Category Archives: Large format

Making large copy negatives for alt processes

When I need to produce a Gum print or a Cyanotype, I sometimes use large format original negatives. More often than not I use copynegs made from an RC print as this gives me much more control and flexibility.

The first thing I do is make an RC print to the size that I need my final gum print to be, with all the burning in and dodging that the image requires. I then place that face down on a sheet of either; Lith film, Line film, Ortho film, X-ray film or medical Subtraction film (All of these have different properties, ISOs and contrast, so stick to one and understand how to get the best from it. I would suggest using Ilford Ortho film as it is easy to obtain and works really well). This is placed in a contact printing frame or under thick glass and exposed under the enlarger. An exposure is given and the film is developed for around 1 minute in paper developer under red safelight (shorter times give lower contrast, -longer times give more contrast). Stop and fix as usual. A 5 minute wash in running water is adequate for these types of film. Be aware though that x-ray film has a very soft emulsion and is easily damaged.

To begin with, make a few negatives of varying contrast and density, then when you have become more proficient, you will have an idea which kind of negative works best for the process you are using. I prefer to make two negatives when Gum printing, as this gives me better separation in the tones.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.52.32

The advantages of this method are that you can make a large negative from any size original, you can get the contrast exactly right for your process and you don’t have to worry about damaging your negative when working with the alt process. I also prefer having a large border around my copy negatives, as this gives a better margin for attaching masking tape when re-aligning for multiple printing.

2 Comments

  1. Clive France

Posted 30/07/2013 at 10:37 am

Thanks for the excellent advice. Before I start, I just want to check that Aristo Ortho Litho film can be developed in normal paper developer. Freestyle suggests “for high contrast negatives, use this film with Arista A&B Lith developer or any standard lith developer.”

  1. sandy

Posted 24/09/2013 at 11:53 am

Dear Clive, I have not used Arista, but I expect it will behave in a similar manner to the others I have experience of. If you are wanting a longer tonal range, Ilford Multigrade, or similar paper developer will give you this if used at half strength. Experiment with different dev times to get the contrast you require.
Regards, Andrew.

A nice discovery

I was looking through a box of old lenses and collected junk earlier this year, with an idea to sell off some bits on Ebay. I had sold some unused brass lenses, enlarging lenses and old cameras, and was about to list a little lens I had found languishing in the bottom of the box. I had acquired it so long ago, that I couldn’t recall where from. When I did a little research to pad out my description it made me reconsider my decision. So before I listed it, I tried it on my 10×8 camera. -Wow! it almost covered the whole negative area, and the corner vignetting was rather interesting. I won’t be selling it now, and I am looking forward to doing more with this lens. It is a Taylor Hobson Cooke Series VIIb 108mm Wide angle Anastigmat. The information online states that it is meant for a 7×5 camera, but I like seeing what it will do at full stretch.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.44.46

Winter light

I love the low sun and long shadows that are a feature of winter days. Shadows have been a fascination of mine for many years and will continue to be I expect. Every sunny winter morning the light shines directly into our kitchen and on this occasion I placed a piece of driftwood on the table to explore the distorted and extended shadows.

Long shadows

Process, enlarging and simple lenses

I have been using large format cameras alongside other smaller formats for many years. Large format cameras have traditionally been associated with the master photographers, or with high end commercial work, so when I began, I worried about getting ‘perfect’ negatives like the experts. It took me many years to understand that they could be used in a much more relaxed way too.

I have 5×4, 5×7, and 10×8 cameras which all produce very detailed negatives. I can get high quality images from any of them if I need to, but sometimes I really enjoy using them purely for the fun of working in a different way. I often put unusual materials in the camera, such as X-Ray film, graphic Arts film, or Photographic Paper. These materials do not produce technically high quality negatives, but they do produce exciting and interesting images.

All of the light sensitive materials mentioned above are rather slow, that is to say, they need much more light to produce an image. This is actually an advantage, as it means that I can do without a shutter to control the light.  I simply expose by uncovering the lens for a period of time. This can be as little as a second, or much longer, -sometimes minutes.

Optics

Choosing lenses without the need for a  shutter opens up all sorts of possibilities. A high quality lens without a shutter is known as a Process Lens. These can be found on Ebay much more cheaply than the type with shutters built in.

I have used process lenses, enlarger lenses, photocopier lenses and also simple optics such as a magnifying glass. All produce something unique and I find this really exciting.

If you are shooting on slow, or unusual materials and not too concerned about having a really sharp, well corrected lens, then you have an enormous range to choose from.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 19.45.35

 

Process lenses.

For the uninitiated, a general description of a process lens is; A lens without a shutter which gives a flat field of focus. These lenses have been made for copying and reproduction and are made for a particular application. Using them in a way that they were not designed for gives interesting results.

They were designed to be flat field and were optimised for 1-1 reproduction (which makes them great for close up work). These lenses were used in the graphic arts industry for making printing plates and many of these lenses will give excellent quality if stopped down. Some are fixed at one aperture, so are only any use in low light or with very slow emulsions.

