Trying Trichrome – a workflow

Disclaimer: this is a work-in-progress and not a definitive workflow. I’m sharing it as my reader has expressed an interest in what I’ve been doing with Trichrome post-processing. I’m currently using Photoshop 2022 but plan to explore this process in Affinity Photo too at some point. Please note I have assumed at least a basic knowledge of Photoshop in preparing these notes.

So, the first step is to scan the images and I will work on the basis that anyone considering this process already has scanning under control. These scanned triplets then need preparing and I do this in Photoshop.

We now have a file containing the three different images, each with the filter colour displayed as part of the layers name. This will be very handy in the next stage but first we need to align the images so they match up properly and, optionally, trim off any excess around the edges.

Having got the three negatives aligned and in register we come to the bit where the magic happens. Firstly though, it is wise to double check that the file is in RGB mode at this stage (Image > Mode > RGB).

If I’ve copied this down properly from my notes you should now have a basic colour image on your screen, a negative or a positive depending on whether you inverted the black and white layers earlier. From here it business as usual as you tweak the image to your taste. For me I am currently choosing to leave myself with a colour negative which I import into Lightroom in order to convert it with Negative Lab Pro (NLP). In the example below, the left hand image was a colour negative that I inverted in Photoshop and tweaked using colour balance etcetera. The right hand image was imported as a colour negative into Lightroom and put through NLP without any further adjustments. Both versions have their merits of course.

Take One
Take Two

Whether you prefer one version or another is of course purely a personal choice and partly dependent on your aims. If your aim is to get as close to a natural colour image as possible then you will post-process appropriately and likewise if the lysergic aesthetic appeals you will post-process accordingly. It’s good to know there are choices.

I’m as ready as I’m going to be for some “serious” work now

So, there you have it. An approach to creating Trichrome images from three black and white negatives. Note my previous disclaimer though; this is a work in progress and not a definitive workflow. As and when I make further progress or add refinements I will share them on the blog.

Trying Trichrome – the test roll

I have already shared my initial thoughts on exposing film with the intention of creating my first Trichrome images – colour images from black and white negatives. I’ve also shared the negatives and camera settings. The Twitter-verse already knows the test run was successful so I thought today I’d talk about the part of the process that I wasn’t looking forward to – the computer bit. I’m no technophobe, nor am I a Luddite, I simply prefer to be outside after a working lifetime in offices stuck staring at a computer monitor.

I started as we all do these days by scouring the interweb for articles and video tutorials and whilst I sought enlightenment, I quickly became confused. Some pieces I read/watched were contradictory, others only half-explained things or explained them in a very confusing manner. Some were using older versions of Photoshop and some made assumptions about the readers existing PS skills and knowledge. After an hour or so of tinkering I suddenly, and to my bewilderment, found myself with a coloured image on the screen, two A4 pages of scribbles and a very confused look on my face. Twenty minutes later I had three more coloured images, none produced in the same way as the first, and, more encouragingly, the start of a proper set of notes. Success of sorts and so I shared them on Twitter (see below); although I was confident that I could improve on them I’ve been sharing the experiment and it seemed only right to recognise the moment.

Take One and time for tea

It was however time for tea. And I was cooking!

Suitably refreshed, I returned to the computer and reviewed what I’d done earlier. I then went back and methodically reprocessed each of the four sets of negatives, refining my notes as I went and by the end of this had four far better-looking images and a set of scribbles outlining a workflow I could repeat. Most importantly I knew what I’d done to achieve the second set of four images.

Take Two: Spot the difference!

I will share the workflow in the next post (to be published within the hour!) but bear in mind that whilst it works this is a work-in-progress and I will be refining it as I learn more. I will also be investigating alternative methods which may simplify the process too. My current approach creates a colour negative initially although it is possible to create a colour positive directly and I will share that step in my walk through too.

I like the results I got from this methodology today, culminating in a colour negative so will stick with the additional steps for now.

