There Is No Cat

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Friday, May 13, 2022

Polaroid Week Spring 2022

For Polaroid Week last month, I did something different. My photos had a theme, and it was Ukraine. I wrote long captions tying the photos I posted to something about Ukraine and closed with a link, usually to a charity that helps Ukraine at this time.

In the spirit of owning your own content, I figured I should post it all here as well.

Flag

When I look at my ancestry, I’m a lot of things, but of the things I am, the thing I am the most is Ukrainian. My grandmother was born there. My grandfather’s father was ethnically Ukrainian from an area that’s now Poland. We were very close to that side of the family when I was growing up.

My photography has felt trivial lately. I have been obsessed with the war. So when it came time for Polaroid Week, I wanted to do something different. First I tried shooting things that were blue and yellow (the colors of Ukraine’s flag). Some cookies I bought. The tryzub sticker on my car. Old boxes of Polaroid film (the Paul Giambarba boxes of 669 had a yellow-ish wrapper). Those photos didn’t work.

Then I remembered that Polaroid had yellow film. And blue film.

If you go to the Polaroid site, they’re out of the Yellow 600 film. But it was made recently enough that places like B&H still had some. So I got some. The integral Blue 600 film hasn’t been made in a few years. But in my stash, I still had one pack of Polaroid 100 Blue pack film.

Abstract representation of Ukrainian flag made up from solid colors of blue and yellow, made up of two frames of Polaroid film

This is what I did with one underexposed shot from that pack of Blue that I shot with my Polaroid 195 Land Camera. I shot a pure white background with my SLR 680 and paired it with the nearly solid shot of Blue, and you get a Ukrainian flag from that.

Zbruch Idol

The Zbruch River formed the boundary between the Russian Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire up to the end of World War I. The river changed course slightly at one point, and in the place where the river had departed, in 1848 they found a statue that is now known as the Zbruch Idol. This happened just outside of Личківці (Lychkivtsi), a small village in Ternopil oblast that just happens to be where my grandmother was born. Last year, I bought this wooden carving that replicates the idol, the original of which is at a museum in Rzeszow, Poland.

Two photos collaged together to form a single photo of an ancient pagan god rendered in wood

The most commonly held theory is that the idol represents Sviatovid, a pre-Christian pagan Slavic god of abundance and war. Ukraine has an abundance of good land and wheat, and now they have war, so it seemed appropriate to show this picture of him.

I had run out of Polaroid Blue by the time I took this (actually, I had one shot left, but it came out waaaay underexposed), so the top here is shot with One Instant Color film, which has a blue cast.

Ukraine needs help. Razom for Ukraine is a reputable charity that started when Ukrainian-Americans wanted to help Ukraine during the 2014 Revolution of Dignity. They send humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including medicine, hospital supplies, and communications equipment. Support Razom for Ukraine.

Missile #1

Ukraine needs missiles.

Russia is using missiles on Ukrainian cities. Last weekend, Odesa was hit with a missile attack that killed a 3 month old baby. Russia is trying to erase Ukraine from the world, and it is using missiles to do it. Russian missiles being used last weekend, which was Orthodox Easter, had the words “Christ is Risen ”written on them. Ukraine needs to fight back. They need missile defense systems. They also need missiles to attack the Orcs invading their country. It was a Ukrainian missile that took down the Moskva.

Two photos of a Nike missile collaged together; one shot with blue film, the other with yellow film

This is a Nike missile at Sandy Hook National Recreation Area. Sandy Hook and the surrounding area in Monmouth County, New Jersey, was home to many of these missiles. They are obsolete and have all been decommissioned.

With the shift from the north to the east, the geography of the battle has changed. The tactics that worked brilliantly in the Battle of Kyiv won’t work in the Battle of Donbas. Ukraine needs heavy weaponry; tanks, armored personnel carriers, missile defense systems, and missiles. Ukraine is starting to get some of what they need, but they need more. You can contact your representatives and ask them to support increased military aid to Ukraine. Also, the National Bank of Ukraine has set up a special account that you can send money to to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Missile #2

Russia has been at war with Ukraine for eight years. We just started paying attention two months ago.

