Saturday, February 27, 2021

Expired Film Treasure: 135-size GAF Versapan Black and White Film (Abandoned Films 04)



Dear Readers, this will be a continuation of my irregular series about discontinued photographic films ("Film from the Dead"). It sounds very photo-geeky, but don't worry, there will be urban decay examples and even some "pretty" pictures. 

I have written about older films before. Long-term readers may remember that in spring of 2020, my friend gave me a cooler full of GAF Versapan 4×5" film packs. He had stored them in freezers since the 1960s. They proved to be completely viable, and I liked the results so much, I looked for other sizes of Versapan film on eBay. Amazingly, a fellow listed three rolls of 135 size (regular 35mm) with 1974 expiration, which he claimed had been frozen. Well, that was too good to resist, so I bought them. 

Some of you old-timers may remember when GAF sold many types of film in the United States (I am not sure about foreign distribution). The black and white emulsions were well-regarded, and I do not know why they stopped production of consumer products in the 1970s. This was 30 years before the digital tsunami overwhelmed the film companies, so digital is not a culprit here. GAF stands for General Aniline & Film Co., an old-line film company from Binghamton, New York. The history of this company is complicated and was intertwined with ANSCO and Agfa. Read a more detailed history on Mike Eckman's excellent review of an ANSCO Super Regent camera. 

Technical Notes

I loaded my first roll of Versapan in a Pentax Spotmatic II camera at exposure index (EI) of 100 and used part of the roll around Vicksburg. Then I exposed the second half in my Leica M2 camera. I sent the roll to Northeast Photographic in Bath, Maine, to develop in Xtol developer. Xtol is an amazingly effective developer and appears to work well with almost any black and white emulsion. The negatives displayed high base fog, which is common for old film, but plenty of density and detail. For my second roll, I exposed at EI=64 in a Vito BL camera.

I scanned the negatives with a Plustek 7600i scanner. The Silverfast Ai scanning software did not have a Versapan profile (obviously), but with some experimenting, I selected the profile for Kodak BW400CN film. This was surprising because BW400CN was a chromogenic film (C-41 development used for color print films), but regardless, I liked the way it handled the Versapan. But for some frames, the Kodak Plus-X profile looked better. 


Clay Street view west to the Yazoo Canal (50mm ƒ/1.4 SMC Takumar lens, 1/125 ƒ/5.6½)
Back of 1220 Washington Street (24mm ƒ/3.5 SMC Takumar lens)
Ergon Refinery, Haining Road, Port of Vicksburg (55mm ƒ/1.8 Super-Takumar lens)
Tracks under I-20 bridge (135mm ƒ/3.5 SMC Takumar lens, 1/30 ƒ/5.6½, yellow-green filter)
Smith's Appliances, Magnolia Road (35mm ƒ/2.0 Summicron-M lens)

Smith's Appliances is full of interesting automobile and filling station memorabilia. Thank you Mr. Smith for generously letting me take pictures inside. This was a 1-sec exposure with the Leica camera placed on a shelf.

Bamboo grove, Confederate Avenue, Vicksburg National Military Park (50mm Summicron lens)
Bridge over Stouts Bayou, Letitia Street (Vito BL camera, 1/30 ƒ/5.6)
Collapsing church, Glass Road (Vito BL camera, 1/30 ƒ/11, yellow filter)


Abandoned trailer, US 80 approx. 1 mile east of Edwards (35mm ƒ/2.0 Summicron-M lens) 
East of Edwards, US 80 is the frontage road just south of I-20. I do not know if this was the alignment of 80 originally or if the old road bed was subsumed by the interstate. West of Edwards, 80 is the original 1920s roadway.


Burks Gro, Utica (Vito BL camera)

Delta and Waverly, Louisiana

Silos off Levee Road south of Delta, Louisiana (50mm ƒ/2.0 Summicron-DR lens, orange filter)
Farm shed on LA 577 south of Waverly, Louisiana (Vito BL camera, 1 sec. ƒ/5.6)

Port Gibson and Yokena

Cottage on Ingleside Karnac Ferry Road, Port Gibson (Voigtländer Vito BL camera)
Alexander Road, Yokena (Voigtländer Vito BL camera)

The woods north of Port Gibson have some interesting old cottages and grungy trailers off the winding roads. I need to return to explore some more.


