Adventures in 75mm

3x4 Speed Graphic

Last summer, we picked up a couple of Speed Graphic bodies that needed lenses. One was a 4×5 Speed Graphic, so it wasn’t any big deal to pop a lens into that and make it a usable camera, but the other was a 3×4 Speed Graphic, and it was missing both lens and lensboard.

3×4 isn’t a real common film size anymore. Most people who want big negatives either deal with 120 film now, or jump up to 4×5 sheet film. However, there were a lot of nice cameras made to use 3×4 film in the first half of the last century, and it seems a shame to let those cameras go to waste. So, we purchased some 3×4 film – you can still buy it fresh from Freestyle – and started using our 3×4 cameras. Up until a few months ago, all of the Graflex SLRs we had used 3×4 film (now we have two that use 4×5), so we shot with 3×4 quite a bit.

But because 3×4 has fallen out of popularity, it can be difficult to find parts for 3×4 cameras, such as the lensboard, which we needed before we could use the Speed Graphic. I finally tracked one down from Midwest Photo. It fit the camera just fine, but unfortunately had a huge hole drilled out for the lens. I’ve got a healthy amount of misc. large format lenses stockpiled, but only one that I could fit on this lensboard.

Steinheil Munchen 75mm lens

But, it fit, so hooray! At least, hooray until I actually looked through the ground glass and tried to focus on something. Anything. And then I realized, well, crap. The lens I had put on this camera was a 75mm lens.

See, here’s the thing. Lenses are confusing. At least, they confuse me. And I’ve had this problem before – when I purchased my first Speed Graphic 4×5 camera, it was outfitted with a (different) 75mm lens. This meant that if I was focused at infinity and shot a picture, I’d get crazy heavy vignetting in the corners, like this, but worse:

Garage and van

As a comparison, the Yashicas I have that shoot 120 film are outfitted with an 80mm lens. An 80 mm lens covers an area slightly larger than a 2.25″ square when focused at infinity. So, to cover the entire film plane when focused at infinity for a sheet of 4×5 film, I need to use a bigger lens, like the 135mm lens I now have on that Speed Graphic. And to cover an entire film plane for a sheet of 3×4 film, I probably really need to use a lens around 127mm.

That being said, a smaller lens like the 75mm can be useful for macro photography. That’s what I discovered when shooting my first photos with the Speed Graphic 4×5 camera.

Ortho Domo!!

I shot that picture with Domo about an inch or so away from the camera lens.

But anyway, back to the 3×4 Speed Graphic I was working with yesterday. I had the 75mm lens installed in it, and it did look really nice, so I figured what the hell, and decided to take some test photos using orthographic film, so I could see how the camera worked. I wanted to use orthographic film instead of regular black and white film because orthographic film can be developed in paper developer in trays under a safelight, and I didn’t want to deal with getting all of my other film processing chems and equipment out. I have a bunch of Kodak Electron Image film in 3×4 size. It was originally sold for scientific purposes, but works just fine in regular cameras as long as you account for how slow it is (I’ve been rating it at ISO 12).

I loaded the film under a red safelight. However, I may have had the film just a wee bit too close to the safelight, because I got some weird fogging and such on the film. I’m going to try loading some more film in the dark and testing it again to see if I get the same effect or not. Of course, there are so many different variables at play, including the fact that my chems were probably hot since my house is hot, but I’d like to narrow it down just to make sure that the camera isn’t light leaky.

For some reason – I think because I had the camera on a tripod, and was more than a few inches away from what I was shooting – I had a really difficult time focusing. I’d get it close, but it still looked weird on the ground glass. And even though I was shooting in sunlight, because of the slow film, I had to have the aperture wide open on the lens, which decreases the depth of field. And also because of the slow film, I had to use slower shutter speeds. The shutter the lens is mounted on isn’t a bad one, but like a lot of old shutters, the slow speeds can be iffy. So, I depended on the curtain shutter inside the Speed Graphic, which, happily, is a workhorse. Here are some of the pictures shot with this camera/lens combo:


Tiny Tiger

I made some contact prints later with the negatives. You can see I still got vignetting in the corners.


Speaking of contact prints, I made the prints using some old (1970s, I think?) FSC contact paper. It was included in the big lot of photo paper I bought off ebay a few months back, and I hadn’t tried it out until yesterday. The paper is 8×10, so I just cut it down to use on my small contact printer. The results are awesome. In photos that were actually sharp and not dreamy-blurry like the 3×4 Speed Graphic pics, I got sharp lines, bright whites, deep blacks, and a rich brown tone:

The Medalist, again

That picture was shot with a 4×5 Speed Graphic I was testing out yesterday, too. It’s one I picked up at an auction a few weeks ago. It worked better than expected, but I want to try shooting some color film through it and testing out the roll film back before it goes on Etsy.

