Rachael & Mark. Engaged.

The winter can be pretty harsh in the Northeast.  And this season, along with many other areas of our country was slammed pretty darn hard with winter weather - which in all honesty I did thoroughly enjoy.  However, it does complicate the picture taking process a bit.  Not so much for personal work, but for client work.  Most engagement sessions tend to be outside and its tough to get a groove and connection going when you are freezing your ass off, your clients can't stay warm, and your finger tips are completely numb while changing a roll of film.  So at the hint of the slightest decent weather, you will see people outside pretending its Spring when in reality its only in the 30's.  It just feels warmer.  

Thats what happened at Rachael & Mark's engagement session which was in a quaint little town outside Philly called Skippack.  The forecast for the Sunday we planned their session was a "balmy" 40 degrees.  Not too bad for late winter weather.  But, we did it in the morning so it was hovering around the freezing mark.  But still warm considering the amount of time the temperatures spent in the teens and single digits this winter.  Is there a better place to meet up than a coffee shop in the winter?  Probably not.  So we each had a cup of coffee to warm up and then wandered around town for a bit.  They handled everything wonderfully and it was a great start to the day.  I'm excited to be photographing their wedding nearby Skippack later this year.

Bleaching Fujifilm 100C Instant Film Negatives

A lot of people have asked me how to obtain a usable negative (to scan) from 100C instant film and I helped write up a tutorial (there's a video as well) on the Snap It See It blog (a blog designated towards instant film) a while back.  I usually forward everyone to that page (here), however I updated a couple steps and took some pictures along the way which may better show the process.  

Let me know if you think a video would be preferred.  Many times I find the still images easier to follow along with as I can go step by step like instructions for building furniture.  There's no having to stop the video to keep pace.  Just print these out and you are good to go.   

NOTE:  THIS IS NOT THE PROCESS FOR 3000B NEGATIVES.  IF YOU APPLY THIS PROCESS TO A 3000B NEGATIVE YOU WILL DESTROY IT AND THE WORLD WILL END .. AHHHHHHH!  

In any case, here is my process (and some people do it differently however its usually pretty close) on how to bleach a 100c negative:

These are the necessary tools to complete the bleaching process: 1.  Gel bleach.  Try to find the straight gel bleach - the one without any "cleaner" added.  Its plain bleach gel.  I don't recommend using liquid bleach or anything else "bleach" worthy like a magic eraser.  I've tried everything and this stuff works the best. 2.  Painters tape.  It doesn't matter what brand you use but I recommend painters tape or masking tape as it comes up easier. 3.  Paper towels. 4.  A bowl (which will have warm water in it). 5.  Clothespins on a line/string (to hold the negatives to dry). 6. Plexiglass, glass or some type of smooth hard surface to tape the negatives to. There are 3 things NOT listed here that you can use but don't have to.  The first is a sponge paint brush which I will include a picture of later in the tutorial and use this time around.  You can either use a paper towel OR the sponge brush to apply the gel to the negative.  I've used both and both work fine.  Also, Windex.  It was recommended to me recently to clean the negative with windex near the final step to remove any leftover residue.  I tested this out and while it does help a little its not a necessary step to be able to do this.  I discuss this at the end of the tutorial. And lastly, rubber gloves.  Some people use them.  I do not.  I find they limit me to what I can do AND if you do this carefully you barely get any bleach on your hands at all.  

These are the necessary tools to complete the bleaching process:
1.  Gel bleach.  Try to find the straight gel bleach - the one without any "cleaner" added.  Its plain bleach gel.  I don't recommend using liquid bleach or anything else "bleach" worthy like a magic eraser.  I've tried everything and this stuff works the best.
2.  Painters tape.  It doesn't matter what brand you use but I recommend painters tape or masking tape as it comes up easier.
3.  Paper towels.
4.  A bowl (which will have warm water in it).
5.  Clothespins on a line/string (to hold the negatives to dry).
6. Plexiglass, glass or some type of smooth hard surface to tape the negatives to.

