Here we go! I have longed for this journey for years and I am finally on my way.
Before I flirted with film I actually wanted to get into wet plate collodion photography but a used Nikon F90X and a roll of FP4 was a lot cheaper. So I kicked my wet-late obsession to one side and started shooting 35mm. Scanning negs never interested me. If I was going to shoot film it had to be the whole process. Shoot, develop, and print in my bathroom. As soon as I started I was totally hooked! The Zeiss Ikon Nettar was my first upgrade to get into Medium Format and with that came a new enlarger that could print negs up to 6×6. The Durst M605.
I’d always wanted to try Large Format but first I felt I needed to start with 35mm and learn as much as I could about shooting film and processing and printing.
Why Large Format?
I can get bored easily! And film photography is no exception. Yes. I get bored with it! Well, bored with having 36 or 24 frames on a roll to shoot when I only came out for particular scene! Once I have got on location and got the photographs I came to get I would often get back and cut the film out of the camera and save the rest for another shoot. Thats easy with 35mm but not so easy with 120 film. With 120 I’d get my shots and then have another ten to waste on stuff I didn’t really want. And don’t think I am going to keep the film in the camera for days or weeks at a time. I like to get out, come back, develop and print.
This is why I am going to enjoy Large Format. I can load a few sheets and get creative and take my time on just one or two scenes.
Another reason is the print. I have always liked the idea of contact printing and framing it. Simple. And also making larger prints.
And finally the creative possibilities with using the cameras functions to change the perspective of my scene.
Getting Started and First Shoot
The opportunity came for me to start Large Format recently and has opened another avenue in my film photography obsession. I have myself the Intrepid 5×4 Camera and a few necessary accessories. That being Two Nikon lenses, 105mm and 210mm. Two Film holders and a dark cloth.
As soon as the kit arrived I could not wait to take a photograph. I had a scene already in my mind which was a Pumpkin nest to a lamp indoors. From the moment the camera arrived to the moment I developed my first negative was about 3 hours!
I set the camera up on a tripod and attached the 105mm lens and got my composition and focus. It took me a while to do but once it was set I then practiced without film in the back at cocking and firing the shutter. I think we all do that with a new camera! For this I had to open the lens aperture but also make sure I remembered to close the aperture for when I load the film!
Now I had to load a sheet of film, Ilford Delta 100, into the film holder! That was a mission! I went into my darkroom. I had never touched sheet film before. I opened the box only to be presented with another box! And then a bag. And then a folder which inside had all the 25 sheets of film. Pretty alien when you are doing all this in pitch black darkness. I now have a piece of film in my hand ready to go into the holder. Feeling the notches on the edge of the film I was sure I had the film emulsion facing the right way but then I wasn’t so sure! I closed the film box and turned the lights on and exposed the film that was in my hands. That was going to be my test sheet!
After a bit of practice I was ready to load my film, which was pretty easy to do after I had practised.
I now have two sheets loaded into the film holder and I returned to the camera and my scene. I checked one more time for my composition and focus and proceeded to slide the holder into the back of the camera. I closed the lens aperture and with the dark slide in fired the shutter one more time to double check the aperture was opening and closing. It was.
I removed the dark slide, took my photograph and then put the dark slide back in. I removed the film holder and put it to one side whilst I changed my composition for shot 2. This is where I made my first mistake! I now don’t know which side of the holder was the exposed sheet! I didn’t take note. I decided to take a gamble. The least would happen would be a double exposure and a blank film sheet. I took my second photograph and now it was time to develop the film.
I am using the Stearman Press SP-445 as my developing tank. A simple design with two trays inside that hold 2 sheets of film each. So I can develop 4 sheets in one hit.
I used my test sheet to practice loading the film into the tank. Again, this was pretty easy to do all be it a bit fiddly in the dark for the first time! But after a bit of fumbling I got the sheets into the tank and came out of the darkroom to develop the film in the kitchen.
I developed the film in Rodinal 1:50 for 14 minutes and inverted the normal way I would with any other film.
You can imagine how excited I was to learn that, just by the flip of a coin, I had guessed the 2nd sheet in the film holder! Lucky bugger!
I was amazed at the size of the negatives and the detail they contained. And also at the thickness of the film itself which sat flat on my light box for me to take a picture of with my DSLR and invert in photoshop.
So, I had to do a bit of research and the penny dropped. Once I take the slide out and take my shot I just reverse the slide when I put it back in. One side is grey and the other black. So for me Grey means unexposed, black means exposed.
So happy I was with my results the next day I took two more of the same composition but instead used Pine Cones.
No I am a bit more confident I thought I would go to the Downs and take 4 sheets with me to photograph the wind swept trees. I made a video on this which is on the channel.
And since writing this my fourth attempt was a portrait of my Sister and her Partner using natural window light. This was taken at f5.6 and a Shutter of 1/8th.
I do have the Intrepid Enlarger kit for this camera so I can print 5×4 Negatives but before I use that I want to make contact prints, which is relatively easy!
So with all that documented of my journey so far into Large Format I think I am really going to enjoy this new venture. Still film photography but just a bit bigger. But most of all a new challenge and lots and lots of practice and learning to come.
Thanks to all that follow my channel and support my work.