This Old Shack – Making Mistakes & Loving it

Well my journey into Large Format continues and I’m working my way through sheets of Kodak Tmax 100 Black and White film.

There is quite a lot to learn and making mistakes is inevitable. This photograph is entirely case in point. In order to focus a 4×5 camera, you go old school. The image is projected through the lens onto a ground glass at the back of the camera, and you put a dark cloth over your head to view the image clearly. Then you adjust the focus, lens position etc to get everything the way you want it.

From there, everything on the lens is manual, shutter speed, aperture. ISO is set by your film choice. In good light this is all a pretty simple thing to do, but does take some time In low light it’s certainly much more of a challenge and you have to triple check everything.

I’d already taken a couple of colour shots with my roll film back and thought I’d give a go on 4×5 black and white as well. So reframing, refocussing, and I got lazy. After focusing and working out your exposure, you have to close the lens, and stop the aperture down. That’s the part I forgot. Instead of being at F22 to get everything sharp front to back I left it wide open at f6.8. Oops…my photo is now 4 stops over exposed. If this was digital it would have been trash, but I also would have seen it.

My brain didn’t click I’d forgotten this step until I had packed everything away and was writing notes to keep a record…that’s when I realised. So a few choice words and I drove home admitting defeat for the day as I had taken 2 shots, both similar, and had no more film with me.

I was going to open the film holders up and throw the negatives away (why waste the chemicals) and then I remembered the developer I use (Rodinal or R09 One Shot) can be used for stand developing. I won’t get into the details here but lets just say it processes the negative in a way that makes it almost impossible to blow out any over exposure. It does this by actually using the most minimal amount of developer possible, working it to exhaustion, so wouldn’t cost much at all except some time. Worth a shot.

And I was very surprised when I pulled the negatives out afterwards and I could see a latent image. I let it dry, scanned it in and initially thought it was a loss. Lots of crap and mush. But some clever cropping in to remove the extreme soft edges, and adjusting the contrast after the scan, this image appeared and to be honest, I really like it.

There was a huge amount of smoke haze this morning, the light was very orange/red, and the distance hills are lost through the haze. I spoke briefly with the farmer who wasn’t happy that they had cut all the lucerne but there wasn’t enough moisture to bail it up. You can see it lying in rows on the left of frame.

The old shack doesn’t care, it’s been there for ever and a day as life keeps going on. Definitely one of my favourite buildings near home.

This Old Shack sits on a property near Ipswich Queensland Australia. 4x5 Large Format Black and White Film photograph on Kodak Tmax 100 by Australian Landscape photographer Murray Fox
4×5 Large Format, Kodak Tmax 100, ISO 100, F/6.8, 1/60 Sec, Crown Graphic

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