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Thread: Relizations on technique and work flow.

  1. #1
    2 Bit Hack
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    Relizations on technique and work flow.

    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.
    Regards

    Marty

  2. #2
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Relizations on technique and work flow.

    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!
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  3. #3
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    Re: Relizations on technique and work flow.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jmarmck View Post
    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!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jmarmck View Post
    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.

  4. #4
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Relizations on technique and work flow.

    This is why when students needed help loading 4x5 holders, I grabbed a piece of practice film and said, "It goes in this way."
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  5. #5
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    Re: Relizations on technique and work flow.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    This is why when students needed help loading 4x5 holders, I grabbed a piece of practice film and said, "It goes in this way."
    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.

  6. #6
    2 Bit Hack
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    Re: Relizations on technique and work flow.

    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.
    Regards

    Marty

  7. #7

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    Re: Relizations on technique and work flow.

    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

  8. #8

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    Re: Relizations on technique and work flow.

    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

  9. #9

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    Re: Relizations on technique and work flow.

    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.

  10. #10

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    Re: Relizations on technique and work flow.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder View Post
    ...
    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!

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