My LF Journey (and so it begins...)

Discussion in 'Medium Format & Large Format' started by Samriel, Nov 17, 2008.

  1. Samriel

    Samriel TPF Noob!

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    I'm finally ready to start my journey into large format photography, and I was thinking of making a thread here where I would write stuff as I go on. I would also use the thread to ask question about problems that I'll encounter along the way and it might also help some other LF beginners get some ideas and insights into LF photography.

    I probably won't be able to write too often during to time restrictions, but I'll try to write about my progress as often as possible.

    I've basically started photography as a hobby only from the beginning of this year, and I only have experience with digital. Somewhere along the way I really got interested in view cameras, sheet film and contact printing, and here I am now getting ready to learn the basics of both view camera operation and darkroom processing. I plan to use LF mostly for nude and people photography (both outdoors and studio), but I'll probably take pictures of other subjects for practice purposes for a while.

    So my setup arrived this Saturday, and it looks like this:

    • 8x10 Wista DX field camera
    • Kodak Commercial Ektar 14" F/6.3
    • Ries J-100 tripod with J-250 head
    • Dark cloth
    • Additional fresnel ground glass
    • 3 Fidelity 8x10 holders
    • Pack of Ilford HP5+ (25 sheets)
    • 250 Kodak AZO papers (Grade 2 & 3)
    [​IMG]

    I've additionaly got the following:

    • Pack of Fujifilm Neopan ACROS 100 (20 sheets)
    • Pack of Fujifilm Tone WP (100 papers)
    For starters, I've borrowed a 35mm film camera and bought some Fujifilm Neopan ACROS 100 35mm film. In the following days, I'll go around and shoot a 2-3 rolls so I have some practice material for my first darkroom session, without using the rather expensive sheet film. I'll get my first darkroom lesson by the end of next week (hopefully earlier), where I'll develop the 35mm film and also load the 8x10 holders. From there I'll start test shooting with the Fujifilm, either one shot bracketed six times, or two shots bracketed three times. For metering, I'll use my dSLR in the beginning.

    So much for today, I'll write again after I've developed some film.
     
  2. Steph

    Steph No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Beautiful camera.:thumbup:
     
  3. Helen B

    Helen B TPF Noob!

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    Congratulations. That is an excellent way to start. The highly sought-after, discontinued Azo paper has a huge cult following. Check out the Azo Forum.

    Best,
    Helen
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2008
  4. Mitica100

    Mitica100 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Looking good!

    Don't forget a magnifying loupe for critical focusing.
     
  5. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Please do! Beautiful camera, and very nice set up.

    We have plenty of darkroom enthusiasts on board to help, too, but you're very wise to get some hands-on instruction.

    Rock on.... :thumbup:
     
  6. monkeykoder

    monkeykoder TPF Noob!

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    Aren't these things awesome.
     
  7. compur

    compur No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    An auspicious beginning.
     
  8. PatrickHMS

    PatrickHMS TPF Noob!

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    Looks like a really cool old wooden tripod thingy.
     
  9. Samriel

    Samriel TPF Noob!

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    It's been quite a while since I posted here, but I finally made some time for LF and film photography, so I'm gonna keep you up to date on my progress, as well as pester you with some questions.

    First of all, I'd like to mention that the respect which I had for film photographers, especially those doing their own developing and printing, has grown significantly. Exposing, developing and printing your own photographs is quite a complicated process, with many things to consider and many possible options - and mistakes to make. Compared to digital, each mistake I make will cost both time and money. Yet, during printing as the image slowly started appearing on the paper I started feeling like I was a 10 year old kid who just got to open his christmas presents. Of course, a big portion of insecurity appeared as I couldn't control the process properly, and the result got to be quite different from what I had imagined.

