You know you’re dealing with something a bit different when forums across the web are overflowing with frustration, debate, despair, pleading and a few incredible results no two of which are ascribed to a like approach.  Arista Ortho Litho 3.0 film likely ranks near the top of the pile in terms of “there just aint a clear cut answer out there for how to deal with it” photographic products.


It’s not that there’s nothing that works, because many folks are achieving very interesting and compelling results.  Rather, it’s that the “how to” is just so bountiful and ambiguous.  For every successful photograph shared there are dozens and dozens of crap results offered up by defeated and frustrated artisans.

I’ve yet to see THE definitive approach to shooting and processing this film anywhere.  Do a search for yourself and you’ll soon find yourself off on an incredible journey not long into which your eyes will start to jiggle and you’ll begin to feel light headed as you amass in your mind the seemingly infinite approaches, tips, suggestions etc.  Oh, lest you be concerned, yes there is plenty of contradictory information out there as well.  Evil comes to mind.

Arista Ortho Litho 3.0 caught my eye a while ago as I was reading through an article discussing the nature of various emulsions from the turn of the 20th century.  I believe the version 2.0 was referenced in the article not because it’s that old but as an analogy for something.  I likely just filed the reference away.  Many moons later I was on Freestylephoto’s site looking for something, can’t remember what, and decided to just take a look through their sheet films.  There it was, and there was TONS of it!!   I mean TONS of it.  You name the format and they got it.


I was surprised at how inexpensive it was.  Compared to FP-4 for example, it’s pennies on the dollar!  What the heck.  I ordered some and didn’t really think more about it.  When it arrived, I was caught off guard as I honestly forgot that I’d ordered it.  I stuck it in my film box and just carried on with my day.   Last night I pulled it out and decided to give it a go.  I set up my 5×7 and decided to use my Wollensack Series A f5 5×7 and just shoot a picture of something interesting in my dining room.  A clock!  My creativity abounds at times.

Well, it was time to get down to some math.  How to expose this film?  I sat down at my computer and started to do a little research.  It’s then that I fell down a well.  

There was NO answer; there were a TON of answers.  

It was at this point that I was overwhelmed by the multitude of approaches to just about every single aspect of using this film and processing this film.  I couldn’t believe it.  All said and done, I spent probably 2 hours sifting through forums and websites.

In a brief moment of lucid rationality I ruled out everything which involved something that I did not have.  I was taking a damn picture.  So esoteric developers or brands I didn’t have were off the table.  One compelling piece of advice from “the guy who makes the film” was to use Dektol.  I had that.  Paper developers were definitely the most common used.  Though film vs paper developers definitely served as a topic of debate.  A water stop and Kodak Rapid Fix completed the processing story.

Tray development is definitely the way to go.  You need to keep a keen eye on the midtones as this film is uber contrasty and there are dozens of examples out there of people who’ve ended up with literally BLACK and WHITE negatives completely devoid of midtones.  As for development time, well, that was up in the air and I’d determined to just eyeball it.

Last but not least, how to expose it?  The popular opinion around ASA was between 6 and 12.  Yes, it’s SLOW.  This is a good thing as my lens is a barrel lens without shutter;  I’d be using the lens cap, off/on, to control exposure.  Plus, I wanted to shoot wide open at f5.  For no particular reason at all, I decided that I would dub thee Ortho Litho ISO 6.  End of story.

I set up a 500W soft box and silver disc reflector opposite it.  It was nighttime after all.  I jumped over to probably the coolest exposure calculator you can get, for free, period.  It’s my favorite and I use it on my laptop, iPad etc.  It’s at endoflow, link below.


Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 4.48.09 PM


Net result was f5 at 2 seconds.  SNAP!!  To the darkroom!

Here’s what I did and what I think.

