Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Stretch Your Brain, Stretch Your Waistband, But Don't Forget To Stretch Your Negatives

Morning playmates - my apologies for not getting back to you before this, but, well, life can be an adventure at times can't it! Over a month has gone by and I've done precious little in the way of photography, but I will explain . . .  
The source of my adventure? the dreaded unsupported-ness of Windows XP . . . 
Yes I know it should have been ditched years ago, but I've had far more prioritorial things to spend my hard-earned ackers on and a new computer wasn't one of them (though hopefully that will be changing soon)!
Anyway, around Christmas it occured to me that using XP was no longer really sensible - the world was getting slower and slower, browsers were taking forever to load and to be honest the sheer amount of time I wasted on keeping this machine running smoothly and securely was getting beyond the pale. I call myself the IT Department here at home, simply because I was spending a large proportion of every day just footering around and trying to get things right. But that was my position - a new computer wasn't possible, so, what was a man to do? Well it occured to me there was something that could help me out of a fix without costing the earth . . . well, without costing anything actually . . . it was something I had been contemplating for a while:

the weirdly techy world of Linux! 

Oh yes, I thought, a free operating system that can help me out of a fix! So, suitably determined, I backed up all my important files on an external drive, burned several discs of different Linux Distros (their word for variations in Operating Systems) slapped one in the drive, restarted, hit the BIOS settings of my machine, set it to boot off a CDRom, restarted and joined the world of the labcoat brigade.
Let's get this straight - my machine is ANCIENT as in 10 years old, tiny memory, small HDD, it was a low-level Tesco (but Philips built) machine designed as a package to get the average home user using. But it worked. That is until the world decided it was no longer fit for purpose and demanded bigger, faster! So, where did that leave your unfortunate hero? Up a bleeding gum-tree, that's where.
The thing is, maybe leaving the coat-tails of something you've been familiar with for years is a daunting prospect - I know it was for me. I've been a Windows user ever since we first got 'proper' computers in work back in about 1992 (and prior to that everything was done with catalogues and an Amstrad home computer). We used Windows 92 and then when XP came along everything changed - here was something that was useful, worked and was fun too and when the net came to work, well, when most of your day is spent researching new releases and reissues, then obviously it had its advantages!
So yes, making the big leap from unsecure and slow (in 2016) XP, was to say the least daunting.
But you know what, like a terrible landlord, once you've got past the onscreen "Oh you fecking idiot, you know you're going to completely evict 10 years worth of XP schtuff!" and "Help, No! We've nowhere to go!" then a real cavalier devil-may-care attitude overtakes you and before you know it, you're uninstalling and installing Linux Distros with gay abandon!
And that's the state I am in now. So here's a boring list of everything that did and didn't work - as you can see, I've been busy:

Ubuntu (doesnt work on my old machine).
Lubuntu (does work, but updates and then fails)
Xubuntu (does work)
Mint (does work but weird onscreen sizing made it unusable - I have a CRT monitor too!)
Debian (works well, but why breeze through something when you can spend an hour or two doing the same thing)
Elementary (the most user-friendly, but again onscreen sizing made it unusable)
Zorin (works, but can I get it to talk to my Epson scanner? can I feck**)

** In fact it was this thorny problem that stopped me using all of the above that worked. Linux does have a scanner system called SANE, but to be honest if you have an Epson machine you'll be hard pressed to get it functioning. I've downloaded goodness knows how many times the drivers from Epson; I've unzipped, unpacked, installed, un-installed, followed onscreen instructions from everywhere, used command line, used everything until I didn't know whether I was coming or going and to a man, they all failed . . apart from one.

At the moment I am using Q4 OS - it's a variation on Debian and is fairly user-friendly and actually looks and acts a little bit like Windows, except it isn't.
As I described it to my father-in-law, Windows and Mac OS is a bit like a lovely shop window and shop - you see something you want in the window, go in and take it to the counter and buy it - you then take it home and it works.
In Linux (any of them) you don't always see what you want in the window, but it is the correct shop, so you go in, walk up to the counter, ask if they have it in stock, get a part number and bin number and then go through to the stockroom and pick it yourself; then you take it home, plug it in and it might well work, but then again . . .

The thing is Linux is a fine concept, but as a community it is incredibly split-apart - now if ALL of the programmers got togeher in one great brain-mash and said look, this is this, that is that - they're both great (and believe me, a lot of Linux stuff is truly great) how about if we made it this way?
If a UNIFIED FRONT were applied, Linux (per se) would be an OS that an entire world could enjoy with ease.

