Tag Archives: Large Format
While my wife was sewing curtains for our front room I decided to play around with the Fuji HR-T X-Ray film and some flowers. This green-sensitive film renders the color green much lighter than we would see it and gives plant life a rather odd look. I was curious to see what type of effect it might have on a vase of flowers.
One of the wonderful things about view cameras is that you can focus very close up and make photographs that are even larger than life size. If your camera has the extension rails to extend the bellows all the way out, you can do amazing macro shots. The Eastman View Camera No 2D has a detachable rear extension rail that gives you 30 inches of bellows extension. When I found my camera I made sure that the extension rail was included. It’s not necessary for everyday shots, but if you want lifesize or larger then you need the rear rail.
Fair warning: what follows is probably either overly technical if you are not interested in how a view camera functions OR not precise enough for those photographers who have to have everything perfectly measured and exactly so… But if you are interested and not wedded to a slide rule then read on.
There are compromises (three of them, really) when you extend the bellows this far out. First, the depth of field is incredibly shallow at full or near full extension. My Schneider 300mm f5.6 lens at f5.6 gives less than an 1/8 of an inch of focus. At f8, f11, and f16 you may get a 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch. To shoot a vase full of flowers you need at least a couple of inches of depth of field. And for that you would need to shoot at f48 or f64. I shot this at f64.
I lit the vase from the side with my Westcott TD6 Spiderlite (1200W) through a medium-sized softbox. This gave me an EV value of 7.5, which at f64 called for a 30 second exposure. But then you also have to consider the second compromise. You’ve racked your bellows out to 28 inches and this means less light will hit the surface of the film – i.e. bellows compensation factor. To figure your bellows compensation factor there are a few mathematical equations you can use. I’ve studied all of them, and understand the concept, but I simplify it as follows: I have a 12″ lens. If I double the length of the bellows from the normal 12 inches to 24 inches I add an additional stop or so of exposure. Extended fully to 30 inches I add a stop and a half. This is close enough for me. It might not be for others, but it’s what I use. At this point, I’ve almost arrived at a correct exposure.
Photographic film also has this weird property called reciprocity failure that means that the film actually needs more exposure when you expose it for an extended period of time. Films differ on how well they handle reciprocity. My favorite B&W film for long exposures, Fuji Neopan Acros, doesn’t require any adjustments for exposures up to 2 minutes. That’s fantastic and it makes things much easier. Other films need more exposure time if your shutter stays open for longer than a few seconds. For example, if I was shooting Kodak Tri-X film, I would have exposed the film for a full 5 minutes to get a true 1 minute and 30 seconds exposure. Since I was shooting X-Ray film and no one really has published a reliable table of its reciprocity characteristics, I just went by my own experience. My experience has shown me that Fuji HR-T X-Ray film needs a little bit of added exposure, but not nearly as much as traditional films. I gave this shot an extra 30 seconds.
And just for the fun of it, I focused this next shot with the bellows stretched completely out to 30 inches. I shot it at f64 for a full three minutes.
I tray developed the Fuji HR-T X-Ray film in Rodinal 1:100 for six minutes. I used normal trays and lined the bottoms with glass. My only remaining flaw in X-ray film development is that I’m using 8×10 trays (because I happen to have a few pieces of glass cut to 8×10 for contact printing.) Even with very minimal agitation (rock all four sides of the tray every 30 seconds) I still get surge artifacts on the edges of the negative. This makes the edges of the negative darker (lighter once scanned or printed). My next step is to get 11×14 pieces of glass to line the bottoms of my 11×14 trays. This will give me a more even development across the entire negative.
Realizing that portraits with the Eastman 8×10 View Camera would be very difficult without some kind of artificial lighting, I purchased a Westcott/Adorama Spiderlite TD6 kit from the always reliable and reasonable Simon at Adorama. He gave me a good deal and shipped the bulky kit for free the next day. Perfect service.
Westcott Spiderlite TD6
Image from the Westcott website.
