Friday, 26th April 2013
Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day 2013 takes place on the last Sunday of April each year and I plan to take part for the first time on Sunday. I’ve never made a pinhole photograph before and I’ve left it a bit late to dabble in any impressive DIY pinhole construction attempts. But it suddenly dawned on me that we have a paper pinhole camera kit that has yet to be built and that I could use the pinhole on the Speed Graphic by simply taping it to a lens board.
Before committing myself I turned to the brilliant MyPinhole.com calculator to figure out the variables. But first, following Iain Kendall‘s advice, I scanned the pinhole to determine the diameter of the hole. I left the settings from a previous B&W negative scan (6400dpi) and got the following… this is a 100% crop of the scan:
Using the measuring tool in Photoshop, I measured the diameter of the hole – it was 100 pixels:
To work out the size of the hole in millimetres required some simple maths:
6400 pixels per inch = 251.968 pixels per mm
100 / 251.968 = 0.3968mm The size of the pinhole!
Now to use the MrPinhole.com calculator to figure out the other variables. The Speed Graphic takes 5×4 sheet film. In order for the pinhole to provide a sufficient image circle I had to measure the diagonal of a sheet – it turned out to be approximately 150mm.
Measuring the distance between the film plane and various positions of the front standard I found that a 90mm focal length was almost exactly in line with the front opening of the camera – nice and easy to set in the field without a ruler and it has an optimal diameter of 0.4mm. Perfect! The resulting image diameter is 173mm, enough to cover 5×4 film. The angle of view will be 79.7 degrees, which I believe is like 25mm (on a 35mm camera) so pretty wide angle. Lastly the F Stop is f/227. Everything looked good on paper – the next step was to mount the pinhole and test it out before Sunday!
Mounting the pinhole onto a lens board – I just used some electrical tape and some cardboard behind to add support and fill the gaps.
After mounting the pinhole I pointed the camera at a halogen desk lamp and looked at the ground glass – it worked!
The following day I decided to test the pinhole out on some Fomapan 100 5×4 sheet film. I walked a few metres from our front door and set up the tripod and camera pointing towards the crags in front of our house. Being such a wide angle it wasn’t the most suitable scene really, so I made sure to include a wall for some foreground interest. It would also be interesting to demonstrate the DOF recorded by a pinhole photograph. Below are some pictures showing the camera set up:
I used the viewfinder to get a rough idea of the composition. The field of view turned out to be quite similar.
I took a reading with my Sekonic light meter – the wall and grass were showing an reflective reading of f/8, 1/60s @ ISO100. I used a fantastic iPhone app called Pinhole Assist that helps with all aspects of photographing with a pinhole. Plugging in the values from my light meter showed the EV of 12 and the exposure time for f/226 aperture is 13 seconds
Compensating for reciprocity failure of Fomapan 100 meant I had to multiply the exposure time by 8 giving 104 seconds. I rounded this down to 1 minute 40 seconds exposure time.
After developing the sheet in my
Here is the scanned result!
Monday, 1st April 2013
I was keen to get my feet wet (hopefully not literally) in a darkroom to validate my desire to pursue silver gelatin printing, especially before going to too much effort building the partitioned area in our garage. Fortunately during the dark evenings our garage is pitch black – after waiting 10 minutes for my eyes to adjust to the darkness I was able to punch myself in the face and not see it coming!!
Here’s how the darkroom looks so far – kind like the corner of a messy garage at the moment!
So I finally found the courage to open the lovely sealed box of 100 sheets of Ilford Mutigrade IV RC 10×8 (Pearl) without the fear of ruining the whole box.
I decanted some into my newly acquired paper safe. I’ve read plenty about paper safes but I was never really aware of how they are useful. Using one certainly gives me the confidence that I can print away without the risk of ruining a whole box by a freak accident. I have also realised the other benefit, which is the ease of access to the paper – especially important when feeling around with just a safelight glowing over your shoulder. They seem hard to come by on the used market so I was glad when this one appeared.
I think I overdo my mantra “it’s all in the preparation”, which leads me to obsessively potter around moving things, adjusting things, testing, practising, etc before actually just getting on with it. I actually had two evenings when I intended to start some printing, but instead I got prepared for the actual event. Washing the trays, mixing the chemicals, practising with the enlarger (not enough practice with the easel as it turned out!)
