February 26, 2014
28 items out at the end of January, 26 books and 2 audio books. I’d never really looked at the AV section but recently I had the idea it would be a good idea to listen to audio books in the car, probably inspired by listening to podcasts. I can’t stand listening to the radio anymore – radio in Sydney is awful. Listening to audio books is also quite efficient – some of the readings of classics like The Iliad, Aeneid, Odyssey etc go for ten hours or more, but as I spend approximately one hour a day in my car I can get through one of these epics in a week or two. Sometimes I have already read the book but the live reading gives it a different feeling. I’ve become quite conscious of certain aspects of the readings, such as how the reader handles rhythm and character vocalisation. I prefer the reader to be fairly neutral in tone and consistent in rhythm, and not to go over the top with character voices. One reading of The Iliad I found unlistenable as the narrator performed it like amateur theatre – speeding up and slowing down, raising and lowering his voice, and putting on the most absurd character voices. It is my understanding that the Greek and Roman classics were to be recited with a consistent pace due to the dactylic hexameter structure, leading to the epic feel. Another minor annoyance is when a Greek classic is translated with Roman names for the Gods, e.g. the reading of the Odyssey used Jove rather than Zeuss. The best one I have listened to so far is The Aeneid of Virgil translated by W.F. Jackson Knight and read by Frederick Davidson.
February 26, 2014
Zero Image 2000 6×6 pinhole camera at f/138, 28 minute exposure, processed in Rodinal 1+50 for 14 minutes. My second Xmas tree pinhole. I couldn’t do one during my February haircut as there was a woman sleeping under a hair dryer. My hairdresser was worried about her reaction if she woke up and saw a box on a tripod.
January 16, 2014
Recently I was sorting through some old boxes and found a bottle of Agfa Rodinal that must date from the mid 1990s. It felt almost full and the cap had a good seal which made me wonder if it would still be effective, as it is known for good keeping properties. As I have some fresh Adonal which is exactly the same formula as Rodinal, I decided to make a simple test by exposing a sheet of 4×5 film, cutting it in half and processing the two pieces in the different developers. I looked for a scene that had a long contrast range from dark to light and that was also reasonably symmetrical so the two sides would be comparable.
The film was 4×5″ Kodak Tmax 400 that expired in 2007. Someone gave me this a couple of years ago and apart from some base fog it works fine. The photo was made around midday on a sunny summer day at f/64 at 1/8 of a second. This is quite a full exposure as I wanted to see some shadow detail. Both devs were used at 1+50 for 9.5 minutes at 20 degrees C. To my eye both negs look identical. They were scanned on an Epson V700 where the only adjustment I made was setting the black and white points, which were identical for both. Putting the positive images back together in Photoshop reveals that the twenty year old Rodinal is still fully active and as useable as the Adonal. Below is a crop detail showing the comparison across dark and light tones. Both images can be clicked to view full size.
January 6, 2014
24 books out at the end of December. Most of these are photography books I’m researching for this years teaching. Arnold Newman At Work is a great book; I’d never heard of it before I came across it on the shelves. I just finished the Robert Hughes biography of Goya which was a good read, now starting on The Aeneid by Virgil.
January 6, 2014
This was the first large format camera I owned, a Graflex Crown Graphic 4×5 inch press camera. I had used 4×5 cameras at art school, where they had Toyo monorails, but for years after that I mostly used 35mm and some medium format for my own work. Later, when I was thinking about buying a 4×5 camera I knew a guy who wanted to sell a Linhof Technika kit that came with three lenses that could be used for either rangefinder or ground glass focusing. It looked like a good system however he was asking around $3,000 for the lot and I wasn’t sure about spending that amount on a format I wasn’t familiar with. The worst thing would be to spend all that money and then after a few months to realise that I didn’t really get along with the camera, or even find out that large format wasn’t for me after all (both these things are quite common in photography.) Around that time I was talking about this to a guy who had been a fine art and commercial photographer for decades and he suggested I get a Crown Graphic as a cheap way into large format, which turned out to be excellent advice.
