2013 – My Plans and Projects

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.

Harman Direct Positive Paper

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.
Enlarger mess

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.

Darkroom Construction
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!

Scanner Camera

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.)

Scanner Camera - IR Result

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!

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