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Jmarmck
17-Jan-2015, 21:27
I have been a photographer most of my adult life. I have owned/lost/sold 35mm and 120 gear. I had the darkroom gear to go with the camera gear as well.
So I have a basic understanding about the mechanics of exposure, composition and development. Never was much good at printing though at least not to my liking.

Last winter I purchased my first LF camera. Over the last year I have acquired numerous lenses and associated gear. I am still learning.....and making mistakes.

I have heard people talk about workflow, the process from taking the photograph to a final product. I had a pretty good grip on my simple work flow back in the early 1980s.
After life got in the way the darkroom went away. I now have replacement gear but need a darkroom proper. Why it has taken this long is a mystery to me but I finally figure that it is because I have not reached that point in my learning.

I recently made a trip out west. A solo road trip hitting all those damn big holes (DBH) and big #$@*ing rocks (BFR) that draws so many people. I thought I had a grip on my workflow. I was dead wrong. Here are some of the issues I have had.

The whole process begins with loading film in the holders. Yes, I managed to screw this up. It seems that when sheet film is loaded into the holder one must check that the sheet is all the way against the stop next to the hinge. I did manage to figure out which side was the emulsion side without loosing any film. On one occasion I did miss the bottom slot so the sheet was not secured to the back of the holder. When I used that sheet I could not get the dark slide back into the holder. Sacrifice one sheet of film. On a couple occasions I did not flip the dark slide when loading indicating a fresh sheet, blank image. Despite these issues I consider myself lucky to have so few problems in this area, though I have too many blank images to my liking.

Never turn your back on your camera. I have the splinters to prove why. I have managed to be fairly consistent with the scene setup though most shots are landscape and require little if any movement. Even focusing has not been an issue. Where I have had problems is remembering to close the shutter before pulling the dark slide. This happened more than once. But the most idiotic is not even pulling the dark slide, though this does not necessarily waste film, just miss the shot. These are things I am working on. I know that eventually it will become rote. Toward the end of the trip, setup time was less and less. I was getting comfortable with the process.

Unloading film is not hard. While on the trip I tried to develop in the motel room though it was not always possible. I still have several dozen sheets to develop once I got home. My handling of the holders on loading again had the same issues with the sheet not being positioned properly. I didn't realize this till I processed the film at home. Now I know. I had not considered how to handle exposed vs fresh film on the trip. I disliked the idea of putting exposed sheets in the same box with fresh film. But I had a shortage of boxes. I did loose track of this but it took only one sheet to tell me that those 7 other sheets had not been exposed. I still do not have a system I am comfortable with.

Developing was not difficult though I think my negs are a on the dense side. What really chapped my butt was the developing tank. It is a Nikor multi format sheet film tank. It has a spirial reel that is adjustable to various sheet sizes. I did not consider the issues that would arise with that adjustable reel being out of wack. The edge of one sheet would touch the middle of another leaving a mark. The film kept binding or jumping the guide leaving areas were the film was not developed. I have been using this for 6 months now. Finally, today, I got the setup right. I did find that I prefer a wash instead of stop bath. One less chemical. I also prefer mix on demand.

BTW anyone who uses a sized system like that should be aware that Fuji Neopan Acros 100 is slightly larger than Kodak TMX or Fomapan 100. Once I had the reel adjusted to accept the Neopan Acros all was perfect. One more notch in the workflow corrected.

I know there are probably large gaping holes in my workflow. I am sure I will find more. I feel that the demands on all this other necessary stuff has kept me from becoming comfortable with movements. This will come with time. Right now I am just happy with an image that is properly exposed and in focus.

Vaughn
17-Jan-2015, 21:43
Hey, Marty! I have been using a view camera since '79, and I still make some errors out there (tho my loading is pretty consistent, at least). But I am getting better.

One develops habits to avoid most of the pitfalls. For example, before I remove the darkslide, I cock and fire the shutter a few times. I suppose this might help get the shutter speed set-up well if the lens has not been used in a while. It also allows one to see if the aperture is closed down (I rarely shoot wide open). But the most important part -- one can not fire the shutter if it is already open (Copals, anyway).

You end up with extra boxes for storing exposed film.