Take Two: Lysergic Skies

In addition, I’ve been using Photoshop, yet I distinctly remember Andrew (remember him?) saying he uses Affinity Photo which apparently offers a simpler workflow. I shall be swapping notes with Andrew before the #trichromeparty for sure. In fact, he currently has one set of my RGB negatives to play with so we can compare notes. There’s lots to learn and discover yet clearly!

Trying Trichrome – the negatives

This is the first of three posts being posted over the next hour and simply records the four sets of negatives and the camera settings employed and are being shared in order to give the reader a full understanding of what my process was. The second of today’s posts talks about my experiences with the computer processing side of things and the third contains my full workflow as of today.

Ready for composition one and the first set of three negatives

I used a single roll of Fomapan 400, exposed at box speed and a tripod-mounted Bronica SQ-A. I metered with a Polaris handheld meter. The three filters, red/green/blue, were from a set of budget filters. For each of the four compositions I exposed the negatives in the sequence Red, Green, Blue or RGB as I felt that a consistent workflow would lead to less confusion. The roll was “scanned” using a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera and a Nikkor 60mm micro lens with an appropriate adapter.

I kept the aperture consistent within each set and varied the shutter speed to adjust for the different filter factors. Whilst testing beforehand suggested the green was around +2 or +2.5 I think that in future I will simply use a factor of +3 for each filter as my starting point. With a base exposure of 1/60th sec I was using shutter speeds of 1/8th or 1/15th as appropriate. A cable release completed the set-up.

The film was developed for thirteen minutes in Ilford ID11(1+1) at twenty degrees using my normal process so everything was kept as normal as possible to reduce the chances of processing variation.

1+1+1=1

I’ve mentioned before that I keep the process of digitising my negatives as simple as possible. However, it is not that I am a Luddite nor that I am an incompetent, I simply prefer fresh air to a computer keyboard. My purchase of the RSS 6×17 though has meant I have needed to rethink this a little as the negatives are so large I waste over half of the sensor if I try capturing the whole negative in one go.

My previous post mentioned that I had stitched two “negatives” together to make an image with a wider field of view by harnessing the power of having a camera with top and bottom shutters. It didn’t however mention that the two files I used were each comprised of three parts which were also stitched together.

My technique was essentially the same as I would use to capture a digital panorama in the field adapted slightly for the new purpose. I adjusted the height of the camera on the copy stand until the vertical side of the negative completely filled the frame. I then made three exposures, moving the negative between each to ensure I captured the whole of the 6×17 negative (see below). Three exposures gave me a good overlap between each negative which helps the software with the stitching. Incidentally, I had photographed each portion of the negative with the same settings on the camera and at this stage I have not made any adjustment to the RAW files.

Three digital files cover the whole of the 6×17 negative

Selecting the three RAW file in Adobe Bridge I then selected the Tools menu and then Photoshop and Photomerge from the sub-menus.

Tools > Photoshop > Photomerge

I then sat back and let Photoshop do its magic and after a few moments it presented me with a stitched file with three layers. It appeared to have done a very good job of aligning everything and so I simply flattened the file and processed it as normal.

Three “scans”, one stitched file and the final result

Now, there’s no point asking me for optimal settings etcetera as I won’t know the answer! This method was intuitive and worked for me. I am sure that I will take more notice of discussions on stitching in the future so may well improve on this methodology but for now it works for me!

Discovering digital pinhole

My previous post talked about making a pinhole from a body cap to use on my Fuji X-series cameras. I made three of these pinholes yesterday morning although the first was too large so was put to one side. This post talks about what happened next.

As I was putting away the few tools I used to make my pinholes I remembered the first cap which I’d put to one side. Could I remove the aluminium pinhole and thus free up the cap for further use? Despite being superglued it came out with a little bit of persuasion and some downward force. The body cap survived and therefore before clearing away for the day I had another go, this time using a small dressmakers pin. Popping the finished item on the Fuji X-Pro1 I was very happy to note that this was, as I’d hoped, a small improvement on caps two and three.

