First Impressions with Expired Kodak BW400CN Film at Princeton-By-The-Sea, CA

Hey, folks! I’m back with another non-technical review and this time I’m focusing on a particular type of Kodak film that never really found a true following and has since been discontinued as of their Aug 14, 2014 notice. I am referring to Kodak’s BW400CN, which stands for a B&W chromogenic 400 speed color negative. Black and white color negative, you ask? What kind of oxymoron is that?? Well, it was actually a very intelligent move on behalf of Kodak years ago as photo developing was taken over by fancy machines that could crank out color negatives in a matter of ten minutes.

Traditional black and white negatives were developed using a calculated method of temperature, developer and fixer to match each particular film for optimal results that a streamlined process was never made available. To date, most photo labs that process B&W films still do it by hand and is obviously more labor intensive. Yet, as color negative film was manufactured across all platforms and brand names to use the same developing process (C-41), a machine capable of streamlining the developing of the negatives was a godsend. So, what better way to satisfy a consumer market still in love with black and white images than by developing a black and white negative that can be developed in standard chemistry found in the available machinery that would allow for 1HR service for a quick turnaround even at a pharmacy developer? Bingo!

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BW400CN satisfied a market for photographers that wanted to shoot b&w but didn’t want to pay the price tag and potential human error factor of hand processing traditional b&w film OR didn’t want the hassle of developing their own traditional b&w film at home. And you would expect that this new fangled film would be mediocre at best, right?? Abso-freakin-lutely NOT!!!

Most of my adventures in film have all revolved around the excitement and sense of satisfaction of developing my own film in my bathroom-turned-darkroom with the aid of 3 yards of thick, black felt purchased at the local fabric store that gets pinned to the bathroom door to help seal out the light coming in around the door frame. It’s a ventilated bathroom free of windows, so other than the door frame, I don’t have to contend with any other light leaks. In fact, I only require complete darkness for the process of loading the film into the reels that are then loaded into the developing tanks. Once in the light proof tanks, the lights turn back on and everything happens in the light. Given my enjoyment, I really had no desire to go after a color process b&w film.

One of the golden rules that I heard over and over again was that only b&w was able to be home processed. “You can’t possible process your own C-41 at home!!”, I heard many times. Yet, when I would jump on YouTube or read the photo forums on related topics, I would see people successfully developing their own C-41 at home. There had to be something to it, right? I took the leap of faith with Freestyle Photographic (a huge website for anything and everything for film fanatics and more) and ordered one of the C-41 developing kits.

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Prior to taking the leap, I had come across a few great deals on both the Kodak and Ilford versions of C-41 b&w films and figured I would have to try this stuff out myself. I found a singular auction that was cheap enough for me to use some Ebay rewards points I had accumulated and used them to purchase an expired roll of Kodak BW400CN to test out. The film was expired by just a little over a decade, so I figured I would have to make some adjustment to compensate for the aging of the film and however it may or may not have been kept. Since this film is a 400 speed, I figured I would go with the recommended adjustment of 1 f-stop per decade to compensate for age and shot this roll at 200 speed.

I used my Pentax 6X7 with a 90mm f/2.8 lens while visiting the neighboring town of Princeton-By-The-Sea, CA. Just a few minutes north of Half Moon Bay, Princeton is a tiny little town with the biggest working fishing community south of San Francisco. Home to one of my favorite seafood restaurants, Barbara’s Fishtrap, Princeton is a frequent hangout for us when we want to get away just a bit and have some great seafood.

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On the weekends, the locals can be found hovering around the boats returning from their rounds ready to sell the fresh catch just as it comes off the boats. We happened to head down there this April just as the Dungeness crab season was coming to a close. The fishing industry is all too interesting to me and always a great subject for testing out a new roll of film, so I had at it!!

It wasn’t until months later that I took the leap to purchase the C-41 developing kit, and to be perfectly honest, I had almost forgotten all about the roll of BW400CN. What a pleasant surprise to see the beautiful images come to life as the negatives were drying. Just like standard color negatives, the roll of film came out looking murky and with a film on the entire length. I had read that as the film dries, the clarity comes in, so I remained patient. Within a few hours, the images appeared to be popping and my adjustment of the 1-f/stop to shoot the roll at 200 speed was proven accurate.

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It wasn’t until I scanned the negatives that I truly appreciated the film for what it was. Although I tend to favor the high contrast films, I found that I rather enjoyed the neutral tones and found the images to be incredibly sharp, yet smooth. The film has very good shadow detail and a low propensity to blow out on highlights. Kodak advertises the film to be the finest grained b&w they offered until its announced discontinuation date, but I don’t know about all that. I do admit that it looks great, but there was still plenty of apparent “grain” to the image. Could this be a result from the grossly expired film? Quite possibly, but after the discontinuation notice, I doubt I’ll be able to readily find the film at my local photo shop.

