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Shot with my new custom-converted Polaroid 900 body that’s now a 4×5 camera, these are some scans of the negatives I shot last week with Model Sarah. Film of choice was Ilford HP5+, metered at ISO 400, we were typically at about 1/8th second at f/8. The Caltar lens will shoot wide open at f/5.6, but I wasn’t sure how sharp it would be at this aperture. And at those shutter speeds, you get a nice blur on the flowing water.
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Developing the negatives was an exercise in frustration as the film retainer clip on the negative carrier for the HP Combi Tank snapped when it caught on the edge of the tank. When I finished development, some of the negatives had dislodged from their grooves and were in contact with each other. So unfortunately, not all the negatives that I shot that day were perfect. These are some of the best from the day. I really love the presence that this lens renders. The balance between sharpness and the out of focus areas is really pleasing, even at f/8. More experiments today and tomorrow.
Film scanned, processed for contrast and toning in Photoshop. Some frames are cropped from the full-frame here.
so, as many of you might know, i’ve been shooting a lot of film lately. and while scanning the negatives, sharing the results on-line, and making some high-quality inkjet prints is great way to get feedback on my work, that wasn’t the ultimate goal. ideally, the negatives should be printed in a traditional darkroom using silver gelatin papers. the thing is though, i have a very nice enlarger, ample room in my basement. the only thing that really holds me back is my incredible knack for clutter in my daily life.
this area of the basement is somewhat small, but larger than most people’s closet darkrooms. with its access to a sink next to the clothes washer, it means that i don’t have to pay a plumber to come in and charge me a gazillion dollars to install a new sink. the only problem, of course, is all this crap laying around. in this clutter there are scraps of wood tacking strips from when i pulled the carpet up 2 years ago to reveal the lovely hardwood floors on which i’ve been know to shoot a nude once or twice. there were random tools and tool boxes, laundry detergent, product boxes, plywood pieces from a disassembled entertainment center (holy cow, i hated that thing!).
when i woke up this morning i decided it all had to go. it didn’t take long to really get things going. it wasn’t the greenest thing i’ve ever done, but let’s say its going to be an epic trash night this week! i threw out bubble wrap, packaging cushions, there’s tons of corrugated cardboard being recycled, lots of product boxes (really, why was i saving the box for a shredder that i bought 5 years ago?!?). i cut up the larger boxes and saved the sheets of cardboard for packaging when i ship prints to clients and collectors.
around lunch time i went up stairs and made a little fire in the fireplace. there were months worth of brown paper packaging that comes with many shipped items. i used it all as kindling to start a nice wood fire. again, not the greenest thing i’ve ever done, but it was nothing if not efficient and pretty!
after the lunch break, i started on the other room in the basement that leads to the closet where the old enlarger has been hiding for the past 9 years. i wasn’t even sure if i had all the parts. and there are some things that i know are missing and i’ll have to try to purchase replacements for them either on-line or through contacts with friends.
once the space was cleared and things were cleaned up a bit more, i had to clear off a utility table in the garage. i bought several of these tables for pennies courtesy of the fire sale that happened when Lucent Technologies was crashing in and around 2001. they sold off so many lab tables with nice industrial tops which would probably be perfect for the chemical hazards of a darkroom setup.
its now probably about 3:00 and i’ve got to break soon for dinner with the family. the top of the utility table is filthy and needed to be scrubbed down, tape and labels removed with goo-be-gone, and the legs needed leveling since the floor in the basement is pitched generally toward the drains. with all that done, i carried the Omega B8 enlarger over to the table. parts of it had been disassembled for shipping when i moved into the house, so i tried as best i could to find all the parts in order to reassemble it. i was able to locate the condenser lamp housing, filter drawer, and the negative carriers for 35mm, 6×6, and what i think is 6×9. what i couldn’t find was the armatures for mounting the condenser lamp housing onto the enlarger. this required a considerable amount of searching throughout the house.
its amazing to me how many boxes are still sealed from my move-in 9 years ago, but there, in a closet in my spare bedroom, at the bottom of a box of 800k floppy disks was a ziplock bag with the connecting arms for the enlarger. bingo! i’ve still got the original 75mm vivitar lens that came with the enlarger when i bought it from a friends father, probably back in 1991. so, it seems to me there are only a few pieces missing at this point: a good light source, preferably one of the Aristo HI23 cold light heads, a decent sized easel, an archival washer, and a good enlarging timer. i’ve got lots of trays and chemical storage bottles and a pretty good know how of making nice prints. but to me, at least now the hard part is done!
So, I got up at 6:00am yesterday morning. On a Saturday, no less. I was up pretty late the night before making final preparations for the fetish show for which I was a contributing artist. If you know me well, I am not an early riser.
So, what would get me up at such an absurd hour? In a word, silver. I had the opportunity to join one of my friends to work in a darkroom to make silver prints using traditional black and white darkroom processes. My friend Bill Earle arranged for us to visit with his friend Chris Miller and we had part of the morning and afternoon to use his wonderfully equipped darkroom to make some prints. I used to have my own wet darkroom a few years ago, but haven’t had it setup and well stocked in years. So to have the chance to print some of the negatives that I’ve been shooting with Bill’s Hasselblad was a rare treat.
I have also been researching a new technique of making negatives from digital files that can be printed onto Pictorico High-Gloss White Film with an inkjet printer and then contact printed onto 11×14″ sheets of black and white photo paper. I took some of these digial negatives with me and wanted to attempt making some prints from them as well.
It was an ambitious plan! For anyone who has attempted making traditional black and white prints, it can be a very time consuming process. And throwing in an unknown process of making digital silver prints, it was without doubt a tall order.
The digital negatives actually printed quite easily after a few glitches. The setup was to use a large piece of glass to hold down the negative on top of the photographic paper. We made a few test prints to determine exposure and when we tried to make the final prints, everything came out blurry. The reason was that for the test strips we used a half sheet of paper, but fir the final prints we used a full sheet and this difference in surface area left enough air betwen the negative and the paper to throw things out of focus. So once we got over this hurdle, by compressing the air out, we actually got some very interesting prints. They went into the print washer and we moved onto making some prints from one of my regular film negatives.
Bill was actually a big help in getting a good print by showing me a very interestig technique of making prints. It’s a split contrast method wherein, you make one test print with a contrast 0 filter to establish your highlight tones, then once you’ve established the correct exposure for the highlights, you make another test strip with a contrast 5 filter on top of the highlight exposure. This gives you your shadow details.
As Bill revealed this technique to me, it was apparent to me that this was very similar to a technique I discovered for processing digital images in photoshop. The technique involves duplicating the base layer and setting the blend mode to Screen. This establishes my highlights and I can lower the opacity of this layer or use masks to reduce this effect. Next, I duplicate the base and set the blend mode to Soft Light to bring up the shadow detail. Again, opacity and masks fine tune the effect.
I’ve encountered a lot of people who have issues with digital photography, claiming that the skill, technique or finesse. But in reality, any good digital photographer knows that an understanding of solid imaging and print making techniques can bring even a digital image to the level of fine art.