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Wednesday, 07 October 2020


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Why not get started by sending your exposed large format film to a service for processing and scanning?

A low cost and low risk experiment. And probably a few blog posts as well. A business expense.

Back when I did 4x5 I had a darkroom changing bag for loading and unloading, a sheet film developing tank and made a little cabinet with a dust filer and fan for drying film. I just did contact printing and was mostly doing non-silver prints, like cyanotypes. You don't need no stinking darkroom.

With this: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Nikor-4-25-diameter-reel-with-Nikor-4-375-diameter-Film-Developing-Tank-Great/143771192140 and a changing bag you will have processed negatives. No darkroom needed.

Or go modern with https://shop.stearmanpress.com/products/rev-4-sp-445-compact-4x5-film-processing-system . Might well work better than the Nikor, and certainly uses a lot less chemistry.

Then EPSON V-700, V-750, V-800, or V-850.

Maybe you can make some mods to the pool shed and make it darkenable.

I hope you do follow through, because you are correct about challenging yourself and following through is very good for you.
Don't worry about the darkroom, get a big changing bag and a daylight tank, and you will have negatives. Real Negatives.
If you wait for night time, and use an AZO equivalent paper, you can make a little tent that is close to dark, and it will work. I'm sure you know the beauty and long scale of chloride papers.
You can also scan the negatives and print them.
You could even buy a roll film back and send them out for Processing and proofing. Though 4x5 negatives are nicer.

There is absolutely a way to do it if you want to.
Even if you do it once, you've done it.
I really wish you success in this.
It might even be a way to attract new readers with The Minimalist Large Format Online Photographer..........

It's a lot easier to mess around with 4x5 than other formats. You have way more options for film and processing. I suppose 8x10 is the next most common format and your options are drastically reduced. I loved 5x7 but it was a bit of a dead end for equipment. With your whole plate camera your pretty locked in to only a few options.

Personally I think for anything other than contact prints scanning is really superior these days. Being out of the game for a number of years I do wonder what the scanning options are. Epson flatbeds?

Mike, if all you want to do is shoot some 4x5 negatives and get them up on the Internet, you don't need a darkened room. Like I said in my post yesterday, there are great options for daylight tanks. A tank and a bag and you're good.

Getting from analog to digital is the next challenge, and you already have almost everything you need to do that, i.e., a tripod and a digital camera. You just need a light source and a piece of glass. If you want to get fancy, you can wet mount (really easy).

During my last fling with large format, I cobbled together a "scanning" set up for peanuts. Details here: https://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?150162-Camera-scanning-on-the-cheap-an-example-approach

Actually, you don't need a darkroom. Get a large changing bag and a 4x5 developing tank, and you can get your negatives. Then scan into the computer. and invert. Process in PS or whatever you use, and print.
Richard Newman

Sounds like you just need one of these and a changing bag.


good luck on the LF journey-I still have some AZO and Michael Smith's manufacture of silver chloride papers. I remember developing 8x10 negs in my bathtub, kneeling on a pillow and doing total darkness by taping up the door. I now have a 500 sf darkroom building I almost never use. Such is old age. I am 84

Mike, like you, I've taken a step back into the past. I don't have your "Largeformatitis", what I'm afflicted with is "CCDitis".

I love color - rich and vibrant colors. After recently reviewing my many historical digital images, I found that my favorite colored images were produced by CCD sensor cameras produced from 2004 - 2010.

Not one to simply test the water, I jumped in with both feet buying 10 older minty APS-C CCD cameras (3 Nikon D60s, 2 Nikon D200, 1 Nikon D80, 1 Sony A350, 2 Pentax K10Ds, and 1 Fuji S3 Pro). I can send you a photo of them if you'd like.

I used many of these new-to-me vintage cameras to shoot the beautiful autumn colors (and pumpkins) this fall here in Northern Wisconsin. The colors I recorded this year are much richer and more intense than similar photos I'd taken the last few years with my expensive/modern/hi-res CMOS sensor cameras.

The lover resolution of the older CCD cameras is not a concern to me because with Topaz Gigapixel A.I. (A.I. powered upsizing software) I am easily able to blow up the RAW files from these 8 - 14 mega pixel CCD cameras to 18-inch by 24-inch 360dpi prints without a sweat.

I used to chase the latest and greatest gear. Now, I'm strictly focused on mastering a certain type of vintage camera. Without a doubt, "CCDitis" has reinvigorated and refocused my photography.