DEVELOPMENT:  Dektol @ 1+30, @ 68F.  This dilution was a compromise.  While the formulations ranged across developers and opinions, one thing was clear.  It needed to be on the weaker side of life.  I arrived that this the same way I arrived at everything else.  I absorbed a billion opinions, stories, etc… and 1 to 29 Dektol surfaced.  I rounded up to ease the strain on my feeble mind.  I developed and inspected, under safelight, in a tray.  It was really tough to tell to be quite honest, but I had a few reference points in my composition and I was patient and hopeful.

What works?  I think that giving the negative time in the developer is key. I also think that intermittent agitation is the way to go.  Maybe rock the tray for the first 30 secs and then every 30 seconds thereafter.  To me!  It really seemed thrive when sitting still and not so much under agitation.  A stand development approach might prove fruitful.

STOP:  was water, tap water, and it comes out of the cold side mid 60s.  Around 3 minutes here.  I agitated constantly.

FIXER:  was Kodak Rapid Fix.  I fixed until the negative cleared.  This ended up being for around 4 minutes.  I agitated constantly.

So, the results!  Well, this is my first ever and only, to date, photo using this film.  After drying I scanned it straight (I don’t make any adjustments via my scanner anyway).


And….drum roll…….here you go.

Arista Ortho LItho Test 1

A point of interest, the votive candle holders on top of the clock are red.  Notice how they’ve come out black in the photo.  That’s the orthochromatic nature of the film I believe.

What do I think?  Well, I kind of like it.  It definitely has a look and vibe to it that I think would make for an interesting portrait.  I’m half tempted to take it out into the swamps and give it a go.  You’ll note the scratches.  This stuff is FLIMSY.  It’s got to be the flimsiest film I’ve ever encountered.  I’m sure I scratched it loading and unloading it from the film carrier.

I’m quite satisfied with the result in light of the amount of “winging it” that went into the entire approach.  It’s a nice baseline from which I can now work.

Do I recommend it?  Heck yeah.  It’s what makes photography an art and fun!  Rolling the dice, experimenting, uncertainty and having to think through things and figure them out is why I love photography.  It’s the antithesis of just snapping a pic.  This picture is all me for better or worse.

Foma Retropan 320 Part 1

I’m not sure why, but it caught my attention.  First things first, I’m always curious about any new film.  The introduction of NEW film is a rare but thankfully, seemingly, very positive and increasing trend.  I think it’s because it is described as a “soft” film that attracted me deeper.  That’s interesting!  So we’re talking about a new film, a “retro” film, characterized by softness, by design!?   Yep, it definitely caught my attention.  



If you’ve read this blog or watched any of my videos you’re more than aware that I’m a keep it simple guy when it comes to photography and I constantly espouse exploring but at the same time I myself have settled into Ilford FP4 and a PMK Pyro based development process.  Yes, I do not want the focus of my photographic efforts to be gear-headed flip-flopping obsessions on cameras, lenses, processes etc.  I want them it to be on art.  All that said, when I heard about this film, it caught my attention.

I did the research.  I went to Foma’s website, looked for reviews and scanned the internet for images and experiences.  There wasn’t much and there still isn’t.  It’s a pretty new film.  Some of the photographs I found peaked my interests further.  Of course, there was the compliment of geek-debates beginning to roll around the forums.  If I’ve not said it before, I’ll go on record now, these are huge annoying turnoffs for me. 

I had to check this film out.  That’s where I found myself.  Before rushing out and buying it, I needed to cover down on the development process.  Could I use my standard PMK Pyro – TF4 process?  No idea.  Again, not much information out there.  Foma for their part have a data sheet on their website and they list 4 or 5 developers and associated process information.  Needless to say, Pyro is not one of them.  Plus, I suspect that a Pyro developer may work against the intended “softness” of the film in the first place.  What to do?  Well, as it turns out, Foma also produces a SPECIAL developer for this film.

It’s not expensive.  I purchased it.  I integrated this into my otherwise standard development process.  I went into waiting mode with much anticipation.  The film finally arrived and a couple days later, on the weekend, I headed out.