But anyway, back to the 3×4 Speed Graphic. The first photo I shot with it was of an old Kodak Timer. When I was developing the negative, I was bummed because the negative looked all fogged and low contrasty. However, I made the contact print anyway, and I think it turned out to be my favorite photo that I shot yesterday.


So, yeah, I may have fogged the film somewhat, and put the wrong size lens on the camera, but I kind of don’t care at all, because that is awesome.

Before I tested it out, I was thinking that I’d just wind up selling the 3×4 Speed Graphic – like I said, if we’re shooting 3×4 film, we’re probably using a Graflex SLR. But now, I don’t know. The 3×4 Speed Graphic with the wrong lens may have suddenly morphed into my own personal Pretentious Art Camera. It may be a keeper.

Things I’ve done lately!

Mess o' film

1. Inventoried all of our large format film. We have an embarrassingly large amount of it. However, now I am inspired to go shoot a bunch of large format photos! Also, I seriously need an 8×10 camera. I’ve been stockpiling 8×10 film whenever I can find it cheap in advance of the day when I get an 8×10 camera. I also now have a good 8×10 film holder (those are expensive!). All I need now is a camera! I’d love to get some type of crazy Ansel Adam-esque view camera, but I’m not sure how likely that is to happen. At least there’s always pinholes! I tried to construct one out of some boxes a few nights ago, but it wasn’t sturdy enough. I’ll have to build one out of wood. Mmm, power tools and sawdust…

Savoy on Indiatone

2. I’ve been making some contact prints. I own two contact printers, one that can produce prints up to 4×5, and another that does prints up to 5×7. I always think I should get rid of one, but I wind up using both, so they’re staying. It’s gotten hot outside, and I don’t have central air. In the summertime, the bathroom where I do my darkroom stuff can make me claustrophobic if I’m in it with a bunch of stuff for a long time (the enlarger, it is huge), so it’s nice to just use a contact printer and some small trays to make prints.

The photo above is a contact print from one of the shots I took using Watson, the 5×7 camera. It was shot using the Fuji X-ray film. Since I can only scan in about 1/3 of a 5×7 negative, I’ve got to make contact prints to see what the photos actually look like. What’s nice about using the X-ray film is that I can develop it in paper developer, so if I develop a batch of the X-ray film in trays, I can just leave the chems out in trays for a few hours until the negatives dry, and then make my contact prints without having to set up my darkroom stuff again.

I used some old Ansco Indiatone Kashmir White paper that expired in 1952 to make the print. It was the first time I had tried out that paper, and I really love it. It has a pebbled matte finish, and a gorgeous brown tone to it. Lush! Fortunately, I have a big box of it left.

Poisonberry Photogram

3. I also experimented some with making photograms. Photograms are made by placing an object directly onto photo paper and exposing it to light. Lumen prints are technically photograms, but are exposed with sunlight and aren’t put into developer. This photogram was made by placing some nightshade (I think) plants onto the contact printer, and then placing a sheet of Kodak Medalist paper on top of that and exposing for about 5 seconds or so.

Contact print on Studio Proof Paper

4. I’ve also been trying out some contact prints on the Kodak Studio Proof paper I have. This is the type of paper professional photographers would use to make proof prints of photos to show people. You sandwich a negative on top of the paper, expose it to sunlight, and the paper makes an image without putting it into developer. Photographers would then give these to their customers, but since the paper wasn’t fixed at all, within a few weeks, the images would fade. Sneaky, but a way to insure that people would order prints instead of just keeping the proofs.

I didn’t have any idea how long it would take for the image to develop on the paper, so the first print I did, I left in the sun for about an hour. When I took it back inside, I saw that the image had been out there for so long that part of it has solarized and made the photo look extra apocalypse-y.

I made some more prints, varying the times on them. Here’s the difference between exposing an image for 5 minutes versus 10 minutes.

5 minutes, 10 minutes

The five minute exposure is on top. The ten minute exposure is on the bottom, and you can see where it is starting to get all solarize-y. These prints were scanned in before I fixed them, and after fixing and drying, the color has changed somewhat. They’re more of a reddish brown tone instead of a bright pinky red, and the areas that solarized have mainly just turned really dark, which is kind of a bummer. Still, a useful paper, especially when I want to make quicky proofs of large format negatives without having to mix up a bunch of chems.

I was up to some more Photographic! Fun! Times! yesterday, but I’ll go ahead and do a new post for that, since this one doesn’t need to be epically long.