I had an hour exposure by moonlight (5x7 or 8x10, can't remember) -- even had to guess the time since I had no watch. Finished the exposure and looked for the darkslide in the moonlight (no flashlight!). Could not find the bugger -- until I looked at the film holder...yes, I forgot to pull it! I packed up and hiked back to camp.

Have fun!

Heroique
17-Jan-2015, 21:44
I am still learning and making mistakes.

Nice write-up – many people here, beginners and veterans, have shared your LF frustrations!

But nothing like field experience to make them disappear. Well, at least happen less often.

BTW, if you can write at such length and never complain about dust, you're doing quite well!


The whole process begins with loading film in the holders. ...I did manage to figure out which side was the emulsion side without loosing any film.

I've noticed that instructions for loading sheet film often fail here. When they say "film notches on upper right," they almost always forget to mention the orientation of the film holder so the "notches upper right" comment is actually correct.

And even when they do say the holder should be "vertical," an unsuspecting beginner may still be holding it with the film-entry slot either "up" or "down," adding to the potential confusion.

And now that I’m thinking spatial geometry – even if one’s holder is "vertical" and the holder's slot is "up," putting the film in with notches lower left (i.e., notches going in first) is still okay. The emulsion would still be facing you. Just a matter of preference.

Vaughn
17-Jan-2015, 21:46
This is why when students needed help loading 4x5 holders, I grabbed a piece of practice film and said, "It goes in this way." :D

Heroique
17-Jan-2015, 21:54
This is why when students needed help loading 4x5 holders, I grabbed a piece of practice film and said, "It goes in this way." :D

Sounds to me you're an excellent teacher!

Yes, real experience beats book lernin' every time – it even beats LF forum browsing!

But doing it all is maybe best.

Jmarmck
17-Jan-2015, 22:05
Well, I now have plenty of "practice film". I found that the loading bit was fairly straight forward, except for the sheet not positioned correctly. I now wonder if the film slipped on its own. Will the sheet move if the holder is shaken? Should I tap the holder hinge side down before shooting?

As for dust. No, no real problems. Though, my scanner is filthy. That is the next thing in the workflow to fix before I go to scan all these images for real. Dog hair is a different issue. I have managed to keep it out of the holders and camera.

I do dry fire the shutter each time. It has saved several sheets of film. Those two times I simply removed the dark slide before I was ready.
I also found that the shutter on the nikkor 4.5/90 does not function at 1 degree F. It was the only one that would not fire when it was really cold.
Now, if I could just figure how not to loose those cable releases. It has cost me $60 so far.

Michael E
18-Jan-2015, 07:09
Hello Marty,

routine will help with these problems. Once you arrive at the point where you don't have to think about the camera at all, you can really concentrate on images :-)

LF offers a lot of opportunities, but also a lot of opportunities to screw up. You have to explore the latter before you can really can take advantage of the former. Take your time and keep your expectations at a healthy level.

Just two more thoughts: I would really make sure to use separate boxes for fresh and exposed film. Mark the box for the exposed film clearly (with a marker or colored adhesive tape). This is a source for serious mistakes that can easily be avoided.

I use Jobo tanks and reels (reels for sheet film up to 4x5"). They are expensive but well made and a lot more fool proof than other systems I've used. This is not a good place to save money, the frustration is just not worth it. Just my experience.

Best,

Michael

Doremus Scudder
18-Jan-2015, 12:47
Marty,

We've all been through this, so hang in there. In case my techniques might be helpful to you, I'll list them below, in the order of your problems:

Loading filmholders just takes time and practice. Now that you have "practice film," you can check things out in the light before trying again with lights out. FWIW, whenever I've had the problem of not being able to reinsert the darkslide after exposing, it was because the film was not loaded under the side rails that hold it in place, but lying on top of them; i.e., I loaded incorrectly (I think this is the same problem you're describing). I now pull up gently with the tip of my little finger on the bottom corners of the film after loading to make sure that they are under the guides. Try that with light on and then with eyes closed to get the feel of it.

As for flipping dark slides; check all your holders after loading. If you've forgotten one or two, just turn out the lights and flip those. Make this step part of your "workflow."

