Well it was bound to happen.
I finally jumped in.
I got a Large Format camera, loaded, shot, and developed.
And it worked.

Back at the end of February I took a trip down to Rochester, NY with my friend Chrissie to visit our friend Andrew and Jenny and her Husband Aaron to check out the Rochester Subway and the Genesee Brew House. Of course there was a visit to Photo Source, this small camera shop in downtown Rochester run by Dick Raas. I have been hunting a 4×5 camera for a while and really wasn’t picky minus the fact it needed to be portable. Walking in, I bee-lined for the Large Format shelf and found this beauty.

Camera Collection - Feb 2013

A 1940s era Speed Graphic, but there was something a little odd about this camera. The Speed Graphic was the famous press camera of the mid-twentieth century. Dick proceeded to tell me about this one, it had been stripped down of all the things that made it a press camera, gone was the focal plane shutter, range finder, optical view finder. It had been basically turned into a field camera, came with a lens (Kodak Ektar 203mm f/7.7), film holders, basically everything I needed. And at the right price. I quickly ordered a 90mm lens off KEH.

And then it sat, it was pretty intimidating, I had never used a camera like this before, film came in sheets, loaded into holders, everything was upside down and backwards, closing the shutter.

So I watched a couple videos on YouTube…

Okay, I felt pretty ready about this. One good thing was the film holders had old film in them so I practiced daily loading and unloading the film, putting them into the Unicolor Drum I got from Burlington Camera. So this past Saturday I finally loaded up four sheets of film (Ilford HP5), loaded a tripod, Spotmeter, blanket, both lenses and headed out.

Before I even metered the scene I composed it in my head, then metered twice. Marked the spot, then went and got the camera, lined up the tripod, mounted the camera, opened it all up, blanket over the head and focused, recomposed, focused again. Then set the exposure, checked again on the glass, mentally flipping everything. Then closed the shutter and loaded the film holder, double checked the shutter, pulled the darkslide, and pressed the release. Replaced the darkslide.

The Backhouse Homestead
Anniversary Speed Graphic
Kodak Ektar f:7.7 203mm
Ilford HP5+ @ ISO-400
1/10″ @ f/32
Dev: Kodak Xtol (1+1) 12:00 @ 20C

Okay, that wasn’t too hard, despite being nervous as hell when I pressed the cable release. The second exposure went much better. There two shots down, and two more to go, but those I wanted to save for downtown Hamilton. The next step of course was processing, again back to the web, reading, youtube videos. I arranged to use the last surviving darkroom at Sheridan College, being able to work outside of a change bag first off helps me out a lot. Two sheets loaded, and started it rolling on the base. Some chemistry sloshed out which did cause some troubles to one of the sheets, but this was my first time, can’t expect perfection. But out of the four sheets shot, getting three images that I like, is pretty good I think.

The Backhouse Mill
Anniversary Speed Graphic
Schneider-Kreuznack Angulon 1:6,8/90
Ilford HP5+ @ ISO-400
1/25″ @ f/32
Dev: Kodak Xtol (1+1) 12:00 @ 20C

Couple things I learned…especially when using my 90mm lens, I need to bring the lens forward a touch more as in the two images (I cropped them out in post) you can see the camera body (oops). And to make sure no one is too close when exposing as they may bump into the camera and you get camera shake. I’d also like to thank Mat, Sean, and Owen for all their help in getting me started.

And finally, my favourite shot from the first four…

Hamilton's Lister Block
Anniversary Speed Graphic
Schneider-Kreuznack Angulon 1:6,8/90
Ilford HP5+ @ ISO-400
1/10″ @ f/32
Dev: Kodak HC-110 Dil. B 5:00 @ 20C

5 Comments

  1. Awesome. I’m working on my large format setup, too. I already have a Jobo print drum and 8×10 film holders. Now I just need to wait until the Harman Titan 8×10 is released. Oh and get some film or paper.

    1. Author

      Awesome! The print drum is the way to go, makes it so much easier to process when you can actually see!

      1. Yeah, I also don’t have the space for a real darkroom so tray processing is out of the question. And as I don’t have a scanner that can scan large format I think the Harman Direct Positive paper is the way to go. Unfortunately it seems to be hard to come by in 8×10 right now.

  2. Alex, after I read your comments about the 90mm lens I thought I should note that it’s possible to “drop the bed” on the Graflex field cameras. If you haven’t already found this out do a search for a video. I’m sure there is one somewhere. This gets the bed out of the FoV of your 90mm lens.

    cheers Jan

    1. Author

      Yes! Someone posted on APUG with a similar question, and with them having a Speed Graphic as well someone pointed out exactly how to drop the bed, I’ve figured that out and going out tomorrow to shoot a photo of my church using the 90 and the dropped bed!

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