Fallen Banksia Denmark – My Last Polaroid Type 55 PN

A few days ago I was camping on the south coast, hiking and photographing with my 4×5 field camera. In my back pack I had my few last remaining sheets of Polaroid Type 55 PN film and my 4×5 Polaroid film holder.

Polaroid Australia kindly donated some Polaroid Type 55 PN to me for a photography workshop. These few sheets were left over. This black and white Polaroid film produces a positive print and a negative. The negative can be enlarged just like a conventional film negative.

But Polaroid is such a wonderful film, I could never really bring myself to use it instantly.  To use it instantly would risk losing the negative.

However, Polaroid is a great teaching tool during photography workshops. I would use it instantly with students. Its immediate positive print gives you important information about exposure, composition and development.

Out in the field, for my own images,  I always treat my Polaroid Type 55 as ‘regular’ film. I expose it then remove it from the holder for safe keeping.  I then process it later in the darkroom when I have returned from my trip.

In this way I could safely save the negative from which I would make an enlarged print.  The Polaroid positive prints, although beautiful,  were always secondary.  The prints tended to be too light as I had deliberately over exposed for the negative.

If you want to see in book form some wonderful images made from Type 55 film try and get hold of a copy of Ansel Adams, 1978, Polaroid land photography, 2edn, New York Graphic Society, Boston.

Some amazing images have been made with Polaroid of the years. Indeed the Polaroid Collection contains many images by world-renowned photographers. The collection was auctioned off in 2010, an action that was precipitated by Polaroid’s bankruptcy. You can read more about this on John Sexton’s April 2010 newsletter.

My workshop film was getting old and I felt it needed using soon. With an expiry date of March 2006, saving the film, which I had kept refrigerated,  seemed increasingly problematic. I need not have worried, all the images processed perfectly in my Polaroid 4×5 back.

This image is of the remains of a very old and fallen banksia near a campsite clearing on the south coast. The sun had set and the bush was still as the sea breeze dropped right off. In the gathering dusk this old trunk just seemed to take on its own quiet glow.

Using my spot meter my exposure was around 4.5 minutes at f16 with a 300mm Nikkor. This was followed several days later with 20 seconds development at 20 degrees C back in my darkroom, where I save the negative.

Now what to do with a 4×5 Polaroid film holder? Ironically,  it fits snugly into a Fuji Quickload film box for storage, another item which is no-longer produced!

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