Found Film Friday: Cowboys and RVs

It’s been a slow week for photography and blogging.  Last weekend we went to photograph and film the annual Ganesha Chathurti immersion of Ganesh idols in the sea.  I got some great video, but unfortunately can’t locate the video card I recorded it on.  So the only new post for this week is the weekly “found film” post.

This weeks’ film is a roll of size 620 Kodak Verichrome Pan film, which usually turns out pretty good pictures, even when it’s old.  I don’t believe this week’s roll is particularly old, as this appears to be a mid-1980s minivan:


I don’t imagine there were many people running around in the mid-1980s taking pictures with black-and-white medium format film (certainly more than there are nowadays, but still not many). This person wasn’t particularly skilled at the use of their camera. We have a few photos taken out of the car window while moving, mostly of a pretty barren landscape. They appear to have been driving around the American West.



And finally we have a whole string of pictures that run together, because the user failed to advance the film completely. But it makes for an interesting negative, I guess:


I’m working on another collection of negatives I’ve come across – this time from Maine. It’s about 20 rolls of film taken over the span of a few years, and I’m trying to get them in some sort of reasonable sequence that makes sense. Look for them in the coming weeks, but here is a teaser. The photos are from the late 1940s and early 1950s, but she’s holding a vest pocket kodak from the 1920s (or older).


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Found Film Friday: Country Outing


This week’s roll of “found film” came to me from near Binghamton, New York, where the Ansco company was located from the mid-1800s to around 1980. The spool was covered in rust, and the backing paper was stuck to the film so badly that I was unable to remove large strips of paper. So I loaded it on the spool and let it soak in water for a bit, then was able to remove most of the bits of paper and fibers that were stuck to it so I could develop it.


The only real clue to the age of this film – other than its size (116) – was the expiration date printed right on the box – June 1958!  So we can guess these photos were shot in the mid-1950s.  116 size film is 70mm wide, and a roll like this would provide eight 2½×4¼ exposures.  These are tricky to scan because of their size, but with a bit of patience and some Photoshop enhancement to bring out some of the amazing detail on these large negatives, I think these 60-year-old photos, never seen by the photographer, turned out pretty well!  Most of the white areas are from fibers that I was unable to remove.

Found Film: Ansco 116 Roll 1958

Found Film: Ansco 116 Roll 1958

Found Film: Ansco 116 Roll 1958

Found Film: Ansco 116 Roll 1958

Found Film: Ansco 116 Roll 1958

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A Brief History of Photography…as of 1912.

img485I have a few old camera magazines – about a century old.  It’s fun to flip through them every now and then and consider how much has changed…and in some cases, how little has changed…in the field of photography.

The article below, from the December 1912 issue of “The Camera” magazine (cover above), recounts the history of photography from that time frame.  Nowadays with our digital, throw-away cameras worth hundreds of dollars (or more) that do all kinds of crazy things we don’t even know about, in order to produce perfect images that can then be altered and made to “look old” again, I think few people know how photography actually came to be.

And in spite of all the things which have changed, it’s still all about capturing light through a lens and a very small opening to produce tiny chemical reactions on a flat surface.  Oh, and the screw used to attach a camera to a tripod is still exactly the same size.

img480 img481 img482 img483 img484


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Dispatch From Sierra Leone: Return Home

So, I’ve been back a week, but a lot has been going on.  I wanted to go back and share some final impressions of what was a fascinating, extremely challenging month in this small West African country I never imagined I’d go and visit (as an aside: under different circumstances, i.e. flights readily available and freedom to travel “upcountry”, I’d definitely go again, as a tourist!)

Here’s a final shot of the western side of the Freetown peninsula, seen from the Country Lodge Hotel:


And this is what happens when you zoom in. There’s always all these ships sitting out there in the water. I never figured out what kind of ships they were or what they’re doing – they really don’t appear to move much.

Ships at Sunset
I also managed to collect some aerial video from roughly the same vantage point, and turned that into a short video clip.  Yes, those are vultures being filmed from above, at around the 1 minute mark!

Finally, the trip home, due to all the airlines that have (in my view, irresponsibly) suspended service to Sierra Leone, was a grueling, 40+ hour ordeal that took me through Casablanca, Zurich and Dubai, back to India (my suitcase took the same trip, but a few days later). I took advantage of one of these long layovers and ventured out into Dubai. Sharing the handful of photos I took there, if you’re interested. Click on the right side of the screen to see all 7 or so photos.

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Found Film Friday: Portraits with Grandma

This week’s found film was inside a camera – a Kodak Brownie Target Six-20, as seen below.

Kodak Brownie Target Six-20

This camera was manufactured between 1946 and 1952 and sold for three and a half bucks. It gets its name from the film it used – 620 film, a variant of 120 film, basically just on a thinner spool. 120 film is still available today and can be easily spooled onto a 620 spool. In other words, this camera can still be used to take pictures.

I’m guessing the photos on this roll were taken well after the original manufacture date. Mainly I’m guessing that from the hairstyle of the girl in these photos, which remind me of junior high in the late 1970s. Have a look at the old yearbooks!

Found Film:  Kodak Brownie Target Six-20

Found Film:  Kodak Brownie Target Six-20

Found Film:  Kodak Brownie Target Six-20

Found Film:  Kodak Brownie Target Six-20

I’m assuming this is a granddaughter and two different grandmothers?  Not sure what is on the front of the girl’s dress – it doesn’t look symmetrical.  And I’m guessing the film was only partly used, which is why the bottom half of the last picture was ruined.

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Found Film Friday: Trip to Grandpa’s!

This is the final installment in a series of film rolls recovered from Colorado, and originally shot in the 1960s.  We have met the “Smiths” and seen them at Christmas, Easter, birthdays and a trip to Florida and camping with the Airstream.  In this final post from that set of film, the kids go to spend some time with Grandpa.

The kids like visiting Grandpa, because he takes them to the lake!

Found Film: Kodacolor-X Visit to Grandpa's

Found Film: Kodacolor-X Visit to Grandpa's

We all get to enjoy a big family meal together!

Found Film: Kodacolor-X Visit to Grandpa's

But best of all, going to Grandpa’s is cool because he lets us ride the lawnmower! Did people have riding mowers in the 1960s??

Found Film: Kodacolor-X Visit to Grandpa's

This is my fave picture in the entire set. It’s the only time we can spot Junior without his stuffy bowtie:

Found Film: Kodacolor-X Visit to Grandpa's

And here, Junior even gets to drive!

Found Film: Kodacolor-X Visit to Grandpa's

Found Film: Kodacolor-X Visit to Grandpa's

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Dispatch from Sierra Leone: River Number Two Beach – Part 2

Just sharing a couple of short videos we did at “River Number Two” Beach south of Freetown, Sierra Leone.  Overcast day at the beach, what better activity than to fly a quadcopter with GoPro around the beach?  We took a trip up the river itself, and later hung out on the beach, where some of the locals got a chance to steer the ‘copter around a bit.

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Dispatch from Sierra Leone: Day at the Beach

This weekend the weather was supposed to be – well, “not as bad.”  So we planned a trip to the beach – a great opportunity to unwind a bit after a harrowing few weeks at work.  A co-worker and I got up before dark and got dropped at River Number Two Beach, which is “google famous” as the site where a 1970s “taste of paradise” commercial was filmed for the Bounty candy bar.  [sidebar: if you watch the commercial, there’s almost nothing of the beach itself, and you wonder why they went to the expense of coming all the way to West Africa to film it). It’s the same place I went last week for an hour or so, but this time I actually have my own photos to share.

River No. 2 Beach

The plan today was to take a canoe trip up the river to a waterfall, then return, when we would be joined by a bunch of other colleagues from work and spend the day there. We sat in a canoe with a good three inches of water in the bottom, and were taken up by Ibrahim, who rowed the canoe upstream through a series of rainshowers. The resort had given us a large beach umbrella to keep our cameras and gear dry, but there unfortunately wasn’t any way to keep all 3 of us dry.  So our gear stayed dry, but Ibrahim did not (though he didn’t seem to mind).


On the way, we knew there was a chance to see crocodiles or maybe a type of monkey which “catches” crabs that grab on to its tail. But the weather wasn’t on our side – we saw a quick shadow of a monkey in the mangroves, but other than that, it was just birds.  Such as a pair of pied kingfishers, and a pair of grey herons.

Pied Kingfisher


After a rainy half hour, we made it to the waterfall. Up on the top of the falls stood a red 55-gallon drum. We wondered why it was there and commented jokingly that it ruined the falls, and decided to hike up to it. Turns out it was just a drum full of water that had somehow floated downstream and ended up there. I told Ibrahim we should remove it, and he said, “It is useful for my village, I will bring it back.” And he dragged it all the way back down the falls, and into the canoe it went.

River No. 2

Waterfall at River No. 2

After that, we headed back down to the beach, to relax, watch the birds and the waves. Once, for about 40 seconds, the sun even came out! River Number Two also served us a great barbecue fish lunch.

Flock of Seagulls

Dog on the Beach

All in all, and despite the rain, a great day. I also flew the quadcopter over both the beach and the river – and let some of the locals fly it a bit! But that’s for another post…

You can see more pictures from Sierra Leone, including the one where the “ferry canoe” operator uses a shovel to row the canoe, at this Flickr album.

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Found Film: The Smith Family Goes to Florida

For the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at a batch of Kodacolor-X film from the 1960s, generally featuring a family’s special occasions, but for some reason never developed.  This week we accompany them as they go to Florida (and we think they may be from Colorado).  How do we know they went to Florida?  For one, that’s what was penciled on one of the rolls.  And also, there’s a clue in one of the photos below – can you identify it?

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Trip to Florida

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Trip to Florida

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Trip to Florida

I’m not sure what we’re looking at here.  This is the order the pictures appeared on the rolls.
Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Trip to Florida


And here’s our clue.  Can you tell what it is?  The next few photos are all from the same place.

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Trip to Florida


This seems to be a signpost in the park, pointing in all different directions.  I’m not sure what makes it photo-worthy, but we can’t make out all the details.

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Trip to Florida

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Trip to Florida

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Trip to Florida

Next we have pictures of an elderly couple, followed by more pictures of the park.

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Trip to Florida

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Trip to Florida

At first I thought these were vultures – but no, they’re parrots! And clearly there’s something of interest in the two pictures after that, but I can’t tell what it is.
Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Trip to Florida

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Trip to Florida

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Trip to Florida

And finally, what looks like the beach. But I’m not completely sure! I wish we could have seen them as developed by the correct (C-22) process.

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Trip to Florida

Found Film: Kodacolor-X Visit to Grandpa's

So did you figure out where they went? It was Miami – “Parrot Jungle” – since 2003, known as “Jungle Island”. You can find examples like the one below all over the internet.

Tammy Parrot Jungle

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Dispatch From Sierra Leone: Sunset

Awful news from next door in Liberia in articles like this and this.

Here in Freetown, we’ve gotten some relief from the rain, and (knocks on wood) the number of new ebola cases per day has slowed considerably.  Let’s hope the break in bad weather continues.



Clouds over Freetown

Freetown sunset in HDR

Yes, this last one is an HDR trick.  More pictures from freetown on Flickr.

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Breaking Rocks in Sierra Leone

The Long Road

This morning I woke up to a rare non-rainy August morning in Freetown.  Saturday!  So I grabbed my quadcopter and my camera and headed out to one of the highest-rated local beaches, River No. 2 Beach, where the local community has collaborated to create a nice spot frequented by locals and foreigners alike.  After an hour-long, bone-jarring ride, I arrived, checked out the area, showed the locals the quadcopter and flew it over the pristine natural beauty of the area, and snapped a bunch of pictures.

No. 2 River, Sierra Leone

No. 2 River, Sierra Leone

Then I realized that, for the millionth time, I had not switched on the camera on the ‘copter, and to add to my disappointment, the SD card in my other camera was corrupted (and later proved unrecoverable).  So other than the short clip below, what you’re seeing in this post is other people’s pictures of the places I saw.

If you’re interested in what I saw along the way, check out this guy’s blog.  Pretty much the first third covers it.  But like an episode of the Simpsons, my blog post today starts with one thing and ends up someplace completely different.

The thing is, all along the “peninsular highway,” much like the rest of the hills surrounding Freetown, are large homes in a semi-constructed state.  My driver explained that people basically build as they get funds.  Many of the half-constructed houses have moss growing on the walls – interior as well as exterior.  Along the peninsular highway, this is much more evident, kind of ramshackle and uncontrolled.  It’s a beautiful view, and the logical place for Freetown’s wealthier folks to settle, once the road gets paved.  Prior to the current ebola outbreak, Sierra Leone had one of the highest growth rates in the world – chugging along at near 14%!  And the construction I saw everywhere – even if often paused in mid-build – made this obvious.

All this growth has a dark side, however.  Amid all of the half-constructed mini-mansions and beach houses are a ramshackle of improvised housing of wooden poles, discarded boards, and ribbed sheet metal.  These are families who have moved out here searching for work.  and work there is – building, and all of the work that this supports, such as people selling drinks and snacks to construction workers.  Unfortunately, there’s also this:

Kick Out Poverty

I see this wherever I go in and around Freetown, and it’s heartbreaking to see kids (and adults) carrying heavy rocks in the rain, and then sit all day smashing them with a hammer.  You can read more about this problem in this excellent article in the Atlantic.  I don’t really know what can be done to fix it.  I just wanted to share; maybe someone else has some ideas.

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Found Film Friday: Good Times for the “Smith” Family

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve gotten to know a family (dubbed “Smith” by me) via a pile of undeveloped film from the 1960s which ended up with me. The Smith family was primarily into photographing the kids, but also occasionally the grandparents turn up, during all of the major family events. Hence we don’t really know much about them. The film came from Colorado, and based on the type of film used, the kids on these photos would probably be in their late 40s or early 50s today.

We start with a birthday party. It’s not clear whose birthday it is, though “middle sister” may have had a role in the cake, as she appears to be wearing an apron. Junior, as always, looks smart in his bowtie, and on this occasion adds a cardigan. Below that, a group photo likely taken the same day.

Found Film:  Kodacolor X Good Times

Found Film:  Kodacolor X Good Times

Then the family goes on vacation – camping, it seems. someone in the family appears to own an airstream. And a beret. Matching outfits for the girls – is it a scouting outing? We may never know. And I’m not sure what to make of the fellow eating – seems like all from the same trip.

Found Film:  Kodacolor X Good Times

Found Film:  Kodacolor X Good Times

Found Film:  Kodacolor X Good Times

Found Film:  Kodacolor X Good Times

Next, a couple of posed group photos. Junior’s plaid jacket with bowtie is noted. This reminds me of one of those “first day of school” photos. And then four unidentified adults.

Found Film:  Kodacolor X Good Times

Found Film:  Kodacolor X Good Times

We end with horseback riding. Two of the photos appear to be out “in nature” but in the first photo, the horse seems to be walking close to a residential house. In the last photo you can make out a second person to the right. Junior’s not wearing a helmet, but an adult is close by. Whew!

Found Film:  Kodacolor X Good Times

Found Film:  Kodacolor X Good Times

Found Film:  Kodacolor X Good Times

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Dispatch from Sierra Leone: Walking in Freetown

There are two seasons in Sierra Leone:  the dry season…and the rainy season.  Although there is some rain in the “dry” season, the vast majority of the 3 meters of rain that fall on Freetown during a typical year occur between May and October, with an average of an inch a day in August.  Some people call the rain “biblical” in scope. With all the rain and damp air, it’s impossible to dry anything – and even things that are supposedly dry, feel damp.

On Sunday morning, a brief break in the clouds – an opportunity to be seized.  I packed a camera (in a ziploc bag), umbrella, backpack and headed on foot into Freetown proper.

Here are some views of the city I saw on my way.



Once I got into the city proper, I walked through the rain-soaked streets, many of which were lined with vendors selling different types of fruits, flip flops, and other items.  People walked through the streets with huge bundles balanced on their heads – I wanted to snap a picture of a guy with a good 250-300 eggs stacked on his head, but I wasn’t quick enough to get him from the front.


There was this whole section that was under about 4 inches of water, and people were just going on about their business as if nothing was wrong. Sergeant Marsh explained why.  But when you live in a place where it’s constantly raining, you wear sensible shoes – that can get wet and not cause any issues. Unlike the shoes that have been drying in my hotel room, and are still damp, starting to get stinky, and developing furry mildewy patches…


I love the picture of this little boy helping. Photographically it could have been a bit better, but still…

Help from the Boy

There are big mosques and churches all over town. And I thought about how, despite the things we remember hearing about during Sierra Leone’s horrific civil war that ended just over a decade ago, and all the religious intolerance and horror we hear about in places like Iraq, Sierra Leone is one of the most religiously tolerant places you could ever find. Seriously – take a moment to read about it in this article.  I’m sure it’s a matter of time before someone decides that this is doctrinally improper – but think of the conflicts that wouldn’t exist if everyone thought like “Saloneans” as they are called here…


Mosque Turret

I walked past Freetown’s famous “cotton tree”, and I saw this odd directional sign near the tree which points the direction to the American Embassy, among other things. The American Embassy is a good 5-6 miles from here. Maybe it used to be nearby.


Then I chatted with Victor, a security guard, and asked if I could add him to my “100 strangers” photo collection.  It was starting to rain, and I went to snap a photo of an interesting church, but a gentleman across the street objected.  He was operating a roadside snack stand, and wanted to know what I was doing.  I calmly approached him and explained that I was taking a picture.  Because “that’s what tourists do – they take pictures of interesting things they see in the places they go.”  He was a bit agitated but started to calm down, saying “we want to make sure you’re not a terrorist.”  I asked him if I looked like a terrorist, and he explained a terrorist could look like anyone.  So after I got him to OK me photographing the church, it started to rain, and the camera went back into the ziploc bag.

The rain picked up pretty quick, and a group of people hiding under an awning called me over so I could put on my raincoat and grab the umbrella out of my bag.  At this point the rain was coming down in sheets.  That’s when I looked over – bear in mind, I was in the center of Freetown – and realized this group of boys had decided to (nearly all) strip down to nothing for a game of soccer in the pouring rain.  You don’t want to get your clothes wet, right?

And that…is how I spent last weekend’s few rain-free hours.  Oh, and slopping through the rain for the hour-long walk home.  For more photos of my time in Freetown, refer to this Flickr album.

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Dispatch from Sierra Leone: Rain and Monkeys

It has been  an extremely challenging first week in Sierra Leone.  An ebola outbreak – the world’s worst to date – has stretched the country’s already limited medical capacity to the limit.  Although the epidemic has been going on since May, for some reason the media chose the last week or so to spin this thing up.  Although the disease has had tragic effects in a couple of Sierra Leonean towns, the disproportionate media response has worsened the situation as some health care workers stopped coming to work.  International airlines have begun suspending flights, and hotels are empty of foreigners.  In a country already struggling to overcome poverty and a difficult recent history, the additional stigma that will result from this poorly understood disease will only further hamper development.

I arrived last week Sunday – after a grueling 24 hours of travel, the last bit was a $40 “water taxi” ride from Lungi International Airport – built on the nearest patch of flat ground that can be found near (hilly) Freetown – to the peninsula that hosts the capital city.


All of the passengers who had arrived with me from Nairobi were asked to wear life vests, and our suitcases were piled in the boat where it looked like they might slip out the back end any second.  Most of the fasteners for the canvas flaps designed to keep out the rain were torn, so I kept a grip on the nearest one to avoid alternately getting sprayed by rainwater, or smacked in the head by a piece of flapping canvas.


Three Chinese passengers wore rubber gloves and surgical masks from the moment they exited the plane; once we reached the mainland, they were joined in this by the CNN crew that had been the sole occupants of the plane’s business class section on the flight from Nairobi.  From there, an SUV would pick me up and take me to my hotel, where I would collapse for the next 12 hours.

photo (1)

The next day had been declared a national holiday – for reflection, education and prayer – which meant I’d have additional time to recover from the trip.  Once I woke up I thought I’d go for a walk, get to know my surroundings a bit, but found the streets eerily deserted.  I walked around a bit along muddy trails and snapped a few photos here and there, but eventually realized we were expected to remain at home, so back to the hotel I went.

Phone Shop


After a busy workweek, I was looking forward to the following Saturday, as I’d finally have an opportunity to see a little bit of Freetown and its surroundings. But alas, it was not to be!


As it turns out, we find ourselves in the midst of Sierra Leone’s rainy season. It doesn’t rain ALL the time. Just MOST of the time. I woke up at 6 am and was excited to hear that it wasn’t raining. But that’s when it started – and it didn’t stop raining again for the next 16 hours.

So I still haven’t really left my room, other than work.  But I have managed to photograph some local wildlife!  A family of “green monkeys” lives on the periphery of the hotel grounds.  I wasn’t able to get a clear shot from my hotel room – so I went up to the wing of the hotel that is still under construction.  The monkeys were clearly alarmed at seeing someone up there, and watched me closely.  I’m not 100% sure these are green monkeys.  From the wikipedia entry, it seems that the males have bright blue testicles.  Maybe you can spot them in the video.

While I was up there I took a few snaps in the building itself.  As you can tell from the photos, basically I live in a cloud.  But hopefully tomorrow will be better.  Or next weekend…

DSC00561 DSC00567 DSC00571 DSC00573

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Found Film: The Smith Family Celebrates Easter

Last week we met the “Smith” family (as I’ve decided to name them), celebrating Christmas in a series of moments captured on Kodacolor-X film – manufactured between 1963 and 1972 – on an unknown camera.  This week it appears they’ve moved on to Easter.

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Easter

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Easter

This fellow seems to be the favorite of the photographer, as he seems to appear most often in the overall series of 9 rolls we’ve uncovered from this family.

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Easter

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Easter

From the photos below, it appears this roll of 12 (maximum) snaps was used for Christmas, a birthday, and then Easter.  Back in the day, you got the camera out for special occasions.  In the photo below, it appears that it’s big sister’s birthday.  Junior has put aside his customary bowtie in favor of a long tie – to celebrate the occasion?  It seems on the right that another grandma has joined the picture – maybe they are celebrating at Grandma’s?

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Easter

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Easter

Or maybe it wasn’t a birthday after all?  Here, wearing the same clothes as in the photo with the cake, the youngest two are seen tearing into presents.  And below, it looks like two Grandpas discussing a gift given to one of them.  And finally, sister appears to be contented with her purse, and new bathrobe and slippers!  Note the smaller Christmas tree in the background (compared to last week’s set) and the manger scene.

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Easter

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Easter

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Found Film: The Smith Family Celebrates Christmas

I have no idea who this family is, but now that I have developed a bunch of their pictures,  I’ve gotten to know them a bit and it only seems appropriate to give them a name.  I’m calling them the Smith Family.  The Smiths were pretty good about photographing family events and trips, but it seems they were not that good about getting them developed.  The film came from Colorado, but the Smiths may or may not have lived there.

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Christmas  

As a result, I acquired nine rolls of Kodacolor-X film, 127 size.  This film was manufactured between 1963 and 1972 and was often used in relatively cheap plastic cameras that predated the instamatics.  This film uses a process called C-22, which has been obsolete for many years, having been replaced by C-41 in the early 1970s. As the name implies, Kodacolor-X is color film.  And yet you are looking at black and white?  There are people who talk online about having had success developing C-22 using C-41 chemicals at room temperature, but it’s completely hit or miss.  One of my rolls got this treatment, and the result was “miss.”  The other 8 were developed using a standard black-and-white process.  This produced very dim negatives, which I lit from behind and photographed, and then enhanced using various photo editing programs.  The result is a photo that’s kind of muddy and blurry – but this could equally be the quality of photos produced by the cameras of this era, which often used inexpensive plastic lenses.

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Christmas  

So the Smiths appear to be a relatively well-to-do family (judging from the size of the Christmas loot) in the 1960s, with three daughters and a son.  Lots of formal posed photos, and the son is always wearing a bowtie.  Check out the tractor and the fireman’s hat he got!

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Christmas  

The trees in the background look like two different trees, so I suppose this roll includes both pictures at home and a trip to grandma’s and grandpa’s.  Below, it’s not clear what they are holding, but I’m thinking it may be the “umbrella” that is normally mounted over the tractor.

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Christmas

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Christmas  

Mom and Dad below, I’m guessing, along with Grandma and the kids.  Grandpa must be snapping the picture.  I don’t think it was his camera though.

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Christmas

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Christmas  

I can’t tell what the boy got, but the girls all seem pretty happy with their dolls.    

Found Film:  Kodacolor-X Christmas  
This was the first of what will end up being several posts as we follow the “Smiths” through the holidays and a few trips and vacations.  Stay tuned!

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Return to the Dhobi Khana

Don’t like doing laundry?  These people earn a living doing laundry the old-fashioned way.  At various “dhobi khanas” in India, washing clothes – but more often things like sheets, towels, and occasionally uniforms – is still done by hand at facilities like this one by “dhobis” – who have been doing this for generations.

This particular dhobi khana or “dhobi ghat” is said to be India’s second largest, and Chennai’s oldest – dating from 1902 – with 128 washing stones and over 1,000 dhobis.  I came here previously in February with some old cameras and took black-and-white photos – this time I brought a digital camera and a quadcopter to overfly the area.  Unfortunately, the copter shut off during filming (stray wi-fi signals???) but you can get an idea of what the place looks like from the minute or so shown below.

Posing with Sheets

This lady folds blankets and sheets. Small hotels and hospitals are among the customers of this dhobi khana.

Stain Removal


Washing Clothes

Washing Clothes

Washing Clothes

The work is anything but easy – it’s backbreaking. There is some relief from a cup of Indian coffee with lots of milk and sugar, poured from a height the traditional way to make it frothy.

Kaapi Wala

The work is a family effort.

Family Affair


Husband and Wife

Pump Pose

And here the video:

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Found Film Friday: Brownie Hawkeye

This week’s found film comes from the inside of a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye.

Kodak Brownie Hawkeye

The Brownie Hawkeye is a camera made in the 1950s.  It takes 620 rollfilm, and this camera contained a roll like the one below, which uses a process called C-22, no longer used nowadays (modern film is developed using the C-41 process). So what I do is develop this (color) film using black and white chemicals, based on what others have suggested on the internet. When the film is developed, it ends up pretty opaque, and the resulting image is difficult to pick up using a scanner.

Found Film 1

So then I have to use a homemade lightbox (described in this post) illuminate the image from behind, and take a picture of it.  This has to be converted from negative to positive, then to black and white, and then made more contrasty using software.

It’s the only way I’ve figured out I can develop C-22 film.  sometimes it turns out relatively well/clear; and then there’s times like this time.  The murky images that came out of the process are kind of a bummer though.  They date from 1970, at the earliest.

The first image is pretty unclear, and the second shows a man standing near a car whose make I cannot identify, but appears firmly rooted in the 1970s.

Found Film Brownie Hawkeye

Found Film Brownie Hawkeye

The final images show the reason why the roll was shot. First appears to be some flowers, which turns out to be a grave marker.

Found Film Brownie Hawkeye

Found Film Brownie Hawkeye
We don’t know who Mildred Rita Collins was, but it seems she passed away in 1970, if I’ve read this correctly.  May she rest in peace.

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Vintage Camera Test: Franka Werke Bonafix

A few months ago I picked up this Franka Werke camera for “next to nothing” (20 bucks or so) that appeared from the photos to be in near-mint condition.  When it arrived, it looked like it had been stored in its original box since manufacture some 65 years ago.  The metal body is covered with rough vinyl made to look like leather, and parts of it were peeling off.  But the bellows, all of the metal parts, glass, appeared to be perfect.  I couldn’t wait for an opportunity to try it out.

The Franka cameras were generally inexpensive cameras made in Bayreuth, Germany from 1909 to 1966.  This particular camera is marked as a “Bonafix”, which was made for years, and there’s not a lot of information out there to identify when this one was made.  I’m guessing it’s from 1952 or so.

Franka Werke Bonafix

The weird thing about this camera is that it has two little windows in the back where you can see which picture you’re on – one in the corner and one in the middle.  So I thought this meant I could use the middle window and the pictures would automatically be half-frame – giving me 16 pictures on a roll rather than 8.  The numbers in the middle of the film go from 1 to 16 and are spaced half as far apart.


So I happily went out and shot a roll of color film, and discovered that I was sadly mistaken.  Apparently you need to do something on the inside of the camera to make this work – maybe some sort of adaptor or something.  So all my pictures ended up overlapping.

Franka Werke Bonafix test photo

Franka Werke Bonafix test photo

Franka Werke Bonafix test photo

So that was no good.

A couple of weeks later, I loaded up a roll of Kodak Professional Tri-X and decided to use the other film window and only take 8 pictures. This time the results were much better.



The picture above is an effigy of the type which is commonly hung at building construction sites. Its purpose is to ward off the “evil eye.” While we were in the village, we also discovered that there was a temple procession ongoing. A group of young men carrying some sort of decorated deity over their heads were going from house to house with several percussionists. At each home, people were waiting to anoint the procession’s feet with (what looked like) turmeric, and also engage in rituals such as smashing a coconut in the street. It’s all pretty unclear to us outsiders, but it makes for great photos.

Temple Procession

Backs of the Procession


Although I felt the pictures had come out pretty well, I had noticed while unloading the film that there seemed to be lots of dust on the inner lens.  Later I would inspect more closely, and it turns out there is fungus growing on the inner glass surfaces of the 3 lens elements:


It looks pretty bad on this picture, but you can only really see it when you put a light behind it and view at an indirect angle. I made this picture and enhanced the fungus to send to a friend to confirm this was the problem. Apparently it can be removed with some work, and it only “softens” pictures supposedly – doesn’t really show up otherwise. But it seems the spores can spread the fungus to other cameras – so I’ll need to take care of this when I can get my hands on some peroxide.

In any case, to sum up, this is a pretty good find I think. For a 1950s camera I’m quite satisfied with the results!


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Found Film Friday: Santa Fe Porsche Show

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

This week’s roll of found film came to me from “Mike” – a collector of old slides who was giving up on a “found film” hobby, he sent me a half dozen or so rolls and acknowledged there was a small chance one of the rolls might be his own. Up until now, none had, but something prompted me to ask him if he’d ever been to Santa Fe.

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

From the photo below, he was able to date the roll to the late 80s.  After a bit of back-and-forth, it seems this set of photos came from the “Fiesta del Porsche”, an annual event started in the 1970s by the local Porsche Club of America chapter.  It was later renamed the “Fiesta de Enchantment”, and now, the “Fiesta New Mexico.”

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

And the car reflected in the window was his contribution to the show. I guess this is another shot of the same car:

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

And here’s another car in the show:

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

Here, a bunch of the car enthusiasts hang out with some wooden life-size cowboys – I thought they might be mentioned as a tourist attraction, but couldn’t find anything on them, or the mural immediately after. It has been 25 years or so, so who knows?

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

I’ll finish up this post with a picture that made me chuckle. Snack break!  For the rest of the photos in this collection, see this Flickr album.

Found Film:  Santa Fe Porsche Show

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“Found Film Friday” on a Sunday

Since around May, 2013, I have been posting “found film” finds pretty regularly – and for the last 8 months, it has been every Friday like clockwork.  This weekend is the first time I missed a Friday, thanks to an outage by my internet provider.  We get great high-speed internet, but sometimes are surprised by how this happens.

Apparently a fiber optic cable was cut on Friday.  Our provider has subcontractors it sends out for repairs.  Basically it’s a bunch of guys with some fancy tools that come out on motorcycles and work till it’s done.  We couldn’t figure out what was taking so long, and brought them some drinks and snacks to rush them along (it didn’t work).

I believe in many places, fiber optic cable gets buried, or runs though some sort of hardened tubes?  No idea, really.  I was surprised to discover it’s really just black cable that looks like any other cable – it gets run along from tree to tree, around poles and mail boxes and anything else that can be used to anchor it down.  When it gets cut, it has to be isolated and re-run.  Here’s a picture (from Hyderabad, not from our neighborhood) that illustrates what a task this can be:

Tangled Wires

So anyhow, it’s “Found Film Sunday”.

This week’s roll comes from a random roll of 35mm that came into my possession with a pile of other unidentified film.  Basically, we’re just talking about a trip to the Goodwill Store, I think.

img194Found Film:  Shopping at Goodwill

I’m not sure who took the pictures – many may have been taken by this little girl – though obviously not this one:

Found Film:  Shopping at Goodwill

Here she is making a call on one of the many phones for sale, none of which are particularly old:

Found Film:  Shopping at Goodwill

This might be Mom:

Found Film:  Shopping at Goodwill

And this could be Dad. Or it could all just be random people. Cool multiple exposure though.

Found Film:  Shopping at Goodwill

Here’s my guess. This family was walking around the Goodwill Store, and they picked up an old camera which still had film in it. They took pictures of each other, as well as random pictures like this one:


And they either bought the camera – or, even more intriguing – placed it back on the shelf. And somehow the film ended up with me, with pictures of their day at the Goodwill Store, and a couple of really weird pictures like this one:

Found Film:  Shopping at Goodwill

Update:  This film was part of a batch of film rolls sold to me by “Mike” – a collector of old slides that is pretty unique and cool in its own right (see his Flickr site) informed me that he recognized that this is indeed the inside of a Goodwill Store – in Bonner Springs, Kansas.  The Goodwill moved out to another building in 2013 and the building is now occupied by the Salvation Army.  I have one more roll of film left from the batch Mike sent me, and we have since discovered that this roll was actually shot by Mike himself.  Check for that this coming Friday.

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Photowalk: Gritty Black and White

One of my favorite camera/film combinations is a (relatively) cheap Ricoh Kr-5 Super II – at just over 20 years old, one of my newest cameras – and Tri-X black and white film.  Lots of people go for “fine grain” black and white films, but I like the gritty look you get from this particular film.


I wish I could remember the settings I used on the photo above – it has a washed-out quality that reminds me of watercolor paintings.


The first few shots were taken at different parts around town.  This one below is my favorite on the roll.



It’s not an unusual site once you’ve been here awhile, but all over Chennai, women are employed using these odd brooms to sweep the streets. They can be seen sweeping the streets at all times, day or night.


The last few were at the Thousand Lights Mosque, supposedly one of India’s largest mosques, but utterly deserted in the morning when we stopped by for photographs.




