A Coffee with… Dirk Essl

Hi Caffenol-Lovers,

There is a new series coming up on caffenol.org, called “A Coffee with…” Where you play the main part.

It is an interview type of series, where I will be asking some questions about you, your gear and other stuff.

I have announced it already on the caffenol facebook group and got quite some feedback already. I think it is a great way to get to know other photographers and read about other’s techniques and ideas. I will also use it to produce a database where to buy ingredients for successful caffenol development, as this varies from country to country. So you can give something back to the community. You can include your work, pictures of your gear, pictures of yourself, pictures of your darkroom or pictures of your favourite coffee cup. Everybody is keen on learning something about other caffenol-addicts. And hey, everyone is invited to have a coffee with me.

If you want to be part of this, just send me an email to dirk@caffenol.org, message me on facebook, DM me on twitter or use the contact form

To get the ball rolling, I will have a coffe with myself. Here we go.

A Coffee with Dirk Essl

Caffenol: Please introduce yourself.

Dirk: Hi, my name is Dirk Essl and I’m an IT professional working in an international organisation with a passion for photography and especially caffenol. Together with my wonderful family I have settled in Munich, Germany.

Caffenol: Anything else you want to add about you as a person?

Dirk: I never considered myself as an artist and I find it a bit strange to have an interview with myself, but hey, do I get two cups of coffee now?

Caffenol: What do like about photography in general?

Dirk: I really like the process of taking pictures. Sometimes I shoot the whole day and don’t even look at the pictures I have shot when I get home. For me this really helps disconnecting from the shots and to see them again in a new perspective when I look at them later. This way I enjoy my photography twice. I also like that there no really failures to make. As long as I see something like a picture I am usually quite happy.

Caffenol: How did you get into caffenol?

Dirk: A Colleague of mine started to develop film at home and I found this to be interesting. I developed film in school and it was a great time and a good experience to see a picture appearing in the tray. I eventually found out that it is possible to develop film in coffee and washing soda and so I decided to try it out and write about it.

Caffenol: What kind of gear do you use? (You can include a picture of your gear if you like) Do you have digital stuff as well?

Dirk: I have quite a collection of analog and digital cameras, and try to shoot all of them. I have a Zorki 4K and fell in love with rangefinders since. I shoot a lot with a Pentax MZ-5 because it is lightweight and I can use all of my Pentax and M42 Lenses with it. Also quite nice is that the shutterspeed display is on the right side of the viewfinder, which helps me a lot as I wear glasses and am a left eye shooter. I have several 35mm compacts (Love my Olympus [mju:]-1) and currently a Leica M7 with a Voigtlaender 35/1.4 SC. The Leica and me are not friends, yet as I am more used to a M6 which I think is a wonderful camera and has more soul than a M7. On digital I have settled to MicroFourThirds. Below you can see two shots of the main gear I use and a part of my camera collection.

Caffenol: Which is your favorite camera/lens combination at the moment? Why?

Dirk: This is a hard question, as I love all the gear, I have. On film this should be the M7, but in reality it is the MZ-5 with a SMC 50/1.7. It is fast, silent and doesn’t scream ‘Photographer’. In fact I like it because it looks cheap with it’s plastic silver body. Digitally I never leave the house without the OM-D and the Panasonic 20mm.

Caffenol: Which caffenol recipe do you use? Why?

Dirk: I mostly use my own recipe, Delta-STD. It is a combination of some recipes I found when I started with caffenol. It actually has no scientific reason why I have these amounts of ingredients. I just tried a few things with this recipe and it worked with all the films, I’ve shot at that time. There are of course others recipes that work, and Reinholds recipes stand out here, as they are the so called ‘standard’ for caffenol development nowadays. I think all of them have their right of existence and I encourage everyone to try a few out to see what works best for you.

Caffenol: Where do you buy your ingredients for caffenol?

Dirk: I buy Granaroma Kaffee kraeftig at Lidl, Holsten Waschsoda and Vitamin C Powder at Rossmann.

Caffenol: Among the gadgets that you own, is there something that you wish you hadn’t bought? Why?

Dirk: A Polaroid camera. As I started collecting Polaroid cameras since.

Caffenol: Do you shoot Auto-Mode, A-Mode, S-Mode, P-Mode, M-Mode? Autofocus or manual?

Dirk: I mostly shoot in Aperture priority, when I need to use a flash, I switch to manual. If there is autofocus, I use it.

Caffenol: How do you scan your Pictures? What kind of tools do you use for post processing? Explain your workflow. If you have a Darkroom, you can talk about it, post a picture of it.

Dirk: Most of the negatives just get scanned on my Plustek 7200i using Vuescan. I find Silverfast just unusable UI-wise. I scan to tif in color, 3600dpi which is enough for showing the pictures on the web. I then import the scans into Lightroom, load the pictures into Photoshop and do curve adjustments. If I like the color tint and it works in the picture, I keep it. Otherwise I convert to B&W. I then cut away the scanned border and crop to 3×2. I add Camera, Lens and all Informations to the files using my LensTagger plugin and then export the pictures as jpg, reimport them to Lightroom and throw away the tif files. I can always rescan if I need to do adjustments, but I consider the jpg to be my digital print.
I have a small darkroom in my cellar which is built out of roof batten and pond foil and barely  fits all my equipment. My enlarger is a Leitz V35 with the matched 40mm lens. You can have a look into my darkroom in the Video I have done about developing prints in Red Wine.

Caffenol: How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?

Dirk: I always try to frame my subject right in the viewfinder, so I don’t need to crop afterwards. I like street photography and look a lot at street photographs. I like symmetry and try to find symmetry in everything. I think looking at other, good pictures is a good way to learn and to find your own style. Also I sometimes try to force myself to take only landscape orientated pictures, as most of time I shoot portrait.

Caffenol: Among your works, which one is your favorite? Why?

Dirk: Wow. Tough one. But I think it is this one:

It has a lot of things, I like in pictures: Dark corners, that are not applied in post, symmetry, lines. It was a complete snaphsot, as I shot it while I was waiting for someone in a hallway.

Caffenol: Any other shots you want to show?

Dirk: Sure! That way you can see my chaotic style, that doesn’t concentrate on anything. I shot everything, that looks appealing to me.

Caffenol: Whose work has influenced you most?

Dirk: Of course, I like a lot of pictures from the Legends like Henry Cartier Bresson, William Eggleston and Garry Winogrand and I think a lot can be learned from these pictures, as they are beautifully composed and often have just the right timing. But I must say that I prefer photographers from the presence, as to me it has influence, what is on the picture. To me a photograph from the 60ies will always be something unique that mostly I will not be able  to replicate as the whole world has changed and just looks different now. So works that have an influence on me are (in no particular order) from: JT WhiteMike LernerGrant Hamilton. I like Charlie Kirk and Eric Kim. I adore photographs from a photographer called Ed, that doesn’t have a website.

Caffenol: What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?

Dirk: Most of the time the camera/lens really doen’t matter.

Caffenol: Where can we find your work? (Flickr, tumblr, personal website, facebook, etc…)

Dirk: Don’t be silly. This is my website here. But I have another one at www.essl.de and flickr and 500px