Saturday, 24 January 2015

Large Format Photography: First Attempt and Results

It feels like I've been talking about large format photography for very long time, and it probably feels like that because it really has been a very long time. The good news is I've finally been out and taken some black and white 4x5 shots and developed them, so I can start to get a feel for this interesting format. The weather has been dire and continued to be dire when I took these images but you take what you can get. I would like a little more light, but it's better than nothing. I went to one of my usual photo haunts, a marshy area which runs directly adjacent to the Eurostar line. In the summer it's a bit too overgrown, but in the winter it's like a scene from Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker. 

I'm learning that even though it is fundamentally the same as taking photographs on any other medium, large format really is quite different to taking pictures on a roll film. It feels like you're right back to square one and everything is a lot slower and a lot more fiddly. I'm getting a feel for it, slowly, but there's still lots of quirks I need to work out and get used to; remembering to take out the dark slide out, stopping down the aperture etc. There's more to think about for every shot but really it's quite simple.

Development feels a little less simple. The process is no different: developer, stop bath, fix and wash, but how you go about it varies from method to method.  Developing large format just seems to be tricky business, and a roadblock for anyone trying to get into it. From what I can tell, there is not a single method for getting perfect results each and every time, but rather a bunch of methods which you work with until you are able to get the results you desire. My choice is a fairly standard one but not without a lot to learn and issues to overcome. Needless to say, for my first try I expected a mixed bag and that is exactly what I got. I thought I'd share my results, warts and all.

Besides it not being a very good photograph for many reasons, I made the mistake of loading the sheets into the film holder the wrong way around so have ended up with these black patches along the top where the developer was unable to react with the emulsion on the film. A problem which is easily fixed. There's also these peculiar grey blobs, which are air bubbles forming on the surface on the film and therefore causing less development in those spots.

This is easily the best shot of the lot, but still not without problems. Again, air bubbles seemed to have formed on the emulsion and it's caused spots to be underdeveloped. However, I think you can really see the sharpness and detail starting to come through. Perhaps less so in the bottom half, where it has become a bit blurry, but this is where I can begin to see the potential over 35mm and 120 film.

I took this shot without using the shutter release cable, but even with a tripod there was a lot of camera shake, so in the end, a blurry shot. Lesson learned is to use the shutter release cable, and also to get a much better tripod!

Conclusion: more practice needed but exciting nonetheless!


Alan Postings said...

Hi Tom...

Nice photographs.

FYI - There's a spelling mistake in your title.