There are 3 things NOT listed here that you can use but don't have to.  The first is a sponge paint brush which I will include a picture of later in the tutorial and use this time around.  You can either use a paper towel OR the sponge brush to apply the gel to the negative.  I've used both and both work fine.  Also, Windex.  It was recommended to me recently to clean the negative with windex near the final step to remove any leftover residue.  I tested this out and while it does help a little its not a necessary step to be able to do this.  I discuss this at the end of the tutorial. And lastly, rubber gloves.  Some people use them.  I do not.  I find they limit me to what I can do AND if you do this carefully you barely get any bleach on your hands at all.  

Plexiglass. This is what the 100c negatives get taped to.  Its a piece of plexiglass I got from Ace Hardware.  Its not expensive at all and its a bit safer than using regular glass.  You can make it any size you'd like depending on how many pictures you want to bleach at one time.  I bought a sheet from the store and split it in half.  That should last me ... forever.

Plexiglass.
This is what the 100c negatives get taped to.  Its a piece of plexiglass I got from Ace Hardware.  Its not expensive at all and its a bit safer than using regular glass.  You can make it any size you'd like depending on how many pictures you want to bleach at one time.  I bought a sheet from the store and split it in half.  That should last me ... forever.

Step 1: Tape down ALL edges of the plexiglass to a hard and stable surface.  This happens to be my kitchen floor.  I use the Scotch Blue painters tape - usually the 1.5" or 2" kind.

Step 1:
Tape down ALL edges of the plexiglass to a hard and stable surface.  This happens to be my kitchen floor.  I use the Scotch Blue painters tape - usually the 1.5" or 2" kind.

Step 2:   Strip down the negative.  On the left is the negative after peeling off the print.  In the middle is the white part taken off.  On the right is everything removed.  You can either just rip it all off OR use scissors.  I tend to use scissors to make it a more precise cut and cleaner product to work with.

Step 2:  
Strip down the negative.  On the left is the negative after peeling off the print.  In the middle is the white part taken off.  On the right is everything removed.  You can either just rip it all off OR use scissors.  I tend to use scissors to make it a more precise cut and cleaner product to work with.

Lots of negatives (on right) all ready to be bleached.

Lots of negatives (on right) all ready to be bleached.

Step 3: Determine your layout.  As you can see I can easily fit 9 negatives on this piece of plexiglass.  Sometimes I do 6 and sometimes I do 4.  It depends on how many I have to bleach.  The dark black side should be facing UP because this is the side you bleach.  Bleaching removes the black coating to get to the full and usable negative.  

Step 3:
Determine your layout.  As you can see I can easily fit 9 negatives on this piece of plexiglass.  Sometimes I do 6 and sometimes I do 4.  It depends on how many I have to bleach.  The dark black side should be facing UP because this is the side you bleach.  Bleaching removes the black coating to get to the full and usable negative.  

The one on the right is correctly laid out.  Thats the black backing you need to bleach off.  If you bleach the negative on the left you will destroy it.  Basically we need to bleach off the black coating to reach the "other side" of the negative.

The one on the right is correctly laid out.  Thats the black backing you need to bleach off.  If you bleach the negative on the left you will destroy it.  Basically we need to bleach off the black coating to reach the "other side" of the negative.

I'm going to show you the process using 4 negatives.

I'm going to show you the process using 4 negatives.

Step 4: Tape down the negatives on ALL sides.  Do all sides because its safe and it keeps the bleach from getting under and ruining the image.  Its better to be safe than sorry.  I use the 2" tape and rip off a piece and then split the 2" tape down the middle into 1" sections.  It saves tape AND space on the surface.  All 4 sides of all negatives are securely taped down.  You don't want to cover TOO much of the negative - just the sections that don't have an image on them.  Its about a 1/4" of space around the image you have to work with.

Step 4:
Tape down the negatives on ALL sides.  Do all sides because its safe and it keeps the bleach from getting under and ruining the image.  Its better to be safe than sorry.  I use the 2" tape and rip off a piece and then split the 2" tape down the middle into 1" sections.  It saves tape AND space on the surface.  All 4 sides of all negatives are securely taped down.  You don't want to cover TOO much of the negative - just the sections that don't have an image on them.  Its about a 1/4" of space around the image you have to work with.

This is where you would either get a paper towel OR use this painter's sponge.  Using this instead saves paper towels (you have to keep getting new ones) and makes the process a bit cleaner.