The Film “Test”

I thought long and hard about what to do with this film.  I mean, yes, take photographs with it, I got that.  But how would I “assess” the film?  The meaningless babble burbling in the forums about the specific gravity of the film yields nothing and is almost as annoying as the endless debates over developers etc.  How would I determine if I liked it and what it’s potential was?

In the end, I decided I’d just take a roll of FP4 and a roll of Retropan 320, go to a location I know pretty well and just shoot.  I used my Leica M6 and a 50mm lens.  Ideally, I’d shoot a lot of similar stuff.  Then, I’d develop each roll using my standard PMK process for FP4 and the Special Developer for the Retropan 320.  Then, I’d just look at the photos.

I did just this.  Let me say that the special developer is EZ as pie to make the stock developer and use.  I split the difference in terms of the development time choosing 4mins 30 secs.  The recommendation was 4-5 mins.  I used a water stop and Tf4 fix.  Worked like a charm.

See my accompanying video for results from this comparison.


THE GOOD:   I like it.  There are times when it suits the subject and produces an absolutely stunning image.  I’ve though long and hard about what to compare it to.  Glass plate negatives?  Maybe.  There’s a real old look and feel to them.  There is without doubt a certain softness that is produced and when you get it right, it works.  There’s also a sense that you get a more pronounced and even greater dynamic range with this film.  It can be quite amazing.

THE BAD:   It’s not for every subject or composition.  In some instances you’re left with a “hard to see a difference” feeling.  In other instances you’re left with a “that looks horrible” feeling.   Let’s talk about the horrible for a minute.  This film can be unforgiving in the darks.  You will not recover any detail you do not capture in the darks without drawing out a ton of what I feel is ugly grain.  The film has a softening effect and this will, by design, greatly round off detail.  This can work for you but it can also sort of totally blah out a photo.

FINAL THOUGHTS?  The film is only available in sheets and 35mm.  This is a bit of a bummer as I’d love to have this in 120 and I think it’d shine.  You need to use this film with purpose and discipline to get what can be incredible and unique results.  Do not underexpose and expect to be able to pull detail out of shadows.  The film can offer up a very refined and “seemingly extended” dynamic range if used properly.  Should you try it?  Yes.  Yes you should and I’d recommend starting with the tailor-made special developer just to keep things simple

Foma Retropan 320 Part II

FOMA Retropan 320 is a wonderful film with a unique voice.  I did a review of FOMA Retropan 320 on my YouTube channel some time ago.  I compared it to standard Ilford FP4.  I talked about the general attributes and applications as well as the special developer recommended for the film.  I had made a purchase of 6 rolls of Retropan and over the course of a couple months shot all of them.  That said, I did not get around to developing them all.  This past weekend I decided to go ahead and grab the milk jug of developer I’d stowed underneath the sink in my darkroom and develop the last two rolls of film.  The results made me take a step back.  Lovely and luscious, mysterious and intriguing, compelling in every respect.  I thought I’d share a few photos.  All of these photographs were shot with my Leica M2. 

Yes!   I’m ordering more film.  In fact, I’m considering ordering some 8×10 Retropan 320 as well!  As I mentioned before, both B&H and Freestyle carry the film.  The special developer is available at Freestyle.  Oh, and yes, even after having been stored away for almost a year in a milk jug, it worked just fine.  I am in the process of experimenting with alternative developers though and will post findings in a later article.

Leica LTM Lenses and Developer Comparison

A barely scientific yet reasonably structured comparison of LTM Lenses (Elmar 50mm f3.5, Summar 50mm f2 & Summitar 50mm f2) and Developers (Rodinal, PMK Pyro and Ilfosol 3) using a Leica iiia and Ilford FP4+ film.