Finally I ran out of excuses to not take the plunge and just get on with it. The only thing fighting against me was the weather – just above zero degrees C outside and around 7 degrees C in the garage! And that’s after running a heater for an hour! The partitioned area and insulated roof can’t be built quickly enough.
I cut a sheet of 10×8 into three strips. Cutting straight is really hard at first under safe light but I think I’ll get the hang of it. I think I’ll be cutting the sheet into more thinner strips in future but I wanted to make sure I had quite a large area to start with for my first test strip. I followed the Ilford guide on “Making Your First B&W Print”, which recommended exposing the paper for 2, 2, 4 and 8s. The first 2s you expose the whole sheet and then you cover the sheet by 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 for the subsequent exposures. This results in test patches with 16, 8, 4 and 2s exposures. But despite my “preparation” mantra I managed to pay little attention to this method and I started by exposing the whole sheet for 2s and then covering 3/4, 1/2 and 1/4 of the sheet resulting in test patches with 16, 14, 10 and 2s exposures. I developed the test strip – success, it looked pretty good!
The biggest mistake was me not realising that I hadn’t followed the procedure correctly. I read the 2nd brightest test area as 4s instead of what was actually 10s. I went ahead with the my first whole sheet print exposed for 4s. I checked the temperature of the developer and it had rapidly dropped from >20 degrees to around 13 degrees C! I couldn’t believe it – damn you cold weather. I was too tired to warm it up again so I just went ahead and developed the sheet in cold developer, I reckoned I could just leave it in there for a bit longer. The image took quite a while to appear, much longer than the test strip, but it appeared. It didn’t look right, it looked very bright. Usually under safe light a properly exposed print will look too dark if anything. I left it in for much longer than the recommended 60s but it was having no effect. It was late so I stopped for the night.
Here is a scan of the very underexposed print:
I was sure it was due to the cold developer. I looked everywhere for a good but cheap solution to keep the trays warm. The proper tool for the job – a ‘dishwarmer’ – is silly expensive and there was no way I could justify one. I found a good sized heat mat used to keep reptile enclosures warm and a plugin thermostat with remote probe that would let me control the temperature to 20 degrees by dipping it into a tray, but I wasn’t convinced I was doing the right thing in buying it.
A few days later and it was feeling a bit more mild, so I decided to give it another shot; quickly before the chemicals dropped in temperature. I hesitated right before exposing the first test strip – “should I be covering or uncovering the strip!?” I did it the same way as before and developed the strip. The change between what I thought was 2s and 4s was so dramatic, I suddenly realised I was doing something wrong.
I read the Ilford guide again and saw that I was indeed uncovering the sheet instead of covering it. I scribbled out the exposures that my test strip actually received and saw the error of my ways – “ah ha, maybe THIS is why the first print was a failure!” I created a new test strip and made sure to gradually cover it rather than uncover it. The target exposure time looked to be around 10s at f/8.
I checked the developer temperature and it had dropped to 13 degrees so I warmed it up to around 18 degrees and developed the print – success!! It’s far from perfect but it worked. I was so pleased. I can already tell that darkroom printing is amazing and it’s only going to get better. I’m excited to learn and practise more and more as I slowly try to master it. I’m looking forward to trying some dodging and burning too!
Thursday, 28th March 2013
When scanning large format negatives I discovered that I was often clipping highlights and shadows without realising it. It wasn’t until I opened the massive files in Photoshop that I discovered the clipped highlights and/or shadows. After waiting a long time for a high resolution scan to complete it’s a bit frustrating to have to start again after a tweak to the histogram in Epson Scan. Even worse if the tweak isn’t enough and it’s still clipped after the second scan!
My solution is to be more careful to analyse and set the white & black points before scanning the whole frame. I do this by reducing the size of the scan frame to a small box and then move it around the image, checking and adjusting histogram.
Move the box over a small highlight area, then modify the histogram white point to make sure nothing is clipped. Then do the same for a shadow area with the black point.