Two photos of a Nike missile collaged together; one shot with blue film, the other with yellow film

Russia has been at war with the entire west for about that long as well. We still haven’t noticed. Their weapons are non-conventional. They’re bots on Twitter and hackers who phish political operatives. Дональд Трамп was a guided missile aimed directly at the fissures in US society. Brexit was a guided missile aimed directly at the fissures in UK society. Their purpose was to destroy NATO and the EU, and they’ve made big strides in that direction. It will take us decades to repair the damage caused by those missiles.

It’s time to return the favor.

I am a pacifist by and large, and a small d democrat. I don’t like weapons. But when a totalitarian fascist dictatorship attacks you, you have to fight back. When said dictatorship announces that its aim is to erase an entire nationality from the map, that’s genocide. There is no pacifist solution to genocide, no compromise position. “Never again” we said after the Holocaust. And after Cambodia. And after Rwanda. And after Darfur, Sudan. And after the Rohingya in Myanmar. Right now, the battlefield is in Ukraine, but this is the World’s war. Ukraine needs heavy weaponry; tanks, armored personnel carriers, missile defense systems, and missiles. Ukraine is starting to get some of what they need, but they need more. You can contact your representatives and ask them to support increased military aid to Ukraine. Also, the National Bank of Ukraine has set up a special account that you can send money to to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Cannon
Two photos of parts of a cannon on Sandy Hook collaged together, made up of blue and yellow Polaroid film

This cannon on Sandy Hook was once part of the defenses of Fort Hancock, the Coast Guard base at the northern tip of Sandy Hook. Fort Hancock was set up to defend New York Harbor. Like us, Ukraine has a coast to defend. Not with a weapon like this, though, the likes of which probably last saw Ukraine in the Crimean War.

Lighthouse

This is the lighthouse on Sandy Hook. Lighthouses are erected to protect sailors.

The lighthouse on Sandy Hook, the top shot on Polaroid 100 Blue, the bottom on Polaroid 600 Yellow

Similarly, Come Back Alive is a charity focused on protecting members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. They provide defensive equipment and training to members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to ensure that they can survive the assault by Russia. They also support medical assistance and rehabilitation for those soldiers wounded in war. You can support Come Back Alive.

Russian Warship Go Fuck Yourself

These are fishing boats, not warships. I couldn’t get close enough to the warships docked at nearby Earle Naval Weapons Station. So these will have to stand in for the Missile Cruiser Moskva that attacked Zmiinyi (Snake) Island. The defenders of Snake Island responded appropriately when asked to surrender.

Fishing boats in Belford Harbor. Two photos collaged together, top is blue, bottom is yellow, mirroring the Ukrainian flag

Ukraine famously followed up this suggestion with a cruise missile attack to ensure that the Russian Warship did indeed go fuck itself right to the bottom of the Black Sea.

You can buy a postage stamp commemorating the bravery of the guardians of Snake Island at the Ukrposhta philately site. Alternately, you can go to Volstamp’s English language site and spend way more (like, waaaay more) but actually understand the purchasing process.

Waves of Grain

Ukraine is the breadbasket of the world. Their soil is rich and dark. They grow wheat and export it widely. I think I saw that they grow something like 20% of the wheat in the world. The country is filled with scenes not a million miles away from this. The war is making this difficult and may result in hunger and famine in countries very distant from Ukraine.

Sea oats, tops shot on Polaroid 100 Blue, bottoms on Polaroid 600 Yellow, collaged together to form a single composition

World Central Kitchen travels to crisis zones and feeds the hungry. Chef Jose Andres uses his fame to draw attention to the needs of the needy. You may have seen a recent video by WCK’s CEO Nate Mook about their kitchen in Kharkiv getting hit by a Russian missile. That’s how close to the front lines they get. You can support the work of World Central Kitchen.

On the Beach 1 and 2

A pack of Polaroid pack film contains 10 shots. I had one pack of Polaroid 100 Blue. Polaroid Week lasts six days, two shots a day, for a total of 12 shots per person. I had a hole of one day/two shots. But I found an unused box of New55 Color in my stash. New55 Color had this thing where it reproduces blues well, but there’s a border around the edge of most shots that’s yellow. Blue and yellow....