One thing I had noticed was that I could preview the image on the Fuji’s LCD screen. With the X-Pro1 it’s a rather dim image until you depress the shutter part way when you also get the exposure preview.

Finally, some of the guesswork taken out of framing a scene, especially helpful for getting in close.

This morning I thought I’d try the pinhole cap on my Fuji X-H1 which has an articulating LCD screen so easier to use when working low down which is my habitual way of working with the pinholes. The first thing I noticed was that I didn’t need to half-press the shutter to see the exposure preview. I did pop in and get the X-Pro1 and double checked that exposure preview hadn’t got turned off by mistake – it hadn’t!

Sun flare – in preview too!

The next thing I noticed was the screen … the live preview was showing the effect of sun flare in all its glory. I had the camera on a tripod so took the picture then compared that to the live view … they matched. I was able not just to frame the image but also to preview how the light was going to react with the sun in the frame or close to it.

I then had the idea for a pinhole selfie. Before now these have been very hit and miss and often ended up with a very central subject, but I realised I could get the composition more accurate. By standing behind the tripod-mounted camera and holding my hand in front I could work out where my face would need to be to sit where I desired in the frame (see above).

Sunday morning pinhole selfie!
Flare-free selfie (3 consecutive images – all uncropped)

So, will my new found pinhole freedom tempt me away from my film pinhole cameras?

Absolutely not! I love the unpredictable nature of my pinhole cameras and the serendipitous images that seem to occur more regularly than you’d expect. Yes, there’s a certain satisfaction from knowing that you’ve definitely nailed the sun flare but there’s also a great sense of anticipation when removing a roll of 120 or some sheets of 5×4 from the tank and holding them up to the light for that first look.

It wasn’t all about flare!
But it mainly was!

So, whilst the digital body cap pinhole won’t be replacing my film cameras any time soon, it will be something I will probably keep with the camera at all times. On occasions, usually when out with Senior Management, I will take just a compact camera with one lens. This is usually the Nikon L35AF but occasionally I will take a digital mirrorless Fuji instead. I don’t always get the opportunity for some dedicated photography time but one of my small cameras in my pocket or shoulder bag is a good insurance policy should an opportunity arise. Having a pinhole option without carrying two cameras will be a good bonus.

On Digitising (Part 3 – my process)

In part 1 of this series I introduced my digitising set-up and in part 2 I then talked about how I hold the negatives flat and steady for copying. In this third and final instalment I want to cover the copying itself and finally the post production.

Let me start by saying that I keep it simple. No stitching, no fancy software, no wet-mounted negatives or any of the other interesting things that you may be aware of. So, keep that in mind. This is not a highly technical article but the real-life process of someone who recognises the need to digitise his film especially for sharing on social media but dislikes doing it and rarely prints digitally. My printing is done in the darkroom and only very occasionally do I purchase an inkjet print (I do not own an inkjet printer).

I guess that is the first point I would make for anyone contemplating getting into digitising their negatives. What are you going to use the files for? If it’s just for social media, websites or blogs etcetera then I believe that my method as described here will work very well. If however you want ultimate quality then what I am going to describe may not be your best approach. That said, I believe that the results from this form of digitising negative film can be far more than simply adequate! I will give an example at the end of the post.

Capturing the files

So, let’s start with the hardware that I use to capture the files. The copying set-up (left) was briefly discussed in Part 1. It comprises a Fuji X-T3 mirrorless digital camera, a 60mm f2.8 Nikkor Micro lens with adapter, a copy stand and various holders.

I’ve already mentioned that I work in a darkened room to avoid reflections but it is worth knowing that the 60mm lens I am using has a front element that is very deep-set in the lens body so I doubt any stray light is going to be striking the lens but nevertheless I am continuing to work in the dark.

