Rushin’ outta biz

Dear friends and kievaholiks.

It  is  pity  to inform that after 245 year the ARSENAL factory (Zavod ARSENAL  in  Russian) is lost.  After many judicial proceedings now we have  the Special Construction Department (SKTB in Russian) instead of ARSENAL  factory.   The  factory management, including the director of factory,  are  totally  changed.   The  workers  are  discharges,  all manufacturing is stopped, the factory storehouse is empty.

The  good  news  is  that we have bought the medium format cameras and parts  for  several years of works and we’ll keep our business running at  least 4-5 years more.  So, you’ll have ability to buy ARAX cameras as  usually  with  our  one year worldwide warranty.  In any case, you will  never  be  left alone with a problem from your ARAX cameras many many many years.

Gevorg Vartanyan,

Better Negatives Through Chemistry

You can develop film at home without a darkroom. It’s not difficult to reach a high level of consistent quality, it’s dang cheap, and you don’t have to jostle with everybody else in class whilst keeping one eye on the bell schedule.

Since XTOL comes in packages that make five liters (to dilute 1:3; yikes!) and D-76 a gallon, I have some other suggestions for excellent chemistry that won’t go bad and that you can control nicely.

“Sodium sulfite proves the existence of God.” -Bob Schwalberg

Make yourself some D-23. It’s not available commercially, so you win/win by mixing it yourself. Visit your friendly local grocer for stainless steel measuring spoons, distilled, water, and a 32-oz. Pyrex measuring cup.

D-23 has only two ingredients: 7.5 grams of Metol (or do you say Elon?) and 100 grams of good ol’ Sodium Sulfite to make a liter. These are basically non-toxic chemicals, but some people acquire a skin rash from impurities in the Metol; it happened to me, but it took years of steady use before anything… um… developed. Photographer’s Formulary (see the link to the right) currently has Metol for $8.95 for 100 grams, and Sodium Sulfite is $6.50 for a pound. Keep ’em in a cool, dark location.

To make a liter of D-23, use the following spoon formula:

Heat 750 ml of water (distilled is usually recommended; I use de-ionized drinking water) to 125 F.

Add a pinch of Sodium Sulfite to the water and stir to dissolve.

Stir in 2 1/2 teaspoons of Metol. Completely dissolve before proceeding. (Use a straight edge to level off chemicals in a spoon.)

Stir in 4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of Sodium Sulfite.

Add cool water to make 1000 ml (one liter) and store it all in two 16-oz. (or four 8-oz.) glass bottles. Use brown bottles if possible. Some popular beverages come in 8 or 12 or 16-oz. brown bottles.

Use D-23 1:1 (mix equal parts stock solution and distilled water). Check with Digital Truth (see link) for times & temps.

(I’m a big fan of the fixer called TF-4. It’s alkaline, as opposed to most other fixers [all other fixers that you’ve used], and it’s more expensive, but it makes hypo clearing agent unnecessary and the wash times stay short.)

After fixing, give 3 rinses with tap water, then use a washing aid for one minute (Heico PermaWash is the hypo clearing agent we use in the huge school).

Wash for 7 minutes (or 30 without hypo clear), then slosh for 30-60 seconds in wetting agent dissolved in distilled water. Some citizens have been known to use a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid in place of wetting agent. I’m just sayin.’


Once the film is hung to dry, spray distilled water on it from a spray bottle, both sides from top to bottom. After drying, the film will be pristine. There is a chemistry lab wash bottle which relies on hand pressure to squeeze distilled water out a small nozzle; Gardena also makes a good one.

Don’ wanna mix from scratch? FG-7 is a wonderful developer: it’s versatile and economical. In order to achieve finer grain, a higher exposure index and shorter processing time, make a 9% solution of sodium sulfite by dissolving a film cassette container’s measure into 12 or so ounces of water. Add one ounce of FG-7, then add water to make a total of 16 ounces. Consult “Digital” Truth. Here’s a cool parlor trick for darkroom nerds: make the pint of developer at 72 degrees, but add the sulfite last. The temperature will jump up to 75. Neato.

The H&D Curve: Update

“The question is moot.” -Rev. J. Jackson

A confidential memo has been leaked to me: Kodak discontinued Microdol-X five weeks ago.

The H&D Curve

Wikipedia says “Ferdinand Hurter (1844–1898) and Vero Charles Driffield (1848–1915) were nineteenth-century photographic scientists who brought quantitative scientific practice to photography through the methods of sensitometry and densitometry.”

