Large Format course, Sept 2013

September 24, 2013

I’ve just completed teaching another large format course at the Australian Centre for Photography in Paddington. There are two 3 hour classes over consecutive weekends; aimed at people who probably don’t own a large format camera but are curious about the photographic possibilities of this format. It has more of a fine art slant as opposed to commercial. We cover 4×5 and 8×10 and the students get to load film and make exposures. The genres covered are architecture, still life and portraiture. After the course I scan the film and put the results here for the students to review.

8x10 acp carpark hp5 BLOG

Above was made during the first class, 8×10 Ilford HP5 exposed in a Deardorff with a 240mm Schneider Symmar lens. We used a fair bit of front rise to keep the building verticals rectilinear. Exposure was f/22 at 1/60 based on spot metering the shadows and highlights. The shaded area around the No Parking ground was placed two stops below a mid-tone and this determined the exposure. The brightest part of the scene was the metal panel area about 1/3 in from the left edge and this metered at 6 stops brighter than the shadows, placing it 4 stops above a mid-tone. Therefore I determined to under-develop a bit to stop the highlights getting too bright. The film was processed by rolling in the sink in a Jobo 2830 drum with Rodinal 1+25 for 8 minutes. It contact prints well on a grade 2 filter. This scan was made with an Epson V700 flatbed scanner. I like the framing, the feel of the light and the overall exposure, however we blew it by not attending to the lens flare.

8x10 richard BLOG

In the second class we cover still life with 4×5 and portraiture with 8×10. The above portrait of Richard was made with Ilford HP5 film in the Deardorff with a Rodenstock Sironar 300mm lens. Exposure was f/11 at 1/8 of a second. From memory I determined the exposure by spot metering the highlighted side of his face and opening up one stop. We probably also opened up one stop for bellows extension; I think the bellows was around 450mm. Film was processed by sink rolling in a Jobo 2830 with Rodinal 1+25 for 8.25 minutes with the temperature starting at 20.5 and finishing at 21 degrees. I’m pleased with this one.

8x10 gary 420mm BLOG

The above photo of Gary was something I hadn’t tried previously. The Schneider Symmar 240mm is a convertible lens – remove the front element and it becomes a 420mm f/12 lens. I thought this might be interesting for a head shot however it was quite challenging as the bellows extension was extreme, I think we wound up around 500m extension. The image of the ground glass was relatively dim which made focusing a challenge. Exposure was f/12 at 1/4 second – I think I metered the highlights and opened up 3 stops, two might have been for the bellows extension. This scan looks reasonably sharp but the negative looks a bit soft  focus. I think he shifted back slightly and sharp focus is more on his eyebrow. In retrospect I would have exposed f/22 at 1 second to give a bit more depth of field leeway.

8x10 chris fronton hp5 blog

Above portrait of Chris was made with the 300mm lens at f/5.6. The bellows had a lot of extension to get such close focus, from memory I had to open up 2 stops to compensate. I wouldn’t usually photograph someone so close-up with a 300 lens but this one just sort of happened. Even though it’s 300mm it does somewhat show the ‘big nose, little ears’ effect that comes from having the lens very close to the subject. This is most often seen with wide-angle lenses, however it can occur at any focal length. Chris brought some of the Ilford positive paper with him and the photo below was made with that. The paper develops to a positive image however it is horizontally flipped. The paper is also quite contrasty; this can probably be controlled somewhat with pre-flashing and dilute developer. With the image below we also applied some front swing to keep focus on the eye in the light while putting the eye in shade out of focus as opposed to above where both eyes are sharp. It’s not completely apparent on the paper print as the shaded side of the face came out quite dark.

8x10paperposChris blog

We started the second class by doing a simple still life set-up; this was primarily to introduce the principle of compensating for light loss resulting from close focus bellows extension. The camera was a Chamonix 4×5 with Rodenstock 150mm lens. It was looking down at the objects which causes them to converge towards the base, so we applied some rear tilt to straighten the lines, then front tilt to correct the focus. We exposed a few sheets of Fuji 4×5 FP100C instant film to check exposure, focus and composition.

4x5 still life fuji test blog

The instant film crops the image a bit, but we could see the exposure looked OK, although we had a problem with a dark area at the bottom. This was caused by excessive movements blocking some light through the bellows. This was confirmed by looking through the cut-off corners of the ground glass and observing that the bottom two were bright and the top pair were dark – this is a good way to check if light is being impeded. We could probably have re-adjusted all the camera movements to correct this, but I wanted to move on to the rest of the class so decided to shoot it as it was. Below is an exposure made on Ilford HP5 at f/64 at 1 second, processed in Xtol 1:1 for 12 minutes at 20 degrees. Below that is a cropped version that eliminates the dark area but maintains the 4×5 ratio.

45 class still life plane xtol my adjust blog

45 class still life plane xtol my adjust blog crop

Thanks to the students for a great course.

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3 Responses to “Large Format course, Sept 2013”


  1. Thanks very much for a brilliant course Michael! As always, I learned a great deal, came out with a long shopping list and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the images. Warm regards, Chris.

  2. Eva Flaskas Says:

    Thank you once again for a amazing course. Over the 2 days I learned more than I thought was possible, walked away with the confidence needed to use a large format camera. I always thought it would it the distant future that I would use/purchase one but I am currently looking at purchasing a 4×5 (8×10 would be ideal). Look forward to seeing the rest of the photos and enrolling in some more of the film related workshops you teach at the ACP. Thanks again, Eva.

  3. Garry Gadsby Says:

    Hi Michael, thanks so much for a wonderful introduction to large format. I’m so happy with your insightful caring approach to teaching this art form and particularly the skilful way you are able to lead one to having an experience of being a large format photographer. I would consider this to be the art of mindfulness and learning to work with whatever comes up.
    Looking forward to catching up again and learning more.
    Many thanks,
    Garry


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