After reading a lot about the use of paper negatives in a large format camera I completed my first shoot. I have used large format view cameras before so to say this is a totally new experience would be untruthful. What can be said is that shooting this way is far removed from anything I have experienced before. My use of large format view cameras is limited to studio use with a digital back, very different from location shooting with paper negatives!
After researching the use of paper as negatives, it was clear that there are a number of factors to understand before starting. The first is that the paper has a limited dynamic range and produces images with extreme contrast. To experiment with this I captured each image twice. The first image was loaded with Ilford Multigrade paper as it is out of the box. The second image used the same paper and the pre-flash technique. I pre-flashed the paper in the darkroom at F.16 with grade 2 filtration in 1 second segments. These images appear as striped test strips. There is one test strip image that is noticeably darker, this was exposed at F.8 in error but that seems to have had the best result.
Another factor to be aware of is that the printing paper is especially sensitive to blue light. Therefore, blue skies often render as over exposed. Luckily it was particularly overcast on this shoot.
The paper was rated at ISO 6, with a variety of apertures and shutter speeds ranging from 2 seconds to half a second.
The images were developed under safe light conditions and then scanned and inverted. Two images (see below) were edited and test C-type prints were made.
Gallery of test scans after being inverted in Photoshop.
In conclusion, it is obvious that the extreme contrast is an issue. The pre-flashed images at F.16 show almost no difference, while the image accidentally pre-flashed at F.8 is clearly more successful.
I selected two of the images to edit properly and make test prints. Both images show very little detail in the sky but I am relatively pleased with this shoot as an initial experiment. I like the aesthetic effects of the fingerprints and scratches visible on the images, and the processing marks contribute to the overall outcome. Moving forward I will pre-flash the paper at F.8 for 2 seconds prior to exposure as this seems to have the best results.
Also visible is my experimentation of perspective control on the camera which has resulted in the depth of field and plane of focus being imperfect. I like these added imperfections as I feel this is contributing to the overall aesthetic I am achieving.
One thing I can categorically say is that this shoot was physically hard work and very time consuming. I was able to park about half a mile away and carried the 5×4 camera, tripod and dark slides up a steep hill to reach the fort. It took me about 3 hours to expose 10 images in total.