This is where you would either get a paper towel OR use this painter's sponge.  Using this instead saves paper towels (you have to keep getting new ones) and makes the process a bit cleaner.

Step 5: Apply the gel bleach.  This is about how much gel bleach I put on each one.  After doing a few you will learn how much to use.  Sometimes you have to reapply it for a 2nd coat (which I'll go over shortly).  You don't want to overdo this as you will waste the bleach and have too much to clean up.  But too little will force you to do this step again.  You will find the right amount where you can generally do this bleaching process in one shot.  The bleach comes out semi-clear (it is a little cloudy).  When it starts turning white like the top left image, its working.  You want to put the bleach on one at a time until you get good at it.

Step 5:
Apply the gel bleach.  This is about how much gel bleach I put on each one.  After doing a few you will learn how much to use.  Sometimes you have to reapply it for a 2nd coat (which I'll go over shortly).  You don't want to overdo this as you will waste the bleach and have too much to clean up.  But too little will force you to do this step again.  You will find the right amount where you can generally do this bleaching process in one shot.  The bleach comes out semi-clear (it is a little cloudy).  When it starts turning white like the top left image, its working.  You want to put the bleach on one at a time until you get good at it.

Step 6: Spread around the bleach using the brush OR small paper towel.  This was done using the brush.  There is a decent coat of bleach over the entire image.  I let it stand about 10-20 seconds on this.  It works pretty darn fast though but I wait a bit longer to make sure.

Step 6:
Spread around the bleach using the brush OR small paper towel.  This was done using the brush.  There is a decent coat of bleach over the entire image.  I let it stand about 10-20 seconds on this.  It works pretty darn fast though but I wait a bit longer to make sure.

Step 7: Clean off the bleach.  After waiting, fold up a paper towel (I use a half sheet - some rolls come like that) and fold it up so its nice and thick.  In a back and forth motion I sop up the bleach.  You may have to use a 2nd paper towel if you are doing multiple negatives like this.  If you are only doing 1 or 2 you should be good with just the 1 paper towel.  Wipe up all the bleach - as much as you can.  If you were fast enough applying the bleach and you spread it around evenly and quickly, you will be rewarded with having to do this step only once.  I've gotten pretty good at it and can usually do it in 1 shot however, sometimes a 2nd small application of bleach is needed.  If you look closely at your negatives you may see some of the black coating still present.  

Step 7:
Clean off the bleach.  After waiting, fold up a paper towel (I use a half sheet - some rolls come like that) and fold it up so its nice and thick.  In a back and forth motion I sop up the bleach.  You may have to use a 2nd paper towel if you are doing multiple negatives like this.  If you are only doing 1 or 2 you should be good with just the 1 paper towel.  Wipe up all the bleach - as much as you can.  If you were fast enough applying the bleach and you spread it around evenly and quickly, you will be rewarded with having to do this step only once.  I've gotten pretty good at it and can usually do it in 1 shot however, sometimes a 2nd small application of bleach is needed.  If you look closely at your negatives you may see some of the black coating still present.  

I tried to show some of that coating here.  You can see it in the top right corner of the negative.  You can see the black coating still there (its thicker).  Its also present along the bottom edge.  If this happens, its almost always around the edges because those are the last spots to get covered in bleach when you apply it.  All you need to do is put a little more bleach on those specific spots .. wait a few seconds ... and rub it off.  2 attempts always does the trick.

I tried to show some of that coating here.  You can see it in the top right corner of the negative.  You can see the black coating still there (its thicker).  Its also present along the bottom edge.  If this happens, its almost always around the edges because those are the last spots to get covered in bleach when you apply it.  All you need to do is put a little more bleach on those specific spots .. wait a few seconds ... and rub it off.  2 attempts always does the trick.

After you remove all the bleach with your paper towel - and do the 2nd coat if needed - you will end up with this.  The black coating is now completely gone and you are left with being able to see through the image.

After you remove all the bleach with your paper towel - and do the 2nd coat if needed - you will end up with this.  The black coating is now completely gone and you are left with being able to see through the image.

Step 8: Remove the painter's tape and remove the negative.  Hold it up to the light and you can now clearly see you have a great negative.  When removing the tape be a bit gentle.  If there's any bleach left over on the tape you don't want to allow it to touch the other side of the negative.  Be careful and you'll be fine.  