Abandoned farm, Riverside Road, Avon, Mississippi


This was a pleasant surprise! Amazingly, this Versapan still works and looks great. I love the tonality for my type of pictures. It shows that 50-year old black and white film that has been cool-stored can be used years after its expiration date. One roll of Versapan is left in my freezer - on hold for a future project.

These ancient Versapans were definitely more grainy than Fuji Acros or even contemporary Kodak Tri-X. Versapan looks like an old-school mid-speed film, like Plus-X. Well, no wonder, it is 50 years old. It gave many of my pictures a gritty press photography look, which I like for urban decay. Looking at the original TIFF files carefully, I can see many tiny white spots in the negatives. I think they are not bubbles from development but rather deterioration of the emulsion. Resized at 1600 pixels to show here on the web, the spots are invisible. 

It is fun to experiment with old films, but you need some assurance on how they were stored. 

The next article will be on Kodak Panatomic-X film in 135 size.  


Please click the link for the data sheet that came with the GAF Versapan film. They list the film speed as ASA 125/22 DIN. Unfortunately, it does not provide any development times for contemporary film developers. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Repurposed Ranch Lands: Wildwood Canyon State Park [Guest post by morangm]

[Guest post by morangm]

Wildwood Canyon State Park, located in the foothills of the San Bernardino mountains in Yucaipa, California, is a really lovely place to spend an afternoon. The park boasts beautiful scenery full of native California vegetation, including some oak forests, and also some nice views of the surrounding valleys from the ridges. The park is a great location for hiking, horse riding, mountain biking, wildlife watching, and native plant observation. Pre-pandemic it was a very quiet place, despite being close to a populous and growing urban area. On most of my visits, there was hardly anyone there. It seems to have gotten more popular since the pandemic has driven people toward more outdoor recreational activities.

Native oak forest in Wildwood Canyon State Park

The park also houses some abandoned ranch houses, the type of topic Kodachromeguy really likes, and hence why I am writing this post.

According to the park brochure, the park's territory has had failed large-scale development planned more than once. In the 1920s, a country club development was planned, but there was little interest from buyers, and most of the lots remained unsold. The property was then sold to Vernon Hunt, who used the lands for his ranch starting in 1940. Another portion of the park lands was owned by the McCullough family, who built "Hi-Up House" in the 1930s and lived off the land. More recently, developers planned to build a new subdivision on the land, but a flood disrupted those plans. Instead, the State of California purchased the land and turned it into a park in 2003.

Today, you can hike about a mile from the parking area to the remnants of the Hunt Ranch. It's a mix of picturesque wooden buildings that are probably the originals from the 1940s and some newer equipment storage hangers with corrugated steel walls and roofs.

Old stable (?), Hunt Ranch, Wildwood Canyon State Park
I guess this was a stable.
Chicken hut and equipment storage, Hunt Ranch, Wildwood Canyon State Park
The building in the foreground seems to have been for chicken. The hangar in the background has rusted bits of farm equipment in it.
Unknown building, Hunt Ranch, Wildwood Canyon State Park
I'm not sure what this was. Maybe living quarters. Leave a comment if you know.
Unknown building, Hunt Ranch, Wildwood Canyon State Park
Presumably more living quarters with storage underneath
Old truck, Hunt Ranch, Wildwood Canyon State Park
Can anyone tell me what model of truck this is/was?
Newer house, Hunt Ranch, Wildwood Canyon State Park
A more modern house, equally abandoned
Newer stables, Hunt Ranch, Wildwood Canyon State Park
Newer stables, equally abandoned. Nice place for a picnic.
The acorn woodpecker is a common bird species in this part of California. Unlike most other woodpeckers, it is a social bird and lives in groups. Acorn woodpeckers peck holes in tree trunks, telephone poles, and...houses, and they store acorns and other nuts in these holes. This is for long-term food storage and also, presumably, so they can keep the nut still while they break it open to get the meat out. Virtually all the old wooden buildings in the park are riddled with acorn woodpecker holes. While the State of California seems to be doing general maintenance to keep the abandoned buildings safe, they will have quite a chore on their hands if they decide to fully restore them.
Acorn woodpecker holes, Hunt Ranch, Wildwood Canyon State Park
Acorn woodpecker holes in the wood siding of one of the abandoned Hunt Ranch wooden buildings
Hi-Up House is on the other side of the park, also roughly a mile from the parking area. This house sits on a ridge and has a lovely view of a meadow and the valley beyond it. The front porch/balcony is a nice place to stop for a water break and to enjoy the view or even watch the sunset. On a previous visit, I watched a bobcat on the prowl in the meadow. A fellow visitor told me that Hi-Up House had been used as a boy scout retreat, but I was unable to verify this information.

