CineStill B&W XX in the freezer at home. That was a roll of film that I had nearly forgotten. As far as I can tell, it is Kodak Eastman Double X that has been re-rolled into a 135 film cartridge by the folks at CineStill Film. I was curious to see how it fares, and I am not sure if I like or dislike the look of the results. The images show a distinct, fine grain, that I do not remember from other black and white film stock. Other products like those from Fomapan, Ilford and Rollei do show grain, too. But I do not recall any of them to have such noticeable grain.

It’s not bad. It’s not good. I am on the fence about it.

5 Frames - Nebelhorn Again

This is an indirect second part to the ”Ultra Large Nebelhorn” post. Just instead of showing you pictures made with the 8”x10” camera that I dragged up the mountain, I have five frames made with a Leica M6 and a Zeiss ZM Biogon 21mm f/2.8 lens prepared for inspection. Interestingly, the Wikipedia article that I found about the Zeiss Biogon mentions the Schneider-Kreuznach Super Angulon being based on the Biogon design. This makes the 121mm f/8 lens used on the 8”x10” (20x25cm) camera somewhat related to the Zeiss lens that I had mounted to the Leica. Two similar designs, two entirely different cameras and film format. Even the focal lengths, roughly adjusted for crop factor, are similar: The 121mm of the Schneider-Kreuznach lens on the 8”x10” camera equates to something like 16mm on a 35mm camera, compared to the 21mm of the Zeiss lens. 

In both the 8”x10” and the Leica M6, I used Fomapan 100 as film stock. With this, I can attempt to compare pictures from both cameras. The first thing that I noticed: The Zeiss lens does not flare like the Schneider-Kreuznach lens does. And it does cover the whole negative, unlike its large-format counterpart (which is visible in the darkened corners in the images in the other post).

The next thing that jumps at me: The scans that I get from the 35mm film show grain, while the 8”x10” negatives that I photographed with the DSLR are smooth. That tells me, that there is a lot of detail wasted by taking pictures instead of scanning. At least in the large-format case. I need to find a way to get the humungous negatives scanned. Curiosity is killing me…

The 35mm negatives exposed through the modern Zeiss lens are exhibiting a lot more contrast. All the images that I got from the DSLR (see other post) were mostly flat (which is why I played with the gamma slider and exposure correction in DxO PhotoLab to add contrast). This could be blamed on my choice of camera settings when taking pictures of the negatives, or it might be the way the Schneider-Kreuznach lens renders the image. To the naked eye, the large-format lens looks uncoated. Uncoated lenses are said to be less contrasty, as far as I have read. Which means lower contrast with the Schneider-Kreuznach sound reasonable.

All in all, I am happy with the results from both cameras and lenses. The Leica M6 is a joy to use, similar to the Leica M4-P, just with a built-in light meter (which works great, even though I am a bit lazy regarding the use of light meters in general). The 8”x10” camera is an event, and it slows you down enough to be considerate about scenery, framing and everything else. Unless of course you are like me: “I have 10 negatives to fill! Give me 10 views to frame and shoot! Quickly!”. And the lenses are worth their weight in… well… glass.

5 (+1) Frames - Ultra Large Nebelhorn

On a sunny day in the middle of September I decided to go on a trip up the Nebelhorn. I deliberately chose this destination, because I had planned for a long time to go up a mountain in the Alps to use my 8”x10” (20x25cm) camera up there. I made that fateful day the day it would finally happen. At home I packed my bags: The Intrepid 8x10 (first generation) went into a messenger bag, five film holders went into a backpack, together with the 121mm f/8 Schneider-Kreuznach Super Angulon lens. I managed to stuff the light meter somewhere in there, too.

After a 2-hour ride through the south of Germany, I reached the cable car station in the town of Oberstdorf. There I got to stand in the waiting line, armed to the teeth with camera equipment, sweating because of the heat and my choice of clothing. “At the top of the mountain it will be cold”, I thought. I guessed wrong. Three cable car rides later (there are two intermediate stations), I met with a friend at the restaurant on the peak of the Nebelhorn. It was warm and sunny.