Step 8:
Remove the painter's tape and remove the negative.  Hold it up to the light and you can now clearly see you have a great negative.  When removing the tape be a bit gentle.  If there's any bleach left over on the tape you don't want to allow it to touch the other side of the negative.  Be careful and you'll be fine.  

Step 9: Fill a bowl (full) with lukewarm water.  I'm sure cold water is fine but I like it warm since I put my hands in it.  Once its filled, drop in your negative ... or several if you'd like. ADDED NOTE:  You can also skip the bowl and go straight to a sink and do the following steps with running water instead.  Because there may be bleach leftover on the negative after removing it from the plexiglass you do run the risk of getting bleach in the water and having it get on another negative.  If you do a good job of removing the bleach and fill the bowl with plenty of water, this doesn't happen.  Test both versions out and see what you prefer.

Step 9:
Fill a bowl (full) with lukewarm water.  I'm sure cold water is fine but I like it warm since I put my hands in it.  Once its filled, drop in your negative ... or several if you'd like.

ADDED NOTE:  You can also skip the bowl and go straight to a sink and do the following steps with running water instead.  Because there may be bleach leftover on the negative after removing it from the plexiglass you do run the risk of getting bleach in the water and having it get on another negative.  If you do a good job of removing the bleach and fill the bowl with plenty of water, this doesn't happen.  Test both versions out and see what you prefer.

I put several negatives in the bowl.  You can do one at a time if that makes you happier.

I put several negatives in the bowl.  You can do one at a time if that makes you happier.

Step 10: Take a paper towel and soak it in the warm water.  Make sure its completely soaked before doing this step.  Once its soaked, gently rub the paper towel over the side you just bleached - super lightly and just once - and ALSO the side that was face down on the plexiglass.  That side of the negative still has remnants of the emulsion on it - and its a goopy material - that you want to remove.  You will feel it right away if you rub your finger on it (NOT YOUR FINGERNAIL).  You can be a bit more aggressive on this side with the wet paper towel but still keep in mind this is fragile.  You will begin to feel the leftover emulsion coming off the negative.  You may have to spend 30 seconds or so to remove it all.  Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

Step 10:
Take a paper towel and soak it in the warm water.  Make sure its completely soaked before doing this step.  Once its soaked, gently rub the paper towel over the side you just bleached - super lightly and just once - and ALSO the side that was face down on the plexiglass.  That side of the negative still has remnants of the emulsion on it - and its a goopy material - that you want to remove.  You will feel it right away if you rub your finger on it (NOT YOUR FINGERNAIL).  You can be a bit more aggressive on this side with the wet paper towel but still keep in mind this is fragile.  You will begin to feel the leftover emulsion coming off the negative.  You may have to spend 30 seconds or so to remove it all.  Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

I attempted to show the "goopy" material here.  You can see there is a filmy layover over the negative.  This is what you are removing.

I attempted to show the "goopy" material here.  You can see there is a filmy layover over the negative.  This is what you are removing.

I attempted to show what the negative looked like AFTER the emulsion (goop) was removed (much less shiny).  The negative is clearly there now with no filmy residue over it.  Your water will change color at this point from the residue - usually its a greenish color.

I attempted to show what the negative looked like AFTER the emulsion (goop) was removed (much less shiny).  The negative is clearly there now with no filmy residue over it.  Your water will change color at this point from the residue - usually its a greenish color.

Step 11: At this point you have successfully bleached a 100c negative.  Now to dry.  I HIGHLY recommend hang drying them.  They dry much faster, better and cleaner.   ** There is now the WINDEX step which is completely optional.  After they are dry for the most part you can take standard windex and do a cleaning of the back of the negative where you removed the black coating.  You can ONLY windex that side.  Do NOT windex the side where the emulsion was - you will strip the image and ruin the negative.  A light windexing removes any excess residue you didn't get when you cleaned it.  If you choose to do this step please do it very carefully.  After you windex it with a paper towel - or perhaps a microfiber cloth (haven't tried that), dip it in water again to remove any cleaning material and hang dry again.  