A lone couple sits on the beach in their beach chairs, looking out at the ocean Two families on the beach. The one in the center has two tents. The couple to the left just has chairs

I shot these at Marineland in Florida with my Pacemaker Speed Graphic. Ukraine has a lengthy coastline on the Black Sea. Russia wants to control that coastline and make Ukraine a landlocked country, unable to export goods by sea without dealing with Russia. One of the ways they do that is with mines. There are mines floating freely in the Black Sea set loose by the Orcs. On land, retreating Orcs also set boobytraps on corpses of people they killed and on toys likely to be picked up by children. The Ukrainian Deminers Association cleans up these mines. You can support their efforts at that link.

Happy Warrior 1 and 2

Closing out Spring Polaroid week with a pair of matched M1900 6-inch guns from Battery Gunnison on Sandy Hook. Again, obsolete, but a reminder that Ukraine needs heavy weapons. They’re starting to get them, finally. At some point, a victorious Ukraine will be able to place their guns in a park as a monument too.

Cannon shot in two shots, blue and yellow, collaged together into a whole Cannon shot in two shots, blue and yellow, collaged together into a whole

Timothy Snyder is a professor of history at Yale. He writes popular history books about the history of Eastern Europe. I’ve read several. They’re very good.

In 2017, he wrote a short book called On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. He describes it as a pamphlet, kind of a throwback to the days of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. In it he suggests ways for everyday people to fight back against tyranny, things like “Don’t Obey in Advance”. Last week, he released an updated version of the book with 20 new lessons specifically about Ukraine. It’s only available in audiobook format. In it, he attempts to place the war in Ukraine into historical perspective. He makes the case that Putin’s case is based on a baptism from a thousand years ago and that there was significant divergence in the futures of Rus (Ukraine) and Muscovy (Russia). He posits several types of politics: the politics of time (nostalgia), the politics of inevitability (this is bound to happen), the politics of eternity (this is how things always were and will always be), the politics of catastrophe, and the politics of possibility. Russia is at war with Ukraine, but really Russia is at war with democracy. This war will decide the outlines of the 21st century; will this century be dominated by autocrats or democrats? There’s also a convincing case made that the war is the fallout of the failure of empires, the failure of the nation state, and that the EU represents a new alternative to empire that Russia finds threatening. It’s no coincidence that the 2014 invasion started right after the Revolution of Dignity where Ukrainians rose up to insist on their right to join the EU.

The 20 lessons about Ukraine take about nine hours to listen to. I found it really worthwhile. All proceeds from the sales of the book go to humanitarian aid for Ukraine. You can find more information about the audiobook, including several places to buy it.

Also, if you have access to the New York Times, Snyder has an article about a new word that came out of the war, a portmanteau of “Russian” and “fascist” that he goes into a very in-depth explanation of how it came to be. The word is rendered as “рашизм” in Ukrainian. I’ve seen it used in English spelled “rashist”, but Snyder makes the case that it should be transliterated “ruscist”. It’s a fascinating look at how a new word comes into being with interplay between three different languages. Worth reading if you can get past the firewall.

One other suggestion, if you’re interested in the history of Ukraine, Serhii Plokhy’s book The Gates of Europe is worth reading. It’s half the length of the standard histories by Orest Subtelny and Paul Robert Magocsi (and less than a quarter the price) but covers the same material, and it’s a good read. It will help you understand some of the things Snyder mentions, like the baptism a thousand years ago.

Thank you, everyone, for the kind comments on my series this week. If you liked what I did, after giving to whatever charities I linked to that you find appropriate, you might be interested in a zine I put out earlier this year. It’s all Polaroid, and specifically all Polaroid 100 Chocolate, about life on the Jersey Shore when all the tourists have gone home. The zine grew out of my posts for the autumn Polaroid Week last year. You can find information about the zine in another post here.

Posted at 1:15 PM
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Tuesday, March 1, 2022

KiwiSDR considered dangerous

I wrote an article for the NASWA Journal, published in the February 2022 issue in the Shortwave Center column, about why I turned off my KiwiSDRs. The KiwiSDR is a software defined receiver that has a web-based interface that you share as an act of altruism. They’re very handy, work very well, and they pose a danger to any network that they’re present on.

