View Full Version : trial and error w/8x10

16-Oct-2005, 10:05
Just started using 8x10, and am really enjoying it. However, I've run through about 15 films and have yet
to obtain a negative that I would call a "keeper". Made a bunch of silly mistakes; this format is NOT forgiving
of mistakes (e.g. focus, film loading errors, scratches during developing, closing the damned lens BEFORE shooting, making sure there is ABSOLUTELY NO light hitting negs during development). I would have had two yesterday; beautiful model, perfect natural light. Both negs ruined. One by light streaks (left the digital clock too close to tray when developing! Dohh!) One has a few scratches. That Microtek scanner is looking better and better all the time.

Still, I am fascinated by the process involved in 8x10 photography. Rather than getting discouraged, each mistake seems to augment my determination to do ALL THINGS RIGHT the next time. Funny thing is, there seems to be a carryover with respect to shooting with smaller formats; It takes a LOT longer to expose one roll of film with my 'Blad than it used to.

I was wondering how many of you had similar frustrations before obtaining your first 8x10 "keeper".

Alan Barton
16-Oct-2005, 10:33
You are going through what most of us experience in jumping from smaller formats to 8x10 so dont worry! In my journey it helped to divide the action into 3 parts-the photograph, the exposure and then the darkroom. "Seeing" in 8x10 is very different and requires an intensity and clarity of purpose (ie EXACTLY what are you making an image of?). First thing I found that worked is to slow down, walk around, move closer, further-EXACTLY what do you want in the frame-every bit of the frame. I find a card frame helps a lot with this. I found I ended up with less exposures but more "keepers". The process of actually exposing the film needs precision, discipline and thought-there are many steps that must be done correctly-make this a routine, systematic process and the number of "screw-ups" will decline dramatically. Once in the darkroom-again so many ways to mess it up-I found making the development process standard (once materials calibrated or whatever you do) in a clean, organized darkroom will help a lot. Likewise with printing-standardized materials allow you to reallly understand how to achieve what you want.

Once person's view-keep going it's worth it!!


Bruce Watson
16-Oct-2005, 10:51
Alan hit the nail squarely on the head. What he said!

16-Oct-2005, 11:53
My personal experience with LF in general is that I make every possible mistake at least twice. My personal favorite is removing the lens before replacing the darkslide. So far I've only done it once, so one of these days...

jonathan smith
16-Oct-2005, 12:16
I just processed a beautiful landscape, early morning light (got up at dawn, drove 15 miles, hiked up a small mountain with 50 lbs of equipment) and there's a piece of straw grass right in the middle of it at the bottom. I had pulled down all I could see, but missed one, and when viewing, it was out of focus, only showing up when stopped down.

I find there's almost always something "wrong" and even shooting duplicates doesn't make it foolproof. I'm trying to accept the little flaws, the scratch, the piece of dust, the soda can in the corner, as part of the moment I had the opportunity to capture. Overall the positives outweigh these little things.

You'll quickly master the basic mechanics, but will still have to live with certain imperfections. Just do the best you can and enjoy the results.

Nick Morris
16-Oct-2005, 12:46
I found 8x10 more demanding than even 4x5, but for me, much more rewarding than 35mm, 120mm, or 4x5. Its the result, the contact print that makes the difference. And the process, and the history of the process. The touch of the romantic illusion of being in the tradition of Strand, Weston, etal.

My darkroom came about the same time as the move to 8x10, so the mistakes had to be worked through, both with the camera and the process. Yes, all that you described, I went through. But, you work through it. As with most endevors, practice improves performance. Many more steps involved with the 8x10 than 35mm and 120mm hand-held cameras.

I'm not a professional, so all my personal photography is made with the 8x10, and contact printed. My time for photography is limited, so the idea of fewer exposures, but hopefully better exposures is also part of the allure.

Ken Lee
16-Oct-2005, 12:59
I have heard that using big film is like using a big gun: you may not hit the target as often, but when you do, you hit big.

Jonathan Brewer
16-Oct-2005, 14:34
It's like driving an automatic for years, then you go back to a 'stick shift', it feels 'funny' at first I had to force myself to slow down, and think, about what I just did, and what did I need to do next.

I started out doing Polaroids, this was a tremendous help, is this an option for you?

Good luck.


John Kasaian
16-Oct-2005, 16:54
Fifteen is a pretty good number of screw ups. I think I went through an entire box of 25 before I got comfortable and even now I'll occasionally screw up somewhere;-) I think part of the excitement is when you find something you want to shoot and in the follow rush things tend to get screwed up. It take awhile to slow down. A check list might help. Better yet find a subject that dosen't change----an abandoned car or building or a statue. Something that maybe you aren't all that excited about and that you can take your time with---focusing on the camera and your own technique rather than the subject matter. Your first 'keeper,' even if it isn't "Moonrise over Hernandez" will be so astounding in 8x10 it will go a long ways towards really demonstrating the beauty of the big negative and inspiring confidence in your own abilities with the big camera.

Good luck!

16-Oct-2005, 21:09
Interesting replies...thank you.
Jonathan: visited your site. Beautiful images. I am looking into buying a Polaroid thingy...er..processor. Not quite comfortable with ebay (which is where all the used ones seem to be); I have never bid nor bought there.

Jonathan Brewer
16-Oct-2005, 21:52
Thank you for the kind words, I'd recommend tracking down the processor, the electric one which I have is now pretty cheap, mine was broken in shipping, and had to be repaired, luckily there was an outfit in Glendale(the name escapes me now) that used to repair these things for Polaroid, and they fixed it. So how they get shipped is paramount. One good thing about the Polaroid/electric model, is that if you can buy a handcrank(from Polaroid, if they still have them in stock), then you can still use it to process film even it quits years from now and there's no one around to fix them.

There's also a mechanical one I believe from Calumet which in all honesty I know nothing about. Polaroids will give you immediate feedback, and I believe will give you some real reinforcement when you do something right, even if you get outdated polaroid film which is cheaper, but still giving you something with which to practice with.

Good luck.


Scott Davis
17-Oct-2005, 09:26

while I get leery at times of buying certain things on Ebay, when done right the cost savings are worth it. Especially for Polaroid processors. I bought one, got it for $120 (the motor suicided about a half-hour after I got it out of the box, so I never got to actually use it), then got a newer one complete with loading tray and hand-crank for $250. Sounds painful, but when you consider that buying a new one costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $1100 with shipping, I'm three or four boxes of 8x10 polaroid material ahead of the game, and I have a spare set of rollers (one of the more expensive parts in the machine should anything go wrong with them) to boot.

Tip for you- look for one that is complete with loading tray, film holder, and processor. Get the newer one (the gray/tan one, not the blue one), as you are less likely to have mechanical problems that are not worth fixing. Also, the newer ones have a hand crank you can use with them so if the power goes out (or the motor dies) you can still use it. Also, get yourself an open box of the 8x10 material on ebay to use as tests so you don't burn through a full-price kit of potential keepers trying to get over the learning curve for the material (and 8x10 polaroid has its own separate learning curve).

Ed Richards
17-Oct-2005, 12:21
You might make a check list of everything you need to do before and after an exposure so you can run through it for each exposure until it is second nature. Use the computer or skip lines - you will find new ways to screw up as you keep using the camera. I did some handheld 4x5 with my Technika for the first time last weekend and found several new ways to screw up.:-)