    A fellow university photo club member who has no experience with anything except 35mm helped me understand the darkroom basics. He's been doing 35mm for some years now, so I though he'd be quite well versed in the basics. However, I've noticed that most people from the club are not really thorough when it comes to the "craft" and tend to overemphasize the "art" - exposures are loosly calculated, chemistry is mixed "more or less" correctly, temperatures are not "as important"etc. People around me mostly seem to be doing film for the lack of control which it gives to them (basically it's unpredictability). Although I like the unpredictability to a certain degree, I still like being able to apply a measure of control when I feel the need for it. While I am very thankful for them helping me getting my feet wet in the darkroom, I think I'll rather rely on written materials, people with actual experience with LF and proper development from now on. The main reason for doing this is that in the few darkroom sessions we had together, I learned most of the things by myself (carefully reading net articles, books and chemistry packages), and their advice was rarely helpful.

    Now, for the exposures. I shot two batches of six sheets each. The first batch was shot in order to compare the negatives to the digital photographs taken on my Nikon D80 at the same settings. I took 6 exposures at -2/3, -1/3, 0, +1/3, +2/3, +1. I can say that after comparing the negatives to the the digitals, the same settings give the same results, assuming that I developed correctly. The person who was helping me get my hands wet the first time in the darkroom thought they were rather "thin", but I think they compare quite alright to the digital ones. Printing at "standard" settings gave also the results I visualised, at least in terms of exposure. I'll talk about focus and DoF problems later on. The second batch were taken so I could have more film to practice developing, but also because I wanted to take some photographs of a human subject.

    Let's go to the technical details of the development process:

    Film used: Fuji Neopan ACROS 100

    Pre-Wash: Water, 20C, 1'
    Developer: Kodak D-76, 20C, 7'30''
    Stop Bath: Fuji Acetic Acid, 23C, 1'
    Fixer: Fuji Super Fix, 23C 8'
    Wash: Prewash 30'' -> Fuji Quickwash Wash 1' -> Main Wash 10' -> Fuji Driwel (Wetting agent) Wash 30''
    Drying: 1 Day in (supposedly) dustfree storage.

    For the first six sheets, I agitated by shuffling the sheets in the tray, taking a sheet from the bottom and putting it on top every 5 seconds. While the negatives did seems a bit "thin" there were no stains or other problems there. However, due to some advice from my friends, stop bath and fixer temperature was not controled for the first six sheets (it supposedly doesn't matter), and I'd have to guess that it was rather around 7-9C then the recommended 15-25C. Just to be on the safe side, I made sure all temperatures were in the proper range for the second batch. Also, during the second batch, I choose to try rocking the tray rather then shuffling the sheets - I shuffled the sheets ones in the beginning (every 5''), and once more at 4', but except for that I kept rocking the tray every 5''. The reason for rocking the trays rather then shuffling was that in the first attempt shuffling was problematic and I have the feeling I might damage the film. The sheets stick to each other as well as to the tray (although the bottom of the tray is not flat), and it gets rather frustrating getting them separated. However, 3 of the 6 sheets of the second batch had stains and similar "discrepancies".

    Here are some negative scans. They seem darker then they actually are, and you will see the details later in the print scans.

    [​IMG]

    Please ignore the leaves moving in the wind. It was a 6" exposure.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Now to my questions:

    1. How important is the temperature of the stop bath and fixer in the process of developing and printing? What are the possible problems?
    2. Wheter you use rocking or shuffling for agitation, how exactly to you do it? When do you start counting? Do you count 5'' from the moment you have put the sheet on top, or 5'' from the moment you started taking it out from the bottom? Any hints or tips for smoother agitation?
    3. What is a good negative? I'm having problems grasping the concept at the moment. Of course I understand than extremely over- or underexposed negatives are usually not good. But except for exposure related problems, is there anything else that defines a negative as good or bad (i.E. the stains I mentioned)?

    Now let's get to the printing:

    Paper: Fuji Tone WP Grade 3 and Kodak Azo Grade 3

    Developer: Chugai Chemisty (Ilford Licenced Company), "My Paper Developer", 20C. Recommended time - RC:90'', Fiber:120''
    Stop Bath: Fuji Acetic Acid 23C, 30''
    Fixer: Chugai "My Fixer", 1'
    Wash: Washing was done loosly depending on the quality of the print.

