After committing to this project publicly, I had the sudden realisation that I would need to pull out quite a few of the things I would need from storage. You see, I haven’t used this camera and processing gear for a while – that was partly behind the desire to ‘do something’ with it.
Now, finding the main bits of kit wasn’t a problem – they’re large enough that it’s obvious where they are – but the smaller items needed some hunting down and, luckily, I was able to find all of them – except one (we’ll come to that). The camera and scanner needed a bit of dusting off, same for the film holders.
The film processing gear (rotary processor and film drum) needed a little bit more effort and elbow grease. They had been stored in one of the outhouses and so needed a good clean – this is where I had a little help from Daughter No. 1. The processor had to be fired up and checked that it heated the water bath and could keep it at temperature, that the pumped still worked and the motor could turn the film drum.
Now the various other sundries needed to be found and I could shoot some film and test the chemicals. This proved to be a little more difficult and needed a fair bit of searching – the exposure meter, magnifying loupe, portable dark tent, some of the chemicals, pipettes, again there was one item I still couldn’t find (but we will come back to that later). Eventually of all this was collected and the test shoot could begin.
The camera was set-up in front of the house with Jo as my (reasonably) willing subject. To say I’m a little rusty with the camera would be an understatement. It can take a fair bit of setting up to get the framing and composure right and the focussing spot on. Once all that’s done you realise the camera is not in the right place, have to move it and start again… and repeat again, trying not to stir the frustration of my (now slightly less willing) volunteer.
Now, I’m not used to shooting portraits, at least not posed one, so guiding Jo, er, wasn’t easy…for either of us. Suffice to say that after a little ‘discussion’ we chose to move the camera again so that Jo could sit for the 2nd shot. A camera like this is not point and shoot at the best of times – and with me being unpracticed, standing around while I get myself sorted is not something that any subject wants to put up with. Eventually we had 2 shots in the bag (that’s the contents of 1 double-sided film holder – just 2 sheets of film) and I could now set up the darktent and load the film into the processing drum.
Actually the developing went much more smoothly – I had to find my old developing times for this film and developer combination and then get to it. The biggest concern was that my Ilford rapid fixer was ‘a little’ out of date – it smelt foul, but exactly as I remember it, so this would be a good test. No mishaps on the developing so loaded the processor again some film sheets that I couldn’t remember shooting but had left in some other film holders.
Once the processed sheets had dried it was time to turn my attention to the film scanner. Again I’d not used this for a while and was slightly concerned that the software wouldn’t run on the latest MacOS versions . And indeed, that proved to be the case exactly; the computer and scanner wouldn’t ‘connect’ even though they did and nothing would actually scan. After a little searching on t’internet, I managed to find updated drivers and software and we were off. Test scan of a piece of medium format film which I already had loaded into a scanning film holder went fine so, once the large format film was dry, I was ready to give that a go.
All I needed to do now was find another accessory (a vital one it turns out), the film area guide; this is just a floppy piece of plastic that helps the scanner calibrate – without this the scanner would just return garbage.
So where was it?
This was (still is at time of writing) the one thing I cannot find; typically, I saw it recently whilst looking for something else but can’t think where. Without the guide the scanning has come to an abrupt halt before it even started. Fortunately I can continue with another few test shoots with some willing neighbours and I will continue to search high and low for the film guide. C’est la vie!
The positives out of all this is are that we are ready to roll, the gear works, I’ve learnt I need to get the shot ready well before asking the subjects to step into the frame, I’ve reacquainted myself with the camera and it’s movements.
Now, I ready willing and eager to get cracking with more shooting – and that’s the fun bit!