So, what’s the verdict, you ask? I say grab some BW400CN and go to town!! I will be actively looking for auction lots on EBay for both expired and current offering to continue to play with until all stock runs out everywhere!!!

Another one bites the dust…

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Architecture Tour Along The Chicago Riverfront is A MUST DO!!!

Ok, folks, I’ve been promising it for a few days now, so I finally did it. I went through the almost 400 images I shot while on the architecture tour along the Chicago riverfront and picked the best of the best to share with you. There were so many great shots, but after a while of looking at shot after shot of buildings, it was getting quite difficult to pick and choose. I think the ones I have are good, but by no means should you assume that this is the only thing you see on the ride. So, before I go into the shots themselves, let me tell you a little about the tour.

The architecture tour along the Chicago rivers is given by about three or four different tour companies that have all set up shop at Chicago’s Navy Pier. There’s a Navy Pier in every major town. In Miami it’s called Bayside. Here in San Francisco it’s called Pier 39. In Baltimore, it was the Inner Harbor. It’s a tourist trap place with plenty to ooh and ahh yourself with while making a great ploy for your to shell out a bunch of money. But, I will give Navy Pier it’s props simply because it houses the companies that give the architecture tour.

Not all of the companies follow the same route, and I couldn’t even tell you the name of the one that I took, but you want to ask for the one that goes all the way down to the Montgomery Ward building. If you ask the question and the attendant eager to take your money doesn’t know if they do, you probably aren’t at the right one.  Because the tour takes place along the river, go away from the boardwalk along Navy Pier and walk towards a the Bob Newhart sculpture. Once there, you’ll see a little kiosk right along the river, that’s the one you want.

I have taken a fair number of water and land tours. There have been the really lame (like the duck tour in just about every city I’ve taken it) and there have been the really awesome ones. This tour was the 2nd best tour I have EVER been on!!! I am not exaggerating on this one. Which one was the best, you ask? The nighttime graveyard tour in Boston takes the cake by a mile. That’s a bus driven tour guide through Boston’s oldest and most famous graveyards along with a few stops of the grim and gruesome that has happened during that town’s history. All this, while being entertained by the tour guides, who are in ghoulish disguise and playing the part of deceased Bostonians recanting tales from their time. That was BADASS!!

Back to the Architecture Tour….

There are several rivers in the Chicago area that come to all meet in the heart of the city. The tour takes place through all three rivers and takes up all of about an hour and a half. It’s a flat ferry style craft with plenty of wooden park benches to give each and every seat the same great view. The tour was given by a very knowledgeable and excited tour guide. He must have talked the whole hour and a half, and at times, almost sounded like an auctioneer with how fast he was going. I caught everything he was saying, so don’t worry about not being able to follow along. If English isn’t your first language, I would say that you would probably catch less than half of what was being said, but you would still get the beautiful vistas all the same. So, don’t fret.

Aside from being a comfortable experience, the boat was equipped with bathrooms and a full service bar in the back. They did have some snacks as well, but I wouldn’t expect them to have much more than candy bars and potato chips. My suggestion would be to eat before or after the tour. Unless you’re like my father-in-law, who thought at one time that a square meal consisted of ice cream and a Pepsi, you wouldn’t be able to get any better on board the vessel. Navy Pier has plenty of eateries to temp your cravings for that day…

The vessel has room for about 150, I would say. There was maybe 50 people on board, so I had room to spread out. Being that I brought with me the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 that I had rented from Borrowlenses.com, I also decided to take out my Tokina 100-300mm f/4.0 and set it alongside me just in case I wanted to change lenses at a moment’s notice. It turned out to be not that bad, since I quickly figured out that we’d be seeing the same views coming back. So, I left the Tamron on the camera until we got to the turning point, then switched over to the Tokina for a different viewpoint for the remainder of the ride.

The tour guide not only gives you the history on how Chicago was settled, but all the marvels and feats that were accomplished in order to keep from polluting Lake Michigan at the expense of St. Louis. My particular tour guide was very well versed with the great Chicago architects and the visions they had for each of their buildings that we saw during the tour. Ever major building in the Chicago skyline touches the river front, except for my favorite John Hancock. Knowing this, I scheduled a separate trip to see the Hancock building for the next day, which I shared with you last week.

Please be sure to tip your tour guide if you feel that they did a great job. You don’t want to be on the tour right after the stingy folks got off and the tour guide is pissy…

Saying Goodbye To A Friend…

Although I will share personal details from time to time with my readers, the point of this photo blog is more to share with you the photo stuff that rolls around in my head. Unfortunately, our family has just experienced a loss that I need to share with everyone, so I’ll apologize ahead of time if this isn’t packed with information or photos. We all experience grief differently, and I’m hoping that this medium might help me deal in a productive way.

