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Loading Sheet Film Double Darks 4×5

Loading Sheet Film Double Darks 4x5

Loading Sheet Film

Loading Sheet Film Double Darks 4×5. This is a very rough and basic video of showing the steps involved in loading 4×5 sheet film into a double dark film holder. Obviously these steps need to be made in total darkness, regardless of whether you are using black and white or colour film.

Loading Sheet Film Double Darks 4×5 • Alex Bond from Alex Bond on Vimeo.

Dust on sheet film

Dust is without doubt the biggest problem when handling and loading sheet films. Cleanliness is the key, along with some measures to reduce static electricity which attracts airborne dust to the film surface.

My personal preference is to load film in a darkroom where there is plenty of space and the film surface is unlikely to make contact with another surface (such as a change bag). If you don’t have a darkroom, use some cardboard and black out a small room’s window (eg toilet) and use it to load film at night when everyone has gone to sleep!

Film changing bags can be useful, look for the ones that have internal frames  that support the bag lining into the shape of a half dome. This helps stop the bag material from touching the film surface by creating a film “tent”.

Cleaning film holders with an air blower

Before attempting to load film, clean your film holders inside and out. Use an air blower or similar to blow dust particles off your film holders. Stack the cleaned film holders carefully on a clean flat surface ready for loading. You may want to use an anti-static gun to reduce static  on your holders before cleaning and loading.

Handle sheet film at its edges

Always handle your film from the edges. Finger tips deposit oils which will become obvious on developed film. Unless you want them over your images it is best to avoid touching the emulsion side.

Load emulsion facing you

Load your film holders with the film emulsion facing towards you. Make sure the film notches are in the top right hand corner as you look at the film in a portrait orientation.


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Split grade printing on fibre based paper

split grade printing fibre based paper

This is the last in a series of three posts exploring a single, high contrast image, with the goal of making a silver gelatin fibre based print. The first post was Overdeveloped negatives – printing from difficult negatives and the second Contact Proof Prints-standard exposure time.

Split grade printing

I prefer to use the method of split grade printing, especially when dealing with difficult negatives. It breaks the printing down into, what are for me at least, more controllable steps compared to using a fixed paper grade approach. Using variable contrast paper you have the option of using either approach that fits you best. And just because you are using variable contrast does not mean you cannot also employ other contrast control measures like masking, flashing and two bath development to fine tune your prints.

Pre-flashing the print highlights

For this print I chose to pre-flash the lower two thirds of the image with non image forming light. The aim of the pre-flash is to boost highlight details in the forest understorey, by heightening the sensitivity of the emulsion to the main print exposure and thereby encourage more highlight detail to become visible in the print. Such a small pre-flash exposure does not affect the darker print tones to the same extent as it does the highlights.

Soft grade exposure first, then add the hard grade

When I split print I start with a soft light exposure to determine the correct exposure for an important area of print highlight. To that base exposure I might dodge (subtract) certain areas of exposure from the print or burn in (add) exposure. I then work with the hard light exposure, again using a base exposure with dodging or burning as required. Les McLean has written a short but excellent introduction to split grade printing in his “Articles” section on his web site. You will find his web site link on my Resources and Supplies page.

The images above shows the notes I write on the back of a print in china pencil before exposure, outlining all the steps I plan to make during the print exposure under the enlarger. The numbers next to the steps refer to exposure times, in this instance I am using an f stop timer, so a burn of 2/3 equates to additional exposure of 2/3 of a stop. A 6/3 burn in the last step during the soft light exposure equates to a 2 stop increase in exposure compared to the main print. Likewise the hard light exposure has its own steps.

In the top image there is fine textural detail visible in the sunlit karri hazel to the left and in the middle of the print, which is not clearly visible on the monitor reproduction. Likewise some of the shadow detail is not as clear on the monitor. I could have scanned the negative then manipulated it in photoshop to approximate the silver print, but I wanted to avoid that and show the unmounted, untoned 11×14 inch silver gelatin print complete with slightly curled edges!  The print will be trimmed and dry mounted, so I don’t print with generous white borders which would be a waste.

Overall I am pleased with the progress made on this difficult negative, given that the contact proofs were so uninspiring. The additional exposure given at the base of the footbridge has worked well in the print. I will view the print for a while, as I feel there are other areas of the print that I may wish to fine tune before I am satisfied I have done my best with it.

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Photo Canning River Kent St Weir Perth recent rain

Kent St Weir Canning River

Photo Canning River Kent St Weir Perth.  Printed this morning in my darkroom, I made this image last weekend just after some recent rain. It was rather impromptu in one sense. I had been out earlier walking the dog, minus my camera, and noticed that in the late afternoon the weather had abated and everything was becoming wonderfully still. When I returned home I grabbed by 2 1/4 square camera and went back to the river in the fading winter light.

This image is of the Kent Street Weir, using my Bronica SQA and 105mm lens. Exposure time was 8 seconds at about f16. Film was TMax 400 developed with LC29, with slightly less than normal development. Scan is from a 7.5 x7.5 inch Foma RC print.

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Laundry shed Margaret River

Margaret River Australia

Laundry shed, Margaret River. I didn’t set out to deliberately make this image. Call it exploration or perhaps just a happy accident. I had my medium format camera set up on a tripod outside my late grandparents’ farm house looking out across the paddock. For whatever reason, I abandoned my initial plan and turned the camera 180 degrees back onto the shed behind me. The sun was hitting the north face, with some of the aged grey weatherboard almost reflecting specular light. In stark contrast the other side of the shed was in deep shadow. Only the sunlit heads of dried grass swaying gently in the breeze created a bridge between the two opposing tones. The portrait lens on the camera allowed for a tightly composed image. It accentuated the visual tension created by the weatherboard’s converging perspective culminating at the shed’s corner. That corner also delineates the image between sunlight and shadow. There is further tension within the image created by the vertical planks of the doors which run at right angles to the wall planks. Across the composition there is a repetition of rectangular shapes and opposing tones. The image oscillates between a perceptible three dimensional perspective realised by the shed’s corner, to an image reduced into two dimensions by its columns of tone and shapes. In the original 11×14 inch silver gelatin print, the three dark windows above the barn door hold good shadow detail allowing some internal window frame to be seen.