As loathe as I am to overly dwell upon the mechanical, chemical, process and equipment aspects of the photographic arts, there are times when it becomes necessary to withdraw one’s head from the clouds, step back from the virile pulse of artistic creation and plead at the foot of all things science for clarity, reason, guidance and salvation.  Nothing turns the world of a photographer upside down so much as the introduction of a new variable into the heretofore bedrock tactics of his or her art.  

You see, I am an explorer.  I live and long for expeditions; short or long.  Hiking, climbing and backpacking are my modes and the wilderness is my abode.  Photography comes along with me and through it I commune with the wild.  I also adore road trips.  My standard fare is medium format.  More specifically a Fuji GW690.  I am also prone to dragging out my beloved Voigtlander Bergheil 9x12cm and every now and then an 8×10 to do a bit of the old wet plate.  What has been a challenge for me is photography on the move.  I tried bringing my reliable Leica M2 along but the weight and form factor just could never be reconciled with easy access, storage and the realities of backpacking.  

Enter the Leica LTM.  More specifically the Leica iii.  One late night auction session completed, I found myself the proud owner of a Leica iiia.  About ten minutes later I had triplets.  Two Leica iiia and one iii.  I was out of control which is  not uncommon for me and auction sites.  Now you might think the adoption of a new herd of cameras would be sufficient, but no, upon further exploration I brought home three lenses as well.  This is precisely why I’m not allowed to grocery shop.  

It was also at about this point in time, winter drearies upon me, that I decided to give a new 400 speed film a go.  So it was basically the whole lot cast up into the air!  New film.  New camera.  New lenses.  Well, at least I could fall back upon, rely upon, rock solid foundation of photographic processes!  Or could I?  

One roll of 400 speed film utilized and developed and I concluded posthaste that I was in fact lost.  Cast adrift upon an unmanageable sea of photographic variables.  The results begot a deep and dark mood.   I had in fact exercised the very opposite of prudence by bringing every element of my photographic process into variability.  I had no basis, no reference point, upon which to begin to orient myself.  

Finding the predictably inconsistent banter of one forum after another utterly dissatisfying I divined it best that I set out upon my very own grand experimentation.  So it was, absent both pomp and ceremony, with hypotheses in hand, that I set out under the steely gaze and calculating demeanor of science to figure out a thing or two. 

Oh!  I’m sorry.  The hypothesis?  Yes, the hypothesis.  Hypothesis.  Now where…oh, hold on, of course, so it went kind of something like “I do sincerely believe with all my heart that I am lost and should I not quickly gain some perspective I shall burst into flames.”

 Yeah, I know, it’s not really an hypothesis, but it’s all I had as I breathlessly stumbled and staggered into the venerable bosom of objective analysis.  


I set out to acquire a Leica iiia and ended up acquiring three; two of the iiia variety and one iii.  One of the iiia came with a newly CLA’d Leica ELMAR 50mm f3.5.  Following a little research I determined that I should have a lens on each of the bodies I’d purchased and would start by adding a 50mm f2 Summitar and Summar into the mix.  So, yes, I set out to buy one camera and found myself the owner of three.     

LTM (screw-mount) Leicas were new to me.  The appeal was both the body size and the collapsable nature of the lenses.  They are very small in comparison to an M.  My iiia fits nicely into a tiny waterproof bag which I can fasten to my backpack waste belt via a caribeener providing me my easy access “point-and-shoot” whilst I’m on the move and my medium format gear is stowed in my pack.  

I spend the greater part of my time backpacking, exploring and photographing within the Appalachian mountains.  If you did not know, they tend to be rather dark and dense due to very thick tree cover and deep ravines.  I can get by with my beloved Ilford FP4+ most of the time when using a medium format camera on a tripod but the hand-held nature of the Leica iii had me a bit concerned.  I doubted my ability to produce quality results with the lower shutter speeds FP4+ necessitates at times.  

