Friday, October 7, 2011

The case for film in the 21st Century, Part III: How

[This is the third installment in a series on Large Format photography by Guest Blogger George Goodroe]

In my second installment, I talked about equipment choices you'll have to make when setting up a large format (LF) kit. In this third installment, I'll discuss workflow choices.

One thing all LF photographers have in common is the workflow step of loading film holders. Whether you use a film changing bag or a darkroom, all of us have to spend time in the dark, loading film holders so that we have a sheet of film ready to expose. I tried using a changing bag but much prefer a light-tight room (I use a bathroom). I clear the counter, and using painter's tape, tape the bathroom door shut. I roll up a towel and put it in front of the door where it meets the floor. Then I take the extra step of putting a piece of tape over the light switch so that I can cover the switch once the light is off to prevent inadvertently turning the light on when the film is out in the open. Take your time practicing loading your film holders with scrap film sheets. It does take practice.
While we're talking about film, I do keep my film refrigerated. The cooler temperatures will help prolong the life of the film. Just be sure to allow the film to come to ambient temperature for 24 hrs before attempting to load it or shoot pictures.

 I had mentioned before in the first installment about the choice to either use or not use a darkroom. I personally don't have the room, so I'll relate my work flow. After I expose my film, I drop it off at Zebra Color lab and they develop it and print contact proof sheets. If I like the proof, I'll have the negative scanned into a TIFF file . I load the file into Photoshop (PS), and make any needed adjustments. Most of the time, my PS work is limited to very slight sharpening and tonal adjustments. After a negative is scanned, it almost always needs to be sharpened. The finished file is delivered back to Zebra, and it is printed to the size I specify. They deliver the print to be mounted and framed at Davidson Fine Arts.

I also make use of instant film in my workflow. Fuji makes 4x5 and 3.25x4.25 in. instant film. This instant film allows me to check exposure while on-site, just to be sure I am in the ballpark before exposing regular sheet film. Fuji make a film holder for its 4x5 instant film, and its 3.25x4.25 film can be used in a Polaroid 405 instant film back (available on eBay).

In part IV I'll continue the discussion of the Hows of LF.

George Goodroe

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