Uncle Marmot 4×5

Marmot with the GOG Trolley.  I think I was getting a bit of flare here.  There was some very expired Ilford paper lying around the darkroom and I printed using that to see if I could get it to resemble a very old photograph.

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I can’t remember which of these I printed so here are both, I always try to bracket.

Denim and Tumbleweed 4×5

Denim and Tumbleweed.  These were the first pictures I developed that didn’t look like they were on the verge of self-destructing.  I think that shooting a film I knew pretty well helped out a bit there, plus using the Fink-Roselieve tank turned out to be much less accident-prone.

Less, though there are still some irregularities but all in all much better than the first batch.  I’m quite fond of these.

4×5 portrait session 0

My first shot shooting and developing 4×5 film was disastrous in just about every way.  But there was one reasonable success:


My classmate Caleb

Everything else looks pretty terrible and I’m embarrassed to show it to you, but that’s never stopped me yet.  So here’s an example of what most of the shots looked like.


Peak construction going strong with the Cog Railway torn up

I anticipated that the other 3 students would go the route of the cheapest film they could buy and they didn’t disappoint me, it was Arista and Fomapan until te very end.  Looking around, I saw that 50-sheet boxes of Bergger Pancro 400 were nearly as affordable, I wanted to try something different, and I knew that our photo instructor Stacy is a big fan of Bergger paper.  I’m sure this film is great once you know how to work with it and from my research a lot of people were recommending to shoot it at ASA200, that coupled with the outdated times for BRF200 being the only information to build off, helped with some funky results, but also I can’t say I’m a big fan of the Yankee Agitank and shooting large format on top of Pike’s Peak has plagued me with problems every time I’ve gone up.

Developing 4×5 large format film

…is a pain in the ass.  Mostly because it’s like starting all over again after I’ve been shooting 35mm film for a decade.  There are so many new things that I’m learning and while my results have gotten better with time I don’t know everything yet.  For instance while most of my images look pretty good these days there is always the odd sheet that’s just off, like this one:

I suspect that this film holder is a bit light-leaky but besides that I don’t know what’s up with it.  I developed 10 sheets in one batch and it’s the 2 sheets I shot on top of Pike’s Peak that look pretty fugly.

The Yankee Agitank is an old model bought used but B&H is selling these brand-new.  I confess I only used it once and it was such a hassle plus the results left much to be desired.  It was the first time I developed large format film so there were plenty of variables to take into account, still I don’t think I will use this tank again.  Here’s a failure below, but there weren’t many successes:

The Rink-Roselieve tank works reasonably well but there are always a few problems either due to me loading a sheet or two of film incorrectly, or some other problem that I haven’t identified yet.  I found that it does help to pre-wash the film beforehand, but even then there will be a random spot on a sheet that doesn’t develop, like below at the bottom of the picture:

Besides spots like that on the edge of a frame I’m pretty happy with the images, though I wonder if one side of the image is getting more development time than the other, just looking at a lot of my images (in this case the left-hand side).

The Stearman Press SP-445 (a Colorado company!) gives pretty much perfect results but is a pain in the ass to get sealed.  For one thing the O-ring doesn’t seem to keep the lid closed so I used a piece of tape to keep the top lid from falling off.  That is a minor inconvenience compared to the drain and vent hole lids, whose twist-off caps are so hard to work with my (I suppose) arthritic hands that I need to use a few wet paper towels for grip and it takes me 60-90 seconds to get the caps off to switch chemistry.  This time needs to be taken into account when timing the development especially, and hopefully agitating for the first time a full minute after adding the developer won’t harm the images much.  It only holds 4 sheets of film at a time and takes ~450ml chemistry which is nice, because I don’t necessarily want to shoot 10-12 sheets of film the same way, that’s locking me into quite a lot.  The Stearman’s smaller capacity allows me to be able to switch films quicker, push/pull more often depending on my needs, and despite my griping the results have never been less than stellar.  Here’s from my first attempt:

The only thing I haven’t tried yet (and I was looking at buying last semester) is the 6-sheet Mod54 holder that fits inside Paterson universal tanks.  I think I would like it, but sadly the months of January and February are ones where there is no extra money for buying anything, and those ended up being the last I was able to use the darkroom.  I’m hoping my instructor will let me in for the Spring semester but of course we just don’t know right now.

