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.
First – without flashing
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 a snowy day, staying at home was the warmer option and gave me a chance to apply what I have learned about exposure for this camera to still life. Being a snowy day the light coming in from the window was nice and flat. Working close-up meant the camera was extended almost to its limit. After a few trial exposures with the paper negatives, I settled on a 4 minute exposure at f18 for these three images (paper negatives scanned, inverted and flipped in Photoshop).
But I have to admit to preferring the images as they come on the paper negatives seen in teh second set of images.
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.
Very pleased with exposure of paper negatives today.
(Images here have been inverted in photoshop from a scan of the paper negatives)
Using ISO 6 and metering off an 18% grey card on a bright sunny afternoon, I achieved perfect exposure for my driftwood photos. F64 at 4seconds.
I forgot to turn the plate holder around when photographing the lighthouse in close-up so had a double exposure – I’ll have to go back and try again.
The first image of the afternoon I took was metered on the assumption the paper was
ISO 25 so was under exposed. But now I do feel I understand what I am doing.
It helped that I was able to set up a mini darkroom in my VW T5 Camper – with the curtains drawn and working in the cupboard with a safelight powered off an inverter connected to the leisure battery – I was able to develop a few paper negatives to check I was getting the exposure correct and then go back and take these images with a bit more confidence in the metering.
Metering was done on my iphone using the app “Lux”.