I'm so honoured to have been asked to write an article about my work for View Camera Magazine - a great resource for anyone fascinated by large format photography. It feels extremely special in that I'm only the second female large format photographer to have been featured so far, we're a fairly unique breed but we're out there! Go check it out and leave some comments!
I recently became the happy owner of a 4x5" 1943 Anniversary Speed Graphic camera. It's a lovely old thing, full of quirks and definitely feeling its age, but I think I'm going to enjoy shooting with it. I gave it a quick test run with the help of friend and fellow photographer, Nathan Green (go check out his work!). I so love my paper negatives. They have so much personality and depth to them. Colour tones capture differently so skin appears different to in real life. It's very interesting and you never quite know how it will turn out!
I decided to develop my paper negatives in Caffenol as I'd been wanting to experiment with this on paper.
Caffenol recipe for paper negatives (courtesy Daphne Schnitzer, facebook)
49g washing soda
16g Vit C powder
40g instant coffee
The negatives developed quickly compared to my usual mix of dilute Ilford MG, next time I'll try diluting this one too as I like the control of slower development. I was blown away by the tonality and the sharpness that the Caffenol brings. I had a shot I'd taken a while ago for comparison, and the Caffenol negative seems to have a broader range and is much easier to scan and post process. The only trouble is that it's such a dark colour that it's impossible to see what's going on while it's developing. I do like it though, and it easily processed nine 4x5 negatives without exhausting.
I took two shots of this last one and was very interested in the results I got from the second version. It was completely accidental. First off, I post-flash my paper under my enlarger for 0.4 seconds so I get less contrast. With this one, I accidentally turned the enlarger on rather than the timer, so it effectively got about 15 seconds of light by the time I'd finished going "Ahhh shit" and trying to find the off button in the dark.
I decided I'd throw it in the developer anyway as it was the last one to be done, and it developed very dark and very quickly. It didn't seem worth saving so i threw it in some water and turned on my darkroom light to check on the previous ones. Turning my head, I noticed a faint image on the paper, so I had to run to turn off the light and throw the print into the fixer, figuring that this would have really completely buggered it anyway. When I turned the light back on, I could see I still had a faint image, I was completely surprised. Scanned it up and was blown away by my results. I absolutely love it. Now to go and find expired, fogged papers to get this result on purpose!
I recently became the owner of an Intrepid 4x5 camera (red bellows mmm yeah!). It's a great lightweight camera for large format shooting. I do own a vintage Russian FKD 13x18cm and a 3 1/4x 4 1/4 Speed Graphic, but the Intrepid is fast becoming my favourite.
My research at the moment is using paper negatives. This involves cutting down photographic paper under red safelights to fit the camera I'm using. In this case 4x5" of course. I've been experimenting for some time, at some point I'll try to do a more explanatory post about my journey. For now, using paper negatives involves using photographic paper instead of film in the camera. It has a unique look and is actually a faster way of creating an image generally, as the development process is very fast. Exposure times can be quite long however.
To begin you start with finding a base ISO (Ilford MGIV in my case is 3 ISO). This will result in a quite contrasty negative. Preflashing (or post, it doesn't seem to make a difference) will cut down on the contrast and give a faster speed to the paper (ISO 6 in my case). I preflash under my enlarger and have tested with test strips to get the amount of light JUST BEFORE any tone is registered on the paper, so that last possible fraction of a second of paper white. Once I've gone out and exposed the paper in my camera I develop it in paper developer that is only half normal strength and for a maximum of 1 minute. You dont want tones being too strong and contrasty. I actually like to pull my negs out even earlier if I can get away with it, as they'll have more of the textural uneven look I'm after.
Anyway, this post is about my new lens! I recently acquired a 100 year old lens in a shutter for my Intrepid. It was originally from a pretty basic folder camera. The results: Amazing! I've only had time to give a brief testing in the backyard just before the sun went down but I can't wait to try it some more. It's so exciting being able to give this old equipment new life.