This is a short post to let you know that we are on our way. Next up, Paris! I expect the next post I make will be on our first day in Paris. We will acquaint you with our flat and the neighborhood.
No, I'm not going to tell you how many pairs of socks we're packing or what outfits we've picked out. This is the alternative version of "what's in my bag". The items on this list are things that might not come to mind, but we think they are good items to pack.
Since we start our day with coffee, I'll start our list there. We prefer a good strong cup of pour over coffee in the morning. Europeans tend to drink espresso type coffee. We're covering our bases by bringing along a collapsible coffee filter holder and a coffee measure. I got the filter holder at REI. We didn't have to use the holder in 2019, as the flat had all the gear to make pour over coffee. We're not sure about this year's flat, so we're not taking any chances. We're also bringing along some paper filters, but those are easy to find in the store, so we've just brought enough to get us started.
Next up is electrical power. These days most chargers will run on the higher voltage power used in other parts of the world, but you need plug adapters. We've purchased USB charger units that come with all the various plug adapters needed. Here's a helpful hint. Apple sells an international adapter kit that provides plug adapters that fit right onto all their various chargers, whether for iOS devices or Macs. Finally, I picked up a three-pack of plug adapters that allow you to plug in two devices.
When traveling, it's helpful to have some portable power. For that we're packing a USB battery pack made by Anker, one of my favorite brands. This battery pack will charge an iPhone or iPad several times over. I could also use it to charge my Nikon Z6 camera if necessary.
One item that we will pick up in country is a small power strip. We have one that we bought in Denmark, but we gave that to Anna when she was packing for her study abroad. We've learned that Europeans tend to provide fewer power outlets than we're used to here in the States, or they may not be located in the most convenient location, so having a small power strip is super helpful.
We've learned through experience that there are a few kitchen items that tend to be missing in vacation rental flats. First off are good knives. We especially need a good serrated knife for bread and a sharp pairing knife for fruit and vegetables. This smaller serrated knife will be perfect for travel, plus it is great for slicing tomatoes. Along that line, we're also bringing along a knife sharpener (not pictured). We've found that the knives in these rental flats tend to be pretty dull.
On our last trip, the flat had plenty of salt, but no pepper, so we're bringing our own pepper grinder. We actually bought this pepper mill on that last trip to Paris. Another item that was missing was a kitchen washcloth, so we're bringing one from home. Finally, Priscilla enjoys grapefruit, so she's bringing along a grapefruit knife and spoon.
Here are a few other items we're bringing. First, Europeans tend not to use washcloths in the bathroom, so we bring our own. The mesh bag is for washing clothing that you don't want to get all tangled up. The small digital scale is to weigh our luggage at the end of our trip to make sure we don't exceed the 50 pound limit. I original bought these clips to hang film to dry in my darkroom. I think they will be handy to hang clothing and towels to dry, so I'm bringing several along.
In Europe, everyone brings their own bag or cart when they go shopping. We have shopping bags that stuff into small carrying pouches. That way we've always got a shopping bag with us when we need it. If our flat doesn't have a rolling shopping cart, we will pick one up like we did last time. They're not expensive, so it's not a big deal to leave it behind.
The Vine Shop bag is designed to carry six bottles of wine. Last time we were in Paris I would carry wine bottles in a regular shopping bag. The wine would tend to clank around in the bag, so this time we're bringing a bag specifically designed for carrying wine bottles.
The Only Way To Fly
Finally, there is this cute little carry on cocktail kit that I saw on a list of best things to get a traveler. I thought this would be a fun way to celebrate on our flight over to France.
As most of you know, photography is my thing. I've been into photography since fifth grade, so that adds up to over 50 years of making photographs. I agonize over what camera gear to bring more than any other packing decision I have to make.
In 2019, the last time we went to Paris, I brought just over nine pounds of photo gear...one DSLR and two film cameras along with four lenses. While I certainly didn't carry all that gear with me on the streets of Paris, I did have to schlep it there and back on the airplane. I'm cutting that weight in about half this time, only bringing my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera and three lenses. That's right, no film cameras this time.