More adventures with RA-4


It took me a while to drag myself away from playing Dragon Age II, but I finally shoved the enlarger back into the bathroom and mixed up some fresh RA-4 chems to make color prints. This time I was going to be using a fresh pack of paper, some Fujifilm Crystal Archive Lustre paper that I got from Freestyle a few months back.

The past few times I’ve tried to make color prints have been frustrating, due to using old paper and getting odd color tints in the base. I figured this would be a test – if I couldn’t manage to get a decent print using brand new paper and fresh chems, then I must be a lost cause.

I picked the negative above for my first test. There was a white background and bright colors so that I could easily tell how accurate my guesses on the enlarger filtration were. I did some test strips until I got bored with doing that – 3 test strips per image seem to be about my limit before I finally say, “Screw it, I’m just going to go ahead and make a print,” even if I still need to adjust my filters. 4 prints later I had the print above.

It’s not bad. I could probably tweak it a little more to get a clearer white, but I was actually pretty happy with the colors I go. My main issue was the slight cyan cast and the weird cyan splotchy bits in the upper right corner.

My next print had the cyan splotchiness in the corner, too.

Krispy Kreme

I couldn’t figure out what could be causing this. Maybe a defect in the paper? I started drying out my tank more thoroughly between prints, and as an afterthought checked my rotator base for the tank. It was a little bit off level, so I adjusted it so that the tank sat perfectly level when it rotated.


That actually seemed to do the trick, amazingly. After I leveled out the base, I got a lot less noticeable cyan weirdness on my prints. Hooray!

Anyway, I’ve been experimenting making prints with all sorts of negatives. The Krispy Kreme picture is from a cross processed negative. The waterfall pic is from a newly shot roll of way expired color negative film. Then I remembered there was something I had wanted to try, and dug out that reclaimed Polaroid negative I had salvaged from the goop of a Fuji FP-100C peel-apart photo. The negative looks like this:

My first Peel-Apart negative!

And one of the enlargements of that negative turned out like this:

David's Van

Weird! And awesome!

I made several enlargements of the leaf photo shot with the Graflex SLR:


Including one with the texture fabric over it. Not too keen on how this turned out, but it was interesting to see how the texture worked on a color photo.

Leaves with filter

It continues to amaze me how good these prints look “in real life,” you know, as opposed to scanned in on a computer screen. The detail and sharpness in the leaf print is pretty impressive. That was shot using 3×4 film, so I was working with a pretty huge negative. The detail is kind of phenomenal.

Travis went through some of our old photos from about 10 years ago, and picked out a 35mm negative that we had developed at Walmart or CVS or some place like that. We decided to try enlarging that to see how close we came to the actual photo we got developed back then.

Toby and trees

We came pretty close. Ours is a little more yellow and not quite as blue, but the aspen trunks are white and Toby is red, so that’s all I really cared about.

It was pretty refreshing to be working with paper that actually reacted the way it should. I made a bunch more prints that I haven’t scanned in yet, and some are even successful enough that I’m probably going to put them up in the shop. I know! Bold move! I just need to make sure I can ship prints safely without them getting all bent up. I’ll probably have to cut up chunks of cardboard for protection. I can haz box cutter?

One of the things I tried today that came out absolutely stunning was when I enlarged a black and white negative onto color paper. So, stay tuned for when I get pics uploaded of that goodness (or, just check out the shop tomorrow, because when I pulled the print out of the tank, I was all, “Oh hey! This may actually be art!” Surprise!).

Now that I kind of know what I’m doing with the color printing, I’m having a great time with it. I actually like it better than black and white printing, at least for right now. The whole process is so fast, and the amount of variables is huge, in a good way. For example, I exposed two prints exactly the same, same negative, same filtration, same time, etc, and they came out different. Why? I guess because the temps of my chems wasn’t stable, and I had to develop my prints for slightly different times. But that kind of stuff doesn’t bug me, I just accept it and welcome it as Darkroom Magic. I really like the process of making a print, and then tweaking it slightly – bumping up a filter by 5, or slightly shortening the development time, stuff like that, and then assessing the different results.

Tomorrow I’m going to try two different, older papers. One is just regular RA-4 paper, but 11×14. The other is 8×10 Fujichrome paper, which is supposed to be used for making prints from slides. It uses different chems and a different process than RA-4. That process is called R-3, and looks really similar to how slide film is developed – there’s a first developer, and then the paper is exposed to light, and then there is a color developer and blix step after that. My theory is that if slide film can be cross processed in color negative chemicals, then maybe positive paper can be cross processed in color paper chems. Maybe? Surely someone has tried this, but I couldn’t really find any info about it, so I’m just going to give it a go myself. If nothing else, I would think the Fujichrome paper could potentially be processed by developing in black and white paper first, then exposing to light, and then finished up by doing an RA-4 process. If the cross processing in RA-4 chems doesn’t work, I’ll have to try that.

