Christmas in the Basque Country – Part 2

Yesterday I returned from a trip to Germany where I was working on 3 different projects. It was cold and uncomfortable, there was a lot of long winded and annoying travel involved, but while I was there I had lots of fun anyway. I saw some excellent exhibitions, caught up with some friends and spent time with my family. I also shot 29 rolls in about 2 weeks and walked 71km! And all of it was possible thanks to my new medication: CBD, which is a form of medical cannabis. For 8 years I was in constant chronic pain and suddenly with this miracle plant I can travel and walk, even hike up mountains with a heavy large format camera! I’m still annoyed that I didn’t find this solution earlier! Why? Well, politics and capitalism. And in case you are wondering: No high with CBD and perfectly legal in the whole EU.

While I was in Germany I also continued working on my newest DIY project, which has exploded into quite a big endeavour. The plan was to build a DIY graflarger back, i.e. a light source that I can mount on my Speed Graphic to turn the camera into a 4×5 enlarger. From a hacked together contraption that was basically just a diffused light source of the right size that would be mounted with a bit of bungee cord I went to a design that will now involve RGB LEDs that I can use in 3 different modes – RGB colour correction like on the computer, RYB colour correction like regular colour enlargers and a multigrade mode that will work like the variocontrast light source on my Durst enlarger. It also won’t be mounted with bungee cord, but will get a proper 3D printed casing and a modular negative holder that will fit a standard international back and can print a whole lot of unusual formats. And since the RGB control needed a micro controller anyway, I might as well include a split grade f-stop timer with an analyser that will hopefully reduce the test strips I need to make and therefore save lots of time when printing.

So far I’ve got the RGB and RYB modes figured out and I have some notes for the VC mode. After that I will tackle the timer and as soon as some additional parts arrive I will set up the interface. It will actually have a display, a keypad and a few knobs to make it easy and comfortable to use. The last part will be the analyser, which probably won’t be entirely straight forward to do. However, there is some existing code that I can adapt for my purposes, like it is often the case when you’re trying to build something like this. There are usually lots of clever people out there who have already tried whatever it is you want to do and they are usually eager to share their experiences. I thought I would have to come up with my own RYB to RGB function, but as it turns out a clever person had already done it before and I only had to rewrite the code in a different programming language. Another clever person also developed an open source f-stop timer that I will adapt for my purposes and extend with functionality aimed at split grade printing. I could even make it possible to control this via a web interface on a smart phone.

This kind of spirit where people share their clever code and make their builds available for everyone to try is what I love about the maker community. If I wanted to buy a light source like the one that I’ve already started to program, I would easily pay 1100€ just for the light source, and every type of controller is sold separately – BW, colour or controlled with an app – for between 200-500€. An f-stop timer with an analyser would go for another 1000€. And it wouldn’t even handle like a proper enlarger head, neither colour nor vario contrast, since Heiland electronics who produce these light sources didn’t feel like figuring out how to have them produce magenta (red+blue) and yellow (red+green) or write an RGB to RYB conversion function. Strange for their kind of asking prices, especially since it’s not exactly rocket science! And besides, any (supervised) 10 year old could rebuild their basic light source design with the RGB colour controller by cobbling together a bunch of Arduino beginner tutorials for about 30€. All it needs is an RGB LED strip, any kind of cheap arduino clone – like the nano -, three transistors, some resistors, potentiometers, knobs and a cheap red LCD display. Soldering required, but that’s not rocket science either! That it’s so easy to hack together is exactly why the project keeps getting bigger. Adding one more function doesn’t seem like a big deal. In any case, I’m progressing bit by bit and I hope to be finished with all of it by April.