Here’s an example of how I originally set the points, which resulted in clipped highlights. When the whole frame is selected, the small area of highlights does not show up on the histogram resulting in me choosing a white point of 134:
But after selecting a much smaller area of the frame where there are strong highlights, the histogram updates to show just what’s within the selection. This shows that the white point should really be set to 204 – a huge difference!
The resulting scan:
Saturday, 16th March 2013
I was keen to start darkroom printing, but without a darkroom (or even the space for a darkened room) this would be difficult. The darkroom project in the garage was quite a long way off but I was keen to try some sort of printing first. The obvious answer was to try Harman Direct Positive paper! It was a case of loading the paper into the film holders in the dark tent and then exposing it in the Graflex Speed Graphic. I had the extra
pressure motivation to produce some new work for the Alt Photo Festival as so much of my personal work is family orientated. So the learning curve was to be steep and quick! I planned to shoot Hume Castle and a couple of nearby trees early in the morning. The result from this paper is known to be extremely contrasty if you don’t pre-flash it under an enlarger first. I didn’t have time to experiment with this so I decided to ensure the scene was lit by fairly non-directional and flat light. Fortunately we have that in abundance during a Scottish winter!
Developing the paper is a simple case of loading it into the MOD 54 and replacing film developer with paper developer (I chose Ilford Multigrade). Being a fibre paper the wash time is extremely long (around 1 hour) and it tends to dry very curly. There are various methods for drying this paper to reduce the curl. I tried it face up on some stretched material but the curl was still very pronounced. I placed the prints underneath some heavy books, sandwiched between some clean pieces of paper. After a few days the prints were flat enough to scan.
I have tried ironing some subsequent prints on the lowest iron setting and without steam. I again sandwiched the print between some clean paper and placed a cotton napkin on top. It work very well and is the flattest print I have. I’ll iron the rest some time too.
Here are the results; I’m really happy with them. The contrast is high as expected considering I didn’t pre-flash, but I think it makes the prints really very dramatic. I’m looking forward to shooting more!
Exposure: f/32, 40s, ISO 3
Exposure: f/11, 200s, ISO 3
This one was taken during sunrise and demonstrated the limited dynamic range of paper:
Exposure: f/16, 12s, ISO 3
So that I had a comparison, I took the same scenes on 5×4 sheet film (Foma 100) too!
Exposure: roughly f/40, 5s, ISO 100
Exposure: f/16, 27s, ISO 100
Clearly film is successfully able to record a scene with a wide dynamic range much better than photographic paper:
Exposure: f/16, 0.5s, ISO 100
Friday, 8th March 2013
2013 is well underway and so I thought I’d post a quick update to let you know the sort of things I’m going to work on this year (inspired by Simon’s post back in January… it’s taken me this long to finally blog this!)
The Year I Start Printing in the Darkroom!
Film photography is definitely a slippery slope, once you start you soon find more and more you want to do. It all started with shooting film again with a fairly modern Canon SLR and my current EOS lenses. I sent the film away to a lab to have it developed and scanned. The next step was to delve into the wonderful world of vintage film cameras, both 35mm and medium format. I finally succumbed to the instant film photography craze (peel-apart film in my case) and I love it!
Buying a scanner I made sure to heed the warnings of others and buy one that can scan a bigger negative than I expect to need; I’m glad I did, I’m now shooting 5×4 on a Speed Graphic!
I started developing B&W at home and despite the steep learning curve, especially when figuring out the right and best equipment to get started, it really is as easy as other people say. It’s such a satisfying experience to shoot and develop film; it’s a gratifying and rewarding experience from start (choosing a camera, lens and film) to the end result (a negative)… except that’s not the end result is it? Scanning the negative, the ‘hybrid workflow’, is superb and the digital result does not detract from the whole experience. But I have the itch to start printing and complete the whole process through to a darkroom print. So I need a darkroom…
5×4 Harman Direct Positive Paper
Before I get too carried away with the idea of darkroom printing (who am I kidding, it’s way too late, that ship has sailed and I’m measuring things up and sketching plans!) I am going to try some direct positive paper in the Speed Graphic.