This image of my late grandparents’ laundry shed, Margaret River was made with a Bronica ETRS and printed on Foma fibre based 11×14 inch silver gelatin paper. I find the composition pleasing for its underlying visual tension, repetition of shapes, opposing perspectives and tonalities.

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Canning River Perth burnt woodland Western Australia

Canning River Perth burnt woodland

Canning River Perth  burnt woodland

Canning River Perth  burnt woodland was first published in “Lost in Suburbia” in 2013, “Dissociation” 2015 Heathcote Museum & Gallery exhibition catalogue. 

When I first viewed this on the ground glass screen of my camera I was excited by the prospect of producing a wonderful print. As is so often the case in photography, Burnt woodland Canning River proved for me to be much harder to realise in print than I had anticipated. The curve of the trunks and branches combined with the lines of shadow created a visual rhythm.

The image is back lit and high in contrast and the negative received reduced development and slight increase in exposure. My main problem in making this print is to preserve the feeling of intense light which reveals the flatness and dryness of the subject. To make an print consistent with my vision I had to avoid the back lit trunks and and their shadows from printing too dark. The print was made with a series of hard and soft exposures. An initial soft exposure was made to retain a suggestion of detail in the dried sunlit leaves, during which the central trunk was carefully dodged. A series of higher contrast exposures were made to selected areas to introduce more black and therefore some contrast. It is not an easy print to make and if making a new print I may well try a different approach to see if I could get a print closer to my vision. Hand printed 16×20 inch silver gelatin print.

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Canning River Perth sunrise Western Australia

Canning River Perth sunrise Western Australia

Canning River Perth sunrise Western Australia

Canning River Perth sunrise.  Whenever I wake to a misty morning here in Perth I try to get down to the river. Mist or fog transforms the landscape, highlighting visual elements close to the viewer by fact that it obscures the view of more distant objects. It also transforms the quality of light and depending upon the mist’s density it can have a soft enveloping light. The disappearance of distance adds mystery to the landscape. Mists do not occur frequently in Perth, so I when they do I try to make the most of exploring the environment in a different light. Sunrise Canning River Perth Western Australia 16×20 inch hand printed silver gelatin fibre based print

first published in “Lost in Suburbia” in 2013, “Dissociation” 2015 Heathcote Museum & Gallery exhibition catalogue

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Canning River Perth fire paperbark regrowth

Paperbark regrowth fire Canning River Perth

Paperbark regrowth after fire: new shoots on burnt paperbarks, Canning River Perth 16×20 inch hand printed silver gelatin fibre based print. It was exhibited in the 2015 Canning River “Dissociation” exhibition.

After a serious fire in 2011 in which water bombing was required to prevent the fire spreading into neighboring houses, much of the park between Greenfield Bridge and Kent St Weir was burnt. Several weeks after the fire the first green shoots of regrowth started to appear.

It was first published in “Lost in Suburbia” in 2013 and an 11×14 inch print exhibited at the 2013 “Lost in Suburbia” exhibition, Riverton Library, was sold.


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Bannister Creek Canning River Perth Western Australia

Canning River Perth

Bannister Creek tributary to Canning River Perth

Bannister Creek tributary to Canning River Perth Western Australia 16×20 inch hand printed silver gelatin fibre based print -sold.

This image was made in a section in which some restoration work was recently undertaken. The creek runs through suburbia, at the rear of housing whose back fences close off their view and connection to the watercourse behind them. The fact that the houses face their backs to the creek is curiously dismissive of the creek’s significance in this ancient flat landscape, something I have previously commented about.

Although not readily visible in the photograph, immediately behind the paperbarks are houses and grey super six fencing. The fencing travels almost the entire length of both sides of the shallow depression that contains Bannister Creek.

300mm nikkor lens on TMax 4×5 sheet film, 1 second at f64.

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Canning River Wetlands Perth Paperbark Australia

Canning River Wetlands Perth Paperbark

Canning River Wetlands Perth Paperbark #02

Canning River Wetlands Paperbark Perth. Many areas around the Canning River are natural wetlands which flood during the winter months. Some areas have been infilled over the years for subdivision. Small pockets remain of samphire and paperbark wetlands. These are important breeding grounds for water birds and they also act as a filtration system to water runoff before it reaches the river. Restoration of wetlands which have previously been infilled is now being undertaken in areas along the Canning and Swan Rivers. Paperbark stump Canning River Wetlands #02  11×14 inch hand printed silver gelatin fibre based print

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Canning River Sheoaks Grass Perth Western Australia

Sheoaks grass Canning River casuarina-obesa

Canning River Sheoaks Grass was made on a bright summer’s day. Preserving the impression of bright light is important for me in this photograph. Maintaining texture in the grass is important in achieving this quality. With the contrast range in this scene so high I wanted to prevent the deep shadows from going to black in the  print. If the shadows from the back lit sheoaks were reduced to black it would reduce the impression of an intense but enveloping light. The film was Forte 4×5  sheet. The negative received additional exposure and reduced development. Sheoaks and grass Canning River Perth 16×20 inch hand printed silver gelatin fibre based print. Sheoaks and grass Canning River was exhibited in “Dissociation” at Heathcote Museum and Gallery 2015.