4x5 Large Format · Film photography · Photography

When things don’t work out

Yesterday didn’t work out how I’d hoped. My plan was to go out in the afternoon and make some photographs, and that’s what I did. However it was a disappointing experience. Firstly, because the weather was rainy and gloomy in the morning, I had to wait until the afternoon before I could go out (well, I suppose I could have gone out and took some rainy-day pictures in the morning, but that wasn’t what I wanted to do). The weather forecast for the afternoon showed it would be a mixture of sunshine and sunny spells but the reality was that it was largely overcast, with the sun only being visible as a vague disk behind the cloud cover most of the time. This annoyed me – I have a dim view of weather forecasting apps, most of which can’t even seem to show the current weather correctly, much less what it’s going to be like later on or the following day. The untrustworthiness of them is frustrating. However, the weather was what it was and I would have to make the best of it.

I took my Yashicamat 124G, but I was hoping to shoot some more pictures using the Chroma 4×5. I decided to head out to Shireoaks and maybe take a picture of Steetley Chapel before driving to Shireoaks and walking along the Chesterfield Canal to Turnerwood.

I visited the chapel first and spend time setting up my large format gear. I was careful to check the exposure, setting up the correct aperture, shutter speed, making sure the focus was correct, and then checking the shutter was firing as expected before taking the shot. I removed the dark slide, took the picture, and then packed everything up, got in the car and drove to Shireoaks. After parking the car, I set off towards the canal, grumbling under my breath about the poor light that was filtering through the clouds. On top of this a breeze had gotten up, placing ripples ont the surface of the water to kill any reflections and also jeopardising any longer exposures with the big large format camera, whose bellows are great for catching the wind.

When I arrived at Turnerwood I set the camera up for a picture of the lock keepers cottages that sit beside the water there. It’s an attractive location, but the conditions were dull and not particularly flattering. Nevertheless, I got everything ready for the picture. And then I realised something unfortunate…

I became uncomfortably aware that when I’d made the first shot back at Steetley Chapel that, after taking great care to get everything set up properly, I’d then gone and removed the wrong darkslide from the film holder, effectively exposing the sheet of film through the ground glass on the back of the camera rather than through the lens. I could even remember seeing the dark slide moving behind the ground glass as I removed it ferchrissakes! This didn’t help my already low mood, but I decided to take the second shot anyway, making sure that I was using the unexposed sheet of film. I took the shot and then tried to reinsert the dark slide.

It wouldn’t go in.

Instead of sliding true it instead hit some resistance which I’m pretty sure was the sheet of film. After several attempts I came to the realisation that there was nothing else to do but remove the film holder, thereby ruining a second sheet. Great going eh?

I decided to have another attempt at the shot, this time using a remaining sheet of Fomapan 100 that was in another film holder (the other shot on there was of a silver birch tree I photographed in the Peak District a couple of weeks ago). This time all seemed to go well and I was able to reinsert the dark slide correctly and then pack everything away. I took a shot of the scene on the Yashicamat too while I was there, just in case.

I shot another couple of sheets of HP5+ back in Shireoaks and these seemed to work ok with no obvious problems. I’ve not developed these yet though, so who knows?

As I drove home the sun emerged from the clouds and bathed everything in perfect light. Sigh.

I’ve developed the Fomapan sheets today with somewhat mixed results. The Silver Birch picture was largely a write off, having a massive light leak that took out around a third of the image. I’ve attempted a crop, but it’s not great. Partially because it wasn’t what I wanted from the picture and also, from a technical point of view, because I’ve got some unwanted camera movements in there which has done odd things with the plane of focus.

The shot made at Turnerwood was much better, but the light wasn’t great, so it’s a little flat looking. It also has some issues with camera movements – this time some front swing that means the left and right edges have some softness. I’m going to have to pay close attention to these things in future to avoid them creeping into my pictures again.

I also loaded my first sheets of film into the holders today. The camera came with four film holders already loaded with film, so I’ve had to shoot those before getting the chance to load some myself. This also seemed to got well though, thankfully.

More large format cock-ups to come soon no doubt. 🙂

Emergency crop!

Chroma 4×5. Fujinon NW 135mm f/5.6 & Fomapan 100. Fomadon R09 1+50 9 mins @ 20°

Taken 2 January 2023.


8 thoughts on “When things don’t work out

  1. I sympathise. I had a whole roll of Kodak Gold 200 come out over-exposed somehow this weekend.
    It was my first attempt at color development, so I figure it could be (in increasing order of likelihood): 1) the meter in my Pentax 645 stopped working, 2) gold is prone to over-exposure (this seems unlikely), 3) something in my process wasn’t done properly (after doing some research, I suspect the agitation instructions resulted in over-agitation).

    A roll of 120 isn’t a big deal to sacrifice in the pursuit of learning (not like sheets of 4×5, I imagine)… and I told myself not to get too attached to any of the photos in the event I dicked the dog in processing… but even still, when you’ve put the consideration and time into a composition and chosen to make the shot, you care a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Matt.

      I’m quite fortunate to have received several boxes of film with the camera, so at least the loss doesn’t sting as much as if I’d bought I’d separately. Not that I want to waste it, of course, and it’s always disappointing to lose an otherwise workable photograph.

      Also, it wasn’t some of the much more expensive Ektar sheet film I have. I’m waiting until I know what I’m doing before I shoot any of that!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Indeed – I’m treating every mistake as an opportunity for improvement. I’d rather get it right first time of course, but that’s perhaps an unreasonable expectation at this early stage.


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