I use a solid copy stand so everything is kept as stable as is possible and I also use a cable release so I do not need to touch the camera itself. I use an aperture of f8 or f11 and move the camera up and down the stand until I fill the frame from left to right with a single negative. I manually focus on the negative using the focus peaking feature of the camera to guide me. In practice I find that once I’ve set the focus for a roll of film then I do not need to touch it again for that roll, however I keep an eye on the LCD screen throughout to make sure the focus peaking lines are still glowing.

I manually set the shutter speed using the histogram to guide me. I will typically bracket one stop either side of the camera’s recommended shutter speed* but often find that I can create four exposures that all fit within the histogram without clipping. Incidentally, when considering clipping don’t forget that black parts of the holder or bare parts of the light pad will skew the camera’s recommended exposure. At some point I will do some experiments to see whether simply exposing for the highlights/shadows is all that is needed but for now I like having my options open without needing to rescan the negatives on another occasion. Hard drive space is cheaper than my time at present but one day I will sit down and work out which works best for me.

Me. Now, that’s an important word for You. Whatever you read, watch or listen to is only that person’s way of working. It’s what works for them and you are right to use it to inform your experiments but ultimately it’s what works for you that matters. Ooops, nearly slid the soapbox out from under my desk then! Back to business.

* Since preparing this post I have found a resource which suggests exposing at the camera’s metered exposure, or one stop over (exposing to the right). All of which seems to validate my approach – apart from making one exposure at -1 of course. I will adopt this going forward.

Converting the files

So, I have a memory card holding my newly copied files with a choice of exposures and also saved in both RAW and JPEG. This is an old habit from when I worked exclusively with Fujifilm digital cameras but is actually helpful given that I process the files on two different systems. Depending on where I am and/or what mood I am in I will typically convert my files using either the iPad or my desktop computer. Whilst all these negative images are destined to live on my computer hard drive I typically use the JPEGs on my iPad and the RAW files on the computer.

As a rule of thumb, and pending any proper experiments, this approach of effectively bracketing exposures currently works for me. I typically use the file with the most central histogram as it usually gives a flat, low-contrast image with which to work. Why make life complicated if you don’t need to?

SNAPSEED is my conversion software of choice on the iPad. It is simple to use, does everything I need and was free. I start by straightening the image and cropping away all the extraneous parts, leaving me with just the negative itself in whatever format I was using. I then apply a normal black and white adjustment to ensure I have no colour cast. I capture JPEGs as monochrome on the Fuji so this is probably a redundant step but it keeps the process consistent compared to my desktop conversions.

Rotate followed by Crop (highlighted)

I then Invert the image using a Curves adjustment (again as I would on the desktop). This gives the basic image from which to work and from here it’s a case of using the normal local and global adjustments to convert the image to taste.

ADOBE CAMERA RAW (ACR) and sometimes Photoshop (PS) are my weapons of choice when using a desktop computer. I use the RAW files, hence I always start in ACR and oft times that is enough. However, if I want to add borders or undertake anything more involved I will take the initial conversion into PS. I have tried to keep the desktop workflow very similar to that used on my iPad and on the whole this is what I do, however there’s no escaping the greater scope that PS offers when required. Whilst I try to avoid using the computer as much as I can I will sometimes take a few of my digitised negatives into Photoshop for a “play” – more on that perhaps in another post.

So, my basic workflow in ACR is as follows. Open and immediately crop and rotate as required. I then reduce Saturation to -100 and invert the Curve to give me the basic conversion. I then make any global adjustments in the Basic panel, typically adjusting contrast and overall brightness using Clarity, Dehaze, Exposure and Contrast. If that gives me what I want I will add a vignette if required and sharpen both from within ACR and save out my finished file.

ACR conversion – this hasn’t been into PS

Sometimes, perhaps if I want to add a Duotone or a border to the final image, I will take the file into PS for finishing off but I will still do all the basics in ACR. For my recent woodland series this was the approach I took; tidying up the crop and a basic conversion in ACR then into PS for the duotone and final tweaks before adding a large white border.