I wrote this article for an audience that has only basic understanding of the Internet, so if you know some of the things I explain, understand that much of the audience this was written for does not.

Why I Turned Off My KiwiSDRs (and why you may want to as well)

I have been using SDRs for more than a decade, so when the KiwiSDR came up on Kickstarter, I backed it. I’ve been a user since the beginning. I liked it so much I bought a second one a couple of years ago. And recently, I disconnected them, turned them off, and put them away. I think you may want to as well.

A few months ago, there was an online controversy with the radios when it came to light that the programmer had put a “back door” in the software that runs the KiwiSDR that allowed him to log in to any KiwiSDR on the Internet. I know that he did it in the interest of being able to provide service to his customers, but anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of security knows that back doors are a terrible idea and an invitation to hackers. The programmer closed the back door, but has suggested that he might re-open it at some point after things die down.

Compounding this horrible security faux-pas, the server software that allows the KiwiSDR to operate online runs as root. For those of you unfamiliar with what a root user on a UNIX-based computer is, basically, the root user is all powerful. It has maximum permissions. It can change anything on the computer. It can install any software. And running a server as root is frankly one of the most irresponsible things possible. The software that provides the web service on the KiwiSDR is called Mongoose. It is a library that a programmer can include in their program that allows their program to act as a web server. A quick perusal of the Github site for Mongoose (found at https://github.com/cesanta/mongoose ; Github is a site that hosts much of the open source software that programmers can incorporate into their own software) shows that it is not immune to security bugs. I found five bug reports from user cve-reporting; for those of you not conversant with computer security, CVE stands for Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures. It is a public database of security holes. Mongoose noted the issues that this user reported and fixed them quickly, so I don’t mean to suggest that the software has any open security issues. But that’s the problem; it may have open issues that haven’t been found and publicized yet. Or maybe projects that use it haven’t updated to the latest versions and still use old versions with security holes. This doesn’t happen because the programmers are bad, but it’s something to be aware of. And knowing that modern software development works like this is to realize that putting a KiwiSDR on the Internet with server software with potential unpublicized security holes running as the root user is a recipe for disaster.

So what could happen? A malicious visitor who found a security issue could send a request to the KiwiSDR that triggers that issue and winds up giving the visitor the ability to log in to the computer that hosts the KiwiSDR as root. Once they do that, your network is compromised. They can mount shared directories from your other computers and copy the files they find; financial, personal, whatever. They could set up a botnet client and use it to attack other computers. They could introduce a virus to the computers on your network, encrypt your disks and ask for ransom. Really, there’s no limit to the havoc they can wreak with root access to something you didn’t even think was a computer. I work as a professional web developer. If I ran a server on one of my client’s hosts as root, I would be drummed out of the business. You just don’t do this.

The creator of the KiwiSDR has (had?) a note on his site to say that he’s not interested in hearing about issues with running as root. I see this as a signal that he has no intention of fixing the issue. Given that, I have no intention of hosting this potentially dangerous server inside my network. You may wish to do the same.

Posted at 12:40 AM
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Saturday, January 29, 2022

Offseason Issue 1, a zine of Polaroid photographs

I made a zine.

It’s about life in resort areas once the tourists have gone home. It’s a project I have been working on for several years, and I am finally starting to publish it.

It’s called Offseason. Issue 1 is all Polaroid photos shot with a particular film, Polaroid 100 Chocolate. It was only available for a short time around 2008-9. It was the result of Polaroid deciding to not make peel-apart film any more. They made as much film as they could and stuck it in the fridge. And then with the leftover chemicals, they made Polaroid 100 Chocolate. Turns out if you use color chemistry on the black and white film and paper that Polaroid used, the dyes in the color chems stain the print brown. Hence, chocolate.

Cover of Offseason Issue 1, a zine by Ralph Brandi

There are photographs of the beach, and of amusement rides, and the boardwalk, but also the fishing harbors and the fort at the end of Sandy Hook.

