Christopher
Stoll

2023 Year in Review: Camera Usage

2023 Year in Review: Camera Usage

Modern cameras have evolved towards a uniform set of ergonomics. If you are looking for a new, high-end, mass-market camera, there’s a good chance the one you get will be covered in black plastic, have a hand grip on the right side, and place the majority of controls within the reach of your right thumb and forefinger. And there is nothing wrong with this uniformity; these cameras are like this because the layout works. Vintage film cameras, on the other hand, are what evolved into this form, so they come in a larger variety of shapes, sizes, and layouts. The layout of film cameras is also influenced by the type of film and the functionality that was available when the camera was produced. Film cameras simply have more diversity with regards to form and function.

Since I dropped back into the world of film photography, and my eyes were opened to the number of choices available, I have been searching for the kit that works for me. I tried a lot of cameras. After an obligatory TLR phase, I briefly thought that mid-century rangefinders would be the camera for me. I eventually realized that I was looking for two different cameras. When I go out with the intention to take photos, I like a medium format camera with a large aperture manual focus lens. When I just go out, I like a small, capable point-and-shoot; I’m looking for an alternative to the fine-in-their-own-right iPhone cameras.

As time moves forward, preferences change and get refined. This is how my camera choices have evolved over the past year.


a bad photographer: color prints on black and white paper

a bad photographer: color prints on black and white paper

In this video I experimented with creating colorized prints on regular black and white paper using Rockland Polytoner. It started with me mixing up the chemistry, and learning that pouring alcohol into hot water creates a lot of nasty fumes. I then created prints three different ways. First, I developed the print directly in the Polytoner and then fix. Next, I developed in Polytoner and bleach before fixing. Finally, I developed in Ilford Multigrade before toning with the Polytoner and then fixing.


a bad photographer: developing color film

a bad photographer: developing color film

In this video I cover the techniques I use to develop color film. I am not a darkroom expert, I have only been developing color film for a couple years, and I mess the process up 2 or 3 times out of ten. So, if I am being honest, I might not be the best person to learn from. However, stoping to think about and explain the process has helped me, and I hope it can similarly help others. Or, maybe, some nice person will notice a mistake I make and point it out to me. In and case, we will only get better.

For the demonstration I developed a roll of expired Kodacolor VR-G. Though there were no obvious problems with development, the results were not amazing. I expected that. I decided to create the video while developing this particular roll of film because I assumed that I would make a mistake. I frequently make development mistakes, so the added distraction of also shooting a video would only increase the risk of failure. I am happy that the images turned out as well as they did, even if I did have to do a lot of post-processing.


My Iraq War, 20 Years Later: 21 September 2003

My Iraq War, 20 Years Later: 21 September 2003

I was worried that deployment would wreck my home. It’s not an unreasonable fear, that outcome is a high probability event. A lot of things need to happen in order for a family not to be destroyed by a deployment, the sundry details fall into one of three conditional categories. The people left behind have to hold everything together with one less contributor. The person deployed has to make it through the deployment. And, the expeditioner must successfully re-integrate into society. This last item is often taken for granted. Most assume that surviving the war is surviving the hazardous part.

My family had a community that supported them, and they were able to make do without me. It wasn’t fun for them. They had to learn to cope as a one parent household, on what they hoped would be a temporary basis. They were on edge, praying that they didn’t one day learn the situation would become permanent.

I wasn’t killed in the war, but parts of me died. The remaining innocence I had and my naïveté about how the world worked were both certainly causalities. Some might argue that those represent positive changes; I’m not sure that I would agree, but it makes for an interesting debate. On balance, being deployed made me a worse person, at least for a while. I had great people in my life that helped me through periods of dealing with untreated post traumatic stress. With their support I was ultimately able to find serenity. I knew people who were not so fortunate.

The reality is that, for many people, the war doesn’t end when they arrive back home. The effects of the war linger on in people, long after the war has supposedly ended for them. Somehow, I eventually got better. Miraculously, my home wasn’t wrecked by my 18 month adventure.


Labor Day Weekend BBQ and Music Festival

Labor Day Weekend BBQ and Music Festival

The Labor Day Weekend BBQ and Music Festival at Barberton’s Lake Anna Park

  • Camera: Hasselblad 203FE
  • Lens: Carl Zeiss Planar 2/110 T*
  • Film: Kentmere 100 and Ilford Pan F
  • Development: Kodak XTOL 1:1 @75℉, TF-5 archival fix

The film was shot at box speed and developed normally.


Fogged Film: 1991 Ilford FP4

Fogged Film: 1991 Ilford FP4

Barberton’s Lake Anna Park on a foggy Saturday morning

  • Camera: Hasselblad 203FE
  • Lens: Carl Zeiss Planar 2/110 T*
  • Film: Ilford FP4, expired January 1991
  • Development: Kodak XTOL 1:1 @75℉, TF-5 archival fix

The film was shot at ISO 50, as per my rules of thumbs for shooting expired film.


My Iraq War, 20 Years Later: 16 August 2003

My Iraq War, 20 Years Later: 16 August 2003

On 14 August 2003 the Northeastern United States and Canada experienced a massive blackout which started right here in Akron, Ohio. Two days later I received a call from my sergeant, and based upon an almost manic journal entry, I may have been working on creating my own personal blackout. I learned that I would be activated and deployed to support the Global War on Terrorism. Rather than doing easy time guarding the Perry Nuclear Plant, I was destined for an overseas deployment. And, by the time my pen hit paper that day I was apparently fully engulfed in the second stage of grief.