I determined that it might be best to explore a 400 speed film, so I gave HP5 a go.  I worked it straight into my standard PMK Pyro / TF4 development process at box speed.  The results were stunningly and violently bad.  To say that there was absolutely nothing, and I mean not one single attribute, about the results which were encouraging is itself an understatement.  So, I did the logical thing and grabbed a bottle of Ilfosol 3 and another roll of film and this time yielded useable but thoroughly innocuous results; VERY ho-hum.  I began to feel more and more lost with growing despair.  

I needed to get the Leica iii into perspective.  I wanted to understand what it could do across the lenses I’d purchased.  I needed to get it to a point of understanding and control.  Yes, I’d read everything I could find on line and then some.  From the lenses, to developers across films, I’d studied results and canvassed opinions and recommendations.  The net result remained a rather foggy vagueness.  It was time for me to act.  I needed to do something myself.  

As I began to think through how I would approach this mare’s nest, very quickly the entire idea of the exercise began to wear on me and I struggled for motivation.  I do not like the tedious gear-headed, pixel-counting, pseudo-science, photo-nerd-forum-creeeper side of photography.  However, one should never underestimate the power of desperation and I was desperate.  I needed establish some sense of equilibrium with the Leica iii.  I needed to be able to confidently put it into use and integrate it into my photography.



The Developers

As I’d already introduced another developer into the mix I decided that I may as well go ahead and lob in a third.  So after quick consideration Rodinal found its way into the comparison.  

A compliment of developers:  PMY Pyro, Ilfosol 3 and Rodinal.

The Stop-bath

Water.  As in, water.  I match water temperature to developer temperature as best as possible.  

The Fixer

I have used and appreciated FT-4 for years.  It is my standard fixer across film development as well as many print processes.  There is nothing bad that can be said about this fixer.  It’s very effective, easy to use, easy to prepare and economical as all get out.

The Film

While I will, in hindsight, agree that it was an emotional decision, for this comparison I reverted back to Ilford FP4+.  Truth be told, it was a film I knew well.  Ilford FP4+ with PMK Pyro and TF4 are a part of my heart and soul.  They have afforded me that wonderful state of really not even thinking much about them except to “use them” as required and focusing on my art.

The Camera

While all three of the cameras I’d purchased were characterized by their respective sellers as being in fine working order, we both know that this is never ever the case.  Yes, a 100% positive feedback rating combined with a comprehensive description of condition and performance ups the probability that you’ll get what is described.  This is in contrast to those who use the word “rare” and statements along the lines of “I really don’t know much about cameras” where all bets are off.  To make matters a bit worse, the stock one should put into the accuracy of shutter speeds on these cameras typically does not warrant any but the most naive confidence.  

I set up all three cameras and fired them in succession working my way through each shutter speed.  As I dropped below 1/60 a difference began to be apparent to my ear in one of the iiia.  It was not so much a discernible difference in “speed’ as was it an unhealthy noise accompanying the shutter actuation.  I had grave suspicions regarding that camera.

I next moved to an audio based shutter speed checker app.  It is well known that the app is most useful, as in reliable, at shutter speeds up to around 1/100.  I worked my way down from 1/100 and confirmed the poor performance of the one iiia and, happily, the rather consistent and accurate performance of the remaining iiia and the iii.  Sitting the problematic iiia to the side, I ultimately decided to go with the other iiia as it includes 1/1000 whereas the iii only 1/500 by design.

The Lenses

All three of my Leica LTM lenses would be compared. 

The Subject Matter

There is NEVER a willing volunteer around when needed.  Lucky for me, the holidays were upon us and I found these two guys loitering around with time on their hands.  It took but the promise of a handful of uncracked walnuts to gain their concession to participate in a “truly meaningful experiment which would benefit society as a whole.” (I did embellish and inflate a bit as the little dude was wavering, going on and on about how he could not be bought with a handful of nuts.  There’s always an idealist in the crowd!).

The Set Up

The set up was pretty simple and would remain constant.  I grabbed a handy light source and let it rip.  Arranged the iiia on a tripod and that was all there was to it.