The kit included the TD6 head with six light sockets, six bulbs, a light stand, a 24×36 soft box, and soft carrying bag. This light gives me 1200W of constant, daylight-balanced light. What this translates to in the real world is f8 at ISO 400 and 160th of a second. That’s great for a DSLR user, but in the LF world portraits are often shot at f22, which works out to 1/4 of a second (without figuring in an extra stop for bellows extention). My lens does open to f5.6, but the depth of field is too shallow for even both eyes and noses to be in focus. Kate and I did a mini photo shoot over the weekend to test the TD6.
I shot this at f22 and 1/4 of a second. Kate is very good at standing still. It would have been easier for her to sit, but we both really wanted to do this pose. That’s my shirt and the looking down and rolling of the sleeve was Kate’s idea. She’s the brains and the beauty in this partnership.
Assembling and using the TD6 kit could not be easier. You can choose two, four, or six lights (I chose six for sure) with switches on the back of the head and the 15 foot cord even has an on/off switch. The light from the bulbs when tempered by the softbox is bright, but still soft. I shot this one with the light about five feet from Kate.
I tray developed this negative in Kodak HC 110 Solution H (1+63) at 20C for 8 minutes using “brush agitation.” The brush agitation gives you a nice even development over the whole surface of the negative. People often use brush developing to control uneven development in skies. This agitation method has really grown on me. I like the act of brushing the developer onto the negative. It’s very zen-like.
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.
On Friday night, I loaded up two film holders, one with Kodak Tri-X 320 and one with Fuji HR-T X-Ray film, and hopped onto the N train with my 8×10 Eastman View Camera No 2D trailing behind me in a suitcase. After a few aborted attempts at packing the camera and associated gear in three different bags, I finally broke down and bought a roller bag from IKEA (the Uptacka). It was cheap, is fairly sturdy, and has just enough space to fit the folded up Eastman 8×10. I remove the rear extension rail and pack it in an outside pocket, but you really only need the extension rail for close up shots. If I turn my Schneider 300mm f5.6 (a massive lens) backwards it can stay attached to the camera folded. Up to four film holders go in the front zipper section. And the outermost pocket holds my meter and cable release. I don’t feel especially stylish dragging an ugly nylon case through the city, but I’m already showing questionable sanity by using the camera.
I haven’t developed the x-ray film yet, but here is a Kodak Tri-X-320 shot.
Madison Square Park Shake Shack at Night, NYC, 8×10 Kodak Tri-X 320 Sheet Film
You can click on the image for a bigger version. This was scanned at 1200dpi, which gave me a 12,000 by 9,600px file. I had to reduce the image for uploading as Word Press only accepts images under 8MB. Clicking through to the larger image can still give you an idea of the details you get with an 8×10 negative. Keep in mind this was only scanned on an Epson flatbed scanner, not drum scanned.
Not quite as happy with this shot of the Empire State Building.
Empire State Building at Night from Madison Square Park, 8×10 Kodak Tri-X 320 Film
This was also shot at f22 and the measured exposure time was one minute. To account for reciprocity failure with the Tri-X, I exposed the shot for a full four minutes. As above, this sheet was developed this shot in Kodak HC 110 Solution H for 5 minutes and 20 seconds.
In October, I sold my Toyo 45A to purchase a very used 8×10 1935 Eastman View Camera No. 2D. It had a few issues including missing knobs, bellows that leaked at the front and rear standards, and it needed a general deep clean including a new ground glass. A kind person from the Large Format Photography forum sent me a couple of spare knobs that he had from a previous restoration. That was what I needed to get started and verify that both standards locked down tightly. Next I cleaned and waxed the wood. I thought about a complete restoration, but I want this camera to be an everyday tool, not a museum piece. It’s going to get banged up with heavy use. I found a very reasonable source on Ebay for ground glass and replaced the worn glass on the camera.
