Today we are in Grenoble, France to share some Espressos (You get an Espresso if you order “un café”) with a professional programmer. Read on, what Urban has to say about the analog world.
Caffenol: Hi Urban, I hope you had a lovely Christmas and lots of presents. Can you please introduce yourself.
Urban: My name is Urban Hafner. I’m a web developer from Germany. I currently live in France with my lovely wife and our two year old daughter.
Caffenol: Anything else you want to add about you as a person?
Urban: I not only develop my film in coffee, but I’m also addicted to it. I have at least 3 espressos each day.
Caffenol: What do like about photography in general?
Urban: Photography is what let’s me relax after a day of work and it’s something that gets me out of the house. Especially analog photography as it’s hands on as most of my cameras are quite old and there’s a physical object (the film) involved. As a programmer I sit in front of the computer all day manipulating bits. So for me it’s nice to get away from the computer and do something in the real world. Or so I tell myself … I still sit in front of the computer for scanning my images, writing this interview, and looking at other peoples work.
Caffenol: How did you get into caffenol?
Urban: When Reinhold G. (the other Mr Caffenol) started experimenting with Caffenol we were both members of the same German analog photography forum. This way I could follow his progress from day one. If found it quite intriguing that you could create your own state of the art developer out of household ingredients and decided to give it a try.
Caffenol: What kind of gear do you use?
Urban: I have a problem … I have too many cameras 35mm, 127, 120, SLRs, TLRs, point and shoots, toy cameras, pinhole cameras, and rangefinders. My favourites are my TLRs and my folding cameras (both in 35mm and 120). The only digital camera in our house is my wife’s Nikon D40. Have a look at this flickr set for images of a small part of my gear.
Caffenol: Which is your favorite camera/lens combination at the moment? Why?
Urban: Right now my favourite camera is a Coronet Commander that was give to me by Leon Taylor. It’s a plastic camera made some time in the 60s or 70s in England. It was meant to produce 16 images on a roll of film, but the film gate can be cut away to produce bigger negatives. As the lens doesn’t cover the bigger negative it creates a nice vignetting that goes very well along with the crappy plastic lens. I currently use this camera to shoot a series on small shops here in Grenoble and I’m planning to continue with it when I move back to Germany next year.
Caffenol: Which caffenol recipe do you use? Why?
Urban: I generally use Reinhold’s recipes as I have a scientific mindset and don’t like measuring things in tablespoons. I started out with Caffenol-C-M but I’ve now switched to Caffenol-C-L as I’m lazy and don’t want to spend 10 minutes agitating a development tank.
Caffenol: Where do you buy your ingredients for caffenol?
Urban: I buy the coffee from the supermarket and the vitamin c from the pharmacy. I wasn’t able to find water free washing soda here in France so I just bought 2kg from the German Amazon Store. My potassium bromide came from eBay. I bought 100g a while ago and I expect it will last quite a while.
Caffenol: Among the gadgets that you own, is there something that you wish you hadn’t bought? Why?
Urban: There are many cameras that I wish I’d never bought. That’s the problem with analog gear, most of it is just so cheap and you don’t think twice and just buy it. For me that’s a problem as I’ve noticed that I take the best shots with the cameras that I’ve had the longest and therefore know the best. With too many cameras you obviously don’t get to shoot with each of them very often and never get the most out of them. That’s why I’ve sold quite a cameras this year. There are still too many left however.
Caffenol: Do you shoot Auto-Mode, A-Mode, S-Mode, P-Mode, M-Mode? Autofocus or manual?
Urban: That depends entirely on the situation and the camera. When I take pictures of my two year old daughter I either use my autofocus SLR in aperture priority mode or my autofocus point and shoot. All the other cameras I own are either manual focus or fixed focus and contain no electronics so I have to shoot in manual mode. Depending on the situation I either use my Gossen Polysix hand-held meter, Andrew Lawn’s exposure calculator, or just the sunny 16 rule.
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.
Urban: I use a Canon Canoscan 8800f in combination with Vuescan to scan my negatives. I then import them into Apple Aperture, crop them, set the white balance, adjust the levels and remove dust if necessary.
Caffenol: How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
Urban: I don’t really. At least not consciously. After all this is a hobby for me and shouldn’t turn into work … But subconsciously I’m sure I get influenced by my favourite photographers.
Caffenol: Among your works, which one is your favorite? Why?
That is a hard question. Right now I guess I would say it is one of my shots with the Coronet Commander. The vignetting and the blurry corners worked beautifully on this subject.
Caffenol: Any other shots you want to show?
Caffenol: Whose work has influenced you most?
Urban: There is no one person that influenced me. I look at so many images each day on Flickr and various photo blogs that it becomes quite a blur at times.
Caffenol: What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
Urban: That was so long ago (at least 15 years) that I really can’t remember. What I do remember though from going back to analog photography is that slowing down is a good thing! I immediately noticed how my pictures got better as I was forced to take more time focusing with my manual focus SLR.
Caffenol: Where can we find your work?
Urban: Just go to my website. Links to my Flickr account, Facebook page, Google+, and Twitter accounts are listed in the sidebar.
Caffenol: Thank you very much for this very interesting Interview! I wish you all the best in France and look forward meeting you next year.
Urban: Thanks for the interview and see you some time next year for a real coffee in Munich!