Anyway, enough of that, I got my scanner working (thank heavens) though now, this morning the fecking prtiner has decided it doesn't want to work again! Schiiiiiite!!

You know, I read something funny along the lines of "Linux is only free if you don't value your time" and I am slightly of a mind to agree with that.

Anyway, enough, your toast is getting cold -

Photography Here

You know when you can't get a full-frame 6x6 print through a letter box, because letter boxes aren't square and the print is?
Yeah, it's quite a problem, so what do you do? That's right, you slice bits off of the top and the bottom so the print resembles a letterbox shape, that's better - it pops through nicely!

What am I talking about?
Well, it's that little known and very rare, but rather handy 6x3 Hasselblad panoramic adapter!

Back when  I bought Victor, I tried to accumulate a bunch of accessories too and this was one of them - it'll come in handy I thought - I rather like that stretchy panoramic look and allied to this, all the Hasselblad panoramic photos I had seen all had that nifty little marque of THE TWO V's - but the thing was and little did I realise at the time, that it apparently DOES NOT work with a 500 CM.
I exhaled a loud "Oh Shite!" when I read that.
Admittedly, I should have known -  it didn't fit in the customary Hasselblad way - but it did sort of.
For those of you who haven't a scooby about what I am on about, the adapter is an approx 6x6cm piece of metal with a precision cut (approx) 6x3cm slit in it - if you were to saw one in half, it would look like one of those squared-off bracket thingies you have to the left of the Enter Key on a standard keyboard!
You stuff it in the square opening by the light curtains on the back of a 'Blad and then mount your film back onto the camera. There's a plastic mask (ostensibly clear, well it is for the image bit, but then surrounded by a weird dimply/spotty bit, showing you what will and won't be masked) which  you pop onto the focus screen and then fit your weapon of viewing choice on top of it..
So where was this weirdness getting me?
I know, I really do - it's anathema isn't it - you get a 6x6 frame and then you waste approximately half of it!
But that isn't the point, and anyway, why should you care it doesn't fit the damn camera? It's my camera and my film, I'll do what I like.
Well, whisper it . . . actually . . . if you can find one, buy it now. It fits the 500CM.
OK, it doesn't sit in the space exactly properly - though it will actually, just not snug:

Correct way - might work:

[  Camera Body

Incorrect way - but it does work

Film Back ]

if you can make sense of that!

So, anyway, suitably armed and with a roll of 5 years past it's Use By Date Neopan 400, I set off on a dark and dismal day to see what would happen . . . oh, and I was under the cosh with regards to time - Dad Taxi waits for no man . . .

It was strangely easy getting used to using the cropped viewfinder - I'd had this before on the Rollei whereby I'd used the 645 adapter and this was much the same. Composing was (relatively) a cinch - just had to be careful of verticals (which I wasn't ).

Now these were all taken with the 60mm Distagon, but can you imagine using it with a 40mm Distagon?
It looks really wide already, and using a slow film and a non-grainy developer, you might well get some results that would make you think of larger or more famous Panoramic cameras or backs.
I could have got a Pano back for the 5x4 Wista, but you know what I am struggling to focus that these days - this is just so much more convenient (and not to say more stable in very windy conditions)

Stretch 1 - Crop
Yes I Know I've Got Converging Verticals.
Paper As Below.

Stretch 1 - Actual Work Print- Really Bad Scan
The Perils Of Scanning Resin Coated Paper.
Marks Are From Resin/Scanner Contact Point
Paper Is Ancient Fotospeed, Hence A Bit Lacking In Contrast.

Stretch 2 - Crop
The Perils Of Using Unfamiliar Software . . .
This Is XnView - I Am Used To Irfanview.
Paper As Above

Stretch 3 - Crop
A Bit Squinty, But A Bit Better . . .
Random Puddle At Dundee Uni.
Paper As Above

Well, they're pretty crap prints aren't they, but never mind, it was an experiment - I see where I went wrong and won't do it again (promise) - I reckon in the landscape with a good vista, they might be fine - also, naturally the film plane on the 'Blad is rock solid, so you've no problems with curves or anything - take it from me, the frames are pin-straight.

I'll take more care next time.

Anyway, I s'pose the whole point of this is that if you have to, you can change things and think outside the box. I've made something work that wasn't supposed to work, and with regard to my computer I am having to relearn new software just to replace my old stuff.