Step 11:
At this point you have successfully bleached a 100c negative.  Now to dry.  I HIGHLY recommend hang drying them.  They dry much faster, better and cleaner.  

** There is now the WINDEX step which is completely optional.  After they are dry for the most part you can take standard windex and do a cleaning of the back of the negative where you removed the black coating.  You can ONLY windex that side.  Do NOT windex the side where the emulsion was - you will strip the image and ruin the negative.  A light windexing removes any excess residue you didn't get when you cleaned it.  If you choose to do this step please do it very carefully.  After you windex it with a paper towel - or perhaps a microfiber cloth (haven't tried that), dip it in water again to remove any cleaning material and hang dry again.  

A successful morning of bleaching. IF YOU NOW REPEAT THE PROCESS AND DO MORE BLEACHING BE SURE TO CLEAN OFF THE PLEXIGLASS PRIOR TO TAPING DOWN NEW NEGATIVES.  YOU CAN CLEAN IT WITH WINDEX OR ANY SURFACE CLEANER.  CLEAN AND DRY BEFORE TAPING DOWN NEW NEGATIVES.

A successful morning of bleaching.

IF YOU NOW REPEAT THE PROCESS AND DO MORE BLEACHING BE SURE TO CLEAN OFF THE PLEXIGLASS PRIOR TO TAPING DOWN NEW NEGATIVES.  YOU CAN CLEAN IT WITH WINDEX OR ANY SURFACE CLEANER.  CLEAN AND DRY BEFORE TAPING DOWN NEW NEGATIVES.

And finally, here's a comparison of what bleaching can do.  The image on the left is the print.  The one on the right is the bleached negative.  I recommend shooting 100c 1 stop under to achieve the best bleaching results.  This is just my recommendation though.  

And finally, here's a comparison of what bleaching can do.  The image on the left is the print.  The one on the right is the bleached negative.  I recommend shooting 100c 1 stop under to achieve the best bleaching results.  This is just my recommendation though.  

A Gathering of Friends

Photography has allowed me to see areas of this beautiful country I may have never taken a chance on before.  And for that, I'm thankful.  In March of last year a group of film photographers decided to get together in Joshua Tree National Park for 5 days of (and I'll be honest here) nerding out with like-minded friends.  It was pretty low-key and we had a blast so we decided to try it again this year, but we chose a different location ... Zion National Park.  I've had Zion on my list of places to see for quite some time now and man, it did not disappoint.  Its incredible.  If you have plans to visit there you are in for a treat.  And if you don't or have been thinking about, do it.  Every direction you turn in Zion, and in Utah for that matter, is beautiful.  

I won't get into a lengthy description of all the details here but if you are interested, I did write up a journal of the experience which you can find here:  Ash Imagery Bonjournal

Instead, here is my experience in pictures.  I do that better anyway.

An Instant Film Challenge.

Many of you know about my love for instant film.  I try to shoot with it whenever possible and it accounts for a lot of my favorite images.  Sometimes I get so into it that I consider shooting it 100% of the time.  If I was doing only portrait sessions where I controlled everything it's a lot easier which is why I am offering all instant film portrait sessions.  Weddings are my primary focus and while instant film and weddings do get along, I can't stop using faster cameras and film for obvious reasons.  BUT, when I have awesome friends that let me tag along to awesome weddings and they give me power to do what I want ... well, then I can start messing around.  And that's what I did when my buddy Gabe asked me to tag along at a wedding in upstate NY late last summer.  My plan was to shoot as much instant film as possible.  And while I carried around my AE1 for moments (I still wanted to do a good job), I focused a lot of attention on my Polaroid 195's.

So what I decided to do was load up one 195 with Fuji 100c (color) and have a 2nd one loaded with Fuji 3000b (b&w).  This enabled me to be able to shoot in any condition at any time and allowed me more freedom than just shooting 1 camera and getting stuck indoors with 100 speed film in the camera.  I knew that wasn't going to fly.  

