It has been a while since I posted a to my 4x5x365 project. My original plan was to shoot one 4×5 photo each day for a year. My goal was to learn my 4×5 camera functions and process as well as I knew my Nikon. I found out pretty quick that taking one 4×5 photo each day wasn’t all that practical, and it also made it hard to be creative each day.
So I switched to just POSTING a 4×5 photo each day. That way I could take several photos at once, process them at once, and then post them one per day over a period of time. This worked out much better, and I quickly became quite adept at shooting 4×5 film.
For those not familiar with shooting 4×5 film, it is a very manual, labor-intensive process with many steps and decisions made along the way, all which must be correct to capture usable images. There are literally DOZENS of decision points along the way where a person can make a mistake and screw up the image. So like anything else, repetition is the key to ingraining those steps into memory so you don’t have to think about them, they just become second nature.
After about 3 months – 90 posts – I felt I was getting fairly competent at the process and mistakes were becoming fewer and fewer. I could shoot and develop a 4×5 image and be fairly confident I would get a usable image from my efforts. So eventually I stopped posting every day and went through a period of posting every few days, then every few weeks. Then I stopped posting at 112 images, and went on hiatus for a few years. I still shot 4×5 film, but no longer had to urge to write a post about each photo.
So today I decided to change my plans. Again. I still like the idea and title of 4x5x365, but now my goal is to just post a TOTAL of 365 images to complete my project. No, I won’t post them every day, and I probably won’t post every 4×5 photo I take, but I plan to post a bit more often than every three years.
I was recently on a Jeep trip in our new 2-door Wrangler Rubicon and decided to shoot some 4×5 film during my travels. I stopped by Okemah, Oklahoma on my return and photographed this statue of folk singer Woody Guthrie. I wanted to use my Nikon 210 mm lens, which is my favorite portrait lens for 4×5. I also used a narrow depth of field so shot at F5.6 – narrow for a 4×5 camera.
When I got home from my trip I developed the images in my kitchen sink like always. I had some Kodak D76 developer that I had mixed up about a month prior and used for previous images. The developer had been tucked away in a light-tight bottle in a dark closet, and was only slightly used, so I thought it would be fine to develop this batch.
When I pulled the images out of the development tank I was surprised to see that they were very, very thin. I was disappointed. I was pretty sure that I had exposed them correctly. I used a light meter on my phone to check exposure before I shot, and I have a lot of experience guessing at meter settings, plus Kodak TMAX-100 has a lot of latitude for over and underexposure. So I immediately thought I had a development problem. I did a quick google search and sure enough, just as I suspected, thin negatives typically happen with either under-exposure or under-development. Since I was confident in my exposure, I guessed it was under-development. My chemicals had gone stale and I had not compensated with longer development times.
When looking closer at this particular negative it became clear to me that under-development was the problem. Notice the fogging behind the statute, especially behind the guitar? This area of the negative was quite pink, while the rest of the negative was clear in color.
The good news is that Kodak TMAX 100 is very forgiving, and I am pretty decent at fixing things in the digital world. I mounted the negative in a wet mount on my Epson V750 and scanned it into my computer, then corrected everything in Adobe Lightroom. I was able to pull enough usable information out of the negative to save the image. It isn’t great, and doesn’t have as much contrast and latitude as I would like, but still a usable image. Works for me. And I learned to either mix fresh chemicals at least once per week, or at least do some type of clip test on my developer to tell me if I need to extend my development time.