Just downstream from the bridge I shared a photo of yesterday (you can see it in the background of today’s shot) is a second bridge, this time an active railway bridge. Indeed, as I was setting up this photo a train was sat idling off the the right of fram and actually crossed when I was ready to take the picture. I waited until it had passed though as, even though it was moving slowly, the half-second shutter speed I was using would have rendered it blurry, and probably not in an aesthetically pleasant way.
I’ve been out making more photos today, although with the Bronica ETRSi rather than the large format kit. We’ve had a big dump of snow the last couple of days which eased off yesterday afternoon and then began to melt quite rapidly. However temperatures overnight fell below freezing so I decided to go out this morning – a lovely sunny start – and try and catch some wintry scenes while they remained. I managed to shoot the full roll of HP5+ I had loaded, and also one or two frames of expired Provia 100 that is loaded in a compact I was carrying in my coat pocket. It was a nice morning and I was pleased that it actually fell on a day where I could take advantage of it for once!
Thos shots will appear here in due course, although I expect the snow will have become memory by the time they do.
This is another of those scenes that I’ve photographed on more than one occasion. The subject almost cries out to be photographed and the location features in the photographs of many others besides mine.
One of the two photographs I took of the Botanical Gardens was a bit of a bust. The shot was alright but I got a big light leak on it. I suspect the leaks I sometimes get when shooting large format are caused by my taking insufficient care when removing the dark slide, perhaps pulling the film holder away from the camera slightly and letting light in.
Given the time and effort it takes to shoot large format (and the cost per sheet!) I decided to attempt to rescue the picture in Lightroom. I had to crop it by a not insignificant amount and then had to apply quite a lot of dehaze and spot editing to try and remove the worst effects of the light-leak. In the end though, I managed to salvage a reasonably useable image from the original. It’s not perfect – the contrast is a bit crunchy, resulting in some crushed blacks, and quite a lot of noise has been introduced, but better than no image at all.
It can’t be too bad – it managed to get into Flickr’s Explore pages somehow!
Continuing a theme from yesterday’s post, here’s another shot where my composition is out. In this shot I needed more of the foreground to avoid cropping the bench, and also more of the left hand side to avoid the edge of this part of the greenhouse being cropped. I should have moved further back, which would have solved both isssues.
Someone did point out that the loss of the left hand side of the frame could have been caused when inserting the film-holder, which could have accidentally caused the tripod head to rotate slightly if it wasn’t locked tight. It could easily have been my fault for not checking my edges carefully though.
I took this picture a few weeks back on a quick trip out to shoot some sheets of film with my 4×5 camera. It was a bright day with plenty of light and, with a dark-cloth attached, I was able to see the image on the camera’s ground glass quite clearly. I still messed up the composition though.
Ideally I should have either taken a few steps back to get more of the scene into frame, or moved a little to the left (either physically or using some shift on the camera). This would have allowed me to get the whole grave marker on the left in frame, which I think would have improved the picture.
I still like the shot, and it’s impressive to see the amount of detail that the format can provide, but I do need to get better with my composition when using the ground glass.
Taken February 2023. (I can’t remember the specific date. I normally look at my Google Timeline to check such things but remeber that I forgot to take my phone out with me on this occasion so it didn’t record the trip).
Since taking posession of my Chroma 4×5 camera I’ve exposed 12 sheets of film. Two of those were complete write offs due to, ahem, user error. Some shots have looked good – not necessarily artistically so, but technicaly pleasing (at least given my current level of skill with the camera) – but quite a few have been beset by light leaks. When I developed four sheets the other day I was disappointed to see more light leaks. Two of the shots had significant leaks, the other two less noticeable, but the defect looked very similar to some of the other frames that had suffered similar problems.
My initial though was that there was a problem with one of my film holders, but on sharing the images with some other large format users, they all pointed to the problem being caused by light getting behing the film holder when it was in the camera. One way to test for this is to put a light source inside the camera in a darkened room and see if light can be seen escaping. By doing this I was able to see than no light was getting out behind the film holder but that there was a very fine strip of light visible where the camera back is magnetically attached to the body. The gap appears to be razor thin – a small fraction of a millimetre – but if light is getting out, then light can get in too.
I wondered about trying to finagle a fix – maybe putting strips of tape in the join, or maybe a shaped piece of light seal foam, but then I contacted the guy who manufactures the camera and he very kindly offered to take a look at it and see if he can identify the problem. So I now need to find a sutable carton, pack it up, and get it shipped across to him for a (hopefully!) fix.
So I’ll be shooting smaller formats for now. Not that I was ever going to give up on 135 and 120 in any case.
Here are two of the affected shots from the Chroma. The first one has little impact, but that’s possibly due to the busier nature of the scene. The second shot shows the light leak more noticeably on the left side of the image. Other shots are much more badly affected than these. While I’m disappointed by the light leaks, I can at least see than my ability to get things properly focused with the camera and its movements is improving. Still work to do, but much improved on before. I’m also impressed by just how much detail the 4×5 film can resolve.
I’ve been thinking about potentially having a go at large format photography for a while now, probably for a couple of years, although more seriously in the last twelve months. Having seen imaged made with large format cameras, I was attracted to the look that they could convey as a result of the large negative sizes and, importantly, the camera movements available and envisioned the pictures I could make.
