Large Format course, Nov 2014

December 6, 2014

Here are some results from the large format photography course I ran at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney in November 2014. Two 3 hour classes run over two Sunday afternoons. In the first class we cover the basics of 4×5 and 8×10 field cameras, discussing what they have in common with other photographic systems, and where they differ.

dec2014 LF 8x10 paperNeg blog

We start by making a paper negative with the 8×10 Deardorff. This allows us to show how film is loaded, but using red lights rather than total darkness as required with film. We can also make an exposure and then immediately process the paper neg as there is a B&W darkroom right next to the classroom. Here I used a satin Ilford RC paper that we rated as ISO 4. The exposure is good for the mid tones but the sky is blown out as paper is orthochromatic, i.e. very sensitive to blue light. The crop below is a section at 100% showing how much detail can be held in the paper negative. I do also mention to the students that many artists like to work with paper negatives as a central part of their photographic practice.

paper neg detail

After this the students get to load 8×10 film into the film holders and we go outside to do a basic location shoot. The photo below was made with a 240mm lens using a fair amount of front rise. Aperture was set for big depth of field. I also showed how to do a range reading with a spot meter. The film was Ilford HP5 processed in a Jobo 2830 tank with Rodinal 1+25 rolling for 8 minutes. You can click on any image to see it bigger.

2014Dec LF hilux8x10 blog

We start class two by looking at still life photography which lets us explore camera movements as well as exposure correction due to light loss caused by close focus bellows extension. I still have some of the discontinued Fuji 4×5 instant colour film so we expose a few sheets of that to see the differences. One app I recommend for the topic is Reciprocity Timer by pump interactive. This will calculate bellows correction as well as reciprocity corrections for a range of films. These photos were made with a vintage Kodak Ektar 203mm f/7.7 lens on a Chamonix 4×5 camera. The first photo (left) has no corrections, with the lens looking down with aperture wide open. The second photo (right) has back and front tilt to correct the shape of the vase and to change the plane of focus. It was also exposed at a smaller aperture to increase DOF. The idea was to show how much control is possible with camera movements. I did make a couple of elementary blunders here, e.g. the given exposure for the first shot was half a second which came out a bit dark. We had compensated for the bellows extension but I didn’t bother to check for reciprocity correction for the Fuji film, assuming it would be fine at that time, whereas it should have been extended to one second. As often happens in these cases I checked after doing it, not before.

polaroid 45 flowers a blog two up

In the final part of class we look at portraiture using the 8×10 camera. Students get to load film, and to frame and focus the camera. They also get to both take a photo of someone as well as to be photographed (optional of course, we don’t force people to sit). All photos were made with a 360mm Rodenstock Apo Ronar on Ilford HP5 film. We exposed at f/9 which is the widest aperture of this lens. Shutter speed was 1/8 of a second, including the correction for extending the bellows to about 580mm. I made another blunder with the first two exposures – the idea was to expose with the subjects lit 3/4 by window light only. I left the room fluoros on to help with focusing but then forgot to turn them off again. You can see the difference in the later photos when we did use just window light.

2104 dec LF portrait two up A blog

In each case we focused on the near eye. DOF is very small with such close focus and I was expecting we would have missed focus on a few due to the subject moving slightly after the focus had been set and the various exposure operations were underway – removing the dark slide, cocking the shutter etc, but we achieved good focus on all the sheets, although you do get to see what eyes blinking at 1/8 looks like.

2014 decLF portraits 2 up blog b

This course runs a couple of times a year at the ACP in Paddington, Sydney. It’s not necessary to own a large format camera to do the course. If interested, contact the ACP to find out when the next course will run.



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