The paper is loaded into the film holder and exposed at a ridiculously low ISO rating (ISO 3 or even ISO 1.5).
Here are some of the pictures on Flickr that have inspired me! There is a brilliant thread on the Large Format Photography forum with great advice and brilliant examples too!
The paper can then be loaded into the brilliant MOD54 and developed (using a paper developer) in the standard daylight developing tank – no dark room required.
I’m totally inspired by the results from these photographers. The paper can be difficult to tame; it can be very contrasty. This can be overcome by ‘pre-flashing’ the paper (lots of experimentation required to achieve this) or simply by using very flat lighting. I plan to give both methods a try and compare the results.
Acquired Enlarger – Clean up and test
A friend of mine was clearing out his cupboard and kindly gave me his old gear. This included a 35mm enlarger; the Zenith UPA-5. It’s a neat Russian enlarger that packs away into a small suitcase. Unfortunately, the foam from the case has totally deteriorated and has caused an awful mess, it wasn’t much fun cleaning it up but didn’t take too long.
It will be an ideal opportunity to perform some basic printing, get my feet wet in a darkened room and make sure that I want to pursue the building of a complete darkroom. Fortunately our garage – the proposed location of the darkroom – is extremely dark during the dark winter nights. We live in the middle of the countryside so we have little to no light pollution to contend with.
Should my hunger for making prints persist after some playing and testing with the enlarger in the dark garage, I will build a partitioned ‘room’ in the corner of the garage in the photo below.
I might need to get rid of some stuff first. Believe it or not I’ve already started – there was a lot of ‘stuff’ there before I took that picture!!
As the garage is so dark already with the doors closed – even during the day – hopefully it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge to create a light tight partitioned section with simple door access. The garage does tend to drip a lot of water after a frost so I will need to create a watertight roof to keep everything safe. We have some friends who are having a new kitchen installed so I have acquired their old worktop, sink and cupboards.
Plans and Projects for the Coming Months
I need to set myself projects and/or themes to focus my photography. The great thing about wedding photography is that there are certain boundaries and goals are already set. By focussing on such clearly defined goals and objectives I find I produce much better results compared to my personal work, which can often consist of aimlessly wandering around looking for subjects. I must be more disciplined with my personal work – set myself projects, goals and objectives. Making prints will be the first of those projects, but I will also look at themes to focus on when exposing film.
Cardboard Scanner Camera
I’ve been inspired by Simon Kidd’s amazing efforts in producing an ‘ultra large format’ camera (part 1, part 2 and part 3!). His project began with the goal of making a camera (out of cardboard) that would allow him to capture an image using an old scanner he had. His project soon grew arms and legs… several metres of MDF, a gallon of glue, a lot of caulk, some Ikea frames, blood, sweat and tears later – he made himself an impressive 20×16” camera that holds a massive lens and allows him to expose huge sheets of paper to produce paper negatives.
I don’t plan to build an ultra large format camera any time soon, but the ‘scanning back’ was interesting to me, so I gave it a quick try with an old Canon Lide80 that was lying around redundant. I simply plonked a cardboard tube (packaging for the MOD54) and then placed a lens in a cardboard lens board on top. After a quick scan of the ceiling with me standing on a chair the theory of creating a cardboard scanner camera became feasible!
Even more interesting is that the scanner ‘sees’ a lot of Infrared light, most people use a IR blocking filter, but I’m considering what could be done with an IR filter than blocks visible light – after a quick test is seems to work (it looks much the same as the result without the filter suggesting that the IR sensitivity seems to overpower the visible light sensitivity.)
Update: Lots more to come – the darkroom build is well on its way and I have completed a few Direct Positive prints and my first darkroom prints!
Friday, 1st March 2013
Yesterday was the first day of the Alt Photo Festival in Edinburgh. I attended the opening night and met some fantastic and inspiring people, including the amazing artist Alastair Cook and the equally brilliant Kenny Bean, the man behind the festival. It was a pleasure to finally meet them both and I was not only inspired by their work and what they had to say, but also totally enamoured by their humble, kind and generous nature. The whole festival just has a really positive and wonderful vibe about it – I was buzzing with enthusiasm when I returned home.
