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.
Having learned how to set the exposure on the 100 year-old Thornton Pickard I have been working on getting everything well-focussed.
The challenge with focussing for a still life like this is the depth-of-field is shallow beacuse the camera is so close to the subject. To maximise the depth of field I set the f-stop to its maximum of f64. As a result of this small aperture little light gets to the film, so I needed a long exposure of 7 minutes.
With the sun out and the roads passable, I ventured up onto the top of the Mendip Hills with the Thornton Pickard and some film cartridges loaded with Photopaper as paper-negatives. I also loaded the VW Campervan with the darkroom chemicals, trays and red-light so I could process on site to check exposure. This proved vital as the first set of images – though at maximum aperture of F8 were still underexposed with the shutter operating at 1/30s and the paper’s ISO equivalent of 6.
So I went to the other end of the F scale – 64. this gave an exposure time of 4s – long enough to cover minor discrepancies in my manual timing. These shots were much better exposed, though the paper negatives – having been loaded in the not-so-light-tight van were a bit fogged in places.
I am pleased with the results – here are scans of the contact prints made from the paper negatives. Some images show a curved shadow at the bottom – a problem with the bellows sagging caused this. I lifted the lens mount and this reduced the problem. Really I need to fit new bellows – but as the rest of the camera is a bit worn it wouldn’t make economic sense compared to buying another in better condition.
On the frosty Mendip Hills this morning, I used the vintage Thornton Pickard camera to take some silhouette images of trees. Building on yesterday’s success with metering I managed 6 good exposures, despite the camera’s challenges including:
Lens aperture adjustment seizing in the cold
Shutter cord getting trapped during exposure.
Images below are scans of the original paper negatives and photoshop’s rendition of the positive of the scans. Tomorrow I will do some contact prints.
Well, some success and still some failures(learning opportuntites). Saggy bellows have caused a shadow on the negative and one or two film holders have small gaps – now filled. But the ones that workd I am very pleased with.
The big challenge is metering correctly to set the exposure. I realised that in trying to increase the exposures I had been getting, I had been metering the highlights instead of the midtones.
My Boots branded 100 year old Thornton Pickard camera has a new addition – a mechanical shutter. This allows me to shoot at speeds under 1 second. With these faster speeds I can use 200 ISO sheet film instead of the much slower photo paper.
To measure the speed of this shutter, I fixed it in front of my digital fuji XT20. I set the Fuji on a 5 second exposure on f8 (as wide as the old camera goes). This gave me time after pressing the Fuji shutter to then trigger the old shutter.
I then viewed the histogram of the image taken – which was of course, at the speed of the old shutter.
I then moved the old shutter out of the way and took a few images on the Fuji adjusting the shutter speed until I found a speed that gave me a similar histogram to that obtained with the old shutter. This turned out to be a useful 1/30s.
The speed of the old shutter can be changed – but it is a bit of a fiddle.
In order to access shutter speeds of less than 1s I need a mechanical shutter. I found one on eBay for a bargain price – and it is in good mechanical working order. The challenge was to attach it to the camera as the rubber seal has gone solid.
I first rigged a plastic adapter to put the shutter on the front of the lens. This did work OK, but isn’t very elegant. Next, I looked at putting the shutter between the lens and the camera body. I didn’t want to make too many cuts, or changes to the camera or shutter so fabricated a frame to hold the shutter onto which the lens could be mounted. I only needed to make 3 small screw holes into the lens mounting plate. This has worked well, so will now stain the frame to finish it off. Next step (in the next blog) is to measure/adjust the shutter so I know what speed it is running at.