Unlucky ’13!


WHAT a start to the year!

I decided to take a set of photos of my old cameras, all shot in black and white with medium format film. I thought they might have a chance of selling as wall art.

To get convenient magnification and depth of field I decided to use the Mamiya C220 with the famously sharp 105mm “blue dot” Sekor lens, which is equivalent to about 80mm in 35mm format. It was to be the first time I had used this with studio flash.

I should have tested it, of course. After flashing cheerfully through 12 frames of Fomapan 120 (carefully setting up the image and then winding the tripod head up 5cm so the taking lens was in the place where the viewing lens had been) and waiting the best part of an hour while it developed and fixed I found myself gazing at a nice, blank sheet of acetate. The X-synch flash must have been out of kilter, probably opening the lens on the old M-flash setting.*

Next stop was the Pentacon Six and my last roll of 120 black and white film. This time, everything went smoothly in the darkroom but when I came to load the film – Ilford FP4 – into the spiral, humidity inside the changing bag from my arms and probably some residual dampness in the spiral meant the film jammed every time I tried to load it.

I’m sure every amateur film developer has met the problem. You slide the film into the spiral (I use a Paterson tank) and then as you start to wind it in, it jams. Keep winding and it starts to buckle and then comes out of the groove.

All I could do, since I had torn part of the backing paper away, was dump the film roll in the tank, put the lid on and then, once it was safely in a dark cupboard, chuck a small sachet of silica gel in with it. To my surprise, the film came out nice and dry the next day and loaded into the spiral as if nothing had ever been wrong.

Developing for 10 minutes in partially used stock solution of Fomadon-P once again delivered a negative that was thinner than it should be. Why? I follow all the instructions exactly for temperature, agitation etc., but I constantly get thin negatives from Foma developers unless I more or less double the recommended times. And Fomadon-P or Fomadon Excel are the only developers I can get at present.

Next to the Epson V500 scanner, which for some reason hasn’t been looking at 120 film properly, slicing the preview up into 35mm shaped bits. I decided to try to correct the problem by reinstalling the driver, which promptly corrupted two start-up files in the computer so that for the second time in about three months I’m stranded with a crippled computer and am writing this in Windows “Safe Mode”. Time to upgrade to a new machine, unfortunately.

Here’s hoping this is not a foretaste of what the rest of 2013 will be like!

Right now, I can’t offer you an up-to-the-minute scan, so here’s a shot of Doha Bay on Boxing Day last year (or last week).

Sell Art Online

*The difference between X-flash (the name comes from the xenon gas used in flash tubes) and M-flash (for the magnesium powder or wire used in the old days) is that the electronic flash fires faster than the magnesium can ignite. To allow for that, M-synch opens the shutter a fraction of a second later than X-synch, which means the electronic flash is over before the shutter begins to move. So using electronic flash with a shutter set on “M” will leave the film unexposed. It’s possible to get round that in a dark studio by opening the shutter on B and then firing the flash manually.

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About ambientimages

Paul Cowan is a former journalist turned full-time photographer.
This entry was posted in Developing film, film camera, Film cameras, Foma Developers, Ilford FP4, Lenses, Mamiya Sekor 105 TLR, Mamiya TLR, Photography, Problems, Scanning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Unlucky ’13!

  1. David Garrod says:

    Oh dear, what a tale of trial and tribulations. My particular bug bear were dust mites when loading 5″ x 4″ film in dark slides. Devil to avoid.

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