I was traveling for business in the Chicago area all week and was looking forward to getting back home more so than usual. Our family cat, Mr. Magoo hadn’t been feeling well and had stopped eating and drinking. In the four years that he’d been with us, he had bouts of colds here and there where he would exhibit these same symptoms. He’d stop eating and find a spot to hide and be alone. We always knew where he was, since you’d hear a sneeze or two every so often, and would help out by placing a small bowl of food and water where he was. A few days later, he would come out of hiding and act as if nothing had happened. This time around started very much the same as in the past, but after 4 days of not eating, we started to worry.

On Thursday night, Mr. Magoo started twitching while on my son’s lap, so he was set down on the floor. He proceeded to have a pretty lengthy seizure filled with pretty violent convulsions that left him out of it and displaying signs that he had lost his vision in part or completely. My son was pretty upset at having witnessed this, and understandably so. Yesterday, in the process of contemplating what to do and whether or not he would hold out for my return, he had his second and third seizure. It was clear that he was seriously affected and was taken in immediately to get looked at.

In this time of need, where my family would rather have me by their side to guide the way, I am having to hear about everything through text messages or short phone calls while away. While standing in the cold and sterile line of United Airline’s baggage drop-off site at the Cleveland Airport I received the call to ask for consent to euthanize Mr. Magoo. And just like that, our family friend was gone.

Standing in that line, I was able to make the decision as simply as if I’d been asked “paper or plastic” at the local grocery store. At that particular moment, it didn’t phase me one bit and I knew that it was the best decision for him and his condition. There was nothing to be done and no clear understanding what had brought us to that point. It wasn’t until I was halfway across the country on the flight somewhere over Colorado that it hit me like a bag of bricks. Somewhere in between watching “Clash of the Titans” and “Due Date” on the plane I felt my eyes water up and I did everything in my power to keep from crying like a baby. I decided to watch “Due Date” with Robert Downey Jr. and Zack Galafanakis simply to keep my mind off the fact that we had lost a family friend and it hurt like hell.

Mr. Magoo joined our family almost four years ago when I decided to take my son to visit the local SPCA in an attempt to teach him a lesson about the responsibilities of keeping animals and what happens when not done responsibly. Of course, the lesson backfired on me when we found Mr. Magoo and the next thing we knew, we were in an adoption room meeting him and seeing how the relationship would work. Of the few cats that we decided to meet, he was the only personable one that was social and interacted with the three of us. It was a done deal and we all went home.

He was approximately 6 months old and still had plenty of kitty to grow out of. He took to the house immediately and inspected all the rooms with caution before settling in and feeling as if he owned the place. In the time he was with us, we had a few incidents, but we always made through it. We live in a townhouse with a front deck that he loved to climb up on the railing. Also, our bedroom window had no bug screen, so he enjoyed climbing behind the blinds to sit on the sill for hours. It was on one of these occasions that he must have lost his balance and fell from the second floor while we were away. We looked all around for him, but couldn’t find him. We figured that he’d come back shortly, but the days passed and no word from Mr. Magoo. It wasn’t until on the second week of him missing that he showed up on a patch of lawn in front of our communal mailbox unit. It was apparent that he hadn’t eaten much, by his condition of almost wasting away. He must have sat in front of his bowls eating and drinking for a good twenty minutes.

He did come back with a abscess near his tail bone that required a trip to the vet. It turned out to be an infection from probable interaction with another animal, but we took care of him. After that, he got a LOT better at hanging out on the ledge at the front deck, but we tried to keep him away from the window sill to avoid any future episodes. He still fell off the ledge of the railing from the deck, but always found his way back home in a hurry.

I would like to think that he led a good life in the few years that he was with us. Given that he was one of dozens of kittens available when we went, I can only imagine that not all of them made it to be adopted and had much shorter lives. In the time he was with us, we made sure to spoil him with treats and daily sessions of scratching under his chin while he purred incessantly. He was never too shy to let you know that he wasn’t done with the petting with a nudge with his head, but that was one of the great things about him.

He liked hanging out on his own, but the winter season would always prove to get him in the cuddling mood. Since the dining room area in our place can get pretty cold, we could always count on hearing his paws tapping on the door handle to the bedroom, as if he was going to turn the handle himself to get in. Once we’d open the door, he would quickly climb up onto the bed and head straight for the middle spot under the covers to stay there the rest of the night. I would always listen to his purring under the covers as he fell back to sleep in the warmth he wanted.

I will miss his greeting every day as we pull up the driveway. He would stand on the railing of the second deck and pace back and forth meowing as loud as he could in anticipation of us coming upstairs. He always made sure to let us know that he wanted attention, but never came to us. He was telling us to come to him!! He would change his mind often enough on who was his favorite, but I didn’t mind when it wasn’t me.

He will be sorely missed and I don’t foresee replacing him anytime soon. I feel as if the house feels wrong without him. In the dining room, I found myself looking over to his favorite hangout spot just to be reminded that he won’t be with us anymore. I loved Mr. Magoo and he will stay with us always.

I dedicate this posting to my good friend, Mr. Magoo. Your short time with us will never be forgotten. You filled our lives with much love.