    First we tried using the enlarger light, because my friends didn't believe that the paper could be so insensitive. As expected, even extreme exposures (8') didn't show any detail in the light areas, although they did overexpose the dark ones. After that we used a diffused 300W light from a height of ca. 120cm, and that started working much better. Exposure times were down to seconds. With the first negative (wall), I managed to get the result I wanted with standard developing time. For the portraits however, I've tried several combinations and times, and I just couldn't get the results I wanted. It might be due to the quality of the negative, or it might just be my poor darkroom skills, but I guess it's probably both. The contrast was always much more than what I had wanted. Now, Tone only comes in Grade 3, and I have only 50 sheets of Grade 2 Azo, so practicing with the Grade 3 (some 270 sheets) seemed like the logical choice. Here are some scans:

    Kodak Azo Grade 3

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Fuji Tone WP Grade 3

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    This one (below) was overexposed on purpose, and left in the developer for only 30'' (therefore the stains). Although being a failed try, it has the desired contrast, but not the desired exposure. Further experimenting always gave my contrasty prints like the ones above.

    [​IMG]

    Questions concerning printing:

    1. How do I get less contrast from the portrait? I cannot remember the scene being so contrasty, and the negative is also not as contrasty (ok, the hair is quite dark while the rest is light).
    2. Any other developers you'd like to recommend? I'm in the process of getting some Amidol for Azo, but it'll take some time. I'll use Dektol for my next try, because the Chugai developers is rather unknown, and it's hard to get practical advice concerning it.
    3. If you look at the wall negative and print, you will notice a discrepancy towards the outer edges. The focus is correct in the middle of the print, but towards the edges it starts blurring strangely. I've checked the negative and compared, and the negative is quite sharp all around, but the print gets strangely blurred. Any explanation for this? I think I'm noticing the same thing with the portrait. I put the paper on a rubber sponge, than the negative on the paper, and the contact printing glass over the negative.

    It's been a very long post, but I hope you can help me with some of my problems.
     
  10. christopher walrath

    christopher walrath No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    This is great, Sam. Doesn't the ground glass just hypnotize you when you look upon it? Keep up the good work.
     
  11. JC1220

    JC1220 TPF Noob!

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    The portrait negs are over exposed, you are going from the black hair you want to retain detail in, to the covering that is white which also want to retain detail in. I would say you need to adjust your lighting in studio to bring the harsh white of the covering down a zone or two, even her face is over exposed.

    The problems with the prints you are getting is because the glass you are putting on top is not heavy enough to keep everything flat. Use a piece of smooth mounting board undernieth and a 1/4" piece of clear glass at least a few inches larger than the negatives. Or use your contact printing frame, although I have found them to be a real pain in the ass, if you get a piece of dirt in there you have to take it a part, if things to don't line up right you have to take it apart again and each time wasting paper as you often can't see the problem until you expose. Also use a frame that is larger than your negatives as most frames are made to just fit the negative and they end up cutting off the edges of your negatives.

    You should really shuffle and agitate your negatives for a full minute with a rest of a minute in between agitagtions. Just rocking the tray will not provide even development. Don't worry about damaging the negatives, it is going to happen, and you will get better with experience.

    I am glad you have someone on hand to help you, but please do not pick up the bad habits you mentioned, they have no place in large format and it will lead to poor results and frustraion, not to mention it is just plain lazy!

    I would save your AZO for now and concentrate on the paper that is readily available. Keep at it with the same developer and film until you can produce consistant results.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2009
  12. Samriel

    Samriel TPF Noob!

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    It does have a certain hypnotic effect, but only for a moment. After that I just start sweating trying to focus properly. ;)

    @JC1220

    Thanks for the advice. I'll stick to the Fuji film and paper for a while, and probably use D-76 and Dektol for developing. Don't worry about the bad habits and laziness of my fellow club members, I'm set on doing things properly and by the book, at least until I actually now how different setting effect the process.
    I'll try doing some more prints of the wall negative to find a good way to press the negative and paper together in a more efficient way, as well as to take some proper measurements of exposure and development times. I'll post once I've printed some more.
     

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