Crown Graphics are plentiful and can be bought for a reasonable price; I think I paid around $400 for mine with a lens. They are also simple to use yet capable of producing high quality photos. There are basically three designs of large format cameras – monorails, field and press. Press cameras were designed to be used by newspaper, wedding and general jobbing commercial photographers. They don’t have all the options that are available on monorail or field cameras but their advantage is being lightweight, simple and able to be set up quickly. When not being used they fold up inside a box; pressing a button opens the front panel and allows the lens and bellows to be moved along the tracks for framing and focusing.
Crown Graphics came with a rangefinder system that allowed them to be focused like a regular handheld camera, however my camera didn’t come with the correct cam for the lens, so it could only be focused with the ground glass. This was fine with me as it was how I was planning to use the camera anyway. A dark cloth is useful for ground glass viewing, however the built-in pop-up viewing hood means that you can often frame and focus without one.
There were two things I didn’t like about this camera. The first is that it was designed to be used in landscape, horizontal format. To make a vertical, portrait orientation photo meant turning the camera on its side to go on the tripod, whereas most large format cameras offer some type of rotating back that lets you change between vertical and horizontal without remounting the camera. The second was the limited range of movements available – essentially just front rise (which becomes front swing when it’s on its side.) I wouldn’t call these design flaws – it’s just part of the simple design of a press camera. These days I make more use of a Chamonix field camera that has a switchable back and a lot of front and rear movements, however it was the lessons I learned by using the Crown Graphic that enabled me to know what I needed as I moved on in large format. I would still recommend it as an ideal camera for anyone who wants to dip their toe into large format and doesn’t want to commit a lot of money.
December 22, 2013
November 27, 2013
These images are from the Large Format course I taught at the Australian Centre for Photography, Paddington, in November 2013. Two 3 hour classes introducing students to the practical use of 4×5 and 8×10 field cameras for fine art photography. Film exposed during the course is scanned and put here for student review.
The ACP has a black and white darkroom so it is easy to expose paper negatives for testing and demonstration. This portrait test was made on Ilford Satin RC assuming about ISO 6. It is obviously underexposed compared to the film version, but has a strong feel to it. There is a lot of potential in paper negatives. If I was doing this as an end in itself I would test some fibre papers and also try pre-flashing to lower contrast. The paper neg was digitised by student Kellie – thanks for sending this to me. The underexposure was probably due to guessing the incorrect ISO of the paper but it also alerted me that we had neglected to consider bellows extension. The lens was a 300mm on an 8×10 Deardorff and measuring the distance from ground glass to shutter showed that we had to add 2/3 of a stop.
This exposure was made on Ilford HP5 at f/8 @ 1/8 of a second. We added 1 stop for bellows extension and one stop because the film was to be processed in Rodinal which tends to not give full film speed. We spot metered the shadowed side of Michael’s face and set that to be one stop darker than a mid tone. Realistically that side of the face has exposed as a mid tone, so we probably slightly over compensated for both bellows and the Rodinal.
Above is a still life made during the second class, using the Chamonix 45N2 4×5 camera with 150mm lens. We lost the best light due to the time taken to set up. Originally there was a vivid strip of sunlight running along the benchtop parallel with the wall, which would have given more drama to the area where the bottle is. By the time we made the exposure it had moved to the windowsill as seen here. This was HP5 exposed at f/64 to maximise depth of field. Processed in Rodinal 1+50 for 11 minutes.
At f/5.6/8 to see how it looked with small depth of field.
Outdoors with Fuji instant and HP5. The camera was pointed up with as much rear and front tilt as we could manage to correct perspective and focus. The camera had plenty of movements but the lens ran out of coverage. The instant film is ISO 100 and the exposure was f/11 2/3 at 1/125 – pretty much Sunny 16. The HP5 was exposed at f/16 2/3 at 1/250 and processed in Adonal 1+50 for 14 minutes.
Another outdoor one. Here the camera was level with just some front rise to get less ground and more wall. Exposure and dev were the same as for the previous windows photo.