Since early 2019, I've been shooting film almost entirely for my personal work. I've been developing my own film at home, and as of this year, I've also been printing in my own darkroom. It's a fair question to ask why I'm not bringing film cameras to Paris this time. Well, here is my answer to that question. A large part of the enjoyment I get from shooting film is doing my own processing, scanning, and printing. I can't realistically do any of that when we're in Paris. Plus, with more cameras and formats comes more decisions. Which camera do I bring today? What film should I shoot today, black and white or color? Do I shoot digital or film today? While I enjoyed shooting film in Paris in 2019, it did come with a certain amount of handwringing. I plan to avoid that angst this time.
Case in point. When I happened upon the scene of the Notre Dame fire in 2019, the only dedicated camera I had with me was an Olympus film camera loaded with black and white film and fitted with a moderately wide angle 35mm lens. The only digital camera I had on me was my iPhone X. The images I captured that day that ended up in the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper were captured on my iPhone X. I didn't get my film back from processing for a number of days. I do wish I had taken my Nikon digital camera with me that day when I set out for a short walk down to the Seine before dinner. As it was, I ran out of film and my iPhone battery ran quite low, forcing me to ration my shots.
It's true that many of my favorite photographs from our 2019 trip to Paris were made on film. While I know that part of that is the unique way that film renders an image, I also know that in large measure it was due to the fact that when I was simply walking around with no special destination in mind, I took a film camera with me. Those images of everyday life in Paris are the ones that are most evocative for me. I'm hoping that those everyday scenes captured on my digital Nikon Z6 will be every bit as evocative. As readers of this blog, you will get to judge for yourselves.
We are less than two weeks from our departure, so that means we're in the list checking phase of travel. You can imagine that travel during COVID has led to the addition of many items on our to-do list. Each country has its own travel requirements, even within the EU. The requirements I will reference are only for France and are as of the date I am writing this.
The EU has implemented a digital COVID certificate. You need to show this certificate to get into most public places and to take public transportation. In France they call this the Pass Sanitaire. With a CDC vaccination card, plus a passport and confirmed return travel itinerary, you can apply online for the French version of the COVID certificate. Priscilla and I have both received our certificates. The process was easy and the turnaround quick. The COVID certificate comes in the form of a QR code that you can scan into a smartphone app that the French government has published entitled Tous Anti COVID. While we've heard that your CDC card will work to get you into most places, technically, it is not sufficient according to the French government guidelines. It costs nothing to get the certificate, so we went ahead and did it.
If you are fully vaccinated, what you need to get into France besides your passport are the CDC card or the COVID certificate along with a sworn affidavit that basically states that you don't have COVID and haven't been around anyone who has it. At this time, if you are vaccinated, France is not requiring a negative COVID test.
The other thing we've learned is that masking requirements vary by airline. Our flight over to Paris is a Delta flight, in partnership with Air France. Air France has a requirement that masks be either the surgical variety or N95, not cloth. We have a good supply of the surgical masks, so we will bring those. Our cloth masks fit well, so I think we will start there and if they request it we will switch to the surgical masks.
The interesting thing is that the U.S. State Department has a travel warning out for France given the state of COVID there, but when you look at the worldwide COVID heat map published on the NY Times website, you see that the U.S. is much hotter than France. Overall, the rate of new infections in the U.S. on a per capita basis is running 3x that of France (45/100k vs. 16/100k). I've included a chart of new COVID cases for France below. The trend is definitely headed in the right direction.
One last thing we're doing, in a "belt and suspenders" approach, is that we will get a COVID test the Sunday before we leave. That way if a COVID test requirement gets added at the last minute we will be covered. Most of the COVID test requirements state that the test has to have been taken within the last 72 hours. We are using the State of Minnesota test center in Brooklyn Park, which costs nothing and in the past has given one-day turnaround. The test there is the saliva test which you self-administer. The results are delivered via email and also to a smartphone app.
