ryan stufflebam

a place for things

Grand Canyon – B/W

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I’ve logged a good few miles for work over the last 6 months shooting for a documentary. We’re going to some really awesome locations, too, so not taking a personal camera was NOT an option. All my medium format cameras were way too big to throw into the already over-full video camera bag, so I thought it would be a good time to see if I still enjoyed shooting 35mm.

I had gotten my Canon AE-1 repaired not too long ago to take on the Roan Highland backpacking trip, so that was the weapon of choice. The sound guy, who is also an Assistant Director, was pretty excited to see someone still shooting film. He’s shot more rolls than he could count back when he was learning how to do more than just location sound. Our camera guy was not as enthusiastic. I think I started to realize how much of an anomaly I am working in a digital video industry.

But we flew in to Las Vegas and drove all the way around the Grand Canyon with our scientist, stopping at various locations to interview him. All in all, a successful 5-day 900 mile road trip. First roll was b/w. Color to follow.


We stopped often so Steve, the scientist, could teach us something. Above, he is explaining the formation of the Red Wall Limestone at a random road cut. Evidently these are great places to go rock and fossil hunting, if not the safest place…


Most of our driving was along state routes, but we did a number of off-road trips. We were in minivans. Zero clearance minivans. But we never got stuck, though I’d be lying if I said anxiety wasn’t an issue that whole time.


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March 9, 2016 at 9:48 pm

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Mystery negatives…

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So I found a mystery roll of 220 in my film bag a couple weeks ago after we went backpacking. I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I had shot in color – black and white has been my go to for the last few months at least since I can develop it at home. So i dropped it by Filmbox and they ran it through in a couple days.


Lo’ and behold, the only color roll I ran through the Fuji 690 on the yard sale last August. Not sure how I lost track of it.



I think she is taking a picture of a purse she just bought? Context clues…









This was at the Mennonite community we stop at every year. They don’t like having their photos taken, but no one seemed to mind about the horse. 



I’m thinking of selling the camera, though. Not much of what I shoot warrants such a huge piece of film. 645 is probably more reasonable (and manageable for hiking/backpacking). A little less… conspicuous. A little less… spendy.

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June 24, 2015 at 9:02 pm

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Mordancage for Tenebrae

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So back in February, one of the elders at my church asked if I’d be interested in contributing to our Tenebrae service for holy week this year. “Sure, what are you looking for?” The darker and more abstract the better. A dark and abstract photo…

So after brainstorming with some friends, Leah came up with the idea of trying out the mordancage process, and I have to say it was a stroke of genius on her part. The way the process works, the darker the image, the more distressed it ends up. The long and short of it is this – you drop the print in an acid bath and the blacks start to dissolve, but since there’s less silver in the whites, they don’t dissolve. But the cool part is that the dissolving emulsion lifts from the paper and forms curtains, sheets, parachutes that adhere back the paper when it dries. Super chaotic stuff. Perfect for Tenebrae (Latin for shadows or darkness).

Tenebrae Tryptic web

The idea was to try it out on a few different prints to see which worked the best, but it ended up turning into a tryptic. Which was just a shame, really.

After holding off judgment for a couple months, I feel pretty good about them. But my personality is way too detail oriented to easily accommodate the process into my repertoire. I’ll probably mess with it again in the future, but it was incredibly frustrating to work with in the moment. Expectations adjusted…

tenebrae 1_small web

tenebrae 2_small web

tenebrae 3_small web

My friend Chris modeled for the photos.

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June 13, 2015 at 4:22 pm

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Old Negs, p3

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These are a couple negatives that I was probably most excited to print once the darkroom was finished. On my monitor, the photos aren’t quite as… magical? I guess that’s part of the reason I built a darkroom in the first place. Photography is a printed medium.


But part of the fun of these negatives is that they were taken with his (my father-in-law’s) old 4×5 speed graphic – his old crime scene camera. He gave it to me after I graduated, but it actually wasn’t in his possession shortly before that. He had to track it down and clean it up. One of his old partners’ kids had it sitting in a closet or something. It still works pretty well.

It was pretty cold when I took these. But he sat and just smiled and talked to me while I fumbled around with the dark slides and shutter release. I really just wanted to test out the large format for portraits, so we were both pretty relaxed the whole time. And I usually don’t feel at ease when doing portraits, really. I need to practice more. I keep saying that. It’s just that rocks and trees and such don’t have many expectations of you.


When I’m showing prints to friends, these two photos are the ones they usually hang on the longest. I like to think it’s because it’s probably the first time he’s been in front of that particular lens.

