ND – Dark, Blue
Part 2 of my Diana story.
…I’m a digital focussed photographer who’s just received a plastic medium format camera. I have no idea what I’m doing at this point so…
I know that film is allergic to light. Like a Vampire, bright light kills it quickly, and only controlled and limited exposure to light can keep it alive. The question is how much control do I have?
First I need to get some of this alien 120 stuff into my lovely Diana. On the way home I stopped at B&Q and found a red light bulb – my windowless bathroom was going to be my new lab. Unfortunately I was already hitting problems and my Diana was miles away at home, safe and sound, a virgin.
The only red bulbs available have the old bayonet fitting. When I say old, so am I, so the “old” bayonet fitting is actually the norm as far as I’m concerned, but not in this modernist eco-world when 60W devices that Thomas Edison would still recognise are a dying breed. The trouble is, this rarity of a bulb has little in the way of support to mount it and feed it with power. Could I find a single lamp of any description that would hold it? No!
So, off I went to the electrical section to find a simple bulb holder, a wire and a plug. I got home, screwed them all together, found an extension cord and left Mrs ND with strict instructions that if she came into the hall or attached bathroom and found it dark but bathed in an eerie red light, that she was to NOT switch the main lights on to find out what I was doing.
Yes, I probably took it too far, but to load my first ever roll of 120 film into a device known for its random light leaks, I was not going to trip over the first rookie hurdle.
I read Diana’s instructions…
…several times and then realised that I had never seen a roll of 120, naked and in the flesh before. So with my bathroom dimly bathed in red, I ripped open the 120’s wrapper and pulled out something that seemed to be covered in paper.
I found the end of some tape that held it together and pulled it off to unravel this strange cylindrical device. I pulled the tape off altogether! Oh, should I have done that? Too late.
I fumbled trying to get the end into the free spool, then realised it would be easier to put the full spool in first and then pull the film end across to the empty one. I inserted the film end into the slot in the free spool, at least I think I did, and turned the winding knob a couple of times as strictly instructed. You have to handle women just right after all.
Then I needed to get the back on the Diana again and seal that film up. But it wouldn’t go, several shoves, nothing, off, on, off, on again, still no joy. Then I spotted that the lock button had locked itself, I unlocked it, pushed the back on easily and locked it again securely in position, positive that I’d destroyed the whole film from manhandling and over-exposure.
Now, I would fire her in anger…
I mounted Diana on a tripod, it was night outside on my city centre balcony and I figured it was as good a shot as any to get started on. I had no idea how to set her up for a reasonable chance at not blowing my first shot.
Her lens is rated at 75mm, she’s loaded with ISO 400 colour film, and according to that great font of all knowledge, the venerable Wikipedia, her standard eye rates as F11 wide open. Or was that F13, Wikipedia wasn’t 100% sure. Ho Hum.
So I set her eye to focus to infinity (one of three total distance “settings” available), and pulled out my overkill of a light-meter; my Nikon D700 DSLR with the Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 VR fitted. These two cameras come from different sides of the planet. The Universe even.
Pulling the Nikkor lens back to its stop at 70mm, I dropped the D700 into Manual exposure mode, dialled in ISO 400 and F11 and pointed it at the scene I was after. It was night remember and the eyepiece indicator just said “Lo”. So I slowly wound the shutter speed down and down and down and down, down, deeper and down. It took a while for anything to change, but the Nikon eventually started to respond and indications began in the right direction.
At 13 seconds shutter speed the D700 was happy. I was less so. I also decided that I was determined to get something to appear, however badly, on this alien film through this alien plastic lens, and was sure that an overexposed shot would be better than lots of bright points of cityscape light. So I threw caution to the wind, translated 13 seconds into 25 and pulled out my iPhone to find its stopwatch App.
Then came the notepad. Except I couldn’t find it. Mrs ND saw me running around looking for something and asked what I was doing, “finding some paper and a pen” was my frustrated response, “What for?” she persevered, “I’m trying to take a photograph” I threw back tersely, and in an effort to seriously NOT defuse the situation she said “You’d normally have taken 20 photos by now”!
Mrs ND had a point.
Paper and pen in hand I wrote the following…
Diana ~75mm, 120 Colour Film, ISO 400
Shot 1/~16: ~F11, Night city view, D700 metered to 13″ shutter speed, Diana shot at ~25″
As you can see from my confident notation, I wasn’t sure about half of those details. Oh Well.
Ages spent aligning the tripod, looking through the
viewfinder cheap plastic hole, finally I was ready. Then I realised that I didn’t want to manually hold the shutter open for 25 seconds as I might shake the camera, so, keeping the lens cap on, I jammed the shutter open with the attached plastic thingy for, erm, jamming the shutter open and started the stopwatch on my iPhone.
I could have just shot this picture with the iPhone!
I calmed down, and when the stopwatch hit 30 seconds I just lifted the lens cap off and waited for the iPhone to get to 55 seconds. I fumbled the lens cap on and realised that I had just shot film properly for the first time, I had used medium format as well, and finally, just like a pro of old, I had taken the whole shot by removing and replacing the lens cap.
I am now a photographer. Or at least I think I am; who knows, I have no feedback as to what I did to the film. I have fifteen shots to go before I am faced with the horror of getting it developed and finding out exactly what I achieved.
My final act with Diana tonight was to put her to bed. I knew that she could leak light, had no idea how badly, so I grabbed a camera bag that normally sports something much heavier and zipped her up inside.
Until next time my lovely…
Wish me luck.
PS. Image shot with an Apple iPhone 3Gs and processed with the iOS4 Photoshop Express App.