After returning from my trip, I will now also continue with my efforts to catch up on my film development and editing. I now have some 60 undeveloped rolls that I can tackle and after already developing a lot before I left I have about 120 rolls worth of scans to edit. I’m not be a big fan of the whole developing, scanning and editing business, so avoiding this part always feels like cutting a whole lot of boredom out of my workflow. However, it has to be done eventually and it’s even worse to do it all in one go. One of my resolutions for 2018 is trying to keep up with all the developing, scanning and editing, but for this to happen I actually have to catch up first. We’ll see whether I can manage before my next trip!

In any case, let’s finally move on to the pictures! It’s not Christmas anymore, but in the last post I promised you a second Christmas in the Basque Country post and here it is. Any leftover eggnog? Well, now is the time for it! Somehow things always get in the way and I don’t post as often as I should. Another thing to tackle in 2018.

Pictures taken with: Leica M6 with Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f/1.2 and Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1. Rolleicord V, Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 75mm f/3.5.

M6 / 35mm Nokton / HP5+.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

On Christmas Eve we usually go for a walk in the morning. Around here Christmas Eve means people in traditional dresses.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

He has to wait outside even on Christmas Eve, poor little fella.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

I’m afraid there is going to be singing.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Lots of kids.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Adults too though!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

More interested in the toy car!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Singing for money, another Christmas Eve tradition. What baffles me is the willingness of teenagers to dress up in traditional dress. I never would have done anything so conformist!

Rollei Retro 400s.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

I like that little girl in the doorway.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Reflection. The kids were looking at the display of a model railway. Not sure why that’s a Christmas thing here – for me it’s a train station thing.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Obligatory dog picture.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

More singing.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

And gravity wins again! Unsurprising that kids don’t know how to ice skate in a place where it never snows.

Delta 3200 @1000.

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

That’s the Christmas spirit.

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

I have to say that Delta 3200 in 35mm isn’t very impressive, too much grain! Pushing slower film makes much more sense even though it sacrifices shadow detail. However, in medium format it has great tonality and looks good even at 3200.

M6 / 50mm Nokton / FP4+.

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

In Spain the three holy kings or magi have their own celebration, los reyes magos. The kids stand in line to see the magi at the town hall in the morning and then there is a procession in the evening. And of course there are also presents involved. Around here it’s almost as important or even more important than Christmas Eve / Day.

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

Standing in line means that the kids are bored. However, usually figure out a way to entertain themselves. Photographically it would otherwise be an immensely dull event too.

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

They found a new friend.

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

Rollei / Ilford XP2 (HC-110).

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Hand face synchronisation.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

I got a bit bored, but puppies are a good remedy for boredom!

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

Oh so cute!

Leica M6 / Nokton 35mm / Ilford Pan 400 @1600.

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

In the evening we went to see the procession. I’ve been trying to photograph that event a couple of times already. The first time I only had an f/2.8 lens and it was simply too dark for it. Well, gear matters sometimes! The second time we mixed up the days and when I accidentally ran into the procession I simply couldn’t get a good vantage point because of the crowds. This time we finally managed to get it right, found a good spot, I had a fast lens and film that pushes well.

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

The girl in the middle doesn’t look too happy.

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

Metering with open fire in the frame is a challenge. Turned out alright though!

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

As always, kids in traditional dresses.

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

Traditional music.

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

Well, photographing a moving black something on a dark street is quite impossible even at f/1.2. Sheep dog? Black sheep?

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

Farm animals are so Christmas … eh? I don’t know.

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

And creepy big heads on a bus.

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

Child adult interaction.

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

© Lilly Schwartz 2017

Last one!

Christmas in the Basque Country – Part 1

I always plan on posting more and then life somehow gets in the way. This time the problem was that I’ve been having way too much fun with the courses I’m taking on coursera and with my newest photographic projects, 4×5 + toy cameras + pinholes. That’s not a bad problem to have, I’d say! I finished a couple of courses already and I’m planning to take more once I finish this current batch! The next one that is on top of the list is actually a course on 3D printing, because I have a rather simple and useful project in mind: I need a lens board for my Speed Graphic for a lens that doesn’t have a flange to mount it.

