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Craig Pindell

Random Thoughts


       I think that maybe I think too much.  When I am on airplanes.  When I am sitting near a ruin waiting for the light to change.  When I am on a long drive. When I am on the motorcycle making an Iron Butt ride. Lots of time to think, and much of that time is thinking about photography.

      One of these thoughts was that I ought to find a way to share these thoughts.  I am hoping that doing so might help, might inspire, or at least encourage others interested in photography.

      Sometimes these thoughts may not be completely thought through, or maybe they will be a hard and fast rule- but only for myself. Or they may just be rants blowing off steam.  All should be taken with a grain of salt. I don't believe myself to be an authority on photography.  I know what works for me, and what doesn't.  I am willing to share all I know about photography, but I don't expect anyone to blindly accept what I say.

      There have been many times that I have learned a lot from folks who disagreed with me, or who saw that my methods were not as refined as they could be.  I am always happy to learn,  or at the very least, try something different. 

      This page is not a forum, there is not a comment section.  If you disagree, or if you want to discuss further, please email me at the address on the contact page.  It has been my experience that without an audience, keyboard commandos do not find any reward in discussion.  I am hoping that is the case here.

      I am not sure how often I will post here,  and I am not setting a schedule for myself. I hope it will be at least a couple of times per month, but there may be times when it much more, or much less. I will post on here in reverse chronological order - the most recent post will be first, and it is my intention to leave all the post's on here, even after I have been proven wrong, with a post that updates incorrect posts.




 13 May, 2020 - Not much work available for a blind photographer - or welder?

Many years ago I was diagnosed with cataracts. I knew something was going wrong with my vision, at the time I was a welder on a maintenance crew at a chemical plant. I had mention the issue to my eye optometrist during my annual check up, and he told me that my problems were all easily fixed with a minor surgery, but until they problems were much worse, the surgery really wouldn't make a big difference.  His advice was to wait.

I eventually retired from welding, took a job that had me traveling the majority of the time, and transitioned to a role that had me working on a computer more than I could have ever imagined.  I learned to work around the cataract problems, always thinking that I would eventually find time to have the surgery done. 

I had started wearing glasses when I was about 7 years old.  I have vivid memories of getting my first pair of glasses and being able to see clearly.  Trees were no longer a blob of green, they had little things called leaves.  Street lights were not blobs of lights, they actually were fixtures attached to poles.  Traffic lights had separate colored lights, they were not just a blob of color that changed magically.  When I described these things to my parents, my Mom cried because she had no idea how blind I was.

The cataracts had not diminished my vision to the point I was before my first glasses, but I was getting close a few years ago.  I had flown into South Carolina to help a large plant get back online after a hurricane.  Power was out all around the area, and when I landed in Charleston, the airport lights were the only sign of electricity in the area.  I picked up the rental car and headed to the plant.  The combination of the extreme darkness in the area and the rain, multiplied by the issues with cataracts made my drive one of the scariest things I have ever done.  Before I made it to the plant I had resolved to get the surgery as soon as possible.

I had some apprehension about having the surgery, probably unfounded, but I was thinking worst case scenario.  If something went horribly wrong, and I was blind, my photography would be done. And I obviously wouldn't be consulting much, nor could I even go back to welding.   This biggest loss for me would be the photography, but none of it sounded good.

When I talked to Doctor Cole who would be doing the surgery, I explained my concerns and explained how important photography was to me.  He suggested that in addition to cataract removal, I also get implants to correct my vision and my astigmatism.  It would be an additional cost for me, because the insurance company did not cover implants. In the end, I felt the additional cost would be worth it to not have to pay for glasses going forward, and since I was 7 years old I wanted to be able to see without glasses.

There were 2 surgeries, one for each eye, and the surgeries were two weeks apart.  The morning after the first surgery, the repaired eye had 20/10 vision, without glasses.  I was ecstatic.  Then came the worst 2 weeks imaginable.  I tried wearing glasses with the lens removed for my "good" eye.  I tried an eye patch.  Nothing seemed to help.  I had headaches and was generally miserable.  (by the way, I apologize to my wife, again, for my whiny behavior!)  Once the 2 weeks were over and I had the second surgery, I was amazed!  One eye at 20/10, the other eye at 20/15, and combined 20/15.  It was amazing to be able to read street signs at a distance.  And to be able see the leaves again.

But then the real challenges started.  Trying to sort out reading glasses.  The eye doctor had given me a pair of very inexpensive 2.00 glasses.  They worked ok for reading books,  but were not much help for working on a computer.  They also didn't help for trying to evaluate negatives or slides.  When I was at a John Sexton darkroom workshop, I noticed he used an Optivisor for close work, such as dust spotting, and I decided to try that for the darkroom.  The Optivisor worked well enough, but not for print evaluation, or for focusing at the enlarger. I could see myself having to use 3 or four different magnifying glasses just in the darkroom. 

