Images and notes from the April 2018 Large Format class taught for ACP at the NAS facility, Taylor Square, Darlinghurst, Sydney. The class goes from 10am to 4pm and is designed as an introduction to 4×5 and 8×10 cameras for those who are curious about using sheet film and view cameras. We use both paper negatives and film during the class, the paper is easy to load and we can process it for a near instant look at the exposures. The film I process after class and load here for students to look at.

Above is a paper neg that was our first exposure during the initial practical exercise, which is learning to operate the 4×5 camera. The camera was a Chamonix 045N2 with a Fuji 135mm f/5.6 lens. We used Ilford Satin RC paper exposed as if it was ISO 3. The tonal rendering is pretty good for a paper neg although the scene didn’t have a wide range of colour or brightness. NAS is on the site of the 19th century Darlinghurst prison and the sandstone blocks that make up one wall have convict symbols carved in them – these were used to track that each prisoner was meeting their labour quota. The colour of the blocks are pretty much brown and yellow. Below is another section of the wall exposed with the same lens on Ilford HP5 film, processed in D76. The results are not directly comparable as the film photo was taken about one hour later and the sun was at a different angle, but I am impressed by the paper negative.

In the first part of the class we use the 4×5 camera to explore the basic principles of view camera photography, mostly doing architectural subjects but also pointing out how these are also mostly applicable to landscape photography. After lunch we look at the 8×10 camera in relation to portraiture, particularly covering technical considerations around close focusing and discussing how these principles also apply to still life. There is only so much you can cover in one day, we couldn’t practically do all four genres, but I think that by covering two of them in some depth the students should have an idea about how they could work in other scenarios.

The 8×10 camera is a wooden Deardorff dating from the mid 1960s and the lens we used was a 300mm f/5.6 Rodenstock Sironar N in a Copal 3 shutter. The students get to load the film into the film holders and to make the exposures, pulling the dark slide, cocking the shutter and deciding which moment to expose. Again we did both paper and film negatives and here they can be compared as they were exposed in the same light one after the other.

I like large format film for its lack of grain and smooth tonal transitions. The small depth of field that is possible is also interesting however I don’t like extremely small depth of field, particularly in portraits. With the 300mm lens doing fairly close focusing at f/5.6 as in the examples below, when the eyes were in focus other facial features were quite unsharp to an extent that was a bit odd looking. The results were more acceptable around f/11 so the film portraits were exposed at that aperture while the paper negatives were exposed at f/5.6 to avoid too slow a shutter speed, considering that the paper is rated at ISO 3 vs 400 for the film. So that depth of field difference can be observed here.

In regard to exposure these relative close ups also require us to think about the light fall off due to bellows extension factor. From memory the bellows were extended to about 450mm to obtain the close focus. I use the Reciprocity Timer app to calculate the correction required whereas in the old days I would work it out in my head based on a basic understanding of the inverse square law. In this case we metered the face with a Soligor spot meter, added one stop for bellows extension and one stop to lift the skin tone one stop above a mid tone.

With the photo below we decided to maximise depth of field and closed the aperture to f/64 and the exposure time was 2 seconds. It is not equally sharp from front to back but clearly more depth of sharpness than in the portraits.


One book borrowed during February 2018

Four audio books and seven print books borrowed during January 2018.

Four books borrowed during December 2017.

Ten books borrowed during November 2017.

Three audio books and two print books borrowed during October 2017.

One book borrowed in September 2017