Tag Archives: 4×5
There were a few reasons why I moved from a 4×5 camera to an 8×10 one, but the main reason was simple – contact prints. I think contact prints are the most pure and fulfilling way to translate a photograph from your mind to the negative and then finally to the paper print. There’s no cropping, enlarging, or hiding anything. The frame of your ground glass, and the border of your negative, is exactly what you get in the print. You can dodge and burn, but you had better be quick, as your exposure times are normally between 3-10 seconds (unless you use special contact speed paper).
A darkroom can take up a lot of space, but almost everyone has a place where they can hang a bare light bulb three feet above a piece of paper. Edward Weston used this method and printed his 8×10 negatives as gorgeous contact prints.
Our tiny bathroom is perfect to make contact prints. It has no windows and is right off a darkish hallway. It’s very easy, even in the daytime, to achieve total darkness. To start contact printing, I purchased the following supplies from our local hardware store:
8×10 sheet of 1/4 inch thick glass (had the glass guy smooth the edges)
20×24 piece of plywood (to place over the bathroom sink)
8×10 Piece of thick black felt
15W light bulb (later replaced with 7W)
To complete what I needed to get started, a friend sent me a safe light that he didn’t use anymore. I used my iPhone voice recorder as a timer. I made a voice memo counting seconds of exposure and marking each step in the process in 30 second increments. For instance, 2 minutes in developer, 30-60 seconds in water (stop bath), and 1 minute in the fixer. The voice timer helps, because I can start the timer and turn the light off on my phone. Even the dim light from a phone can cause fogging.
After putting the piece of wood over the sink to provide a flat, hard surface. I placed the felt and sheet of glass on the wood. I secured the clamp light on our shower curtain rod so that the lightbulb would hover directly over the felt and glass. The light ended up being about 36″ above the glass. I laid out my trays (developer, water, and fixer) in the bathtub and plugged in my safe light.
That’s it as far as set up and preparation. You turn out the lights, turn on the safe light and then open your box of paper. You place the paper, shiny side up, on the felt (don’t forget to close up your box of paper!), put the negative, emulsion side down, on top of the paper, and put the sheet of glass over the negative/paper. Make sure they are lined up and then you are ready to expose your contact print.
For my first print, I guessed that I should do a five second exposure. I placed the exposed paper in the developer and within 30 seconds it was almost totally black. Hmmm, maybe 3 seconds next time? I exposed my second sheet for 3 seconds. It was much better, but still too dark. For the next exposure I only kept the light on for 1.5ish seconds. That was perfect. However, it’s difficult to replicate a 1.5ish second exposure with my primitive materials. So, back to the hardware store I went for a lower wattage bulb. I snagged a 7W bulb and went back to work. The 7 watts gave me a perfect exposure at 5 seconds.
I could have done a test strip, but it took very little time to achieve the tright exposure. For these tests, I was exposing 4×5 negatives on 5×7 Ilford Multigrade IV RC Paper. The result is above.
After feeling comfortable with my setup, I grabbed an 8×10 negative and a box of Ilford Multigrade IV FB Paper. My exposure time was again 5 seconds and I had a gorgeous 8×10 contact print all ready for the wash. Oh the wash… The difference in FB (Fiber) prints is that they must be thoroughly washed to remove the fixer. I don’t have a print washer and I don’t want to waste a lot of water, so I used frequent changes of fresh water in large trays for an hour. This is labor intensive, but I’ve always liked the feel of a heavier paper.
After your print has been nearly washed to death, you squeegee it on both sides and then begin the drying process.
If the washing process seems daunting, then the drying process will seem cruel. Most people with a darkroom will have presses or heating devices to dry and flatten their FB prints – not your humble contact printer though. For my first two prints I just placed them face-up on a clean surface and left them overnight. The next morning the prints had curled like mad. I placed them separately in between pages of a heavy book and put weights on top. After a day or two they are mostly flat. I’ve heard the process of flattening can take a week. That’s okay, I’m patient.
One thing that does help is allowing the contact prints to dry between screens. They dry overnight and the curling is much less frightening than open-air drying. Then I place these in the pages of a book under weights as well and they will be flat – eventually.
One step that I left out in this post is toning. If you want your paper prints to last forever, you should tone them. I’m still researching this and am open to any suggestions or experiences that others may have.
I know that many people use specialty papers, but I’m using Ilford Multigrade papers of both the RC and FB type. I trust that Ilford will be around for the long haul, so they are my paper of choice. For testing and casual prints, I’ll use RC paper. For sale prints, I’ll use fiber.
I hadn’t planned on taking any pictures of the 9/11 Tribute in Light this year, but it was gorgeous last night and I did have my 4×5 film holders loaded. It’s always interesting to see how many people are crowded along the East River to get a view of the tribute lights come on at dusk. This year I got there at 6:45 and there were hundreds of people waiting. All of my normal shooting spots were already lousy with tripods, so I walked around looking for a nice vantage point, finally settling in by Jane’s Carousel. It’s a moving experience looking at those lights surrounded by the buildings of Lower Manhattan. This year it felt good to see World Trade Center One at its full height (minus the spire) just north of the Tribute in Lights.
I shot a few sheets of Fuji Neopan Acros 100 and a handful of Fuji Provia 100 transparencies while I was there, as well a dozen or so frames with the Olympus OM-1. I haven’t taken my color film to the lab yet, but I did wake up early this morning to develop the B&W shots.
This one is my favorite, because of the looping helicopter light trails in the sky.
9/11 Tribute in Light Long Exposure on Fuji Neopan Acros 100 4×5 Film Developed in Ilford DD-X
You can view a very large version of this in my Flickr Photostream.