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Steampunk Birthday 4×5

As a continuation of this post, here are the 4×5 shots I took down in the basement of Bristol Brewery.  As far as where I put everyone I was mainly looking at where the light was falling and trying to get the brightest spot.  Now that I’ve had more experience I would have gone for that amazing background and just use a longer exposure.  Live and learn I guess.

If one looks at the group shot, the bottom of the picture has some funky thing going on from the developing.  I’m not sure why the other sheets of film escaped and this one had problems, but we always had some sort of problem with the big developing tanks (that hold 12 sheets).  At the end of the year we bought a Stearman Press tank that holds 4 sheets, which is good because I don’t need to wait until I’ve shot 10 sheets and then develop them all at once.

Shooting 4×5 large format film

This was my last “class,” if you could call it that, shooting 4×5 film in a large format camera.  Actually an independent study that I took for only one credit hour, shared with three other students from Adv.Photo.  The photo department bought three large format camera setups and we had some large photo paper donated to us so there wasn’t as much to supply from the students’ end, thankfully.  Due to scheduling conflicts and weather, we didn’t really get that much done (well, I did but whatever).  Anyway we reconvened in January but that didn’t last long either!  These are a few of the snapshots I took with the Olympus Infinity Stylus that I kept around my neck all of Fall 2019, I kept it in my bag with the 4×5.

I’m using a Standard 4×5 which is aluminum and 3D-printed plastic, with a Schneider 210mm f/5.6 lens, on a Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod.  It’s an extremely light setup and I carry everything around in a gym bag taking pictures wherever I feel like, though they’re mostly portraits.  I don’t know exactly why our photo instructor chose Standard monorail cameras over Intrepid field cameras but for what I’m doing a field camera probably would be more practical.  Actually I’d probably be fine with a Speed Graphic for that matter, Bob Jackson tried to sell me one once; I keep thinking about looking him up and buying it.

I used this as an opportunity to try out as many different film stocks as I could, though one thing I stayed away from was slow films.  With a 4x5in negative there’s really no need to worry about grain, so it’s all been ASA400 film: Bergger Panchro 400, Kodak T-Max 400, Ilford HP5+, Rollei RPX400.  Perhaps I’ll shoot some Tri-X 320, but I have read that it’s very finicky stuff and there are so many calculations that need to be taken into account with bellows extension, reciprocity failure, things like that, so I’m not too keen yet.  Plus Kodak does not really price their large format film competitively at all, it’s nearly double what Ilford charges.  Kodak I love you, but just like your price on 100′ bulk rolls of Tri-X, I don’t see why this film should be so much more than Ilford’s.  I only bought 10 sheets of T-Max 400 and I bought it because I wanted a little lifeline, it being the only film out of the bunch with which I was familiar, and I got some of the best results with this film, probably because of that.

Bergger seemed to be nearly the best deal I’d seen for a 50 sheet box, and I’ve seen a lot of good scans of Panchro on 35mm and 120.  They make some of the best photo paper, too.  On 4×5 though, Panchro 400 is a mixed bag, and I agree with what I’ve read online in that it seems to be closer to a 200 speed film, which is disappointing because as much as possible I’ve been trying to pull the film one stop already.  I need to shoot more but I think I’ll have to shoot this at close to 100 if I want to do that.  I knew that Ilford HP5+ would be closest to my beloved Tri-X and it didn’t disappoint me at all.  I could shoot it just the same way and got great results.  It’s also the film I’ll return to first, once I run out of what I have.  The only scanner at UCCS that can handle 4×5 film is the Epson Expression 10000XL which is in the Visual Resource Center and I have to make an appointment to use it.