Conclusion

None of this is overly sophisticated and of course it only relates to black and white and not colour negatives. I do occasionally use colour and for what it’s worth use Lightroom and Negative Lab Pro for my conversions but that’s out of the scope of this post. In fact, I use it so rarely I wouldn’t be so bold as to write about how I use it!

My specific reasons for digitising negatives, to give me something to post to social media, informed all of my choices from the start to the finish of this process. Yours should too. I share my images with like-minded folk on Twitter and often use a film image for my picture-a-day challenge on Flickr. But that is usually the limit of my expectations for these files. If my reasons change then I will of course be re-evaluating the current process in the light of any revised requirements.

Finally, I did mention that I occasionally have a digital print made and recently I had a 24×12 inch metallic print made from a 35mm negative from the Horizon S3 Pro. The negative had been scanned using the method described here and was processed in ACR and PS again using the approach described here. I didn’t do much in Photoshop apart from add the large white border and rather than sharpen in ACR I did sharpen it in PS too. Framed, and on my wall, it looks fabulous.

Now framed and hung on my wall

I hope that these notes are of some interest/use to you the reader. I’m always happy to share my workflow and experiences and when I do eventually sit down to work out the optimal exposure for the digital copies I will be sure to post my thoughts here. Don’t hold your breath though as this is working at the moment – for me!

On digitising (Part 2 – holding still)

In Part 1 of this series I talked about my set-up and the gear I use for digitising negatives. In this second part I will describe my experiences using the two film holders that I briefly introduced in Part 1. How I set-up the Fuji X-T3 and my workflow once the negatives have been copied will go into an (originally unintended) Part 3 as this part got very long very quickly.

When I first saw the Pixl-Latr I immediately thought that it was a simple and very practical solution and looked far better than the Lomography Digitaliza masks I’d been using up to that point. Up until then I had only been copying negatives occasionally so it was something I put up with but with my film usage increasing I wanted something to make the process easier.

The premise is simple. Use the supplied gates to create a masked area into which the negative sits. Turn the frame over, place the negative into the opening you’ve created and pop the diffuser back on. Turn the whole assembly back over, place under the camera and off you go.

Except for me it wasn’t as straightforward. I found that every time I turned the frame over to put the diffuser at the bottom I had to hold it really tight to avoid it all spilling open and me having to start again. It is not practical to load film with the frame and diffuser the correct way up and even turning the diffuser over made no difference. For a while I went back to using the Digitaliza for 35mm and 6×6 120 film. With no alternatives for 5×4 however I found an uneasy peace with the Pixl-Latr for the limited amount of large format copying I carried out. (Stick with me – there’s a happy ending and I really like this mask).

That might have been how the story was left if it hadn’t been for Josh from Pixl-Latr who got in touch with purchasers to see how they were getting on via an after-market online survey. I shared my experiences happily mainly because I wanted to help this small company to continue to thrive. I was very surprised however when Josh got in touch to find out more and even more surprised when he offered to send me a replacement frame and diffuser as to him it sounded like I probably had a less-than-perfect kit. He was right, the new one arrived whilst I was working on this post and it is a big improvement. Top marks for customer service Josh!

A recent addition was the Pixl-Latr A4 Mask which has three primary functions:

– Masks extraneous light
– Helps prevent pixl-latr from slipping on the surface.
– Grips strips of roll film either side of pixl-latr

All of which it does and it has replaced my home-cut foam board mask. I’m not normally big on after-market accessories but this was one I was pleased to have bought. As an aside, the diffuser on its own is fabulous for copying glass plates, I simply place the mask over the diffuser to mask out unwanted light from the light pad and pop the glass plate on top.

Lockdown wasn’t kind to many people but one person who probably had a better time than most was Andrew Clifforth. To quote from his website: “The Essential Film Holder started as my ‘lockdown project’ and has now shipped nearly 3,000 units to film enthusiasts in over 29 countries around the globe.”

