When I first started getting interested in pinhole photography and developing my own film, I placed this uber-order of film and paper and developing equipment from Freestyle. I tried to figure out what I absolutely needed and got those things, and then I also got a bunch of stuff that seemed like it would be fun. I haven’t gotten into some of it – I think I ordered some 5×7 and 8×10 photo paper I haven’t touched yet. I got it with the thought I would use it in some large format pinhole cameras, and I haven’t gotten around to making them yet.
Among the supplies I ordered was 4×5 sheet film and 4×5 Efke positive paper. The positive paper is cool because, if you’re making a pinhole photo, you actually get a positive image on your photo paper as opposed to the negative image you would get using standard photo papers (I guess most people will stick photo paper in their pinhole cameras, develop the paper, scan in the result and invert the image). After I made the Hannakube, I tried out the Efke paper. I took 4 pics, but only 3 came out with any kind of decent image. The best of the lot was this:
The problem with the photo paper is that it messes with my brain. If my exposures turned out too light, did I underexpose or over expose the paper? Since you get a positive instead of a negative image, it’s confusing to me. I need to just load the Hannkube up again, shoot multiple images of the same subject at different times to see which result is the best, and figure out my under and over exposing that way.
That was the only time I’ve developed paper. I set up a darkroom area in my garage, waited until night, and did it then. I think, though, that I’ll try setting up a mini darkroom in my bathroom at night during the winter. My house is staying at a pretty constant 68-66 degrees, which is perfect for developing. I actually have an enlarger, and I need to see if it still is functional (I know it still turns on, but not too sure if it still works for making prints). My bathroom is small, but I think I can go all Tim Gunn and make it work.
My Hannakube camera was designed to work with 4×5 images. I’ve tried out the paper, like I’ve said, but haven’t tried out actually shooting with the 4×5 film in it yet. It was August before I finally got up the nerve to try anything with the 4×5 film.
There are camera geeks out there that are crazy about Polaroids, and although I see the appeal, I don’t really share the passion. I bought an old Polaroid One Step at Goodwill a while ago, and a pack of expensive Polaroid film for it and shot some pics. I don’t know. I just can’t get behind something that is so expensive. For the cost of a box of Polaroid film, I could probably buy 4 or 5 rolls of 120. It was just a bit of a buzzkill.
But, as much as I seem to have this aversion to Polaroids, I was sucked into buying this one:
It’s one of the first Polaroid Land cameras, a Speedliner 95B. This particular camera came with almost all of its original accessories and its case, which was part of the reason it wound up coming home with me. I see so many Polaroids from the 70s and 80s at junk stores, and they just look ridiculous, but the Speedliner is all class, down to its brown leatherette. It’s very Don Draper, no?
The Speedliner doesn’t work like modern Polaroid cameras, which have a battery in their film packs (so, if you don’t have a film pack in your camera, the camera doesn’t work – which is irritating to me, and another reason I haven’t been bitten by the Polaroid bug). The Speedliner is all analog. It’s a bellows camera, and, fortunately, can still be used to shoot 4×5 sheet film. Of course, you have to load the camera in darkness, hope to god you’ve got the right side of the film facing the lens, and can only shoot one picture with it, but hey! Better than nothing!
In August I finally gave this a whirl. It took me a while to work up to doing this because I was concerned about developing the film. Film developing needs to be done in total darkness, which is not so much of a problem, because you can develop in light-tight film tanks. I have several of them, and they have spools which hold a variety of sizes of film. Unfortunately, they are not set up to hold 4×5 sheet film, and to get the type of tanks and accessories that would let me do this cost more than I was willing to pay. I couldn’t even score a deal on eBay.
You can also develop sheet film in trays in the dark. That seems like a huge scary process to me, though, since my darkroom experience is limited to the one time I developed paper, using a red safelight. There’s no way I could jump straight to total film developing in darkness from that.
What I finally wound up doing was developing the film in my Patterson tank with the spools removed. I took two pictures and tossed the negative in the tanks sans-spool, and hoped for the best.
One negative developed. The other negative, I think, got the emulsion side stuck to the side of the tank and didn’t develop. Here’s the one that turned out:
Could have gone better, but could have been worse, too. I definitely wasn’t far enough away from the box camera to get a sharp image of it, but the grass in the background is in focus. The settings on the Land camera are kind of goofy, and not what I’m used to. Not sure what caused the dark area on top of the photo, wither. It seems awfully dark to be a shadow, but maybe it is. Anyway, a partial success, but it really is kind of a pain in the butt to load the camera, and the camera isn’t the easiest to use. It’s worthy of future experimentation, though.
That was all I did with the 4×5 film until yesterday. Most of the cameras I buy are cheap plastic things. I seem to have scored a lot of cameras made between the late 40s and the 60s. What never really jumped out at me when I’ve been looking for cameras is the generic, standard box camera. These were made in the early chunk of the 1900s, normally made out of wood (or even cardboard, I think!). The lenses are on the inside of the camera instead of the outside. They’ve just never been something I’ve been drawn to.
However, when I saw this behemoth at the Medina Antique Mall, I was stopped in my tracks:
An inspection of the interior cone revealed this:
It costs $16, more than I normally spend on an old camera, but I had the suspicion that this camera might be able to hold 4×5 film. Because it was huge! Epic! Cavernous! Also, for an old, old box camera, it’s actually pretty cool – it has 3 separate aperture settings, and also a bulb setting so I can do long exposure shots. And, the shutter is a flip flop, which is cool (that means you press the shutter lever down to take a picture, and then for the next picture, you push it up, and so on).
When I got home, I took my 4×5 negative that I developed in August but got all screwed up (yes, I save these things, because I’m weird) and stuck it in the Brownie. It fit perfectly. The only problem was that the negative was hard to get out of the camera, and I foresaw difficulties in doing so in the dark. So, I broke out the plastic window in the back of it, and taped dark cardboard over it, so that if I needed to, I could open up the window, stick a pencil eraser through it, and push out the negative from the back.
I loaded the Brownie up with a sheet of film, and Travis and I went to the llama house so I could try it out. Taking the picture was uneventful – the viewfinders are completely useless, so I just had to guess what the picture was going to look like. The flip flop shutter seems a little anticlimactic. Like, here I was, shooting 4×5 film for the love of god, and all I hear is this little “clop” noise to confirm that something actually happened.
Developed the film in the Patterson tank. Was a little worried about it sticking to the side of the tank like the one sheet did, but fortunately, nothing bad happened.
Here’s the finished shot:
Wish I had noticed the garbage cans before I took the picture. Oh well.
As far as using 4×5 film goes, the Brownie, at least right now, wins hands down over the Polaroid. It’s just a lot less complicated, and the less flustered I get, the better. I’m looking forward to shooting some more sheet film with this. I’m also going to try to take some 4×5 film pics in the Hannakube. I think my big mental block was the developing issue. Until I can work out something better, I’m going to stick to developing one sheet at a time in the Patterson tank. It’s time consuming, but it works.