I’ve been having lots of fun with my Speed Graphic and carried it up the mountain and into the woods a few times already together with my Leica Hektor 150mm f/2.5 projection lens. I bought the lens already modified for the Speed Graphic. The seller had sawed off the mount for the projector to reduce vignetting and mounted it on a 3D printed board that is the right size for my Pacemaker Speed Graphic. It’s a bit of a tight fit and not as smooth as mounting a regular metal lens board, but it works just fine in practice as long as I’m careful that it’s properly mounted. The other day I was extremely lucky and scored a Leica Prado 500 projector with 2 lenses. One of the lenses isn’t really useful for me beyond use on the projector, but the second lens is another one of these cool Hektor lenses, a Leica Hektor 200mm f/2.5! The 150mm I already have barely covers 4×5, which means I get some funky Holga corners in the pictures. I really like the feel it gives the pictures though, so I don’t mind the coverage issue. However, it also means that there is absolutely no room for movements at all which is a real shame with such a shallow depth of field. The 200mm Hektor should cover 4×5 properly though and I hope there is at least a little bit of room for movements. So, the plan is to 3D print a lens board for this lens and maybe make a slightly better board for the 150mm Hektor as well so that it’s a little less tricky to attach to the camera.

By the way I’ve been thinking about getting a projector since I started on my slide film project a couple of years ago. That’s how they were meant to be viewed and I like it when I can have a fully analog workflow. However, projectors that can do medium format are quite hard to locate and usually really expensive. The Prado was one that I had been eyeing for a while which is also how I ended up thinking about using projection lenses on a 4×5 camera in the first place. Like it is the case with enlargers the medium format parts for projectors are usually hard to find, but I’m hoping that the one I got might have the right condenser already since it comes with a medium format lens. 3D printing will probably solve the issue with all other spare parts I might need, but I obviously can’t print a condenser! Even if it doesn’t come with the right condenser, I’m sure the right one will pop up eventually and I’ve been meaning to shoot more 35mm slide film anyway. And since the 200mm Hektor lens was already worth more than I paid for the entire projector I’m very happy with my purchase.

So, after barely a couple of months with my Speed Graphic I already have 3 lenses for it and it’s really having a great impact on my photography. When I finally decided to go for it I wasn’t really sure how it would fit into what I do. Right away I had the idea for a great new project and it fits so nicely with my other toy camera, pinhole and alternative process related experiments. I’m still figuring out the details, but even my first few sheets of 4×5 have already been enough to convince me that I’m on the right track. I’ve been really unhappy with my workflow for a long time because shooting street in this town is such a grind most of the time. I really needed something with more predictable results to balance things out. Now that I can at least know that my 4×5 results aren’t going to disappoint me I have been feeling more like going out to shoot street too. Double win!

Speaking of results: After a bit more research I’m also one step further with my DIY Graflarger back – turning my Speed Graphic into a 4×5 enlarger so that I can have a completely analog workflow with that format too. One part I’m going to have to build is a light box of the right size to attach to a film holder. The only part missing for the light box was something to diffuse the light and I’ve actually found a place that can cut the right type of plexiglass to the size I need! I can imagine that this project will also end up having some 3D printed parts, another lens board for the enlarger lens, but also negative holders since I would also like to use it to enlarge 6×9 negatives. My Durst M670 only goes up to 6×7 and my DIY Graflarger solution could definitely be a way of printing 120 film formats that are larger than that.

3D printing of course has gazillions of other potential uses in film photography, especially when you’re interested in pinhole cameras or cameras for unusual formats. I’m already dreaming of a 3D printed 6×17 camera that uses a large format lens! And did I mention that building a regular light box with a diffuser isn’t any different from building a UV box for alternative printing? This whole adventure is really the right kind of mix of geekery and experiment to keep me happy for a long time.