I’m honoured to have been given the opportunity to exhibit a few of my photographs along with two photographer friends of mine; Iain Kendall and Simon Kidd, as part of the festival. Our photos are being exhibited at Tidalfire – 42 St Mary’s Street, Edinburgh (9-4pm Mon-Fri). Please do pop in for a look if you get the chance!
Here are the pictures I’ve chosen to exhibit:
The Alt Photo Festival is a celebration and promotion of all kinds of alternative methods of making photographs. Shooting film is now falling into that category, but I made sure to include a picture of Hume Castle made with paper (Harman Direct Positive Paper) and a picture of Sutra Hill made with Fuji FP-100C instant film.
The festival is definitely well worth a visit and in addition to viewing the wonderful artwork – including the amazing wet plate collodion work by Alastair Cook – I encourage you to go to participate in the fantastic free workshops they have running. Last night I created my first ever Photogram – a picture made without a camera on photo paper. I was guided through the process by a really lovely tutor; she carefully explained everything and was warm, friendly and encouraging. You can tell that she was genuinely enjoying what she was doing. The workshops are perfect for all ages, but in particular for kids (aged 8 and over) – they are sure to come away inspired and excited about alternative photographic techniques!
Here is my attempt at a photogram using some lovely material picked from the Royal Botanic Gardens:
(please excuse the dust spots from the scanner – I scanned it very quickly!)
After putting various leaves and flowers onto a piece of glass we were led into a huge temporary darkroom with a row of enlargers and developing trays. After sandwiching the plant material with a 7×5 sheet of Ilford RC paper (Ilford are proud sponsors of the festival), I exposed it to light from the enlarger for 4 seconds. The paper was removed and dunked into the developer, stop, fix and then water. So simple and hugely rewarding! I really can’t wait to start my own darkroom printing now!
Friday, 22nd February 2013
When researching my scanner I read some good advice about buying one that is capable of scanning one size bigger than you think you’ll need. The reasoning being that you will eventually shoot it and need to scan it. At that point I was only shooting 35mm and I was considering shooting 120. I really didn’t think I’d be shooting 5×4 sheet film.
But the more I saw Flickr buddies shooting it, such as Simon and his great 5×4 work, the more tempted I became. The big attraction to shooting 5×4 to me is not just the large negatives (although that’s a nice bonus) but the technique, methodology, discipline and overall ethos enforced onto the photographer when shooting with large format equipment. Every shot has to count due to the vastly reduced number of frames available to expose, limited by the number of film holders loaded, which is my case is eight sheets. Going from 36 exposures (with 135 film) down to eight seems drastic but I’ve yet to shoot more than four frames on one outing. This is partly down to the next part of the attraction of shooting large format – the time required to set up a shot. I find that it can take me 20-30 minutes for just one frame and that’s without taking into account the wait for the light and the moment to be right. It’s a completely different approach to photography and so far removed from the ease of automatic point and shoot cameras – it’s hands on, tactile and you’re in complete control.
The Crown/Speed Graphic cameras made by Graflex are well documented on the internet and are a popular choice. There are plenty of large format makes and models out there, all suitable for different circumstances. No doubt there may be a better choice out there, but I doubted I would know for sure what I really wanted (or needed) before actually trying large format. After much research, my search focussed on the Speed Graphic as it includes a focal plane shutter that would allow me to use lenses without shutters (e.g. older barrel lenses) with modern, fast film. I planned to take my time before buying everything, but then the opportunity arose when Simon pointed out a Speed Graphic available at mwclassic.com – the price was good; a bit less than most of the completed eBay auctions, without the hassle of bidding and with the reassurance that it has been checked out properly and is working. So I bought it!
I then had to gather the other required items: I won an auction for four double-sided film holders listed as “light tight”. I bought the ingenious MOD 54 that allows you to process six 5×4 sheets in a daylight developing tank. Also the required three reel Paterson tank (I only had the 2 reel tank).