We've all forgotten to close the shutter and/or forgotten to pull a darkslide... I now have a routine: when I'm ready to expose, I first walk to the front of the camera and 1. close the aperture, 2. stop down and set shutter speed, 3. cock the shutter and fire once, 4. recock the shutter. I then go back around, insert the filmholder, pull the darkslide, and then grab the cable release and expose. The 1-2-3-4 at the shutter has reduced my errors to almost zero. FWIW, my flipping the darkslide mistake is usually at this point, i.e., reinserting it wrongly. I now check the color of the slide when reinserting.

An aside, on a recent trip I ended up double exposing two shots... The problem was my failing to be aware that I had already shot one side of a holder some hours before and simply reinserting it falsely. I will now try to check the darkslide color before inserting the filmholder as well...

As far as reloading when on the road... You just need to get some empty film boxes and take them with you. I have boxes labeled N-1, N, N+1, etc. I think that is why we make so many mistakes in the beginning; to acquire a stock of empty boxes :) Once you have enough, this problem will go away.

Nikkor tanks are notorious for being difficult to handle. There are other options, but I prefer tray development in complete darkness. This is an acquired skill as well. You need to find a developing method that suits your mentality and dexterity. If you've got your tank processing dialed in now, then fine. If not, there is a lot of information here on the various methods. Do your homework and try out methods you think suit you till you find one you like. As for negatives being "too dense" (much better than too thin, BTW), first determine if you are overexposing or overdeveloping and simply adjust accordingly. Keep notes and refine your development times as you work. Testing is great, but field results tell the real tale.

As far as losing cable releases: I keep a cable release on each shutter (that makes about 10 or so for me), but the release is there, permanently attached when I need it. It stores together with the lens/shutter in a box. I also keep three or four cable releases in my accessory bag (which doesn't go hiking with me, but lives in the car and contains spare batteries, meter, etc.) in case one breaks.

All of this is mostly a matter of experience and presence of mind when working. Sounds to me like you are well on your way and paying your dues "on time."

Best,

Doremus

Richard Wasserman
18-Jan-2015, 12:58
The answer to this is the same as how you get to Carnegie Hall—practice, practice, practice.
After you burn through a few hundred sheets of film, most of what you need to do will be second nature and you won't have to think about it. Not to say mistakes still won't happen, because they will, but they should be much less often.

ckagy
18-Jan-2015, 13:27
...
As far as reloading when on the road... You just need to get some empty film boxes and take them with you. I have boxes labeled N-1, N, N+1, etc. I think that is why we make so many mistakes in the beginning; to acquire a stock of empty boxes :) Once you have enough, this problem will go away.
...


Doremus, this is brilliant in its simplicity!

Heroique
18-Jan-2015, 22:45
Never turn your back on your camera. I have the splinters to prove why.

I think you have some explaining to do here!

I hope you'll tell us what happened – probably a lesson for the rest of us.

It sounds like it happened on your solo road trip out West.

Jmarmck
19-Jan-2015, 07:13
Here is the link to the thread
http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?119317-Busted-my-Zone-VI

In short I turned to get a film holder when the wind took down the Zone VI shattering the front rail and front standard.
Luckily, I had a Horseman L45 as a backup but it changed my trip to one where I did not wander far from the truck.
In some ways this was for the better as the movements on the Horseman are more easily controlled via the gearing.
In Death Valley I felt like Nanook of the North trudging across the sand dunes mile after mile, lugging a metal camera
on my shoulder, mile after mile. (No, I did not find the parish of St. Alfonzo).

Heroique
19-Jan-2015, 08:07
Wow, I'm glad the wind didn't carry you and your truck away too.

When you said "I have the splinters to prove why," I thought you meant splinters in your hand or body, like in a lion's paw.

Glad you're okay – those high desert winds can be as dangerous as the flash floods.

Bruce Barlow
19-Jan-2015, 08:45
It's worthwhile to just take your camera in your lap while watching American Idol and practice finding all of the knobs and movements without looking. Richard and I call it "Camera Cuddle," and it works. Do it for a half hour and you'll know your camera better than you ever dreamed. This is valuable in the field - why be distracted by the mechanics when you're trying to wrestle a decent image into the groundglass? I do this now before going on a trip when I haven't played with the camera for a while. Fifteen minutes gets me totally bored, and totally facile.

