On this day I decided it would be a good idea to compare FP4 to CHS II, rating them both at 100 and processing for the same time together in the tank. A reasonable idea, however things didn’t go as I’d hoped. It was a sunny winters day which is good for this sort of comparison testing as I get directional, contrasty light. As I set out to look for suitable subjects I was a bit concerned about some clouds that were moving in. Overcast means flat, low contrast light; moving clouds can give fluctuating light levels so sequential exposures are not comparable. The sun lasted until I had set up my first shot and then was covered by clouds. I was waiting for it to reemerge, however for five or so minutes it didn’t change. I wanted to get the exposures done as I had set the tripod up on the road. It was a quiet road, and I was right against the gutter, but still a somewhat risky position. Therefore I felt compelled to take the photos just so I could move on to a more sensible location. In retrospect I should have abandoned that setup without using any film and moved on to something better. A poor decision made under self imposed pressure.

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This is a red brick block of flats and when I first got there most of this side of the building was in direct sun. If that had held it would have been a useful comparison subject as I could have seen the contrast range that each film could record. The only contrast difference as it was taken is that the sky was much brighter than the ground, so I exposed for the building and decided to pull the developing. My stock dev time for FP4 is 9 minutes so 8 seemed reasonable. There isn’t much to see in the comparison, with FP4 on the left and CHS II on the right. The building has more local contrast in the FP4 whereas the CHS II looks a bit flatter. I do feel I can see more tones and tonal separation in the sky on the CHS II sheet, which is what Adox say is a characteristic of the film.

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For the other two sheets I found a lookout that has a view across Sydney harbour to the CBD. It was still overcast and didn’t look like clearing up so I was just trying to get something exposed so I could develop the films that night. By the time I had the framing set up there was some weak sun emerging from the clouds but then being covered over again – fast moving clouds with few breaks. I decided to try to expose both sheets during the next bright period, so as soon as I saw a bit of contrast coming into the scene I quickly exposed first the CHS and then the FP4. Here I had misjudged again as the scene continued to brighten and after a minute or so the scene was in full sun that lasted for about ten minutes. By rushing it I had missed the best light and also had two exposures made in slightly different lighting conditions – the FP4 sheet is obviously a touch brighter and with more contrast than the CHS. However I can still see more tonal separation in the clouds on the CHS sheet despite the fact it was made in flatter light. So as far as getting some useful data on the differences between the films, I pretty much failed. On the other hand I did learn a lesson about being more patient, being prepared to abandon something that isn’t working, and trying to be more in tune with the light. I’ve also decided that CHS II needs different dev time than FP4, next time I will try 9.5 minutes.

On the third day (not necessarily consecutive days) I went to a park by the harbour and exposed four sheets of Adox CHS II, another film of which I’ve had a partial box hanging around for a while. Sometimes I buy films to try out of curiosity, expose ten or so sheets and then move on to something else. Now I’ve decided that I don’t want these partial boxes hanging around. I keep them in a fridge but eventually they will develop base fog if left for years. Even if they don’t fog I will have forgotten how to use them in regard to exposure and development. So as part of this project I will use up all these films, have a good look at them and decide whether I like them enough to buy more. At the moment, the only film that is a 100% certainty is Ilford FP4.

4x5 CHS2 210mm

I bought a box of 25 sheets of the Adox CHS II back in 2013 when it first came out. I liked it then and I still do, however I find it very similar to Ilford FP4. I will do some side by side testing of the two films to see if I can discern any differences – I’ve read where Adox say it should be apparent in portraits of people with fair skin, and landscapes with blue skies and clouds. If I can see a difference I might buy more, otherwise I can’t see any reason to, particularly as I can buy FP4 for a better price. Still, well done to Adox for producing a new emulsion that works well and looks good. This park exposure was made with a Symmar 210mm at f/45 on a Chamonix 045N2 camera. Processed for 9 minutes at 20 degrees in Rodinal 1+50 – the same time I use for FP4.

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Symmar 210mm at f/5.6

For the second day I decided to start working through my remaining stock of Foma 200. I hadn’t used this film for a while but remembered that I had to expose it at 100 ISO. I had also done a comparison with FP4 and found that I got more shadow detail with FP4 in Rodinal so I lost interest in the Foma. I should get some more and try it in a developer that gives more shadow detail, but these days I prefer to use films that work well in Rodinal. If I do try another Foma film it will probably be the 100 anyway, because I have never used that.

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This is Foma 200 rated at 100 and processed for 9.5 minutes in Rodinal 1+50 inverting in a Paterson tank with the MOD54 holder. I did four sheets together, with one liter of water and 20ml dev. Agitate the first 30 seconds then 3 inversions each minute. The lens was a Symmar 210mm.

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Same details as above. I did feel that 9.5 minutes was too much and decided to try and find a better time as I worked through the remaining sheets.

Library books, July 2016

August 21, 2016

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Eight books borrowed during July.