A hearty lunch later, and it was already 1 pm. I went to work: My friend found a nice place for setting up and I got the camera and other stuff out of my bags. (See first image in this post to get an idea of what the set up looked like.) The weather and the view at the peak were ideal for what I wanted to capture. The first exposure was done, and I was ready to move to the next position. Wanderlust and a desire to get home on the same day grabbed my friends attention and he went on his way on the path down to town. A 3-hour hike (according to the internet) that turned out to be rougher and longer than anticipated.

I stayed at the peak, looking for different vantage points to expose some negatives to the vista of a busy mountain range. It seems like a weird guy with a large format camera is no daily sight for those who hike up an down the Nebelhorn. I got bemused looks and wherever I decided to set up, there was at least one curious hiker asking questions about the camera, what it is, how it works and why I decided to drag it up there, instead of going with an easy to carry digital camera. 

For me the answer was always: It’s fun! Curiosity and the joy of taking it slow and deliberate were ultimately the reasons why I bought the camera in the first place. And the large negatives. Oh those large negatives!

After exposing all 10 negatives, I took the cable car back to my parking space in Oberstdorf. Another 2-hour drive and I was back home, shuffling to get the negatives development in my little “bathroom lab”.

The Results

I developed two sheets of negatives (Fomapan 100) at a time in Adonal (Rodinal) 50+1 solution. Two sheets at a time isn’t the most efficient use of my time, as I have a larger drum for up to six sheets, but this was the safer path in cases I made an error during development. After development and drying, I put the sheets into protective covers. Turns out some of them were not completely dry and ended up with a sticky patch that is visible as a large blotch.

The next day I digitized the material with a Nikon D600 (with 24-70mm @ f/8) and a light table (usually used for tracing on paper). I do not have a scanner capable of scanning 8”x10”, which is why the “take picture with digital camera” approach has to suffice for now. The resulting RAW files went through DxO PhotoLab for inversion and some corrections.

It was the first time that I used the 128mm wide-angle lens, and as you can see in the corners it seems to vignette quite a bit even at f/32. Another problem with the wide-angle is the tendency to get more into the shot than was bargained for. I have a couple of pictures with some guard rail in the frame. And this, even though I was very close and sufficiently above that railing.


To me the effort was a success. It may have been a pain to get the camera and equipment up to the peak of the Nebelhorn, and the results may be sub-optimal, but it was a fun, social event. For next time, I would probably take another lens with me, though.

5 Frames - Austria With The Nikon F5 And 50mm f1.2

The images in this post are from a 3 day trip to Austria with a group of colleagues (similar to the trip to Ibiza). I took the Nikon F5 with the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 attached with me and took a couple of shots on site. The film that I tried out on these days is Kodak Pro Image 100 and Rollei RPX 25 (which I did not yet develop).

With the 50mm I either have a problem nailing focus at f/1.2, or it is not very sharp at that fast aperture. Stopped down, it looks plenty sharp to me, though.

The site in Austria was ”Almdorf Seinerzeit”, which is a set of two small “villages” on a hillside, consisting of guest housing, swimming pools, sauna and other amenities. Between those two “villages”, there is the main building with reception and restaurant.

Right around the “corner”, you can find the ”Biosphärenpark Nockberge”, which invites you to go a bit of a hike. After my experience with Ibiza, I decided to be lazy and stay near the “village”. Some quiet time (everyone else was on a hike or riding mountain bikes), fresh air and the landscape: Relaxing.

The only noise to disturb the silence was the click of the shutter.

5 Frames - Boulder With A Leica M4-P

As the avid reader might have guessed, I quite enjoy shooting with my Leica M4-P. It may not come as a surprise then, that on a trip during the early days of 2018, I took the camera and its mate (the Voigtländer Color Scopar 35mm) with me to the town of Boulder, Colorado.