As far as getting back into the U.S., right now the requirement is that you present a negative COVID test. These are available at all pharmacies in France, so I expect that's where we will take care of that. In future posts I don't plan on dwelling on COVID, but I thought some of you might be wondering what we are doing to be prepared for travel during COVID. My hope is that COVID fades into the background on this trip and we have a wonderful time in one of our favorite places in the world.
This will be just a quick post letting you know that Priscilla and I are going to be heading to Paris again and will be blogging here about our adventures. We leave on September 21 and return on November 17.
Besides simply loving Paris, the other impetus for this trip is that our youngest, Anna, will be doing her study abroad in the west of France (Nantes) over her Fall semester. Nantes is about a 2-1/2 hour train ride from Paris, so we'll be able to visit her and she'll be able to do the same with us. What fun!
This time around we will be staying in the 12th arrondissement, near our favorite market on Place d'Aligre. We're a short walk from two of our favorite restaurants, Miss Lunch and Mokonuts. Oh yes, and we are only a couple blocks from my favorite walking path in Paris, Coulée Verte.
We love Paris in the springtime, and I'm sure we'll love it every bit as much in the fall. We're glad you're joining us for the adventure.
One of the commonly mentioned dings against 35mm is that you can't or shouldn't attempt to make large prints with it. Well, I'm hoping to debunk that myth in this blog post. What I will provide for you is my workflow from beginning to end for getting beautiful, 13" x 19" archival inkjet black & white prints from 35mm negatives. First, a list of the gear and software I will use along the way.
The first step is to place the negative in the scanning tray and get it cleaned. I find it helps me to see the borders clearly by putting the tray and negative on an LED light table (these are super affordable). Once I get the negative placed and locked in, I give it a good blowing with a Rocket Blower front and back.
Next I'll walk through the settings in SilverFast. The first thing I do when I open SilverFast is conduct a Prescan. Once I have that, I make sure that the red selection box is sized properly. All of the settings are shown on the left panel. I won't go over all of those, but a couple are of special importance. First, I select 16 Bit HDR RAW for my scan type. I only use this scan type when I'm planning on making a large print. This will create a digital negative of the image. I select DNG for file type. You could probably use TIFF as well.
This next setting is the one where I go outside accepted bounds. I set the scan resolution to the greatest allowed by the 8200i, which is 7200 ppi. Reviews will tell you that the effective resolution of this scanner is closer to half that, so the argument is that you shouldn't scan at a resolution greater than 3600 ppi because all you're getting is a bigger file with no more detail. I've tried up-sizing files scanned at 3600 ppi to the print size needed, and the results aren't nearly as good. What I found is that the shadows get super dirty, for lack of a better term. So believe me, while you are not gaining effective resolution scanning at 7200, you are getting a cleaner file to work with downstream.
I use SilverFast's NegaFix option on all my scans. I find it does a fabulous job rendering the negatives. I don't use any of the auto color correction options. Once I've named my file and told SilverFast where to store it I hit the Scan button and let the Plustek do its thing.
Once you import the file into Lightroom (I'm using CC) you will see a digital negative on the screen. At this point I don't do anything with the image other than choose Edit in Photoshop.
When the file opens in Photoshop it will still look like a negative. At this point I use Photoshop for just two processes. First I choose Image>>Adjustments>>Invert. Now the image looks like an extremely flat positive. Don't worry about that. We'll fix that in Lightroom. The next step I do in Photoshop is to resize the image by choosing Image>>Image Size and then make the settings shown below.
To get a 13" x 19" print at 360 ppi, which is optimal for my Epson, I need to downsize the file to 6840 pixels on the long side. For the resampling choice, I use Bicubic Sharper (reduction). To be honest, I haven't tried the other options. This one just works for me. Once I execute the image size command I'm all done with Photoshop. I save the file in Photoshop and then quit Photoshop to go back to Lightroom.
Now I am back in Lightroom, and here is where we start to bring the image to life. The first thing I do is set the white and black points to taste. This alone makes a huge difference in the tonalities. Next I adjust the tone curve. I added a bit of an S-curve to this image. I also added a bit of Clarity.