Actually using the camera was just as difficult.  Reading glasses were required to read the light meter and to take notes, but didn't work with a loupe on the ground glass.  They also didn't work trying to compose the image on the 4x5 or 8x10.  The waist level finders on Hasselblad and RB67 were impossible, but fortunately they have flip up magnifiers which worked fine, but composition was really challenging.  Surprisingly, 35mm seemed to be the easiest. 

For a while, I was really second guessing my choice to have the implants. I was frustrated and needed a solution.  I found a pair a "computer" reading glasses by accident at a small drug store.  They are actually "multi-focal length" reading glasses arranged similar to bifocal glasses - stronger magnification on the bottom and a bit less magnification on top.  These glasses changed everything.  I now own 4 pairs of them.  1 pair in the darkroom, 1 pair in the garage, 1 pair at the computer, and 1 pair in the work computer bag.  They are a game changer for me.

I also found a pair of complete nerd glasses from Clic that split between the lenses and reconnect using a magnet.  They have a loop that goes around the neck, so they stay handy when I am using the view cameras.  I had to promise my wife I would never wear them in public when she was around, but they do the job when I am in the field, and I have not lost them yet.  I chose the style that has small half round lenses at the bottom so that most of the time I look over the lenses, but when I need to read the meter or make notes I look through the bottom portion. 

Close up vision life is not as easy as it used to be,  but it is getting better as I find solutions. And as I get used to life without glasses for distance vision, I am feeling more like I made the right choice to have the implants. It is has been a few years since the surgeries, and life is much better.  Last year, I was even able to surf for the first time.  I wouldn't have been able to do that before surgery.  And life without cataracts is well worth the risk.



2 April, 2020 - Continued complaints about Ilford 120 roll film.

I continue to see complaints about the Ilford Roll Film issues, mostly posted on social media. Most recently the complaints included Delta 100 and HP5+ film.  The link on Ilford's web site to file complaints seems to work hit and miss at best.   Just a couple of days ago, Ilford announced that due to the Coronavirus, the factory will be closed until it is safe to reopen.  I asked them what this meant to the investigation of the film issues, but did not receive a reply.




2 March, 2020 - Ilford Seeking more information from photographers  (Update to the ongoing concern!)

     From Ilford: We've noticed an increased number of posts relating to our 120 roll films where spots / mottle have appeared on the negatives. We want to assure you that this issue is being investigated as a matter of priority. For further information please visit: ow.ly/sJUs50yA8fJ





     From Emulsive.org :

ILFORD Photo film quality feedback and replacement program announced





The UK’s ILFORD Photo, manufacturers of black and white films such as HP5 PLUS, FP4 PLUS and Delta Professional released a statement today regarding defects found on certain 120 medium format photographic film products.

From the statement:

Over the last couple of months, we have noticed an increased number of customers posting their concerns on forums and social media channels relating to our 120 roll films in which spots / mottle have appeared on the negatives.

We pride ourselves on our high quality and consistent production and want to assure you that this issue is being fully investigated as a matter of priority. We appreciate this will be of little comfort to those who have experienced the issue and for that we offer our sincerest apologies.

If you are a regular user of social media and interact in any of the film photography communities on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you’ll no doubt have seen examples of these issues – as well as ILFORD’s attempts to encourage customers who encounter these problems to contact their technical team.

I recently spoke to ILFORD who told me:

For us to get a full understanding of the situation we need more information from customers to build an accurate picture. We do request feedback and deal with individual issues to solve problems, and we’ve made this statement to make it clear to the film photography community that we are serious about these issues.

As someone who spends most of their time on social media, I can attest to an increase in the number of complaints/requests for identifying issues with ILFORD film stocks in recent months and ask members of the community who contact me directly to contact ILFORD’s technical team for a resolution.

In terms of units affected, ILFORD is clear:

Over the last 18 months, to the end of February 2020, direct complaints submitted to us relating to spots / mottle account for less than 1.5 complaints for every 10,000 rolls of 120 film we have produced. These have also been seen primarily, but not exclusively, in our slower speed films such as PAN F.

ILFORD’s statement goes on to say that affected film will be replaced and that customers should contact them ASAP with as much detail about the film as possible plus and image of the affected negative showing the 4-digit code found in the edge marking.

