Dracula: I’m Not Dead Yet! Part 2

Dracula (a.k.a. Svema) Film

I love the Film Photography Project branding! It’s Russian film – I should say Ukrainian, the old Svema FN64. Svema went under years ago. So the resurrection is underway, with limited batches arriving from time to time. It reminds me of one of those invitation only restaurants. You get on a list, and when the chef feels like cooking, you get a call. I think the concept is just cool, funny, and by my test results it’s darn good film.

I used my trusty Nikon FM2N, built in the 1980’s, and a Nikkor 28-105 zoom. It’s not even my sharpest lens, but stopped down and with the camera on a tripod, it cuts a fine line. I know Nikon is not the hot brand right now in the digital world. It’s number 3 behind Canon and Sony brands. Rumors abound that Sony will buy Nikon. I will hate that when it happens. Nikon is legendary. If you shoot stock, I think Nikon is number 2, but Canon users outrun Nikon users 2:1.

The great thing that Nikon did that Canon and the rest did not, is build quality optics in their “consumer” line of lenses. You might not get a fast lens. You might not get weather sealing. But the images are great. If you spend time hiking then weight is a big concern. You need quality lenses that are light weight and that don’t cost as much as a used car if your bag drops a few feet onto rocks and you break a lens.

Of course there are dogs. Do your research before buying a lens, any lens.

I briefly tried Canon years ago, and I discovered there was a big difference in image quality between Canon’s consumer line and their professional line of lenses, the L lenses. You pay an arm and a leg for Canon’s good glass. When I was trying to make a living, or part of a living, from photography, I could get great images from less expensive Nikon lenses. I still can. Some of their G lenses have ED glass and vibration reduction built in, and they compete very well with other brand lenses costing several times more. They may not have f2.8 optics or weight. Check out dpreview.com lens comparisons.

But I digress. I like chocolate. You like strawberry. No big deal.

I developed the Dracula/Svema 64 in Adox Rodinal. See the Digital Truth Massive Development Chart database for developer and times. I diluted Rodinal 1:50, and developed the film 10 minutes at just under 70 degrees Fahrenheit, my normal tap water temperature without heating or cooling. (Keep things simple and repeatable; adjust your development time and agitation rather than trying to precisely regulate water temperature unless your tap water temp is below 65 degrees or above 75 degrees.) I agitated the film the first minute, then 15 seconds each remaining minute of development time. I used Ilford stop bath for one minute. Then I used Ilford Rapid Fix, diluted 1:4, for 3 minutes. I washed the film about 30 minutes.

Rodinal is not exactly a fine grain developer, but with this film the grain is barely perceptible. If you photograph landscape details, a little grain is good, in my opinion. If you photograph things with broad, smooth areas like sky, or clouds or skin, then use a fine grain film and developer. Dracula and Rodinal are pretty good together.

Next came scanning. Scanning is the weakest link in my workflow, and I am figuring things out on my own because I cannot find detail information how to fix various problems. So this is for you, reader.

I use the digital camera method of “scanning” negatives. There are a lot of posts out there how to do it. Here’s one post link, better than most. There are very good reasons to scan negatives with a digital camera. I won’t go into detail regarding pros and cons.

I have run into issues with ghosting; that is, an image fringe that is visible on fine lines. I found it was more a problem with my Nikon D7500 than my D3400 when I use one or the other for negative scanning. The D3400 is much cheaper than the D7500, the sensor is different, and the D7500 is much smarter, and probably it is too smart and not a good tool for copying negatives on a light table with florescent bulbs. I get the flicker warning in the screen. The D7500 is supposed to automatically take care of it, but like I said, when I use it for copying, I see ghosting in the images around sharp details. Is that a florescent light artifact? I don’t know, and I cannot find anyone else who has posted this problem and solution.

One other possible culprit I thought of is back light image reflection, for lack of a single term for the effect. The Dracula film has a very clear base. Other films have a bit more opacity in the base. The reason you have antihalation base to begin with is to prevent in-camera ghost images on your film.

I use the Lomography.com Digitaliza film mask. It works great to keep the negatives flat. The negative in the mask is slightly elevated from the light table. I was using F8 on my 60mm Micro-Nikkor to scan. Sharpest f-stop, right? If I was in the field, I would use a small f-stop for depth of field. So me thinks, what if for some reason, I am picking up some kind of reflection image from the negative onto the light table, back up to the camera. The small f-stop may be causing the reflection to be within the tiny depth of field, but slightly offset.

So, me also thinks to me-self, “Self, I shall open up the lens to around f2.8 to f4, increase my shutter speed of course, and see what happens.” Well the ghosting disappeared. Nice sharp lines. I am still working this out. Probably with more normal panchromatic film with regular antihalation, I won’t have the problem.

You can see, I have detail from highlight to shadow. (Ansel Adams would be proud of me, I think.) So it looks like I got the film ISO, and developer, and development times right on the first try. Surprise.

The film did great for my landscapes at Sweetwater Creek. I also tried some snapshots of my family. I was not too pleased with the people photos. There was something in the way it rendered the skin tones that I did not like. It may be because the near infrared sensitivity of the film treats skin kind of funky, at least to my visual sensitivities. I am not posting those here.

Two more photos and I am outta here. Dracula is great film for landscapes. Ilford Pan F (50 ISO) is probably easier to find and purchase. But if you want to experiment, and you just want a funky film can to add to your collection, give Dracula a call. They also have a higher speed monster film called… you guessed it… Wolfman! Ah-oooo! (Warren Zevon).

Fall is here. Elections are 6 weeks away. Yuck. I don’t want to think about it. The woods and trails help me a lot. Go have some fun.


~ by Bill on September 23, 2020.

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