Enough talk though, I think it’s about time for some pictures! As always the pictures I’m going to share with you today have absolutely nothing to do with my ramblings. However, one advantage of being more than a year behind on posting pictures is that I can use the opportunity to post some Christmas pictures! Can you believe it, Christmas pictures for Christmas? It’s almost like in my good old digital days when I would post pictures on the same day as they were taken. The pictures I’m sharing today were actually shot a year ago though and they are the first pictures I share taken with my wonderful Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f/1.2 lens. That lens absolutely rocks and at least shares a rather narrow depth of field wide open with my 4×5 adventures with the projection lenses. Ah, there we go, I managed to connect my ramblings to the pictures after all!

But before I forget: Merry Christmas my dear friends! Get yourself some eggnog and enjoy!

All pictures taken with: Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f/1.2. Rolleicord V, Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 75mm f/3.5.

M6 / HP5+ @800. And in case you’re wondering everything apart from the colour rolls was developed in HC-110, which is actually my only developer these days! Good versatile stuff and even quite useful for stand-development.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

San Sebastian was the European Capital of Culture in 2016 which meant that they splurged on all sorts of fancy events over the year. By the time it was Christmas they had probably run out of money, but this didn’t mean that they didn’t try to do fancy things anyway. Apparently some ingenious engineering students had come up with a way to have some fancy outdoor Christmas lighting the cheap way. The mayor said something about a minimal budget on the day when it was presented. I was there with my camera to see whether there was anything worth photographing.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Crowded!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

I’m always surprised that local teenagers seem to be overly happy to dress up in the most ridiculous way to support their local traditions. If anyone had expected me to dress up like that I’d have said “Not even in your wildest dreams!”

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Traumatised for life I expect.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

The people who came up with the lighting setup!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Perfect opportunity to shoot some Kodak Vision 3 800T.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

And there they are, the fancy lights.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Shoe lights too!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Totally acceptable to miss focus a tad at f/1.2.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

The children obviously loved it.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

A gazillion selfies were taken.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Fancy light ball.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

I was experimenting with remjet removal on the Kodak Vision 3 film and it didn’t always go according to plan. I think I’ll buy proper remjet removal bath next time instead of using washing soda. For some reason I like the effect in this one though.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Father Christmas about to be attacked by a shark.

HP5+ @800.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Bergger 400.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

More fancy lights.

FP4+.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Rollei Retro 400s.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

A bar at the train station. Is it me or are they universally depressing all over the world?

Bergger 400.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

They put up Christmas decorations at the square in front of regional government building too. They were a tad disturbing.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Take a close look at the girl next to the dog. She has a dog head in her hands …!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

I do love my Nokton 35mm f/1.2. It was still new to me at that point.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

FP4+.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Another local tradition at Christmas is the fiesta de Santo Tomas when the whole town is transformed into one big famer’s market and the farmers from the surrounding region bring their products and livestock into the city. Surrounding this event there is of course lots of dressing up, drink and events connected to local traditions. One of them is the women’s wood chopping competition. Yep, you read that right, wood chopping is apparently a sport around here.

Rollei Retro 400s.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

These were the finals, so there were trophies to be given out!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

All the kids were dressed up and waiting for the competition to start.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

All three competitors in action with their axes. There was wood flying off in all directions and these women were wielding big sharp axes, so I kept my distance.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Technical discussions.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

We have a winner on the right!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Running around in circles with a shark balloon, is there anything better?

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Even the dogs were dressed up.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Modern life, eh?

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Don’t shoot the baby.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Grandma took away the gun for her own picture.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

The children always have lots of fun at these events.

Rolleicord / Delta 400 @800.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Private conversation among twins.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Cute!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Climbing around with a skirt is difficult business.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Jumping, not a problem.

M6 / Rollei Retro 400s.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Playing with the baby.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Last one!

Next time: Christmas Eve, Reyes Magos and the Cabalgata!