Ethos, workflow, equipment

Ethos

During the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown we see ourselves adapting to our new reality; adopting new behaviours and values to those we would ordinarily have. On the one hand many people are embracing new ways to shop – online deliveries and e-commerce retailers are reporting a boom in business and struggling to keep up with demand. On the other hand, many communities are re-adopting behaviours that would have been commonplace up to the 70’s or 80’s – they are going back to the source of food production and going to famers directly. For many, especially for those living in rural areas such as Syston, shopping is now a combination of the old and the new – direct delivery from producers and e-commerce, and also occasional visits to the supermarket. I wanted to my process to mirror this – a little of the old and a little of the new – part analogue and part digital.

Whilst the digital aspects provide almost limitless ability to the manipulate the image, it is important that this be kept to a minimum as the final prints are intended to serve as a document and record. Any item accidentally caught in the frame will remain in the final print.

Workflow

The overall process and workflow for the project will be a mix of analogue and digital. The analogue processes will create the negative and then a switch to digital processes to create the final print.

  1. Shooting sitters using large format film camera
  2. Developing film
  3. Scanning film
  4. Post-processing in tweaking tones, artefact removal in Photoshop
  5. Digital print
  6. Mounting print

Creating the ‘analogue’ negative

Camera

The camera that is going to be used for the environmental portraits is a Deardorff 8×10 large format camera. There any many reasons to use such a camera – it’s a camera that takes time to set-up and prepare for the shot. A large negative can capture an incredible amount of detail which can result in an outstanding and unique image, especially when contact printed. All of this lends itself to a slower, purposeful and more ‘mindful’ approach which requires you to focus on the job at hand if you are to minimise mistakes. Being made of mahogany and nickel-coated brass the camera has a tactile quality that is not possible to find in any modern camera and consequently brings an almost unique user experience.

Lens

The camera will be paired with a Rodenstock Sironar N 210 mm 5.6 lens mounted on a copal 1 shutter. This lens gives good coverage of the 8×10 film with a little room spare for camera movements. Given the potential space I will have to work in, and the need to capture both sitters and property, this focal length strikes a good balance between field of view and depth of separation for an environmental portrait.

Film

All shots will be taken with Fomapan 100 – a panchromatic black and white film. This is a great utilitarian film – it has wide exposure latitude, it gives an excellent image, it’s not screamingly expensive (remember each 8×10 film sheet has as much film as a whole role of 36 exposure 35mm film) and, most importantly, I already have several packs in the fridge! I shoot this film at iso 50 rather than 100.

Film developer

The film sheets will all be developed using Pyrocat-HD, a 2-part staining developer which was developed by Sandy King. It is a semi-compensating, high definition developer; features that I find complement the Fomapan 100 very well. Should I choose to, the negatives will be ideal for alternative processes such as kallitype but would not create issues for scanning. It is simple to handle and use, and it is purpose built for rotary processing which is perfect for a project that is going to result in a fair amount of film to be developed.

Creating the ‘digital’ print

Scanning the negative

Once the negative is produced, it will be scanned using an Epson Perfection V700 pro flatbed scanner.

Post-processing

The scanned negatives will be processed in Photoshop to improve tonal range and contrast, and artefact removal such as dust and scratches on the negative; these are steps with counterparts in the analogue darkroom. No other image manipulation will take place – if it’s in the frame, it’s in the print.

Printing

The final image will be output to an Epson Stylus Pro 3880, 9 ink printer. Whilst capable of prints up to A2 size. The portraits will be printed at A4 size. The paper type is yet to be determined but will be a high quality art paper. Only genuine Epson inks are used. The final prints will be mounted in an archival manner ready for framing.