The Analytical Framework

The idea was to execute a multi-level comparison.  I wanted to evaluate each lens in comparison to the others and I wanted to see how the developers worked with or against each lens and do all of this with FP4+ at the center.  As much as possible, I wanted to hold the fundamentals constant.  Position of the tripod, lighting, aperture, shutter speeds and so forth would remain constant throughout.

All development and processing would be done based upon manufacturer’s recommended times/temps or based upon information from the Massive Development Chart at www.digitaltruth.com.  This included PMK Pyro, a developer which I thoroughly understood down to a micro-nuance level with FP4+.  FP4+ would be shot, rated, at box speed; ASA125.

 Lenses would be evaluated wide open and then somewhere near their respective sweet spots.  In other words, somewhere in the middle.  This makes sense when you consider where I do my photography and that I’m using FP4+.  

As far as shutter speed was concerned, I took measurements with both my spot meter (average and spot) and hand-held meter (incidence and reflection) letting the apertures take priority.  I then took notecards and recorded the lens name, aperture and shutter speed on each resulting in six cards which would be used in each photograph to help me keep track of the photos data.  Many a time have I tried a quick comparison relying on handwritten notes and film frame only to lose the plot post development and be left guessing.

Final Notes On My Approach

I wanted to keep this simple.  There would be no charts or measurements per se.  Rather, I would base everything off of how things appeared to me.  Do I like it?  Do I hate it?  My assessments would be made both on screen and via prints.  I also wanted to have an ability to understand the differences which occur across lenses as well as the extent to which developers contributed to notable differences in results.  This was all about building perspective and understanding in order to help me orient myself with respect to a new camera and lenses.  Nothing more.  That said, while I intend on sharing my thoughts around my findings, I also want to create an opportunity for others to build an appreciation for the differences.


Let’s first take a walk through the results across the different developers.

Summitar f2


Summitar f5.6


Summar f2


Summar f4.5


Elmar f3.5


Elmar f5.6

Next, let’s take a look across lenses.  The general flavor of the lenses with their respective apertures can be detected through the developer comparisons above as well.  What I did next was to select a number of key areas within the scene to focus in on and evaluate.  I do need to say at this point that with one exception Rodinal absolutely blew the others out of the water.  This was a BIG surprise to me.  It matters here because all of the remaining comparisons are from Rodinal results.

Elmar f5.6 with Rodinal

Nutcracker Head

I used the right eye of the nutcracker as my point of focus throughout.  This set of images provides a pretty good sense of sharpness at point of focus and fall-off from wide-open to mid aperture.


The chair is a good crisp linear object placed in the middle depth of the scene.  

Candle Stick

Sitting against the back wall the candlestick is at the extreme edge in the scene.  Its accompanying shadow adds another level of complexity for comparison.

Advent Calendar/Box

The Advent box, as with the candle, sits on the very extreme edge of the scene in terms of depth of field.  What’s useful here is the complex design/patterns and how they render.

Lamp Shade

I drilled further into the lamp shade in the upper left corner of the scene.  As with the candle and advent calendar it sits well back in terms of depth of field.  The stained glass brought forth substantial differences across lenses.  There is great similarity between the Summar and Summitar which can be seen both at f2 and f5.6/f4.5.  The Elmar stands out as altogether unique.  


All said and done, I think that the first result which just floored me was the performance of Rodinal.  This was a “shake the foundations” moment for me.  You have to understand that many years ago I worked my way through many developers finally settling on PMK Pyro which yielded, to me, results far superior on many levels than any other I’d tried.  Most importantly, it produced results which I connected with.  That was that and I began a very long and monogamous relationship with PMK Pyro.  It evolved from being steady and predictable to a playground within which I began to increasingly learn how to exploit it further.  Rodinal just became my drunken fling.  I have yet to use Rodinal on 120 film but plan on it.  I also want to push the developer comparisons through a variety of contexts, subjects and environments.  However, Rodinal has earned its place in my darkroom for sure.  