Tiny lith!


I’m just going to take a wild guess here and assume that I’m not the only person who has been extremely distracted this past week. I’ve been glued to the news, and even though I felt like doing something photograph-y, I didn’t want to commit to being locked inside the darkroom for hours. The solution? Velite!

I’ve talked about my obsessive love for Kodak Velite before (for example, here), but to recap – it’s paper that can be used in regular room lighting. Weird! Yet awesome, because you don’t have to be cooped up in a darkroom.

I hadn’t tried lithing Velite yet, but Velox, which is a close relative of Velite, lithed, so I figured Velite probably would, too. Travis and I set up the little tin Kodak contact printer in the kitchen, and got our trays of chems ready.


We would make a contact print with the Velite and develop it in regular print developer, and then extrapolated the exposure time for the lith print (we wound up normally doubling or tripling the regular exposure for the lith).

Nickels Bakery

It worked pretty well, and it was nice to have the direct comparisons of how the prints looked lithed and unlithed. It was also nice to be working with lith prints in regular room lighting, since it was a lot easier to see the prints develop and decide when to throw them into the stop bath.

Ansco Cadet

So, anyway, Velite! Lith! Yay!

Velite prints

Since the Velite is so slow, I think the possibility of finding any Velite that has been fogged due to light exposure is pretty much slim to none. So, I encourage you to seek out and experiment with this paper, because it is so fun! Tiny (the only Velite I’ve come across is 2.25″ x 3.25″), but fun. In fact, here’s an auction on ebay that looks like it comes with some Velite, along with some other vintage photo paper, too. I don’t have any connection to the seller or anything, but thought maybe some of you out there (hello?) might be interested. Actually, I was going to go ahead and buy this for myself, but I think I’m doing pretty good on photo paper right now, because this just came in the mail for me today:

Stack o' paper

Also, this:


And this:


Yes. It’s an embarrassingly huge amount of photo paper. I have shame! But, I’m also excited! Especially about the paper in that last photo. All that stuff in the blue packages is some obscure photo paper called Argenta. Apparently, it’s photo paper with a colored based instead of white, and some of the paper also has a metallic colored base. So, that could potentially be awesome. It could potentially be a huge FAIL, too, but we’ll see. I figure I can try doing regular prints, lith prints, and lumen prints out of them. Surely, one of those work, right? We’ll see!

Lith! (part deux!)

I went back into the darkroom yesterday to try lith printing again for the third time. I was especially excited to try lithing the Prinz Bromal Linen paper from 1975. I thought it had potential to turn out pretty neat. I had kept the enlarger at the same settings as I did the 5×7 contact prints the other day, so I already knew how long a regular exposure was on that paper. To do the contact print, I made an exposure of 4 seconds onto the Prinz paper.

Argonnes, 1917

Since lith prints require a lot longer exposure, I exposed the paper for 32 seconds, which was a three stop increase. From what I’ve read, people recommend overexposing the print for 2 or 3 stops for lith printing. I went for three in hopes that, since this would be the first lith print of the day, the increased exposure would kick my lith developer into gear and start making magic right away.

I put it into the developer, and seven minutes later I had this (Whoops! Just now realized that I had flipped my negative!):

Argonnes, lithed

I had not anticipated how the texture of the paper would affect the way the final lith print looked. I’m not too keen on this print, because a lot of detail is lost in the texture, however, you can see that the paper actually liths well. Notice how the print that was developed normally has all of that light gray fog to it? The lith process, because it develops the dark tones in the paper earlier than the light tones, actually cuts through that fog. Which is awesome! I might try using this paper again for lith prints, especially since it reacted with the developer quickly, but probably for images that aren’t as detail heavy as this one was.

While I was developing the Prinz lith prints (I made two), I was also trying to get a 5×7 lith print on Arista II Grade #3 paper to develop. That didn’t go so well. I wound up getting only a faint olivey-peachy tone on that paper. Other paper that didn’t work: Luminos Flexicon VC RC Pearl. That’s a paper I haven’t ever used before at all, and even though it didn’t work for lith printing, it looks like it might be great for regular printing.

Since I was waiting for the Arista II paper to do, well, anything, I went ahead and did a contact print with another paper I haven’t tried before: Kodak Kodabromide F2 postcard papers that expired in 1970. This is really neat photo paper that is postcard sized (hence the name), but also has a standard postcard design on the back, with an area for a stamp and an address. I hadn’t worked with this paper before, and probably really should have made a test strip to see what kind of exposure the paper needed, but I figured that it was the same grade as the Prinz, and only a few years older, so I did a contact print of one of the 5×7 negatives with a 40 second exposure. The 5×7 negative was larger than the paper, so parts of the original image were cropped.