I tray develop, and when I went to 8x10, I took three sheets a a sacrifice and practiced loading and unloading holders, and shuffling them in a tray of water in the light, then in the dark, until it was completely comfortable, and I knew how many I could comfortably shuffle in 30 seconds. That told me how many sheets I could develop at one time. I'm proud to have never scratched a negative.

You can also cuddle your lenses, making sure you know what each of the levers and thingies do, and, especially, knowing when the lens is open and when it's shut without looking. When I'm really in practice, I can set the aperture on the shutter within about a half-stop, which is useful under the cloth for previewing depth-of-field. You're in the ballpark without coming out-from-under, which is good enough for the moment. I then get more accurate before making the exposure.

I also have a lens ritual, including closing the lens, setting the speed, setting the f-stop, cocking the shutter, test-firing, and recocking. That's another thing to practice while watching JLo, so that it becomes automatic and you don't have to think about it.

The last thing worth doing is guessing the exposure before you meter the scene. It's highly useful to have a sense of what the light is before you find it out for sure. After a while, you'll find that you might not even need the meter, which is a good thing for when batteries fail, or your meter meets an unfortunately placed rock.

tgtaylor
19-Jan-2015, 10:43
I've noticed that instructions for loading sheet film often fail here. When they say "film notches on upper right," they almost always forget to mention the orientation of the film holder so the "notches upper right" comment is actually correct.


The film notches are always on your lower right if right-handed or upper left if left handed when loading a film holder; and there is only one orientation the holder can assume if you're going to load it - you can only load it from the bottom and as long as the notches are on the bottom right (or top left if left-handed) the emulsion will be facing the lens regardless of what side is being loaded.

Thomas

Michael E
19-Jan-2015, 12:55
The film notches are always on your lower right if right-handed or upper left if left handed when loading a film holder; and there is only one orientation the holder can assume if you're going to load it - you can only load it from the bottom and as long as the notches are on the bottom right (or top left if left-handed) the emulsion will be facing the lens regardless of what side is being loaded.

Thomas

NOW I'm confused.

djdister
19-Jan-2015, 13:02
Depends how you orient the film holder. For those of us who load film holders with the open (hinged) end up, the notch code should be in the upper right corner, like in this photo.

128292

Doremus Scudder
19-Jan-2015, 13:19
Depends how you orient the film holder. For those of us who load film holders with the open (hinged) end up, the notch code should be in the upper right corner, like in this photo.

128292

I load similarly, but load from the side.

To clear up the confusion:

It is important to find the emulsion side of the film and make sure that it is facing up in the holder. To find the emulsion side, find the code notches and orient them so that they are at the upper right-hand corner of the film on the short side with the film in "portrait orientation," i.e., short sides top and bottom (these latter being the tidbits of info usually left out from descriptions) as in the picture djdister supplied above, and the emulsion side will be facing you.

Really, however, there are four orientations for code notches when the emulsion side is up, two in "portrait orientation," and two in "landscape orientation." This explains a lot of the confusion. The "code notches upper right on the short side in portrait orientation" is only one of the four possibilities. The others are: code notches on the lower left-hand short side in portrait orientation (turned 180 from above), and two for landscape orientation (long sides top and bottom), code notches upper left on the short side, or bottom right on the short side. The only real important thing is that you can find the emulsion side.

Once you have found the emulsion side, make sure that it is facing outward (or upward, if you prefer) when you load your holders. That's all there is to it. The notches can go on the top of the holder or the bottom, no problems. I personally prefer the notches to be on the flap end of the holder (again, as in djdister's photo) since they can often impinge on the image area when loaded the other way and the film slides down in the holder a bit (which often happens with older holders).