However, moving to large format would require some investment. Firstly, the format isn’t really interchangeable with 135 of medium format photography and I would have to buy most of what I would need from scratch. A camera. A lens. Film backs. Film. A loupe. And, while I already develop black and white photographs at home, even here I would need new equipment to allow me to process such large negatives.
And then there’s the issue of getting the images from the negatives to some final output. In my case, given I don’t make wet prints, this would require a scanner capable of handling 4×5 film, something my Epson V550 flatbed can’t handle. I did have a few attempts at scanning a large format negative that someone gave to me using the V550 to scan it in two halves and then stitch them together in Photoshop, but the results were unsatisfactory.
So, before I could start with large format, I needed to get some money together in order to purchase the equipment I would need to get started. For a long time I was in the position where I could afford either the camera and associated gear OR a large-format capable scanner, but not both, so it looked like it might take a while before I could really begin. But then a very kind person came to my aid, offering me a used Epson V700 flatbed scanner for the cost of shipping and a donation to a charity. I accepted this with graet grattitude and at long last was in the position to purchase a camera.
I’d largely got my mind set on an Intrepid 4×5. They are affordable and available and would meet my needs perfectly. But then I received some more good fortune. I came upon someone selling a used Chroma 4×5 camera along with lens, film holders, film, darkcloth and even a backpack for it all to fit inside for a very good price. It even came with several boxes of film – some unopened. So I jumped at the chance.
The Chroma is a modern 4×5 technical camera manufactured from acrylic. It was available in a wide range of colours when launched and the one I bought is in a fetching forest green shade.
I bought the camera at the start of December and it was posted to me promptly. And then it became stuck in the UK postal system which was suffering heavy backlogs due to industrial action. In the end my next-working-day parcel took three weeks to arrive, being delivered just two days before Christmas. As Christmas was then upon us, I didn’t have time to do more than peek inside the package until a few days later.
The first time I unpacked the camera it was purely to start understanding how it worked. Wile a large format camera is in many ways a very simple device – literally some bellows in a frame to a large extent – the process of unfolding it and understanding what the multiple screws and knobs do was a little overwhelming at first. I had some instructions though and was able to get everything in its right place, fit the lens, and peer through the ground glass. It’s probably because I was indoors on a very dull and dark December day, but it was quite difficult to see much on the focus screen. Pointing it out the window let me see more, but anything inside was very hard to make out, even when cloaked beneath the large darkcloth.
The next day I decided I was going to attempt to take a photograph. I wanted to do this in the house purely for the reason that travelling further afield to use an unfamiliar camera and process seemed like a fools errand and likely to end in disappointment. So I set up a simple shot of an advent calendar stood on the kitchen table. At this stage I didn’t have a loupe so was making do with a 50mm lends from a Pentax 35mm SLR as a standi-in magnifyer. This worked, but was awkward as I couldn’t press it against the ground glass easily and the focus kept wobbling in and out as a result. Still, after some faffing around I got things how I wanted them and took the picture you can see below.
Although Santa’s face is pretty sharp, it looks like I hadn’t locked the camera uprights in the vertical properly and so a bit of tilt had taken place. If you look closely, you can see that focus drops off through Santa’s body before snapping back in on the patterned tablecloth in front of him. I might have avoided this had I stopped down the lens from it’s widest f/5.6 aperture, but deliberately left it so to maximise my shutter speed. However, despite this mistake, I’m still quite happy with it as the result of my first ever large format photograph. It was only ever intended as a test, rather than a piece of fine art, so the result is good.
A couple of days later I received a 4x loupe in the post which I had ordered online. Setting the camera up again showed that the loupe was a great aid in correct focusing and, because it was in contact with the ground glass, also allowed me to more easily see parts of the image. I also found that using a black t-shirt instead of the included darkcloth was more effective, blocking out more straylight and making the focusing screen appear brighter.
I decided to take a second photograph, this time of some small bottles of wine I received for Christmas.
While only my second shot, I was somewhat more ambitious with this one. Firstly, because the bottles of wine were quite close to the camera I needed to extend the bellows further to achieve focus and this meant I needed to account for the bellows-extension-factor which reduces the ammount of light falling on the film. I have an app on my phone to help with this and was able to determine that, after measuring the bellows with a tape, that I needed to add around a stop of extra exposure. Also, because of the composition, I decided to use a little front tilt to get the whole of the front wine bottle in sharp focus. Amazingly, I managed to make a pretty good job of this!
While, again, it’s not going to win any prizes for composition, this shot came out better than I could have hoped and I’m really pleased with the result.
The whole experience of developing the film was completely new too and required further research and parctice to figure out how to remove the film from the holders and get it into the developing tank (I’ve borrowed a Stearman Press tank for now) all in the confines of my changing bag. Thankfully, this all went really smoothly and I couldn’t be happier with the final developed negatives. The Epson V700 did a vey good job with the scans too – both scanned at 2400dpi. The full size scans can be seen on Flickr if you click through the images.
I’ve got one more photo currently exposed, but will wait until I use the other sheet in the film holder before I develop it. This shot (and hopefully the next) was made outdoors, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.