After 22 minutes in the developer, it looked like this:

Civil Defense

That’s the kind of result I’ve been looking for! Kodabromide for the win! I have more Kodabromide in various weights and sizes, so it’ll be interesting to see if it all liths this well, or if I just get this result for the postcards.

Next, I wanted to try using some 70 year old Agfa Cykora paper. I hadn’t ever gotten into this, either, so I didn’t know what to expect. My first print, while problematic, was also promising:


This was in the developer for 17 minutes. I would have yanked it a lot earlier, but the rhino’s head hadn’t developed at all. The paper did this weird develop from the middle thing, and also had lines running the length and width of the print that didn’t develop at all. I’m guessing that that came from a seam in the protective black envelope that held the paper.

So, I gave the Cykora another shot. Just so you can see how fogged this paper is, here’s my test strip that I did for the next print. I exposed the paper in increments of ten seconds.

Test strip for tree picture

That’s what the paper looks like developed in regular paper developer. I figured a regular exposure of 25 seconds was as close to correct as I could get with this. I decided to expose the paper for the lith print for a total of 3 minutes, a little bit under a 3 stop increase.

After nine minutes in the developer, I yanked the print. This is the final result.

Tree and Dunes, lithed

Yay! How awesome is that? It’s so cool to think that this process can make papers that are outdated and fogged produce fantastic, toned prints.

I think I’m going to do one more day of regular black and white printing, another day of lith printing, and then move on giving color printing a shot again. I’m excited about all of it.


Pinhole Colorado

I think I threatened to talk about doing lith prints before, but never actually followed through, probably because I still haven’t gotten a result I’m real happy with yet. I’ve only tried it twice, though, and I am ever hopeful.

Lith printing, for those who don’t know, is a wonderful, weird, magic process that not only imparts color to black and white paper, but also does wonderful, weird, and magic things to the highlights and shadows in your print. For example, here is an example of a good lith print. Magic things have happened to this print!

I like magic, and I like weird, wonderful processes with unpredictable results, so, lith printing, yay! Count me in! I did a little bit of reading about it on the intertubes, and came across this article, weitten by Tim Rudman, who apparently a master lith printer. Seriously, the dude should just walk around wearing a top hat and calling himself Grandmaster Lith. I have no idea what he looks like, so I’ll just imagine that he already does that. Anyway, the article was helpful and informative, and answered the big question that I had, which was, what kind of developer do I need to do this?

The answer is that in order to lith print, you need a magic developer, referred to as an A+B (not to be confused with Diafine, which is a film developer with a part A and part B – it took me a while to realize that Diafine wouldn’t work for lith printing… but maybe? In a heavily diluted formula with film? Has anyone ever tried this?). I digress. Anyway, this developer was designed for graphic arts applications, to be used with ortho lith film. I guess if you develop exposed ortho lith film in A+B developer at the regular concentration level, you get a pure black and white image, with no gray tones whatsoever. I haven’t actually tried this yet, so I’m not speaking from experience here.

But, if you dilute the A+B developer more, like 1:24 instead of 1:6, then you get a weak developer ready to do all sorts of crazy stuff with your image! I’ll let Gradnmaster Lith explain, because he’s far more knowledgeable about this than I am:

The whole process of Lith printing relies on a property of Lith developers known as ‘infectious development’. This is different to the way normal developers develop a black and white image. In simple terms, infectious development means that the darker a tone becomes, the faster it develops. The faster it develops of course, the darker it becomes, and so it develops even faster still. This leads to an explosive chain reaction where the shadow tone development speeds away from the slowly progressing light and mid tones, which lag way, way, behind. The print is ‘snatched’ from the developer when it reaches the point required by the printer.

See? Magic!

You have to expose your print differently for lith printing as opposed to making a regular print. Basically, you want to overexpose your image by 2 or 3 stops onto your paper. So, make a contact strip, develop it in some regular paper developer, pick whatever time seems to look the best, double that time, and then double it again. Make your extended exposure onto whatever paper you’re going to try and lith, and then dump it into your diluted A+B developer. Easy, right?

Well, maybe. Because although Grandmaster Lith warns that “fresh lith developer often gives unexciting results,” he doesn’t come out and say, “oh, and by the way, you might want to settle into a comfy chair and listen to an exciting book on tape, because what seems like an eternity will pass before an image appears.” He should have said that, but no, not so much.