Enlarger lenses.

Similar to a process lens, in that they are flat field, but with the advantage of having a variable aperture.

Basically, they are process lenses mounted in reverse. Any enlarger lens can be used on a 5×4 camera, but most will give only a small image on the film unless they are over 150mm focal length (5×4 camera). Some interesting results can be obtained using a lens which is too small, the most obvious being a totally circular image in the centre of the film.

Photocopier lenses.

Again, these are process lenses, but they do not have a controllable aperture. They must be used wide open, this limits the situations in which they can be used.

Projector lenses.

These are amongst my favourites, they are usually very bright lenses and give really lovely out of focus areas. In the picture above you can see an 89mm f1.9 Rosslyte projector lens attached to an Olympus OM10.

Magnifying glass.

An uncorrected (very soft focus), very fast lens with no aperture. The amount of light coming into the camera is often too much even for these slow emulsions. A makeshift aperture could be fashioned out of black card which would reduce the light and also give a clearer, sharper image, though this would still be soft in comparison with proper optics.

Using Process, enlarging and simple lenses on a camera will give your images a different look from those taken using conventional optics. I am grouping these all together because I use all of them at various times to produce some of the work I am interested in. Each type has different characteristics, methods of use and drawbacks. Sometimes those characteristics and drawbacks cause problems out in the field, but they also are capable of beautiful results and that’s why I still think they are worth the effort.

Obtaining these types of lenses is easy. Process lenses appear on Ebay regularly and do not generally cost much, -certainly nowhere near the original cost that they would have been when in proper use. Enlarging lenses usually go for less than £25.00. Camera fairs and antique / junk fairs occasionally have something of interest, -I found a 240mm f4.5 photocopier lens a few months ago which will cover 10×8. It only cost me £4.00.

Anything you can get hold of is going to give you something different than the ‘normal’ optics that are supposed to be used on these cameras. Try it, see what sort of shot suits your unusual lens. Some things will be unsatisfactory, but other shots will be magical.

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 18.47.31

2 Comments

  1. Richard

Posted 16/10/2012 at 12:37 pm

I agree that these lenses are great to play with, especially on 4×5 and 10×8. Glad I found these pages and I wish you the best.

I don’t quite agree with your definition of “process lens” however. Process lenses are usually optimised for 1:1 (as you say) but are optimised for low distortions, not flat field. Obviously low distortion is what you want when copying a map, for example. Most are not flat field but get very close to flat field when stopped down. The Apo Ronar, for example, is an excellent process lens that is often used pictorially (I have a couple), but is not adequately flat until stopped to about f/22. Enlarger lenses are however (at least supposed to be) flat field and are often better in terms of contrast, though perhaps not as sharp.

  1. sandy

Posted 16/10/2012 at 9:09 pm

Dear Richard, thank you for your clarification. i didn’t want to get into a big discussion about the finer details of what is and and what is not flat field, or process, I just wanted to inspire a few photographers who might not have considered these lenses for large format use.

 

Paper negatives in Kent

Last month I visited an artist friend in Deal, Kent and took along the Kodak Specialist 5×7, shooting paper negatives on some of my remaining stock of Kentona paper. I had a really nice time. We went to see a painter called Jo Aylward and stayed in the house of another artist called Ruby.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 19.21.51

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 19.22.24

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 19.30.22

Snow shots on 10×8

First posted 4 Feb 2009

The picture possibilities today are not ideal, the snow has been messed up on the roads, but not cleared enough to get anywhere. I would like to take the 10×8 out and do some snow scenes, so I’ll stop writing and go and load some darkslides.

SOME TIME LATER

I did manage to get out with the 10×8, but it was hard going, the ground was slippy and I couldn’t find a strap for the tripod, so I was carrying a large tripod in one arm, the bag with the 10×8 in the other and a big bag over my shoulder containing darkslides, filters, meter etc.. You can’t get far with an awkward load like that without stopping for rests.

Anyway, enough whingeing, I did manage about 8 shots, which wasn’t too bad. I was a bit short of time because I had to be back to collect the kids from school.

I intend to process the sheets of HP5 in Barry Thornton’s two bath. This gives me a really long tonal range. I got to know Barry just six months before he died. He was a very good photographer and his two books are full of really useful information. The first one was called ‘Elements’ and the second was ‘Edge of darkness’.

Formula;

Bath A. Metol 6.2 grams and Sodium Sulphite 85 grams in 1 litre of distilled or de-ionised water.

Bath B. Sodium Metaborate 12 grams in 1 Litre of distilled or de-ionised water.

Mix the Metol in about 700 ml of water at 38 degrees C and once dissolved, mix in the Sodium Sulphite and top up to 1 litre with cold water. Do the same with the Sodium Metaborate. Give films around 4 minutes in each bath. In the first bath, the film must be gently, but constantly agitated. In the second bath there is a little agitation to begin with, then leave standing. A slight agitation at 2 minutes is all that is needed to avoid streaking, then leave alone until the fourth minute. Stop and fix as usual.