Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Fanfold Blast from the Past

Screen Shot 2021-06-30 at 7.40.23 PM

I've been cleaning out my office in preparation for a major overhaul, something that's been sorely needed for years. In the process of doing so, one obviously comes across items you've forgotten about. Today was one of those days, when I came across this handmade fanfold paper dispenser. The paper is from sheets torn off a letter-writing pad, then taped together, fanfold style, with blue painters masking tape. The photo above was with the paper threaded into the Olympia SF.

I remember doing this some years ago, but had forgotten about it until today. And what do I find typed on the first sheet of the pack, but this ad hoc piece of writing, dated from May 8, 2018, typed on the Royal QDL named Adobe Rose, that I'd just then acquired. I thought it would be fun to post this "blast from the past" just to see what I was up to back then.

Adobe Rose Typing

I thought the piece was rather funny; but I especially like it for the freedom of creative thought that it represents. Sometimes it's hard to know where you are, mentally and creatively, when you're in the midst of it all. But being able to take a step back and look at something from the past gives a person enough distance to see how different they were back then. I like what I wrote, and wonder if today I can channel that kind of spontaneous creativity at will. I think the answer to that question is just to do it, more and more. Sit down at the machine and let the words spill out.

Here is Adobe Rose; I don't have very many shots of her, evidence that she spends too much time in the closet. Time to remedy that.

“Adobe Rose” the Royal Quiet De Luxe

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Monday, June 14, 2021

Direct Positive Portraits

Ethan Moses
My Friend Ethan

What you're seeing is a cellphone snap of the direct positive, 4-by-5-inch format print, slightly cropped. The tone of the print isn't exactly like what it looks like in person, but pretty close. The fiber paper has a particular sheen and subtle orangepeel-like texture that makes rendering shadow detail a bit tricky with digital cameras or scanners. I find this not as much of a problem as a feature built-in to the process of creating direct positive prints, that have to be seen in person to be appreciated.

The paper is also very high-contrast; a fill-in reflector should have been employed for the shadows. And the highlights on his arm are a bit over-exposed, with his yellow shirt appearing almost solarized. Such are the challenges of this medium. But the rewards are a finished, wet print in under ten minutes, out in the field.
When we opened the developing tank and took a peek inside, we were immediately amazed at the sharp, crisp tones of the positive image staring back at us. These kinds of processes never cease to amaze me, it still seems like magic.

There's another aspect to the making of this particular portrait. It was intended as a mere test, nothing more. No "fine art" implied. I've made many exposures on this paper, enough to be pretty confident about 1/2 second at F/5.6 would render a pretty decent exposure in shaded daylight. I also knew this because the last time I used the Fujinon lens on my Intrepid camera was with the same paper under similar conditions, and the shutter was still set to 1/2 second. Also, my light meter was still set to ISO 3. All these variables were under sufficient control for me to have confidence that I would get something at least. So the exposures were not what we were testing.

I say "we" because this is as much Ethan's project as mine; more his than mine, really. It had been a heady day of rapid design and prototyping, and at this date still premature to say too much more about this project. The idea is a new way to develop these prints out in the field. There were many unexpected technical hurdles to overcome, and we're still in the testing phase, but you'll soon hear updates here and on my YouTube channel, and also on Ethan's social media.

If you're curious about working with Harman Direct Positive Paper, here are a few links to get you started:

Joe's videos about using Harman Direct Positive Paper:
Indoor Direct Positive Prints:
Minimalist Direct Positive Prints:
Accurate Exposures with Harman Direct Positive Paper, Part One:
Accurate Exposures with Harman Direct Positive Paper, Part Two:
Comparison: Direct Positive Versus Contact Prints:
Paper Pinhole Processing in the Field:
Caffenol & Harman Direct Positive Paper:
Field-Drying Harman Direct Positive Prints:

Where to buy Harman Direct Positive Paper:
Freestyle Photo:
B & H Photo:

Typecast via Optima Super.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Optima Super, or Just One More?

Optima Super, circa 1958
Optima Super
Optima Super, circa 1958
Optima Super

We, my wife and I, had a discussion this afternoon about this newcomer to my collection. She reminded me, some months ago, that when I got the Royal KMM I said I didn't any more typewriters. Since then, I've reacquired the Groma Kolibri from Kevin, and now this Optima. So what gives?

I do feel satisfied with my current collection, as most every machine I own are functional writing tools that I feel good about using. But there's also the fact that John Lewis is a national treasure, of sorts, in the sense that he represents almost 60 years of experience, and every machine for sale in his shop has some of that experience applied, during his reconditioning efforts.

Last week, I tried almost every machine he had for sale. Olympias, Hermes 3000s, Smith-Coronas, Royals, you name it and he probably has it. Yet, none of them spoke to me. They're all nice machines, I'm certain every one has a potential new owner out there who would treasure it. But I already have several Hermes 3000s, a very nice Olympia SM3, a Royal QDL, a Silent-Super, etc.

And also, I can't single-handedly buy out John's entire inventory; I'm no Jay Leno.

But this Optima was unusual, if not a bit rare, at least around my neck of the woods. And it has everything I'm looking for in a functional workhorse writing tool that's also portable.

So, never say never. I can't say with certainty that this will be the last machine in my collection; I don't feel in need of more typewriters, that's for certain. I'm good, thank you; I'll pass. Unless I step foot in John's shop again, that is. Maybe, like an alcoholic, I just need to be more careful about that in the future. Be more self-aware of my weaknesses. And also, continue using the machines more, put them to good use creatively speaking.

Okay, just one more photo of the Optima, then I'm done:

Optima Super, circa 1958

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