The house seems to be in pretty good shape, and the roof looks new. Maybe one day the State can turn this into a park visitor center. I hope they can at least fix the floor of the balcony, which is deteriorating.
Hi-Up House, Wildwood Canyon State Park
Hi-Up House, front view
Hi-Up House, Wildwood Canyon State Park
Hi-Up House, back view. The roof is in great shape, so clearly it's been maintained recently.
Hi-Up House, Wildwood Canyon State Park
Hi-Up House balcony
Hi-Up House, Wildwood Canyon State Park
Nice place to watch the sunset
Wildwood Canyon State Park was fortunately spared during the massive El Dorado fire in September of 2020. (That was the fire caused by a pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party.) A park visitor told me that there had been more wildlife in the park this year because of habitat destruction caused by the fires. She said last fall, right after the fire, it was common to see herds of 20 or 30 mule deer hanging out in the parking lot. Let's hope in the future that these lands can continue to provide a refuge for both wildlife and people who need a break from urban life.

Because Kodachromeguy always does this: All photos were taken with a Samsung Galaxy S10e smartphone.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Snow in Vicksburg - Twice in a Month??

Here in Vicksburg in the USA South, we do occasionally get snow or ice storms, but the frequency diminished in recent years. But in the last few years, we have been experiencing snows more often as well as other extreme meteorological events. Overall, the climate is getting warmer, as demonstrated by bird species that previously would have migrated south to the Gulf Coast or to South America, but now remain here. (No, I won't get into the debate with denial idiots that climate change is a hoax.)

Snow is rare enough that I can't resist wandering around with a camera and recording the way that snow outlines roads, topography, and rooflines. The following will be some digital snapshots. I also used film, but it needs to be developed. I will post film frames in mid-summer when the temperature is 30+ deg. C.

Storm 1, January 11, 2021

Kansas City Southern tracks, Pearl Street
Pearl Street
Pearl Street
Oops, some rail cars overturned at curve below Washington Street
Sycamore Avenue
This January storm was not too intense, and roads were open. I took a tour around town thinking it might be the last snow of the winter.

Storm 2: February 14-18, 2021

What, again? An immense storm pattern blanketed the southern and central United States. Houston, Texas, experienced rare snow and temperatures well below freezing. Here in Vicksburg, the freezing rain began to fall on Sunday, the 14th. Monday welcomed us to a white city. 

Room with a view. Wait, what's all that white stuff? (Morning, Feb. 15, 2021)

The mayor imposed a 24-hour driving curfew, which was smart considering that no one around here has snow tires (or ability). And consider, Bubba Joe normally gets in his truck with the widest and baldest tires and drives as fast as he can. Brakes, friction? What are those? Fire trucks and ambulances installed snow chains.

Confederate Avenue view west (Feb. 15, 2021)
Halls Ferry Road from the Confederate Avenue bridge. Where did the traffic go?

It is so peaceful when there is no traffic. The mayor extended the driving curfew to Wednesday, February 17.

Footbridge over Stouts Bayou, Avenue B (Feb. 15, 2021)

I walked to Avenue B and crossed the little footbridge over Stouts Bayou. I saw six unusual speckled birds with long beaks down at the riprap near the water. They were Wilson's Snipe. Here, in the city? As I crossed, they flew off, and two more followed. Later, I saw a Belted Kingfisher. 

Drummond Street view south (Feb. 16, 2021)
Drummond Street view north (Feb. 16, 2021)
Monroe Street view north (Feb. 16, 2021)

I know you readers in the northern USA or Canada, let alone Scandinavia or Russia, will not be impressed with this snowfall, but for us it is a big deal. It certainly changes the scenery. The Interstate highways are treacherous and dangerous because the highway department has very few plows. 

Oh, oh. About noon on Feb. 17, the rain started, and it soon turned into freezing rain. By late in the day, every surface was coated with ice. This mess continued through the night.