At  you can scroll down to the September 24 entry for an example of a Tri-X characteristic curve, as well as parodies of H&D curves (fo-do insider jokes). In each case the curve consists of a toe (shadow tonal separation), a straight line section whose angle indicates the inherent contrast, and the shoulder, which refers to highlight separation.

Ms. H. has this bone to pick:


‘For extra fine grain try T-Max 100 in either Microdol-X or Perceptol full strength. The grain rivals Technical Pan at about five times the speed and no problems with controlling contrast.’

“People were Microdol crazy when I was at school. Is this necessary? Why can’t people just invest in a tripod and use fine grain lowwwwww speed film? Straightforward and simple; slower film=better grain. Are my views skewed? I have always preferred most others over T-grain films- Is it just because my elders told me they were better? I look forward- perhaps this weekend- to enlarging some negatives to definitively answer such questions. Damn it.”


You’re right. A slower non-tabular grain film, exposed and processed in another standard developer, is probably preferable to fast T-Max or Delta. I suspect people find themselves in a corner once they’ve loaded a camera. Barrington Huge School standardized on D-76 until I changed it over to Microdol-X for reasons of economy, and of dealing with a host of real and anticipated exposure predicaments. Microdol-X is a fine fine-grain developer, a point which has been moot in the Wonderful World of E274 since XTOL came along. Your views aren’t skewed, they’re based on solid information and good craft.

I was first forced to try Microdol-X around 1976 or 1977 when I visited (out of desperation and a sense of adventure) a rental darkroom somewhere in Oak Park, and that’s all they had (it made me a nervous wreck). I imagine that  you’ve tried your share of formulae. Developers I’ve trusted, and which have rewarded me with excellent negatives over the years, include D-76, Microdol-X, HC-110, Rodinal (everybody genuflect, now), FG-7, D-23, Ethol T.E.C., Acufine, Diafine, D-19, Neofin Blue, FX-1, TFX-2 and PMK Pyro. Each delivered as promised when the film was correctly exposed for the “soup.”

This perspective comes from other e-mail correspondence:

“…there are two quite different films sold under the Tri-X name. One is an ISO-400 film with a medium toe, the other is an ISO-320 film with a very long toe. Both are available in 120 but the ISO-400 film is the only one available in 35mm and the ISO-320 film is the only one available as sheet film. The difference is in the tone rendition. Kodak has made a long toe film in sheet sizes for many years. It has lower shadow contrast and bright highlights. According to the Kodak data sheets its for use in low-flare conditions, i.e., in the studio with controlled lighting and modern lenses. The ISO-400 version is for general purpose use.

“Plus-X used to be the same way, the sheet version was a very long toe film. The tone rendition of the two is not radically different and plenty of people use the 320 version as a general purpose film, however, for some use, especially where one wants bright highlights, it has an advantage. The characteristic seems to be similar to the films sold many years ago as portrait films such as Kodak Portrait Panchromatic. To some degree the difference in tone rendition is evident by overlaying the curves for the two films but you really have to photograph the same subjects and compare the prints to see the actual difference.

“In comparison, T-Max films have relatively short toes, similar to the old Super-XX. The Tri-X 320 film has a curve which is upward deflected all along its length although not quite to the degree that the old Plus-X Pan Professional sheet film was. Note that the current Plus-X is a medium toe film for general use. I must say I think it is underrated by many. A very fine grain film with good tone rendition for many subjects.”

The Wonders of Woofie

Here’s a potential whelming typology: my favorite kiosk names.

Always Cellular

Always Cellular 2

Always Cellular (I may have these out of order; I’m not certain which is #1 and which is #3.)

Beverly Hills Body Jewelry

Chooty Blanket

Couture Glam

Invisible Shield

piercing Pagoda (sic)

Santa’s Pen

Splat Back! (out of business)

Super Fly Monkey

Super Steam

Therapy Zone

Zippy Zoom

No favors of any kind were accepted in exchange for free publicity.

The following is an actual conversation at Woofie this morning (guaranteed verbatim).

Potential Consumer: “Do you sell webbed belts?”

Sales Associate: “Did you see any on our web site?”


Today is for brainstorming… so add your comments over the weekend.