So, the first time I gave lith printing a go, I set up the darkroom with boundless enthusiasm, mixed up my lith developer, using, as I always do with black and white prints, room temperature water, exposed my print, and waited.

And waited.

Time passed.

(insert stock footage here of movie scenes where clocks speed forward, and long taper candles burn down to nubs)

It was dark inside the darkroom. And lonely. I had no idea if the outside world still existed.

I prodded the paper with my tongs, flipped it over and over again, unsure if I had the emulsion side up anymore. I may have wept.

Finally, *finally* after more than a half hour, I got this:

The tree pic, lithed

Yeah! Hey, it’s that tree pic! And it looks… brown. Not ethereal or transcendent or anything. Just brown.

I tried again, using different paper. This time, I just said screw it, and actually just up and left the darkroom for about 45 minutes. I came back and saw this hideousness:

Multiple lith FAIL

All righty then! That whole session was a FAIL! I was bummed, and put the lith stuff away, not to return to it for a while.

What I did do, though, before I packed it in, was save a small amount of used lith developer in a container. Used lith developer is known as “Old Brown,” as if it were a hound dog that periodically shows up on your land and rifles lazily through your trash. “Hey, hon,” you might say with a grudging amount of affection in your voice. “Old Brown is back again.”

“That dog’s trouble.”

And then you’d both watch as Old Brown strolls away from your yard with an empty pizza box in his mouth.

That Old Brown is nothing like this Old Brown. It doesn’t go through your trash, for one thing. Also, it’s a liquid, and lives in a plastic bottle. But, much like how the hound dog Old Brown will periodically kill a gopher that’s been marauding your garden or bark at the weirdos in the car with the 4×5 cameras that want to take a picture of your barn (ahem), the liquid Old Brown might do you a favor, too. Because if you happen to add a bit of Old Brown to your fresh lith developer, it makes your lith prints better! I guess it speeds up the infectious development. Or something. Note: they don’t call me Grandmaster Lith.

So, that’s what I did for the second attempt at lith printing, back in October. I added some Old Brown to my fresh lith developer, and also used a lot warmer water to mix it up. Grandmaster Lith does note, “Again, a wide range of dilutions (and temperatures) may be used for different effects,” and from some other things I read online, other people doing lith prints said they were working with developer around 80 degrees or so.

I had better results the second time.

David's van and garage, lithed

Okay, nothing too exciting going on there, but at least it was a little toned, and, more importantly, didn’t take an aeon to develop.

This picture and the one at the top of this post were lith printed using old Kodak papers from the 1950s – one of the things that is neat about lith printing is that old, slightly fogged papers can sometimes give awesome results lithed. But probably the result that showed the most promise was done with just a few year old Arista II paper.

Dodge Dart

I probably should have kept that in the developer for longer – note the dark blacks I was starting to get, but I got paranoid and yanked it. Still, the color is nice, kind of peachy.

Anyway, I’m going to try Epic! Lith Printing! Session! tomorrow again. I’ve got an assortment of different papers I want to try out. Hopefully, I get prints that only take about 7-10 minutes to develop instead of several years. I’ll post the results, providing I get any. And that it doesn’t make me sob in despair.

(Note – I’ve run across these two articles lately, and they might be worth perusing as well.)

A Fortunate Confluence of Events

We bought a few things lately that, happily, wound up complimenting each other quite well. The first thing is a few packs of X-ray film.

X-ray film

One of my Flickr contacts, the pinhole wizard Wheehamx, uses X-ray film all the time in his wacky pinhole adventures. I’m not entirely sure why it’s taken me this long to score some and try it out – I’m not even entirely sure why I bought some this time. I have been ebaying late at night and bought it without thinking. Weird! Regardless, it showed up at my house, so I had to find something to do with it.

The X-ray film is meant for, well, X-rays, and as such contains no information about how to handle it for regular (or experimental) photography use. Wheehamx gave me some tips. Apparently, most X-ray film has a double sided emulsion, which is weird, but nice – you can’t accidentally put the wrong side towards the lens. He said that he’s been rating the film he uses at about 100 ISO, but since the film can be developed in paper developer under a red safelight, that’s kind of less important – you can develop it by inspection.

Of course, I didn’t read his information until after I stuck a sheet of the Kodak X-ray film into a pinhole camera and took a picture… with an exposure time of one minute. Yeah. That was kind of overkill. Here’s the first shot:

Test shot

I also discovered that the Kodak X-ray film, at least, needs gentle handling. The marks all over the picture are tong marks, since I’ve gotten in the habit of just randomly jabbing film or paper that I’m tray developing with my tongs. Probably not the best habit to get into. Oh well. Live and learn.