When I did my experimenting with the 4X5 Graflex, I used the darkroom for film processing (https://thedarkroom.com/product/sheet-film-processing/). They will also scan images for you at varying degrees of resolution.
Their work met my standards.
I'm sure your readers can recommend others.

[Thanks Jim, I appreciate the recommendation. --Mike]

Having a 4x5 and an iPhone, reminds me of a get together I read about. A group of Leica S owners outing. That at the end they placed their cameras down for large Leica camera photo and all reached for their other camera to take the shot. Which of course was an iPhone.
I still find that funny.

Why do so many photographers, or aspiring photographers, even those who no longer use large format cameras and have long since migrated to digital, like to pose beside one of them?
Status? Be taking seriously as an artist?
I don't know, just suppose....

[Because they look cool. I also pose next to horses! --Mike]

“I'm thinking about ways to make negatives and at least get the results up on the blog so you can see what I'm doing. I might have to be creative.“

I made the return to film a couple years ago with a Canon AE-1, followed quickly by an Elan7. I don’t set up my darkroom often - it means taking over the spare bath entirely and an occasional stern glance from the spouse - but the magic of printing is still not lost for me.

I recently acquired a Pentax645 and took the step into medium format. I haven’t printed yet (need to find an 80mm enlarger lens), but have taken to wet-mount scanning on my Epson v600. It’s hardly art quality but it’s fine for online sharing. For a $200 scanner it’s fantastic. Might be worth exploring.

I can second JimH’s recommendation to use The Darkroom. They’re in my old town (San Clemente). They can develop and scan your 4x5’s, and they provide you a link to your scanned images so you can download them right away. They can also make prints if you have no way of doing that at the present time. Highly recommended!

"But that was then and this is now. Now, my audience is about one-third what it was then, I spend about half as much time working, taking Saturdays off plus a few days here and there throughout the year. I earn less."

But you already have a partial solution to visitor numbers to hand, Mike: allow inter-reader conversation.

Yes, with time, it inevitably strays off topic but it is always interesting. The only thing is, you need to apply strict control, and anyone found guilty of ad hominem attacks must be kicked out...

It boils dowm to how obsessive you want to remain regarding topic control, and how open you feel like being to other points of view that may have escaped folks until they read them in the form of posts. It's been my experience that not only online, but in real, human chat, topics constantly change and conversation become the richer and more interesting for it. Nothing prevents anyone reverting to the original proposition/lead post at any time.

They still make Polaroid positive/ negative film. I remember the negatives as being lovely. All you need is a back and a bucket to clear and fix them. If it works you can move on to regular film.

I am not optimistic towards an older person trying to “reinvigorate” his photography by adopting a dramatically less-convenient and more costly methodology for photography. The logical arc of maintaining and re-charging creative activity for aging, less ambulatory photographers is to adopt techniques that enable them to be more spontaneous, to lessen the effort required to achieve results, and to enable a broader world of opportunities for creative exploration. That is to say, everything that this old camera obstructs.

Nevertheless, some older folks have achieved genuine success with such cameras. The best case that comes to my mind now is Magnum’s Mark Power who uses a large-format camera for documentary photography quite purposely and successfully.

You've gotten one lab recommendation. Another, closer to you is DodgeChrome in Maryland. They've always been reliable for my 4x5 transparencies and negatives. Not wild about the one week turnaround, but I don't really want the chemistry effluent from DIY development in my septic system.

Check this out:
I used a lot of Polaroid 45PN film when I had my Calumet view camera in the early 70s. The pros I used for ad photography in my business all used Polaroid film for proofing in the studio and gave me some tips.
This Lomo gadget could be fun.
And is the Polaroid 4X5 film still available? I found some links but never got a straight answer.

Rob Campbell, above, has a point. I see that you like ‘editorialising’ in the comments on your posts. I don’t understand the technicalities of web sites but maybe you could have a ‘forum’ in a separate section of the site?

I can see people will be attaching labels to the backs of their phones: “MY OTHER CAMERA IS A WISTA

I can attest that the Stearman tank works well. I rarely have more than 4 sheets to process for any one session. Since I don’t currently have a darkroom, just getting all the gear out and organized is the biggest issue.

I scan using an Epson V750 Pro, which even does a decent job with 35mm negatives and chromes. The only thing I haven’t tried with the Epson is using the wet holder for sheet film. Since the Epson will scan up to 8x10 negatives, the idea of having a simple 8x10 rig occasionally appeals to me. For that I’d have to process film at the local community darkroom, which has Kodak 8x10 deep tank equipment.

[How about just in a tray? At the community darkroom I mean. If it was good enough for Edward Weston.... --Mike]

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