Investigations are underway and early findings show that the issue is “significantly influenced by external factors such as humidity, temperature and film age”. To minimize the risk of any issues, ILFORD has the following advice (also found on their product packaging):

Our films should be stored below 20C / 68F as shown on the bottom of each box. It is important to avoid extreme high temperatures, humidity or fluctuating temperatures.

All films have an expiry date which is also printed on the bottom of each box at the time of manufacture. We recommend processing before that date and as soon as possible after shooting.

ILFORD has committed to continuing its investigations and is in the process of reviewing its manufacturing humidity controls and working with supply chain to help mitigate any potential ongoing issues.

IMPORTANT: I should state clearly that the issues described here and in the ILFORD statement are related to 120 film products only. 35mm and sheet film products are now and have been unaffected.

Thanks for reading and please do add your thoughts in the comments below.

~ EM



25 February, 2020 - Ilford film problems (update)

I have been contacted by several other photographers that are having issues with 120 size Ilford films.  This includes Pan F+, FP4+, HP5+, and Delta 100.  I hope we hear from Ilford soon.   Otherwise, my entire Ilford film inventory will be relagated to the Holgas, where imperfect film will have less impact on the final image.  This is all quite concerning and quite sad.


8 February 2020 - Ilford Pan F+

      I am a long time fan of Ilford Pan F+ film.  The fine grain, excellent sharpness and long tonal scale are all the characteristics I look for in a film. I really wish it was available in sheets. Since it is not, I like shooting it in panorama, especially 6x17 format using 120 film.  I feel so strongly about it, that when Bomm Cameras ( www.bommcameras.com ) built my 8x10 camera, I had them build me a 5x7 back with Graflock that allowed me to use a DaYi 617 back on the camera.  For me, the extra expense was well worth it to be able to make use of Pan F+.

      Then disaster strikes, Pan F+ became unreliable.   My first problem showed up during the first trip out with the Bomm and the Panorama back.

      There were lines in the sky.  At first glance I thought the back must be faulty, but I had also exposed FP4+ and Ektar on this day, and there were no issues with the other film.

      I decided to test the film using a grey mat board, and the lines were in the film.  I contacted Ilford, and they sent replacement film (which tested fine) and on 26 September, 2018, they emailed this explanation:

 I'm really sorry to see the problems you've encountered on one of your
Pan F Plus roll films. The repeating lines are unfortunately an issue
that I recognize - they are linked to the film and an interaction defect
arising from the film wrapper (backing paper).

We do now acknowledge that wrapper interaction was an issue with a very
small number of film generated within some specific manufacturing time
periods (i.e. your 41D batch which was finished in May 2016, was one of
the batches affected).
It linked with a time period when some wrappers did not have quite
enough lacquer applied. But, we also know that for the lines to show on
actual films, in addition to the wrapper being a factor - it also mostly
needed some external factors to be present, to trigger it. (i.e. non
manufacturing triggers).
For eg, with the few prior complaint incidents we've known it arise on,
the triggers appear to have been if film was old, if film was stored in
adverse temperatures (hot/high RH), if there was a really long delay
between exposure and processing, if very long exposures were used, and
when certain types of developers are used - like pyro devs.

Since appreciating that lacquer levels applied to wrappers is so
critical - the tolerances permissible for lacquer levels applied to our
wrappers has been suitably altered, and since that time point - we have
not received any other incidents as complaints. We are also monitoring
wrappers alot more extensively, and carrying out alot more QC tests.

So although I can appreciate it will have been extremely distressing for
you to lose your images, hopefully the above can still help you to
regain your confidence that this is an issue that ought not to ever
arise again. (You might also be able to link one of the above triggers -
as something that was applicable to your film).

I would advise that it would be best to not risk using any other films
you have off this exact same batch - and I definitely will ensure you
receive replacement films to more than cover your ruined processed film,
as well as any unexposed films you have. (Again - I appreciate this
doesn't rescue your ruined film or take away that disappointment of
losing the images).

      I really appreciated the information from Ilford, but It did not match up to my personal experience, so I decided to keep testing.  The film they sent me was fine, the next group I ordered from Freestyle had issues again.  The batch number was different from the batch number of the previous film I had problems with.   Then the next batch I ordered was fine.  I assumed all was good, bought more Pan F, and stopped testing.

      Not long after, I saw a few exchanges on Twitter that folks were seeing a new problem with Pan F+ - white spots in light tones, such as sky areas.  I did a quick test and was having the same issue.  This was the last straw for me.  I don't feel I can go to the work it takes to create images with the Bomm, and the expense to go to some of the distant locations I travel to, without having the confidence that my chosen film will be free from defects.

      It is heartbreaking, but until I restore my confidence in Pan F+, I will find something different (obviously lesser) to shoot.


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