What I didn’t realize when I purchased the X-ray film is how well it would go with something else we bought. Meet Watson, our new 5×7 large format camera:


We’ve kind of been wanting a 5×7 camera ever since we didn’t buy one at an auction last year, and have been kicking ourselves because of it. It was the one that got away! Anyway, we randomly bought this one on a whim. It came without a lens, but we figured we could find something that we already had that would work. Our house is sort of a graveyard where camera parts come to die and/or miraculously come back to life!

We sorted through our camera bits and came up with this lens/shutter combo:


The shutter is pretty flaky. It works more or less on the 1/100 setting (although it probably actually shoots at around 1/50 or so) and the Time and Bulb setting, and that’s pretty much all we absolutely need. The lens is 170mm, and covers the entire field of view, but I’d definitely like to get a bigger lens at some point. And a shutter with more than one speed.

We (again, randomly) have accumulated 6 5×7 film holders, which is lucky. I also bought a pack of 25 sheets of Arista Ortho-lith 5×7 film a while ago, so I had both film and paper. Ortho-lith film is a lot cheaper than regular black and white film, and can be developed in paper developer under red safelight, like the X-ray film. However, as much as I heart Freestyle generally, their ortho-lith film is really… flimsy. To be generous. The film base is extremely thin, and I find it a lot less pleasant to deal with than “real” film, which normally has a thicker, more durable base. But that’s where the X-ray film comes in! It’s faster speed than the ortho-lith film (ortho-lith film tends to be really slow, like around ASA 12), but can also be developed in the same manner, and, more importantly, has a lot thicker base, so is easier to deal with.

Coincidentally, the Fuji X-ray film I got happened to be exactly 5″ wide. Since it’s safe to handle under red lighting, I was able to trim down the sheets of film into 5×7 pieces, and then cut the remaining 5″ square pieces into 4×5 for our 4×5 cameras. Yay! The Fuji film is also a lot less resistant to tong marks, by the way. (double yay!)

So, it was time to actually try out the camera! After one extremely lame test shot taken looking out the window on an extremely dark day…

Watson's first photo!


…we gave Watson his first official test run. Travis got out our collection of nuclear apocalypse themed crap, and we went into the backyard and did a Fallout themed photoshoot.

I used the Fuji X-ray film and shot on the 1/100 (which, remember, is actually a lot slower than that) using apertures between f16 to wide open. I would have closed the aperture down more, but we accidentally screwed the lens in too tight on the lensboard, and can only close the aperture ring part way. Whoops!

Because the 5×7 negative is large, my scanner can’t even come close to scanning in the entire thing. I can only scan something that’s about 2.25″ wide, like the scan of the test photo above. So, I tray developed the X-ray negs, let them dry, and then made contact prints of them.

I used two different photo papers to make the contact prints. The first paper I tried was some Arista II Graded RC Lustre paper, grade 3. Grade 3 is used for negatives of medium to low contrast, and normally works really well for me, since, well, my negs seem to come out low contrast a lot. However, the X-ray film – especially the Fuji X-ray film – is high contrast. The prints from the X-ray film came out like this on the grade 3 paper:

Travis, watching out for supermutants

Not too bad. But there were a few of the prints where Travis was in shadow, and wound up looking like a big smudge of black. So, off I went to rifle through the paper collection, trying to find some lower contrast or variable contrast 5×7 paper.

What I found was the paper that’s on the top of this pile:

1975, as seen in photographic paper

It’s Prinz linen bromide enlarging paper, grade 2. It expired sometime in 1975. I’ve never even heard of this before I got this box, so I’ve been looking forward to trying it out. This finally seemed like the perfect subject.

Checking for radiation

The paper is a bit fogged, but I did get more gray tones (probably because of the fogging), and I actually liked the tint that the fog gave the paper. And the texture is just plain cool.

Argonnes, 1917

As far as the actual camera goes, shooting pics with Watson takes a little bit of patience. It’s not much different than using a 4×5 press camera like the Speed Graphics, but it’s one of those cameras where you have focus by throwing a dark cloth over the back of the camera and your head. It’s not that big of a deal, unless you happen to have long hair and are a big staticball in the winter anyway. But Watson did a good job!

Looking down the barrel of a gun

Ooooh, shallow depth of field, just the way I like it!

Photomicography film!

It’s not like I haven’t developed Kodak’s Photomicography film before. I have, twice. Both times we wound up developing the E4 film in cold C41 chems, and results have been amber colored negatives. The negatives were difficult to scan in, but when they did, they revealed cold toned pictures like this:


So, I was excited to finally try developing the Photomicography film in cold E6 chems! I was looking forward to seeing what the film looked like processed as close to normal as I could manage.