This shot was a 2 minute exposure at f22 and developed in Ilford DD-X (1+4 dilution) at 20C for 11 minutes. There’s very little documentation for Fuji Neopan Acros 100 in sheet format, especially with DD-X so I’ve had to experiment a bit with times. From a recommendation on APUG, I initially tried it at 1+9 dilution and 22C for 9 minutes. The negatives were a little thin, so I did some very unscientific comparisons of 120 and sheet film times on the Massive Dev chart. I think for now, I’ll stick with this diltuon and time for Fuji Acros in 4×5 format.
I’ll upload some color pics in a few days.
So everyone likes sparklers right?
On our recent St. Michaels vacation, Kate and I teamed up for this admittedly kind of corny shot. This was after cocktails on the dock and I already had my 4×5 camera set up to capture the sunset. I used Fuji Provia 100 slide film and the meter reading told me the exposure should be one minute at an aperture of f11. The sparklers only stayed lit for 45 seconds so I had to cut the exposure a bit short. It worked perfectly though. Kate held her legs still and did an amazing job at keeping the repeatedly drawn hearts in a tight pattern. You can see a larger version of this picture at my Flickr account.
In the Flickr comments a few people were curious about the “not as successful outtake” of this shot. Here it is.
It was obviously much more difficult to try to repeat K-A-T-E so she just spelled it once and then added these little flourishes at the end as the sparklers fizzled out. I was laughing too hard to ask her to stand still.
Hope everyone has a good fourth. We are hoping to hit the beach tomorrow.
Here are two of the four sheets of Kodak Portra 400 that I shot recently on my Toyo 45AII large format camera. I had received a box of Portra 400 for Christmas and was curious how it would handle long exposures. I normally like B&W for these types of shots, especially the foolproof Fuji Neopan Acros 100, but as I said curiosity got the best of me. I was also a little annoyed that the Kodak data sheet for 45 Portra read: “No filter correction or exposure compensation is required for PORTRA 400 Film for exposures from 1⁄10,000 second to 1 second. For critical applications with longer exposure times, make tests under your conditions.”
Super helpful, Kodak. Thanks! So you didn’t test the film for anything longer than 1 second? You would rather let the consumer make their own tests (which I agree to some extent makes sense)? It is discouraging that a box of 10 sheets of Kodak Portra 400 costs about $30 and each sheet is $3-6 to develop depending on which lab you use. Mine is only $3, so my testing consisted of loading two film holders with four sheets of film and blowing $24 in fifteen minutes.
Yes, I’m being a little hard on Kodak. However, Fuji and Ilford do a fantastic job of documenting the change needed in exposure (due to reciprocity failure) for times longer than 1 second. Kodak should do better.
Anyway, I shot four sheets from my usual test location (in Dumbo underneath the Manhattan Bridge looking at the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan) for long exposures and didn’t see a bit of difference. The first shot was 8 seconds for f22, but I gave it 15 seconds as a starting point.
The second one was taken right after the first and I gave it 30 seconds. I couldn’t tell a difference between the two.
I repositioned my tripod slightly for the second film holder and repeated the meter reading. As it was getting darker, the reading called for 15 seconds. I exposed one sheet for 45 seconds and the other for 90 seconds just to see if it would matter. It didn’t, both negatives were pretty much the same.
Here’s the 45 second exposure at f22.
The bottom line is that Kodak Portra 400 handles long exposures nicely. I got great results between 15 seconds and 90 seconds. Some of that was obviously due to the rapidly changing light conditions, but as its been well documented, this film is VERY versatile and forgiving. I wouldn’t hesitate to use Kodak Portra 400 for exposures between 1 second and 90 seconds. Next time I would probably just give the shot double the time that the meter reading calls for. Please note, this was in no way a scientific method. I didn’t keep notes, but I recall the exposure times and which film holders were which times. For critical paid use, I guess I would do as Kodak suggests and “make tests under your conditions.”
On Tuesday night I took my Toyo 4×5 camera and two lenses out to Crown Heights, which is only four subway stops from our place. Our new favorite pizza joint Barboncino is there and right down the street Kate and I found an amazing old school candy shop. Anyway, I had a free night and I really wanted to get back to photograph the promenade and this amazing bodega.
It was still early, so there was a fair amount of foot and car traffic. The one minute exposure helped with the traffic.
Here’s the thing about using a larger format camera in a public place – you are going to draw attention. People know what it is, but they might not have seen one up close. This is a perfect opportunity to be an ambassador for film photography. People stop and ask questions:
“Wow, what kind of a camera is that?” or
“Oh man, this is old school!” or
“What are you doing?” and most of all,
“Wow, can I look in there?”
I think this is awesome. I ran into three men who knew exactly what large format cameras were, one of them used to shoot high school protraits with a large format rig. We talked for about 15 minutes as I waited for the sun to disappear behind the horizon. Since I wasn’t in a hurry anyway, I took the time to talk to everyone that stopped, answered their questions, and always let them look into the back through the ground glass. After all, I wasn’t in a hurry. That was what attracted me to shooting with this type of camera in the first place. The best conversations were with kids who had only seen a camera like this in movies or on TV. They were totally curious and started by trying to be too cool, but ended up geeking out by looking through the ground glass and posing for each other. I think I, a total stranger to this neighborhood, enjoyed myself more than they did.
Cropped Portion of Above Shot
To really get a sense of what a 4×5 negative can deliver, just click on this cropped image of the above shot. I only scanned these negatives at 1200 dpi, but they were already in excess of 20MB. Scanning them at my usual 2400 results in 80MB files that my computer really can’t work with in any efficient manner.