Boulder is right at the feet of a mountain range, which makes the choice of name quite punny. January is a weird time to visit this area: Everything has a tint of red-ish brown, as the colours of dried vegetation, the brickwork of the buildings and the tone of the hills mix into a uniform mush. And the Christmas decoration is still sprinkled all over the place.

I was there, as so often when I travel, for business. My limited free time was spent with meandering through the streets around the Pearl Street Mall and with a short hike to the foot of the nearby hills.

There is not much else that I can tell about Boulder. The time of the year wasn’t ideal, I did not have a car to explore the east of the area and aside from a sight-seeing tour around the office, I did not get out much. At least as far as I remember.

Thus I am left with a friendly farewell and a hardy “Enjoy the pictures, mate!”.

5 Frames - New York With A Leica M4-P

Another week, another trip to New York. This time I spent my free time walking around in Manhattan south of Central Park. One day along the High Line, another day along Broadway up to Central Park, which had a lot of police presence because of the New York Marathon.

In the morning, just after arriving at the office, I had a rather unusual sight out of the window. Unusual at least for me, as I am only a visitor to the big apple. The clouds hung low over downtown Manhattan, with skyscrapers disappearing into fluffy white cotton candy. I had to take a picture of that.

I had the Leica M4-P with me, with the Voigtländer 35mm (the one with the ridiculously long name) bolted on. Another thing in my pocket was the ColorChecker Passport Photo from x-rite (first generation). My thought was: All my scanned negatives look off colourwise. If I have a reference for white balance at the beginning of each series of pictures, I may be able to colour correct properly. (Note: The images in this post have been re-scanned, based on my recent insight into ”scanning film the right way”.)

In the end, taking pictures of the ColorChecker did not improve the situation at all. I still ended up with a nasty colour cast in my scans. Not knowing about this outcome at the time of shooting, I now have a couple of frames with my little ColorChecker in various situations around New York.

Funnily enough: Even though I can’t state enough that I have barely an idea about what I am doing when I run around with a camera, I still was asked by strangers to help them take their picture because I looked like I know what I am doing. That is the “Leica effect” at work. If you want to become a good photographer, buy a Leica. At least in your mind, and apparently in other peoples minds, you will have your goal achieved automatically.

5 Frames - Ibiza With A Leica M4-P And Voigtländer Color Skopar 35mm f/2.5 VM II Pancake

Once upon a time, on an island far, far away. Well, not that far, but still far enough to warrant the use of a plane. It was the summer of 2017 and somehow I ended up at a large hotel complex on the island of Ibiza. Three days (including arrival and departure) with colleagues and an overly ambitious organizing team, far from civilisation as I know it (I grew up in a big city, but I love the outdoors). Various activities planned, among them a hike and a trip to the city.

I had my Leica M4-P with the Voigtländer Color Skopar 35mm f/2.5 VM II Pancake with me. That name is a mouthful, but the lens itself is nicely compact. Together with the little rangefinder, you get a handy travel companion that is comfortable to always have with you.

Walking around the island, especially near the hotel, is a chore of a hike. Just out the door, you start with a hill climb. Then it goes up and down, left and right, along roads and gravel paths. We even went cross country and through the woods where there was no indication of a path whatsoever.

Aside from that near-death experience (the hike), the weather was nice and the sights made up for at least a bit of the pain. And my little Leica was a joy to use: I set the aperture to f/8, the shutter speed to 1/250, and was set for the rest of the day. All I had to do was frame, focus and shoot. The aperture ring on the lens is a little too easy to knock around, so I had to check the f-stop from time to time. Thanks to the wonders of film (a Fuji Superia 200), it did not matter too much. All frames came out exposed ok.

