Having a little fun with the panoramic function on my iPhone in class today. Took this picture of two of my Large Format students doing studio portraits with a 4×5. I dug into the vaults and found some of my remaining stash of Polaroid Type 55 and let the students burn a couple sheets. I was more than pleasantly surprised with how well it worked- my Type 55 has to be a decade out of date by now, but the pods still processed nicely. I’d post some results but my students ran off with the negatives before I could copy any of them.
This was also my first test of my PocketWizard wireless flash sync setup on large format, and it worked very well. I got a little clamp from B&H photo that locks onto the front standard of my camera, and attached a hot shoe to PC adapter to the clamp. The PC cord connected the shoe to the sync on the shutter, and the PocketWizard sat in the shoe.
The other PW unit was connected to my Calumet Travelite monolight. This setup let me use my Sekonic L358 meter which has a PocketWizard trigger module, so I could meter wirelessly. That’s a big boon even when doing still life, and an even bigger one when shooting portraits, because that’s one less wire for you OR your sitter to trip over. If you look carefully at the front standard of the camera, you can see the PocketWizard module sticking out of the side in the photo.
This weekend was the next-to-last session of the Intro to Large Format Photography class I’m teaching at Glen Echo. As a treat, I broke out some of the last remaining sheets of Polaroid Type 55 I have in my personal stash. We had a lot of fun setting up portraits and posing for each other. One of my students even brought along his 6×17 panoramic camera and took a couple frames of all of us in the studio together – a couple were serious, and one was very silly (I gave someone next to me bunny-ears).
We covered the fundamentals of not only how to use a view camera for portraiture (movements – not many – focusing, bellows extension factor, lens selection) but also basic studio lighting. Given that we were limited on time and had lesson objectives to cover, I dictated the lighting setup with just a main and a fill, driven off my Calumet Elite 2400 W/S unit. It’s a lot of power for just 4×5, but I wanted to give people a real studio experience (that and the moonlights I would have used that are at the school are at the moment buried in the storage closet under dozens of boxes from the exhibits currently hanging in the gallery space).
We rigged a softbox on the main light and an umbrella on the fill. The softbox was camera left, and the fill was beside the camera. I used a 240mm Docter Optics f9 Apo-Germinar as my lens because the focal length is a nice one for studio portraiture (not too long, but not too wide either), it’s mounted on a lens board to fit my Sinar (some of my other portrait lenses are on different lens boards), and the shutter has good working flash sync (some of my other portrait lenses are in archaic shutters that don’t have reliable flash syncs – and yes, I’ve had them overhauled but they still don’t work 100% of the time). f9 is a bit dim for a traditional portrait lens, but I think this one produced outstanding results (further confirmation that that lens was a phenomenal buy and well worth every penny).
Polaroid Type 55, for those who are unfamiliar, was an instant film that produced both a positive print and a re-useable negative. Artists have loved the negatives not only for the incredibly fine grain and sharp detail, but for the artifacts at the edges that the Polaroid process produced. It hasn’t been made since 2008, so any Type 55 anyone is using is old stock. There is hope on the horizon for a replacement as a group called “New55” is creating their own improved version. One of the challenges of the original Polaroid Type 55 was that the negative film and the print were not equally sensitive, so you had to decide if you wanted a good print or a good negative – a good print gave you an underexposed negative and a good negative gave you a washed-out print. New55 will have one advantage over the old stuff – the instant print and the negative will be speed-matched so you won’t have to expose for either a good print or a good negative.
I can tell from the negatives that my Type 55, which outdated in 2006, is starting to get a little long in the tooth, as they have begun to lose some contrast. I’ve tweaked it a fair bit in Photoshop to get these negative scans to look good. I’ll try printing them in the darkroom and see what I can do with them – they may print much better than they scan.
Here are some behind-the-scenes shots, taken by one of my students.
I have had eight images published at Eastern Sierra Center for Photography’s website in their “Paradigmatic Nudes” gallery online. Most of these images you’ve seen here before on my blog. The images featured are my whole-plate sized gum bichromate prints of Philip, a model I’ve worked with and my Type 55 Polaroid 4×5 format shots of my friend Jose. I’d like to give a big shout-out to Laura Campbell, their curator and director, for repeatedly selecting my work and having faith in my creative vision. Please go check out their website and see the entire gallery.
Here’s one instance of where Richard Daley’s admonition to “get out, vote early, vote often” is actually legitimate! Please go visit my entry in the Onward Compé `14 competition, and vote for me in the Peoples’ Choice category. You can vote daily, so please do!
Since I got a request for more of the figure studies, I thought I’d post a few. These were all done on the old Polaroid Type 55 Positive/Negative film. What made Type 55 unique was the fact you could produce both a print and a re-useable negative. The catch always was that you got either a good negative and an overexposed print, or a good print and a thin negative. I think most people opted for the blown-out print, because the stuff was too expensive to throw away the negative.
I submitted three photos to the Onward competition for emerging photographers. Emerging is defined in this case as not having a current ongoing relationship with an art gallery. I’ve had shows, both solo and group, but I’m not represented by any art gallery on an ongoing basis. Perhaps by the time I retire it will happen. In any case, Onward will be good exposure for my work (this time I’m submitting some of my older pieces, male figure studies shot with Polaroid Type 55 back when it was still available).
There are two rounds of judging – the first round, by JPEG only, will be complete and the results announced by December 16. A second round will be judged from actual submitted prints come January, with final results by February 1. The exhibition will take place in March at Project Basho in Philadelphia.