Finally, I set sharpening to the Lightroom default level of 40. Other than some minor use of the healing brush, this image is ready to print. Because I'm using Lightroom CC, and because Adobe for some unknown reason didn't think printing was important enough to include in CC yet, I have to go back into Photoshop to print. Annoying, yes, but it is doable.
Now I am back in Photoshop in the Print dialog. The settings here are super critical. Besides selecting my printer, I tell Photoshop that it should manage colors and I select the proper icc printer profile. I select 16-bit data and black-point compensation. In the Layout section I choose landscape orientation. Down in the Position and Size section I input the width and let Photoshop auto calculate everything else. You'll see that the image isn't exactly 360 ppi because I did a wee bit of a crop. I'm not going to worry about that. In Rendering Intent, I've found Relative Colorimetric to be my preferred method, so I just leave it at that. I doubt that has much impact on a black and white image anyway. And then all that's left is to hit the Print button.
I've shown the resulting print at the beginning of the blog post, so I won't repeat that here, but what I will do is include a slideshow of a series of closeup photos from the print made on my iPhone 12 Pro.
Now I'll be the first to admit that I am not a pixel peeper. When I'm making a large print, I keep in mind the typical viewing distance. To be honest, I could probably be printing at a resolution much lower than 360 ppi for such a large print as 13" x 19", but 360 ppi is what makes my Epson happiest, so that's what I stick with. Certainly looked at close up you're going to see the film grain, especially on a 400 speed classic grain film like Tri-X. But frankly, I like grain. Maybe not big chunks of it, but salt and peppery grain I'm more than happy with. And that's the way the grain looks to me on this print.
A caveat...the scanner is the critical element of this workflow. I don't think you'd get nearly as good of results with a flatbed scanner. This is where a dedicated film scanner really comes in handy. The Plustek film scanners are a terrific value and a great choice if you're looking for a dedicated 35mm film scanner.
I hope this has been helpful. As always, if you've got a question just send me a note or post a comment.
Six years ago I made one of my favorite photos in the Big Woods at Wood-Rill Scientific and Natural Area. The colors and draping of the branches caught my eye. My recollection is that it was a wettish day when I made this photo back in October of 2014.
I've been back to Wood-Rill more times than I can count since that day in early October 2014. I've often tried to find these trees to make a new image, but I'll be darned if I could find them. I traipsed all over the edge of that tamarack bog trying to find them, but I always struck out. That is until this year. Priscilla and I went out to Wood-Rill for a late afternoon hike recently and I had my Olympus OM-2n with me loaded with Ilford HP5+ black & white film, rated at an ISO of 400. As I was rooting around at the edge of the bog, all of a sudden these trees presented themselves right in front of me. I couldn't believe it. Wouldn't you know the one time when I wasn't looking for them at all, there they'd be, right in front of me.
Because I was shooting with a 50mm lens this time rather than the 28mm lens I was using back in 2014, the perspective in these two photos is different, but they are unmistakably the same trees, with pretty much the same composition. I actually think I prefer the perspective in the black & white shot over the color shot. Losing the sky at the top tightens things up a bit in my estimation. Neither of these photos has been cropped. They are as shot. One thing I love about the black & white version is how the tamarack trees in the background seem to light up.
I think now that I've made it back to the same spot a second time, I'll be able to find it again. There are a few scenes out at Wood-Rill that I like making photographs of at different times of the year. I'll be adding these trees to my revisit list.
I suspect some people think I'm a bit crazy, but one of my favorite times to head out into the woods with my camera is when the weather is at its worst. Today we've had rain showers and light thunderstorms rolling through our area all morning, so I decided to head out to Wood-Rill Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) for a photowalk.
When you're out in the woods during a rainstorm, the colors take on this deeply saturated look, but naturally, not through some post-processing gimmick. This is just how the colors look, but most people don't get to experience this because they're not crazy enough to head out into the woods during a storm. The other thing that happens is that where you have openings in the forest canopy, you get this incredibly soft, luscious light pouring in to light up the forest floor.
True, you have to be willing to put your gear through a bit of a test, but the results are worth it. I'm happy to be out in the woods on any old day, but if it's a sunny day, I won't make photographs. The light has to be just right, and today it was.