It is worth noting though that when you drill down into the image, the PMK results give an impression of greater sharpness in comparison to Rodinal and Ilfosol 3.  However, taking a couple steps back, this quickly vanishes and the Rodinal in many instances “looks” as sharp or even sharper in some instances.  PMK has a reputation for fine grain and sharp results.  This is one element of PMK that I love.  But, it’s worth noting, there’s way more to “sharpness” than technical sharpness and way more to an agreeable result in a photo than sharpness.

As for Ilfosol, I always have regarded it as a very predictable and safe bet when I just need a good solid negative.  That’s why I have it around.  Family photos and general photography if I’m just going to be scanning something in and shooting off digital images, Ilfosol has never let me down and always provides adequate latitude for post production adjustments in Lightroom or Photoshop.  

Leica 50mm f3.5 ELMAR

I love the Elmar.  I have to confess.  It’s sharp and snappy with soul when it needs to be and keeps its head on when you push things a bit such as shooting wide open.  No two ways about it, the Elmar will be the primary lens on my iii cameras.

Leica 50mm f2 SUMMAR

The Summar is without a doubt the most controversial of the lot.  With Rodinal I swear there is a magic glow that emanates from the well lit parts of the photo.  I can see this lens producing ethereal portraits and I cannot wait to give it a go.  I do not think that the Summar will be a lens that I often take alone when I’m out on an excursion.  I believe it’s limitations are inconsistent with my principal purpose for the Leica iii set up to begin with.  

Leica 50mm f2 SUMMITAR

I’m a bit ambivalent with the Summitar.  No two ways about it, its performance is much close to the Summar and the two of them stand apart from the Elmar.  Where the Summar lost it’s mind at f2 on the Advent Calendar, the Summitar did not.  That said, what it did do to my eyes was produce something altogether NEW in terms of texture.  You can see the Elmar at f3.5 still maintained a connection to what is truly there while the Summar left reality behind.  The Summitar however sort of landed midway but the textures you see are difficult to tie back into reality.  I can see where this would be good and where this could be bad.  With the candlestick, the Elmar at f5.6 is beautiful and the Summitar at f5.6 closely approaches it but the Elmar just renders in a compelling manner and the Summitar cannot touch it.

I need to now do this all over again with HP5.  That said, I need a little bit more time to recover emotionally from the train wreck which occurred last time I loaded it into my camera.  It’s a good thing I only purchased 25 rolls of 120 and 25 rolls of 35mm HP5 from B&H!  I need a monitor when i’m purchasing and bidding on line!   

POEM – Poor Wandering Ones


A haunting and self reflective poem in the historic narrative style.  Photograph is a double exposure using FOMA Retropan 320 with a Leica M3 and Summarit 50mm lens.   FP4+ negative developed with PMK Pyro.

Poor Wandering Ones

Part 1

It was, I believe, a mid September,

Alone and lost, 

this much I remember,

And it was a strange town 

into which I’d ventured,

During a long cross country drive.


Alone I’d felt as no time other,

The lodging was stark, 

I felt quite bothered,

I wandered out so as to discover

Just what it was 

that troubled me about the place.


Down a lonesome back street I made my way, 

I sensed a shift,

I sensed a sway,

The wind was stirring under overcast sky,

Into a field I was drawn, 

though I knew not why.


The iron gates, they creaked and groaned,

As I thrust them open

Set to roam,

About a small and distressed cemetery,

A lone blackbird called, 

traveler be wary!


Upon a grave, I stopped and pondered,

Looking deep, 

my mind did conjure,

Visions dark and steeped in wonder,

Taking pause, 

I bristled at this place.


Though nothing ever nearly touched me,

Yet in my thoughts, 

visions came clearly,

These visions to this day disturb me,

Once seen, 

there is is no turning away.


A ghostly phantom swirled before me,

And the ground, 

it trembled underneath me,

The phantom loomed with a laugh like thunder,

I was set to flee,

  I could not turn away.


