It was a very wet Monday morning – too wet to go out with the camera, so I thought I’d have a go at making my own large format camera to take 10×8 negatives. I have been looking to upgrade my 7×5 half plate bellows camera and so this would be an interesting step along the way. Using a spare lens that came with the bellows camera I bought last year I decided to make a fixed focus camera to do some close-up still life images. The lens seems to have a 9 to 10 inch focus length and stops from 8 to 64.
The biggest challenge was making a dark slide to hold the negative (Ilford photographic paper – running at ISO 6). But eventually I have a design that is pretty light tight – but benefits from having the focussing cloth draped over it when in use.
I used a “documents” box as my starting point, cutting a hole for the screen and dark slide. The screen is made from translucent stage lighting paper I had – but tracing paper would be as good.
Then a hole for the lens which was already mounted on a board, so some double sided tape fixed that to the box.
My first image was fogged and it was soon clear that the inside of the box needed blackening and the tiny holes at the corners and where the tabs fold in to make the lid all needed sealing up with black tape.
Once that was done – I made my first successful image. I have used it today with some more successful images – loving the image quality from the lens.
My still life work I have discovered is similar to that produced by the Czech photographer Josef Sudek who explored the play of light on ordinary objects and through his studio window in different weather conditions.
Captured a few images today with the 1900s Hora half-plate camera on X-ray film – scanned and inverted. Just learning what iso this film is – about 50. And learning what speed the Thompson Pickard shutter is actually operating at – 1/125s
I’ll be there offering the opportunity to try Aluminium etching of a photograph. The photograph can be one we provide or one of your own – even a selfie! This is about making something permanent from the type of image that’s typically quickly forgotten or passed over. It’s about slowing down the image making process – taking 30 minutes – if we are investing that amount of time in an image we will think more carefully about the image’s significance.
Another useful tip from an online forum – to reduce the contrast of a photo paper negative, the advice is to “pre-flash” it with a short exposure to an enlarger light. I don’t have an enlarger so have rigged a small desk light with a couple of sheets of tracing paper over the shade and then added a filter holder and for the flashing added a number 9 Ilford magenta filter. Pre-Flashing the paper for 0.5 to 1.0 s seems to have given an improvement in tonality for the images. To test the process, I deliberately chose a high contrast picture – dark soil and white, sun-lit, crocus flower.
With 5×7 sheet film being expensive, at over £1 a sheet, I have been looking for alternatives. I love the look paper negatives give to some images and so will continue to use paper as “film” for some subjects – particularly those that don’t move …
In searching discussion forums on alternative photographic processes, I came across questions and advice about using x-ray film. Working out at around 10p a sheet this looked almost too good to be true – but it works … and it looks great!
The film is described as being “sensitive to green light” so I wondered if, like photopaper it would render reds as black, but that is not the case. There is quite a good tonal range as the print below shows.