Small Steps. 28th October 2018.
This was to be a chance to go out and take some photos, not as much for the MA project in mind, more for an opportunity to trial some new equipment and potential developing techniques. I gathered a few fellow photographers and headed to the north, the aim was to go somewhere near Haddo House, and take a mixture of landscape images, as we were aware of the autumnal colours and a few pond/lakes in the vicinity. Also, there was a café nearby, which suited our plan as a chance to catch up as much as anything.
I went equipped with the Intrepid 4x5, with a half dozen dark slides. This would limit the possible images I could take, forcing me to work through each composition on the ground glass, to make sure I felt it worthy of using one of the few sheets. I think that this has its merits as well as detractions. On the positive, it reduces the possibility of filler images, photos that I have taken to bridge the gap between the scenes that I care about. In theory each image has a higher chance of being a ‘keeper’. Unfortunately, this also means that there is less chance of a surprise inclusion being the image that makes it to print. Often with a digital work flow, or if shooting roll film, there are photos that I take because something catches my eye, almost as a reflex. These are go forgotten, until it comes to looking over the negatives, and these images due to the relative ‘freshness’ of their process, offer something different and more unique. These images haven't necessarily had the same level of micromanagement when it comes to composition, and often this freedom is to their advantage.
As well as the limitation in sheets I could shoot, I had only one option for lens, a 150mm Fujinon f5.6 W, which roughly equivalates to a 50mm lens on full frame camera, being close to our eyes field of view, which is roughly 45mm on a full frame sensor. This meant that I was limited with the movements available on the camera, and by moving myself to change the perspective of the scene. The bellows on the camera do offer a fair amount of extension but this limited by what would be in focus at the selected aperture. The ISO would be fixed, due to the film speed, which was 400, with Ilford HP5+. There is an opportunity to alter the speed of the film by pushing it, and then extending the development time or strength accordingly. This is something I have done in the past with Kodak Tri X, however I haven’t tried it with Ilford HP5+ yet.
These limitations do free up the shooting process in some regards, as the lack of choice allows me to focus on what I can work with.
I found that shooting on this location there were a few issues with the Large Format Camera, that I hadn't experienced in the past. The location was a popular spot for dog walkers and families, and the time we went at was fairly busy, this meant that I was conscious of passers-by, whilst trying to use a camera that required a dark cloth, so at times I was shut off from my surroundings and had to hope that I wasn’t blocking any paths or being a hindrance. On top of this, if shooting from the woods looking towards any areas that people may pass, I had to be conscious if anyone was passing to avoid capturing them in my scene. As I was looking to capture the landscape predominantly, I wasn’t interested in adding extra human elements in to it at this stage. This was a key consideration, as with the limited amount of film I had taken, although I did have a spare box of film and a dark bag I could have reloaded if worst came to the worst.
I ended up with 6 shots, which I developed later that night. I was using the MOD45 insert for Paterson tanks. This is a piece of equipment that I have had for a while, however I have generally only developed 4 sheets at a time. The insert, although built to take 6 sheets, I find works best with less, as the film seems to resist sitting in the individual notches to keep them apart, often resulting in the edges of some of the sheets resting against each other during the development. I found with 6 sheets that this issue was magnified. The development itself was straight forward, using the guide times from Digital Truth’s Massive Dev Chart, which I had as an iPhone App in the past, which came with darkroom timers, and agitation alerts, however I had to manage without it due to a change in phone. If I was working with film further this year, I would pay the £5.99 to download it again. There would be a few further apps I will contemplate downloading again, with The Photographer’s Ephemeris, being a key one.
Unfortunately, 2 of the sheets seem to have been over exposed, I think that the area I was shooting was in too much shade, and although I was taking metre readings at the time, I have only the extreme highlights in one. This is due to me trying to expose for the highlights to get the most out of the strong sunlight at the time, although I feel I would have had to have altered the time for this sheets development to make sure that I still would get some detail in the shadows. This is a limitation of the bulk development, which does raise questions over the point on shooting sheet film, as part of the appeal is to be able to develop each sheet to specific times. This may be something that will cause me to investigate picking up a deep tank to resolve.
The other 4 images seem to have turned out ok, although there is a fundamental issue with the photos which were shot to showcase the beautiful autumnal colours, as I was shooting on black and white film, this colour is not apparent. I had been looking to try colour film, however at a relatively short notice, I was unable to have it delivered in time, and the photography shops nearby do not stock large format colour film, and due to the current state of the film market they said it would be some time before they would be ordering film again.
The last two images were the ones that I felt did not have much detail with them in the negatives, however after scanning there is a bit more evident on screen than to the naked eye. The second image is out of focus, but the first image should be useable. There was an issue when I shot the image, which is why it was of the same scene. I think I knocked the focus dial when releasing the shutter, and realised as I did it, resetting the focus and shooting with a fresh sheet.
There are lessons to be taken from this shoot and having left the images a while between the developing and scanning phase, has allowed me to approach them with fresh eyes. The images themselves may not be relevant with my current project. However, I remain interested in expanding my skills with the large format camera.
With the recent announcement of Tetanal potentially ceasing trading, it appears that film photography could be under greater threat, this may push me towards exploring it further as an opportunity whilst there are still a variety of chemicals available. I understand that Tetanal does produce developer and other chemicals for other companies including Ilford, so I am unsure of whether this would have a knock-on effect on other manufacturers. Adox who produce the Adonal I have currently been using, are linked to Tetanal I believe, albeit a separate company. The notice I read did advise that they would look to cease trading after 31 April 2019, to allow existing orders to be completed. This may mean that the price of chemicals could go up if there are fears that supply will cease to meet demands.