After a small eternity in the Paterson tank, we hung the film up to dry only to see an entire roll of images like this:

Pointy bird

Um. What?

Yeah, so I guess the entire time I’ve had this stockpile of Kodak Photomicography Film, I never bothered to look at the info sheet beyond reading the words “E4” and “use an exposure index of 16.” I got the sheet back out and read through it.

Sleepy cat

“Kodak Photomicography Color Film 2483

High-definition, high-contrast, slow-speed color reversal film.

Extremely fine grain and very high resolving power.

Not designed for general pictorial photography.

This film is particularly useful to photomicographers because its image-structure characteristics allow them to take fuller advantage of their microscope optics. The enhanced color saturation of both the reds and the blues will greatly improve the rendering of the most widely used histological stains…”

Oh. Well, I guess I was kind of warned. It’s just so odd, though, because when the film is cross processed into a negative, it turns out semi-normal.

Flower with light leaks

Still, though, the aqua and purple color scheme is kind of awesome. I’ll probably develop more of the rest of the photomicography film in C41 chems rather than E6, but it might be fun to respool some of the 35mm film onto 127 or 120 backing paper and shoot some aqua sprocket hole weirdness.

Also, the aqua pictures looked nifty when I converted them into black and white.

Shock the monkey!

It’s almost like some areas were solarized, and some weren’t.

Pointy bird in black and white

I might try enlarging a slide onto ortho lith sheet film, and then making a black and white print from it.

Of course, if you want to amp up the weirdness, there’s always Photoshop.

Monkey in a tree

Black and white monkey

Monkey, all Miami Vice-ified

Film is magic!


Travis and I have developed So. Much. Film. over the past week. Some things came out great, some things came out like ass, and some were just… weird. And it’s all amazing. I just love film so much. I mean, I’m not one of those ‘Digital SUXX!11!!!!’ people at all. I love my digital cameras (the Nikon D40 is still, thankfully, hanging in there). But man, film? Is awesome.

Chase Motel

Stereoscopic film.


Color infrared film.


Sprocket hole film.


Nighttime film.

Lamp and clouds

Daytime film.

Bird in shades of aqua

Photomicography film.

Time Traveler

Backing paper film.

Zombie-eye view

Even zombie film!!

I still have a gigantor stack of film to scan in. More about some of this stuff in detail in the next week or so!

Two negatives should equal a positive, right?


I’ve had this idea I’ve wanted to try for a while now, involving multiple film lunacy. You see, I’ve got a small stash of Kodak EDUPE 4×5 slide film. EDUPE is a very slow film, and its main purpose is to be used under an enlarger to make large format duplicates of slides. It’s process E6, just like regular slide film.

I bought it a while ago not knowing what the heck it was, and then proceeded to use it in pinhole cameras, and, later, large format cameras. It has a weird color cast, since it’s designed to be used with an enlarger with color filters. Here it is processed E6:

Running sheep

And here it is cross processed in C41 chems:

When in doubt...

Last year I tried using EDUPE in the actual way it was supposed to be used, and made some enlargements of slide film. It worked, in a way – colors seemed accurate, although a little contrasty, but I had screwed up when I made the enlargements. I forgot to try focusing on a piece of paper or something the same thickness as the film, and instead focused on the enlarging easel. So, everything turned out blurry. Epic FAIL!

But, at least I knew that the process, in theory worked, and that I had a pretty big latitude as far as exposure times (a half second exposure didn’t seem hardly any different than a second and a half exposure).

The more I thought about the EDUPE, though, the more possibilities seemed to appear. Sure, I could enlarge slides and process in E6 chems and make large duplicates. But, what if I enlarged negatives onto the EDUPE, and then cross processed them in C41 chems? Would I get a big, weirdly colored positive?

So, today I dragged the enlarger into the bathroom and started embiggening. First, though, I had to fix my focus issue. I cut a piece of junk photo paper that looked to be close to the same thickness as the EDUPE film, and focused my image on that before making a test enlargement. I picked a cross processed negative for my test, hoping that I would get really sharp lines to focus on.

I made a 2 second exposure, and then developed the sheet of EDUPE in Diafine. I used that black and white developer since it was already mixed up, and I didn’t have to worry about getting out the color chems. The developed film is what is at the top of this post, scanned in as a positive image. It could maybe be a little sharper, but I think that’s probably the best I’m going to get with this enlarger.

So, after the test sheet, I went ahead and did a ton of exposures with the EDUPE. I’ve got piles of film to develop both in E6 and C41 chems. I’ll probably start developing some of the C41 film tomorrow. Yay!