To complicate things further :) I load my holders from the right side, therefore, my film is in landscape orientation when it slides into the holder. When loading, I first make a stack (or stacks) of empty holders, leaving room for a "loaded stack" to the left of this. Film is on the right, working space is in the middle. With lights out, I take a holder from the empty stack and place it in the working area in front of me. The holder lies on the table with the darkslides to the left and the flap to the right. My film stack is always emulsion-side down and located to the right of the filmholder. This prevents dust from settling on the film's emulsion side. When loading, I pull the darkslide halfway, take a sheet of film from the stack, turn it vertical and tap the edge of the film on the countertop a few times to remove dust, etc. I then continue turning the film so the emulsion side is up and the code notches are at the bottom right on the short side with the film in landscape orientation. This puts the code notches on the flap end of the holder. I load the holder, then lift the corners of the film to make sure that it is correctly positioned under the guides. I also double-check the code notches to make sure they are correctly positioned too. I then slide the darkslide closed, flip the holder and repeat for the other side. The loaded holder is placed in the loaded stack I then take another holder from the unloaded stack...

Best,

Doremus

Heroique
19-Jan-2015, 13:27
Per post #4, I think we need an image of Vaughn, holder + film sheet in hand, saying:

"It goes in THIS way."

A video would be even better, esp. if he was teaching a beautiful young female student.

Leszek Vogt
19-Jan-2015, 14:22
Marty, if I may, you can get those black bags from B&H and download the film into those....if you don't have boxes, or till you get enough of them. Nevertheless, I'd keep those "pockets" in the dark, as well. Indeed, without indicating which box has the exposed film, you will likely be facing some disappointments - I know I would. If you don't have some sort of "screamer" tape that it will remind you of it....then have some v. colorful rubber bands, which would immediately distinguish it from the film stock box.

If it's been a long time since you loaded the film...and needing a reminder, I'd copy the book and have the pages stashed in the camera case.

Les

tgtaylor
19-Jan-2015, 15:52
it can get pretty monotonous loading holders and its easy to forget if you loaded the other side or not. I have found an easy way around that. When I start I pull both slides open with the one facing up to be loaded first pulled out further than the one in the rear as necessary. When I finish loading that side I close that slide and if the other slide is still pulled out I know I haven't loaded it yet. Before I hit upon that method I found myself having to reopen to see if a sheet was in there and in some cases left it empty only to find out that there was no film loaded when I went to develop.

Thomas

Jmarmck
19-Jan-2015, 16:17
As I said before, I have never loaded the emulsion side wrong. I just got it shoved too far into the holder. Either that or they are shifting on their own during transit.
I'll ask the question again. Is it normal procedure to tap the holder hinge side down to seat the sheet correctly?

Out of the 120 (BW) or so of shots I took, I lost one due to missing the rail. I obviously messed up on flipping the dark slide about 2 times. I pulled the dark slide while the shutter was open only twice. I have another 4 that were never exposed for some unknown reason (probably related to not paying attention to both sides of the dark slide). One never got pulled from the holder and was exposed.

I did have one box that most of the TMX went into. Some of the fomapan was processed in the motel rooms. The remainder stayed in the holders. The neopan acros remained in the holders. I did have two boxes of Velva. One was loaded into holders when those were shot they went back into that box, then moved to the next box. As the exposed sheets were put into the boxes I labeled the box as exposed. I could not remember if I had but fomapan back in the box. That is why I wasted one sheet to see if the remaining 8 sheets were exposed. I would have never mixed exposed with fresh. My memory is not that good.

I just ordered Tetenal (5L) for the 40 sheets of 4x5 and 5 120 rolls of Velva. That ought to be interesting.
I also ordered Tetenal C-41 (1L) for the 10 sheets of Portra 4x5.

Nigel Smith
19-Jan-2015, 17:40
I'll ask the question again. Is it normal procedure to tap the holder hinge side down to seat the sheet correctly?


I'll say no. If the flap doesn't close easily, somethings wrong (film not in far enough). Also, if the darkside doesn't close easily, something else is wrong (film out of guides)

djdister
19-Jan-2015, 17:43
I'll ask the question again. Is it normal procedure to tap the holder hinge side down to seat the sheet correctly?


No, I've never done that.

Jmarmck
19-Jan-2015, 17:58
I just checked it. It is the other way around. The sheet is shifted to far under the hinge. :mad:
I need to pay closer attention to this.
Thanks.

Michael E
20-Jan-2015, 07:48
I just checked it. It is the other way around. The sheet is shifted to far under the hinge. :mad:


It's pretty much impossible the other way around. I don't tap either, but with my old and worn holders, I have film move too much to the hinged side as well. I just don't really care :-)

If I were using so many different films, I'd be heavily confused and screw up all the time. I settled on one kind, it makes things a lot easier.