Pretty impressive figures and as one of those 3,000 or so enthusiasts I can attest that the holder is pretty impressive too. The Essential Film Holder (EFH) delivered everything that was claimed for it on the website and has considerably sped up the process for me. I have 120, 35mm and 35mm panoramic masks and using these I am able to copy entire rolls of film in one go. Set up once and then copy until the roll is finished.

If I was actually copying the negative I would have curtains drawn and room light off

The EFH is a self-contained unit with a built-in diffuser and a 120 mask forming the next-to-bottom layer of the unit. Above this can be placed masks for other formats including 35mm panoramic (XPan format) and standard 35mm frames. These are held in place by wing nuts and the design cleverly means the 120 masks can stay in place permanently. Once in place you thread one end of the full roll of negatives into the unit and then push/pull the strip through stopping as each new frame comes into view and making the exposure. I use my right hand to gently push the negatives through and my left hand to release the shutter using a cable release.

The one fiddly part is removing/replacing the guides and masks when changing format. I find the retaining nuts fiddly. Not a deal breaker by any means and you really do need to replace the wing nuts to be able to control the grip on the negatives. I have large hands and slightly arthritic fingers though so I cannot imagine it will be an issue for many!

When considering which of the many systems to use it makes sense to consider how often you will use it, what you will be copying and whether or not you use multiple formats. If I only copied negatives occasionally and used multiple formats then the Pixl-Latr wold be a no-brainer for me. If I only used the standard 35mm format then the EFH would be my choice regardless of how many rolls I digitised a month. That said, you do need to consider the cost per roll if you only use film occasionally. I will exceed two hundred rolls of 35mm and 120 combined this year so the cost/roll ratio is less relevant.

So, my current set up for holding the negatives uses both the Pixl-Latr and the EFH and to my mind plays to their various strengths. Whilst it can easily cover all my formats, for me the Pixl-Latr is perfect for my 5×4 sheets, for non-standard formats such as the 35mm panoramic negatives from my KMZ FT-2 and for larger 120 negatives such as the “stream of conscious” pinhole images I occasionally create on 120 film. It is also just right for my glass plates as I’ve already mentioned too. The EFH on the other hand I use primarily for quickly copying a roll of 35mm or 120 before cutting it for sleeving and filing and it is amazing how quickly I can work through a full roll. Perfect for someone who doesn’t enjoy this process!

This simple set up is a far cry from the days when I spent more time loading negatives into the Digitaliza frames than actually copying them. The EFH is used before the rolls are cut for sleeving and it handles the bulk of my copying needs quickly and efficiently at a reasonable price. The Pixl-Latr is very competitively priced and very versatile. I choose to only use part of its potential but know that if needed it has all my bases covered. In particular, it covers everything that my current EFH rig cannot as yet (I’m choosing words carefully as I know that EFH are working on further improvements).

So, there you have it. A lot of words which perhaps can be summarised in a sentence. I digitise all my film with the help of EFH and Pixl-Latr holders to hold the film in place. I hope this has been of interest. Part 3 (of what was intended as a two-part series) will cover the digitising and post production itself.


Disclaimer: My only connection with these two companies is as a very satisfied customer and these notes are based purely on my personal experience. The links below are provided as a service, I have not been asked to post them and I receive no reward or other incentive from their use.

LINKS (non-affiliate!)
Pixl-Latr
Essential Film Holder


On digitising (Part 1 – the gear)

I am in the fortunate position that following the end of home schooling there is a spare desk in the house so I’ve been able to set up a reasonably permanent digitising/scanning station. It isn’t immune from being dumped on by other people off-loading their junk onto the nearest clear(ish) space but on the whole it’s generally ready to go at a moments notice.