Inside pages of Offseason Issue 1, a zine by Ralph Brandi

It’s 28 pages long and has 26 photographs in it. It costs US$8 postpaid in the US, and US$10 postpaid anywhere else. Offseason Issue 1 is available from my new story on Etsy. You should get it. It’s good.

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Friday, July 2, 2021

Developing old film

I have been getting deeper and deeper into the weeds with my photography. The most recent roll I shot was a roll of Eastman No. 10 film that expired in 1931, over 90 years ago. I found it on Etsy, which seems to have a plethora of dealers with really odd, fun films to shoot with.

The carousel building on the boardwalk in Asbury Park

Needless to say, a film this old required special treatment. First, I shot it at EI 0.3. You need a lot of light to expose film that’s that slow, so I used my post-war Contax IIIa with its 50mm Sonnar lens at f/1.5 for 1/25 of a second. Just barely fast enough to allow handheld shots, although most of what I got on this roll is kinda blurry.

Dino the dinosaur from the TV show The Flintstones

Developing it was interesting. The listing for the film suggested developing it cold. There’s not a lot of information out there about developing film cold. One of the only pages I found was by this crazy Russian in Miami, Emir Shabashvili, from 2010 describing his process for developing old film. There’s also a little more detail on this page about a specific roll from a specific camera.

Water park on the boardwalk in Asbury Park with whimsical features

I used roughly the same process he outlines. I mixed up 500 ml of developer, 50 ml of HC-110 syrup to 450 ml of water, then put that and my usual TF-4 fixer in the refrigerator overnight, along with a gallon of water for rinsing. I pulled the chems out the next morning and developed a test strip as described in Emir’s posts, leaving it in the dev chemistry for varying amounts of time to see what the appropriate amount of time would be. I came up with 9 minutes. So I developed the film in this non-standard dilution of HC-110 for 9 minutes with the developer at 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius), full agitation for the first minute, four agitations every minute thereafter, just like most other films I develop. I don’t think the specific temperature makes much difference once you get this low, but the chemicals should be pretty close to each other. Over the 9 minutes, the fixer warmed up to about 45 degrees F, and I assume the developer and wash did as well, so I just let them. After dumping out the developer, I stopped the development with water (I don’t typically use stop bath) and then poured in the TF-4 fixer. Same routine, full agitation for the first minute, four agitations every minute thereafter for 15 minutes. Then I washed with the Ilford method of 5, 10, and 20 agitations respectively. One nice thing about using TF-4 as my fixer is that it’s alkaline, not acid, and therefore you don’t have to wash it as long as you do with acid fixers.

The Telephone Building at 507 Banks in Asbury Park

With all of this, I wound up, based on the histograms from when I scanned the film, with perfect exposures. One reason to develop at a cold temperature is to reduce the amount of fog present on the negatives, and I have to say, it worked a charm. There is basically no fog on this 90 year old film, which is amazing. I got better, more widely spread histograms than I do from some new rolls of film I shoot.

Barrio Costero sign in Asbury Park

I got a few other older rolls of film from this seller on Etsy that suggest developing cold like this, but nothing this old. I’m really happy with how this worked out.

Patriotic banner at Moby’s in Highlands

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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Century Studio No. 5 shots

I don’t know why I clicked on an old friend’s link on my blogroll tonight, but I did, and I noticed that she’s blogging! Don’t see her much on Twitter these days, but yay blogging! So here’s a blog post.

My photography is going deeper and deeper into the weeds. On a visit to see my mom over Thanksgiving, I bought a camera. It’s roughly 116 years old. Near as I can figure, made in 1902, dated by the shutter for the lens, which I think is probably original. The lens and shutter are identical to one shown in the Rochester Optical Company catalog for 1902 on page 71.

