Even in this age of digital cameras, there is still something truly amazing about Polaroid Type 55 positive/negative film. Rated at about 32ISO (rather than the recommended 50ISO), this film is capable of recording superb detail and tonalities. With Polaroid Type 55 4×5 film, each exposure yielded a positive 4×5 polaroid print and a 4×5 negative that could be used in an enlarger for printing. My approach to using this film has always been to treat it like regular film, compose the image and expose carefully, then process the film when I get home. Using the Polaroid back I would do this processing in my darkroom, keeping any light exposure of the negative to a minimum until the negative had safely cleared in a sulphite solution. Then I would complete the processing with a wash period, photoflo immersion then dry just like a regular film. You now have a 4×5 contact print in one hand and a perfectly usable 4×5 negative in the other, what a bargain! This image of the Dune Cabbage is an enlargement from Polaroid PN 55 made on Forte graded paper. This Dune Cabbage (Arctotheca populifolia) was photographed near Cape Leeuwin, Augusta in Australia’s south west, although this successful dune coloniser is widespread around coastal regions, it originated from South Africa. Apparently the leaves can be peeled and eaten as salad or lightly steamed. Here’s one I prepared earlier.
Detail of Rock Thryptomene, Margaret River region. The relationships and spaces formed between the living and the inanimate often create a fascinating visual harmony. These wind pruned, stunted coastal Rock Thryptomene sit high on granite sea cliffs just north of Margaret River. Their tendril like branches of rough, fibrous bark and miniature hard spiky leaves are further testament to this harsh environment. The cliff tops are exposed to the height of winter gales which sweep up from deep within the Southern Ocean, sometimes with hurricane force. Grasping a root hold in shallow soil depressions between boulders, their branches spread outwards, caressing the very surface of their rocky domain, twisting and curving back upon themselves in a graceful, almost calligraphy like gesture.
The exposure information is as follows: Film was Tmax 400, 4×5 format, 90mm lens, f32, 1 second exposure, developed N+1. I was interested in experimenting with the contrast of a duplicate negative by toning it in Kodak Rapid Selenium toner diluted 1+3. I toned initially for 3 minutes, but could not detect any change in density, so continued up to 10 minutes. There was still no change so I tried straight toner for two minutes without dilution, still no affect. When I contact print both negs side by side there is no difference. I have only recently started using TMax 400 4×5 film, and this is the first time I have ever tried toning it. Previous toning has worked with Tri X 4×5. Maybe it is something to do with the chemical state or silver content of processed TMax films? (This is the New TMax film).