So, what do I have on the desk? The one indulgence is a proper copy stand. I did buy a cheap stand from a certain auction site but it almost toppled when I added the camera and, not for the first time, I decided it had been a false economy. A tripod would not have been practical given the lack of floor space around the desk and as I wanted to have an ever-ready desk-based system I came to the conclusion that a copy stand was the most practical option. After researching and then checking prices I purchased a Kaiser RS2XA copy stand which on checking this morning has gone up considerably in price since I bought mine. However, having a rock-steady means of holding my camera and lens with a good-sized baseboard has made home digitising a far more pleasant experience in the long run.

The camera I use is a Fujifilm X-T3 and this is paired via an adapter with a Nikkor Micro 60mm f2.8D lens. Both pieces of kit were already in the gear cupboard (my digital set-up is a Fuji mirrorless system and pre-Fuji I worked with full frame Nikon DSLRs). A cable release (just sneaking into frame bottom left) is permanently attached and held in place with a blob of blu-tac.

I have a generic A3 lightpad which I use for looking at negatives and a small Kaiser Slimlite Plano, which was a birthday gift and probably more than I actually need, that I use to illuminate the negatives when digitising. Also on the desk is a normal desk lamp. I work with the curtains drawn and room lights off so this gives me a spot of light when reloading film holders etc and is easily turned on/off without leaving the desk.

I haven’t done any testing to see whether it is strictly necessary but I like to exclude as much extraneous light as possible so have made some masks from old mounting boards into which the film holders can be sat. The usual small tools of the trade such as dust blower, pens, loupe etcetera sit at the top of the desk along with the 35mm film cutter (every 35mm photographer should have one IMHO). To the right are scissors and a small plastic box to hold trimmed negative ends prior to them making their way to the bin. A minor thing perhaps but it’s great not having bits of negative strewn across the desk!

Holding the negatives is the aspect that I’ve seen more words written about than perhaps any other aspect of digitising negatives apart perhaps from which software to use. My approach, as it is with all aspects of this, is to keep it simple. I have a couple of Lomography DigitaLIZA film scanning masks which for quite a while were all I had. Effective but fiddly and certainly not time-efficient when digitising a lot of film. So. when it first came out I invested in a Pixl-Latr film holder which came with a diffuser as part of the kit and several “gates” which can be used to mask-off the negatives. I will write more about using the Pixl-Latr in Part 2 but suffice to say it’s still in use despite adding a second system to my kit a few months ago.

The Effective Film Holder came to my notice during one of the Lockdowns and after a lot of reading and thought I purchased one as, based on my experience to that point, I felt it would complement the Pixl-Latr. It’s not going to spoil Part 2 by saying that my hunch was correct and that these two relatively inexpensive systems together meet all of my home digitising needs.

In Part 2 I will talk about my experiences using these two film holders. I had intended to also use part 2 to write about how I set-up the camera and my workflow once the negatives have been copied thus making this a two-part series. However, as I typed, part 2 quickly became longer than expected so these aspects will be covered in Part 3. Fingers crossed I don’t end up with a four-part series!

A developing situation

So, a couple of days away have ended and we are back home. I travelled light (blog post to follow) but still got back with six exposed rolls of 35mm film. Time for a morning on my feet in the kitchen and the developing of six rolls of film. I find this a very relaxing process. That might not resonate with everyone but I’ve developed over 340 rolls of film and almost 100 sheets of film in the last twenty months so it’s done mainly on auto-pilot which makes for a reasonably stress-free morning. I’m a stickler for order and method too and this means that muscle memory is strong as my routine barely wavers.

Ready to start

I took two cameras this time. The KMZ FT-2 had the last roll of Rollei Blackbird and as you need a changing bag to load and unload this beast it was going to stay in the camera until I got home. The other camera though was a Nikon L35 and I used four rolls of Tri-X and a roll of Kentmere 400. I was asked by someone recently how I remember which film is which when I am away from home and therefore having to store film up for developing later, especially with more than one camera.