Since coming back to film photography a year and a half ago, my color film of choice has been Kodak Portra 400. Recently I decided to test out a few other Kodak color film stocks to see what I've been missing. The films I tried out alongside Portra 400 are Portra 160, Ektar 100, and ProImage 100. Portra and Ektar are the premium priced films in this bunch. Kodak ProImage 100 is substantially less expensive, so I was curious to see how it would fair against the others.
I love Portra 400's understated saturation and warm tones. It just sees the world the way I do. I expected a similar look and feel with Portra 160, and that's what I got. Ektar is supposedly the closest you can get to Kodachrome colors these days. It certainly had punchier reds. I actually preferred the warmer color palette of ProImage 100 to Ektar. I certainly like the fact that it's way less expensive too.
I shot these four rolls during July, using my Nikon F3HP and Nikon FE2, both fitted with 50mm prime lenses. All four rolls were processed at West Photo in Minneapolis. The images in the gallery above were scanned on my Plustek OpticFilm 8200i using SilverFast software, with the resolution set to 3600 dpi. I selected the Negafix option in SilverFast. In almost all cases, I did not turn on color cast correction. I found that all four film stocks were easy to scan. None of them suffered from cupping, which made it easy to get the film to lay flat in the holder.
All post processing was done in Lightroom Classic. I did no color grading. I applied a medium contrast curve to all images. I also set the white and black points and added a wee bit of clarity and vibrance (6 for both). On the window images I added a bit of dehaze to reduce glare. Sharpening was left at the Lightroom default of 40.
I don't really worry about grain, so I haven't evaluated these images for that. What I do care a lot about is the color palette. I tend to prefer a warmer color palette. That is the key reason I haven't tested any Fuji films, as I've found through the years that the Fuji color palette is much too cool for my taste. I also care about saturation and contrast. I prefer less aggressive rendering on both those factors.
So after all this experimentation, you might ask if I've changed my mind about my favorite color film. The short answer would be no, I still prefer Portra 400, but I could see myself shooting more Portra 160 during the long summer days. And if I'm trying to stretch my film budget, I wouldn't hesitate to shoot Kodak ProImage 100. As far as Ektar is concerned, I find the color palette and contrast are just too punchy for my style. But if that's your thing, Ektar delivers it in spades.
In film photography circles, there's this implicit assumption that when you "grow up" as a photographer you'll move up to the larger film sizes--medium format (i.e. 120 film) and large format. By that benchmark, I guess I've never grown up. There are times I've been tempted to try medium format, and in fact last year I did for a short while. I picked up a 1950s vintage Mamiya 6 Automat folder camera. While I liked the look of the photographs from that camera, I couldn't get comfortable with the viewfinder, so I sold it on eBay. Actually, my very first camera back in 1969 was a medium format folder, the Kodak Duo 620. I didn't shoot it for long before moving to 35mm on an Argus rangefinder. Once I started shooting 35mm SLRs back in the 70s, I was hooked.
35mm film cameras allow you to get in to capture photos in tight places quickly. That's why they became standard equipment for photojournalists, conflict photographers, and street photographers. If you're into the reportage style of photography made famous by Henri Cartier-Bresson, then 35mm is for you.
Another advantage of 35mm is the cost of the film. I just checked on B&H, and a 36-exposure roll of Ilford HP5+ black & white film costs the exact same amount as a roll of the same film in 120 format, which will yield 12 exposures on average. True, if you're after higher resolution or that medium-format/large-format look, then you'll have to move up to those larger film formats. For me, there's a low-fi look to 35mm film that I just simply love.
Finally, there is the availability and cost of the used 35mm SLRs. These cameras are the best value going on the used film camera market. True, you can find less expensive medium format cameras, but the good ones still go for more than 35mm SLRs, and for the most part, they are significantly bigger than 35mm SLRs. And don't get me started on 35mm film rangefinders. Those prices have gone crazy. For me, it's 35mm film SLRs all the way. And if you can't tell from the photo above, I have a soft spot in my heart for Nikon cameras.