Jmarmck
20-Jan-2015, 08:53
I was trying TMX, Fomapan 100, and Neopan Acros 100 just to compare. I was assuming that the fomapan would do better in flat lighting, TMX for most everything else and Neopan Acros simply because it sounded interesting or was an ordering error. I can't remember which. The negs look pretty good for the Neopan Acros, contrasty with shadow detail. Though, I have not had a chance to scan them yet. Scanner is still filthy.

I really don't know how the film got under the hinge. My holders are older Riteways so yes it could have shifted in transit. I did notice that some of the dark slides have dinged edges on the handle side. Maybe someone tapping these to get the sheet out from under he hinge? Who knows.

Doremus Scudder
20-Jan-2015, 13:04
I just checked it. It is the other way around. The sheet is shifted to far under the hinge. :mad:
I need to pay closer attention to this.
Thanks.

Jmarmck,

If loaded correctly, the film should not slide back under the hinged flap. There should be a stop that holds the film up and keeps the film from moving down. Check your holders to make sure they are in order and practice positioning a scrap piece of film to see how it fits.

That said, some of my older holders let the film slide down a bit too far, making a very thin border at the bottom of the image (when viewed correctly). This has not usually been a problem for me except when the code notches were on that end and would impinge onto the image area. This is why I load film now with the notches on the flap end.

FWIW, many of us do tap the loaded holder on whatever end/side will be the bottom before making an exposure. I do this to seat the film and make sure it doesn't slide during exposure (especially when making longer exposures).

Hope this helps,

Doremus

Jmarmck
31-Jan-2015, 12:38
I finally got all the B&W from the trip processed and scanned. My biggest problems are/were the positioning in the holder, sheets touching in the processing tank (solved), and of course handling of holders during image capturing.

Now that I have processed all of the B&W I do see issues with dust both from the scanner and I would assume on the film. Some spots are white irregular shapes and strands of some sort (black dirt) and some are black dots perfectly round and some short black bars (white um old man hair?). I guess I am not as clean as I thought.

But I noticed that there is some uneven development on the sheets, typically a wavy curtain about 1/2 inch from the edge running across the short dimension of the sheet. I am having a hard time wrapping my feeble brain around this one as, except for the first run, the tank was completely full. Bromide drift?

Thanks to you all for the comments and help. I hope this thread is useful to other beginners.

Doremus Scudder
1-Feb-2015, 04:41
I finally got all the B&W from the trip processed and scanned. My biggest problems are/were the positioning in the holder, sheets touching in the processing tank (solved), and of course handling of holders during image capturing.

Now that I have processed all of the B&W I do see issues with dust both from the scanner and I would assume on the film. Some spots are white irregular shapes and strands of some sort (black dirt) and some are black dots perfectly round and some short black bars (white um old man hair?). I guess I am not as clean as I thought.

But I noticed that there is some uneven development on the sheets, typically a wavy curtain about 1/2 inch from the edge running across the short dimension of the sheet. I am having a hard time wrapping my feeble brain around this one as, except for the first run, the tank was completely full. Bromide drift?

Thanks to you all for the comments and help. I hope this thread is useful to other beginners.

Marty,

It's a learning curve alright, but you're well along in getting your problems solved.

Dust is your enemy: Keeping things as dust-free as possible from loading and storing holders through processing the film and scanning is not really difficult, there are just a lot of things to do and habits to acquire. Keep refining.

As for uneven development: a completely full tank will sometimes not let the agitation move the solution around adequately. I would suggest finding the minimum volume of solution that completely covers the film in the tank and using that amount to develop with next time. I don't know what tank/etc. you have, but I had a similar problem years and years ago with 120 film and using less developer solved the problem.

Best,

Doremus

Jmarmck
1-Feb-2015, 06:47
Hmmm. Less is more. Yes, I have been filling till completely full on the assumption that full means less trouble with bubbles. The tank (Nikor stainless steel) holds about 38 oz or 1100 ml. I need to recalculate the mixing ratios too.
Thank you very much.