This is really simple. I had moved my son’s Yamaha WR-450 dirt bike onto the back porch so I could clear out the garage. I was still trying to do testing and figure out where my film ghosting problems were coming from. So I just grabbed my Toyo 45A camera with my Rodenstock 150 mm F5.6 lens and grabbed this shot right quick. Kind of a closeup of a motorcycle, more of a quick test shot than anything. Good practice for commercial photography work. Again, nothing special, more of just a test shot.
Four days in and I already made a change. You see, shooting large format is hard. Really hard. There are SO many steps involved from loading film, prepping camera, checking exposure, on and on. I figured out it is really difficult with a busy work schedule to shoot once piece of 4×5 film every day. Hence the change.
I think I can post one 4×5 PICTURE per day. That should be much more workable. Often when I go out to shoot 4×5 I will shoot 4-5 pics in a single session. I try to do only one sheet per setup unless I have a distinct reason for more exposures. I want to get it right in camera, first time. This requires me to think in my mind how I want the picture to work, then set things up to execute that photo in my mind.
So here is the one 4×5 photo, 365 days per year – Day 4 version.
As you can see from previous days, I have had trouble with some type of exposure problem, and I was trying to figure out what was causing this overexposure and ghosting. Double exposure? Camera light leak? Improper film handling? I didn’t know, so I just used the same Ilford HP5 film shot at ISO-400 and stepped out my back door and grabbed this shot. Nothing special, not even well composed, just something to check my exposure during development. Turned out fine it seems.
Another not so good day. It was a Sunday and Kay and I decided to work in the yard most of the day. After mowing I decided to power wash my tractor and mowers. Once that was done, I knew I needed to get at least some type of picture for the day so I quickly set up my tripod and just guessed at the exposure using the “sunny 16” rule. With the sunny 16 rule, I can guess exposure on a sunny day by setting my camera at F16 and setting my shutter equal to my film speed. No need for a light meter, right? Wrong. I set my camera at F16 and 1/60th (close to 1/100th) because I thought I had ISO-100 film loaded. Wrong. I had Ilford HP5 which is rated at ISO-400. So my shutter speed should have been 1/500 rather than 1/60 of a second. Hence, overexposure by about 2 stops. I still got an image but barely. And worse still, I had the same light leaks! Of course I still didn’t know about the light leak problem. Tonight I developed the film from the previous three days and discovered the overexposure problem in the bottom of my images. Even the day 2 image had just a bit of this problem although barely noticeable. Tomorrow I am going to shoot and develop some test films to try and track down the cause of this problem.
I only had time to shoot this one image so this is what we get – an overexposed image with light leaks of some sort in the bottom of the image. Another throw-away. So far, 5 sheets of film, two usable images.
My second day of shooting 4×5 film every single day turned out MUCH better than my first day. I am not really sure why yet, because I had not developed the film from the first day yet so I didn’t know about the over-exposure problem. For day 2 we went to my son’s house for my oldest grandson’s birthday party. I shot plenty of digital during and after the party, but I also wanted to expose at least one sheet of film from the party. Kay and I, along with my daughter Emily, her husband Dirk, and my son Adam and his wife Cheri, along with their kids, all went to a park in Yukon for a kid’s function. As we unloaded from the cars, I said “let’s get a picture on my old camera right quick.” Everyone obliged. I set up the camera on my tripod and recruited a stranger to trigger the shutter.
After we were done with the photo, Emily said “another picture with everyone kissing!” OK, sounds good. I had two sheets and exposed them both with the same settings.
After a lot of thought – about 5 minutes – I decided to start a new personal project I am naming 4x5x365. Basically my plan is to shoot at least one sheet of 4″x5″ film every single day for a year and see how it turns out.
If you are not familiar with 4″x5″ photography, it is basically a great big view camera where a photographer must look through the back onto a ground glass screen, where the image is projected upside down and backwards. Once everything is set up, I insert a sheet of film measuring 4″x5″ and expose it with the click of a shutter. Simple, huh? Other than the upside down and backwards.
It is anything BUT simple. I have shot 4×5 photography since 1999 and it is exceedingly hard to do well. The technical aspects are daunting, with SO many steps along that way, and a mistake at any one of those steps can yield an unusable image. In fact, my discard rate with 4×5 photography is close to 80%-90%. Yea, I keep maybe 1 in 10 images. At over $1 and one hour of time per sheet, that gets expensive really quick.
So why do I shoot 4×5? Good question. I am not really sure what draws me to the medium. I actually shoot 99% digital. ALL of my client work is digital. My personal photos are mostly digital but lately I have been pulling out my film cameras to shoot a bit and really enjoying the process. Back when I started in 1996 I shot all digital and developed and scanned my own film. I eventually sold nearly all my film cameras and was very successful at shooting digital, working for a number of clients and having my work published worldwide. Yet I still had an affinity for film, which has increased even more in the past year. I started buying some old film cameras and discovered the Pentax 6×7 system, which has turned into one of my favorite film cameras. It handles like a DSLR yet shoots on huge 6x7cm negatives. Even with the ease of use of the Pentax system, I still enjoy the challenges involved with shooting 4×5 film. It is much, much more difficult than my Pentax. Most importantly, I can easily do swings, tilts and movement with my 4×5, which is much more difficult to do on a DSLR and impossible on my Pentax.
And the negative. Oh my. When I get a good shot with my 4×5, the negative and resulting positive image takes my breath away. There is SO much detail in a 4×5 image. When I scan it at only 1/2 the resolution my Epson V750 scanner will perform, I get a 170+ megapixel image! Holy cow! Of course I can’t really show that resolution on the internet, but my oh my when they are scanned into my computer they look stunning when done correctly.
Of course, that is the problem. Did I mention 4×5 is very, very difficult to shoot properly?
What I have discovered is the more I shoot with my 4×5, the better I get. The lengthy and involved process becomes more ingrained in my head and I make fewer mistakes.
Hence my 4x5x365 project. I want to shoot at least one sheet of film every single day for the next year. I will show the best shot each day. Most days I plan to bring one film holder, which contains two sheets of film. I will expose it somewhere, somehow, hopefully with some artistry, but sometimes not. And I will scan and display the best image here. Sometimes I hope the result is stunning. Other times – actually most likely often – the results will be mediocre at best and maybe even downright horrible. I fully expect to end up with at least one unexposed image. We will see. Hopefully not.
I hope to grow, get better, and learn from the process, and share my journey with you.
Well, Day 1 didn’t start out so good. I shot with my Toyo 45a view camera. It is fairly new to me and I haven’t shot that much with it, prefering my Toyo VRX-125. But the 45a has been just sitting around so I loaded it with a lens, tossed it into a bag, and have it all set up to carry with my daily for my 4x5x365 project – kind of like my 4×5 pocket camera if you will.
I exposed two images today. I was hopeful that my picture in the barber shop would be my best. I cajoled my barber into letting me include her in the image. I really like to include people in my photos and she was a likely subject. After a bit of talking she agreed. I set up the camera on a tripod and had another barber trigger the shutter so that I could be in the picture. Little did I know I was going to get the photo below. I developed the picture 4 days later and this is when I realized I have some type of problem. Is it the camera? The film? My processing. How I handled the film? I don’t know, but this problem also shows up on some other images I shot during the first three days of my project.
The day was getting late and I decided to expose another sheet of film just in case my first didn’t work out so well. I stopped at Braum’s for an ice cream and set up my tripod to capture this image right after sundown. It is not quite as over-exposed in the bottom of the frame, but still you can see I have a problem. I included it here so you can see what I see – two images, two failures. Darn it. Not a good start to my project.