The last day on Ibiza had the trip to the city on its schedule. Until then I had a bit of time to relax and recover from the pain of the hike on the first day. The first stop was down at the harbour. From there, we split up into smaller groups and some of us went up to Ibiza Castle. I got up to Baluard de Sant Jaume, before my body told me it got reminded too much of the exertions of the first day. My group turned around and we wandered through the streets of Dalt Vila. Those streets are photogenic, and around each corner is a potential subject to be framed and shot.

After the sightseeing tour in the city, we got back on the bus and drover to the airport to be stuffed back into the winged tin-can that flew us home.

Scanning Film The Right Way

A couple of days ago, while browsing 35mmc, I came by an article written by Mark Sperry on scanning at home with a Pacific Image XA. He mentioned (my interpretation), that scanning isn’t easy: To get great images, you have to put some effort into learning how to use the scanner and the software. As mentioned before in my posts, I haven’t figured out how to get scanned negatives to look the way I would expect them to look. Mark’s blog post inspired me to look for some tips and tricks for my scanner, a Nikon CoolScan LS-9000 ED.

I found an essential step in the release notes of VueScan (see “Scanning Roll of Film”): Locking the exposure and locking the film base colour. I missed that before. Furthermore, I took inspiration from Kenneth Morris Lee and his ”Scanning Tips with Epson and VueScan Software” to get a flat image for further processing in DxO PhotoLab. ColorPerfect has some nice tips on how to set up the Nikon Scan software, where I took a hint from the “Improving quality by use of analogue gain” section.

To test my new insights, I dug through my archive of scans for a good example. I chose the one that you can see above: It was taken in the Zoo in Munich. It was one of my first colour scans and I think I just used Auto Levels for colour correction in VueScan. It has a nasty colour cast towards yellow/orange that I did not know how to fix. At the time, I probably thought that this is what Kodak Ektar looks like. I found the negative neatly tucked away in a sleeve in my collection and went to work.


The process begins with getting the correct exposure and film base colour locked in. I tend to cut the film to get as many pictures as possible into the film holder of the scanner. Given that these are medium format 6x7 negatives, I had two frames on one strip. The clear area between both frames, or the border of a frame, are a good area to use for exposure and film base colour locking. (For information of how to do this, please read the VueScan release notes: Scanning Roll of Film)

After locking the film base colour, you can find the values in the “Color” tab of VueScan (they are named as “Film base colours red/green/blue”). As an additional step, I set the analogue gain on the input tab to “1 divided by the film base colour value” and remove the film base colour lock afterwards. This corrects for the film base colour by telling the scanner to expose longer/shorter for each colour channel instead of simply multiplying by the factor detected when locking. I took the idea from the Nikon Scan tips on the ColorPerfect page. The benefit compared to multiplication is questionable, but the idea of getting a bit more colour accuracy makes me feel enthusiastic.

All other settings of VueScan are the usual, with exception for the tips for “Curve low”, “Curve high” and “Film Vendor” found in the ”Scanning Tips with Epson and VueScan Software” guide. The resulting scan can be seen above this section. It is a bit dark and flat, just how I wanted it.

DxO Photolab

The image from the previous section, saved as a 16 bit per channel TIFF file, was opened in DxO PhotoLab for colour correction and a bit of colour grading. I started with the “RGB white balance” tab and used the picker on the bright tree trunk on the left of the image. I never know what to pick in the image, so I try some spots where I think it may give me the correct balance until I am satisfied. Next is a combination of the “Exposure compensation” and the “Tone curve” tab: If the image is too dark/bright, adjust the exposure. If the image is too flat, try adding contrast by adjusting the gamma value. Adjusting gamma changes the perceived brightness of the image, so you may need to tweak the exposure compensation, and vice versa.

The result of my efforts is above this section. If you compare it to my first try on top of this post, I think the colours look a lot better and the colour cast is gone. I did overdo it with the gamma correction: The image is a bit too contrasty. It serves well as an example of how much “depth” you can get out of a flat image, though.