I also bought some larger storage bottles (2.5L) for the developing chemicals as the ones I already had are only 1L and the tank requires exactly 1L of chemicals. Given that there is a little wastage each time film is developed I wanted to ensure I had plenty of stored chemicals. Loading and unloading the sheets of film could prove difficult in a dark bag so I decided to buy the Calumet dark tent that provides more room and doesn’t impede you with the material sitting on your hands and, more importantly, film. I wish I’d known about dark tents before buying the dark bag! But the dark bag is more portable and therefore useful to have in an emergency when out shooting.
A crucial element in shooting 5×4 was, of course, the sheet film. I saw some great results from Foma Film – a relatively cheap film manufactured in the Czech Republic. The cost is about half of the Ilford and Kodak equivalents and yet I doubt the quality is really that far behind. Silverprint stock it at a good price, but I actually found it cheaper to source it from Norway of all places – Fomafoto.
I took a couple of quick test pictures to ensure everything was working as expected and to allow me to practice the loading, unloading and developing of 5×4 film. Below are my first two sheets. The first one was taken very quickly from our bedroom window. The light looked nice and I was eager to break the ice and expose a sheet. The second picture was taken shortly afterwards of the Yashica-Mat on our dining room table using the (fading) natural light from the window.
I cropped this one into a panoramic ratio in an attempt to make it slightly less boring!
My shooting experiences so far have been really rewarding and have surpassed my expectations. When shooting Hume castle, which is just under two miles up the road from our house, I experienced intense concentration as I studied the scene I was photographing, knowing that I had to commit time and energy to each individual exposure. The precise set up of the camera to capture it to the best of my ability requires a lot of time and thought. This intense period of concentration is followed by a period of what I can only describe as enlightenment! Once everything has been set up; the lens selected, scene composed, focussed, movements adjusted, exposure reading taken, aperture and shutter speeds set on the lens, shutter closed & cocked, film holder loaded, dark slide removed…
…that’s the moment of pure peace of mind and a feeling of bliss I have rarely experienced before – holding the cable release, watching the scene and waiting for the moment to trigger the shutter. All the hard work has been done, all the variables have been locked down and the composition is fixed. It’s a wonderful sensation. In the few pictures I have made so far I have waited for sheep to be in the right place or a bird to fly into the scene and the experience has been serene and massively rewarding!
I think it goes without saying, I am enjoying my new large format world!
Here are some more results…
With the above picture I used some forward tilt. To achieve this with the Speed Graphic I had to drop the bed, add some rise to correct for the loss in height and then perform a ‘focus and check’ procedure to modify my plane of focus to maximise the perceived depth of field. I learned about the ‘focus and check’ technique from a great YouTube video. It’s impressively effective – here is a close-up crop of the skeleton in the foreground (only about 2 metres away from the camera) and the castle. The aperture was set to only f/16.
I learned a lesson with the sheet above – I didn’t have it loaded into the holder properly. The exposure was squint and the top portion of the frame (the top of the tree) is very soft because it wasn’t sitting flat in the holder.
The above sheet was taken as it was rapidly getting dark so it was quite a rush to get set up. My back was against a fence and so I couldn’t compose it the way I wanted (I had to cut off a bit of the tree). I have since been back and made a couple of pictures from a different position that worked out better. One of the pictures was made with Harman Direct Positive Paper – more on that soon!
Sunday, 7th October 2012
In a group on Flickr I saw someone asking about the Depth of Field of a Polaroid Land Camera, which made me wonder for myself. So I posted the following:
Good question, I hadn’t considered looking at a DoF table for my land cameras so you got me thinking! I have an app for the iPhone called ‘PhotoBuddy‘
This includes a DoF calculator and the ability to choose various camera systems. Unfortunately Polaroid Land Camera isn’t listed, BUT you can enter your own custom film size.
I entered film size 107.95mm x 82.55mm (4.25″ x 3.25″) and then a focal length of 114mm. (36mm is the 35mm equiv. focal length, which feels about right!)
f-Number a either f/8 or f/9 (there’s no f/8.8 available).
Here are some results:
100cm subject distance – 95.1cm near | 105.4cm far (DoF 10.3cm)
150cm subject distance – 138.9cm near | 163.1cm far (DoF 24.2cm)
200cm subject distance – 180.3cm near | 224.5cm far (DoF 44.2cm)
I’m not sure if these are correct or not, let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments below.
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