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November 13, 2014 at 10:39 pm

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the UV box

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Once upon a time, I decided alternative processes were pretty cool, but the desire to produce inevitably led me to spend ridiculous amounts of time at a friend’s house. See, he had the UV light source. I realize I could use the sun, but it’s so unpredictable. And while I’m learning to love the quirks and inconsistencies of the process, I don’t feel the need to emphasize the struggle – particularly when it costs (at the time for me) a good bit of money to make each image. So James and Emily gladly played host while I took up residence in their dining room and laundry room for about a month.

But now I have a house. Now I have a darkroom! Now I need a UV exposure unit. See the logic? And while I really enjoyed James’ company whilst printing (we always have good conversations about art and art’s purpose…), I would rather be having similar conversations with my wife – with whom I did not converse for practically that entire month because my phone just wouldn’t work in their house. Leah graciously put up with my absence, but we’d rather not do that again. So I built a sun in a box!


I know it doesn’t look like much, but that six-inch sub fueled most of the build that first day. And I don’t have any other pictures of the first few days. No idea why. Fast forward a week or so:


See that? That’s a complete electrical circuit including 4 ballasts, 12 bulbs, 2 fans and a switch. And nothing burned or exploded. This was a great moment. Leah painted the inside of the bottom cavity silver sometime during those few build days we fast forwarded though. I figure the more reflective the interior, the more even the already really even light should be. If it’s worth doing…


Here’s a better photo of the wiring. Most people put their ballasts on a piece of metal flashing to ground them – supposedly it helps with flickering. If it’s just a ground, I figure a ground wire would work just as well. So far, it has, but I’ll keep an eye on it to make sure. Shortcuts can be fatal, but I just really didn’t want to drill through a piece of metal umpteen times. You can see I also stained the exterior gray. My countertop on the dry side is the same stain. And plus I want my equipment to look good. Since I never really built a whole lot growing up, I’m using any excuse I can to hone some practical skills. AND, if it looks good, that’s one more reason to not build it again.

UV box-3

UV box-4

So this is the final product. A bunch of UV light in a pizza oven with a sliding vacuum drawer. My apologies for the crappy photos, by the way. I’m using either my camera phone or a practically defunct digital camera. The autofocus is just crap.

But, the vacuum part is pretty cool because it ensures that the negative and paper are in firm contact for the sharpest image possible. It’s also cool because there’s no actual seal or clamps or anything. The weight of the glass just seals against the edge of the neoprene rubber sheet laid in the bottom of the drawer. The edge is raised by some foam, but other than that, no seal. But it works. Pretty happy with that. I should be able to print a 13″ x 19″ negative without any problems so long as the paper isn’t too large. We’ll see how that goes.

Eventually it will live under the counter with a shelf underneath. But we’re not there yet. Probably after the holidays I’ll get around to it. But I just started test printing with it this past week. It definitely works, but since the light source is a bank of fluorescent tubes, the test prints are a bit different from my old prints done on a halogen (?) light source. So I’ll have to calibrate how I print the negatives again, but it should be much easier than last time. I don’t have to drive across town with every new calibration palette. I just have to walk downstairs. It’s awesome.

That said, the images are still pretty good. There’s just some muddling in the mid-tones. Once my ink refills arrive, I’ll be back to the races. In the meantime, here are the test prints – one old, one new.

UV box-2

UV box-1


You can see the mix up that starts to happen in Leah’s skin tones. It’ll get straightened out eventually…

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November 9, 2014 at 10:55 pm

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Stone Door in b&w

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As promised, here are the b&w prints from Stone Door. Not as many interesting shots from this roll, unfortunately. But both of these were pretty fun to print. Particularly the first one – the front wall was not nearly as differentiated in the negative as it is here. You always hope a contrast filter will fix your problems, but the issue wasn’t contrast so much as separation. So I ended up using a combination of filters for the different sections, then dodge and burn on top of that. I made a good few prints before I got it to where I wanted. Finally holding that mental image in my hands – that’s a good feeling.



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October 14, 2014 at 9:24 pm

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Stone Door in color

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I think it was last winter, but it was unseasonably pleasant that weekend.



The sheer amount of vertical space never gets old. I realize that this is just in a TN valley. But you’ve got cliffs and stairs and climbing paths and streams that flow rather than wind around. Or flood. Rocks move here – because of water and wind. There aren’t even any rocks to speak of where I grew up, let alone hills for them to collect at the bottom of. I couldn’t really wrap my head around it. I think we sat atop the Door for half an hour in the morning, then 45 minutes at the end of the day.




Leah climbed around a good bit. Went out to all the outcroppings. I mostly sat. My knees were shot by the end of the day. Not that I would venture out to the edge like her, anyway. I actually fought with her on our honeymoon after she climbed down onto a jutted rock over some incredibly turbulent surf. I still don’t like it. But I just sweat it out. Have a private coronary, no harm done.



There are some b&w prints from this trip somewhere, too. I’ll get around to finding those sooner or later.

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October 6, 2014 at 9:58 pm

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