And there you have it: I may not yet get perfect results, but I am a lot closer to scanning film the right way.

5 Frames - At A Lake With A 800mm Sigma And A Nikon F5

Once upon a time, in a bout of temporal insanity (happens more often than I dare admit), I bought an 800mm f/5.6 Sigma behemoth of a lens. Why, you ask? To scratch one of those annoying “I want that!” itches, that beset one’s mind without rhyme or reason. I started testing the darn thing with my trusty Nikon D600 and a full moon. The lens came with a 1.4x teleconverter made by Sigma. With a bit of file work, I could adapt my 2.0x Nikon made teleconverter, too. With both attached, I get a neat little focal length of 2240mm. But with my otherwise decent tripod, my tests at those focal lengths were off to a shaky start.

I got a better, sturdier tripod and a gimbal head for quick and accurate turns. A big improvement. Pictures of the Moon now were usable, though not that impressive. The lens is of an older make and model (which I only noticed, after it had arrived). It is not the sharpest tool in the box, unfortunately. I had a suspicion that the lens was made back in the film days. So I decided to try it out with a film body, the Nikon F5. Off I went with tripod, gimbal, lens and camera in my luggage, and drove down to a nearby lake to meet with a friend who wanted to play around with his self-built camera slider.

We set up at the shore of the lake and stayed there for the whole duration. The lens is darn heavy, so I could not be motivated to move around much. And the camera slider was used to try out some time-lapses, which meant that my friend had a lot of time at his hands, while bound to one place.

As it turns out, if you have a long telephoto lens, you do not need to move around much, anyways: Everything appears close by. Often way too close. We joked with people passing by (you don’t see people with weird camera equipment too often around here, and passersby sometimes like to comment) that I should take photos of their friends at the other side of the lake (a couple kilometres away).

By my judgement, the lens is not very sharp on film either. Somehow I manage to see past that in this case, though. And some of the blur is down to motion, e.g. when I tried to catch a bird in flight, or a dog playing. An aperture of f/5.6 is not that fast, and the film I used was Fomapan 100, which means it was not a very sensitive emulsion. Thus, slightly too long shutter times mean some motion blur, too.

5 Frames - Mono Lake With A Hasselblad 503cx

Road trips can be awesome. As it so happens, once upon a time I was on a road trip from Las Vegas, through Death Valley up towards Lake Tahoe and then San Francisco. It was the path a colleague and myself took to get from a conference in Las Vegas to some meetings with folks from one of the other offices. The trip took us roughly a weekend and my colleague suggested stopping at Mono Lake to wander around and take some pictures.

The lake has some photogenic features and I took some pictures on my smartphone and filled a roll of Fuji NPS 160 with a Hasselblad 503cx. The camera worked fine and I had the 10 frames filled quickly with various rock formations and vegetation. I love using cameras with big mirrors because of the satisfying “thunk” you get when pressing the shutter.

Everything went smoothly. The roll used is a colour film. Why are the five frames in black and white? Well, development did not go as planned. I put two rolls on the same spindle. That would not be a problem, as you are supposed to put two rolls on the same spindle. Somehow I managed to put both rolls on top of each other, so that they were stuck together. That way, not enough chemicals got to the emulsion and the images came out muted and with a strong colour cast towards blue.

At the time, I could not figure out how to rescue those pictures. I gave up on them and forgot about it until the time came to write this blog entry. Like with the other posts so far, I dug through my archives to see which images might have been taken with the Hassi. The only colour images, so far, are those where I failed during development. I started a last attempt to correct the colour cast with the help of the hue, saturation and lightness sliders in DxO PhotoLab. It did not work.

Then an idea crept out of the depths of my conscious: What about turning those images black and white? I tried some black and white film presets from the DxO FilmPack, settled for Rollei Retro 80s and adjusted exposure. Voilà! I got something usable!

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