Temporary toaster (Feb. 18, 2021)
OK, skip the toaster; eat Panettone instead
Comfort food for those chilly nights

Hey, where did the electricity go? Fortunately, it returned around 09:30 on Thursday (Feb. 18). We heat the house with a gas-fired hot water furnace, but the system depends on two electric pumps to circulate the water through the house piping and radiators. So, no electricity = no heat.

No, not just snow, but ice-saturated crust (Feb. 18, 2021)

Every surface outside was slippery. I tried to break up some chunks of the crust to fill a bucket, but the crust was rock-hard. The City water came back on mid-morning, but we will keep some buckets filled just in case. And the sloping driveway was too slippery to descend safely, so that ended my limb and brush clean-up. Maybe I should have not sold my crampons and ice axe. 

Some spectacular news for Feb. 18: The NASA Perseverance rover landed on the surface of Mars at 12:55 PM Pacific Time. Bravo!! It demonstrates what science and engineering can accomplish.

From the Past: 1989

February 6, 1989, ice storm. Polaroid Type 54 print

The 2021 scenes are digital images. I also took photographs with film, which need to be developed. I will post them on a summer day when the temperature is 100º F to help you remember what it is like when it is cool. 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Footloose in Bogotá (Colombia 10)

Bogotá was supposed to be an airport stop before connecting to a US-bound flight. The Avianca flight from Cartagena flew around and around the mountains for an hour, then returned to Cartagena. OK, no USA flight that day. When we finally reached Bogotá, Avianca put us up in the elegant Sheraton Hotel. What to do with a spare day? Easy, hire a retired opera singer and car for a tour to the cultural core of the city.

Bogotá is the capital and largest city of Colombia, and is a vibrant metropolis of 10 million people. It is the center of government, industry, and universities in the country. Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada founded Bogotá to be the capital of the New Kingdom of Granada in 1538, making this one of the oldest capitals in the Americas. For a casual visitor just getting off a plane, it might be a bit overwhelming.

Cathedral Basilica Metropolitan & Primate of the Immaculate Conception & Saint Peter of Bogotá (1807-1823)
Most tourists go to the Candelaria district. La Candelaria is Bogotá's historic 17th century Old City.  The architecture of the old houses, churches and buildings are an interesting mixture of Spanish Colonial, Baroque, art deco, and some post-modern residential. This area also has universities, libraries, museums and government buildings. Oh, and lots of coffee shops!
Plaza Bolívar after the rain (Leica M2, Fuji Acros film)
No, he won't poop on your shoulder. Bolívar Square
Plaza de Bolívar or Plaza Bolívar is the main central plaza in La Candelaria. This is where people gather, laugh, take selfies, dodge the pigeons, and occasionally demonstrate or riot. Interesting place.
As you can see, there are outdoors art classes and lectures, narrow alleys dating back to the 1500s, and students everywhere. Public art is a major theme throughout the country. Recall the Parque El Gato De Tejada in Cali, that I photographed earlier in the trip.
Hanging out at a coffee shop
Well, after another coffee, it was time for some culture at the Museo Botero del Banco de la Republica at Calle 11 No. 4-41.
Fernando Botero has a unique vision of the people in his world. OK, they are a bit chubby - maybe they ate too much of the excellent Colombian cuisine. From the Museo Botero:
In the year 2000, Fernando Botero donated an art collection of 208 pieces to Banco de la República. 123 of these were his personal artwork and 85 were from his private collection of renowned international artists. Based on this collection, the Botero Museum was founded. The museum is located in the La Candelaria neighborhood, a historical section of Bogota, in a colonial house that until 1955 served as the office of the archbishop. The house was restored and adapted by Banco de la República to become a museum, under the guidance and curatorship of the master artist himself. As of the first of November, 2000, the collection has been available at no charge to the public every day, except on Tuesdays.
This has been an all too short of a stopover in Bogotá. There is much more to see - some other year. I spent a short time here in the early 1980s, another life when I worked for the geotechnical company. But I could not find any negatives from that era. 

The black and white frames are from Fuji Acros film exposed in a Leica M2 camera. The color frames are from a Moto G5 mobile phone.

Thank you all for coming along for the ride. Explore your world, always look for new experiences, peoples, food, climates, and geology. And take film pictures.