With eyes of ash and a horrid face,

He danced about, 

I in his gaze,

Upon a gravestone he leapt and perched,

Mired was I

In deep black mirth


Frozen I stood in disposition,

I had no recourse

From flames of derision.

He spoke with severe and lyrical voice 

And the foul heat of his breath 

Ushered forth this tale


Part 2.  The Phantom’s Tale

In and between all times and days, 

The myth of man resides,

Through dusk and dawn it makes its way, 

And on a black horse it rides.


Amidst the listless lost and longing souls, 

The poor wandering ones, it strides,

Who, cast adrift across time eternal, 

Are ever seekers in lives they despise.


They are ghost horsemen crossing desert plains, 

Pale horsemen and mounts alike,

Hollow warriors charting windswept paths, 

Indeed their compass lies.


It is an ancient quest, at an anxious gate, 

Relentless the toils do seem,

They ride to ride on, 

They wander within a dream.


With each and every drip of time, 

Pale pallor dusts their souls,

It dusts the face and thinning hair, 

It eviscerates their whole.


These wretched beings ride on and on, 

Through a world they cannot conceive,

Each step takes them further from themselves, 

You see they’ve been deceived.


Cool winds they sweep, crisscross they flex, 

They groom and graze as they fly,

Under desert night skies purple and ink blue, 

They howl, they sigh, they cry.


Soaring up, into the cloudless night, 

Then screaming back down to earth,

They seek out these weary travelers, 

Bounding for whatever they’re worth.


Till all at once in collapse they find, 

The sun, the moon, the stars have lied,

Crying nothing that is, ever was, 

And that was, is now gone!


How hollow rings the emptiness, 

Which cradles the empty life no less,

How heartache dances merrily, 

How the lonely soul does shiver and sigh.


Now, I saw all of this there before me,

A wretched soul, 

in despair and tormented,

A rider roiled in dark confusion,

A face cast upwards, 

struggling to pray.


But the winds they screamed and tore him about,

He was left no choice 

But to try and shout,

His pleading eyes and arms outstretched,

He stumbled, 

and collapsed, 

to the desert floor.


And though he spoke not once, but twice,

And Seemed, with grimace, 

to attempt it thrice,

I could not tell whether from soul or vice,

His words did rise, 

his true meaning hides.


I recoiled and turned from fear in watching,

That ghastly phantom, 

laughing, laughing,

Into the night swirled he with speed,

Leaving me with darkness, 

in a hallowed scene.


Part 3.  

Back to my room, I rushed quite bothered.

Scrambling around for what? 

I had no purpose.

A cold sweat across my body had formed.

I drew the curtains. 

I locked the door.


As I stood there, a single lamp burning,

Wrenching hands,

spirit churning,

Memories of that phantom chilled me,

I could see him clearly, 

ever so clearly.


Was this simply madness raging?

Could all of this my mind be staging?

Helpless soul, 

debased, deranging,

I could not protest, 

I could not decide.


Round in circles most sincerely,

Raced my mind, 

my thoughts unclearly,

Out of body was I delivered?

It seemed not so, 

I sighed.


So in a state of merely seeming, 

Nearly there

But not quite dreaming

Silence slicing, solitude screaming

Fixed to flee,

Fixed to fly.


Then I saw a portrait of another,

Cast adrift, 

amongst no other,

Sadly, hanging on a chalky white wall,

Dusty and alone, 

save my shadow beside it.


As I approached, the face grew grimmer,

With each step, 

my heart grew dimmer,

I knew this work, 

it made me shiver,

Twas me, myself, and I.


And in it, I could find no meaning,

Nothing suggested, 

nothing leaning,

Towards anything which might imply,

A life well lived. 

My reflection sighed.


It is an ancient quest at an anxious gate, 

relentless the toils do seem,

Ride to ride on, wandering within a dream .