First and foremost, if you are going to try this, I highly recommend using either a Polaroid 180 or 195 model pack film camera.  These two (along with the 185 and 190 - way more rare) cameras allow me to fully control what settings I'm using.  Most a pack film land cameras don't have that option whereas on mine, I can control the shutter speed AND aperture.  This makes a huge difference.  Starting off I was indoors so naturally I started using the camera with 3000b loaded in it.  Right off the bat I noticed I was waiting a lot longer for the right shot.  I did 1 dress shot in b&w indoors and 2 color outdoors.  That's it.  I was considering not doing that at all however the dress was pretty rad and I wanted test out the cameras and make sure they worked properly before using it on a shot that truly mattered.  After those shots were out of the way and I was good I then found myself really trying to concentrate on key moments.  Here are some observations from the day:

1.  With any pack film you get 10 shots per pack so on my 10th shot I needed to make sure I wasn't going to miss something else while I was changing the pack.  This was harder to do then I thought and there were several moments where I pulled up my 35mm just to make sure I was good.  Since I was shadowing Gabe a lot and didn't really need to be there I didn't worry.  If this was my own wedding this would have been a major issue.  

2.  Peeling a print after the shot is taken.  This was a tough one as well.  There were a few moments where I took a shot and then held the image unpeeled in my teeth while I took a 2nd shot.  I had my bag with me as well and would drop them in there to let them develop.  But I didn't want to leave them developing TOO long as it was extremely hot in the house (no AC) and I knew that would cause an issue with peeling.  However, it did help with drying.  So whenever I was changing a pack or I felt there was a small lull I would peel the print and let the negative dry.

3.  Space.  For some reason I didn't think about this one.  AFTER I peeled the print it needs to dry.  And if you are like me and like to save the negative, well this can take up a lot of space.  So what I did was find a non-traffic part of the the house and spread out my negatives and let the prints dry.  The prints dried pretty fast so every time I came back I was able to store those in one of the boxes the film comes in freeing up some space.  However the negatives took a lot longer and before I knew it I had negatives everywhere.

4.  10 shots per pack.  Thats not a lot.  Some digital shooters can take 3,000 to 5,000 images at a wedding.  Film shooters tend to be between 500 and 1000.  10 shots per pack isn't going to get me far and I can't carry around 50 packs of instant film.  So I was VERY selective.  But I really tried to focus on moments you wouldn't shoot instant on.  Tougher candid moments.  At the end I believe I went through 3 packs of color and 3 b&w.  So 60 shots.  

5.  Candid moments.   Ever try shooting a candid moment with a land camera?  Yeah, its not easy.  Its downright scary.  Moments happen fast.  With a regular camera and autofocus you need to be quick and if you like manual focus you need to be quick and even more ready.  When you are shooting with a land camera its much harder.  You have to have everything set up and truly wait for the shot to happen right before your eyes.  This was a challenge but I forced myself to try it.  I even used instant film for the b&g walking down the aisle after the ceremony.  This was a big moment and fortunately I nailed it with just one shot.

6.  Negatives.  Many times I don't save the negatives however in this situation, I wasn't able to meter every single shot so I had a few in there I guessed on.  And I wanted to save the negatives in case I was over or under on the shot.  Keeping the negatives safe and clean was one of the most challenging aspects.  Many of the shots had way more dirt on them than usual because people were walking in and out of the room constantly which kicks up dust and dirt.  A lot of images I wasn't even able to use the negative.  That, combined with the space, was very frustrating.  AND if I was outside, where was I going to put the negative?  I had to shoot it, store it in my bag, wait for downtime, run inside, peel and store, grab a new pack, then run back out.  This is harder than it sounds and I was exhausted by the end of the night.

7.  Cameras are slow.  Yeah, its a pack film camera made decades ago.  Its not the fastest camera on the market.  But man, they are the most fun!

All in all it was a very fun experience and one that I'll never forget.  After the wedding we got back to the place we were staying (along with the bridal party) and I laid out all the instant shots on a table in the kitchen area of the house.  It was super cool to see (basically) a whole day right there printed out just an hour after we shot it.  Not only was it cool for us, the bridal party ate it up.  So while I will not be doing 100% instant film for weddings on my own anytime soon, I will definitely be using it more in the future.  As noted, I've already decided to offer 100% instant film portrait sessions.

Thanks to my buddy Gabe for letting me tag along.  He's a film photographer based out of Alexandria, VA.  He's good and he's a good dude.  Check out his work!  http://gabeaceves.com/

So here are a bunch of my favorite instant film shots from the day: