Fact or Faked: Ectoplasm Photos

3/29/2012 4 Comments A+ a-

Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files is a television show that takes different paranormal myths or specific instances and aims to either prove that they are possible (fact), or prove that it is most likely faked. One of their episodes (episode 203) covers the topic of ectoplasm photographs taken in the 1920s and 30s.

Image 1: (the original photo) Recreated with a smoke test

Ectoplasm is a term that means a substance or spiritual energy exteriorized by physical mediums (or a materialization of the dead). Dr. Thomas (TG) Hamilton was a Canadian doctor that was well know for his paranormal investigations, and the photographs he took at seances he held at his home in the early 1900s. His photos of ectoplasm are the most well known and four of his photos are the focus of this episode.

During the episode, the team takes the four photos and tries to replicate them. They travel to Dr. Hamilton's house, where the photos were originally taken, and set up a darkroom and shooting space. The Fact or Faked photographer uses a Leica film camera with a Nikon Speedlight, and develops the film and prints right there after each shooting experiment. 

Image 2: (the original photo) Recreated with a cotton test

(You can view the Fact or Faked episode by checking the SyFy channels schedule for episode 203, or you can purchase the episode on Amazon for $1.99 (It is not available on Netflix or Hulu). The episode starts with “Raining UFO's” where they try to re-create a UFO video and use an IR camera to capture it. Part 2, on the ectoplasm photos starts around 26:15 of the video.)

In each of the four photo experiments, the team uses four different materials to recreate the photos. Image 1: Smoke Test; Image 2: Cotton Test; Image 3: Dry Ice Test; Image 4: Foam Test. After the photos are taken, they compare their photographs with the originals. 

Image 3: (the original photo) Recreated with a dry ice test

It's a fun episode that includes elements of photography, history, and paranormal myth. So if you're interested in any of those topics (obviously you are in photography!), I definitely suggest watching the episode. 

Resources and links:
* More about ectoplasm
* More about Dr. Hamilton
* SyFy Channel Listing
* Buy the episode on Amazon

Free Shipping Week!

3/26/2012 0 Comments A+ a-

Free Shipping is back! From Monday, March 26th - Sunday, April 1st, get free ground shipping on any order over $100 of used gear from KEH (applies to the contiguous (48) United States, but international customers, see below).

Want to upgrade your shipping to 2-day or next day air? We will credit you $9.95 towards the upgrade! Are you an international customer? We will also credit you the $9.95 towards your shipping costs!

Place your order on www.keh.com or give us a call  during operating hours Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time, and Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 4 p.m. at 770-333-4200.

PLUS, in addition to the free shipping on orders, we will also be paying for incoming ground shipping when you send in gear for KEH to purchase! (When you are contacted by the KEH Buyer with our offer, simply communicate your shipping cost and we'll add it to the offer). You can get a quote online, or call one of our purchasing agents at 770-333-4220 or 800-342-5534.

Tips For Getting The Best From Your Photo Lab

3/23/2012 9 Comments A+ a-

There was a time when you would walk into your neighborhood photo lab and hand them a roll of film. If they had questions for you, they asked. If you had questions for them, you asked. Life isn’t as simple these days. Digital photography and on-line shopping has led to a dramatic decline in the number of local camera shops and film processors. Most of us who love shooting film, and don’t have ready access to darkrooms or processing equipment, have to rely on mail-order film processing.

We (Old School Photo Lab) have been a retail photo lab for 31 years, but have been running our mail-order service for the past year, which has been a completely different experience. Today, I want to offer some suggestions for how you can get the best from your photo lab.

Exposed/Unprocessed Film Handling-
Rewind your film all the way. That’s it. It’s an easy, fool-proof way to know if your film has been through your camera...

Unexposed 35mm film (or leader out)

Exposed 35mm film

A lot of you may have Holgas that you shoot for fun, or you may have moved up to other medium format cameras for higher quality, but lack a couple of basic bits of knowledge that helps keep your film safe, and your photo lab happy.

Tip 1: Start your roll off tight and avoid “fat rolls”. All 120 film has what is referred to as a “Start Mark” on the backing paper - sometimes it will actually say “Start”, other times it will just be a double sided arrow. 

After you have inserted the leader into the take-up spool, wind the backing paper around the spool at least once while keeping tension on the feed side. You can safely unwind the paper until the “Start Mark” comes around the unexposed roll, about 8-9 inches. By winding the paper like this, you greatly reduce the risk of having a loosely wound or “fat” roll, and will reduce light leaks.

Tip 2: Seal finished roll properly. Or… Fold, lick, and stick: When your roll is finished, keep winding until the backing paper is all the way on the take-up side of your camera. Remove your film and do three things:
2.Lick (or peel)

120 film comes with a little paper band that is meant to secure your film when the roll is finished. Sometimes it gets tucked away under the backing paper, but it is OK to unwind a little to grab it. The band usually has a moisture activated adhesive on it (like an envelope) that you need to lick before you secure it around the roll. (Except for Fuji film… they have a peel and stick band – don’t lick that, it tastes bad.) That’s it. Don’t put any extra tape on it. Just don’t. Your lab will thank you.

Film Processing-
If you look at your film’s label it should be pretty clear what kind of process is required to yield images. Current films will be one of the following: C-41, E-6, or Black-and-White. Full service photo labs (like ours) should be able to handle any kind of film that is currently in production. What you want to watch out for are outdated chemical processes like: K-14, C-22, or E-4. There are a couple of small boutique labs that handle outdated film (like Film Rescue International), but the majority of photo processors won’t be able to do anything with them. One other thing to keep an eye out for is “Chromogenic” black-and-white film, or black-and-white film that is labeled C-41 (e.g. Kodak BW400CN and Ilford XP2). These films are processed in C-41 chemistry, not black-and-white chemistry, and can be handled by any lab that does color negative film.

Cross-processing (E-6 as C-41) has become incredibly popular over the past couple of years, but there was a time not long ago that processing E-6 film in C-41 chemistry was considered a mistake! There are still some labs that will flat out refuse to process film in the “wrong” chemistry, and those of us that will cross-process, want to make sure that you REALLY want it done. That’s one of the reasons why our order forms have a check box for “Cross-Processing”, so we know that you know what you’re getting yourself into. If your film is C-41 (color negative) film you can’t just say, “Cross-Process this,” and get those crazy colors and high contrast – you need to start with E-6 (slide) film. Processing C-41 film in E-6 chemistry is still considered a mistake by most of us, and we rarely do it for any of our customers. The results from what we call “Reverse Cross-Processing” are muddy and gross… you wouldn’t like it. Trust me.

Handling Processed Film/Re-ordering Prints or Scans-
Two things that should never be anywhere near your processed film and prints: staples and paperclips. Staples and paperclips have sharp and pointy parts that cause scratches. Scratches are bad – very bad.

35mm: Ordering from 35mm is incredibly easy, just remember a couple of things:
-Don’t mix negatives from multiple rolls in one envelope (avoids confusion with negative numbers).
-Order from the negative numbers, don’t write on the sleeve.
-Use the “A” numbers if the frame numbers don’t fall under the middle of the frame.

Most 35mm films have coding that tell the machine what frame number is being scanned/printed and some labs (us included) will give you prints that have the frame number printed right on the back of the paper. Sometimes it can take a little investigation to find it, but it will be there… this is what the back of our prints look like:

120: Ordering from 120 film follows a lot of the same rules as 35mm, but you will almost never have a frame number printed on the back of your prints. 120 film isn’t coded in the same way as 35mm and won’t give any information to the lab’s machines.
-Don’t mix negatives from multiple rolls in one envelope (avoids confusion).
-Choose the number at the edge of the film that is closest to the middle of your image.

All types of film:
-Never cut your film into single frames. Single frames are very difficult for any lab to handle. We recommend strips of 3 or more negatives for 35mm and 6x4.5. For 120 film formats like 6x6 and 6x7, 2 frames are OK.
-If you are shipping your film away to a mail-order lab, sandwich them with thin cardboard and put them in a sturdy envelope so they don’t get damaged in transit.

Expectations for print color matching: If you give sample prints from your roll to your lab, even if it is the same lab, there is no guarantee that your reprints/enlargements will be an exact match. Think of your original prints as guides or proofs. Print matching between different labs is nearly impossible -- different scanners and different printers, even if manufactured by the same company, can yield very different results depending on how they are calibrated and what the standards of the lab are. Any good lab will take some extra care when making enlargements from your negatives and can often improve the look of your image. All that having been said, it is helpful to have a guide when printing… just so that your lab knows what you got the first time through. 

Talk to your lab-
In the end, good relationships come from good communication. If you let your lab know what you are looking for, they should be able to provide it. If your lab has questions, hopefully they will ask you. Before you get going in a new direction it is good to know what your lab can handle, or find a lab that can do what you want. Never be afraid to ask a question, I know we’re always happy to help someone along in the world of film photography. 

Contributor Bio: Jake Bouchard got his start in photography as a teenager and attended the Hallmark Institute of Photography to pursue a career as a photographer. While attending school, he realized that working in the darkroom and making prints was where his talent really lay. After graduating in 1999, Jake worked as an occasional photographer and photo assistant, but always went back to lab work. He has been employed at a number of different photo labs in ME and NH, ranging from professional commercial labs to small neighborhood photo processors. He finally settled at Photosmith in Dover, NH where he brings his photography and lab experience to the 31 year tradition of quality photo finishing. Jake's career in the photo industry has coincided with the decline of film photography and the rise of digital. Film photography is his passion and through his work with OldSchoolPhotoLab.com and 120processing.com, he hopes to help keep the world of film photography alive.

Old School Photo Lab: http://www.oldschoolphotolab.com/

An Introduction to Setting Up a Darkroom

3/19/2012 1 Comments A+ a-

Darkroom, by: Bruce Garner (submitted to the KEH Flickr group)

Today we're explaining the initial steps to setting up an at-home darkroom, for developing black and white negatives and prints. The black and white and color developing processes are very different, and black and white is by far the easiest to develop yourself and do in your home.

These materials are more focused on 35mm, but the basics are all the same for 35mm, medium format, and large format. If you're interested in developing medium or large format, your film developing process will be slightly different, for example you will be developing your film in trays instead of on reels in tanks. You will also need a different enlarger lens and larger negative carriers for printing, so decide what format you will be working with before sourcing your materials.

Darkroom shelf, by: Bruce Garner (submitted to the KEH Flickr group)

Main/ initial supplies:
Counter space
Sink with running water
Darkroom timer
Hand towel
String and clothespins for hang drying film and prints
Graduates (measuring beakers)- x1-3
Developing chemicals (developer, stop bath, fixer)
Sharpie permanent marker

For developing film-
Film developing tank and reels
Developing thermometer
Can opener or film retriever

For printing-
Enlarger lens (50mm lens for 35mm film)
Negative carrier
Printing Easel
Grain focuser
Safe light (red/amber light)
Developing trays- x5 (+ water siphon)
Tongs- x5
Your choice of printing paper
Paper cut into strips for 'test strips'

Secondary or optional supplies:
Squeegee (if doing fiber prints)
Paper safe
Printing Filters
Dodge and Burn tools (homemade)
Paper cutter
Film or Print dryer
Toning supplies
Sink faucet hose
Mini fridge

Sourcing supplies: Some of your basics like scissors and a hand towel can be purchased anywhere that carries these regular household items. Photography specific items for your darkroom can usually be found in a variety of places including the darkroom section of KEH, eBay or Craigslist, local photographic developing and supply businesses, or online.

Freestyle Photographic Supplies carries pretty much everything you would need online. PhotoMFA has a directory where you can search for places that carry darkroom supplies and search by location for local places also.

The darkroom counter, right side, by: shotgun1a (submitted to the KEH Flickr group)

Basic Steps:

1- If you don't already have any experience developing and printing, our suggestion is to take a class first to get some experience before trying to set up a darkroom and learn to develop and print on your own.

2- Source a space to create your darkroom. It can be big or small, but you must be able to make the room completely dark, must have electricity, and preferably have running water in it. Clean the space and light-proof the room. This may include covering windows and any other cracks of light coming through, even from around the door or cracks in the walls. You may also want to consider adding some type of ventilation to the room, such as a range-hood extraction type fan to prevent breathing in too many chemical fumes.

3- Purchase your supplies.

4- Install a safe light. Divide the room into separate 'wet' and 'dry' areas.

5- Set up your stations and supplies. Your set up is determined based on your space and preferences, so each darkroom will be a little different. We're not going to get into where every little item should go, as this is a step that is up to you and why we recommend taking a class first.

Darkroom at home, by: Larry Wilson (submitted photo)

Want to see more photos of darkrooms? There's a Flickr group for that! Check out The Darkroom Portraits Group.

Have You Ever Seen?

3/16/2012 0 Comments A+ a-

A camera that has been through a flood...
A nice clean camera left, a flooded version right.

The inside of an SD memory card...

A camera that asked for help...

(no, this is NOT Photoshopped)

What a single 360° image looks like...

Photos of the Month

3/15/2012 0 Comments A+ a-

SWC-M 007 Kodak Tri-X 400 HC110(B) 7.5mins@20c-05.jpg
SWC-M007, by: Gerard Or
Time Stands Still | Jessica & John's Destination Wedding | Playa del Carmen, Mexico | Riviera Maya Quintana Roo Destination Wedding Photographer
Time Stands Still, by: Feng Long Photo
It's All Up.
It's All Up, by: Micah McCoy
Goggles, by: RV Henretty-Jornales
triangular arm, again
Triangular arm, again, by: xazzz
inside the circus
Inside the circus, by: Kate Parker
Waiting, by: Jordan Parks
Dave, by: Morgan Tyree
Rolf, my neighbour,
Rolf, my neighbour, by: berntln
Pteridophyta (fern)
Pteridophyta (fern), by: HamWithCam
chess by candlelight b&w
Chess by candlelight, by: Lori C.

All photos submitted to the KEH Flickr Group. Why don't you join and submit your photos for next month?!

Leica R Lenses: Understanding Cams

3/12/2012 1 Comments A+ a-

Leica R lenses are 35mm manual focus lenses that fit on Leica R SLR bodies. Most the lenses can be used on any Leica reflex camera body in a non-metered mode (they physically fit onto the body). There are different designations that denote the lenses cams, or cam-coupling, which is how meter-coupling is carried out. So in order for the lens aperture information to make it to the camera for proper metering, you must choose the appropriate lens and camera combination.

A '1-cam' or 'single cam' is for original Leicaflex cameras. The cam looks like a sloped and curved chrome bar located in between the lens mount and the rear element of glass. It is not recommended to put these lenses on R8 or R9 cameras because it can damage the cameras ROM contacts.

2 cam

A '2-cam' or 'twin cam' is for the SL and SL2 models and original Leicaflex. The 2 cams on these lenses also look like sloped and curved chrome bars in between the lens mount and the rear element. These lenses are also not recommended to be put on the R8 or R9 cameras. (The 1 and 2 cam lenses can be used on other bodies in stop-down metering mode only.)
3 cam

A '3-cam' or 'triple cam' will work on all Leica SLR models. The 3 cams on these lenses include the 2 cams previously mentioned (the 2 curves chrome bars), plus a 3rd cam that is black, has a 3-tiered step shape, and is located inside the 2nd cam.

3rd cam

close up of the 3rd cam

A '3rd-cam' or 'R-only cam' is for R3 and later models. This lens does not have the 1st or 2nd cam (the chrome bars) at all. It only has the 3rd cam (the black tiered cam) located in between the lens mount and the rear element. These lenses also have a slightly different mount shape that prevents it from fitting on earlier camera models (Leicaflex).

ROM (with 3rd cam)

ROM means that the lens is supplied with electrical contacts. These lenses are for use with the R8 and R9, although they are still compatible with earlier models but without the extra benefits from the contacts. This lens is also a 3rd cam lens, but has a strip of electrical contacts in between the mount and rear element. The contacts allow additional information to be communicated between the lens and the camera, such as the focal length of the lens for flash metering. 

* In the KEH descriptions, we use the terms 2 cam, 3 cam, 3rd cam, and ROM. You can shop the Leica R category here.

Free Shipping + New Search Feature

3/09/2012 6 Comments A+ a-

Free Shipping: 

Free Shipping is back, but this time it's even better! From Friday, March 9th - Sunday 11th, get free ground shipping on any order over $100 of used gear from KEH (applies to the contiguous (48) United States, but international customers, see below).

Want to upgrade your shipping to 2-day or next day air? We will credit you $9.99 towards the upgrade!

Are you an international customer? We will also credit you the $9.99 towards your shipping costs! 

New Search Feature on KEH.com:

Our new search feature includes predictive text! When you type in something in the search bar, our smart search feature will pick up any of the listings you may be searching for that are in stock and will list them below, so that it's easier to find a product directly. Our old search feature had some problems with product recognition which prevented you from accessing the items you were looking for. It took awhile, but the new search is certain to help you better navigate the site.

This feature just launched last week, so it's still a work in progress. We are continually adding products and making adjustments to it, but it will continue to get better and be much easier for you to find what you're looking for. The advanced search option is still available for more targeted searching, as is the shop for gear tab where you can browse an entire category if you like.

P.S.- A little update regarding our recent cyber attack on keh.com. The site is up and running smoothly again. The type of attack that occurred is called a DDoS (distributed denial-of-service).  It is typically an attack which sends traffic or hits to the chosen site with such frequency and quantity that it overloads all incoming channels trying to give you access to the website.  As this type of attack essentially keeps traffic out of the site, there was no breach in security with any customer data nor with any part of the site itself. So rest assured, all of your information and credit card numbers have been kept completely safe and there is no need to worry. We thank you again for your patience during the few days we were dealing with this.

Preparing To Shoot The Aurora Borealis

3/08/2012 5 Comments A+ a-

The awareness and the popularity of the aurora borealis (the northern lights) has been growing over the past few years due to the approach of Solar Maximum in 2013, and I’m lucky enough to be on the fore front of the aurora. What’s Solar Maximum you ask? It’s a period of heightened solar storms. The solar storms cause mass ejections of solar particles that may interact with our atmosphere and cause our aurora borealis and australis (the southern lights).

There are many ‘how to photograph the aurora’ articles out there...some good, some bad. I’ve found many, written a few myself, and some can really help you. This is more of an anecdotal description of what I do and how I get ready for a night when I go out to photograph the northern lights.

First, we need to find out when the aurora are going to happen. They happen most nights when you live under the auroral oval, but I go out when the forecasts are at least ‘moderate’. I use two websites religiously: http://astronomynorth.com/ and http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast . Both websites have their strengths and weaknesses and I use them together to help me make my choice of braving the northern winter nights.

When I decide to brave the cold after the forecasts for aurora and weather have been read, I start by packing a bag. I really try to pack lightly, one body, one lens, thermos of tea (or coffee for really late nights), head lamp, an extra battery, and my tripod. I pack it all into a shoulder bag and get ready to get dressed. Sadly, this takes longer than packing. Big wool socks, wool base layers, fleece mid layers then snow pants and a parka. I wear small gloves and use big mitts to keep my fingers warm when I’m not manipulating the camera.

I try to have a destination in mind before I leave and try to pre-visualize my photographs before I get there. They may not work out, but at least you have ideas in your mind. It’s great to be reactive to the lights, but it’s a good idea to anticipate them as well.

When I get to my location, I usually find one of two things happening. The aurora may be a little slow in their movements, or they may be dancing above. For the slow aurora, I like to let my shutter speed run a bit longer. This will let the aurora blur a bit longer (like running water) but their flow still shows. When they’re slow, they tend to move in a ‘stream’ with few twirls so you can afford to slow your shutter down without causing a large blur of aurora. When the aurora starts to twirl and spike above you, shorten the length of your shutter speed and increase your ISO if needed. If you take a long exposure of fast aurora, you’ll be left with a blurry mess.

We’ve all seen images of the aurora borealis now, the internet is flooded with them. So how can you make your images stand out? Personally, I try to photograph the aurora with a strong foreground. Whether it’s using still water in the autumn or using tree silhouettes in the winter, I try to use a great environment to help create a photograph.

One important thing to do while you’re out there is to just sit and enjoy them for a moment. They’re easily one of the most beautiful sights in the world. You can have pink, magenta, and green lights dancing above you. They look like you can just reach up and touch them. Legend to our Aboriginal peoples in the Northwest Territories of Canada, is if you whistle to them, you can bring the aurora closer... but be careful, if they get too close to you they can kick your head off. So, make sure not to whistle too much!

My favorite new lens to use when I photograph the aurora is the Canon 16-35mm F/2.8 L II (that I purchased from KEH!). I’ve just upgraded from the mark I and love this lens. It’s relatively fast enough to capture the lights, but the ultra wide angle really allows me to capture the aurora in its vastness. Some may prefer a faster 24mm F/1.4 lens, and which would be great to capture faster details and spikes in the aurora, but the loss of focal range is why I stick to the 16-35mm. Personally, I don’t use Fish-eye lenses because of their distortion, but they are the ultimate tool for capturing the most sky.

I’m quite lucky since I live in Hay River, Northwest Territories, and get to see the lights whenever they’re glowing (weather permitting). If you’re interested in coming this way, I suggest checking out this site http://www.myspectacularnwt.com

Contributor Bio:
Adam Hill is a nationally recognized professional nature and landscape photographer based in the South Slave region of the Northwest Territories, Canada. For almost a decade he has been sought after for his work--photos that emerge from his driving creativity and skilled technique. He's known for capturing striking images of northern landscapes, aurora borealis, nature, and wildlife. His work has been displayed publicly across the territory and country in galleries across Canada.

If you’re interested in photographing the aurora, Adam loves talking about them and helping people increase the quality of their photographs, so feel free to contact him. Also be sure to check out his portfolios and photo journal at www.adamhillstudios.com

photos © Adam Hill

Tracing Hand Movements on Camera With Light

3/05/2012 1 Comments A+ a-

I've seen many different applications and techniques of light painting, as I'm sure you have as well, but when I stumbled upon this article from Popular Science from 1945, I thought it would be fun to use a similar (and simple!) technique to add motion to a still image that captures our everyday movements.

In order to make photographs like these, you will need a tripod or steady surface, a camera with a long exposure setting, and a flash light or other light source. I used a colored laser pointer and a small LED flash light. Set up the composition of your shot with the camera on a tripod. Make sure there are no other distracting light sources in or near the frame, as they will blow out due to the long exposure. I turned all of the lights out before taking these photographs. Set your camera's shutter speed to as long as it will take in order to complete your image, some trial and error will be required. Most of the activities seen in the photographs took 20-30 seconds to complete.

combing hair

stirring a pot
You will want to first establish the background of the image, or the subject being still. I used the on-camera flash to establish this part of the images. After the initial flash, then turn your light source on and begin moving around. For these example photos, I found that the best way to hold the light source was with in the hand tucked next to the object that was moving. For example, in the brushing hair photo, the laser pointer was held in the same hand as the comb with a finger gripping both the comb and the laser. Continue moving until the shutter closes.

tying shoe laces

opening a tripod

- Kelly Latos