So anyway, I bought it. It’s a 5 × 7 camera, so a new format for me, one I'm not set up to develop film for yet. The shutter kinda works, although much slower than its marked times. No matter, I've been shooting with very slow material, specifically Ilford Harman Direct Positive Paper, ISO 2, and J. Lane 5 × 7 dry plates, also ISO 2, both of which I develop in trays under safelights. So I just use the T setting on the shutter and keep it open for a week or two. The dry plates are actually historically appropriate for the camera; that would largely be what whoever bought it in 1902 was using.

dry plate shot of a Zenith radio dry plate shot of a Polaroid SX-70 camera

I found some more 5 × 7 film holders this weekend, and I have a daylight tank winging its way to me from China, so hopefully I’ll be putting some actual film through the camera soon. Although I have to say, I love the dry plates and the way they look.

Oh, and thanks, E, for the inspiration to actually compose a blog post.

Posted at 3:54 AM
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Thursday, July 28, 2016

52@52 Week 52

With this shot, I (successfully) complete my 52 @ 52 project, having shot, developed, scanned, and posted a shot from a unit of film shot in a given week on every Thursday for the past year. I didn’t miss a single week, and in fact posted on Thursday every single week, even when I was out of town or the Internet wasn’t working at my house.

Boats in Harbor

This shot was made with the Pentax 67 I described in last week’s post, this time with the 80mm f/2.8 lens, again on Ilford Pan F Plus developed in Rodinal 1:50 for 11 minutes. I shot this on Sunday when Laura and I went out for breakfast in Avon-by-the-sea, a nearby shore town. I’m pretty happy with this one. I like the composition, and the exposure seems good to me. I’ll be sending the camera off for repairs and a CLA soon so I can make full use of it.

I’m glad to have done this. I’m also glad to be finished.

C’est fini.

Posted at 12:25 AM
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Thursday, July 21, 2016

52@52 Week 51

One of my colleagues in San Francisco is a talented photographer who does professional work, Hamish Reid. I had worked with him on a previous project out of our office in New York, and we had discussed our shared interest in photography back then. We picked up that conversation when I was in San Francisco. He used to shoot medium and large format film, but has moved to digital and doesn’t use his film cameras any more. Knowing that I shoot almost exclusively film, he offered to give me one of his cameras, a Pentax 67 medium format camera, along with three lenses (55mm f/4, 80mm f/2.8, and 165mm f/2.8). I knew there was a reason I left empty room in my suitcase for this trip (and here I thought it was for music or beer...).

Boats in Harbor

The camera needs a bit of work, as the speed selection dial has come off, but I figured out how to figure out what speed the shutter was set to, set it to 1/125 of a second, and went hunting for bear. I put a roll of Ilford Pan F Plus in the camera and visited the harbors on Raritan Bay near my house. I was stunned by the quality and sharpness of the pictures when I developed them. Holy cow, this camera is amazeballs. Sweet lenses. I wanted to know if it was worth sending off to be fixed and for a CLA. “Hell yes!” is the answer I came up with.

This photo was shot with the 55mm lens set to f/8 on the aforementioned Pan F Plus, and developed in my standard, Rodinal 1:50 for 11 minutes. I’m really happy with how this one turned out. There were a couple of other keepers on the 10 image roll I shot as well.

Thanks, Hamish.

Posted at 6:07 AM
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Thursday, July 14, 2016

52@52 Week 50

As I noted last week, I was in San Francisco on a business trip. I brought a few cameras with me, including my Wanderlust Travelwide.

The weather in San Francisco was not wonderful while I was there. It was 55 degrees and foggy most of the time. Thursday afternoon there were a couple of hours where the temperature got up to 63 and you could see blue sky, but I was working during those hours and couldn’t photograph anything at that time. I had arrived in the city on July 4th. There were fireworks on the bay right outside my hotel, but since it was foggy, any fireworks that went above a certain height were attenuated by the fog. I shot some color film, but I wasn’t happy with how any of that turned out. Black and white seemed much more suited for the city of fog.

Fishing (and surfing) at Fort Point in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge

I shot this at Fort Point in the Presidio National Monument, right at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday morning as I was heading to the airport to come home. It was so foggy you couldn’t see the bridge, which was what I was hoping to shoot. I’m pretty happy with this shot anyway. This was shot on Tri-X TXP-320, expired in 2008, with the usual Angulon lens, and developed in Rodinal 1:50 for 14 minutes.

Posted at 8:50 AM
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This site is copyright © 2002-2022, Ralph Brandi.

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"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

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