Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New Lands, Sleeping Bags And Big Cameras - Part Three (The Insomnia Special)

Well folks, it is back into the fray again!
Now, I am leaving a packet of pep pills, some matchsticks and a "help yourself to free recharges" jug of piping hot black coffee at the side of your screen, simply because we are entering the land of the dull. Well, it is dull if you're not into it, and look, I am into it, and even I find it dull, so like I said, help yourself to a coffee, get the matchsticks ready for your eyelids and pop some pills. Make sure you're not sitting too comfortably as well.
Right here we go.
Remember in the last installment I was going on about organisation? No? well you'd better go and read that first . . . .

There, that's better isn't it.
OK, well my organisation worked pretty damn well actually, with only one cock-up in the stacking department I was chuffed, and seeing as developing 20 sheets of 5x4" sheet film one sheet at a time isn't for the faint-hearted, I decided to break it down into 5 developing sessions of 4 sheets at a time.
This is all I can handle without going slightly mad.
And yes it does take a long time, but if you don't think about it too much then it's fine. I find the best thing to do is to imagine what your results are going to be whilst whiling away the long hour or two.
I use a metronome for timing in the total dark (as I am developing in open trays). The metronome was a cheap one, but it keeps good time, and at every sixty seconds I say aloud the time "One minute" "Two minutes" etc etc . .
Why aloud?
Well in the dark time takes on a curious dimension and one can honestly lose oneself completely. At least if you have heard the time aloud, you can keep a check on yourself.

Anyway, just to fly in the face of convention (but mostly for the wonderfully [relatively] short development times) the developer for this project was Rodinal, or Adox R09 as it is now called. I've come more and more to appreciate just what a versatile developer it is - it is VERY agitation dependent, but temperature wise, it isn't nearly as fussy as say the likes of HC110.
Dilution for this lot was 1:25 at a temp of 21° C.
I always do a water pre-bath of around 90 seconds for every sheet of film, which as you can imagine is fun, especially as, given the very limited space in my darkroom, the water tray has to sit on an entirely different shelf, well below the level of the shelves where I can fit my 5x7" trays . . and yes, I HAVE dropped one of the slippery buggers, emulsion-side down too . . .
As for agitation, well I use the 'Kodak' sequence for trays: Lift the middle of the tray, set back, right corner, set back, left corner, set back. That is the equivalent of one conventional 'tilt' if you are using a daylight tank.
With Rodinal, I do a whole minute of constant agitation, in that centre, right, left, centre, right, left, repeat etc etc sequence, and then one 'sequence' [centre, right, left] every 30 seconds. Now most people seem to agitate in a stupidly heavy-handed sloshing motion, and if you do this with Rodinal, you'll end up with heavy grain, whereas, if you are very gentle, you'd be amazed at how grainless it can be. And this is what I did, for on average a development time of 5 minutes 30 seconds - there were some variations, but the coffee is running out - I'll not detail them here, oh no, that would be too kind . . .

Anyway, here's a little light relief - the Wista with the Super Angulon in the thick of things - this was literally 200 yards from the caravan - it was a real pleasure not to have to lug my gear for miles.

OK. Ready? Good - slurp your last free cup of coffee, put the matchsticks in your eyelids  and listen to some pounding Doom Metal, because here we go - Instant Soma!

The wee scans below are nothing more than my exposure records (made, curiously, at the time of exposure) and my development sheet (kept, curiously, every time I developed some film). The reasoning behind this lot is simple - it provides a handy cross check to see what you did wrong and more importantly, what you did right. I would heartily recommend making as many notes as possible - it really helps.

1 & 2 First 8 sheets of film, exposed in two lots of 4 at different dates.
Note use of Zone system nomenclature. date exposed and date processed.

3 & 4 Second 8 sheets of film, exposed in two lots of 4 at different dates.

5 Last lot of 4 sheets

Development record.
The circled numbers correspond to the reciprocal ones on the Exposure Records, so you can sort of plan and know the why, when and wherefore of your developing process. 

As you can see from the above I've made a number of comments like 'Misload' and 'Lots of condensation' and my favourite 'Pulled slide without shutter closed'.
Why have I written this?
Nope, not nuttiness, but because it all helps as an aide-mémoire - the old brainbox never hangs onto everything.
Couple this with detailed descriptions of each day, written in a Moleskine notebook at the time and you have a fairly complete record of what you did. It can make amusing reading years later!

"Trousers caught fire after bad curry"
"Bellows infested with snails."
"Pink tracksuit attracting too much attention . . ."

That sort of thing . . .
Anyway, here's an example of how the negatives look in the .  . er . . negative:

Looks contrasty don't they.  They're actually nothing like that - I am afraid the scanner has not made a great job. Also, you get no idea of resolution, but you see the top left negative? I would say it is the most 'resolved' negative I have ever made - the detail goes on and on and on, it's also the most tonally balanced of them all.

Anyway, after a whole WEEK of developing, the results are below.
I know, I know - they look shite and I agree, but that's because I took another chance on the contacts . . I printed them at Grade 0, and gave them less exposure than they should have had.
Why? I hear you screaming, Oh God, WHY???
Well, I am fed up of chalk and soot contacts - I like to see the potential of a negative, and some of these are on the cusp of underexposure (I rated all films at EI 100 . . box speed . . call it a brain fart) so opening up the negative so you can sort of get an idea of what is on the negative seemed like a good idea. However, as you can see, they just look truly awful and utterly lacking in contrast and crispness. But I've made my bed and all that . . so even at the risk of embarrassment to myself, they are below.
Some of the frames are truly terrible, but there's a few photographs there that I think will print wonderfully.





I always find with contact sheets, if you put your computer on its side, you can get a better idea

So, until the next blog (Part 4 . . I know!!), I shall leave you to carry on snickering and pointing.
Next time, will be an exploration of my photographic methods and why on earth I took the frames I did, alongside a genuine (to me) tale of terror (well, it was a bit scary).
Till then, take care and keep taking the pills.
Oh and by the way, I forgot to add that due to some massive spamming, I have disabled comments, so if you like what you see please offer up a vote for any of these just to let me know someone is out there!