The last step was to seal the bellows to the front and rear standards in a light-tight fashion. The bellows themselves were solid, and have definitely been replaced at some point, but they leaked light like crazy since they were not joined tightly to the standards. A first run of using FabTac glue and clamps didn’t really work as well as I had wanted, so I found a roll of this dark black putty that people use to weatherstrip windows. The strips of putty are thin and very sticky, so I lined them up at the seams inside of the bellows and they’ve proven to be totally light-tight.
Lastly, I purchased a used Schneider 300mm f5.6 lens to replace the busted lens the camera came with. A 300mm lens is a standard length for 8×10 (similar to a 50mm on an SLR or 80mm on a MF camera). The f5.6 aperture means the lens is HUGE and heavy, but it’s nice to have the bright aperture in odd lighting outside.
One of my first 8×10 negatives shot on Kodak Tri-X 320 Sheet Film.
I’m developing the negatives in trays (in our bathtub) using Kodak HC 110 Solution H. It’s an easy process and much more fun than developing film in tubes, tanks, or processors. The trays use less solution (although tubes use even less) and you can give each negative TLC. While doing research on tray developing, I ran across “brush developing.” To brush develop, I put the negative emulsion-side up in a 8×10 tray and use a soft 4 inch brush to agitate the developer as I move up and down the negative. It’s a constant agitation that supposedly gives you a smoother development. It is very soothing. Feeling the brush glide across the wet negative is weird at first, but I’ve yet to notice any scratches.
Shooting the Schneider 300mm f5.6 wide open results in insanely shallow depth of field.
Even shooting at f16 gives you very little depth of field up close. For this type of shot, f22 or 32 would be much better.
An aperture of f22 works okay for this type of subject.
After a few test sessions, I’ve got a good sense of the apertures and distances that I need to work with, so I’m excited to get out in the hood with it next.
I’ve always loved the look of the old wooden folding field cameras. And of course, I love Eastman Kodak. Therefore it’s no surprise that one of these old 8×10 view cameras ended up on my doorstep one day (Thursday). Large format photography definitely suits the way I like to work and I enjoy the 4×5 format, but I have always wanted the flexibility to shoot 8×10 for projects. This Eastman View Camera No. 2D came up on Ebay and it looked like it had all the pieces I wanted – both front and rear extensions, a sliding tripod block, and a newer bellows. The lens looked shot (it’s a Wollensok Versor and totally shot) and I could tell that there was a knob missing, but the price was right.
I unpacked it last night and I was surprised that it feels lighter than my Toyo 45A was. The wood is in decent condition with many marks and imperfections, but the bellows slide along the rails nicely. I’ve never really cared how beat up a camera is as long as it does what I ask it to do. I’ve applied a coat of wood wax to sit overnight and it should condition the wood.
The missing knob, however, is a problem. It’s the knob that locks down the rear standard. On Thursday night, I kept racking out the bellows only to watch the rear standard slowly creep forward. A trip to the hardware store will get me a temporary fix until I can find a proper knob. The bellows are not original (the original bellows were red) and look to be in good shape.
Overall, and especially for a camera produced in Rochester, NY in 1935, I think it will be a good camera. I’ve got film holders and a new lens board coming. I’m also on the lookout for a 4×5 reducing back so I can shoot both 4×5 and 8×10 sheet film.
The bottom line is I could have purchased a MUCH more expensive, modern wooden folding camera or pay way less for this little piece of American history and spend the difference on film.
Test shots coming soon!
Last week I posted a 9/11 Tribute in Lights photograph taken on Fuji Neopan Acros 100 black and white film. Here are two shots from the same evening, one taken with the Olympus using Fuji Provia 100 slide film, and one taken with the Toyo 4×5 also using Fuji Provia 100 film.
The 35mm picture was a shorter exposure (only 60 seconds).
This was the same exposure ( 120 seconds) as the Neopan Acros 100 black and white film.
I much prefer the black and white image. In fact, I just had this black and white version scanned (605MB file!) to make prints.
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.”