This August I set myself the challenge to expose and develop some black and white 4×5 film each day when I had enough time. There are a few reasons for this – to get used to the MOD54 device that allows me to process up to six sheets at a time in a Paterson tank; to use up the odd bits and pieces of film I have accumulated; by doing this to settle on a couple of standard emulsions and the best way to expose and develop them; to sort through my various 4×5 lenses and decide which to keep and whether some need to be disposed of or replaced; and finally, to get better at large format photography by doing it a lot, essentially like a musician practising their scales every day.

I would say that I’m quite competent at large format photography – I first learned in twenty years ago at art school, I teach large format courses, however I tend to only get the camera out when I have a specific idea for a large format photo, which means a lot of the time it sits unused. It would be expensive to use the 8×10 every day, however 4×5 is quite practical, particularly with black and white film that I process myself. Apart from the time involved, the cost is about $1.50 per sheet. Another reason for doing this is that I recently bought a second hand Epson 4990 scanner, so this also gives me the opportunity to view the positives quite soon after processing, rather than having to wait to go into the darkroom and make contact prints.

4x5 NAS fp4 150mm rodinal

This photo was exposed on Saturday August 16 in the grounds of the National Art School (NAS) in East Sydney. It’s an historic site, originally built as a prison in the mid 19th century, until it was closed in the early 20th, when it became an art school. The camera used was a Chamonix 045N2 with a Sironar N 150mm lens. I like this lens, although I find it doesn’t have a big enough image circle to allow the sort of front rise movements I would like to do with architecture. I might replace it with a different 150 with bigger circle, or even look for a 135mm. My first 4×5 camera was a Crown Graphic that came with an Optar 135mm and I liked that framing. I sold the lens when I sold the Crown, otherwise I would be able to compare the 135 to the 150 to make a decision about which framing I prefer. On an unrelated note, they were filming a Jackie Chan movie in another of these buildings about 25 meters to the right of this one.

The film is Ilford FP4 which is pretty much my gold standard for quality black and white film. It was processed in Rodinal 1+50 for 9 minutes at 20 deg C using the MOD54 device in a 3 reel Paterson tank. I did four sheets together, everything went well and I think the MOD54 is a good option for home processing of 4×5 film. When I first scanned the films I noticed a lot of dust in some areas and that was going to take a long time to clean up in Photoshop. I couldn’t believe my film was that dusty as it was freshly processed. Checking the scanner I noticed a couple of dirty areas on the inner side of the top glass, which the scan lens looks through to digitise the film. I did some searching and found instructions on how to remove and clean this glass and was able to wipe away the marks and am now getting clean scans.

4x5 NAS fp4 rodinal 150mm fernpot

The exposure details for this photo are the same as the first one. This inner wall of NAS has hundreds of sandstone blocks that were handcut by the prisoners who built the gaol. They would inscribe their symbol into each block they cut so the authorities could keep track of their output. The original name of this place was Darlinghurst Gaol, and 76 people were hanged there during the mid to late 19th century, including the last woman to ever be hanged in NSW.

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6 books borrowed during June 2016.

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My documentation of the 2014 spring season exhibitions at ACP – Australian Centre for Photography. There were three exhibitions on simultaneously – Poppy – Trails of Afghan Heroin by Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong, Bedrooms of the Fallen by Ashley Gilbertson and Between Darkness and Light by Jodi Bieber. At night the street screen projection on the front window was After the Apology by Alethia Casey.

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Photo 3 shows the view from the gallery with Ashley Gilbertson photos looking towards front of house and the entrance to the galleries where Poppy was displayed. There is also a wall monitor showing After the Apology by Alethia Casey. Photo 4 shows the view from front of house looking into the Poppy gallery. I was commissioned to take these photos by the ACP and would always bear in mind the briefing I was given by curator Tony Nolan – the documentation photos should show the context of the works and how the various spaces related to each other, such that someone looking in years to come could piece together the overall layout from looking at the photos.

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Poppy was a four channel video projection in the first gallery with an accompanying book displayed in a second gallery along with a map and text panel giving the history of the trail of Afghan heroin around the world.

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Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong were in Sydney for the first week or so of the exhibition and gave a couple of public talks about the work. In one form or another they have been covering this story for decades.

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Photo 9 is similar to photo 3, except it shows the didactic panel for Ashley Gilbertson. Photo 10 is a detail of the work – wide views of the bedrooms of soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. For the ACP I would document every wall from multiple angles as well as many detail photos. These are kept for the centre archives and also supplied to the artists. I’m only showing a small selection here to give an idea of what the season looked like.

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Jodi Bieber exhibition, looking in the direction of the Ashley Gilbertson works.

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Jodi Bieber exhibition looking in the other direction. This gallery had large windows fronting onto Oxford St, Paddington, so the lighting can be a mix of daylight and incandescent in the daytime. Sometimes I would photograph at night for even colour temperature, however there would then be no people to add context.

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Jodi Bieber detail showing window and street view. The white patch on the window was used for the night street screen projections.

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Alethia Casey street screen projection at night.


October 2014 was also the month when the then director and board decided to sell the building at 257 Oxford St that the ACP had occupied for 30 years.


I also documented some aspects of the uninstall.







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