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Found Film: 1949 Chevy

This week’s roll of “found film” comes from a Kodak Six-16 Brownie Junior, made between 1934 and 1942.  From a technology standpoint, it’s virtually indistinguishable from a Brownie Target Six-16, made between 1946 and 1951.  Given the pace of technology these days, it’s odd to think that a camera would have one so many years without any real technical improvements.  Update: it turns out the “Brownie” website I used as a reference was likely wrong – another site lists production dates as 1933-1940, which coincides with Kodak’s brief run with 116 and 616 film.  But this still represents one of the last models in decades of box cameras that were, from a technical point of view, nearly identical.

Kodak Six-16 Brownie Junior

Kodak Brownie Target Six-16

The camera came from a seller on eBay, who, when asked about the camera’s origins, explained, “We purchased the belongings that were left in the basement of the home we bought in Hegins Pa. The original owners resided previously in Quakertown Pa and did a lot of traveling.”  The camera has a a piece of tape that seemed at first to serve no real purpose; but it covers a small pull-tab which, when pulled out, causes the shutter to stay open until the shutter release is operated a second time.  There are no markings to help you remember which way is which, and having it pulled out when it should be pushed in can ruin one of the pictures on a roll of only eight exposures.  On the newer model, that tab has been moved to the bottom of the case.  Which doesn’t make it any easier to remember if you don’t use the camera often.


The first three exposures on the roll were blank. Could this have been the owner trying to remember which way the tab was supposed to go, ultimately leading them to install the piece of tape? Then we get a picture of a young girl:

Found Film: 1949 Chevy

This is followed by two identical landscapes:

Found Film: 1949 Chevy

And then a photo of a car:

Found Film: 1949 Chevy

This is a 1949 Chevrolet, with Pennsylvania license plates. The final photo appears to be the same little girl (though it could be a sibling), now a couple of years older. I think it’s the same person, probably the photographer’s daughter – which is what led me to think the photographer didn’t use the camera all that often. I’d guess the car was new at the time, meaning the camera was at least 7-8 years old when the pictures were taken. And the little girl would be about 70 today. Neither she nor her parents ever saw these photos.

Found Film: 1949 Chevy

The last bit of the film was folded over when it was rolled up (somehow), which is probably what caused the lines on the last photo.

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Shooting with Expired Film

One of the folks I often get “found film” from accidentally shipped me unused film.  Typically people will discover a partially or fully shot roll of film that has been completely forgotten inside an old camera.

Sometimes (rarely) the roll will be inside the camera without having been exposed at all.  You know you’ve messed up when you are spooling the film for the developing tank and the leading edge of the film is taped to the backing paper.   When that happens, you should roll it back up and see if you can shoot any pictures with it. Will it still work, you ask?  Well, that depends on how old it is, and how it was stored.

Color film dating back to the 70s and 80s should still produce images, but they will have strange color shifts.  With black and white, you can probably get away with film from the 60s.  It tends to get grainy in my experience. I recently shot some old Dynapam film that was probably from the 1960s (but I’m not sure).


The camera I used was a Kodak Duaflex II:

Kodak Duaflex II

It gets pretty crisp photos with new film – you can compare on this blog post.  But with this old film, it’s an entirely different story:

img781sm img782sm img783sm img784sm img785sm

There is a point when there’s no need to bother trying…for example this film:



And here the outcome:


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Testing the Kodak Brownie No. 0 Model A

It seems that camera naming conventions have never been simple.  The Kodak Brownie No. 0 Model A was manufactured between 1914 and 1935.  It was a small cardboard/wood and box camera with a rotary shutter and two reflecting finders. It sold for $1.25 and is said to take remarkably sharp 6 by 4 cm exposures, “if held correctly.”

Kodak No. 0 Brownie Model A


This particular one, a gift from my parents, was made between 1914 and 1917. You can tell by the square decorative markings on the front, and the location of the tension spring that holds the roll of film in place.



A few weeks ago I loaded this one up with one of my last remaining rolls of Efke 127 film and carried it around on my next couple of photowalks. As tends to be the case when I use these old box cameras, a few of the shots were ruined because I didn’t take them in bright enough light. There is a little lever you can pull that allows you to keep the shutter open for a timed exposure, but I’m not confident enough to do that; so I need to use enough light to get into the f/11 aperture and 1/60s (or so) shutter. Here’s what I ended up with:

In the Shade

Wagon Wheels

The first couple of shots are from Marina Beach in Chennai – a couple of kids trying to catch some shade, and the wheels of one of the dozens of snack carts that ruin sit on the beach. I also tried a couple of shots of a pedestrian bridge, thinking the patterns would work well in black and white.



And finally, a shot of Thousand Lights Mosque, and a human subject, again on the beach.



I thought the camera did OK for being 100 years; but given what I have seen other people do with these old cameras, I still feel like I’m not quite getting the hang of it. It’s a shame the film for these things is starting to be in such short supply – many of the cameras that use 127 film still work perfectly fine. And on top of that, they’re cute!

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