XnView and Gimp seem pretty decent replacements for Irfanview and T'P'shop (CS2) respectively. No doubt if I had had more time I could have used Gimp more effectively, but the scanner problems were such a total nightmare that time shot out of the window never to return!

So until I win the lottery or something, this will have to be this - who'd have thought getting a Blog up and before your eyes could take such an amount of effort . . and was it worth it!

Anyway, till next time, one potato, two potato, three potato, four, five potato, six potato, seven potato, more.


  1. I love this format and have searched for said panoramic adapter and bugger me there are none to be found !

    I think there is a good deal of mileage in this, choice of subject would be important to maximise that format but god you could produce some cracking shots in a very distinctive style. I look forward to your next post (sooner rather than later) if you please.

    The best bit for me is that mine is the 501CM so id have no issue should I ever find some of using them

  2. Hi Shooter - many thanks for the comments. I'll do my best to get some more done.

    They do turn up - you just have to keep checking the dealers - mine came from a certain, shall we say, bounder . . .

  3. Update on t'earlier post Phil, I am now the proud owner of the required kit had another search on t'internet and found said item at Cads, absolute rip off price for postage of 5.00 but what can you do ? yep bugger all you have to pay it, still it will be the only time I will buy from them so there loss is another gain.

    I can't wait to try it out once it arrives, being the highly knowledgeable chap you are what would the frame equate to on a standard 80mm and 50mm ? I shall drop you a post once it arrives

  4. Well done that man! It should arrive well packed anyway for that price (hopefully).

    Not sure what you mean by equate to? It's really just a crop of the full frame, so it'll look like you sliced a letter-box piece out of your photo, but visually it does seem to widen in some strange way.
    I must admit I haven't gone into aspect ratios and all that . . . in other words I haven't got a scooby-do!
    You'll enjoy it though - I think it will look very fine with the 50mm - have you got the close range correction type? I can imagine a really close photograph of say a rock face done with it, with all the greys present and correct. Lovely.

  5. I'm not quite sure about this. If the adaptor causes the back to wind on by only a third as much, it might be useful. But why not simply use the viewfinder mask and take full-frame pictures anyway? Then you'd have retained some cropping options that you could use in the darkroom. Always useful, I find. By retaining the full frame, you could hold the camera exactly level and crop out the letterbox shape you wanted without the converging verticals.
    Is £5 a lot for postage and packing these days? Royal Mail 2nd class signed for: £3.90, plus £1.10 for time and packing materials seems OK to me. If you want to save money, a paper mask for the viewfinder would be a better option.

  6. Sadly David I am one of those fruitcakes that prefers full-frame/non-cropped negatives, even if it does mean losing most of the film real estate.
    Call me bonkers, I know, but it's done in the same way I would rather buy a 6x9 or 6x12 back for the Wista rather than crop a 5x4 negative. Batty!!

    And yes, for something as small and light as that, £5 does seem a lot.

  7. If you insist. Sheep-dip, you're bonkers.
    I actually share your preference for a host of "proper" gadgets and accessories. They clutter up this room. I once set out to buy storage bags and cheap rucksacks to keep them in which tripled the volume.
    I am merely making helpful suggestions when they are too late to be of any help. Can't see that the fiver matters either way for something so rare that only one eccentric chap in a proud northern nation has ever heard of it. I may be wrong. A fiver is less than the train fare to Mr Cad's, at least from South London.
    Now, what you need is a sliding viewfinder adapter, cunningly and expensively linked to the internal mask, to provide an inbuilt rising or falling effect and. if both blades were adjustable, a variable-ratio panoramic facility too. I like it already.

  8. I am bonkers - I know that already - why do something an easy way when you can do it with difficulty - I rewired my son's lava lamp at Christmas due to schiite Chinese electrical bits - cost more in replacement European (but safe) electrical bits than the bloody thing cost . . .

    I think what you are describing is a Sinar with the Zoom rollfilm thingy . . .

  9. Sinar... Mmmmmmmm...
    You need muscles for Sinar.
    And yes, they do have something, I seem to remember. It's one of those Sinar bits that's not plummeting in price.
    Best of luck to Mr Shooter when the postman knocks once.

  10. You do need muscles - i've climbed a Munro with one - not easy at all, and yes it is a roll back that does all 3 roll back sizes and keeps the film very flat.

    Yes, good luck Shooter too!


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