The answer is simple. I carry a permanent marker pen with me and use this to clearly number each roll, sometimes adding date and the ISO used. I then use the note taking facility on my phone to record all the relevant details. If I’m working with large format I have a notebook in my bag because I record full details for every single exposure but for a day out with a 35mm the phone app works well. If I’m using 120 I sometimes want exposure details etcetera for some frames and these are easy enough to jot down too.

Back home as I load each film into the tank I prepare a slip of paper with the relevant number on and keep this with the developing tank, noting where appropriate which film is on the bottom reel and which on the top (see picture above). This slip gets pegged up next to the corresponding film on the drying line (see below) once I’ve finished.

So, there we have it. My very simple method of keeping track when working with multiple rolls of film. Most days I only expose and develop one roll in a day so this level of organisation isn’t a daily routine but it works well at times such as these.

Loading the KMZ FT-2

The KMZ is an idiosyncratic camera and nowhere else is this more apparent than in terms of loading film. Whilst it uses normal 35mm film that’s as far as normal goes. The film needs to be transferred into the proprietary cassette before loading. It then needs to be attached to the four-part take up cassette before being loaded. Now, all of this can be done in daylight but you do lose a good lump of film in the process and given how few frames you actually get the loss of even one is a big reduction.

Add in the fact that I do not have a cassette to hold the film before it is exposed and so I am having to fudge matters a little then you will appreciate that this process becomes even more interesting. All things considered I have made the decision that whilst some parts can be done in daylight and others need to be done in the dark, for simplicity I am doing everything in a large changing bag.

Whilst researching how to load the camera before Jon forwarded his to me I found these instructions on Flickr. They might have been uploaded nine years ago but they illustrate very clearly the process when using the proprietary cassettes and I found them very easy to follow.

Having transferred the film into the right-hand cassette and attaching the take-up cassette I popped everything into the changing bag to actually load the cassettes.

Jon’s camera as I have said came with both of the cassettes and I found that by following these instructions and then using a changing bag to load the film into the camera I was getting the maximum number of frames per roll. I should add that when I finished the roll I popped the camera back into a changing bag and immediately transferred the film directly from the camera and onto a reel and into the developing tank.

But, with just one cassette matters are a little different and I have experimented with a couple of ways of loading the film so far. Both methods that I’ve tried to date need some simple DIY however.

The simplest is to cut down the spindle from a normal 35mm cassette as shown (left) removing the top and also filing down the ridge at the bottom of the spindle. I used a hacksaw and a sheet of sandpaper for this job.

This hacked about spindle slides snuggly into the FT-2 and from my experiments with a roll of Fomapan, my copy of the FT-2 remains light tight and the film remains scratch-free. Leaving film loose in the camera body isn’t ideal I guess but it works. My concern is whether or not every copy of the FT-2 gives such a light-tight environment.

So, on to experiment two.

A bit of flare from pointing at the sun but no evidence of light leaks

Wanting to protect the film to some degree I took a plastic reloadable cassette. The spindle was hacked as before. Removing the locking cap from the cassette I proceeded to remove plastic from top and bottom, reducing the height of the cassette until it slid snugly into the camera. It turned out that I had to remove the top and bottom completely so this wasn’t going to be a totally light tight solution. However, with the spindle inserted it did keep out most of the light and of course would give some protection from scratches. The natural light-tight property of my FT-2 would do the rest.

Spindle-only or partial cassette … both worked for me

Everything still needs to be done in the changing bag of course.

I am going to keep looking for a more robust solution of course (and for a second cassette) and as I try out other ideas I will share the results here.

An early image taken with Jon’s camera but still a favourite

FOOTNOTE: Bill T, if you are reading this I was going to create a video showing transferring the film and loading the cassette before loading everything into the FT-2; a picture can often be worth a thousand words after all. However, my FT-2 is currently loaded so I haven’t been able to do so as yet. If you would find it useful however then DM me on Twitter and I will do it for you when I’ve used this roll.