Entre chien et loup


Hypnagogic myoclonus

Recurring dreams

Writing ’em down

Fear of falling, fear of the unknown

The Bogeyman


Finishing the last dream of the night


Oversleeping anxiety (not arriving)

“Dream voice” awakens you


There was an article recently in the Home section of the Times about how a writer, Roxana Robinson, ended up writing in her tiny guest bedroom instead of the space she had designated for her work. “I did everything but write in that room,” Ms. Robinson said. “I paid bills. I printed things out. I sent faxes. I was connected to the Internet. The assumption is that writers can write wherever they can sit down. But the main thing you need as a writer is a sense of certainty that you won’t be interrupted.”

This is why we’re blessed with darkrooms.

(A young A. Adams)

(A young A. Kertesz)

Photograph by (a young-ish) A. Perry

Other than, perhaps, music, not much in the way of multi-tasking can occur in a darkroom. Oh, I knew of a guy who slapped a sheet of Rubylith onto his television screen so he could watch movies all night whilst printing, but it’s a safe bet you’ll never see any of those pictures in any quality context.

Here is a selection of places from which you can get ideas and good advice:

…and there are plenty more. Let’s talk.

Barbara Crane: Challenging Vision

Run, don’t walk; call in sick; drive on the shoulder and leave your car running at the curb. Make today your first in a series of visits to the Cultural Center to see the Barbara Crane retrospective. You know the Cultural Center: it’s across from Millennium Park, it has plenty of exhibits and a shop and restrooms and a good-coffee snack shop and space to pitch camp at a small table for noontime live music. (Downside? Nope.) Go. tells you more; has a video interview; you can see more work at as well.

Uncertainty and the Tonic

“Long distance information, give me Memphis, Tennessee” is sung over what is called a dominant chord; the pull of that chord is eventually resolved by the tonic chord. The tonic represents the key in which Mr. Berry’s tune is written; the tonic is the place at which the harmonic progression is at rest. But in this tune, you spend most of your listening or playing time on the dominant chord; in each of the four 19-bar verses, not until measure 16 do you experience the resolution of the tonic, and this provides a sense of structure (in the first verse, that’s at the word “wall” in the line “and he wrote it on the wall”).

In Hynde’s “My City Was Gone” the harmony alternates between two chords that, by their placement, at first seem to imply a tonic/subdominant relationship, but at some point becomes less definite and can be alternately heard as either dominant or tonic. I don’t think that’s the intention, but there it is, like a visual pattern that confounds your sense of depth perception, allowing it to jump forward in your vision. Even more slippery are some tunes by Stills, whose three-chord harmonies further blur the identity of the tonic (intentionally or not) by emphasizing equally the I-IV-V, tonic-subdominant-dominant chords, which appear in many blues compositions. (These perceptions are subjective, and I realize that not everyone will hear the same things, and translating the effects into text is akin to the dis/connect of synesthesia.) Dave Holland has performed some compositions with his big band that seem to sit on the dominant instead of the tonic, in the manner of flamenco. There’s an ominous sense of suspense.

The initial appeal of jazz, for me, was the sophisticated dialect of the language of harmony that I heard on Thelonious’s “Solo Monk” in a listening booth at Marshal Field and Company, downtown. In addition, Monk occasionally finds a faux tonic and presents it as a satisfying resolution in an “inappropriate” place/juncture, as in the bridge of “Everything Happens To Me.” (What?) Taking that strategy even further, Henry Threadgill has composed pieces in which every chord has the gravitas of the tonic, as though the piece repeatedly modulates to a new key — a version of what Mr. Stills did with three simple triads, although not I-IV-V.

I think there are similar strategies in creative camerawork. Ray K. Metzker and Barbara Crane and Ken Josephson seem to have absorbed Aaron Siskind’s conceit of removing the nominal subject from its real-world context just enough to emphasize that the picture is a new object, made by the artist, not merely recording the world, capable of representing an individual’s sensibility.

What do you think? Are there other parallels that make sense to you, that help you to consider or relate ideas of picture-making?

Update: Believe me, I know it’s nuts to talk about music theory without examples. Perhaps the easiest reference to the chords mentioned above is to think of “Louie, Louie,” but that’s not precise enough. Check this video for its first half and especially the dyslexic moment; or check out

Darkroom Commandments

I. Light is Light, Dark is Dark. The Twain must never Meet.


II. Thou shalt Respect the Distinction between Wet and Dry Areas.


III. Thou shalt Hew to the Precision of Thy Process.


IV. Thou shalt not Contaminate with Arbitrary Chemical Traces.


V. Thou shalt Observe the Passage of Time in all its Manifestations and Ramifications.


VI. Thou shalt Regard Thy Neighbors’ Work as Thine Own.