I am not sure why, but I thought that I would be doing peacekeeping, in a war zone. Prior to facing the consequences of their favorite policies I was a mindless Fox News viewer, so the seeds for those thoughts may have been planted by the media I was consuming at the time. The valid concern that I was unable to articulate was probably related to entering a situation where it would be very hard to differentiate between civilians and un-uniformed enemy combatants.

From my perspective, I was going to be entering a hot combat zone where I would need to take the appropriate posture. From the perspective of Iraqis, I was entering their hometowns where they were doing their bests to live normal lives. In the end, there would be something that both of those perspective could agree upon: I shouldn’t have been sent there.


My Iraq War, 20 Years Later: 07 April 2003

My Iraq War, 20 Years Later: 07 April 2003

I was doing a screen share with a colleague in Germany when Tom told me I should wrap up my call. The confusion caused by the unusual request was only heightened when Tom said, “we’re getting a TV set up, you should see this.” On a small staticky screen we watched large passenger planes crash into a New York City sky scrapper. The clips of the tragedy were on loop, on every station. It took a short eternity to realize that this was not an accident. More planes had crashed, and the incidents were related. Once I understood what had happened, I was certain that my National Guard unit was going to be activated and deployed.

The situation presented more than one paradox; I was concerned by the one that I knew would change the trajectory of my life. There was no nation to mobilize against, yet the nation was mobilizing. Though I did not think it was entirely rational, I understood the need. I knew that I would need to collect up my military gear.

Perhaps surprisingly, combat vehicle crew equipment is mostly harmless. That was certainly true of the equipment which we were allowed to keep at home. The CVC uniform helmet with its padded ear cups and boom microphone was a curiosity that young boys such as mine could not resist. I might have to pull it out of a toy box, wipe of the remnants of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and prepare it to remove any innocence that may have had left.


Fogged Film: 2004 Fuji Super HQ 200

Fogged Film: 2004 Fuji Super HQ 200

This roll of Fuji Super HQ 200 is probably the best roll of expired film I have ever shot. I really love how the photos turned out. The grain is amazing and the colors have a contrasty, vintage look that is not skewed too far towards one color. The 2000 Canon EOS ELAN 7e (and the FPP C-41) paired nicely with the Super HQ 200.

The film was shot at ISO 80, as per my rules of thumbs for shooting expired film.


Iraq War Deployment Experience, 2003-2005

Iraq War Deployment Experience, 2003-2005

A year and a half after I arrived back stateside from my expedition to Iraq I was asked about my deployment experience. The child of a friend of a friend needed to interview veterans for a project they were working on, so I agreed. The thing I remembered about my response, and what made me think of this questionnaire many years latter, was my memory of how Iraq smelled. Usually memories are visual, but these memories had an olfactory component to them. This was brought back to mind by Jon Stewart’s recent efforts to highlight the ill effects veterans are suffering from burning shit in Iraq.

At our first forward operating base we had burn toilets prior to receiving chemical toilets, but I think the rear elements had to burn the waste while we were out running missions. The thing people probably don’t realize though is that the baseline pollution level in Iraq, the baseline in combat zones, is considerably higher than what we enjoy here in the United States. Perhaps urban air quality in the late 60s, prior to the EPA, was similar to what I experienced in Iraq.

Of course it may have been worse in Iraq due to the dusty, arid environment. There was always something in the air. We lived in an old government building which perhaps contained asbestos, who knows, I doubt anyone tested for that. What we do know is that the building was famously bombed by Tomahawk missiles on the first night of the war. Those missiles were probably tipped with depleted uranium. We would laugh every time a mortar bounced off of the sturdy building. But, the so-called insurgents might get the last laugh; each of those mortar hits would stir up dust in the unventilated building. The Army should have given us N95 masks rather than gas masks which literally went unused, because, you know, there were in fact no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.


Backpacking Dolly Sods Wilderness

Backpacking Dolly Sods Wilderness

The Appalachian Trail is sometimes referred to as the green tunnel. The truth is that many of the backpacking trails on the East Coast run under the cover of deciduous forests and have few scenic overlooks. One backpacking area within driving distance of Northeastern Ohio which breaks out of the green tunnel is the Dolly Sods Wilderness. Dolly Sods has a rough, barren appearance which is partially the result of its unique ecology and partially the result of a long history of exploitation and abuse by European settlers.

Prior to civilization creeping up to it’s borders, Dolly Sods was an inaccessible region covered with spruce, hemlock, and mountain laurel. The expansion of the railroads brought the lumber industry into the area. As the lumber industry clear cut the forests they left behind a landscape barren of trees yet fertile for fires. Fires destroyed vegetation which survived the lumber companies. By the late 1920s little of value was left and the companies moved on. The Civilian Conservation Corps started planting spruce in the 1930s, but in 1940s the US Army rolled in. They were preparing for war in Europe and needed a place to practice destroying things with artillery shells.


Finding Related Jekyll Posts Using LSI, for Github pages

Finding Related Jekyll Posts Using LSI, for Github pages

On this site I write about, what I like to believe is, a diverse set of topics. The normal way of presenting posts using a sequential list does nothing to help people discover other material on the site which they may also be interested in. I wanted to provide visitors with a list of links to content which is similar to the page they are currently viewing. However, due to limitations in the platform I’m using, there was no option to simply turn this on. So, I wrote some code and implemented an algorithm to solve this problem.